THE COLLECTOR’S FEDERAL EDITION OF THE WORKS OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON IS LIMITED TO SIX HUNDRED SIGNED AND NUMBERED SETS OF WHICH THIS IS NUMBER ..................
G.P. Putnam's Sons
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—I now communicate the result of my conference with Commander-in-Chief and General Pinckney, on the subject of extra allowance to officers detached on service, so as to be obliged to incur expenses on the road, and at places where there are no military posts.
We are all of opinion, that in such cases an extra allowance ought to be made, and this even to officers who receive extra compensations for peculiar duties, such as inspectors, quartermasters, etc. These extra compensations are considered as relative to ideas of greater skill or greater trouble, rather than to that of greater expense, in the execution of the offices to which they are annexed. Without extra allowance in the cases in question, it is easy to see that officers may exhaust in extra expenses their whole pay, and that great difficulty must be experienced in finding fit characters to execute employments which may expose these persons to frequent journeys. It is useless to say that the principle will not apply where the law shall have specifically provided for traveling expenses.
But the greatest embarrassment is to settle the rule of extra allowances. Shall they be left at large on the ground of reasonable expenses according to circumstances, or shall fixed rates be attempted? The former is liable to great abuse, and the latter is not easy to be regulated so as to unite economy with justice. It is, however, our opinion that it ought to be attempted.
In adjusting a rate or rates, it is to be remembered, that the officer receives established allowances for his time, service and expenses. A full compensation is not therefore to be aimed at in the extra allowances, but something proportioned to the probable excess of expense. This has governed the estimate which is now submitted, viz., a dollar and a quarter per day for man and horse for each day that the officer must sleep at a place not a military post, and when the officer is of a rank to be entitled to a servant, then the addition of three quarters of a dollar per day for the servant and his horse. This to apply to all but the seat of government and the principal town in each State. At such places the allowance is to be a dollar and a half for the officer and his horse, and a dollar for the servant and his horse. It is understood that the established allowances to the officer go on at the same time.
The case of an officer detached from one military post to another which he may reach the same night, but yet so far distant as to incur expenses on the road, was not provided for in the above arrangement.
It is my opinion that half a dollar per day will suffice for such cases, and this only where the distance is not less than forty miles. The servant may in such cases, without inconvenience, take his provisions with him.
It may, perhaps, be expedient to regulate a day’s journey by a number of miles, and for this the following proportions may not be improper: forty miles to a day, when the whole distance does not exceed two hundred miles: thirty to a day, for all above two hundred and not exceeding three hundred and fifty; and twenty-five to a day, for all above three hundred and fifty and not exceeding six hundred; twenty to a day, for all above six hundred.
But while these rates are offered as the general rule, it is foreseen that there may arise extraordinary cases where greater allowances may be indispensable. Such cases must be referred to the special discretion of the head of the War Department, to be assisted by a certificate from the commanding officer, by whom the officer claiming was detached on the special service, stating the reasons and circumstances. It is my opinion, too, on which point also I have not consulted any other, that the rates ought not to retrospect, but ought to be established for the future, and that in all past and intervening cases, applying only the general principle, reasonable expenses, according to circumstances, ought to govern. The application of a new rule may produce hardship and injustice when the service may have been performed in the expectation that practice on former occasions would prevail.
hamilton to washington
December 13, 1798.
General Hamilton presents his respects to the Commander-in-chief, and sends, the sketch of a letter, in conformity to what passed this morning.
washington to mchenry, secretary of war
December 13, 1798.
Sir:—Since my arrival at this place, I have been closely engaged, with the aid of Generals Hamilton and Pickney, in fulfilling the objects of your letter of the 10th of November. The result is now submitted.
The first two questions you propose, respecting the appointment of the officers and men of the troops to be raised, in virtue of the act of Congress of the 16th of July last, among districts and States, will naturally be answered together.
1. As to the appointment of the commissioned officers of the infantry, no particular reason is discovered to exist at the present period for combining the States into districts; but it is conceived to be expedient to adopt as a primary rule the relative representative population of the several States. The practice of the government on other occasions in the appointment of public officers, has had regard, as far as was practicable, to the same general principle, as one which, by a distribution of honors and emoluments among the citizens of the different States, tends both to justice and to public satisfaction. This principle, however, must frequently yield to the most proper selection of characters among those willing as well as qualified to serve, and sometimes to collateral considerations which, arising out of particular cases, do not admit of precise specification. In the application of the rule in this, as in other instances, qualifications of it must be admitted. The arrangement, which will be now offered, proceeds on this basis. You will observe that it does not deviate from the table you have presented.
2. As to the non-commissioned officers and privates, it is conceived to be both unnecessary and inexpedient to make any absolute appointment among the States. It is unnecessary, because contemplating it as desirable that the men shall be drawn in nearly equal proportions from the respective States, this object, where circumstances are favorable, will be attained by the very natural and proper arrangement of assigning to the officers who shall be appointed, recruiting stations within the States to which they belong. It is inexpedient, because, if it should happen that the proportion of fit men cannot easily be had in a particular State, there ought to be no obstacle to obtaining them elsewhere.
3. As to the officers of the dragoons, it does not seem advisable to confine the selection to any subdivision of the United States. Though very strong conjectures may be formed as to the quarter in which they would probably be employed in the case of invasion, there can be nothing certain on this point, if this were even the criterion of a proper arrangement. And it may be presumed, that it will conduce most to the general satisfaction to exclude considerations of local aspect. But from the small number of this corps which is to be raised, it would be found too fractional, and, for that among other reasons, inconvenient to aim at a proportional distribution among all the States. It is, therefore, supposed most advisable to be governed principally by a reference to the characters who have occurred as candidates; leaving the inequality in the distribution to be remedied in the event of a future augmentation of this description of troops. The proportion at present is in various views inadequate; a circumstance which, it may be presumed, will of course be attended to, should the progress of public danger lead to an extension of military preparations.
The materials furnished by you, with the addition of those derived from other sources, are insufficient for a due selection of the officers whom it is proposed to allot to the States of Connecticut, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Hence the selection for these States must of necessity be deferred. It is conceived that the best plan for procuring the requisite information and accelerating a desirable conclusion, as to the three last-mentioned States, will be to choose Major-General Pinckney, who will avail himself of the assistance of Brigadier-Generals Davis and Washington; to make the arrangement of those officers provisionally, and subject to the ratification of the President. It will be in their power to ascertain who are best qualified among those willing to serve; which will at the same time assure a good choice, and avoid the disappointment and embarrassment of refusals. As to Connecticut, you are aware of the progress that has been made, and of the misapprehension which has occasioned an obstacle to a definitive arrangement. You will, it is presumed, be speedily in possession of the further information necessary, and, having it, can without difficulty complete the arrangement for this State.
The third, fourth, and fifth of your questions may likewise be answered together.
The act for augmenting the army is peremptory in its provisions. The bounds of executive discretion, as to the forbearance to execute such a law, might perhaps involve an investigation, nice in itself, and of a nature which it is generally most prudent to avoid. But it may safely be said negatively, for reasons too plain to be doubted, that the voluntary suspension of the execution of a similar law could not be justified but by considerations of decisive cogency. The existence of any such considerations is unknown.
Nothing has been communicated respecting our foreign relations, to induce the opinion that there has been any change in the situation of the country, as to external danger, which dictates an abandonment of the policy of the law in question. It need not now be examined how far it may be at any time prudent to relinquish measures of security, suggested by the experience of accumulated hostility, merely because there are probable symptoms of approaching accommodation. It need not be urged that, if such symptoms exist, they are to be ascribed to the measures of vigor adopted by the government, and may be frustrated by a relaxation in those measures, affording an argument of weakness or irresolution. For, has it not been in substance stated from the highest authority, that no decisive indications have been given by France of a disposition to redress our past wrongs and do us future justice; that her decree, alleged to be intended to restrain the depredations of French cruisers on our commerce, has not given, and from its nature cannot give relief; that the most hostile of the acts, by which she has oppressed the commerce of neutrals, and that which subjects to capture and condemnation neutral vessels and cargoes, if any part of the latter be of British production or fabric, not only has not been abrogated, but has recently received an indirect confirmation; and that hitherto nothing is discoverable in the conduct of France, which ought to change or relax our measures of defence?
Could it be necessary to enforce by argument so authoritative a declaration, as it relates to the immediate object of consideration, these, among other reflections, would at once present themselves.
Though it may be true, that some late occurrences have rendered the prospect of invasion by France less probable or more remote, yet, duly considering the rapid vicissitudes, at all times, of political and military events, the extraordinary fluctuations, which have been peculiarly characteristic of the still subsisting contest in Europe, and the more extraordinary position of most of the principal nations of that quarter of the globe, it can never be wise to very our measures of security with the continually varying aspect of European affairs. A very obvious policy dictates to us a strenuous endeavor, as far as may be practicable, to place our safety out of the reach of the casualities which may befall the contending parties and the powers more immediately within their vortex. The way to effect this is to pursue a steady system, to organize all our resources, and put them in a state of preparation for prompt action. Regarding the overthrow of Europe at large as a matter not entirely chimerical, it will be our prudence to cultivate a spirit of self-dependence and to endeavor by unanimity, vigilance, and exertion, under the blessing of Providence, to hold the scales of our destiny in our own hands. Standing as it were in the midst of falling empires, it should be our aim to assume a station and attitude which will preserve us from being overwhelmed in their ruins.
It has been very properly the policy of our government to cultivate peace. But, in contemplating the possibility of our being driven to unqualified war, it will be wise to anticipate, that frequently the most effectual way to defend is to attack. There may be imagined instances of very great moment to the permanent interests of this country, which would certainly require a disciplined force. To raise and prepare such a force will always be a work of considerable time, and it ought to be ready for the conjuncture whenever it shall arrive. Not to be ready then, may be to lose an opportunity which it may be difficult afterwards to retrieve.
While a comprehensive view of external circumstances is believed to recommend perseverance in the precautions which have been taken for the safety of the country, nothing has come to my knowledge, in our interior situation, which leads to a different conclusion. The principal inquiry in this respect concerns the finances. The exhibition of their state from the Department of the Treasury, which you have transmitted, as I understand it, opposes no obstacle; nor have I been apprised, that any doubt is entertained by the officer who presides in that department, of the sufficiency of our pecuniary resources. But on this point I cannot be expected to assume the responsibility of a positive opinion. It is the province of the Secretary of the Treasury in pronounce definitively, whether any insuperable impediment arises from this source.
The sound conclusion, viewing the subject in every light, is conceived to be, that no avoidable delay ought to be incurred in appointing the whole of the officers, and raising the whole of the men, provided for by the act which has been cited. If immediately entered upon, and pursued with the utmost activity, it cannot be relied upon, that the troops will be raised and disciplined in less than a year. What may not another year produce? Happy will it be for us, if we have so much time for preparation, and ill-judged, indeed, if we do not make the most of it! The adequateness of the force to be raised, in relation to a serious invasion, is foreign to the present examination. But it is certain, that even a force of this extent well instructed and well disciplined, would in such an event be of great utility and importance. Besides the direct effects of its own exertions, the militia rallying to it would derive, from its example and countenance, additional courage and perseverance. It would give a consistency and stability to our first efforts, of which they would otherwise be destitute; and would tend powerfully to prevent great, though perhaps partial, calamities.
The Senate being in session, the officers to be appointed must of course be nominated to that body.
The pay of all who shall be appointed ought immediately to commerce. They ought all to the employed, without delay, in different ways in the recruiting service; but, were it otherwise, there ought to be no suspension of their pay. The law annexes it as a matter of right. The attempt to apply a restriction by executive discretion might be dissatisfactory; and justice to the public does not seem to require it, because the acceptance of an office, which makes the person liable at pleasure to be called into actual service, will commonly from the moment of that acceptance interfere with any previous occupation, on which he may have depended. This observation cannot be applicable to myself, because I have taken a peculiar and distinct ground, to which it is my intention to adhere.
On the subject of your sixth question, the opinion is, that, under existing circumstances, it is not advisable to withdraw any of the troops from the quarter of the country which you mention towards the Atlantic frontier. But the disposition in those quarters probably requires careful revision. It is not impossible that it will be found to admit of alterations favorable both to economy and to the military objects to be attained. The local knowledge of General Wilkinson would be so useful in an investigation of this sort, that it is deemed very important to direct him forthwith to repair to Philadelphia. If this be impracticable by land, he may, it is presumed, come by way of New Orleans. It is observed, that in his late communications with the Governor he has taken pains to obviate jealousy of the views of the United States. This was prudent, and he ought to be encouraged to continue the policy. It will also be useful to employ a judicious engineer to survey our posts on the lakes, in order that it may be ascertained, in the various relations of trade and defence, what beneficial changes, if any, can be made. In this examination Presque Isle and the southwestern extremity of Lake Erie will demand particular attention.
The reply to your seventh question is, that the companies directed to be added to the regiments of the old establishments ought, as soon as convenient, to reinforce the Western army. It is probable, that, in the progress of events, they will not be less useful there than on the sea-board. Their destination in the first instance may be Pittsburgh.
The following disposition of the artillery (the subject of your eighth question) is recommended. The two regiments by their establishment consist of twenty-eight companies. Of these nearly a battalion, in point of number, forms part of the Western army. A complete battalion there will suffice. Let there be assigned to the fortifications at Boston one company, to those at New York two, to those at Newport two companies, to those at West Point one, to those at Mud Island two, to those at Baltimore one, to those at Norfolk two, to those on Cape Fear River one, to those at Charleston two, to those at Savannah one, to those at the mouth of the St. Mary’s one. The remaining two battalions and best be reserved for the army in the field. During the winter they may retain the stations they now occupy. But, as soon as they can conveniently go into tents, it will be advisable to assemble them at some central or nearly central point, there to be put in a course of regular instruction, together with successive detachments of the officers and noncommissioned officers of the sea-board garrisons, until their services shall be actually required. The field officers of course will be distributed proportionally, assigning to each the superintendence of a certain number of companies, and, as to those in garrison, of the posts at which they are stationed.
The permanent distribution of the troops, after they shall have been raised, which is understood to be an object of your ninth question, will probably be influenced by circumstances yet to be unfolded, and will best be referred to future consideration.
An arrangement for the recruiting service is the point of primary urgency. For this purpose, each State should be divided into as many districts as there are companies to be raised in it, and to every company a particular district should be allotted, with one place of rendezvous in it, to which the recruits should be brought as fact as they are engaged. A certain number of these company districts, whenever it can be done, should be placed under the supervision of a field-officer. During the winter, in most of the States, it would be inconvenient to assemble in larger corps than companies. Great cities are to be avoided. The collection of troops there may lead to disorders, and expose, more than elsewhere, the morals and principles of the soldiery. But though it might now be premature to fix permanent disposition of the troops, it may not be unuseful to indicate certain stations, where they my be assembled provisionally, and may probably be suffered to continue while matter remain in their present posture. The stations eligible in this view may be found for two regiments in the vicinity of Providence River, somewhere near Uxbridge; for two other regiments, in the vicinity of Brunswick, in New Jersey; for two other regiments, in the vicinity of the Potomac, near Harper’s Ferry’ for two other regiments, in the vicinity of Augusta, but above the falls of the Savannah. This disposition will unite considerations relative to the discipline and health of the troops, and to the economical supply of their wants by water. It will also have some military aspects, in the first instance, towards the security of Boston and Newport; in the second, towards that of New York and Philadelphia; in the third and fourth, towards that of Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, and the Southern States generally; and, in the third, particularly towards the reinforcement of the Western army in certain events. But the military motives have only a qualified influence; since it is not doubted, that, in the prospect of a serious attack upon this country, the disposition of the army ought to look emphatically to the Southern region, as that which is by far the most likely to be the scene of action.
As to your tenth question, the opinion is, that the government itself ought to provide the rations. The plan of furnishing money to the recruits, as a substitute for this, is likely to be attended with several inconveniences. It will give them a pretence for absence injurious to discipline and order, and facilitating marauding and desertion. Many of the soldiery will be disposed to lay out too much of their money in ardent spirits, and too little in provisions, which, besides occasioning them to be ill, will lead to habits of intemperance.
The subject of your eleventh question is peculiarly important. The two modes have severally their advantages and disadvantages. That of purchases by agents of the government is liable to much mismanagement and abuse, sometimes from want of skill, but much oftener from infidelity. It is too frequently deficient in economy; but it is preferable, as it regards the quality of the articles to be supplied, the satisfaction of the troops, and the certainty of the supply, which last is a point of the utmost consequence to the success of any military operation. The mode by contract is sometimes found more economical; but, as the calculations of contractors have reference primarily to their own profit, they are apt to endeavor to impose on the troops articles of inferior quality. The troops, suspecting this, are apt to be dissatisfied even when there is no adequate cause, and when defects may admit of reasonable excuse. In the attention to cheapness of price, and other savings of expense, it from time to time happens, that the supplies are not laid in as early as the service requires, or not in sufficient quantity, or are not conveyed with due celerity to the points where they are wanted. Circumstances like these tend to embarrass and even to defeat the best-concerted military plans; which, in this mode, depend for their execution too much upon the combinations of individual avarice. It also occasionally happens, that the public, from the failures of the contractors, is under the necessity of interposing with sudden and extraordinary efforts to obviate the mischiefs and disappointments of those failures, producing, in addition to other evils, an accumulation of expense, which the fortunes of the delinquent contractors are insufficient to indemnify.
The union of the two modes will probably be found safest and best. Prudence always requires, that magazines shall be formed beforehand at stations relative to the probable or expected scene of action. These magazines may be laid in by contract, and the transportation of the supplies from the magazines, and the issuing of them to the army, may be the business of the military agents, who must be likewise authorized and enabled to provide for the deficiencies of the contractors, and for whatever may not be comprehended in the contracts. This plan will to a great extent admit the competition of private interest to furnish the supplies at the cheapest rate. By narrowing the sphere of action of the public agents, it will proportionably diminish the opportunities of abuse, and it will unite, as far as is attainable, economy with the efficiency of military operations.
But, to obtain the full advantages of this plan, it is essential, that there shall be a man attached to the army of distinguished capacity and integrity, to be charged with the superintendence of the department of supplies. To procure such a man, as military honor can form no part of his reward, ample pecuniary compensation must be given; and he must be intrusted with large authority for the appointment of subordinate agents, accompanied with a correspondent responsibility. Proceeding on this ground there would be a moral certainty of immense savings to the public in the business of supplies; savings, the magnitude of which will be easily understood by any man, who can estimate the vast difference in the results of extensive money transactions between a management at once skilful and faithful, and that which is either unskilful or unfaithful.
This suggestion contemplates, as a part of the plan, that the procuring of supplies of every kind, Which in our past experience has been divided between two departments, of quartermaster and commissary, shall be united under one head. This unity will tend to harmony, system, and vigor. It will avoid the discordant influence of civil with military functions. The quartermaster-general, in this case, instead of being a purveyor as formerly, will, besides the duties purely military of his station, be confined to the province of calling for the requisite supplies, and of seeing that they are duly furnished; in which he may be rendering a very useful check upon the purveyor.
The extent of your twelfth question has been matter of some doubt. But no inconvenience can ensue from answering it with greater latitude than may have been intended. It is conceived, that the strongest considerations of national policy and safety require, that we should be as fast as possible provided with arsenals and magazines of artillery, small-arms, and the principal articles of military stores and camp equipage, equal to such a force as may be deemed sufficient to resist with effect the most serious invasion of the most powerful European nation. This precaution, which prudence would at all times recommend, is peculiarly indicated by the existing crisis of Europe. The nature of the case does not furnish any absolute standard of the requisite force. It must be more or less a matter of judgment. The opinion is, that the calculation ought to be on the basis of fifty thousand men; that is, forty thousand infantry of the line, two thousand riflemen, four thousand horse, and four thousand artillerymen. And, with regard to such articles, as are expended by the use, not less than a full year’s supply ought to be ready. This will allow due time from internal and external sources to continue the supply, in proportion to the exigencies which shall occur. As to clothing, since we may always on a sudden emergency find a considerable supply in our markets, and the articles are more perishable, the quantity in deposit may be much less than of other articles; but it ought not under present circumstances to be less than a year’s supply for half the above-mentioned force, especially of the woollen articles.
I proceed to the last of your questions, that which respects the stations for magazines. It is conceived that three principal permanent stations will suffice, and that these ought to be Springfield and Harper’s Ferry, which are already chosen, and the vicinity of Rocky Mount, on the Wateree, in South Carolina. These stations are in a great measure central to three great subdivisions of the United States; they are so interior as to be entirely safe, and yet on navigable waters which empty into the ocean and facilitate a water conveyance to every point on our sea-coast. They are also in well-settled and healthy districts of country. That near Harper’s Ferry, it is well known possesses extraordinary advantages for foundries and other manufactories of iron. It is expected, that a canal will erelong effect a good navigation between the Wateree and the Catawba, which, whenever it shall happen, will render the vicinity of Rocky Mount extremely convenient to the supply of North Carolina by inland navigation. Pittsburgh, West Point in New York, the neighborhood of Trenton in New Jersey, and Fayetteville in North Carolina, may properly be selected as places of particular and occasional deposit. Large cities are as much as possible to be avoided.
The foregoing comprises, it is believed, a full answer to the questions you have stated. I shall in another letter offer to your consideration some further matters, which have occurred, and are deemed to be of importance to our military service.
With respect and esteem,
I have the honor to be, sir, etc.
washington to mchenry
Draft by Hamilton.
December 13, 1798
Sir:—I shall now present to your view the additional objects alluded to in my letter of this date.
A proper organization for the troops of the United States is a principal one. In proportion as the policy of the country is adverse to extensive military establishments, ought to be our care to render the principles of our military system as perfect as possible, and our endeavors to turn to the best account such force as we may at any time have on foot, and to provide an eligible standard for the augmentations to which particular emergencies may compel a resort.
The organization of our military force will, it is conceived, be much improved by modelling it on the following plan:
Let a regiment of infantry, composed as at present, of two battalions, and each battalion of five companies, consist of these officers and men, namely: one colonel; two majors, a first and second; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; ten captains; ten first and ten second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; two cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; two sergeant-majors; two quartermaster-sergeants; two chief musicians, first and second, and twenty other musicians; forty sergeants; forty corporals; and nine hundred and twenty privates.
Let a regiment of dragoons consist of ten troops, making five squadrons, and, of these, officers and men, namely: one colonel; two majors, a first and second; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; ten captains, ten first and ten second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; five cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; two sergeant-majors; two quartermaster-sergeants; two chief musicians, first and second, and ten other musicians; forty sergeants; forty corporals; and nine hundred and twenty privates; the privates including, to each troop, one saddler, one blacksmith, and one bootmaker.
Let a regiment of artillery consist of four battalions, each battalion of four companies, and, of these, officers and men, namely: one colonel; four majors; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and two surgeon’s mates; sixteen captains; sixteen first and sixteen second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; thirty-two cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; four sergeant-majors; four quartermaster-sergeants; sixty-four sergeants; sixty-four corporals; one chief musician and ten other musicians; eight hundred and ninety-six privates, including, to each company, eight artificers.
The principal reasons for this organization will be briefly suggested.
It will be observed, that the proportion of men to officers in the infantry and cavalry is considerably greater than by the present establishment. This presents, in the first place, the advantage of economy. By the proportional decrease of the officers, savings will result in their pay, subsistence, and the transportation of their baggage. The last circumstance, by lessening the impediments of an army, is also favorable to the celerity of its movements.
The command of each officer will become more respectable. This will be an inducement to respectable men to accept military appointments, and it will be an incentive to exertion among those, who shall be engaged, by upholding that justifiable pride, which is a necessary ingredient in the military spirit.
A company will then admit of an eligible subdivision into platoons, sections, and demi-sections, each of a proper front. Each battalion will then be of the size judged proper for a manœuvring column in the field, and it is that portion of an army which, in the most approved system of tactics, is destined to fulfil this object. A battalion ought neither to be too unwieldy for rapid movements, nor so small as to multiply too much the subdivisions, and render each incapable either of a vigorous impulse or resistance.
The proportion of officers to men ought not to be greater than is adequate to the due management and command of them. A careful examination of this point will satisfy every judge, that the number now proposed will be equal to both. This conclusion will be assisted by the idea, that our fundamental order, in conformity with that of the nations of Europe generally, ought to place our infantry in three ranks, to oppose to an enemy, who shall be in the same order, an equal mass for attack or defence.
These remarks explain summarily the chief reasons for the most material of the alterations suggested.
But it is not the intention to recommend a present augmentation of the number of rank and file to the proposed standard. It is only wished, that it may be adopted as that of the war establishment. The regiments, which have been authorized, may continue in this respect upon the footing already prescribed; leaving the actual augmentation to depend on events, which may create a necessity for the increase of our force. The other alterations recommended have relation rather to systematic propriety, than to very important military ends.
The term lieutenant-colonel, in our present establishment, has a relative signification, without any thing in fact to which it relates. It was introduced during our revolutionary war, to facilitate exchanges of prisoners; as our then enemy united the grade of colonel with that of general. But the permanent form of our military system ought to be regulated by principle, not by the changeable and arbitrary arrangement of a particular nation. The title of colonel, which has greater respectability, is more proper for the commander of a regiment, because it does not, like the other, imply a relation having no existence.
The term ensign is changed into that of lieutenant, as well because the latter from usage has additional respectability, offering an inducement to desirable candidates, as because the former, in its origin, signified a standard-bearer, and supposed that each company had a distinct standard. This, in practice, has ceased to be the case, and for a variety of good reasons a stand of colors to each battalion of infantry is deemed sufficient. This standard is intended to be confided to a cadet, in whom it may be expected to excite emulation and exertion. The multiplication of grades, inconvenient with regard to exchanges, is thus avoided.
In the cavalry it is proper to allow a standard to each squadron, and hence it is proposed to have five cadets to a regiment.
The nature of the artillery service, constantly in detachment, renders it proper to compose a regiment of a greater number of battalions than the other corps. This our present establishment has recognized. But there is now want of uniformity, which leads to disorderly consequences; one regiment being composed of four battalions, the other of three. The same organization ought to be common to all.
The diminution of the number of musicians, while it will save expense, is also warranted by the peculiar nature of the artillery service. They answer in this corps few of the purposes which they fulfil in the infantry.
The existing laws contemplate, and with good reason, that the aids-de-camp of general officers, except the commander-in-chief and the officers, in the department of inspection, shall be taken from the regiment. But they do not provide that, when so taken, their places shall be supplied by others. It is conceived that this ought to be the case. The principles of the establishment suppose, for example, that three officers to a company of a given number are the just and due proportion. If, when an an officer be taken from a company to fill one of the stations alluded to, his place be not filled by another, so that the number of officers to a company may remain the same, it must follow that the company will be deficient in officers. It is true, that the number of a company is continually diminishing, but it diminishes in officers as well as men; and it is not known that the proportion is varied. Practice in every institution ought to conform to principle, or there will result more or less of disorder. An army is in many respects a machine; of which the displacement of any of the organs, if permitted to continue, injures its symmetry and energy, and leads to disorder and weakness. The increase of the number of rank and file, while it strengthens the reasons for replacing the officers who may be removed, will more than compensate in point of economy for the addition of officers by the substitution. This may be reduced to the test of calculation. But, though the place of an officer in his regiment ought to be supplied upon any such removal, he ought not to lose his station in the regiment, but ought to rank and rise as if he had continued to serve in it.
The provision, that the aids-de-camp and the officers of inspection shall be drawn from the line of the army, is not restricted as to grade. There ought to be such a restriction. The aids of major-generals ought not to be taken from a rank superior to that of captain, nor those of brigadiers from a rank superior to that of first lieutenant. The inspectors ought in like manner to be limited, those of brigadiers to the rank of captain, those of divisions to that of major. This will guard against the multiplication of superior grades by removals to fill such stations.
The judicious establishment of general rules of promotion, liable to exceptions in favor of extraordinary service or merit, is a point of greatest consequence. It is conceived, that these rules are the most convenient that can be devised; namely, that all officers shall rise in the regiments to which they respectively belong up to the rank of major inclusively; that afterwards they shall rise in the line of the army at large, with the limitation, however, that the officers of artillery, cavalry, and infantry shall be confined to their respective corps until they shall attain the rank of colonel.
It is very material to the due course of military service, that the several classes of an army shall be distinguished from each other by certain known badges, and that there shall be uniformity in dress and equipment subject to these distinctions. The dress itself will indeed constitute a part of them. It is of inferior moment what they shall be, provided they are conspicuous, economical, and not inconsistent with good appearance, which in an army is far from being a matter of indifference. The following uniforms and badges are recommended; but, if any of them are supposed liable to exception, they may be changed at pleasure.
