Front Page Titles (by Subject) hamilton to mchenry - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
hamilton to mchenry - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.