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
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.