The uniform of the commander-in-chief to be a blue coat, with yellow buttons and gold epaulets (each having three silver stars), with linings, cape, and cuffs of buff; in winter, buff vest and breeches; in summer, a white vest, and breeches of nankeen. The coat to be without lapels and embroidered on the cape, cuffs, and pockets. A white plume in the hat to be a further distinction. The adjutant-general and the aids and secretaries of the commander-in-chief to be likewise distinguished by a white plume.
The uniform of the other general officers to be a blue coat with yellow buttons, gold epaulets, the lining and facings of buff; the under clothes the same as those of the commander-in-chief. The major-generals to be distinguished by two silver stars on each epaulet, and, except the inspector-general, by a black and white plume, the black below. The brigadiers to be distinguished by one silver star on each epaulet, and by a red and white plume, the red below. The aids of all general officers, who are taken from regiments, and the officers of inspection, to wear the uniforms of the regiments from which they are taken. The aids to be severally distinguished by the like plumes which are worn by the general officers to whom they are respectively attached.
The uniform of the aids and secretaries of the commander-in-chief, when not taken from regiments, to be a blue coat with yellow buttons and gold epaulets, buff lining and facings; the same under clothes as the commander-in-chief.
The inspector-general, his aids, and the officers of the inspection generally, to be distinguished by a blue plume. The quartermaster-general and other military officers in his department to be distinguished by a green plume.
The uniform of the infantry and artillery to be a blue coat, with white buttons and red facings, white under clothes, and cocked hats. The coats of the infantry to be lined with white; of the artillery, with red.
The uniform of the cavalry to be a green coat, with white buttons, lining, and facings; white vest and breeches; with helmet caps.
Each colonel to be distinguished by two epaulets, each major by one epaulet on the right shoulder and a strap on the left. All the field-officers, except as above, and the regimental staff, to wear red plumes.
Captains to be distinguished by an epaulet on the right shoulder. Lieutenants by one on the left shoulder. Cadets by a strap on the right shoulder. The epaulets and straps of the regimental officers to be of silver.
Sergeant-majors and quartermaster-sergeants to be distinguished by two red worsted epaulets. Sergeants by a like epaulet on the right shoulder. The flank companies to be distinguished by red wings on the shoulders.
The coats of the musicians to be of the color of the facings of the corps to which they severally belong. The chief musicians to wear two white worsted epaulets.
All the civil staff of the army to wear plain blue coats, with yellow buttons and white under clothes. No gold or silver lace, except in the epaulets and straps, to be worn.
The commissioned officers and cadets to wear swords.
All persons belonging to the army to wear a black cockade, with a small white eagle in the centre. The cockade of the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates to be of leather, with eagles of tin.
The regiments to be distinguished from each other numerically. The number of each regiment to be expressed on the buttons.
It cannot fail to happen that clothing made at a distance from the army will in numerous instances be ill fitted to the persons to whom it is issued. This is an inconvenience, as it respects appearance, comfort, and use. It merits consideration, whether it may not be remedied by making provision by law for the necessary alterations at the cost of the soldiery. As there are always to be found tailors in an army, the alterations may be made there during seasons of inactivity; and moderate compensations may be established, to be deducted out of the pay. The tailors, when so employed, being exempted from military duty, will be satisfied with very small allowances; and the soldiers will probably prefer this expense to the inconvenience of wearing clothes which do not fit them.
On this subject of clothing, it is remarked with regret that the returns which have been received exhibit none on hand; though from verbal communications it is understood that measures are in train for obtaining a present supply. It is desirable that some more effectual plan than has hitherto been pursued, should be adopted to procure regular and sufficient supplies on reasonable terms. While we depend on foreigners, will it not be advisable to import the materials, rather than take the chance of markets? And will it not be expedient, with a view to economy, to have the clothing made up in the countries from which it may be brought? The matter certainly deserves serious attention. Our supply in the mode hitherto practised is not only very precarious, but must doubtless be obtained at a very dear rate.
Another point, no less deserving of particular attention, is the composition of the ration of provisions. It was in the last session augmented beyond all former example. It is not recollected that the ration, which was allowed during the war with Great Britain, was found insufficient by troops once formed to military habits, and acquainted with the best methods of managing their provisions. The present ration, estimating by price, is understood to be greater than the ration in that war by at least forty per cent. This is evidently a very important augmentation. Various disadvantages attend it; a great increase of expense; additional difficulty in furnishing under all circumstances the stipulated allowance, consequently a multiplication of the possible causes of discontent, murmur, and perhaps even mutiny; the necessity of a greater number of wagons for transportation, and of course the extension of this always serious source of embarrassment to military operations.
The quantity of spirituous liquors, which is a component part of the ration, is so large as to endanger, where they might not before exist, habits of intemperance, alike fatal to health and discipline. Experience has repeatedly shown, that many soldiers will exchange their rum for other articles; which is productive of the double mischief of subjecting those with whom the exchange is made, to the loss of what is far more necessary, and to all the consequences of brutal intoxication. The step having been once taken, a change is delicate; but it is believed to be indispensable, and that the temporary evils of a change can bear no proportion to the permanent and immense evils of a continuance of the error.
It may not perhaps be advisable to bring back the ration to the standard of the late war, but to modify it in some respects differently, so as not materially to affect the aggregate expense. It may consist of eighteen ounces of bread of flour, one pound and a quarter of fresh beef, or one pound of salted beef, or three quarters of a pound of salted pork; salt, when fresh meat is issued, at the rate of one quart, and candles at the rate of a pound, for every hundred rations. With regard to liquor, it may be best to exclude it from being a component part of the ration; allowing a discretion to commanding officers to cause it to be issued in quantities not exceeding half a gill per day, except on extraordinary occasions. Vinegar also ought to be furnished, when to be had, at the rate of two quarts, and soap at the rate of two pounds, per hundred rations.
There are often difficulties in furnishing articles of this description, and the equivalent in money is frequently pernicious, rather than beneficial. Where there is a contract, the promise of such articles is apt to prove more beneficial to the contractor than to any other person. He commonly so manages it, that the substitute is not a real equivalent. But it need not be observed, that whatever is to be done in this respect must be so conducted, as not to infract the conditions on which the troops now in service were enlisted.
It is deeply to be lamented, that a very precious period of leisure was not improved towards forming among ourselves engineers and artillerists; and that, owing to this neglect, we are in danger of being overtaken by war, without competent characters of these descriptions. To form them suddenly is impossible. Much previous study and experiment are essential. If possible to avoid it, a war ought not to find us wholly unprovided. It is conceived to be advisable to endeavor to introduce from abroad at least one distinguished engineer, and one distinguished officer of artillery. They may be sought for preferably in the Austrian, and next in the Prussian armies. The grade of colonel, with adequate pecuniary compensation, may attract officers of a rank inferior to that grade in those armies, who will be of distinguished ability and merit. But in this, as we know from past experience, nothing is more easy than to be imposed upon, nothing more difficult than to avoid imposition, and that therefore it is requisite to commit the business of procuring such characters to some very judicious hand, under every caution that can put him upon his guard.
If there shall be occasion for the actual employment of military force, a corps of riflemen will be for several purposes extremely useful. The eligible proportion of riflemen to infantry of the line may be taken at a twentieth. Hence in the apportionment of an army of fifty thousand men, in my letter of this date, two thousand riflemen are included, and in the estimate of arms to be provided, two thousand rifles. There is a kind of rifle commonly called Ferguson’s, which will deserve particular attention. It is understood that it has in different European armies supplanted the old rifle, as being more quickly loaded and more easily kept clean. If the shot of it be equally sure, or nearly so, those advantages entitle it to a preference. It is very desirable that this point, and its comparative merit in other respects, be ascertained by careful examination and experiment.
Perhaps generally, but more certainly when the troops shall serve in Southern climates, flannel shirts will be most conducive to health. Will it not be advisable to make provision for retaining a discretion in such cases; either to allow a less number of flannel shirts equivalent to the present allowance of linen, or, if this cannot be, to furnish the soldiery with the requisite number, deducting the difference of cost out of their pay?
The only provision for the appointment of a quartermaster-general is to be found in the act of the 28th of May, authorizing the President to raise a provisional army, which limits his rank and emoluments of those to lieutenant-colonel. This provision is conceived to be entirely inadequate. The military duties of the office are of a nature to render it of the first importance in an army; demanding great abilities and a character every way worthy of trust. Accordingly it is the general practice, founded upon very substantial reasons, to confide it to an officer of high military rank. The probability is that, without a similar arrangement on our part, we shall not be able to command a fit character; and in taking one of inferior pretensions we shall subject the service to disadvantages, out of all proportion to any objections which may be supposed to militate against the conferring of such rank. It is feared that an appointment under the existing provision would only create embarrassment, should there be real necessity for military exertions; and that the alternative must be either to leave the army destitute of so necessary an organ, or to give it one likely in the progress of things to prove unequal to the task.
It was much desired, for preventing future controversy, to fix in the first instance the relative grades of the regimental officers. That of the field officers has been rendered impossible, without injustice and the hazard of much dissatisfaction, by the impossibility of completing the arrangement in Connecticut and the three most Southern States. But upon close examination, many obstacles opposed a definitive establishment of the relative rank, even of the officers of companies, in the regiments which have been organized. Numerous circumstances, which ought to influence the decision, are unknown; and without this knowledge a final arrangement might lead to very awkward and perplexing results. In consideration of this difficulty, no more than a temporary one, liable to future revision, has been adopted. It will be necessary to attend to this in the appointments, and to signify to the persons that they are to obey according to the order of nomination, but that the President reserves to himself the right, where cogent reasons for it shall appear, to change the relative rank which that order may seem to recognize. He will judge whether, in making the nomination to the Senate, a like reserve is necessary.
I am well aware that several of the matters suggested in this letter will require legislative provision. If the whole or any of them shall be approved by the Executive, no time ought to be lost in recommending them to the consideration of Congress. As to some of them, it is very desirable that the necessary provision by law should precede the enlistment of the men, to avoid the obstacle to a change, which may result from contract.
With great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
Answer to Questions of the Secretary at War of November 10, 1798
No. 1. First and second questions. —The rule which appears proper as a primary one, is the relative population of the States severally. In the application of this rule, the distribution made by the Secretary appears so far correct as to be deemed an eligible standard.
Improper to tie down the recruiting service by an absolute apportionment of the men among the States.
The officers will naturally be assigned to recruit in the States of which they are; if the men can be found there they will be had; but it is possible they may not be obtainable, and there ought to be liberty to obtain them elsewhere.
The troops of horse not to be confined to any division of the United States; but an exact distribution of so small a number would be inconvenient. It is therefore deemed proper to let the arrangement be governed principally by the characters who have occurred as officers. It is proposed to assign Virginia and Maryland 3 troops; Pennsylvania 1; New Jersey 1; New York and Connecticut 1.
The number of horse inadequate. Presuming that an increase will be found eligible, the distribution can be made with an idea to the other States. Consideration has been had as a secondary motive to the fitness of character.
Third question.—The fact solves this question.
Fourth question.—Provisions of law peremptory. Will not examine bounds of executive discretion; but it must be evident that a suspension cannot be justified but by a very urgent motive. None such are known to exist.
Nothing has been communicated as to foreign relations, to induce an opinion that the ground upon which the act for augmenting the army was passed, has been changed. As far as can be inferred from the Treasury documents communicated, no obstacle is perceived to arise from financial considerations; but this is a point on which it cannot be expected that the responsibility of any definitive opinion will be assumed. The head of the proper department will no doubt explicitly pronounce.
Fifth question.—The opinion is, that they ought all to be immediately appointed, and immediately to receive their pay and be put into activity. This is with the exception, from want of adequate information, of the two Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee.
It is conceived that it will be expedient to confide to General Pinckney, with the aid of Generals Davis and Washington, to prepare the arrangement for these States, subject to the ratification of the President, but with as large a discretion to fix the arrangement as propriety will permit.
Sixth question.—Inexpedient at present to withdraw the troops in question, with a view to reinforce those on the sea-board. But our whole plan on the northwestern and southwestern frontier may require revision, and it is deemed eligible to require General Wilkinson to repair as soon as possible to the seat of the government, in order that it may have the benefit of his local knowledge and advice. He should be cautioned to avoid any demonstrations of hostility towards the Spaniard; but, on the contrary, as far as may be, to assume a different complexion.
Seventh question.—It is conceived best that the additional companies shall reinforce the Western army.
Eight question.—As to artillery. It is understood that the two regiments comprise twenty-eight companies; that of these, eight are in the Western country. The remaining companies may temporarily be thus disposed of: one to Bosten, three to Newport, one to West Point, three to New York, two to Fort Mifflin,, two to Baltimore, two to Norfolk, one to Cape Fear River, three to Charleston, one to Savannah, one to St. Mary’s.
It is desirable that entire companies be stationed, and the mingling of different corps be avoided. The field officers will, of course, be distributed proportionally.
Ninth question.—The permanent distribution of the troops after they shall have been raised, may be influenced by circumstances yet to be developed. The first object of attention is the distribution, with a view to the recruiting service. To this end, each State should be divided into districts, equal to the number of companies to be recruited therein. The men to be brought to the company rendezvous as soon as may be after they are recruited; and a certain number of these rendezvous, where it can conveniently be done, to be put under the superintendence of a field officer. During the winter it would be inconvenient, in most of the States, to assemble in larger corps than companies.
Tenth question.—The public ought to provide the rations by contract or otherwise, as it may be found best.
The giving money to the recruit would have many inconveniences, by giving pretext of absence to provide supply, unfavorable to discipline, tending to disputes with the inhabitants, and to desertion. Many of the men will apply their money to strong drink, rather than to food.
Eleventh question.—Contracts for stationary posts are to be preferred; but for an army operating in the field, purchasing is to be preferred, except that the magazines, which are to be formed at particular places, may be best formed by contract.
Twelfth question.—Springfield, Harper’s Ferry, Rocky Mount on the Wateree.
hamilton to gunn
December 16. 1798.
I regretted that my excessive avocations did not permit me, as I intended, to call upon you before I left Philadelphia. In addition to the pleasure of doing it, I was desirous of knowing the state of your mind with regard to military service. It was not that there was any thing worth your acceptance, upon the disposal of which at the time I could have had any influence; but I wished to understand what would be agreeable to you, with a view to the progress of affairs. If we are to be seriously engaged in military operations, ’t is not a compliment to you to say that you are one of those men who must be in the field. With such an enemy, we shall want men who will not barely do their duty, but will do it with an energy equal to all dangers.
With very great regard, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
December 16, 1798.
I regretted that I was detained to the last moment of being in time for the stage in which my baggage had been previously sent, and thereby prevented from calling upon you before my final departure from Philadelphia.
If the recruiting service is to be confided to me, I ought, as soon as possible, to be definitely apprised of it, and in the meantime I shall be glad to have the instructions heretofore prepared for that purpose, that I may endeavor to obtain, for your final decision, new lights from officers who have had experience in this branch of the service. My own was very limited, and it is of great importance to proceed upon a right plan.
You recollect that, shortly after my first appointment, I was desired to turn my attention to a system of regulations for the tactics and discipline of the army. From that moment I have devoted much of my time to the preliminary investigations, and I shall devote a much larger proportion, if I am to consider myself as now in service, and entitled to the emoluments of the station; for, to be frank with you, it is utterly out of my power to apply my time to the public service without the compensations, scanty enough, which the law annexes to the office. If I were to receive them from the day of the appointment, I should be at least a thousand pounds the worse for my acceptance. From the time that it was fully known that I had re-engaged in military life, the uncertainty of my being able to render services for which I might be retained drove away more than one half of my professional practice, which I may moderately estimate at four thousand pounds a year. My pecuniary sacrifices already to the public ought to produce the reverse of a disposition everywhere to compel me to greater than the law imposes. This remark, I am well aware, is not necessary for you personally.
Again, If I am to discharge with effect the duties of my present office, I must make frequent journeys from one part of the army to another. Everybody knows that the expenses of such journeys would quickly eat out the narrow allowances of a major-general.
It will be disagreeable to be exposed to the dilemma of compromitting my reputation and that of the government by not producing the results to be expected from the department, or of ruining myself once more in performing services for which there is no adequate compensation.
The precedent of the last war is a full comment on the propriety of an extra allowance to the inspector-general. It is indeed indispensable, if he is to be useful.
It is always disagreeable to speak of compensations for one’s self, but a man past forty, with a wife and six children, and a very small property beforehand, is compelled to waive the scruples which his nicety would otherwise dictate.
With great esteem and regard, I remain, etc.
P. S.—I imagine it may be of service to communicate to Wolcott the two letters received from the Commander-in-Chief containing the results of our deliberation.
hamilton to mchenry
December 19, 1798.
You are informed that Mr. Hill is in possession of drafts of surveys, made during our last war, of our harbor and bay. It is very interesting that the government should acquire these drafts. You will, I presume, think that they ought to be deposited in your department as an item in the general mass of information necessary toward plans of general defence. If so, you will purchase them, if it be not already done, and in this case, I will thank you for the immediate loan of them; having been charged by the Governor of this State, under the sanction of the President, with preparing a plan for the fortification of our port, which plan, when digested, will be sent to you. Should you decline the purchase, be so good as to say so to General McPherson, who will be requested to procure the drafts for the use of this State.
hamilton to gunn
December 22, 1798.
My Dear Sir:
The post of yesterday brought me your favor of the 19th inst. The sentiments in it personal to me are extremely gratifying, and I am very glad to ascertain the military ground upon which you are not unwilling to stand. If things progress, I trust there will be no obstacle to your occupying it.
As to the further military arrangements, my ideas are these: Considering how little has been done toward raising the force already voted, that an important tax is yet in the first stage of an essay, that a prospect of peace is again presented by the temporizing conduct of France, that serious discontents exist in parts of the country with regard to particular laws, it appears to me advisable to postpone any actual augmentation of the army beyond the provisions of the existing laws, except as to the regiment of cavalry, which I should be glad to see increased by the addition of two troops, and by the allowing it to be recruited to the complement which has been proposed by the Commander-in-Chief, as that of the war establishment. What this is will probably be communicated by the Secretary at War.
But a considerable addition ought certainly to be made to our military supplies. The communications of the Commander-in-Chief will also afford a standard for the increase in this respect, as far as concerns the force to be employed in the field. There are, however, some other objects of supply equally essential, which were not within the view of those communications—heavy cannon for our fortifications, and mortars for the case of a siege. Of the former, including those already procured and procuring, there ought not to be fewer than one thousand, from eighteen to thirty-two pounders, chiefly to twenty-fours; of the latter, including those on hand, there ought to be fifty of ten-inch calibre. This, you perceive, looks to offensive operations. If we are to engage in war, our game will be to attack where we can. France is not to be considered as separated from her ally. Tempting objects will be within our grasp.
Will it not likewise be proper to renew and extend the idea of a provisional army? The force which has been contemplated as sufficient in any event, is 40,000 infantry of the line, 2,000 riflemen, 4,000 cavalry, and 4,000 artillery, making in the whole an army of 50,000. Why should not the provisional army go to the extent of the difference between that number and the actual army? I think this ought to be the case, and that the President ought to be authorized immediately to nominate the officers, to remain without pay until called into service. The arrangements can then be made with sufficient leisure for the best possible selection, and the persons designated will be employed in acquiring instruction.
It will likewise deserve consideration, whether provision ought not to be made for classing all persons from eighteen to forty-five inclusively, and for draughting out of them, in case of invasion, by lot, the number necessary to complete the entire army of fifty thousand. In the case of invasion, the expedient of draughting must be resorted to, and it will greatly expedite it if there be a previous classing with a view to such an event. The measure, too, will place the country in a very imposing attitude, and will add to the motives of caution on the part of our enemies.
These measures are all that appear to be advisable with regard to our military establishment under present appearances. A loan as an auxiliary will of course be annexed.
hamilton to mchenry
December 26, 1798.
As it may possibly not have come to you through any other channel, I think it well to inform you that General Huntington has been displeased at not having received official notice of his appointment, with his commission. This, if not already so, ought to be remedied.
I hear nothing of nominations. What malignant influence hangs upon our military affairs?
With great esteem and regard,
Your obedient servant,
P. S.—I left with General Pinckney a project of a military school which he was to have sent me. Has he quitted Philadelphia? If so, have you heard any thing of this paper? I want it.
James McHenry, Esq.
measures of defence
Further measures to be taken without delay :
- I.—To authorize the President to proceed forthwith to raise the 10,000 men already ordered.
- II.—To establish an academy for military and naval instruction. This is a very important measure and ought to be permanent.
- III.—To provide for the immediate raising of a corps of non-commissioned officers, viz., sergeants and corporals, sufficient with the present establishment for an army of 50,000 men. The having these men prepared and disciplined will accelerate extremely the disciplining of an additional force.
- IV.—To provide before Congress rise that in case it shall appear that an invasion of this country by a large army is actually on foot, there shall be a draft from the militia to be classed, of a number sufficient to complete the army of 30,000 men. Provision for volunteers in lieu of drafts. A bounty to be given.
- V.—To authorize the President to provide a further naval force of six ships of the line, and twelve frigates, with twenty small vessels not exceeding sixteen guns. It is possible the ships of the line and frigates may be purchased of Great Britain, to be paid for in stock. We ought to be ready to cut up all the small privateers and gun-boats in the West Indies, so as at the same time to distress the French islands as much as possible and protect our trade.
- IV.—Is not the independence of the French colonies under the guaranty of the United States to be aimed at? If it is, there cannot be too much promptness in opening negotiations for the purpose. Victor Hugues is probably an excellent subject. This idea, however, deserves mature consideration.
- VII.—It is essential the Executive should have half a million of secret-service money. If the measure cannot be carried without it, the expenditure may be with the approbation of three members of each House of Congress.
- VIII.—Revenue in addition to the $2,000,000 of land tax, say:
In lieu of tax on slavas, which is liable to much objection.
- IX.—A loan of $10,000,000. The interest to be such as will insure the loan at par. It is better to give high interest, redeemable at pleasure, than low interest with accumulation of capital as in England.
hamilton to mchenry
January 7, 1799.
Sir:—The unascertained situation in which I have been since my acceptance of the military appointment I now hold, has been not a little embarrassing to me. I had no sooner heard of the law creating the office, than I was told by members of Congress that I was generally considered as the person designated by circumstances to fill that office, and that the expectation of those who most actively promoted the passing of the law was, that the inspector-general would be brought into immediate activity, particularly to superintend the raising and organizing of the troops.
This is mentioned as a mere item in the incidents which influenced my calculations and arrangements.
Very soon after, if not at the time, you communicated to me my appointment, you intimated, though not officially, your desire that I might occupy myself in preparing for the consideration of the Executive a system of tactics and discipline; and not long after, you expressed to me your intention to commit to me the supervision of the recruiting service.
In October I received your summons to attend at the seat of government with the Commander-in-Chief. I obeyed, and devoted to the purpose of this summons about a month and a half.
I received, in due course, a letter from your department stating the expectation of the President that the generals would think it proper to waive the emoluments of their stations till called into service. In my reply I acquiesced.
But presuming that I would speedily be officially charged with the execution of duties, which would draw along with them the compensations attached by the law to the station, I have acted on that presumption. I have discontinued my practice as attorney and solicitor, from which I had derived a considerable part of my professional profits; and I have applied no small portion of my time to preliminary investigations, in order to the collection of the best lights for forming a system of tactics and discipline as perfect as exists anywhere else.
The very circumstance of my having accepted a military appointment, from the moment it was known, withdrew from me a large portion of my professional business. This, it will be perceived, was a natural effect of the uncertainty of my being able in the progress of suits to render the services for which I might be engaged, at the customary previous expense to the parties.
The result has been, that the emoluments of my profession have been diminished more than one half, and are still diminishing, and I remain in perfect uncertainty whether or when I am to derive from the scanty compensations of the office even a partial retribution for so serious a loss.
Were I rich, I should be proud to be silent on such a subject. I should acquiesce without an observation as long as any one might think the minutest public interest required an accumulation of sacrifices on my part. But after having to so advanced a period of my life devoted all my prospects of fortune to the service of the country, and dependent, as I am, for the maintenance of a wife and six children on my professional exertions, now so seriously abridged, it is essential for me to forego the scruples of delicacy, and to ask of you to define my situation, that I may determine whether to continue or to change my present plan.
It will easily be imagined that I should not accept compensations withheld from any other in a similar situation. If actual employment is to be the criterion in any other instance, it must be so in mine; but then it is material to me to understand whether, in the contemplation of the Executive, I now am, or immediately am, to be employed, or not. In the negative of this, my honor will compel submission to the consequent sacrifice, so far as it is unavoidable; but my arrangements will be different from what they are at present, and will aim at making the sacrifice as small as possible.
An early answer to this inquiry will particularly oblige me.
With great respect, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
January 15, 1799.
I find I cannot have ready for this day’s post the bill for the provisional army. Inclosed are some additional clauses relating to organization, consequently to be inserted in the bill sent by yesterday’s post. You will easily determine their proper position there. They are necessary to systematic propriety. General provisions of this kind will prevent continued repetitions in every new law respecting the military force.
hamilton to mchenry
January 16, 1799.
You will receive herewith the draft of a bill for a provisional army. It includes only those things of a former bill which are appropriated to this object; the other parts of that bill being now in full force. The operation of the bill, which has been already sent you, renders the repetition of several clauses in the present unnecessary. The aim, indeed, ought to be to have a fundamental arrangement which will attach of course upon all subsequent provisions of force, so that the law for every augmentation need only define the number to be raised, and the duration of service, and the mode of raising.
An eye has been had to this in the draft of the first bill, and one of the two additional clauses now sent for the same bill has the same view. This will be more deliberately and correctly attended to in the plan of a bill which I shall being to work upon from this time, but which cannot be ready for a considerable time. A bill for the hospital establishment will follow in two or three days.
Yours truly, etc.
P. S.—The considerable mutilation of the nominations proposed by the Commander-in-Chief, as it appears in the result, naturally excites curiosity. It ought to be presumed, and yet the mind naturally distrusts the presumption, that there are good reasons for it, and that the service will be finally benefited. But I confess it would be a relief to me to know a little in detail, what has influenced the departure, how the unfitness of those who have been declined has appeared, and what means are in train to do any better. Pray be particular and confidential. You will not consider any letter of mine beginning “Dear Sir,” as official.
Measures in the War Department which it may be expedient to adopt.
To organize anew the militia, on a plan something like the following, viz.:
To be divided into five classes.
First class, consisting of all unmarried men from 18 to 25, except apprentices under 21 to merchants, mechanics, and manufacturers, and students under the same age in universities, colleges, and academies, and of divinity, law, and medicine.
Second class, consisting of all unmarried men from 25 to 40.
Third class, consisting of all married men from 18 to 25, except as excepted in the first class.
Fourth class, consisting of all married men from 25 to 40.
Fifth class, consisting of all men above 40, and not exceeding 50.
Each class to be formed into corps of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, combined into legions to consist of four regiments of infantry, one regiment of horse, and a battalion of artillery. All who choose to enter into the cavalry and provide themselves with horses, arms, and accoutrements, to be at liberty to do it. Each class to be called out in succession as numbered; in whole or in part, liable to serve for a year. None of a higher number to be called out until all of any preceding lower number have been called out and served their tour.
In case of domestic insurrection, no man able to serve shall be excused on any condition.
In case of foreign war, any man may be excused, paying 50/100 dollars.
No militia (except those inhabiting frontier counties) shall be obliged to serve against Indians, nor those inhabiting frontier counties for more than one year.
Any man who shall refuse to serve his tour when required, to be imprisoned during the term of service, or compelled to labor at some public work at the option of the government.
Cases of exempts to be defined in the laws.
The respective classes to be liable to be called out for inspection and exercise as follows:
- First class,——days in a year.
- Second class,——days in a year.
- Third class,——days in a year.
- Fourth class,——days in a year.
- Fifth class, one day in a year.
- I.—The militia, when in service, to be subject to the same rules of discipline and government as the army of the United States.
- II.—A regiment to be raised consisting of comsioned officers and persons engaged as sergeants, and with the pay of such—that is to say, in their own corps they shall serve by rotation as sergeants, corporals, and privates, but out of their regiment they shall only be employed as sergeants. All new regiments which may be raised shall have their sergeants from this corps, which shall have a fixed station, and be carefully instructed in all the parts of camp, field, and garrison service. It may be considered, whether this idea may not be extended to artillery and cavalry. This corps to constitute the basis of an army in case of need.
