George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 25 February 1799

To Alexander Hamilton

Mount Vernon, Feby 25th 1799.


I have been duly favoured with your letter of the 15th instant.

When the disposition was contemplated for assigning to Major General Pinckney and to yourself your respective districts of superintendence, I was of Opinion (as you will see by the enclosed copy of a letter which I wrote to the Secretary of War on my way from Philadelphia to this place)1 that the whole of General Wilkinson’s Brigade should be considered as under your immediate direction; because, if a part of it which is, or maybe stationed within States of Kentuckey and Tennessee, should be under the Superintendence of General Pinckney, and the other part under your’s, it might occasion great inconvenience, and perhaps confusion, for General Wilkinson to have to communicate sometimes with one of the Major Generals and sometimes with the other. This, I conceive, will still be the case, if the disposition, which [you] mention to have been communicated by the Secretary of War, should continue. I am therefore yet decidedly of opinion, that the whole of General Wilkinson’s Brigade should be under your superintendence.

If it be determined to pursue the recruiting business at all, I regret extremely that there should have been so much delay in it; for the favourable season is passing off every day, and when the Spring opens great numbers of those who would readily inlist now, will be then engaged in other avocations, and we shall lose the precious moment.

I shall hope to be regularly advised of every occurence which takes place in your military Arrangemt that you may think essential to communicate. With very great regard, I am Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I enclose herewith Returns of Troops, Stores &c. at Niagara, which have been forwarded to me by Major Rivardi—and shall, in acknowledging the receipt of them, desire that the Returns in future may pass through you to the War Office.2

LS, in the hand of Tobias Lear, DLC: Hamilton Papers; Df, in Lear’s hand, DLC:GW.

2John Jacob Ulrich Rivardi, a Swiss engineer who was commissioned in March 1794 a major in the U.S. Artillerists and Engineers Corps, wrote to GW from Niagara, N.Y., on 10 Jan. 1799: “The fear of committing an indiscretion by the trespassing on the time of Your Excellency prevented me hitherto from expressing my happiness at being able to consider myself as imediately under your orders. The Misfortunes of Switzerland have rendered America my adoptive Country & I can not but feel the Most lively gratitude when I recollect that it is To you that I owe a Station which enables me to look with Security although with an aching heart on events which otherwise would have involved my family in more fatal consequences. The Situation of This Post has been unavoidably influence⟨d⟩ by the Calamity which Suspended the transaction of business in Philadelphia—we are reduced to a number inadequate To The Importance & extent of the Fort: we are in the utmost want of Clothing & of Several other Articles nearly as essential. The greatest harmony reigns between this & the Brittish Garrison with the Commandant of which I am on a footi⟨ng⟩ of intimacy. Should the plans of Niagara, with⟨t⟩ that of the alterations proposed not be Sufficient, I Shall be happy To Send others more detailed, Together with a More particular Statement of the repairs which are indispensable” (DLC:GW). On 2 Mar., GW replied: “Sir, Your letter of the 10th of Jany, enclosing Returns from the Garrison at Niagara for the month of Decr—and since that, Returns from the same place for the Month of January, have been received. These Returns I have forwarded to Major General Hamilton, to whom you will, in future, be pleased to address all your official communications; which must go to him of course as Inspector General of the Armies of the United States.

“I am happy to hear of your welfare and that harmony prevails between our Garrison and the British Posts in its vicinity.

“Mrs Washington joins in compliments & best wishes for Mrs Rivaidi with Sir, Your mo. ob. st” (Df, DLC:GW). And two days later, on 4 Mar., Tobias Lear wrote to Alexander Hamilton on GW’s behalf: “By order of the Commander in Chief I have the honor to forward to you sundry Returns from the Garrison at Niagara for the Month of Jany wh. have been transmitted by Major Rivardi, who is directed in future to make all his official communication immediately to you” (DLC:GW).

On 30 Mar. Lear wrote to Rivardi under cover of a letter of the same date to Hamilton. Lear’s letter to Hamilton reads: “By order of the Commander in Chief I have the honor to transmit to you a letter from Major Rivardi, the Commandg Officer at Niagara, on the subject of a dispute between him and Captn [James] Bruff—that you may issue such orders thereon as shall appear to you to suit the occasion” (DLC:GW). His letter to Rivardi in part reads: “Your letter of the 21st of feby with its enclosures has been duly received, and I have taken an opportunity of laying it before his Excellency the Commander in Chief, by whose order it is transmitted to the Inspector General that he may take such measures thereon as the circumstances of the case shall require . . . The Commander in Chief directs me to repeat the information contained in his last to you that all official communications be made in future to the Inspector General” (DLC:GW).

Then, on 7 April, Lear wrote Hamilton: “By Order of His Excellency the Commander in Chief, I have the honor to transmit to you the Returns from the Garrison at Niagara for the month of February which have been forwarded by Major Rivardi. Major Rivardi has been repeatedly desired to make all his official communications direcdy to you, which he will undoubtedly do, as soon as the intimation shall reach him” (DLC: Hamilton Papers).

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