Front Page Titles (by Subject) hamilton to mchenry - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7
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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.
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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.1
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.
One point occurs in connection with the general subject of this letter. It appears to be the practice of accounting officers to reject items in the accounts of contractors, which have been furnished, upon the orders of particular military commanders, even in cases in which no rule has been prescribed to the contractors. This, in my opinion, is neither just nor regular. The disbursement, if vouched by such an order, ought to be admitted to the credit of the contractor, and charged to the officer, till a satisfactory explanation shall satisfy the department that it ought to be a public charge. In most cases, when not strictly proper in the abstract, it will be expedient that the expense shall be defrayed by the public, and a repetition prevented by more precise instructions, or, where these have not been deficient, by the reprehension or punishment of the officer.