- III.—To establish a provisional or auxiliary army, composed of four regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one battalion of artillery, formed into a legion of two brigades, each brigade commanded by a brigadier, and the legion by a major general.
This legion to be raised by voluntary enlistment, according to a certain distribution, in the following parts of the United States: in the part of Pennsylvania and Virginia lying west of the Allegheny, the Northwestern and Southwestern Governments, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The consideration of enlistment to be a suit of clothes of the value of ten dollars per annum, and when in the field the same pay and allowance as other troops of the United States.
To be engaged for a term of—years, but except in case of domestic insurrection or foreign invasion, not to be obliged to serve in the field more than—months in one year. One brigade to be raised in the western part of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Northwestern Territory, and the State of Kentucky. The Brigadier to be immediately charged with all the military affairs of the United States in that scene. The other brigade to be raised in the other part of the country above described, with the same immediate charge to its Brigadier of the military affairs of the United States in that scene.
The major-General to have the general direction.
- IV.—The following miscellaneous objects to be aimed at:
- 1.The establishment of a system of trade with the Indians under the agents of government; a plan in detail for this purpose.
- 2.The establishing it as a principle, that every man in arms to attack or resist Indians, except in some country under the actual jurisdiction of the laws, shall be ipso facto liable to the rules for the government of the army.
- 3.The establishment of manufactories, under public authority, of cannon, muskets and other arms, powder and ball; all articles of clothing except hats and shoes.
The organization of the army to be revised; it is presumed to be susceptible of one more perfect.
hamilton to mchenry
January 21, 1799.
I send you the draft of a bill for regulating the medical establishment. (I avoid purposely the term department, which I would reserve for the great branches of administration.) You will see that nothing but an organization with a general outline of duty is provided for. Detailed regulations will properly come from the President and the departments; and the less these are legislated upon, in such cases, the better. When fixed by law, they cannot be varied, as experience advises.
This particular establishment is one to the right fashioning of which I feel myself more than ordinarily incompetent.
You mention in one of your letters, that, by the law of the 16th of July, the appropriation for the augmented army ceases at the end of the present session. This is one construction of that law. A different might perhaps be mentioned. But be this as it may, you will find by a subsequent act of the same date, entitled: “An act making certain appropriations,” etc., that 900,000 dollars are there appropriated for the same object, without any qualifications; and I take it for granted that whatever money should have been issued from the Treasury for the use of the War Department, previous to the end of the session, upon the first of those acts, might be expended afterwards by this department without any question about its regularity.
hamilton to mchenry
January 24, 1799.
You ask my opinion as to a proper arrangement for the command of the military force, on the ground that the Commander-in-Chief declines at present an active part.
This is a delicate subject for me; yet in the shape in which it presents itself, I shall waive the scruples which are natural on the occasion.
If I rightly understood the Commander-in-Chief, his wish was that all the military points and military force everywhere should be put under the direction of the two major-generals, who alone should be the organs of the Department of War.
The objects of this plan are to disburthen the head of that department of infinite details, which must unavoidably clog his general arrangements, and to establish a vigilant military superintendence over all the military points. There is no difficulty in this plan, except as to the Western army.
It will be a very natural disposition to give to the Inspector-General the command of all the troops and posts north of Maryland, and to General Pinckney the command of all the troops and posts south of the district assigned to the Inspector-General. How will this plan as to the Western army answer?
Let all the troops upon the lakes, including those on the Miami, which communicate with Lake Erie, be united under the command of one officer, to be stationed at—.Let all the troops in Tennessee be united under the command of one officer, to be stationed at—.Let them consider themselves under the order of the General who commands the Western army, and let the whole be placed under the Inspector-General. The officers commanding on the lakes, and in Tennessee, to be permitted to correspond immediately with the Inspector-General, and receive orders from him.
All the communications, as well of these officers as of the General of the Western army, to be sent open, under cover of the Secretary of War, who, in urgent cases, will himself give orders, if the Inspector-General be not on the spot, which he will communicate for his future government to the Inspector-General, and in cases not urgent, will leave matters to the agency of the Inspector-General, according to the instructions which he shall receive from the Department of War.
It is easy to perceive that there are objections to this plan. I am not sure that it ought to be adopted. The pour and the contre will readily occur to you, and you will take and reject, as shall appear to you proper; assured always that, personally, I shall be content with any arrangement you may think advisable.
hamilton to ——
January 30, 1799.
Sir:—A letter from the Secretary at War, of yesterday, places under my superintendence the posts and troops under your immediate command. All future communications therefore respecting them, including reports and returns, are to be addressed to me; not as heretofore to the Secretary at War.
It is my wish, as soon as possible, to receive a full and particular communication of the state of things within your command, embracing the number and condition of the works and buildings; the quantities and kinds of artillery, arms, and stores; the number of the troops and their situations; as to discipline, equipment, and supply; and that you will in future keep me regularly advised of whatever may be material for the successful discharge of your trust or the advancement of the service.
I cannot let this first opportunity pass, without calling your attention in an official manner to the discipline of the troops. The cursory observation which I have been hitherto able to make, has been sufficient to satisfy that there exists in this respect too general a relaxation; an evil which must, at all times, be corrected by the union of care, prudence and energy.
No argument is necessary to prove how essential is discipline to the respectability and success of the service, and consequently to the honor, interest, and individual importance of every officer of the army. To the exertions for maintaining it, my firm support at all times may be absolutely counted upon, as it will be my steady aim, on the one hand, to promote, to every reasonable extent, the comfort of the troops; on the other, to secure a strict observance of their duty. With great consideration,
I am, dear sir,
Your obedient servant.
To the Commanding Officer at West Point and its dependencies.
hamilton to mchenry
February 6, 1799.
Dear Sir :
In one of your letters you desire me to think of the distribution of the States into recruiting districts. I have accordingly turned my attention to this subject. But the result is, that it will be best to assign to each regiment its district, and to charge its commanding officer with the arrangement into subdivisions. If you approve this idea, you had better write me an official letter, briefly telling me that the recruiting service is to be put under my direction, and desiring me to make a preliminary arrangement for the distribution of the States into recruiting districts and rendezvouses; upon which I will send the proper instructions to the several commanders of regiments.
I have not yet observed that the places of the officers omitted in the arrangement reported by the general officers, have been supplied. I hope the recruiting service will begin with complete, not with mutilated or defective corps.
I regret that Gibbs was not appointed. There is good reason to believe that he would command a regiment well; probably better than the person whom the objectors to him would approve. Their rule of judging of military qualification is most likely no very accurate one.
I regret, also, that the objection against anti-federalism has been carried so far as to exclude several of the characters proposed by us. We were very attentive to the importance of appointing friends of the government to military stations; but we thought it well to relax the rule in favor of particular merit in a few instances, and especially in reference to the inferior grades. It does not seem advisable to exclude all hope, and to give to appointments too absolute a party feature. Military situations, on young minds particularly, are of all others best calculated to inspire a zeal for the service and the cause in which the incumbents are employed. When the President thinks of his son-in-law, he should be moderate in this respect.
The inclosed letter from Colonel Fairlie relates to the second son of our late Chief-Justice. His father, you know, was anti-federal. This young man has as yet no fixed political creed. They tell me there is nothing personally to his disadvantage. I am clear, therefore, that it will be expedient to give him an appointment.
Adieu, my dear friend, Yours truly, etc.
hamilton to wilkinson
February 12, 1799.
Sir:—The interesting incidents which have latterly occurred in our political situation, having rendered it expedient to enlarge the sphere of our military arrangements; it has in consequence become necessary to regulate the superintendence of our military force, in its various and detached positions, in such a manner as, while it will serve to disburthen the Department of War of details incompatible with its more general and more important occupations, will likewise conduce to uniformity and system in the different branches of the service.
The Commander-in-Chief having, for the present, declined actual command, it has been determined, in pursuance of the above view, to place the military force everywhere, under the superintendence of Major-General Pinckney and myself.
In the allotment for this purpose, my agency is extended to the garrisons on the northern lakes, and to all the troops in the Northwestern Territory, including both banks of the Ohio and upon the Mississippi; in short, to all the Western army, except the parts which may be in the States of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Of this you will have been informed by the Secretary at War.
From the relation, which is thus constituted between us, I allow myself to anticipate great mutual satisfaction. Every disposition on my part will certainly facilitate it, and tend to promote the discharge of your trust in the manner best adapted to your honor and the advancement of the service.
It was the united opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, General Pinckney, and myself, when lately convened at Philadelphia, that your speedy presence in this quarter was necessary, towards a full discussion of the affairs of the scene in which you have so long had the direction in their various relations, and towards the formation, with the aid of your lights, of a more perfect plan for present and eventual arrangements. Much may be examined in a personal interview, which, at so great a distance, cannot be effected by writing.
The actual and probable situation of our public affairs, in reference to foreign powers, renders this step indispensable.
You will therefore be pleased, with all practicable expedition, to repair to Philadelphia; upon your arrival there giving me immediate advice of it. If this can be most conveniently accomplished by way of New Orleans, you are at liberty to take that route. On this point you are the best judge, and will no doubt act with circumspection.
It must rest with you to dispose of the command of the troops at the different stations during your absence, and to give the proper instructions, in conformity with those which have been received from the Secretary at War.
On this head, only one remark will be made. The confidence in your judgment has probably led to the reposing in you discretionary powers too delicate to be intrusted to an officer less tried; capable, perhaps, of being so used, as to commit prematurely the peace of the United States. Discretions of this tendency ought not to be transferred beyond what may be indispensable for defensive security.
Care must be taken that the nation be not embroiled, in consequence of a liberal policy in the government.
Official letters from you to me, as you have been apprised by the Secretary at War, are to be forwarded through him. They must be open and under cover. The design of this is, that he may have an opportunity, in cases of great urgency, which could not conveniently wait for my direction, to interpose with the requisite measures.
In your absence, it will be proper that the officer, or officers, you may substitute in the command, should communicate with you, also transmitting their letters open, under cover, to the Secretary at War. This will preserve unbroken the chain of your command.
hamilton to washington
February 15, 1799.
Sir:—The Secretary at War has communicated to me the following disposition with regard to the superintendence of our military forces and posts.
All those in the States south of Maryland, in Tennessee and Kentucky, are placed under the direction of Major-General Pinckney; those everywhere else under my direction, to which he has added the general care of the recruiting service.
The commencement of the business of recruiting, however, is still postponed, for the reason, as assigned by the Secretary, that a supply of clothing is not yet ready.
In conformity with your ideas, I have directed General Wilkinson to repair to the seat of government, in order to a more full examination of the affairs of the Western scene, and to the concerting of ulterior arrangements.
On this and on every other subject of our military concerns, I shall be happy to receive from time to time such suggestions and instructions as you may be pleased to communicate.
I shall regularly advise you of the progress of things, and especially of every material occurrence.
With perfect respect, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
February 16, 1799.
Dear Sir :
Different reasons have conspired to prevent my writing to you since my return to New York: the multiplicity of my avocations, an imperfect state of health, and the want of something material to communicate.
The official letter herewith transmitted will inform you of the disposition of our military affairs which has been recently adopted by the Department of War. There shall be no want of exertion on my part to promote the branches of the service confided to my care.
But I more and more discover cause to apprehend that obstacles of a very peculiar kind stand in the way of an efficient and successful management of our military concerns. These it would be unsafe at present to explain.
It may be useful that I should be able to write to you hereafter some confidential matters relating to our administration without the mention of names. When this happens, I shall designate the President by X, the Secretary of State by V, of the Treasury by I, and of the Department of War by C. Every thing in the Northern quarter, as far as I can learn, continues favorable to government.
Very affectionately and truly,
I remain, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
March 1, 1799.
Beware, my dear sir, of magnifying a riot into an insurrection, by employing in the first instance an inadequate force. ’T is better far to err on the other side. Whenever the government appears in arms, it ought to appear like a Hercules, and inspire respect by the display of strength. The consideration of expense is of no moment compared with the advantages of energy. ’T is true, this is always a relative question, but ’t is always important to make no mistake. I only offer a principle and a caution.
A large corps of auxiliary cavalry may be had in Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, without interfering with farming pursuits.
Will it be inexpedient to put under marching orders a large force provisionally as an eventual support of the corps to be employed to awe the disaffected? Let all be well considered.
hamilton to mchenry
April 8, 1799.
Sir:—Nothing can be more desirable than a welldigested plan for connecting the different parts of our military system, in regard to procuring and issuing of supplies. I send you the outline of a scheme for that purpose. It is important that this, or a substitute more eligible, should be without delay established. It is particularly essential, that the channels through which supplies are to pass to the troops, and the mode of application for them, should be designated and understood. The plan now transmitted embraces this among other objects. I beg leave to urge a speedy attention to the subject.
With great respect and consideration,
The business of providing shall constitute one distinct branch of service; that of issuing, another.
The purveyor shall be charged with the procuring of all supplies, except those for which contracts are made directly by the chiefs of the Treasury or War Departments.
The superintendent of military stores shall superintend the issues of all supplies.
The purveyor shall have near him three assistants, by whatsoever denominations: one, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Quartermaster-General, including the means of transportation; another, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Commissary of Provisions, with the addition of medical and hospital stores; a third, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Commissary of Military Stores, with the addition of clothing. The person who now resides at the seat of government, in quality of quartermaster-general, may perform the duty of the first-mentioned assistant.
The superintendent of military stores shall have near him three principal clerks, each of whom particularly to superintend the issues in one of the above-mentioned branches, aided by as many storekeepers as may be necessary.
The purveyor shall have with each army a deputy, to be charged with the procuring of all supplies necessary to be procured with the army.
The superintendent shall have with each army a deputy, who shall have under him three assistants: one to superintend the issues of quartermaster’s stores; another, to superintend the issues of provisions; a third, to superintend the issues of other military stores and clothing.
The purveyor and this deputies shall deliver over all that they provide to the superintendent and his deputies. The actual custody and issuing of articles to be with the storekeepers, pursuant to the written orders of the superintendent and his deputies.
The quartermaster-general with the main army, and the deputy quartermaster general with each separate army, shall have the superintendence of the deputies of the purveyor with the respective armies, to see that they do their duty according to their instructions from the heads of their respective branches and the order of the commander of the army.
The inspector-general with the main army, and the deputy inspector-general with each separate army, shall have a like charge of the deputies of the superintendent of military stores.
These officers to serve a checks upon the respective deputies, and as points of union between the military and civil authorities.
The paymaster-general shall reside at the seat of government, and be the fountain of all issues of money for the pay, bounty, etc., of the troops. He shall have a deputy with each army, who shall be charged with the issuing of all moneys to the regimental paymasters.
The quartermaster of each division shall be charged with the procuring of all supplies which may be occasionally necessary for such division, in addition to the general supplies.
The quartermaster of each brigade shall be charged with the like duty, when the brigade is detached only; and always with the superintendence of the issues for such brigade, and consequently with the direction of all brigade officers having the custody of supplies.
Each brigade shall have a commissary of forage, and another of provisions; to be charged respectively with the issues of those articles.
The regimental quartermaster shall receive and issue all supplies for the regiment, except of money and clothing.
The regimental paymaster shall issue moneys for the recruiting service to the company officers charged with that service, pursuant to warrants from the commanding officer of the regiment, or from the superintending officer of the recruiting service for such regiment, taking from each an accountable receipt.
Whenever it is practicable, he will himself pay the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of his regiment, individually; when, by reason of distant detachments, this cannot be done, he will deliver the money to the officers commanding companies, or to the officers commanding parts of companies, at stations too distant for the agency of the commanders of companies: taking from each an accountable receipt. The money must, in each case, be paid and issued, pursuant to pay-rolls signed by such commanding officers; and, whenever it is practicable, accompanied by the warrants of the commanding officers of the regiments, or of battalions when detached.
For all moneys which shall be issued to officers, to be disbursed by them, they shall account monthly with the regimental paymaster, producing to him the requisite vouchers. Upon every such accounting, he shall give a certificate of the substance thereof to the officers with whom such accounting shall be, specifying therein the vouchers which shall have been produced and left with him. This accounting shall be provisional only, and liable to the revision and control of the proper officer of the War Department, to whom the accounts and vouchers must be forwarded.
The same regulations, as nearly as the subject will admit, shall be observed in respect to the issuing of clothing and other articles (provisions excepted), which shall be issued to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, and in respect to the accounting for the same.
Every receipt for pay, bounty, or other matter, from a non-commissioned officer or private who cannot write, shall be certified by a commissioned officer, who, wherever it shall be practicable, shall be other than the person for whom it is to serve as a voucher.
All documents or returns, upon which issues of money or other articles are to be made, must be countersigned by the chief officer of the regiment or other particular corps for which the same is to be issued.
The accounts of regimental paymasters and quartermasters shall, previous to their transmission to the War Department, be presented to the commanders of regiments, or of battalions when detached, and to the persons from whom respectively they shall have received the objects for which they are accountable, who shall summarily examine them, and certify their opinion respectively.
The above regulations shall apply to all persons who may act as substitutes for the officers to whom they relate.
All returns and requisitions for obtaining supplies from the Department of War, shall go from the deputy superintendent of military stores with each army to the said superintendent.
Estimates of supplies shall be reported by the deputy quartermaster-general with each army to the commander of such army, and shall be by him transmitted to the Secretary at War, with his opinion.
Each deputy shall send a duplicate of every estimate to the quartermaster-general, who shall report to the Commander-in-Chief general estimates for all the troops of the United States, illustrated by the particular estimates, which general estimates shall be transmitted by the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary at War, with his opinion.
hamilton to wilkinson
April 15, 1799.
General Hamilton presents his compliments to General Wilkinson, and sends him at foot, heads for conversations which it is proposed to have, in order to call the attention of G.W. to the several points. Most of them have, no doubt, been topics of communication with the War Department, but the freedom and particularity of conversation will yield additional lights, and lead perhaps to a correct system for the management of our Western affairs in their various relations.
- 1.The disposition of our Western inhabitants towards the United States and foreign powers.
- 2.The disposition of the Indians in the same aspect.
- 3.The disposition of the Spaniards in our vicinity—their strength in number and fortification.
- 4.The best expedients for correcting or contracting hostile propensities in any or all these quarters, including—
- 5.The best defensive disposition of the Western army, embracing the country of Tennessee and the northern and northwester lakes, and having an eye to economy and discipline.
- 6.The best mode (in the event of a rupture with Spain) of attacking the two Floridas. Troops, artillery, etc., requisite.
- 7.The best plan of supplying the Western army with provision, transportation, forage, etc.
- 8.The best arrangement of command, so as to unite facility of communication with the sea-board, and the proper combination of all the parts under the general commanding the Western army.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—Inclosed are the proceedings of a general court-martial, of which Major Wilcocks is president. All the sentences, except that of Richard Hunt, have been approved and directed to be executed. The corporal punishment in the case of Goldsberg is remitted, agreeably to the recommendation of the court. You will observe that the pay due to each of the offenders is forfeited.
As I do not conceive the United States to be now at war, in the legal import of that term (which I construe to be a state not of partial but of general hostility), I considered it as beyond my power to approve or execute such sentences as by the articles of war are referred to the President in time of peace. But while I think it my duty on this ground to transmit the sentence without acting upon it, I feel myself called upon by a profound conviction of the necessity of some severe examples to check a spirit of desertion which, for want of them in time past, has become too prevalent, and to respectfully declare my opinion that the confirmation and execution of the sentence are of material consequence to the prosperous course of the military service. The crime of desertion is in this instance aggravated by the condition of the offender, who is a sergeant, and by the breach of trust, in purloining the money which was in his hands for the pay of his company.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—Upon a careful inspection of the articles of war, I entertain doubts, whether I can act upon, by approving or disapproving, sentences of courts-martial, referred to me from the Department of War in cases in which the courts have been instituted by that department through organs other than myself.
As there is peculiar delicacy in inflicting punishment upon questionable authority, I shall be glad to be exempted from the embarrassment, which references of the above-mentioned kind will occasion.
hamilton to washington
May 3, 1799.
Dear Sir :
At length the recruiting for the additional regiments has begun in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The inclosed return of clothing will sufficiently explain to you that it has at least commenced as soon as the preparations by the Department of War would permit. It might now also proceed in Maryland and Massachusetts, and the next post will, I trust, enable me to add Virginia, but that I do not think it expedient to outgo our supply of clothing. It will have the worst possible effect, if the recruits are to wait a length of time for their clothing.
I anticipate your mortification at such a state of things. Various causes are supposed to contribute to it.
It is said, that the President has heretofore not thought it of importance to accelerate the raising of the army, and it is well understood that the Secretary of the Treasury is not convinced of its utility. Yet he affirms, that for a long time past he has been ready and willing to give every aid depending on his department.
The Secretary at War imputes the deficiency in the article of clothing to a failure of a contract which he had made, and to the difficulty of suddenly finding a substitute by purchases in the market. It is therefore obvious, that the means which have since been pursued have not been the best calculated for dispatch. The materials procured at distant places have been brought to Philadelphia to be made up. They are stated to be adequate in quantity.
You will observe that six are numbered 1. This applies to a regiment in the Western country. I proposed to the Secretary to change the buttons. It has not been done.
Yet, if the Secretary’s energies for execution were equal to his good dispositions, the public service under his care would prosper as much as could be desired. It is only to be regretted that good dispositions will not alone suffice, and that, in the nature of things, there can be no reliance that the future progress will be more satisfactory that the past.
Means, I trust sufficient, have been taken to procure from Europe a supply of clothing for the next year, and the Secretary has assured me, that he would immediately take measures for procuring a supply for the succeeding year.
As to other supplies, I believe things are in tolerable trains, and that there is a certainty of the most essential articles in due abundance.
The officers for North Carolina have been appointed. No nominations have come forward from South Carolina.
Not a single field-officer has yet been appointed for the regiment to be raised in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. It seems the members of Congress dissuaded from the nomination of those who were proposed by the general officers, and promised to recommend preferable characters; but this promise has not yet been performed. This want of organization is an obstacle to the progress of the affairs of this regiment.
It is understood that the President has resolved to appoint the officers to the provisional army, and that the Secretary has thought fit to charge the Senators of each State with the designation of characters.
With the truest respect and attachment, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
May 3, 1799.
Sir:—After mature reflection on the subject of your letter of the 26th of last month, I am clearly of opinion that the President has no power to make, alone, the appointment of officers to the battalion which is to be added to the second regiment of artillerists and engineers.
In my opinion, “vacancy” is a relative term, and presupposes that the office has been once filled. If so, the power to fill a vacancy is not the power to make an original appointment. The terms, “which may have happened,” serve to confirm this construction. They imply casualty, and denote such offices as, having been once filled, have become vacant by accidental circumstances. This, at least, is the most familiar and obvious sense, and, in a matter of this kind, it could not be advisable to exercise a doubtful authority.
It is clear that, independent of the authority of a special law, the President cannot fill a vacancy which happens during a session of the Senate.
hamilton to mchenry
May 18, 1799.
Sir :—It is urgent that arms for the troops to be raised be at the regimental rendezvous as speedily as possible.
Military pride is to be excited and kept up by military parade. No time ought to be lost in teaching the recruits the use of arms. Guards are necessary as soon as there are soldiers, and these require arms.
When I came to see the hats furnished for the 12th regiment, I was disappointed and distressed.
The Commander-in-Chief recommended cocked hats. This always means, hats cocked on three sides. I was assured that cocked hats were provided. I repeated the assurance to the officers. But the hats received are only capable of being cocked on one side, and the brim is otherwise so narrow, as to consult neither good appearance nor utility. They are also without cockades and loops.
Nothing is more necessary than to stimulate the vanity of soldiers. To this end, a smart dress is essential. When not attended to, the soldier is exposed to ridicule and humiliation. If the articles promised to him are defective in quality or appearance, he becomes dissatisfied, and the necessity of excusing the public delinquency towards him, is a serious bar to the enforcement of discipline. The government of the country is not now in the indigent situation in which it was during our revolutionary war. It possesses, amply, the means of placing its military on a respectable footing, and its dignity and its interest equally require that it shall act in conformity with this situation. This course is indeed indispensable, if a faithful, zealous, and well-regulated army is thought necessary to the security or defence of the country.
hamilton to hamtranck
May 23, 1799.
Sir:—* * * You are aware that the governors of the Northwestern Territory and the Mississippi Territory are severally ex officio superintendents of Indian affairs. The management of those affairs, under the direction of the Secretary at War, appertains to them. The military in this respect are only to be auxiliary to their plans and measures. In saying this, it must not be understood that they are to direct military dispositions and operations. But they are to be organs of all negotiations and communications between the Indians and the government. They are to determine when and where supplies are to be furnished to those people, and what other accommodations they are to have. The military, in regard to all such matters, are only to act as far as their co-operation may be required by the superintendent, avoiding interferences without previous concert with them, or otherwise than in conformity with their views. This will exempt the military from a responsibility which had better rest elsewhere, and it will promote a regular and uniform system of conduct towards the Indians; which cannot exist if every commandant of a post is to intermeddle separately and independently in the management of the concerns which relate to them.
This communication is made in conformity with an instruction from the Secretary at War, who particularly desires that “The military officers may be required to refer the Indians, in all matters relating to their national affairs or grievances, to the Governor of the Northwestern Territory and the Governor of the Mississippi Territory, or the temporary Indian Agent nearest to their post, as the case may require; and that the commandants of the posts in the Mississippi Territory may be instructed to furnish on the order of Governor Sargent, when the same can be spared, such rations for the Indians who may visit the said posts, as he may from time to time direct.”
This letter being addressed to you as the temporary commander in the presumed absence of General Wilkinson, you will act on it accordingly, recollecting that your attention is to extend to all the troops and posts from Pittsburgh westward to the Mississippi, on the lakes and Tennessee; in short, to all which constitute the Western army and its dependencies.
But in saying this, as a guide to you, it is not my intention to contravene any arrangements of command which General Wilkinson may have made previous to his departure.
May 23, 1799.
Sir:—It is important to the service in every way, that vacancies which happen in the several regiments should be an speedily as possible filled. As no person can be more interested in this being done, and with a careful selection of character, than the commandants of regiments, it is desirable that they should, from time to time, propose to the general under whose command they may be, candidates for filling those vacancies, in order that they may be by him offered to the consideration of the Executive.
In doing this, however, it must be recollected, that there is no part of his functions in which it is upon principle more essential that the Executive should be perfectly free from extrinsic influences of every kind, than that of the choice of officers. Hence it is proper that no expectation should be entertained that the characters presented for consideration will be preferred, that no encouragement should be given them which may occasion embarrassment or chagrin in case of their not being adopted, and that no inferences painful to the person recommending should be drawn from the failure of the recommendation. This failure will doubtless often happen. Information of more eligible candidates will frequently come through other cannels. Collateral considerations will in no small number of instances occur, which, between candidates of equal pretensions, will naturally lead to a preference of persons who may have been presented through other channels.
In a word, the recommendation of the commandant is only to be considered as one mode in which information of fit characters may be conveyed to the Executive.
It occasionally happens that experience leads to alterations in the sub-districts or their rendezvouses. It is expected that whenever this happens, the commandant within whose circle it occurs will give notice of the change to the contractor of his circle, in order that provision may be made for the requisite supply.
It is understood that some misapprehension has existed among some recruiting officers about the articles which the contractors and their agents are to supply.
It will be proper to signify to them that these are only to embrace provisions, quarters, fuel, straw, and, where there is no surgeon, medical aid and supply.
hamilton to mchenry
May 23, 1799.
* * * Embarrassment being likely to grow out of the question about the sales of the Indians to the individuals alluded to, will it not be expedient for the public to hold a treaty with them, and make the acquisition of the lands to the use of the United States? A small compensation to the Indians will satisfy all their scruples, and the United States will be enabled to control the intrusions of the irregular purchasers. Otherwise it is probable settlements will grow up under their titles hostile to government, because originally in disobedience to law. It may also be a question whether, if by the effect of their purchase the acquisition can be made by the United States on easier terms, it may not be advisable to extinguish their pretensions by the grant of a portion of their lands. This probably may be accomplished without difficulty. Temporizing measures on a distant frontier are often proper for a government which does not choose to keep on foot a considerable force, effectually to awe sedition and hostility.
hamilton to col. stevens
May 24, 1799.
Sir:—I understand from the Secretary at War, that in the capacity of agent for the War Department I am to look to you for the duties usually performed by the quartermaster-general and commissary of military stores. I shall look to you accordingly for these services, and therefore shall direct all returns relating to the proper objects to be made to you, in the expectation that you will attend to the procuring and forwarding of such as are required with propriety. With this view you will open a correspondence with the proper officers at the seat of government. The present system is that Tench Francis, Esq., as purveyor of supplies, procures all articles in the several branches of supply, which are placed by him in the disposition of Samuel Hodgdon, Esq., as superintendent of military stores, who is to oversee all the issues of those articles. I believe the quartermaster-general is to take his station at the seat of government, and is to be the auxiliary of those officers.
