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hamilton to secretary at war - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 7.
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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.