George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 28 December 1798

From James McHenry

Philad. 28 Decr 1798.

Dear Sir.

I received two letters from you on your route home respecting my young freind Mr Custis, and one under date of the 16th inst. written at Susquehannah.1

Your ideas relative to the distribution of the general officers and their respective duties and commands correspond perfectly with my own. I hope no untoward circumstance will intervene to prevent their being carried into execution, and that I shall in a little while have more leisure to write to you than has been of late in my power.

On the 24 inst. I made my report to the President on the military points, proper for the consideration of Congress. This report will be laid before Congress by Message. I have freely used in it the matter with which you furnished me, and fortified it with your name. I have also added other objects important according to my views, and intitled to attention.2

The nominations I expected this morning would have been ready to send to the Senate at furthest on monday. I am, now not clear they will go in so soon. The President directed me to submit copies of the list, to the heads of Departments. Two of these gentlemen have made no report. I find that several, who have been named from the Eastward for certain grades who expected higher will not accept, and that there are a few others on the list who do not deserve to be appointed. I shall propose not to name any persons in the room of those left out, at this moment, to give time to further investigate characters and obtain information.3

I shewed your letter relative to Col. Smith to the President—and sent a copy of it to Smith. I shall as soon as it can be spared from this quarter forward you his answer. The pith of it is, that in the agitation of his mind he brought a certain deed with others from Mr Wm Constables house to Col. Troop’s office, where the business between him & Majr Burrow was transacted, that the mistake was soon discovered and as soon rectified. That it was impossible he could have intended a deception, the mortgage in question being on record &c.4

Upon a deliberate weighing of all circumstances as they may affect the public concerns, it may be expedient his name should be presented to the Senate, Something must be yeilded to obtain harmony, and yet I do not know that this will secure it. If presented I think he will be appointed.

I reced yesterday a letter from Col. Lear of the 24 with sundry papers.5 Will you request him to examine the old papers and see if any of the confidential letters inclosed to you are yet to be returned.6 Yours affectionately

James McHenry


1Only one letter to McHenry about George Washington Parke Gustis written while GW was en route to Mount Vernon, that of 14 Dec. from Chester, Pa., has been found.

2For references to McHenry’s report to the president based upon the two long letters from GW of 13 Dec. and to its presentation to Congress, see GW to McHenry, 13 Dec. (first letter), source note. On 31 Dec. Adams sent McHenry’s report to Congress with this message: “A report of the Secretary of War, made to me on the twenty-fourth of this month, relative to the Military Establishments, I think it my duty to transmit to Congress, and recommend to their consideration” (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., 2199. McHenry’s report is printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:124–28).

3For the lists of men that GW, Alexander Hamilton, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were recommending for commissions in the New, or Additional, Army, see the editorial note to the List of Candidates for Army Appointments from Virginia, November 1798. McHenry gave the lists to Adams on 29 Dec., and he submitted these nominations to the Senate on 31 Dec. (see McHenry to Hamilton, 28 Dec. 1798, n.2, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 22:397–98). See also McHenry to GW, 21 Jan. 1799, and notes.

5Tobias Lear’s letter of 24 Dec. has not been found.

6Lear wrote McHenry on 30 Dec. listing the confidential letters that McHenry had sent GW on 14 Nov. and indicating that he was returning most of them. Lear’s letter to McHenry is printed in note 19, McHenry to GW, 14 Nov. 1798.

Index Entries