It is expected that the great mass of supplies will be procured and furnished by the immediate agency of the officers above mentioned, and that you will only be incidentally called upon to provide. But you will have to make application for the supplies which will be wanted at the different stations and posts of the army, and to see that they are punctually and expeditiously furnished by those whose province it is to do so. For this purpose you will forward to them the returns which you shall receive, first taking such abstracts from them as will enable you to judge how far they have been complied with. This points out the general line of the service expected from you. Explanations, as occasions occur, will be made for your more particular information.
I shall count fully upon your diligence and zeal, and if not in the first instance, at least eventually, I shall confide that a compensation adequate to what shall appear to be the extent of your trouble and responsibility will be made.
hamilton to mchenry
May 25, 1799.
Sir :—I recur to two of your letters of the 9th and 10th instant. The reflections in the first respecting the enlistment of foreigners entirely accord with my impressions, as you have heretofore seen. I adhere to the opinion, that none but natives, or naturalized citizens, ought to be engaged. Of the latter, residence in this country anterior to our revolution, to be proved to the satisfaction of the recruiting officer, or a certificate of the naturalization, ought to be the criterion; and none ought to be enlisted who have not resided in the country where they shall be enlisted at least one year immediately preceding the enlistment.
It is true that contraventions of the rule, by imposition upon, or connivance of, the recruiting officers, will in some instances happen. But they will not be so numerous as to prevent the object being essentially attained.
The idea is held out in your letter of postponing the enlistment of foreigners until after a district should be exhausted of natives willing to enlist. I should doubt the expediency of a distinction which is not permanent. The preference might create disgust, and perhaps an injurious collision.
I shall be glad to know speedily the result of your further consideration of the subject.
P. S.—In a scene so near the seat of government as that in which the late insurrection has existed, and so perfectly within its command, the policy of stationing, for any length of time, a small body of foot-soldiers, with the manifest intention to awe the spirit of insurrection, appears to me questionable. Were I at liberty to pursue my own inclination, I should now order the troops to the destinations to which they have been assigned.
Under this impression, I inclose an order for Capt. Henry’s company to proceed to Powles Hook, on his way to his ultimate destination in the Eastern quarter. If you approve, you will please forward it. Capt. Freeman’s company at West Point, which is to form part of the battalion for the field, is ordered to New York, whence, if you think proper, it can march to replace Capt. Henry’s company.
hamilton to mchenry
May 27, 1799.
Sir:—The returns from every quarter show that desertion prevails to a ruinous extent. For this the natural remedies are: 1st, greater attention to discipline; 2d, additional care in furnishing the supplies due to the soldiery, of such quality and with such exactness as will leave no real cause for dissatisfaction; 3d, the forbearance to enlist foreigners; and lastly, energy in the punishment of offenders.
To promote the first, will be my peculiar care. The second, I doubt not, will have from you all the attention due to a matter of primary importance. The third I hope soon to receive your instruction to put in execution. As to the fourth, I must entreat that you will make such a representation to the President as will convince him of the absolute necessity, where his agency must intervene, of giving effect to the sentences of the courts. His determination upon one some time since reported to you has not yet been received, and I expect it with great solicitude; there cannot occur a more fit case for exemplary punishment. If this culprit escapes, the example of his impunity will have a most malignant aspect towards the service. I repeat it, sir, this is a point of such essential consequence, that you cannot bestow too much pains to satisfy the President that severity is indispensable. It is painful to urge a position of this kind, especially wherelife is concerned; but a military institution must be worse than useless—it must be pernicious,—if a just severity does not uphold and enforce discipline.
hamilton to hamtranck
June 6, 1799.
I duly received your private letters of the—and the 25th of January last, to which a very extraordinary pressure of business has prevented a reply. Such of your remarks as are personal to me are very gratifying.
I hope your expectations will not finally be disappointed, though it will require time before a complete organization of what is now a very disjointed mass, will enable me to establish perfect order. Zeal, at least, my friends know will not be wanting.
The request you make with respect to yourself, though unusual, is very natural, considering past experience. It will not fail to influence my advice, unless I perceive that your feelings and your interest as a soldier can be mutually consulted.
Communicate to me freely and confidentially on the subject of Western affairs; you are sure of my discretion and honor.
hamilton to washington
June 7, 1799.
I did myself the honor to write to you at some length on the 3d of May. I hope the letter got safe to hand.
The recruiting service is now in motion in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts; I might, perhaps, add Virginia, from the assurances which I have received as to the transmission of supplies, but I am not as yet informed of its actual commencement in that State. This cannot be much longer delayed.
The field-officers for the regiment, which embraces New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island have been lately appointed. They are Rufus Graves, lieutenant-colonel; Timothy Tarling and Cornelius Lynde, majors. The moment money and clothing shall arrive, the recruiting will begin there and in North Carolina. But I do not view this as very near.
I do not understand that the officers for South Carolina and Georgia have yet been recommended.
The information I receive as to the progress and prosperity of the recruiting service, is sufficiently encouraging. Colonel Taylor, commandant of the regiment raising in Connecticut, assures me that he is persuaded, if no obstacle arises from supplies, that in two months his regiment will be filled by native Americans. From other quarters the intelligence is very well. I permit myself to hope that in the summer and fall the army will be at its complement.
I send you a copy of the arrangement which has been made of the two regiments of artillerists; measures are taking to carry it into execution. The distribution of the officers of the Western army is referred to Colonel Burbeck.
There is nothing further in the military line worthy of your attention to communicate. When I shall have obtained more assistance I shall write more frequently.
A letter from Mr. King contains this unpleasant intelligence. The publication of the treaty of Campo-Formio by the Directory, will injure the affairs of the emperor. It will increase the jealousy of the king of Prussia and of the emperor, whose safety and interests were too little in view in that treaty. There is no end to the folly of the potentates who are arrayed against France. We impatiently expect further accounts of the operations of the archduke, and entertain a strong hope that his genius and energy will turn to good account the advantage he has gained.
Most respectfully and affectionately I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to —— ——
June 12, 1799.
It will be with great regret that I shall at any time see in the conduct of an officer intentional negligence or disrespect. I am the less disposed to suppose either in the present case, because it is impossible to imagine a motive. Yet I owe it to propriety to remark, that your continued silence has been ill-judged.
The obstacles which you mention to the making of the returns, did not render it impracticable to acknowledge the receipt of my letters, and to inform me of the causes of delay, and of what was intended, which certainly ought to have been done.
hamilton to washington
June 15, 1799.
I wrote to you a few days since, chiefly to inform you of the progress of the measures respecting the recruiting service, and that the symptoms with regard to it were sufficiently promising. The accounts continue favorable.
I have just received a letter from General Wilkinson, dated the 13th April, in which he assures me he will set out in the ensuing month for the seat of government. The interview with him will be useful.
It strikes me forcibly, that it will be right and expedient to advance this gentleman to the grade of major-general. He has been long steadily in service, and long a brigadier. This, in so considerable an extension of the military establishment, gives him a pretension to promotion.
I am aware that some doubts have been entertained of him, and that his character on certain sides, gives room for doubt. Yet he is at present, in the service, is a man of more than ordinary talent, of courage and enterprise; has discovered upon various occasions a good zeal, has embraced military pursuits as a profession, and will naturally find his interest, as an ambitious man, in deserving the favor of the government; while he will be apt to become disgusted, if neglected; and through disgust may be rendered really what he is now only suspected to be. Under such circumstances, it seems to me good policy to avoid all just grounds of discontent, and to make it the interest of the individual to pursue his duty.
If you should be also of this opinion, I submit to your consideration, whether it would not be advisable for you to express it in a private letter to the Secretary at War.
hamilton to mchenry
June 16, 1799.
Seeing the terrible delays which take place, is it not advisable immediately to authorize your agent at New York and Boston, to take prompt measures for increasing your supply of clothing, tents, and such other articles as are in arrear? Considering past experience, can you possibly depend on the present plan for the future supply? If blue cloth cannot be found for the whole, better to take some other color by entire regiments for those which have not yet begun to recruit.
The Brest fleet is out. Its destination is in all probability Ireland; but ought we so entirely to rely upon this as to omit to take the precaution of having some fast-sailing vessels on the look-out before our principal ports—Charleston, the entrance of the Chesapeake, the Delaware, New York, Newport, Boston,—with perhaps the establishment of signals?
It would be awkward to be entirely surprised, and to have some of our banks fall into the hands of the Philistines. When we think of Egypt, we ought not to consider the attempt as impracticable. Announcing that it is a mere act of caution without intelligence, no inconvenient alarm will be created. It may even be useful to bring home to the minds of our citizens, that our government does not deem an invasion impossible.
Colonel Stevens informs me, that some time since the United States lent to New York a thousand stand of arms which are exposed in a situation to be lost, and are not wanted by the State. There is no reason why their return should not be asked.
hamilton to mchenry
June 25, 1799
My Dear Sir:
I conclude from your letter by to-day’s post, that your own opinion in regard to the raising of a troop of horse is made up, and that you only delay a determination from the necessity of a reference elsewhere. This is a point that I have so much at heart, that I should be sorry any thing was risked about it. If you think there is the least danger of disappointment, I will write to the Commander-in-Chief to obtain for you the support of his ideas.
It is of very material consequence to have a troop raised, as a stock on which to ingraft a system of tactics for the cavalry. Hitherto, it may be said, we have had none. Improvements are going on in Europe. This particular arm is not brought to perfection even there. Opinions are somewhat unsettled. It is very desirable to have an organ by which we can essay the various plans, and upon which we can establish the model of a good system.
As to the two troops already raised, they ought to remain where they are.
General Wilkinson is soon expected. I am strongly inclined to see him made a major-general. He has had now a great deal of experience; he possesses considerable military information; he has activity, courage, and talents; his pretensions to promotion, in every view, are strong. If he should become disgusted without it, it would not be extraordinary.
Half-confidence is always bad. This officer has adopted military life as a profession. What can his ambition do better than be faithful to the government, if it gives him fair play?
hamilton to —— ——
June 25, 1799.
* * * You will allow me, however, to remark to you with frankness, that there is in my opinion something too absolute in your manner of declining this service, and that I cannot give my sanction to the sentiment in your letter, contained in these words: “I cannot possibly, except in actual war, separate myself from her [your wife] and my children,” etc. You have too much discernment, and too well know the principles of service, not to be sensible that it is the essential condition of military employment that, in peace as in war, an officer shall be ready to execute the trusts, relatively to his station, to which he may be designated. That the peremptory claim of an exemption from this rule cannot be advanced, whatever may be the hope of indulgence towards a very peculiar situation.
Doubtless, therefore, you will see it proper to correct the latitude and force of the expressions which you have used, as transcending your real meaning.
hamilton to mchenry
June 27, 1799.
It is a pity, my dear sir, and a reproach, that our administration have no general plan. Certainly there ought to be one formed without delay. If the chief is too desultory, his ministry ought to be more united and steady, and well-settled in some reasonable system of measures.
Among other things, it should be agreed what precise force should be created, naval and land, and this proportioned to the state of our finances. It will be ridiculous to raise troops, and immediately after to disband them. Six ships of the line and twenty frigates and sloops of war are desirable. More would not now be comparatively expedient. It is desirable to complete and prepare the land force which has been provided for by law. Besides eventual security against invasion, we ought certainly to look to the possession of the Floridas and Louisiana, and we ought to squint at South America.
Is it possible that the accomplishment of these objects can be attended with financial difficulty? I deny the possibility. Our revenue can be considerably reinforced. The progress of the country will quickly supply small deficiencies, and these can be temporarily satisfied by loans, provided our loans are made on the principle that we require the aliment of European capital,—that lenders are to gain, and their gains to be facilitated, not obstructed.
If all this is not true, our situation is much worse than I had any idea of. But I have no doubt that it is easy to devise the means of execution.
And if there was everywhere a disposition, without prejudice and nonsense, to concert a rational plan, I would cheerfully come to Philadelphia and assist in it; nor can I doubt that success may be insured.
Break this subject to our friend Pickering. His views are sound and energetic. Try together to bring the other gentlemen to a consultation. If there is everywhere a proper temper, and it is wished, send for me, and I will come.
hamilton to mchenry
July 8, 1799.
Sir:—I have considered the rules transmitted in your letter of the 2d instant relative to rank and promotion.
They appear to me founded on just principles, nor do I know that they can be improved. I will, however, present to your consideration some observations on two or three points.
It seems to me questionable whether the preference given to full colonels of the deranged officers over the lieutenant-colonel commandants, who served to the end of the war, be expedient.
It is making that a matter of substance which was purely nominal. The grade of lieutenant-colonel commandant was in our system, to all intents and purposes of service and promotion, equal to that of colonel. And the general principle of preferring officers who served to the end of the war, seems to me as applicable to this particular as to any other.
It is desirable to exempt, a military commander from the exercise of a discretion in personal matters which may expose him to the supposition of favoritism. It is possible the Commander-in-Chief may not like to be charged with that which is proposed to be conferred upon him; though he could have no objection to aid the determination of the President with all requisite information. Perhaps the clause may with advantage be altered to stand thus: “The relative rank of officers who have not been in service will be determined by the President. The Commander-in-Chief will report to him their names, with such information as he may deem proper.”
The last clause will, I think, be more accurate, if altered into this form: “On the happening of a vacancy, the officer next in rank will in ordinary cases be considered as the most proper person to fill the same. But this rule is considered as subject to exceptions in extraordinary cases.”
It will be useful, also, in my opinion, to add a clause to this effect: “In promotions to the several ranks of generals, the officers of cavalry, artillery, and infantry will be considered as eligible indiscriminately, or without distinction of one corps for another.”
To confine the officers of artillery and cavalry to their particular corps in the appointments of general officers, is to render the chance of promotion unequal, and to discourage in the several classes of officers the study of all the branches of tactics. The contrary principle will have a contrary effect; and though it is rarely to be expected that an officer of cavalry or infantry will be competent to the service of the artillery, yet nothing is more easy than for the officers of those corps to be acquainted with the tactics of each, and an officer of artillery can without difficulty make himself master of the tactics of the cavalry and infantry. The plan of an indiscriminate choice will also increase the chances of having qualified generals.
And if the idea itself be approved, it is expedient to prepare the army to expect its application by engrafting it in the system of promotion.
hamilton to secretary at war
July 29, 1799.
Sir:—I have honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th instant, inclosing a warrant for the execution of Sergeant Hunt.
I have reflected carefully on the point submitted to our joint consideration, and, upon the whole, I incline to the side of forbearance.
The temper of our country, is not a little opposed to the frequency of capital punishment. Public opinion, in this respect, though it must not have too much influence, is not wholly to be disregarded. There must be some caution not to render our military system odious by giving it the appearance of being sanguinary.
Considering, too, the extreme lenity in time past, there may be danger of shocking even the opinion of the army by too violent a change. The idea of cruelty inspires disgust, and ultimately is not much more favourable to authority than the excess of lenity.
Neither is it clear that one example, so quickly following upon the heels of another, in the same corps, will materially increase the impression intended to be made, or answer any valuable purpose.
If, for any or all of these reasons, the utility of the measure be doubtful, in favor of life it ought to be forborne. It is the true policy of the government to maintain an attitude which shall express a reluctance to strike, united with a determination to do it whenever it shall be essential.
It is but too certain in will not be long before other instances will occur in which the same punishment will be decreed for the same offence. To disseminate the examples of executions so far as they shall be indispensable, will serve to render them more efficacious.
Under these impressions, if I hear nothing to the contrary from you by the return of the post, I shall issue an order to the following effect: “That, though the President has fully approved the sentence of Sergeant Hunt, and, from the heinous nature of his conduct, considers him a very fit subject for punishment; yet, being unwilling to multiply examples of severity, however just, beyond what experience may show to be indispensable, and hoping that the good faith and patriotism of the soldiery will spare him the painful necessity of frequently resorting to them, he has thought fit to authorize a remission of the punishment; directing, nevertheless, that Sergeant Hunt be degraded from his station.”
I request to be speedily instructed.
hamilton to stoddert
July 29, 1799.
A press of various business has delayed a reply to your favor of the 19th instant.
The principle you suggest for my consideration, though, if it could be introduced, it would work well, cannot, in my opinion, be put into practice. It would contravene too much pretensions rooted as well in the human heart as in unconquerable prejudices of the military state; by which expressions I include the naval department. Carrying in the very fact an avowed preference, humiliating to the pride of the superior officer, and reversing the order of antecedent relations, a cheerful submission could never be obtained.
The alternative you mention is the proper expedient, and a very necessary one it is. It will be happy if Congress can be induced to adopt it.
With very great esteem, I have the honor, etc.
To Secretary of Navy.
hamilton to colonel smith
August 9, 1799.
Sir:—Our political situation renders it very urgent that not a moment shall be lost in disciplining our troops as fast as they shall be raised. To this end it is essential that every officer shall personally exert himself to the utmost; and that a very faulty practice which has occasionally prevailed in our armies, as well as others, shall be carefully avoided—namely, commanders of regiments leaving too much to their majors, these to the adjutants, and the company officers to their sergeants.
It is expected that each commandant of a regiment will himself industriously exercise his regiment in the manual and evolutions; that each major will do the like in his battalion, and the company officers in their several companies. These last must charge themselves with the detail of instructing their men from the beginning; using their non-commissioned officers as auxiliaries, not as their representatives or substitutes; and the field-officers must carefully superintend the company officers in relation to this detail.
This course will have the double advantage of insuring the rapid improvement of the soldiers, and of giving every officer practical expertness within his sphere, without which an army is nothing but a mass of disorderly elements.
In the reply which I expect to make to the several corps, I hope for the gratification of observing, in the proficiency of officers and men, that the instruction contained in this letter has been carefully and zealously executed.
hamilton to mchenry
August 13, 1799.
Every day must prove more and more to everybody that it is impossible to serve two masters. I cannot be a general and a practiser of the law at the same time, without doing injustice to the government and myself. Hence I am anxious to disentangle myself more completely than I have yet done from forensic pursuits. But to be able to do this, I must call to my succor all the emoluments which I have a right to claim. Hitherto I have had neither quarters, nor fuel, nor servants. The two last I shall take measures for myself. But the former I have had some scruples about, and wish an instruction concerning it from you, which may be addressed as well to General Pinckney as to myself. On this article, too, I have no doubt of my right to order the person acting as quartermaster to provide quarters for me and my suite. Every commanding general has this right, and situated as I am, in a time of no active operations, which the force under my command dispersed to various points, I have no doubt that the strictest propriety accords with my personal station being where it is, and that in this station it is in every view fit that I should have provided at public expense for myself and suite, a house as quarters suited to my rank and command. The procuring of a better one than I now occupy would be strictly justifiable; but it is not my wish to do it.
How do you construe the 4th section of the act of March 3, 1797, respecting double rations, in reference to the officers appointed under the act for augmenting the army?
This question has, in cases foreign to the spirit of the provision, come up from some of the officers of the twelve additional regiments, and it will probably soon come up in others. It is important to the two major-generals, as well as others; and it ought to apply to them. Yet the law must not be strained, but future provision made where the existing one is deficient.
You must not think me rapacious. I have not changed my character. But my situation as commanding general exposes me to much additional expense in entertaining officers occasionally in the city of New York, and citizens and foreigners who come to pay their respects to the commanding general; and adding this consideration to the circumstance of a wife and six children, whose maintenance and education are to be taken care of, I shall stand in need of all I can fairly get from the public, if I am essentially to renounce my profession.
hamilton to mchenry
August 13, 1799.
Sir:—It is now time to take measures for the establishment of the additional regiments in winter quarters.
It has been already determined to dispose of them in four bodies, and the positions generally have been designated. These positions will, of course, be adhered to, unless alterations shall become expedient from considerations relative to the comparative prices of rations at different places. It is necessary speedily to understand whether any deviations will result from this source, which has been heretofore a subject of correspondence between us.
As to mode, I incline to that of huts. Every thing in our military establishment is too unsettled to justify the expense of permanent barracks, and the hiring of quarters in towns will be adverse to the health and discipline of the troops, and may lead to disorders, unfriendly to harmony between the citizens and the soldiery.
The experience of the last war has proved that troops cannot be more comfortable in any way than in huts; and these they can build themselves. Perhaps as these in question are quite raw, it may be expedient where they do not happen to have carpenters among themselves, to indulge each regiment with the aid of a few to be procured on hire, who may direct the mode of construction, and lend a helping hand to the huts of the officers. The ground will be to be hired. The material for building must be found upon each spot. It you approve, and as soon as I shall receive from you the information which is to guide as to prices of rations, I will give directions to the respective contractors to procure the ground, with the co-operation, where it can be conveniently had, of the agent for the War Department, and of the commandant of a regiment nearest to the intended site.
Any suggestions which you shall think fit to make with regard to the detail, will receive careful attention.
Applications have been made to me to authorize the providing of a wagon and four horses for the use of each regiment. It is suggested that for the transportation of fuel and straw, and for a variety of current services, many difficulties attend the continual dependence on the contractor, which would be obviated by a wagon attached to the regiment. I am of opinion that the measure is right, and would direct it to be put in execution, but that it is my rule to enter into no new arrangement involving expense without previous recourse to you, where there is no pressure of circumstances to require immediate decision.
hamilton to mchenry
August 19, 1799.
I return you the papers of Mr. Williams, which you sent me, at his desire, for perusal. The explanation and your final opinion of the affair have given me pleasure, as I should be sorry that any circumstances of improper conduct should have stood in the way of the employment of Mr. Williams.
I regret extremely that obstacles should exist to the requiring of the resignation of Mr.—.You are apprised of the good opinion I entertain of the probity of this gentleman, and of his talents for business within a sphere of action which will admit of an immediate personal attention to every thing which is to be done. But you are no less apprised of my perfect conviction of his incompetency, at his present time of life, to exercise an office which embraces extensive and complicated objects; in which system and arrangement and various combinations are necessary. It is a satire upon our government that he cannot for whatever cause be removed. The number of powerful connections which he has, is, I trust, not the obstacle. If it has any weight, I think it may be relied upon that the most influential of them would, from conviction, acquiesce in the propriety of the measure. But if he must remain, certainly there ought to be no ceremony about giving him good assistance whether of his own choice or not. In this it is most regular that the two departments concur. But if they cannot, as Secretary at War I should not hesitate to insist, that he should employ such organs as I deemed requisite for executing well the business of my department.
You observe, that no present inconvenience attends the suspension of such a measure, Believe me the service everywhere is suffering for the want of proper organization. It is one thing for business to drag on,—another for it to go on well. The business of supply in all its branches (except as to provisions), proceeds heavily, and without order or punctuality,—in a manner equally ill adapted to economy on a large scale, as to efficiency and the contentment of the army. It is painful to observe how disjointed and piecemeal a business it is. Among other evils is this that the head of the War Department and the chief of the several divisions of the army exhaust their time in details, which beyond a general superintendence are foregin to them, and plans for giving perfection to our military system are unavoidably neglected.
Let me repeat, my dear friend, my earnest advice, that you proceed to organize without delay the several branches of the department of supply; that is, to fix the places and appoint the agents. You will experience great relief and many advantages from it. The saving from better management will infinitely overpay the expense of salaries. The contractors who feel little responsibility execute very carelessly every thing in which they are merely agents. The increase of numbers will make this a very important consideration.
Supplies in general are neither duly procured nor duly forwarded, frequently not of good quality nor agreeing in kind,—and the system of accountability, excellent in theory, I venture to say, entirely fails in execution. The inevitable consequence is that there must be a great waste of property. It is in vain to have good plans, if there are not proper organs for execution. Every new step to be taken is attended with embarrassment for want of organization.
It is much to be regretted that Carrington was not appointed quartermaster-general according to the new arrangement, before the last session of the Senate ended, so that every thing in that branch of service might be now in complete train.
If this appointment is determined upon, will it not be well to notify the intention to him, and to prevail upon him to come to the seat of government, to the end that you may concert with him the proper arrangement. Till the Commander-in-Chief take the field, his residence would very naturally be at or near the seat of government, and you would find his assistance in every view very valuable.
I have heretofore requested Mr. Hodgdon to send me from time to time a return of the supplies which he forwards. This may save you the trouble of reading applications for things which have been done. The request has not been complied with. I do not mention this by way of complaint, but for information, to induce you to give him a specific direction. Once a week such a return ought to be made to you, and a duplicate might be sent to me.
hamilton to harrison
August 24, 1799.
Sir:—Attempts are making in different parts of the country to procure the enlargement of soldiers on writs of habeas corpus issued by and returnable before State judges. As this practice will probably involve serious consequence, it becomes necessary for me to avail myself of the information of those officers of the United States who are particularly charged with the consideration of legal questions. I wish, therefore, for your deliberate opinion, distinguishing between courts and individual judges, on the legality of this practice, and especially on the effect of a return to the writ, that the person demanded had been duly enlisted by an officer of the United States, in conformity with the laws and with his instruction. You will also be pleased to consider whether upon such a return it is necessary to produce the person who is the object of the habeas corpus. The charge for this opinion you will make against the Department of War.
hamilton to mchenry
August 25, 1799.
I must again press for the settlement of a rule of promotion. It is essential of fix principles and the conditions and expectations of officers as fast as possible. The army never will be organized and in order unless points are successively established as they occur to consideration, and, when established, strictly adhered to. The total defect of organization in the Western army (the extent of which I did not know till very lately) has increased my solicitude for another course of things, lest we get everywhere into inextricable chaos. I send you an arrangement of the seventh regiment, in conformity with my idea, which I hope may be adopted.
August 27, 1799.
In military service it is essential that each individual should move within his proper sphere, according to a just gradation and the relations which subsist between him and others. It is a consequence of this principle that a regular chain of communication should be preserved, and that, in all matters relating to service each person should address himself for information or direction to his immediate superior officer, and should not step beyond him to a higher authority. This observation of course excepts the case where an individual, having received an injury from his immediate superior, is disposed to seek redress from the superior of both; but in other cases the principle ought to be rigidly observed.
It is not so in practice. I have received communications from captains of companies, which in propriety ought to have been addressed to commandants of their regiments or of the districts within which they are stationed; and I know that communications have in some instances been made my particular officers to the Secretary of War, which ought to have been addressed to me. These things are not regular, and must be avoided. The good of the service and the dignity of every officer, from the highest to the lowest, require that they should not prevail. The officers and persons attached to the army, who are charged with the expenditure of money and with the providing or issuing of supplies, will properly correspond with the Department of War on those subjects; but every other officer ought to address himself to his immediate chief, and the chiefs of corps or distinct commands must make their communications to me, except in the cases in which particular regulations direct otherwise.
To apply the rule. The officers must not go beyond you with their verbal or written communications; you must address yours to me, except—
1st. Returns and applications respecting ordnance, arms, accoutrements, and other military stores, clothing, articles of quartermaster’s supply, hospital stores, including medicines, which for the present must be addressed to Ebenezer Stevens, Esquire, agent for the War Department in New York (the proper officers in respect to these objects not being yet appointed).
2d. Monthly and other returns respecting the numbers and state of corps and detachments, including inspection and recruiting returns, which must be addressed to Brigadier-General North, Adjutant-General.
3d. Muster-and pay-rolls to Caleb Swan, Esquire, Paymaster-General, at the seat of government.
These last had best be forwarded by the respective paymasters of regiments and detachments, where any exist.
The Paymaster-General has been advised to confine his communications to paymasters, and to such others as have received public money, for which they are accountable directly to the War Department.
It is expected that other officers will shortly be appointed and annexed to head-quarters, to whom the objects under the first and third heads will properly belong.
This, when it taken place, will be announced in general orders.
You will take care to make these instructions known within the sphere of your command.
hamilton to mchenry
September 2, 1799.
Sir:—Your letter of the 29th instant is received. I shall conform to what I understand to be the spirit of the practice of which it gives examples. It is right not to make an extra allowance to officers for performing a military duty at a place where they are stationed, or where they actually are resident, or where there is a military post, at which they can be accommodated as usual, except for travelling from another place to that post. But I submit that this is not applicable to a person, not a member of the army, who may be specially designated to such a duty. Nor do I think that it consists with the dignity or policy of the government to desire the service of such a person gratis. A person not of the army acting as judge-advocate, ought, in my opinion, to be compensated. Trials in some instances exhaust too large a portion of time to be employed for a public purpose, without an equivalent. It will be agreeable to me, in the three instances in which I have been the agent, to announce that an allowance is to be received. I have thought of three dollars per day. The persons are, Mr. Hare, in the trial of Capital Vance; Mr. Morton, in the trial of Captain Frey; and Doctor Osborne and Mr. Malcom, in those of Major Hoops and Captain Cochran. The state of the military hereafter will obviate the necessity of incurring a similar expense.
In the case of the court-martial of which Major Wilcocks was president, I applied the regulations of December, 1798, though from the wording of them, I thought there might be some doubt of their applicability, but your construction will solve the doubt. It is the convenient one.
I shall announce to the several commandants, that law and usage consider the two dollars per head as the equivalent for the extra expenses of recruiting officers, and that no further allowance can be made.
Nothing is more just than your observation, “that officers, instead of encouraging the complaints of their men on the occasions to which you refer, ought to endeavor to satisfy them that the article complained of, for some good reason, could not be otherwise.” I have inculcated this doctrine in different instances, and shall make it a subject of a circular-instruction.
You add that nothing is more common among officers, than complaints about everything furnished by the public. I am inclined to believe with you, that the spirit of complaining is apt to be carried to an excess. But it is important, when it is observed to prevail, to inquire with candor and calmness whether it has not been produced in whole or in part from real causes of complaint, If it has, it is then essential that any defects in the public plan which may have occasioned them, should be corrected.
This is essential for two reasons: one, that justice, the success of the service, and the public good require that right should be done to the troops; the other, that the doing of it will most certainly and effectually remedy the evil.
In a new army especially, the force of discipline can hardly be expected to stifle complaint if material ground for it truly exist. To be frank on this point is a duty. Viewing the matter from a variety of positions in which I have stood, it is an opinion of some standing with me, that the supply of the army, except in the article of provisions, has been most commonly so defective as to render a considerable degree of discontent a natural consequence. In some instances the quality of articles, in others their form or workmanship, have been faulty; in others they have been supplied too irregularly and too much by retail.
These things, amidst a revolution, will be acquiesced in. In the first essays of a new government, this will be tolerated; but in a more mature state of its affairs, as that of ours at present, a government should not stand in need of indulgence from its armies. In strict justice to them, it should lay the foundation of an absolute claim to their strict obedience and rigid compliance with every duty.
In recurring to ideas of this sort, I only embrace an occasion which seems to call for the expression of them. I well know your disposition to ameliorate our plan. I count upon the success of your efforts, but till the amelioration has been exemplified, you are not to wonder if murmurs continue, and it will not be my fault if they are not as moderate as possible.
September 7, 1799.
Sir:—It has been suggested to me that particular officers, in some instances, have incautiously indulged remarks in the presence of their men, respecting the bad qualities of articles furnished, which were of a nature to foster discontent in the minds of the soldiery. Instances of this sort, I am persuaded, must have been very rare, as the impropriety of the thing is too glaring to escape an officer of the least reflection; and I am convinced it is only necessary to mention the matter to you, to engage your endeavors to prevent a similar imprudence. If any articles of supply are exceptionable, the proper course is to represent it to me, in order that the remedy, if in my power, may be applied; if not, that it may be sought through the Secretary at War. Of my constant exertions to place the army on a comfortable and respectable footing, no doubt can be entertained.
Desultory observations have from time to time been made to me, respecting particular articles. I am desirous of having a special and very accurate report from the commandant of each regiment, of the quantity and quality of all the articles which have been received for its use, viz., arms, accoutrements, clothing, tents, and camp utensils. You will as soon as possible transmit it to me. Any suggestions of improvements in any of the articles which are supplied will be acceptable.
hamilton to washington
September 9, 1799.
Two days since I received from General Wilkinson a report of which I now send you the original. You will find it intelligent and interesting. Perhaps on the score of intrinsic propriety, it deserves to be adopted to a larger extent than some collateral and extraneous considerations may permit.
I had previously thought of the subject, but had purposely limited myself to a few very general ideas, that I might examine with the less prepossession the plan of an officer who, possessing talents to judge, has for years had his mind occupied with the scene to which he refers. Since the receipt of his plan, I have assiduously contemplated it with the aid of a full personal explanation; and my judgment has formed a result, though not definitive, but liable to revision. I adopt several of the leading ideas of the General, but I vary in some particulars: as well because I think the change might be too strong with reference to its influence on public opinion, and the feelings of the parts of the country immediately concerned, as because it seems to me that motives of real weight dictate a modification of his plan.
Premising that one complete regiment of infantry should be left for Tennessee and the frontiers of Georgia, I would propose the following disposition of the remaining three of the old regiments, and for the battalion of artillerists and the two troops of dragoons allowed for the Western army. It is taken for granted that the plan must contemplate only the four old regiments of infantry (with those portions of artillerists and dragoons), inasmuch as these are the only infantry regarded by our system as permanent. The twelve additional regiments will dissolve, of course, as to the non-commissioned officers and privates, by the simple fact of the settlement of our dispute with France.
Let these troops be disposed of as follows, viz.:
A Battalion of Infantry and a Company and a Half of Artillery
Niagara.—Two companies of infantry and a half company of artillery.
Detroit.—Three companies of infantry and one company of artillery, to furnish a detachment for
Michilimackinac.—A subaltern, two sergeants, and twenty-four rank and file infantry, and a sergeant and twelve artillerists.
A Battalion of Infantry and a company of Artillery
Fort Fayette and Pittsburgh.—One company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.
Fort Wayne.—One company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.
Fort Massac.—Three companies of infantry and half a company of artillery, to furnish detachments for
Fort Knox.—A sergeant and eight rank and file.
Fort Pickering, Chickasaw Bluffs.—A subaltern, two sergeants, and twenty-four rank and file.
A Battalion of Infantry and a Company of Artillery
Fort Adams, Loftus Heights.—A battalion of infantry and a company of artillery, to furnish for
Fort Stoddard, function of Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, Mobile.—Not exceeding a company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.
There will then remain a regiment and a battalion of infantry, half a company of artillery, and two troops of dragoons. Let these be stationed at some convenient point at or near the rapids of the Ohio, to form an army of observation, and act as exigencies may require.
The other posts now occupied to be relinquished.
A few remarks will illustrate the reasons of this plan.
As a general principle it is desirable to concentrate the force as much as possible. This tends to efficiency for action, to the preservation of order and discipline, and to the promoting of economy. It is conceived that the occupying a small number of critical points with a reserve of force to support an attack, will be more impressive on the Indians than the dissipation of the whole force among a great number of small posts. This reserve ought to be so placed as to look to all the principal objects, and it may, as an incidental one, with propriety, look to that of preventing or suppressing insurrections. The concentration of force, with a proper disposition, will render the maintenance of it far less expensive than if subdivided into small and scattered portions.
These more particular considerations co-operate.
As to Niagara and Detroit.—The effectual possession of the straits which connect Lake Erie on the one side with the Ontario, on the other with the Huron, appears to me very material as a security against British attack, and as a means of controlling the northern and northwestern Indians, by enabling us to obstruct communication. These points are mentioned because they now exist as posts; but the straits ought to be reviewed by a skilful engineer, and such points selected as will be most defensible, and will best command the straits. The force proposed for these stations at present is inadequate in a prospective view; but as there is a probability of a continuance of good understanding with Great Britain for some time, it is conceived that it may now suffice for the sake of obtaining a respectable corps de reserve, to be augmented as our military means may increase.
When the proper points shall have been definitively selected, it would be my plan to have at each station a regular fortification, requiring a garrison of from 500 to 1,000 men, as the nature of the ground to be occupied may indicate, with a citadel in each, defensive by from two to three hundred men. These, in times of complete harmony with Great Britain, may suffice; but, on the appearance of approaching differences, to be increased to the complement. The posts at all times to be supplied for a siege. The progress of settlement will speedily furnish the means of prompt reinforcement.
As to Michilimackinac.—The only motive for retaining this post is to preserve the occupancy of an old communication in some sort calculated to influence the Indians. As to trade, it is now only useful to the British, and likely to continue so for some years, except in so far as they find it their interest to turn their trade into our channels. There are here a few white families, supposed to be able to furnish about sixty arm-bearing men, who are said to be well disposed to our government, and who certainly, in a controversy merely with the Indians, would co-operate with the garrison. A small one is deemed sufficient for the present purpose of the post. For this an additional reason is, that the maintenance of troops there is excessively costly. Any greater force which, with our present total, could be thought of for that station, must be considered as a corps perdu in case of war with Britain, as it would be entirely out of the reach of succor. Consequently, the smaller the force there, if sufficient for the other objects, the better. It is to be observed as to this place, that the Indians whose situations are relative to it, are in no view, formidable. The insular situation is a further security.
As to Fort Fayette.—It may be doubtful whether any force here is really essential, and whether, as being a mere depot, it may not be left, as at other places, to the safeguard of the inhabitants; but, considering that it is a portal to the Western country, and that disaffection to the government has been shown by the inhabitants of the neighboring country, the force proposed is deemed expedient as a guard and as a rallying-point to the well-affected.
As to Fort Wayne.—The critical situation of this place with regard to a number of different waters, and the influence of its immediate aspect upon the most warlike of the Indians in that quarter, make it, in my view, a post to be maintained, contrary to the idea of General Wilkinson.
As to Fort Massac.—This being another portal, and the great outlet for the commodities of the Northwestern Territory, Kentucky, etc., it appears to me that, for obvious reasons, it ought to be secured by a strong regular fortification and a respectable garrison.
As to Fort Knox.—There has been for some time no more force than is now proposed, which is only necessary as a guard. The settlement is of itself an overmatch for the feeble Indians in the vicinity; who, besides, will be within the speedy stroke of the main body.
As to Fort Pickering.—The considerations mentioned by General Wilkinson are referred.
As to Fort Adams..—I make the like reference. This is an essential point. It is on a height which completely commands the river and the surrounding country, and, according to General Wilkinson, can easily be put in a state to defy every thing but famine with a garrison of about two hundred men. The force allowed will always afford this garrison.
As to Fort Stoddard.—This is now occupied with a company. It is critical as to an important river. The Indians are in the habit of seeing it occupied by the Spaniards. It commands an important communication with the powerful nations of savages in the neighborhood, and it is calculated to have an influence upon them. It is in the bosom of a white settlement. These are reasons for keeping it as a post. But an objection to it is, that at present it can with difficulty be supplied otherwise than through the Spanish territory. To make it proper as a permanent one, an easy communication through our own territory must be established. General Wilkinson says this is practicable.
I take no notice of the other posts suggested by General Wilkinson to be established along our Southern line; because, in his own view they are eventual. The Indians must be first reconciled there. And leaving a regiment for Georgia and Tennessee there is no present force for the purpose. It is also liable to the objection of an extreme frittering of our force.
I do not concur with General Wilkinson in the disposition of the corps de reserve. He would have it in the neighborhood of Fort Adams (say Natchez). I propose for it the vicinity of the rapids of the Ohio.
On General Wilkinson’s plan its great utility would be narrowed to a point, the meeting in the first instance an invasion from below, and in case of rupture of a prompt attack upon New Orleans.
But the strength of the reserve alone could not be relied upon as adequate to either object. If a superior force from below should attack, the principal body of our regular force might in the outset be defeated, dissipated, and lost. Thus depriving the militia of a necessary support might lead to greater misfortunes. If an attack is to be made, as little as possible should be left to chance, and consequently the force ought to be greater than the plan would admit.
The stationing of a large body below would give jealousy to the Spaniards, and lead to the measure of augmenting their regular force by drawing reinforcements from some other quarter.
Stationed above, no jealousy will be excited. For attack or defence the regular force can descend with the addition of the force of the country. Concerted and combined operations may insure efficiency.
In this situation the force will look to various points: to the northern Indians, to the disaffected of the neighboring country, etc., etc. Enough is said. Your reflection will supply the rest.
I send this letter without a copy, that I may not lose a post, as time and the season urge. Favor me as soon as possible with your observations and directions, for which I wait.
With the greatest respect and affection, etc., etc.
P. S.—Presque Isle is very healthy situation, and capable of much defence. The neighboring country is fast growing powerful, so as to take care of itself.
hamilton to mchenry
September 16, 1799.
Sir:—In recurring to your letter of the 29th of August, I observe there are points which, for a clear understanding, require from me some observations.
I shall make this preliminary remark, that in presenting them with emphasis, as I am accustomed to do, I am actuated by the sole and exclusive motive of showing by particular instances that the past plan has been productive of imperfect results, and that more comprehensive and adequate measures are necessary for the future.
Our provisions have been made too much on the spur of the occasion, have been too generally confined to the absolutely necessary for the moment, rejecting the idea of surplus for future casualties and exigencies. This defect in our plan is not imputable to any one individual. It may be traced partly to the immaturity of our institutions and affairs, and partly to errors of opinion which embraced persons in various situations.
I am sensible that important steps, both legislative and administrative, have been taken toward a more provident and efficacious system; but a frequent contemplation of the imperfections of the past plan ought to have the effect of increasing the tendency toward improvement.
I must at the same time be permitted to add, that, in my opinion, the want of a proper organization of agents in the various branches of the public service, and of a correct and systematic delineation of their relative duties, has been a material cause of the imperfect results which have been experienced; that it continues to embarrass every operation, and that while it lasts it cannot fail to enfeeble and disorder every part of the service.
To exemplify the present defect of organization, it is sufficient to refer to the situation of the quartermaster-general’s department, of the medical establishment, and of that of the pay office. The paymaster-general, with propriety, is stationed at the seat of government; but he has no deputy either at my head-quarters or at that of General Pinckney.
I am sensible that where the appointment of the chief requires the consent of the Senate, it must now be deferred to the future meeting of that body, and that the subordinate persons whom the law places in the choice of those chiefs, cannot be constituted without them; but temporary arrangements may still be made as a substitute; and I confess my anxiety that this may be done, either immediately by you or by your direction to General Pinckney and myself, each to regulate the matter within the sphere of his command.
Permit me earnestly to request that this business of organization in all its branches may engage a prompt and decisive attention. Till this shall have been the case, no commanding officer can perform well his peculiar duties; as his time and attention might be engrossed in details, which are foreign to his station. And the consequence must be inefficiency and disorder.
I proceed to some particulars of your letter.
You observe that you consider it as the duty of the commanding general not only to make returns of all articles, among these clothing wanted for his troops, but to make them in such season as to allow of making up and transporting them to their destinations.
If this idea shall be adhered to, I shall be very ready to perform my part; but I should wish a more precise definition of the objects. What are the articles to be embraced? There are some objects, as artillery, muskets, etc., of which it is always to be presumed there are sufficient quantities constantly ready in the public arsenals and magazines. What time or times will be deemed proper for the transmission of the returns? Are the destinations in detail to be pointed out or not?
But I beg leave to recommend the point to a serious reconsideration; and I will take the liberty to offer some reflections in relation to it, which seem to me to deserve attention.
The total force which is to compose the military establishment is regulated by law. That force, as prescribed by law, is itself the standard of all ordinary supplies to be provided, which ought always rather to exceed than fall short of the complement. The secretary at War consequently possesses ipso facto the rule which is to govern as to providing all fixed and stated supplies.
If this force is to be divided into different armies, still the aggregate of supply must be the same. Besides, that distribution will be arranged by the Secretary at War in concert with the Commander-in-Chief. If left to the discretion of the latter, he only is competent to furnish the criterion.
It follows, that the principal articles of supply, all those which are not dependent on the particular nature of military movements, will always depend on the establishment, and will not be to be regulated by the returns from particular generals.
The temporary strength of corps, at one time increased by the accession of recruits, at another diminished by the casualties of service, ought never to be a guide in providing; because such a standard is fluctuating and uncertain, and because the supply ought to be commensurate with the full complement of the establishment.
The commanding general, who should have to present an estimate to the head of the War Department, (and whose agency as to the ordinary and stated supplies is rendered unnecessary by the circumstance of there being other data previously in the possession of the department,) would be bound to govern himself in his estimate by the scale of the establishment, and not by the temporary state of things.
Requisitions, from time to time, for the issuing of supplies, may fall under a different consideration. These would have reference to the actual state of the forces; but these do not answer to the import of the terms you employ, which appear to aim at some annual, or other periodical estimate to govern the providing as well as the issuing of the articles.
Premising these things as objections to the idea you have suggested in its full latitude, it remains to examine what is the proper course.
The head of the War Department must no doubt be aided by agents who are conversant in the various branches of supply and competent judges of what may be wanted.
These agents ought to be certain officers, or boards established at the seat of government, more permanently fixed in their stations than the precarious commander of a particular army; such as the purveyor of supplies, a board or master of ordnance; or, instead of these, the inspector of artillery, the superintendent of military stores; which officers ought to be aided by information from the chiefs of the branches of supply connected with the army, as in our present system the quartermaster-general, etc.
These latter officers being under the direction of the military commanders, would be obliged to communicate with them to receive their instructions, and to inform them of what is done or intended, so that they may be apprised of the competency of the provision made or to be made, and may be able to direct calls, or to represent to the head of the War Department such further provision as they may judge expedient.
As to the supplies to be from time to time issued, requisitions ought to come from the chiefs of the several branches of supply, acting with the armies, to those officers who at the seat of government are charged with providing and furnishing the respective articles.
As on the one hand, the complement of the establishment will be the guide in providing, so on the other, the returns of actual force to the Secretary at War from the commander of each army, will, in the first instance, be a collateral guide to the officers, and a check upon extravagant demands, and the accounts afterwards to be rendered will show the application.
The forming of the permanent arsenals and magazines of a country, which ought to be always prepared to furnish the principal articles of supply, is naturally a work of administration, predicated upon an entire view of the political and military relations, and the forces and resources of the country. When these are thus formed, how few are the objects to which the estimate of a particular general can apply? How are the partial and detached estimates of several particular generals to reach the full extent of the supplies aggregately necessary? How is each to make his estimate of what may be requisite, unless each has under his eye the entire state of all the national arsenals and magazines, and enters into a minute examination of all the issues which may have been made? If he is to do all this upon his own responsibility, what time will he have for his purely military duties? Is it proper in theory that each general having a separate command should possess complete view of the state of all the public arsenals and magazines?
I conclude, that from the nature of the thing, the business of procuring and of issuing supplies ought, in a general view, to be unconnected with the particular commander of a particular army; that it is properly a business of administration, in which the head of the War Department is to be aided by the subordinate organs of his department stationed at the seat of government, and by the heads of the several branches of supply who act with the armies.
The agency of the Commander-in-Chief, and the commanders of particular armies, where requisite, ought to be collateral and auxiliary, not direct and primary.
It is true, that there is a class of supplies which, being governed by the actual operations contemplated—such as transportation, forage, etc.—must be regulated by estimates and returns to come from the armies. But even in these cases, the responsible persons to make the estimates and returns, ought to be the chief or chiefs of the departments of supply with the armies, who ought previously to submit their estimates and returns to the military commanders, in order that they may be transmitted with their opinions and observations.
Thus far it is conceived, the agency of the commanding general may be useful and proper. But the scheme of it, as now indicated, supposes as a preliminary, the appointment of the proper heads of the several branches of supply.
Indeed, this preliminary is essential to every form of agency in this respect, which may be assigned to a commanding general. It is not presumable in principle, and would never be found true in fact, that the general of an army is so minutely acquainted with all the details of supply as to be qualified to present a correct view of all the objects which may be requisite, without the intervention of those officers whose peculiar province it is to manage the business of supply.
As to the subject of pay, it would seem from your manner of expression to be your idea, that the warrant of a commanding general must be founded on certificates of the paymaster-general. But I must conclude that this cannot be your meaning; as a very natural and fair construction of the laws will for this services substitute to him his deputy with each army; and as it is essential, in practice, that the interpretation should admit of this substitution. How else are the troops remote from the paymaster-general to be paid at all? Consider, especially, the position of the Western army.
When the law of the 8th of May, 1792, which charges the duty on the paymaster-general was passed, there was but one army—hence that act designates him singly.
But the act of the 3d of March last, contemplating that there may be several different armies, provides that there shall be a deputy paymaster-general to each of them, without particularly defining his duties. It is evident that he must be intended to perform duties, and important ones; what are they? The law being silent, they are of course all such as the paymaster-general is to perform where he may be; except as to any particular one, which, from the nature of things, ought to be confined to the chief. On any other principles, the deputy will be as much excluded from one duty as from another, which was before performed by his chief, and the appointment will become nugatory.
I infer that all moneys for the purpose of paying the pay, subsistence, and forage of the troops, must still be delivered in the first instance by the treasurer to the paymaster-general, because this is conducive to union and to a regular chain of accountability; but that the paymaster is to deliver over to each deputy in mass a sum sufficient to answer all these purposes with the army to which he is attached, and the deputy is to disburse it in detail, and to exercise all the services preparatory to that disbursement, which by the first law were charged upon the paymaster-general, including that of certifying the sums due, to the commanding-general.
Principles of law, no less than those of convenience, warrant this construction, beyond the possibility of doubt, after mature reflection.
Accordingly, in consequence of a representation of difficulty, on the point of warrants, by the paymaster-general, I have advised him, as the legal and proper remedy, to appoint without delay one deputy to the troops under the command of General Pinckney, another to that under my command. I confidently trust that you will approve, and, if necessary, enforce this advice; the ground of it is unquestionably solid.
The course which you indicate in the last paragraph but one of your letter, appears to me perfectly correct and convenient.
hamilton to mchenry
September 17, 1799.
Sir:—Part of the contents of your letter of the 10th of July last, (which has happened to escape a definitive attention,) being connected with the subject of the 7th September, I shall reply to them together.
Previous to the receipt of the last, I had drafted rules relating to extra expenses, which after careful revision I send for your determination. They contemplate, it will be seen, a discretion, to make exceptions in special cases. The rule in such matters cannot be entirely absolute without involving too much embarrassment. As the establishment of a general rule will attach a particular responsibility to each deviation from it, it will, in the main, prevent unnecessary deviations. The regulations do not include the restrictions which may be thought fit to be laid on the commanding generals. These, it is supposed, had better be the subject of particular communications by letter to those officers.
The two other points mentioned in your letter of the 10th of July, shall now be attended to.
First, as to compensation or allowances to servants not soldiers. It appears to me a clear point, that the resolution of Congress of March, 1780, is not in force, and consequently cannot be an authority for such allowances. There being no other, it is not seen how any general practice of the government could be now supported. With regard to the expediency of the practice on principle, I have strong doubts. I fear that it might lead to the abuse of compensations for nominal servants, while soldiers would still be the real ones. Pretexts of sickness, etc., in the hurry of a campaign, might disguise the abuse. I question, too, whether in time of peace it would be advisable to augment the public expense by the addition of persons of this description.
I incline most to the plan of the Great Frederick, which was to let the officers, in time of peace, be served by the ordinary soldiers; in time of war by supernumeraries, specially enlisted for the purpose, and discriminated by a distinct uniform or livery, forbidding the soldiers of the ranks on any pretence to be employed in this capacity. This practice procured all the advantage without the dangers of the other plan.
The number of servants which it is conceived proper to allow to the respective grades of officers, are—
To the commander-in-chief, or general having a separate command, three, without arms, to attend him on horseback.
To the inspector-general, quartermaster-general, each major-general not having a separate command, and to the adjutant-general, two of the like description.
To a brigadier-general, paymaster-general, deputy quartermaster-general, deputy inspector-general, one of the above description, and one with arms.
To each field-officer, and every other officer who ordinarily serves on horseback, one of the first-mentioned description.
To every officer who usually serves on foot, one with arms.
The servants required to have arms in all general exercises, marches, and movements, are to be found in the ranks. When annexed to officers detached from corps, they must join the guards connected with such officers or their baggage. In the cases in which they would be otherwise without arms, if they are attached to officers of dragoons, they will retain their arms.
The drawing of provisions for children appears to me inadmissible, and, as far as I know, unusual. They are, without this, incumbrance enough, when in camp or quarters, especially in the camp of a campaign.
I remark, incidentally, that it is to be wished that a corps of invalids, and an establishment for the maintenance and education of the children of persons in the army and navy, were provided for by law. Policy, justice, and humanity forbid the abandoning to want and misery men who have spent their best years in the military service of a country, or who, in that service, have contracted infirmities which disqualify them to earn their bread in other modes.
Employment might be found for such a corps which would indemnify the public for the mere maintenance of its members in clothing, lodging, and food. The United States is perhaps the only country in which an institution of this nature is not to be found—a circumstance, which, if continued, will be discreditable. The establishment as to children is recommended by similar motives, with the additional consideration that they may be rendered by it useful members of society, and acquisitions to the army and navy as musicians, etc. I shall wait for your opinion as to the abolition of issues to children.
You will observe what articles are supposed by me to be proper to be furnished by the contractors. These are the only ones which I recollect, as of ordinary and stated supply, that will not naturally come from the superintendent of military stores. Contingent or extra articles had better be under the management of the agents. As to the scale of allowance in each case, this has either been regulated by your department, or has already been the subject of some former communication from me, except in the instance of forage. I forbear to offer any scale for this article, because I take it for granted that one is already established on the basis of long experience.
If your are desirous of a revision of it by me, I shall be ready to obey your orders for the purpose.
Regulations Respecting Certain Supplies, and Respecting Special and Extra Expense
The several contractors, besides rations, including ardent spirits and vinegar, shall only provide and furnish quarters, transportation, forage, fuel, straw, stationery, and, where there shall be no other provision for the purpose, medical assistance.
The quarters intended are those of a temporary kind. The power to provide them shall not extend to the building or repairing of barracks. In what they furnish, they shall govern themselves exclusively by the regulations which shall have been established by law or by the War Department; and, where none exist, by the orders of the particular commanding officer.
No barrack or other building shall be erected but by order of the quartermaster-general, the deputy quartermaster-general, or, in a separate command, the commander of an army, or the commander within a separate military district or department, or of the Secretary at War. No repairs shall be made to any barrack or building which shall incur a disbursement of money exceeding fifty dollars; but, by the like order, where there are several distinct forts or posts in a subdivision of a great military district, united under the command of an intermediate superior, the particular commandant of either of those posts shall not cause any such repairs to be made, though occasioning no greater expense than fifty dollars, without a previous report to such superior, and his approbation. No extra expense for any special object or purpose shall be incurred by such particular commandant, without a previous report to the said superior; who, when such expense may exceed fifty dollars, shall not authorize it without first obtaining the sanction of his superior. The commandant of a particular fort or district, having no intermediate superior, shall incur no expense for repairs, nor any extra expense for any special object or purpose, which may require a disbursement exceeding fifty dollars, without the permission of the commander of the army or district, or of the Secretary at War.
As often as any matter which may require any special or extra expense can wait, without material injury to the service, for a communication to and the direction of the commander of an army or district, it is not to be undertaken till after such communication and direction shall have been had.
These regulations admit of exceptions in cases of extraordinary emergency and of peculiar urgency, when the service would be likely to suffer materially from the delay which might attend the observance of them. Every such exception will be on the special responsibility of the officer by whom it may be made, who must immediately report to his superior the occasion, and the expense, probable or actual. The commander of an army, or within a great district, may, by instructions in writing, to be forthwith communicated to the Secretary at War, make exceptions in cases where the remoteness of the fort or post shall render the application of these regulations manifestly inconvenient; intrusting a large discretion to the commandant of such fort or post.
The quartermaster-general, his deputies and assistants, are primarily charged with the making of the disbursements in the cases above mentioned. When there is no such officer, the agent of the War Department in the vicinity shall do it. All orders for such disbursement must be definite, and in writing, to be transmitted with the accounts of them to the accountant of the War Department.
hamilton to colonel moore
September 18, 1799.
I have received your letter of the 17th instant, and regret extremely the event of which it informs me. Although it is not my intention to contravene military prejudices on the subject, yet I doubt not you will agree with me that it is proper to discourage a spirit which would lead to frequent events of this nature. I have been the more naturally led to this reflection, as I am informed by General Wilkinson that the practice of duelling in the Western army has been carried to an extreme in every view reprehensible and injurious. I must request from you a particular statement of the circumstances of this unhappy affair.
hamilton to mchenry
September 19, 1799
Sir:—I have communicated to Colonel Bentley your resolution, as expressed in your letter of the 30th of August, in respect to the late appointments for his regiment.
But the occasion claims from me some remarks, as due to my own opinion of propriety and the good of the service.
I cannot doubt that the practice of your department, as to the filling of vacancies in new corps, previous to your coming into it, was just as you state; but in the latitude in which it is stated, I cannot easily be persuaded that it is such a practice as ought to be continued, or that it is not of a nature to sow the seeds of permanent discontent in the infancy of every corps.
I can, nevertheless, agree in the position of the Commander-in-Chief, that when, in the case of a newly created corps, an officer declines his appointment, during the act of formation, the vacancy is not necessarily to be filled by the next in seniority.
But this is a rule rather to be narrowed than extended in its application; because it clashes with expectations that will inevitably grow up in the minds of officers, and in which their pride and self-love will always take a very active part. It is, in my opinion, to carry it to an impolitic extreme, to say that it shall operate until “the regiment, legion, or corps has been recruited, or nearly so, and has marched to head-quarters.” And to apply it to a single case of promotion is to mistake its principle, as, from the subsequent expressions of the Commander-in-Chief, may be inferred to be his idea. The rule is naturally confined to the case of an officer in the original creation, who declines his appointment; in other words, who refuses to accept. The moment a station has been filled by acceptance, though but for a day, the right of promotion attaches to it, and, if becoming afterward vacant, it is filled by a new person, this is a violation of the principles of service and of the just expectations of subordinate officers. It is not a correct answer to this to say, that a corps “is open to new appointments,” or, as I understand the phrase, that the right of promotion does not commence till after the relative rank of the officers who have been appointed has been settled.
The want of a settlement of relative rank among them only leaves it doubtful what individual of their number shall succeed, but it does not involve any doubt whether aggregately they do not exclude a stranger. There is still a clear right of some one of them to succeed, to be effectuated as soon as the relative rank is established; and new persons ought to come in junior to them all.
The appointment, therefore, of a new person in the place of one designated to an office in the regimental staff, to take precedence of others before appointed, is irregular, and not warranted by the rule, if taken within just limits, or within the definition of the Commander-in-Chief.
Even the practice of introducing new men to vacancies occasioned by the non-acceptance of officers in the original appointment, ought not, in my judgment, to be continued till the corps should have been recruited or nearly so, and marched to head-quarters, as you state to have been the case.
This may be so long protracted as to postpone inconveniently the routine of promotion, and produce dissatisfaction. A reasonable period should be fixed within which acceptances may with due diligence be ascertained—suppose three months from the first appointment of officers. To keep the thing open for a year or more, which is likely to be the case in the present instance, if the completion of the regiment should be the criterion, could not fail to beget discontent even in men of moderate and subordinate tempers.
The recommendation of persons as officers by the commandants of regiments ought, I think, when the contrary is not expressed, to be understood to mean, that they shall come in as junior second lieutenants. If I recollect rightly, in one or two instances of an early date they have expressed the contrary, and relying upon their judgment of the probable effect on their regiments, I have countenanced the recommendation. But I am clearly of opinion that this ought not to be the case in future; and that, considering the length of time which has elapsed since the organization of the regiment, it is indispensable that the routine of promotion shall henceforth prevail, with the exception perhaps of the fifth regiment, in consideration of the receiving of the appointments for it.
Military prejudices are not only inseparable from, but they are essential to, the military profession.
The government which desires to have a satisfied and useful army must consult them. They cannot be moulded at its pleasure; it is vain to aim at it.
I must entreat, sir, that the observations which I have offered in this letter may be attentively weighed. They are urged upon mature reflection, and are believed to be material to your satisfaction and that of the officers-principal in command, to the satisfaction of all the officers, present and future, to whom they are applicable, and to the harmonious course of our military affairs.
With great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
September 21, 1799.
Sir:—I feel it as a mark of consideration for my recommendation, that notwithstanding the force of the difficulties which in your view operate against further advances not founded upon the prescribed forms, you are pleased to declare that you will once more give your sanction to the measure. I must entreat you even to go a step further, and to order that it be without fail done. For symptoms bordering on mutiny, for the want of pay, have been reported to me as having appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth regiments; and discontents, less turbulent, have been communicated from several other quarters. An explosion anywhere would injure and discredit the service, and, wherever the blame might really be, would be shared by all. No one can be more deeply impressed than I am with the necessity of a strict adherence to general rules and to established forms. But there will occur circumstances in which these ought to be dispensed with, and it is equally important to judge rightly when exceptions ought to be admitted, as when the general rule ought to be maintained.
The creation of a new army, in which every officer from the highest to the lowest is of new appointment, and in respect to which, in and out of the administration, there is a deficiency of some essential organs, presents a case which with the utmost diligence and care will require and justify relaxations.
For instance, the law and the instructions of the Treasury Department require that the pay of the troops shall be founded upon warrants of the commanding general, regulated by the reports of the paymaster-general; or, as I maintain the construction of the late law to be, of his deputy, with a separate command. How was that practicable when the paymaster-general was at Cincinnati, and he had no deputy anywhere? How can it now be done with reasonable convenience and expedition, when he resides at Philadelphia, and he has no deputy attached either to my command or to that of General Pinckney?
Again, muster- and pay-rolls are to be in certain precise forms, prescribed by the Treasury; these forms were received by me only four days since, and consequently could not hitherto be in the possession of the commandants of regiments. It will not be said that I ought to have called for them; because certainly it lies with the department to communicate its own regulations uncalled for. Are the soldiery to suffer a privation of pay for several months, because these forms, never prescribed, have not been fulfilled?
It is true that when I was at the head of the Treasury Department, these forms passed under my eye; but it is less true that I had forgotten the circumstance, and that considering it as an attribute of the inspector-general to devise forms, where none were before established by higher authority, I had caused to be prepared forms of muster- and pay-rolls to answer the present exigency. Surely, as the matter is situated, these forms ought provisionally at least to serve as substitutes for the established ones.
Various other particulars might be added to prove that dispensations with the ordinary forms ought to take place in relation to the new regiments; but the foregoing are sufficient for the illustration.
Every effort, no doubt, ought to be made, and on my part will be made as fast as possible, to put this and every other matter in its proper and regular train; but time is requisite, and the organs which depend on administrative authority must first be instituted.
The Treasury as well as the War Department has too often experienced the necessity of accommodating relaxations in special cases, not readily to admit upon reflection that they are right in the existing position of our new army.
As to the persons who are to muster the twelve regiments, they are, by my direction, the commandant of the regiment, and the surgeon, or person officiating in that capacity. It seems to me that, till inspectors are appointed, nothing could be done which would promise greater security to the public. I did not like to multiply agents; I consider that this is substantially conformable to the instruction from the Treasury, and will be so understood; if not, you will please to inform me.
With great respect, I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servant, etc.
hamilton to col. moore
Sir:—I have received your letter of the 28th instant, and shall make but one inquiry more with respect to the unfortunate affair between Lieut—and Capt—You will be so good as to inform me of the particular subject on which the political dispute turned, and of the principles that were maintained by the respective parties. The information I am anxious to receive.
I am pleased with the pains you have take to discourage a repetition of such instances. If examples were wanting to illustrate the pernicious effects of drinking to intoxication, the present unfortunate affair would be a very instructive one. How necessary is it, as well by the means which affect the pride and delicacy of officers, as by those which are furnished by the principles of discipline, to discountenance so ungentlemanly a propensity. You have the leave of absence which you request.
hamilton to col. moore
October 6, 1799.
Sir—It is afflicting to learn that such a dispute as you state in your letter of the 3d instant should have occurred between two officers of the American army. Particular attachment to any foreign nation is an exotic sentiment which, where it exist, must derogate from the exclusive affection due to our own country. Partiality to France at this late day is a bad symptom. The profession of it by Capt.—, in my opinion, does him no honor. How far it ought to impair confidence, must depend in a degree on personal character. But as often as a similar bias is manifested, the conduct of the person ought to engage the vigilant attention of the commanding officer. I hesitate as to what my duty requires on the occasion, and must think further of the matter. You will be pleased to ascertain, and inform me whether Lieut.— be an American citizen or not. You will receive another letter of this date on the subject of winter quarters.
With confidence and esteem.
hamilton to mchenry
October 12, 1799.
Sir:—It is now time to contemplate the distribution of the troops of the United States into divisions and brigades. The arrangement which appears to me expedient for the present is this: “That the four old regiments shall form one division and two brigades; the twelve new ones, two divisions and four brigades.”
The very great sphere of action to which the former are destined, including important and complicated objects appears to me to render it expedient that not more than two regiments shall constitute a brigade. But the latter, till there should be actual service, when the system supposes that the number of each regiment would be increased, may, for the mere purposes of discipline, be conveniently formed three to a brigade. The disposition for winter quarters accords with this idea.
Correspondent officers should be appointed, who are principally generals, quartermasters, and inspectors.
The latter are of the competency of the inspector-general, who will proceed without delay to make the appointments.
If the non-appointment of the quartermaster-general, provided for by the Act of the 3d of March last for the better organizing of the army, or the absence of the former quartermaster-general, be an impediment to the regular course of constituting a deputy quartermaster-general to each military district, and division and brigade quartermasters, a substitute must be adopted.
Usage, founded on necessity in similar cases, would authorize each commanding general to designate persons provisorily to perform the duties. But he cannot annex the extra compensation, and without this, or the expectation of it, the business would labor.
I request your interposition. I deem essential the immediate appointment within my command of a deputy quartermaster-general, and one division and two brigade quartermasters; and I will observe incidentally, that the same thing must be requisite within the command of General Pinckney.
As to generals, the President must decide. With the Western army there is no major-general and one brigadier. Two brigadiers were appointed for the additional army, but no more than one is understood to have accepted. I am anxious that the deficiency should be supplied. The discipline of the troops ought to be accelerated. It must suffer more or less as often as one organ is transferred from its proper situation to another. I entreat a prompt decision on the subject of quartermaster.
hamilton to mchenry
October 12, 1799.
Sir:—I have the honor to transmit the plan which is conceived to be proper for the disposition of the four regiments of the permanent establishment. It is the result of communications with General Wilkinson and the Commander-in-Chief, and accords with the opinion of the latter.
The principal objects of this plan are: 1. The distribution of the troops by corps in contiguous relative positions, keeping the men embodied under their own officers, and making the commandants of regiments and battalions to superintend their respective corps; an arrangement no less favorable to the convenience and regularity of supply than to the order and discipline of the troops. 2. The reduction of the number of posts; some of which, however useful when originally occupied, can, under existing circumstances, answer no valuable purpose, but tend to subdivide too much our inconsiderable force, and to increase the difficulty and expense of supply. 3. The obtaining of a reserve force, which, being stationed in a central position, will bear upon various points either for succor or attack, and by its concentration will be capable of discipline and ready for active and efficient efforts. 4. The promotion of economy, by lessening the garrisons of some of the most remote stations, and bringing a principal part of the force to a situation where it can be supplied with comparative cheapness.
In judging of the effect of the plan in the last view, it is necessary to advert that the present low state of the corps, in point of numbers, is not the criterion. In the natural order of service, the recruits would reinforce them several companies, and in this case the actual distribution of the troops would give to posts in the most expensive situations greater numbers than are allotted to them by the present plan.
The reduction of the garrison of Michilimackinac, in particular, has been very much influenced by the consideration of economy. This motive was the more readily yielded to, as it is not perceived that a greater number there, if bearing any proportion to the whole force which we have to employ in the Western quarter, would answer any better purpose than the number proposed to be continued. This number will serve to occupy the point as one of the portals of the country, and to cover the few white inhabitants there settled. In a suitable fortification, especially as the site is an island, it may effectually resist Indian attack; and any greater number which could be spared could neither act offensively against them, nor maintain themselves against serious attack from our English neighbors. In the last supposition the increase of number, from the impracticability of reinforcement and succor, would only serve to increase loss.
It is not understood that the station procures to us at the present juncture any commercial advantage, but in this respect is principally convenient to the British traders in peltry, who, in their intercourse with the neighboring Indians, have a rendezvous at this place.
The primary inducement to us to keep a post there is, as before intimated, to retain the occupation of what may be considered as one of the portals of our Northwestern Territory, and to avoid the appearance to the Indians of an abandonment of that part of the country. It contributes also, in some degree, to an influence over the tribes connected with Lake Michigan; and in time to come it may be an encouragement to the enterprises of American traders. But all these ends will, it is conceived, be accomplished by a small force.
The force now upon the lower parts of the Mississippi will also be reduced.
It is conceived that the number contemplated by the plan will be sufficient to garrison and maintain the forts which ought at this time to exist in that region, to impress with due respect the adjacent Indians, to give reasonable protection to the inhabitants, and to keep such of them as may have foreign attachments in check. A greater number would be inexpedient, because any number which the state of our military establishment would permit to be stationed there would not be adequate to the repelling of a serious attack from our neighbors, and, being out of the reach of succor, would, for that reason, be in imminent danger of total defeat and loss; while it would be still more inadequate to an offensive operation, and, by its proximity, would be likely to create alarm and occasion reinforcement.
In the event of an invasion from below, our reserved force placed on the Ohio, reinforced by the militia, to which it would be a rallying point, can descend to meet it with effect, or can take such other measures as circumstances may dictate. If a rupture with Spain should induce us to become the invaders, the force assigned to the undertaking can rapidly descend the Mississippi, and, being at a great distance, will have a better chance of making its approach and of arriving unexpectedly, than if stationed at a place which by its nearness would excite jealousy and vigilance.
But I agree in opinion with General Wilkinson, that a strongly fortified post ought to guard our extremity on the Mississippi. It will not only serve as an impediment to invasion by the Spaniards, but will have an impressive influence on the powerful tribes of Indians in our Southwestern Territory. Loftus’ Heights (where you are informed a fortification is begun), according to the description and plans communicated by General Wilkinson, is peculiarly designated as the proper site of such a post. It is near our southern line, by much the highest point in an extensive district of country, and commands the narrowest part of the river. The dimensions of the summit are understood to correspond with a fort which may be defended with about two hundred men, and which would protect the batteries in advance towards the river, and in other directions. I concur in the expediency of occupying this height with a regular fortification of stone or brick, garnished into the proper exterior batteries. Bricks, I am assured, are easily made in the vicinity. Inclosed is an estimate of the probable expense. Though by no means an advocate for multiplying, in the present circumstances of the country, the number of our fortifications, already too great, I entertain no doubt of the expediency of the one in question, and the object is well worth the probable expense.
It will be seen that a battalion is assigned to the care of this fort, and of another now possessed on the Mobile.
The propriety of continuing the latter post may, however, depend on circumstances. It is useful for the protection of an existing settlement, and will add to the influence of our establishment upon the minds of the Indians; but the supply of it difficult and expensive, and it is now effected through the Spanish territory. In case of a diminution of amity with Spain, that circumstance would compel to a removal, unless another channel can be conveniently opened. Indeed, if this cannot be shortly done, it will hardly be proper to retain the post. The duration of the arrangement, in this particular, may, therefore, be considered as contingent.
The position which has been chosen for the reserve corps has various aspects. It looks to the succor of the more northern as well as the more southern posts, and will be likely to control efficaciously the Northwestern Indians; it has an eye to a co-operation with the troops in the State of Tennessee, whenever a good communication shall be established, which is conceived to be an object of pressing moment; and it is convenient for a descent by the river Mississippi, for offensive operations against our neighbors on the south, if future circumstances should recommend them. But, as well with a view to defence as offence, it is deemed requisite to prepare and keep ready below the rapids of the Ohio a number of boats equal to the transportation of three thousand men, with baggage, stores, provisions, artillery, and other apparatus. The number and the estimate of their cost will be found herewith.
A firm occupation of the straits which connect Lake Erie with the Huron and Ontario, appears to me a material point. It is doubtful whether the posts now on those straits are the best adapted to that end either as to local situation or construction. But unfortunately the want of a skilful engineer (a very painful circumstance in our military affairs) is an obstacle to the due examination of this point. It is, nevertheless, one which must be attended to, as early as shall be practicable. It would seem to me desirable erelong to have on each strait, a work suited to about a thousand men, with an interior work in the nature of a citadel, adapted to about two hundred. These might be expected to secure the place against a coup de main with a small force, and the growth of settlement in the vicinity will soon furnish through the militia the means of augmenting the garrison upon a sudden emergency. The good understanding which at this time subsists between the United States and Great Britain, justifies an arrangement less efficient than that just intimated. But the permanency of friendship between nations is too little to be relied upon not to render it prudent to look forward to more substantial precautions than are immediately meditated. You will likewise have observed that particular attention is paid to Massac. In my opinion, very cogent and comprehensive reasons render it the policy of the United States to secure and command the confluence of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with the Ohio, and of the Ohio with the Mississippi. To this end respectable fortifications, to be gradually executed, are necessary.
The leading motives to the plan, which I have the honor to submit, have been sketched; considerations not mentioned will readily present themselves to your reflections as having operated on parts of the plan. Among these, the maintenance of the troops on moderate terms has not been overlooked in the choice of the principal station.
Nothing particular has been said as to the regiment allotted to General Pinckney’s command because the disposition of it belongs to him.
But the plan which I offer requires your interposition to give it effect within the limits of that officer’s district. There are now there a regiment and part of another. An instruction from you is necessary to incorporate the men so as to form one full regiment—marching the overplus to Harper’s Ferry, to be sent in the spring to the Ohio.
The fourth regiment will naturally be that to be assigned to Tennessee and Georgia. The men of the third, now in Georgia, can continue there, but transferred to the fourth. These, with those at present under Colonel Butler, in Tennessee, will make a full regiment. And the recruits, under Major Bradley, may at once be sent to Harper’s Ferry. In the course of the winter the officers of the third, in Georgia, can repair to Harper’s Ferry, and a sufficient number of those of the fourth can replace them in Georgia.
An arrangement for the officers of the four old regiments is now submitted to your consideration; when approved, no time will be lost in bringing officers and men together at the several stations. At present they are extremely mingled and confused; officers of one regiment are with the men of another, and so great is the disorder that I am assured that in one instance two companies are mustered to the same captain—I allude to the case of Captain—.
It is alike important and urgent to be enabled to carry this arrangement into execution, or with such alterations as you may think fit to prescribe. The advanced state of the season renders it necessary that General Wilkinson should depart without delay. This he cannot do until he receives my instructions, and these cannot be given to him until I shall receive your answer to this communication; my antecedent authority not being commensurate with all the objects contemplated, and the Commander-in-Chief having confined himself to advice without giving directions.
With perfect respect and esteem,
I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servant, etc.
hamilton to caleb gibbs.
October 24, 1799.
Sir:—I have received your very improper letter of the 30th of September. This is not the first instance of my life in which good offices on my part have met with an ill return.
When you were informed, that the Commander-in-Chief (who, aided by General Pinckney and myself, made, in the first instance, the nomination of officers for the twelve regiments) had presented your name for the place of lieutenant-colonel commandant, you had an explanation of what I meant, when I wrote to you that your disappointment had not proceeded from want of friendship in General Washington or myself—what could I do more than co-operate in your nomination to the President? This I did, and with great cordiality. What agency can I be supposed to have had after this? Evidently whatever happened subsequently is as foreign to me as to General Washington.
’T is therefore as curious as it is unbecoming to interrogate me in a peremptory and even censorious manner about the causes which may have induced the President to reject the nomination. It is true that collaterally, and after the thing was determined upon, I heard what they were, but it was in a manner which did not leave me at liberty to explain to you. This I before hinted, and you must, on reflection, see the impropriety of your having addressed me on the subject as you have done. It is very certain that you never can nor will have an explanation from me on the point.
If any one has wickedly endeavored to make you believe that there has been any thing uncandid or unfriendly in my conduct, you ought to despise the author of such an attempt to impose on your understanding. If you have inferred it from the reserves in my mode of writing to you on the subject, you formed as false an estimate of what the delicacy of my situation required as you did of my true character.
I am, sir,
Your humble servant, etc.
hamilton to wilkinson
October 31, 1799.
Sir:—The copious explanations which have been had between us in conversation, on the subjects of your several communications of the 6th of September, 12th, 15th, 19th and 27th instant, will abridge the observations naturally connected with the plan which has been adopted as the result, and which forms the object of the present instruction.
This plan, as you know, has the same basis with that which has been presented by you. As far as there may be variances in the application of principles, collateral considerations have chiefly influenced.
It is contained in the inclosed paper, A. The letters between the Secretary of War and myself, of which B, C, D, and E are copies, exhibit the views which have reciprocally governed. In the execution of this plan, many details arise which I do not enter into, because they will most properly be left with you. Neither would I be understood to require a literal execution. The great outline is, under existing circumstances, to be adhered to; but you are at liberty to deviate in details which do not contravene the leading objects.
I will only remark, that it is deemed material that no greater force than the plan contemplates shall be assigned to the posts below the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi; and that the reserve force shall not be stationed more westward or southward than the vicinity of the rapids of the Ohio.
That vicinity, as passing the obstacles of the navigation above and facilitating a communication with the posts below, presents itself to consideration.
A question arises, whether the north or the south side of the Ohio should be preferred. In favor of the latter is the important consideration that by the contract for the ensuing year the ration is at least two cents and eight mills cheaper there than on the north side. On the other hand, it is possible that the troops there may be exposed to vexations, and in danger of seduction from the acts of disaffected persons, which might not attend them in the opposite territory; but these inconveniences do not appear likely to be so great as to countervail so considerable a difference in the price of the ration, though they might be allowed to prevail against a small difference. Unless, therefore, there should be some important alteration in this particular, I recommend to you the south side for the station of your reserve force.
It will be my endeavor to engage the administration to organize in Tennessee, Kentucky, the North-and South-western territories, two regiments of infantry, a battalion of riflemen, and a regiment of dragoons, under the act which provides for an eventual army. This, if effected, may afford a powerful auxiliary for defensive or offensive measures, as future exigencies may dictate.
The recruiting for the corps of which your command is to be composed, demands and has my particular attention. You are apprised that the business is going on under Major Bardley in North Carolina and Virginia, under Major Cass in the State of Delaware, and under Major Buel in the State of Vermont. In addition to this, I have proposed to the Secretary at War to send to the Westward bounty money and clothing for re-enlisting and recruiting to the extent of a full regiment.
There are small detachments of recruits for the infantry of the permanent establishment at Norfolk in Virginia, Fredericktown in Maryland, and at West Point in the State of New York, which, as soon as practicable, will reinforce the army under your command; and exertions, efficacious as I trust, will be made to complete the force allotted to you, and to have it on the ground early in the next temperate season.
The new organization of the officers of the four regiments, which you have suggested, has been transmitted to the Secretary at War, with an expression of my opinion in its favor. If you hear nothing to the contrary from that officer previous to your departure for the Mississippi, you will consider the plan as ratified and you will give it effect within your command. If, however, in the execution you find small deviations expedient, you will make them, reporting to me the instances and the motives.
The inspectors of division and brigades, recommended by you, are appointed. The affair of judge-advocate has not yet been definitely acted upon.
The propriety of strongly fortifying Loftus’ Heights, being on all sides admitted, so far as the force which can be allowed for this object will permit, it remains to say something concerning the kind of fortification.
Professing no skill as an engineer, and, as a consequence of the improvidence of our national policy in time past, possessing no competent aid in others, I shall attempt nothing more than to offer hints. Indeed, a critical view of the local situation in all its bearings, not merely a representation on paper of the part which looks toward the river, ought to guide and regulate the plan which is to be definitely adopted. This, therefore, must be left to you, with the help of the best lights you have or can procure.
But I will observe, that it appears to me advisable to occupy the summit of the height with a fort or redoubt, in nature of a citadel, adapted to a garrison of four hundred men, and capable, as far as possible, of resisting, by its construction, a coup de main, and of obliging an enemy, not in a condition to make considerable sacrifices of men, to attack it in form.
This redoubt, with a battery towards the river, at the point F, in the plan you have as furnished, is as much as can be immediately undertaken. In process of time, if the relative situation of territorial boundary remains as it now is, it will probably be necessary to extend from this citadel, in different directions, outworks, which, in conjunction with the citadel, will require a thousand men for their defence. This operation may be a successive one.
The idea of resisting a siege presupposes a work of solid materials, as well as of regular design. You have stated that brick is of easy fabrication in the vicinity; wood, of an elastic quality, it is presumed, may also be procured with facility. A revêtement of brick, with an interior of wood and earth mingled, will form a strong fortress, at a moderate expense. Your estimate of the expense of a water battery, barracks, and magazine, presents a total of $16,024; and you compute that a similar sum will suffice for a work such as you contemplate.
I have informed the Secretary at War that you would be authorized by me to incur an expense not exceeding this sum for the purpose in question, unless he should signify his negative to you before your departure. But while this sum is given to you as a limit, it is believed that the object may be accomplished for less, and it is not doubted that you will exert yourself to have it done as cheaply as possible.
In this place, an answer to your inquiry as to the proper employment of the soldiery, very fitly occurs. Doubtless, utility and usage both unite to recommend the employment of the soldiery in the construction of works as far as may be practicable. Not to do it must tend to an augmentation of expense which the finances of no country can bear; besides that it is to forego a powerful instrument already prepared for accomplishing the object.
I do not overlook the obstacle from the climate, which you mention in reference to our Southern frontier. But for a great part of the year, I must hope that this obstacle is not formidable. If the heats of July and August, and the sultry damps of September, should drive us during that period to another resource; yet the residue of the year, it is hoped, will permit the labor of the troops to be employed with advantage. I am well informed that on the sea-board of South Carolina and Georgia, the season from November to April, inclusively, is deemed unexceptionable for the employment of troops in laborious operations. In the three months which have been mentioned, it may be requisite to hire the labor of negroes, but even then there may be things to which that of whites can, without injury, be applied.
In general the idea must be to construct the works by the labor of the soldiery. The resort to a different aid must be by way of exception, to be used as little as possible; circumstances may be permitted to decide in each case whether to continue any works with the aid of blacks, during the hot season, or to suspend them till the return of a season favorable to the exertion.
You will find in my letter to the Secretary, doubts as to the permanent maintenance of Fort Stoddard. That part of the plan which conforms to the disposition you have made, calls for your careful revision. You will ascertain the practicability of a safe and easy interior communication, without more expense to prepare it than the advantage may be worth. There is an intrinsically strong objection to the keeping of a post to which the access must be through a foreign territory.
The importance of securing and commanding the confluence of the rivers Tennessee and Cumberland with the Ohio, and of the latter with the Mississippi, has been duly felt by you. The selection of a spot the most eligible for a strong fort, with a view to this object and the kind of work which it will be proper to establish, are worthy of your early and careful attention. You must, however, bear in mind that it is to be successively effected by the labor of the troops. A garrison of five hundred men may be the standard of the dimensions. You will report to me the result of your investigations on this subject.
In a permanent arrangement for the galleys, watermen ought to be engaged for the mass of the crew.
Perhaps some soldiers may be employed as auxiliaries without inconvenience, and with saving. A provision by law is requisite for the first purpose. You will order the galleys to such situation as you judge best. You are informed that the artillery you have requested for Fort Adams, with correspondent ammunition and stores, have been ordered, and are to embark with you for the Mississippi. It will be my endeavor that such other artillery as may be necessary in conformity with the general plan shall be forwarded as soon as possible. As to the artillery and stores now at the several Western posts, it is your province to have them disposed of as you deem most advisable.
I have desired E. Stevens, Esq., to procure the mathematical instruments which you have requested. A regular military academy appears to me indispensable, and will command, in reference to the ensuing session of Congress, my best exertions for its establishment. This meets your suggestion as to mathematical teachers.
The general orders issued by you, which you have submitted to my perusal, have been considered. They appear to me proper. But as I intend to prepare, in the course of the winter, a code of regulations which will embrace their objects, I forbear to give any formal sanction to them at this time. They will remain in force by your authority.
Your convention with the Spanish governor respecting deserters, considered as a temporary arrangement, appears to me a measure of convenient operation. Yet it is beyond my powers to give it an authoritative sanction, and I have concluded not to ask one of the government, from the opinion that it is best it should retain the shape of a mere military arrangement between the local commanders. In this respect I do not hesitate to advise that it may continue to be executed.
I understand that arrangements have been made which will satisfy a portion of the arrears of pay which you state to be due to the troops in the Western quarter. The subject shall not cease to occupy my anxious attention. It is impossible to feel more strongly than I do the extreme impolicy of permitting large arrears to accumulate. The affair of boats to be provided and kept ready for the transportation of troops, upon an emergency, will be matter of future instruction. Should the Spanish governor or commander object to the conveyance of your artillery and stores to their destination, you will make a formal and peremptory requisition of free passage on the basis of treaty, and persevere in it till there shall be an unequivocal refusal, when you will send back the vessel with those articles to Savannah and Georgia, addressed to the commanding officer of the artillery of the United States at that place.
Your own permanent station will of course be with your reserve force; and it is expected that you will lose no time in repairing to it as early as may be, after the coming winter.
In the meantime, it is necessary for you to concentrate all the upper posts, under the superintendence of the officer next in seniority, and to assign to him such a position as will facilitate a communication with me for the transmission of returns and information; taking care to let him understand that he is no more than your organ—an idea to which I shall be scrupulously attentive on my part.
The policy of our government toward Spain continues as heretofore, pacific and conciliatory. You will of course give the same character to your proceedings, as far as may depend upon you.
By a communication from the Secretary at War, some time since received, it is indicated that the management of Indian affairs is exclusively reserved to the superintendents and their agents; the military officers to be auxiliary, but only so as to imply no control of military operations. It will be expedient, nevertheless, that all issues to Indians at military posts should appear, in returns from them, not confounded with the issues for the military, but distinct. You will, as far as may depend upon you, give effect to this system with a spirit of accommodation. Emergencies really extraordinary must always be exceptions to a general plan. These must be left to the discretion of a military commander, at his peril.
I conform in an especial manner to the views of the administration, and to the deep impressions of my own mind, derived from a full consideration of the comparative resources and necessities of our country, when I recommend to you in every arrangement a careful regard to economy. Without it, our government cannot maintain the institutions or pursue the measures which are essential to its security and welfare. Without it, the condition of its military force can neither be respectable nor satisfactory. The interest of the army, as a corps, concurs with that of the public at large to enforce the practice of economy as a primary duty. I entertain a full confidence that your conduct will always evince a due sense of its importance, and that it will not cease to be your study, in this and every other matter, to deserve the confidence and estimation of the government.
In regard to the citizens of the Western country, as far as your agency may be concerned, you will do everything to foster good-will and attachment toward the Government of the United States. A firm and cordial union is certainly the vital interest of every part of our country.
hamilton to col. smith
November 11, 1799.
Sir:—Herewith is an official answer to your letter. I regret the intimation with which it is closed, to which, however, I can and must annex no precise meaning. I will only observe upon it, that in no sense can the affair be viewed as a personal injury, or be proper for the manifestation of personal resentment in any form. Any one who should give you a different opinion can hardly be your friend. Such an opinion, if followed, could be productive of no possible advantage, and would be attended in various ways with great inconvenience to you.
hamilton to mchenry
November 12, 1799.
Sir:—I am this moment honored with your letter of the 8th instant. Considering the nature of my agency in respect to the subject of it, I must understand the remarks which are made as not applying to what I have done, but to the previous measures of General Wilkinson. It is known to you that the project was adopted and acted upon long before I was in command; that, agreeing in opinion with General Wilkinson as to the expediency of the measure, I submitted it to the Commander-in-Chief, whose concurrence it received; that, in a written communication to you, I supported the propriety of completing the work on a specified scale; that afterwards, in conversation, it was expressed by you to be your impression that, situated as the matter was, it must proceed, unless the further expense necessary should, upon estimate, appear to be very considerable.
The addition of 16,000 dollars on the aggregate of 32,000, for establishing an important barrier post, did not strike me as a large, but as a very moderate, expenditure; such as would not contravene the most scrupulous ideas of economy in national affairs.
Hence I presumed on the ready sanction of the Executive; yet did I not suffer this presumption to engage me in any definitive act, but confined myself to giving promissory authority, subject to the eventual control of the President through you as his organ.
Even this much I should not have done, had it not been for the previous circumstances, and had there not been a pressure as to time, owing to the necessity of expediting General Wilkinson, for which purpose the delivery of my instructions was an essential preliminary. Considering the circumstances, I cannot but believe that I have acted with all proper delicacy and caution; as, on the other hand, it is evident that I have in no shape infringed the general principle which is advanced in your letter.
To this principle, as it respects permanent fortification, I subscribe without reserve; and I agree that it is always right for military commanders, when the exigencies of service do not command the contrary, to forbear measures involving considerable expense, till they shall have been considered and sanctioned by the Executive. It seems to me, too, that in my practice the rule has been observed even beyond its terms and spirit; but I cannot adopt the opinion, that every measure, in all its circumstances, which may involve considerable expenditure, should be submitted through the Secretary of the appropriate department to the President for his approval, and that, without such approval, formally and explicitly announced, no act leading to its execution should take place.
In the course of military operations, measures which involve very great expense are frequently in-dispensable, without incurring the delay of resorting to the Executive as a preliminary.
A precise rule for distinguishing the different cases is impracticable; it must be matter of sound discretion and of fair confidence on all sides.
The disbursements, finally, must no doubt be regulated by the laws of appropriation; but provisory measures will often be unavoidable, and confidence must sometimes be reposed in an after legislative sanction and provision.
This has been the course in times past, and it must always be the case. A different plan will arrest and disorder all the wheels of public service. The theory of no system can be invariably pursued with liberal strictness.
I commit myself without hesitation to the consequences of this opinion, because, as far as I am concerned, I would rather be responsible on proper occasions for formal deviations, than for a feeble, insufficient, and unprosperous course of public business, proceeding from an over-scrupulous adherence to general rules; and I have no doubt that a different spirit will ever be found in experience injurious equally to the interests of the state and to the reputation and success of the persons whom it may govern. I understand that such a progress has been made in the business as that the plan cannot now be relinquished without loss of the fruits of past expense; but I am not so well informed on this point as to be able to present it as a positive ground of determination.
I adhere, however, without hesitation, to the opinion that it is expedient to pursue the plan upon the scale which has been contemplated. It is very true that this fort could not be expected to interrupt a great invading force; but it would be an obstacle to the enterprises of such a force as now exists, or is likely to be found in the quarter in question.
It would give additional security to the troops, who, with the views you mention, must be stationed within the scene. It would also be more impressive on the Indians; and the difference between the expense of the fort intended and that which you indicate, would be inconsiderable. I shall take care that such a communication be made to General Wilkinson, as that there may be no danger in future of his undertaking a permanent fortification without the previous approbation of the Executive.
But, if it is thought proper to arrest the execution of the plan communicated, I must beg that you will address your orders immediately to General Wilkinson, since it is probable that they would not reach him in time, if they are to pass through me.
With great respect and esteem,
I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servant, etc.
hamilton to washington
November 18, 1799.
Sir:—I have been duly honored with your letters of the 26th and 27th of October.
General Pinckney happening to be at my house when they were received, I communicated them to him, together with such other letters as had come to hand relating to the same subject; and I have since furnished him with the subsequent information transmitted to me, in order that he might take the proper measures in whatever might require his interposition. This would principally be to order the tenth regiment to Carlisle.
It is my duty, in compliance with your inquiry concerning the delay of payment of the troops, to enter into a free explanation. The complaints of which you have heard, have certainly existed; they have existed in the Northern as well as in the Southern quarter, and the painful circumstance is, that they have been well founded. There has, no doubt, been a great and a very unfortunate delay, which has been a pretext for, if not a cause of, desertion, which has made ill impressions on the minds of the troops, and has occasioned much embarrassment to the officers.
The history of the course of the business will best unfold the causes of the delay.
Early after the recruiting service was in train, I caused to be prepared and transmitted to the several regiments, the forms of muster- and pay-rolls. If my information be right, muster and pay-rolls were made out according to these forms, and forwarded first to the Department of War, afterwards to the office of the paymaster-general.
It has since appeared that forms for muster-and pay-rolls had been previously established by the Department of War, but these forms were never sent to me, nor otherwise communicated to the additional regiments, till some time after the arrival of the paymaster-general at Philadelphia. A compliance with them on the part of the distant regiments, the officers of which, for the purpose of recruiting, were dispersed over extensive regions, would, of course, involve a very distressing delay, in addition to that which unavoidably attended the mustering of the troops, and the preparation of the rolls on the plan which I had prescribed; yet for some time a compliance with these new forms seems to have been expected as a preliminary to the transmission of the money.
But in consequence of very importunate representations from me, and it being admitted that the different rolls corresponded in substantial points, I was given to understand by the paymaster-general, that as to past dues, the new forms would not be insisted upon, but that the money would be sent without waiting for them.
Difficulties, however, about modes of remitting the money, which, it is believed, had before operated in producing delay, continued to occasion it; and to this moment the three most northern and the two most southern regiments remain unsupplied.
To call every regimental paymaster to the seat of government as often as money is to be paid, is inadmissible on the score of delay, as well as of expense. To send them the money by post, must involve the double risk of loss in the post-office, and loss by a fraudulent concealment of the receipt of it. To send it to intermediate public agents, must be attended with the same risk, though in a less degree. The paymaster-general, in order to discharge himself at the Treasury, is obliged to produce vouchers in certain prescribed forms, which he has been (as he states) in the habit of obtaining before he parted with any money out of his hands; and he appeared to be fearful of a deviation from this course.
The truth is, that these difficulties being inherent in the nature of the thing, they ought, for this very reason, as I conceive, to have been overcome. Similar ones occur in all the pecuniary operations of the government, and it has been found indispensable to surmount them by expedients. The same expedients, which are familiar in other cases, would have answered in the one under consideration.
In my opinion, the paymaster-general would have done right not to have been deterred by the additional responsibility which might have attended the employment of the usual expedients. In my opinion, if peculiar caution was incumbent upon him as a subordinate officer, it was to have been expected that the Secretary at War, in concert with the Secretary of the Treasury, would have interposed to remove the impediment by sanctioning a course which was unavoidable.
It is not my fault that the obstacles have not been surmounted. Aware that, in the first stages of the raising of new corps, (of which most of the officers as well as the men were unacquainted with service,) where the officers, for the purpose of recruiting, were dispersed over extensive districts, delay and difficulty would unavoidably attend the preparation of muster- and pay-rolls in strict form; strongly impressed with the idea that it was of great importance, in the first instance, to inspire the troops with favorable ideas of the justice and attention of the government; and that it would be very inexpedient to have to assign to the non-commissioned officers and privates excuses for the delay of their dues on the score of want of formal documents, which it did not lie with them to prepare, I pressed the Secretary at War and the paymaster-general for advances of money to the several regiments, in anticipation of those documents, upon estimates of which I furnished the data. I thought the temporary departure from ordinary rules, and the small addition of risk, from dispensing with the usual preliminary checks, were less evils than those which were inseparable from any considerable procrastination of payment.
But my efforts were not successful. Expectations, which, in consequence of my representations, were given to me by the paymaster-general, and which were by me given to the commandants of regiments, were not fulfilled. Disappointment and dissatisfaction have, of course, ensued.
It is but candor for me to mention that, while Secretary of the Treasury I had knowledge of the forms which had been prescribed; but I had entirely forgotten the circumstance. And it is self-evident that all regulations prescribed by the Department of War, for observance in an army, ought to be communicated from that department, either to the military commander or to the chief of the particular branch of service to which they relate—and that it is not incumbent upon the military commander to make inquiry of the Department of War for them; I therefore did what was natural in the case—I prescribed forms where I did not know that any had been previously established by superior authority.
It is very probable that the necessity of transmitting these forms did not occur to the Secretary at War. Or he may have considered it as the province of the paymaster-general to do it; but this officer being with the Western army, a very great delay could not fail to attend the transmission of them by him. The truth is, that a want of sufficient organization in this particular, as in others, occasioned an omission.
The only material remark in respect to it is, that the omission having happened, it was a decisive reason for not insisting upon the forms in question as a preliminary to payment.
Upon the whole (since I have not understood that there was any deficiency of money), I am led to conclude that unwillingness to incur extraordinary responsibility, by a deviation from general rules, has been a principal cause of the very inconvenient delay which has been experienced. The mode of proceeding has certainly not corresponded with my ideas of propriety and expediency; yet I do not presume to expect that my ideas should be a standard for the conduct of others. And I am certainly very far from imagining that any motive more exceptionable than the one I have suggested has had the least influence in the affair. The paymaster is, no doubt, shielded by his instructions.
I trust that things are now in a train for a more satisfactory course in future.
With perfect respect and attachment, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
November 23, 1799
Sir:—The near approach of a session of Congress will naturally lead you to the consideration of such measures for the improvement of our military system as may require legislative sanction.
Under this impression, I am induced now to present to you some objects which appear to me very interesting, and shall take the liberty to add here-after such others as shall have occurred.
One which I have always thought of primary importance, is a military academy. This object has repeatedly engaged the favorable attention of the administration, and some steps toward it have been taken. But these, as yet, are very inadequate. A more perfect plan is in a high degree desirable.
No sentiment is more just than this, that in proportion as the circumstances and policy of a country forbid a large military establishment, it is important that as much perfection as possible should be given to that which may at any time exist. Since it is agreed that we are not to keep on foot numerous forces instructed and disciplined, military science in its various branches ought to be cultivated with peculiar care, in proper nurseries, so that there may always exist a sufficient body of it ready to be imparted and diffused, and a competent number of persons qualified to act as instructors to the additional troops which events may successively require to be raised.
This will be to substitute the elements of an army to the thing itself, and it will greatly tend to enable the government to dispense with a large body of standing forces, from the facility which it will give of forming officers and soldiers promptly upon emergencies.
No sound mind can doubt the essentiality of military science in time of war, any more than the moral certainty that the most pacific policy on the part of a government will not preserve it from being engaged in war more or less frequently.
To avoid great evils, it must either have a respectable force prepared for service, or the means of preparing such a force with expedition. The latter, most agreeable to the genius of our government and nation, is the object of a military academy.
I propose that this academy shall consist of five schools—one to be called “The Fundamental School”; another, “The School of Engineers and Artillerists”; another, “The School of Cavalry”; another, “The School of Infantry”; and a fifth, “The School of the Navy”; and of the following offices and persons:
A director-general, to superintend the whole institution.
A director of the Fundamental School.
A director of the School of Engineers and Artillerists.
A director of the School of Cavalry.
A director of the School of Infantry.
A director of the School of the Navy.
Six professors of mathematics.
Three professors of natural philosophy.
One professor of chemistry.
Two drawing masters.
A riding master.
A fencing master.
To be thus distributed among the several schools.
To the Fundamental School:
Four professors of mathematics,
One professor of natural philosophy,
One drawing master.
To the School of Engineers and Artillerists:
A professor of mathematics,
A professor of natural philosophy,
A professor of chemistry,
A drawing master.
To the School of Cavalry:
A riding master,
A fencing master.
To the School of Infantry:
To the School of the Navy:
A professor of mathematics,
A professor of natural philosophy,
In the Fundamental School to be taught:
Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, the laws of motion, mechanics, geography, topography, and surveying, designing of structures and landscapes.
The principles of tactics.
In the School of Engineers and Artillerists to be taught:
Fluxions, conic sections, hydraulics, hydrostatics, and pneumatics.
The theory and practice of gunnery.
Fortifications, including sapping and mining, and the attack and defence of places.
Chemistry, especially mineralogy.
The fabrication of cannon and other arms.
The principles of construction, with particular reference to aqueducts, canals, and bridges.
The composition of artificial fires.
In the School of Cavalry:
The tactics and police of cavalry, equitation, the use of the small- and broad-sword.
In the School of Infantry:
The tactics and police of the infantry.
In the School of the Navy:
Spherics, astronomy, navigation, with the doctrines of the tides.
The director-general and the other directors to be officers of the army and navy, conforming to the nature of each school.
These schools to be provided with proper apparatus and instruments for philosophical and chemical experiments, for astronomical and nautical observations, and for surveying, and for such other processes as are requisite to the illustration of the several topics of instruction.
The cadets of the army, and young persons who are destined for military and naval service, ought to study for two years in the Fundamental School; and it destined for the corps of engineers and artillerists, of for the navy, two years more in the appropriate school; but persons who, by previous instruction elsewhere, may have been acquainted with some or all of the branches taught in the Fundamental School, may, after due examination by the professors of that school, be either received there for a shorter term, or pass immediately to one of the other schools, according to the nature and extent of their acquisitions.
In addition to these, detachments of officers and non-commissioned officers of the army ought to attend the academy in rotation, for the purposes of instruction and exercise, according to the nature of the corps to which they respectively belong.
It would be a wise addition to the system if the government would always have such a number of sergeants, in addition to those belonging to the regiments of the establishment, as would suffice with them for an army of 50,000 men.
The site of the academy ought to be upon a navigable water.
For this purpose, a piece of ground ought to be purchased by the government, of dimensions sufficient for experiments in gunnery—that is, not less than twelve hundred yards in length, and four hundred yards in breadth. The situation upon a navigable water is requisite to admit of exemplifications of naval construction and exercises.
It would also tend greatly to the perfection of the plan if a position for the academy could be obtained, suited to foundries of cannon and manufactories of small-arms. The pupils could here acquire the knowledge of the arts, and the detachments of troops could be made useful in the prosecution of the works.
Barracks and other proper buildings must be erected for the accommodation of the directors, professors, and students, and for laboratories and other works to be carried on.
It is proposed by the foregoing plan that the school of engineers and artillerists shall be united. The studies relative to these two branches of service run into each other so much that they may with convenience be pursued in the same school.
Yet it is conceived that the entire union of the officers of both in one corps, as in our present establishment, is not advisable. The art of fortification, and the service of artillery, though touching each other in many points, are, in the main, distinct branches, and each so comprehensive that this separation is essential to perfection in either.
This has been ascertained by experience. It is understood that one or more governments of Europe, particularly attentive to the military art, have essayed the union of the two corps, induced to it by their mutual relations in certain respects, and by the desire of insuring harmony in the service, and that the result of the experiment has led to a renunciation of the plan, as being productive of more disadvantages than advantages.
Influenced, as well by this experience in other countries as by my own observations and reflections, I beg leave to suggest for consideration a new arrangement on the subject, to be submitted, if approved, to the legislative body.
Let the corps of engineers and artillerists be placed under one head, that head to be a general officer; but let the other officers be separated, and form a distinct corps.
A regiment of engineer officers, and two of artillery officers, will form a due proportion in the scale of our military establishment. If deemed expedient to increase the total number of officers, the object may be effected by suppressing two of the battalions of the corps, as now organized, increasing the number of non-commissioned officers and privates in the remaining battalions, so as to continue the present total, and transferring the surplus officers, with due selection to the regiment of engineers, to be composed of two battalions.
Instead of the artificers at present forming a part of each company, let there be a corps of miners and artificers, consisting of four companies, one company of armorers and smiths, one of wheelwrights and carpenters, one of masons, and one of miners. This corps to be a portion of the corps of engineers and artillerists under the command of its chief. The officers to be taken from the regiment of engineers and artillerists at his discretion, continuing, nevertheless, to rank and rise in the corps from which they may be taken, but the President to be empowered, if he thinks proper, to appoint others to their places in the regiment from which they shall be detached. The union of these different corps under one chief, is intended to promote a spirit of harmony and co-operation, while the separation of the other officers is designed to favor a more profound and accurate knowledge of each branch.
It will no doubt be observed, that though provision should be made by the law for the proposed establishment in its full latitude, yet it may be left in the discretion of the President to appoint only so many of the professors as experience shall show to be necessary.
With great respect and esteem, etc.
hamilton to mchenry
November 30, 1799.
Sir:—The preparation of a good system for the tactics and police of the different portions of our army is probably the most valuable service which it may be in my power to render the United States in my present station, and there are urgent reasons why this should be accomplished in the course of the present winter.
To do it at all would in every situation require the aid of others; since I do not pretend, myself, to understand in detail all the branches of service. To do it within the time proposed, or rather within any period not manifestly longer than it would be prudent to delay, must render a subdivision indispensable, were I competent to the whole.
I have accordingly thought of this distribution of the subject: 1. To occupy myself with the tactics of the infantry. 2. To confide to General Pinckney, with the aid of Brigadier-General Washington, Colonel Watts, and Lieutenant Walbach, or such of them as he may choose, the tactics of the cavalry. 3. To employ Majors Toussard and Hoops in framing regulations for the exercise and police of the artillery. And, lastly, to charge the adjutant-general, aided by another officer, to be selected by him, with the regulations for the police of troops in camp, quarters, and garrisons.
The labors of these different persons will afterwards undergo revision for adoption or correction, and them will be transmitted to you for your consideration, and the determination of the President.
But as this service will occasion constant and laborious occupation to the persons who will be employed, it is just and agreeable to usage to allow a special compensation. This, too, will be expected by them, and is essential to a cheerful and zealous execution of the duty. An allowance per diem not less than one dollar nor more than two will suffice. It may vary in reference to rank. It, of course, will not be expected to extend to General Pinckney, the adjutant-general, or myself.
I entreat a speedy decision and the communication of it.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—Pursuant to an instruction some time since received from you, I have now the honor to offer to your consideration a new plan for the uniform of the army.
You are too sensible of the influence of good appearance in point of dress and equipment upon the spirit and temper of an army, to make it necessary to illustrate its importance.
The present uniform is materially defective in this respect. The plan now offered has been digested with a careful eye to the advantages of good appearance, without departing improperly from considerations of simplicity and economy.
It is very desirable that there should be an early decision upon it, as a great number of officers suspend the procuring of new uniforms in expectation of a change; and if obliged by delay to provide according to the present standard, would be exposed in case of alteration to an additional expense, which, to many of them, would be burthensome.
As to any article not provided for by law, an expectation may be signified that it will be provided at the expense of the troops themselves. It is believed that this idea will meet with no impediment.
I send you an estimate of clothing necessary for the future year’s supply of the troops under my immediate command. If materials for coats, vests, and overalls could be soon put into the hands of the different corps, they might be made up during the winter quarters, which would save expense to the public, and afford an opportunity of having the articles much better fitted to the wearers of them.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—I have heretofore submitted to you a scale for the allowance of servants to the different grades of officers, with some supplementary ideas. I beg leave to add another suggestion in relation to this subject.
The detaching from their corps soldiers as servants to the various officers of the general staff, is productive of material inconvenience, by withdrawing altogether from military service a considerable number of persons; and occasions dissatisfaction to the commandants of corps who never see their men removed without uneasiness, and are sometimes much disgusted by the selection of those whom they are anxious to retain. There is no doubt that it would operate beneficially, if, after fixing the number of servants to which the several characters of the general staff should be entitled, they were to be allowed an equivalent in money regulated by the cost of a soldier to the public, and were to be required to provide their own servants. Penalties may secure the faithful execution of this arrangement, which, from the force of circumstances, would be very liable to abuse.
hamilton to general pinckney
Sir:—The death of our beloved Commander-in-Chief was known to you before it was to me. I can be at no loss to anticipate what have been your feelings. I need not tell you what have been mine. Perhaps no friend of his has more cause to lament on personal account than myself. The public misfortune is one which all the friends of our government will view in the same light. I will not dwell on the subject. My imagination is gloomy—my heart is sad.
Inclosed is an order relative to the occasion which speaks its own object.
With the sincerest esteem, etc., etc.
general order for the ceremonial to be used on the interment of washington
Major-General Hamilton has received, through the Secretary at War, the following order from the President of the United States.
“The President, etc.”
The impressive terms in which this calamitous event is announced by the President, could receive no new force from any thing that might be added. The voice of praise would in vain endeavor to exalt a name unrivalled on the lists of true glory. Words would in vain attempt to give utterance to the profound and reverential grief which will enthral every American bosom, and arrest the sympathy of an admiring world. If the sad privilege of pre-eminence in sorrow may justly be claimed from the companions in arms of our lamented chief, their affections will spontaneously perform the dear though painful duty. “T is only for me to mingle my tears with theirs, embittered by recollection that in mourning the loss of the “MAN OF THE AGE,” I equally mourn that of the long-tried patron—the kind and unchanging friend.
In obedience to the directions of the President, the following funeral honors will be paid at the several stations of the army.
At daybreak, sixteen guns will be fired in quick succession, and one gun at the distance of each half hour till sunset.
During the procession of the troops to the place representing that of the interment, and until the conclusion of the ceremonial, minute guns will be fired.
The bier will be received by the troops formed in line presenting their arms, and the officers, drums, and colors saluting. After this the procession will begin: the troops marching by platoons, in inverted order, and with arms reversed, to the place of interment, the drums muffled, and the music playing a dead march.
The bier, carried by four sergeants, and attended by six pall-bearers, where there is cavalry, will be preceded by the cavalry, and will be followed by the troops on foot.
Where there is no cavalry, a detachment of infantry will precede the bier, which itself will in every case be preceded by such of the clergy as may be present. The officers of the general staff will immediately succeed the bier.
Where a numerous body of citizens shall be united with the military in the procession, the whole of the troops will precede the bier, which will be followed by the citizens.
When arrived near the place of interment, the procession will halt; the troops in front of the bier will form in line, and, opening their ranks, will face inwards, to admit the passage of the bier, which will then pass through the ranks—the troops leaning upon their arms, reversed, while the bier passes.
When the bier shall have passed, the troops will resume their position in line, and, reversing their arms, will remain leaning upon them until the ceremonial shall be closed.
The music will now perform a solemn air, after which the introductory part of this order will be read.
At the end of this a detachment of infantry, appointed for the purpose, will advance and fire three volleys over the bier.
The troops will then return, the music playing the President’s March, the drums being previously unmuffled.
The uniform companies of militia are invited to join in arms the volunteer corps. The commanders at particular stations, conforming generally to this plan, will make such exceptions as will accommodate it to situation.
At places where processions of unarmed citizens shall take place, it is the wish of the Major-General that the military ceremonial should be united; and the particular commanders at those places are authorized to vary the plan so as to adapt it to the circumstances.
Brigadier-General McPherson is charged to superintend the ceremonial in the city of Philadelphia; Major Toussard will attend to Fort Mifflin, and will co-operate with him.
The day of performing the ceremonial at each station is left to the particular commander.
Major-General Pinckney will make such further arrangements within his district as he shall deem expedient.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—A complete revision of the articles of war is desirable, as they require amendment in many particulars. But this would be so serious a work, that I fear it is not likely to be undertaken with a prospect of being speedily finished. Waiving the expectation of such a revision, there are some things which could be done that would be important improvements. You are aware of the great obscurity which envelops the provisions of the existing articles respecting the power to appoint general courts-martial. On one construction, it is inconveniently narrow, so as to occasion too great delay, as well in constituting courts, as in giving effect to their sentences. On another, it would be too much diffused, and would place in too many hands a trust no less delicate than important.
To attempt to attain the proper medium by a mere legislative definition of the characters who may execute the power, would be attended with much difficulty, and might often not meet the new situations which are apt to occur in the infinite combinations of military service. The expedient which has appeared to me the most proper is, to give the President a discretionary authority to empower other officers than those designated by the articles of war, to appoint general courts-martial under such circumstances and with such limitations as he shall deem advisable.
The provisions which refer to the President the determination on sentences affecting life and the dismission of officers must, no doubt, have been frequently attended with perplexity to him, and are inconvenient to the service. It is scarcely possible for any but the military commander to appreciate duly the motives which in such cases demand severity or recommend clemency. To this an accurate view of all the circumstances of the army in detail is often necessary. On the other hand, the efficacy of punishment, when requisite, depends much upon its celerity, and must be greatly weakened by the unavoidable delay of a resort to the Executive. These reasons certainly render it expedient to enable the commanding general of an army to decide upon the sentences in question as in other cases.
The proper mode of treating the crime of desertion has been, in most cases, an embarrassing subject. In ours it is particularly so. The punishment of death, except in time of war, is contrary to the popular habits of thinking. Whipping is found ineffectual. I have a hope that confinement and labor would prove more effectual. Believing this punishment to be within the discretion of courts-martial, I encourage its adoption. But as the matter now stands, the confinement would not exceed the term of service, and when this is nearly expired, it would be inadequate. Some auxiliary provisions are desirable to give a fair chance to the experiment. It is not, however, my idea to abolish death, which in some aggravated cases would be proper even in time of peace, and in time of war ought invariably to ensure. I incline even to the opinion, that the power of pardoning ought to be taken away in this case, certainly in every instance of desertion, or an attempt to desert to enemies or traitors.
hamilton to col. smith
January 3, 1800.
Sir:—Your different letters of the 23rd, 24th, and 28th of December have been delivered to me.
It is always difficult in contracts to define the quality of the articles which are to be furnished, and hence has arisen the silence of which you complain in the contract with the agent for New Jersey.
It is, however, implied in the nature of the transaction, that the articles be good, according to the common acceptation of the term; and when this is not the case, the agent violates his engagement, and the United States are at liberty to refuse the articles, provide them otherwise, and look to him for damages.
When bread is furnished in lieu of flour, it ought to be made of flour, and not of middlings. The bread should undoubtedly be made of the article for which it is given as a substitute. The attention which you have paid to this subject has my warm approbation. I shall write to the contractor pointedly respecting it, and you will make the idea contained in this letter your guide in your future transactions with him.
I am much pleased with your disposition, and with the soldierly conduct of the troops in paying the funeral honors to our departed chief. I am likewise much pleased with your resolution of erecting a monument as a testimonial of reverence for his character, and only regret that I cannot make the expense a public instead of a private charge. No alterations occur to me as proper to be made in the inscription, except that I would submit to you, whether a more dignified simplicity would not be given to it by leaving out the verses; although they certainly have merit, yet they appear to me to interfere with that simplicity which should be studied on such occasions.
It is true that I said nothing with respect to extra expense. This proceeded from the supposition that no expense would be necessary independently of the articles furnished by the public; and from a conviction, which experience has produced in my mind, of the extreme caution to be observed with respect to every object that involves an expenditure of money out of the regular course.
You will be pleased, however, to send me an account of the expenses that were incurred. Such of them as were necessarily incident to the celebration I will press the payment of with the Secretary at War, and to the rest I will give every attention in my power.
hamilton to mchenry
Sir:—Some of the maxims which obtain with the officers at the seat of government, charged with the adjustment of the accounts of those agents who have to furnish supplies and make disbursements for the military service, are of a nature to produce much perplexity and inconvenience. To me they appear mistaken, such as are to be found nowhere else, and such as must render it impracticable to discharge military duties with satisfaction or success. It is one thing to have and enforce rules which check improvident expenditure, and secure a due accountability. It is a very different thing to practise upon such as embarrass and retard the settlement of proper charges, as refuse credit for expenditures regularly made, as keep agents out of money to which they are entitled, as subject to painful animadversions and harass with unnecessary explanations officers who, in the exercise of a reasonable discretion, direct measures which incur expense.
Specimens of the operation of these rules are to be seen in the communications herewith transmitted, from E. Stevens, Esq., and from Majors Toussard and Jackson.
It is perhaps impossible, in military affairs, to devise any system of regulations so perfect as to embrace all the cases in which expenditures by the order of particular officers for current occasions are necessary. Some discretion must be allowed. This must be the case, even with regard to officers of inferior rank, detached to remote stations. But it must be frequently and extensively the case as to a commanding general. In time of war, nothing could proceed without this discretion upon a large scale. In time of peace, incidents of a more limited nature constantly arise, involving expense, which could not be deferred for a special resort to the head of the War Department, without real injury to the service, while the officer, by the necessity of that resort in matters of minutiæ, would be placed in a situation extremely humiliating and irksome.
When in pursuance of this discretion, directions for the disbursement of money are given to a subordinate agent, in cases in which there has been no special restriction upon him, his charges ought to be admitted without difficulty, and the superior officer made responsible for improper directions in his office or in his pocket—in both, according to circumstances.
Though it may be necessary to confine the ordinary accounting officers to the admission of such items only as are within established regulations, yet, when others occur, they ought not to be rejected and thrown back upon the party to oblige him to go through the tedious and circuitous process of an application to the head of the department for an extra-ordinary sanction; but there ought to be an interior arrangement of the department for bringing it in the first instance before the head or some competent substitute in order to a special direction, and, when what has been done shall appear proper, the needful sanction should follow.
In the instances in which no regulations have been established by the department as a guide to the officers, their acts ought to be viewed with greater liberality, and the mismanagement which should subject them to blame or embarrassment, ought to be unequivocal.
It happens that no rules have been prescribed with regard to extra expenses. Officers are left to exercise their judgments as occasions require. They do it in good faith, and yet their acts are not received as authority in favor of agents, who could not with propriety refuse obedience to them. The fundamental principle of the military system is thus subverted. Agents for their own safety are taught to reason about the fitness of compliance with the requisitions made upon them. The service is clogged. Commanding officers are let down; and in very trifling matters are perplexed how to act. This awkward state of things demands a correction. The dignity and delicacy of officers, as well as the good of the service, demands it.
Tacticians agree that a proper regulation of the length and speed of the step is of primary importance in a system of tactics.
Upon this depends essentially the exactness of all evolutions, the attainment of the best results with the least inconvenience to the soldier. Yet, in the theories of military writers, and in the establishments of military nations, there is great diversity in this important article. For example: while our step is two feet English, that of France (and it is believed of Russia) is two feet French, or about twenty-six inches English; that of Great Britain, two feet six inches English. There is also some, though less, difference as to the velocity of the step: that of France being 76, 100, 120 in a minute; that of Great Britain, 75, 108, and 120 in a minute.
This diversity is a reason against adopting implicitly any foreign standard, and a motive to investigation of the principles on which the step ought to be predicated. It is desirable, if possible, to find a standard in nature.
As to length, the step ought to be accommodated to men of the smaller sizes. A tall man can abridge easier than a short man extend. And yet, perhaps neither extreme ought to govern; a short man may, by habit, somewhat lengthen his usual step without fatigue, while a tall man may be too much constrained, if obliged to contract his step to the measure of a very short man. The man of middle stature may be the proper criterion, or perhaps the average of a number of men of different sizes marching together, may furnish a still better rule. In such case, a kind of compromise naturally takes place, by the mutual effort of all to move in unison.
But to arrive at a full result, it is necessary that the experiments should be multiplied, should be by individuals of different sizes, and by bodies of different numbers from few to many, and especially that they should be on different sorts of ground, rough as well as smooth, unequal as well as plain. By this diversification of the experiments, it may be possible to discover some medium which, being adopted as a standard, and made habitual to the troops, will best accommodate itself to the variety of circumstances which occur.
It is a fact which, in this investigation, demands particular attention, that the length of the step naturally increases with its speed or velocity. In a slow movement, the body is nearly perpendicular, and the leg kept back; in a rapid one, the body is impelled forward, and with it the leg, which, without effort, takes a greater distance in this than in the former case.
Hence a question whether the length of the step ought not to be proportioned to the speed, and whether, instead of that uniformity which seems to have been preferred, it ought not to be less in the slower and greater in the quicker steps. It is evident, that by lengthening the step with the speed, a greater quantity of ground will be passed over in a given time, and perhaps with less fatigue, from the men being less constrained.
The varieties in the speed of the step demand careful examination. A slow, cadenced, majestic step has been adopted, especially in reference to manœuvres of parade and the march in line. From 75 to 80 in a minute have been latterly deemed an eligible standard. For occasions which require greater celerity, about 100 in a minute has been adopted, to be increased in particular cases to 120.
These questions arise. Are all these varieties desirable as fundamental rules? If not, what ought to be substituted? Is the slowest of these steps ever useful in the actual service of the field? If not, ought it to obtain for any, and for what collateral reasons? To what kind of movements is each variety applicable? In fine, what ought to be established as to the speed of the step.
Respect for the institutions of nations who have arrived at considerable perfection in the art of war, is a dictate of good sense; but when we consider the influence of the spirit of imitation, and how liable men habituated to routine are to be trammelled by that to which they have been accustomed, we shall find good reason not to follow those institutions implicitly. In the particular affair of the length and speed of the step, there is room to suspect that principles have not been sufficiently consulted, and that real improvements may be made. This, however, is to be carefully examined, with a temper no less remote from the love of innovation than from a spirit of blind deference to authority and precedent.
hamilton to mchenry
March 21, 1800.
Though, from repeated reflection and action upon the subject, my opinion was well made up when I received your letter of the 19th, yet I thought it proper once more to review the matter before I complied with your request. The principle of the doctrine advanced by the accountant will go much farther than the position which he now avows, namely, “that no authority short of Congress can make allowances to an officer beyond the emoluments fixed to his office by law.” It will go the length of denying to the Executive, in all its branches, any discretion not confirmed by some special law, to call forth and compensate any services, not merely of officers, but of any other persons, which are not indicated and provided for by particular statutes.
It will interdict the employment and compensation of a citizen as a writer, or even as an express, no less than that of an officer, for either purpose. The foundation of the doctrine must be, that there is no power in the Executive to subject the public to expense in any case not specially provided for by law. What substantial difference can there be between employing a private citizen for some contingent service, and paying him for it, and employing an officer for something not within the sphere of his official duty, and compensating him for it? I discover none in the theory; for as to such extra service he is a private citizen, and I know no law that declares a distinction.
It is certain that in the course of the discharge of its trust, there will occur numerous instances in which the public service must stagnate, or the Executive must employ and compensate agents not contemplated by special laws.
It follows, in my opinion, that he must have an inherent right to do it, under these restrictions; that it ought to be relative to some object confided to his agency by the Constitution, or by the laws; and that no money ought actually to be paid, for which there is not an appropriation by statute, either with particular reference to the purpose, or under the general denomination of contingencies. This is, in my opinion, a right necessarily implied; nor do I see why the Executive may not claim the exercise of implied powers, as well as the legislative. In a word, there is no public function which does not include the exercise of implied as well as express authority.
This reasoning, as far as I know, is consonant with the practice of every government, and with that of ours, as well under the Confederation, as under the present Constitution. If my memory deceive me not, there was an act of Congress prohibiting the union of two offices in the same person, with distinct compensations. Yet this did not hinder the allowance of special compensations to officers for special and extra service. Still less did it hinder the indemnification for extra expenses of an officer in peculiar situations. Such compensations and indemnifications were, I believe, made by the executive boards, under the former government. Indeed, I am unusually mistaken, if the uniform practice of the Treasury and War Departments under this government, does not recognize the rule for which I contend, and reject that which is advanced by the accountant. This practice, too, has been right. A different one will be found in experience a fatal clog on the wheels of public business. The administration at large is interested in discountenancing it, and that spirit of cavil in the accountant, on which it is founded, and which my observations in my present station have convinced me is ruinous to the military department of the government. There was not an appropriation law passed, while I was at the head of the Treasury, which did not sanction my principle. There was always, I believe, a sum for the contingencies of the War Department.
The power to incur charges which involve expense, not falling under any specific head, presupposes the right to employ agents and engage services not particularly contemplated by law. I always viewed such appropriations as a virtual sanction of the right, including in them a warranty, if necessary, to exercise the power. Such too was the practical construction.
Nobody knows better the truth in this respect than Mr. Wolcott. Nobody ought more decidedly to frown upon the dangerous metaphysics of Mr. Simmons. The recognition of this doctrine will be a fatal precedent in the administration. It will be a palsy, destructive of all energy in the government. Considering the dispositions which prevail among certain men, in a certain body, there ought to be more than a common anxiety not to establish such a fetter upon Executive operations.
hamilton to mchenry
April 7, 1800.
Sir:—I shall doubtless bear in mind the intimation of Mrs. Adams, and shall take great pleasure in fulfilling her wish if there shall be occurrences which shall render it not incompatible with the good of the service.
On the disposition of the troops for the ensuing summer, I shall, erelong, make you an official communication.
hamilton to de noailles
May 5, 1800.
I observe that the French regulations, as well as those of several other countries, adopt a fixed measure for the pace (pas), without regard to the velocity, which, in the French code, is two feet French. As the measures differ in different European establishments, I have been causing experiments to be made, in order to discover, if practicable, a standard in nature relatively to the medium size of a man. In the course of these experiments, it appears that though two feet is about the natural length of the cadenced step—say seventy-five in a minute—of a body of men, yet they naturally increase the length of the step with the velocity.
This has led me to some new reflections on the point; and as I respect European precedents, in a science which has been so much studied and practised, I am desirous of knowing what reasoning has led to the adopting of a determinate length for all the direct steps, without regard to the velocity—that is to say, the same for the quick and quickest.
Nobody can better enlighten me on this subject than yourself, and I rely on your friendly disposition. I therefore do not hesitate to request that you will, as soon as may be, let me hear from you on the point, and as particularly as may be convenient.
hamilton to mchenry
May 5, 1800.
Sir:—I have the honor to transmit you the copy of a letter of the 4th instant, from Colonel Taylor. It presents a picture, of which the similitude has too frequently come under my observation.
I must be permitted to observe that nothing can be more injurious to the service, than that pecuniary embarrassment should be occasioned to officers in reference to services duly performed and expenditures regularly made, by reason either of the want of a proper distribution and definition of the duties of the respective officers of the War Department, or by misapprehensions among themselves as to the boundaries of their powers and duties. It presents an image of defect of system calculated to inspire sentiments very different from those of confidence and respect, and it is attended with serious inconveniences to officers, who are kept out of compensations and reimbursements very essential to their accommodation. Besides that, it interferes with the settlement of their accounts in every case in which for want of funds applicable to the special objects, there has been necessity for the temporary transfer of funds which had other destination.
The call upon the officers to refund, as mentioned by Colonel Taylor, is a violent measure. It is in most instances impracticable for them to comply, and surely an anterior arrangement in the modes of accounting ought to have obviated such a requisition. It is in my knowledge, as formerly a member of the administration, that there was often a necessity for accommodations of this kind, and that they were practised; nor can the public business proceed without them.
It is a delicate matter, in my station, to animadvert upon the conduct of officers in the civil departments of government. Yet there are occasions in which it is proper to waive a scruple of this sort, and to state the tendency of their conduct toward the service.
Yielding to a sense of duty, I do not hesitate to say, that in my opinion the accountant displays very often a spirit which, if not designed, certainly tends to injure the service, and sour and dissatisfy all who are parts of or connected with the army.
I know that officer to be capable, diligent, and honest, but he is certainly not as accommodating as the complicated urgencies of military service require; and he rigidly adheres to rules which, if universally applied, are incompatible with practice.
This disposition must either be corrected or our military affairs must always be in disorder. The public will be burthened with a large additional expense as an indemnification for the evils of the accountant’s rigor, and general dissatisfaction will prevail.
The paymaster-general is charged by law with certain definite objects: the pay, arrears of pay, subsistence and forage of the troops. These are regulated by law, and involve the exercise of little or no discretion. The accountant has a more extensive authority, embracing among other things, the expenses of the recruiting service, and all incidental and contingent expenses of the department.
Where cases occur relatively to his duties, which are either within the specific provisions of the laws, or within the established regulations of the head of the department, founded upon the general provisions of the laws, or the nature of his office, the accountant is to adjust them of course. Where matters are presented, not comprehended in the one or the other, and which must be governed by discretion, these are to be reported by him to the Secretary at War for his instruction, and in these cases the accountant is to obey that instruction, leaving the responsibility to rest upon the superior.
I premise this view of the scheme of the department, as preliminary to a proposition which I shall submit.
It seems to me that it will be expedient to extend the functions of the paymaster-general and his sub-ordinates to some objects not now understood to come within their sphere—namely, 1st. The travelling expenses when detached, and extra compensations to officers for extra services. 2d. The expenses of apprehending deserters. 3d. Postage and stationery, when paid for by officers of the line; and lastly, the affair of bounty money, and the contingent expenses of the recruiting service.
In order to defray such expenses in the first instance, let the regimental paymasters and persons acting as such, be furnished with small sums as a fund for contingencies; out of this fund let them defray those expenses, and let the accounts be settled provisionally by the paymaster-general, under the eventual control of the accountant.
For this purpose, it ought to be understood, that if in any instance an officer receives more than he ought to have, it shall be a charge against his pay, but shall be no obstacle to the settlement of the accounts of the paymasters, except where they may be chargeable with wilful default or gross carelessness.
The accounts for these supernumerary objects may be rendered and settled distinctly from those provided for by law; and perhaps an additional compensation may be made to the paymaster-general.
This plan, I think, would remove some obstacles, and give some facilities which would be convenient to the service. But whatever may be the plan pursued, it is of primary importance that some arrangement shall be devised, which shall provide for a speedy adjustment of similar matters, and prevent the disgusting altercations and delays which now continually ensue. I entreat your prompt and careful attention to the subject, and that you will immediately give in the particular case such orders as will remove the difficulty represented by Colonel Taylor.
hamilton to col. smith
May 8, 1800.
Sir:—I duly received your letter of the 2d of April, which has lain by from the pressure of more urgent business. In breaking silence now, I wish only to prevent misapprehension, as it may influence future cases.
I am persuaded in what you did you were actuated by a very praiseworthy zeal, and I perceive that there were circumstances from which you were led to infer a larger discretion than it was my intention to imply. Yet I ought in candor to observe, that those circumstances were designed by me, essentially, to enable you to exert your own immediate agency, without previous resort to me, as to objects within the purview and spirit of the general directions, and that several of the items in question do not appear to me to answer this description.
This must not be received as a censure, but as explanation to guide in future. When an officer bona fide misconstrues an instruction, and acts with a sincere view to the good of the service, I should with reluctance blame, though I should always think it proper to tell him frankly, that a misconstruction had happened, as a caution for other occasions.
I do not understand that any impediment to the settlement of the accounts exists, and if not, no further step on my part is necessary.
hamilton to de noailles
May 13, 1800.
I find by your reply to my inquiry, that I did not convey my meaning to you with sufficient perspicuity.
I was aware that in the French system the length of the pace in the direct step is uniform, without regard to the velocity; but I was desirous of knowing what mode of reasoning may have produced this uniformity, notwithstanding the fact that the length of the step naturally agrees with the velocity.
It would seem upon principles better to proportion the pace to the velocity; that is, to have one length for the ordinary step, another for the route step, and perhaps (but this I doubt) a third for the charge step.
The effect of restraining the quick step to the measure of the slow step, is to make a greater quantity of effort necessary to attain a given distance, and thereby to render marches more fatiguing than they ought to be.
Having now explained myself, I shall be obliged by your further thoughts on the matter.
hamilton to general pinckney
May 14, 1800.
Sir:—I was in due time favored with your letter of the 25th April.
I am glad that our ideas coincide as to the formation of a regiment for exercise and battle.
It is a part of the plan, (though the extract sent you did not go so far as to show it,) that the companies for those purposes shall always be equalized. This is no doubt essential. The inconvenience of occasionally separating the men from their officers must be submitted to for the overbalancing advantages of the equalization.
In primary formations, we must of necessity contemplate the corps as complete, and prescribe what a sound theory requires on that supposition; taking care to provide for casualties by means agreeing with the general principle. With the latter view “the places of officers and non-commissioned officers who may be wanting or absent are to be supplied by those next in grade, and when necessary in the formation for exercise or battle, the commandant of a regiment may assign officers of one company to another company.” The application of this provision will require that the junior of the two captains shall command the division when the senior is absent, in every case in which the division acts collectively. An occasional change of position for this purpose will not be difficult.
What would you think of varying the plan of formation by placing the captain in the rear of the centre of his company, stationing the first lieutenant on the right of the right platoon, the second on the right of the left platoon?
The arguments for such a disposition are, that when in action in line, the captain will be in the best situation to attend to his whole company, to extend his influences over the whole, and to keep every part at its post. In movements which may require a different position, a correspondent change can be made.
This idea has some attractions for me, though I have not as yet embraced it even provisionally. And you will understand that no part of my plan is definitely adopted. It is all sub judice—open to revisal and correction.
The fact which you notice, that the length of the step increases with the velocity, is confirmed by other experiments which I had caused to be made; and, when observed, is seen to depend on a very obvious reason. This fact at present inclines me to vary the length of the step in proportion to velocity—at least, to have two different standards. It is certain that the contrary principle must augment the quantity of exertion requisite to attain a given distance, and tend to render marches more slow and more fatiguing.
I doubt not that the prudent change you have made in the situation of your troops will be attended with salutary effects.
With great consideration and esteem,
May 19, 1800.
Sir:—I have transmitted to the paymaster-general an abstract of the numbers of the twelve additional regiments, and have urged him to make an estimate of the sums which will be due, including the three months’ extra pay, and without delay to remit adequate funds.
I beg you to send for him, and to second by your authority the instruction I have given.
I am thus particular, because without great exertion the troops cannot be paid up before the time fixed for their discharge; and, in my opinion, it is essential that this should be done. Public clamor, infinite disgust in the officers and men, possibly great irregularities on the routes homeward, and certainly additional obstacles in obtaining men on future occasions, would attend the disbanding without full satisfaction.
Hence I press for every possible exertion to be prepared for the time which has been assigned; and hence, also, I think it proper to say that, should circumstances prevent the payment of their dues to the troops by that time, I shall consider it as consistent with the orders I have received, no less than with the interest and honor of the government, to defer the disbanding till the payment shall have been received, unless I have fresh and precise instructions to the contrary.
With great respect, etc.
hamilton to adams
May 24, 1800.
Sir:—I had the honor of receiving, an hour since, your letter of the 22d instant, with a copy of one to you from Colonel Smith.
I am happy to think that the question presented is on mere military principles a very simple one. The rule of promotion by succession does not, in any service, as far as my knowledge goes, apply to a new corps in its fresh organization. Officers for such a corps, it is understood, may be found wheresoever it is thought fit, without regard to those of the antecedent establishment. This rule has been repeatedly and recently acted upon in this country, and is necessary and right.
The regularity of complying with the wish of Colonel Smith depends, then, on the fact, whether the second regiment of artillery has ever been organized. I believe that it never has been, never yet having had a commandant; and, I have supposed, that this state of the thing was the reason why the eldest major of the two regiments was not long before this appointed as a matter of right. If I am correct in the fact (of which the Secretary at War can give you precise information), the conclusion is, that the appointment of Colonel Smith will violate no military rule, nor the right of any other officer. It may, and probably will, contravene expectations entertained on reasonable grounds; but this is a different thing from the infraction of a right.
But except on the principle that the regiment was never organized, Colonel Smith, an officer of infantry, could not be placed in the command of it, in exclusion of the majors of the corps without departing from military ideas.
The major and other officers of the additional battalion may, doubtless, with strict regularity, be appointed from the officers on this ground, if it shall be thought expedient.
What has been said is, I imagine, a full answer to the inquiry you have been pleased to make; and perhaps I ought to say no more. Yet if I did stop here, I should not be satisfied that I had fulfilled all that candor and delicacy required of me. I will therefore take the liberty to add a few words. There are collateral considerations affecting the expediency of the measure, which, I am sure, will not escape your reflection, and if, after weighing them duly, you shall be of opinion that they ought not to prevail as obstacles, you will without doubt anticipate criticism.
I trust this remark will not be misunderstood. The opinion I have of Colonel Smith’s military pretensions, my personal regard for him, and my sensibility to his situation, conspire to beget in me sentiments very different from a disposition to throw the least impediment in the way of his success.
hamilton to caleb swan
May 26, 1800.
Sir:—I send you the copy of a letter of the 14th instant, from Captain Ellery, with the documents to which it refers.
If my recollection be right, there lies an appeal from the accountant to the Comptroller of the Treasury. If so, I request that you will, without delay, on behalf of Captain Ellery, make an appeal.
After much reflection, I do not perceive any sound distinction between special compensations to persons not of the army, and similar compensations to officers of the army for services which do not appertain to the nature of their offices.
Their established compensations cannot be presumed to embrace such services; as to these they are mere strangers, with the sole difference, that being already in the employ and pay of the government, it is reasonable they should receive less allowances.
If, as the practice admits, it is within Executive discretion to allow special compensations to strangers, payable out of the fund for contingencies, it must be on the principle, that such services being casually necessary, and not provided for by law, it is requisite to the progress of the service, and agreeable to an implied license in the appropriation of the fund, that they should be called forth and recompensed by Executive authority. And the same principle would extend to allowances to particular officers for services which the laws did not contemplate that they were to perform, and consequently did not provide for. The interest of the service will manifestly be promoted by this extension. In numerous instances officers may be made use of for such purposes without interfering with the parts of the service for which they were destined; and in all such instances, as their allowances will be less than would be made to strangers, there will be economy in employing them; besides that in many cases they are best qualified, and in some situations other qualified persons could not be found at all.
To say that special compensation for special service is in no case within Executive discretion, would be contrary to uniform usage, and would arrest the wheels of every branch of the government. In the military service, especially, innumerable casualties occur in which the exercise of that discretion is indispensable.
What is to be done? A person is appointed lieutenant of a regiment; there is a certain routine of duties incident to the station. These are foreign to the clerical and peculiar duties attached to different branches of the staff. These, besides demanding particular qualifications, frequently involve close application and constant drudgery.
Suppose an officer is called to exchange the one station for the other, without an equivalent for the additional labor and skill; may he not reasonably decline it, and say, this service is not within the terms of my undertaking with the public? Suppose even, that the disposition of military subordination would not tolerate a refusal; could a service proceed with harmony and satisfaction and advantage, in which such a despotism was exercised?
Will it be said that the future justice of the Legislature is to be relied upon? Will officers cheerfully undertake or assiduously perform on such precarious ground? Is it right to compromise a commanding general by laying him under the necessity of giving expectations which may not be realized?
There can be no doubt on this question where justice and expediency point; and though first appearances may countenance the distinction which has been made, a more thorough view of the subject shows it to be too nice and subtle for practice.
I trust that the Comptroller, on mature consideration, will regret the distinction. You will please to communicate to him this letter, that he may see the reasoning on which I gave my sanction to Captain Ellery for the expenditure which he has made. It may be depended upon that the business of the department absolutely required it.
With great consideration, etc.
hamilton to rivardi
May 31, 1800.
Sir:—I have received your letter of the 15th instant.
As we live in a jealous country, and in jealous times, a visit from Governor Hunter and the Duke of Kent is not to be courted.
If, however, circumstances should occur in which the thing cannot be avoided without a breach of politeness or liberality, it must be met with a good grace. With this caution, I leave the matter to your prudence and delicacy.
If a visit shall take place, the same ceremonies are to be observed towards the Governor, as would be observed towards a similar character in our own country. That is, he will be received by the garrison with presented arms—officers and colors saluting, and music playing. In the reception of the Duke of Kent, there will be the additional ceremonies of a discharge of artillery, and the honors of the flag.
Under the circumstances stated, I consent to your taking an additional servant from the garrison.
hamilton to mchenry
June 28, 1800.
Sir:—An extraordinary pressure of business since the receipt of your letter of the 10th instant, has delayed a reply to that part of it which respects the rule of promotion.
This rule was not adopted on my recommendation singly, but on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, supported by the opinion of General Pinckney and myself.
Of its expediency with regard to the corps of artillerists and engineers, I have always had some doubt.
The smallness of that corps in point of number avoids the inconvenience of a lineal promotion of captains. The nature of its service, almost always by detachments, causes the reason for a different mode to be inapplicable to it, and the scientific nature of the corps strengthens the inducements to a strict succession according to seniority.
But a uniform rule was thought most eligible; and I have not the least doubt that the rule of promotion, regimentally to the rank of majority, inclusively, is the best with regard to the infantry and cavalry.
In corps which act collectively, there is an advantage in keeping the men as much as possible with the officers to whom they have been accustomed. As often as you bring an officer from another regiment the advantage is lost.
But more justice is done by a regimental promotion than by any other mode. Corps in active service are, in various ways, subject to losses in a much greater degree than those in a state of repose. It is justly congenial with the natural feelings of the human heart, and an incentive to exertion, that promotion should keep pace with danger and suffering.
If, when a regiment had been half destroyed by a bloody action, the advancement of all the remaining officers was impeded by bringing captains from garrisons perhaps a thousand miles off, the effect upon those officers would be very discouraging, and the influence upon the service very inauspicious.
It may be asked, Why not apply this reasoning to the field-officers? The answer is, that when the grade becomes of this importance it carries with it a tenaciousness of the principle of promotion by seniority; and the whole number not being very considerable, the delay of lineal promotion is less sensibly felt and the effect less extensive.
Balancing the opposite considerations, it is judged the least inconvenient to regulate the higher grades by a lineal promotion.
You have herewith a report of Major Hoops concerning the late disturbance at West Point.
North has since set on foot criminal prosecutions against Captain Stille and several of his men for riot and theft. A hot-headed magistrate, without the decency of a previous resort to higher authority, issued a warrant, upon which the captain and those men were apprehended, and after a refusal to bail them, committed them to the common jail of the county. On the representation of the district-attorney, a habeas corpus was issued by our Supreme Court, and the prisoners have all been liberated on easy bail. The honor and success of the service require absolutely that this affair should be probed with all possible attention. I have expressed this opinion; you may perhaps think it expedient to confirm the sentiment.
Major-General Hamilton has it in command from the President of the United States, to assure the officers and men of the corps which are about to retire from the service, that he entertains a strong sense of the laudable zeal by which they were induced to take the field at the appearance of danger to their country, and of their good conduct in every respect, since they have been in the service; and that he deeply regrets any inconvenience which may result to any of them from an anticipated dissolution of their services; that he doubts not their patriotism will lead them to make a just construction of the motives of the government; and that he relies firmly upon them as the zealous defenders of their country in any future emergency.
The Major-General is happy to be the organ of this expression of the sentiments of the President. To add the assurance of his high sense of their merits, is a tribute due to them and to justice. He cherishes a deep sympathy in the feelings which naturally actuate them at so interesting a moment, and he entreats them to be persuaded that his warm affection will follow them, wheresoever they may be.
hamilton to mchenry
July 2, 1800.
Sir:—From the terms of the act disbanding the additional army and correspondence with the Department of War, I consider our military operations ceased. When, therefore, any remnants of the business formerly under my superintendence present themselves, I can only lay them before you for your consideration and decision.
In pursuance of this idea I send you the inclosed account.