Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
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TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 11 July, 1798.
As I never get letters by the mail until the morning after they arrive in Alexandria, and frequently not for several days, as I am not regular in sending thither, your favor of the 6th instant did not reach my hands until yesterday.
Of the abilities and fitness of the gentleman you have named for a high command in the provisional army, I think as you do, and that his services ought to be secured at almost any price.1 What the difficulties are that present themselves to the mind of the President in opposition to this measure, I am entirely ignorant; but in confidence, and with the frankness with which you have disclosed your own sentiments on this occasion, I will unfold mine, under the view I have taken of the prospect before us, and shall do it concisely.
If the French should be so mad as openly and formidably to Invade these United States, in expectation of subjugating the government, laying them under contribution, or in hopes of dissolving the Union, I conceive there can hardly be two opinions respecting their Plan, and that their operations will commence in the Southern quarter. 1, because it is the weakest. 2, because they will expect, from the tenor of the debates in Congress, to find more friends there. 3, because there can be no doubt of their arming our own negroes against us. And 4, because they will be more contiguous to their Islands and to Louisiana, if they should be possessed thereof, which they will be if they can.
If these premises are just, the inference I am going to draw, from placing Colo. Hamilton over General Pinckney, is natural and obvious. The latter is an officer of high military reputation, fond of the Profession, spirited, active, and judicious, and much advanced in the estimation of the Public by his late conduct as minister and Envoy at Paris.1 With these pretensions, and being senior to Colo. Hamilton, he would not, I am morally certain, accept a junr. appointment. Disgust would follow, and its influence would spread where most to be deprecated, as his connexions are numerous, powerful, and more influential than any others in the three southern States. Under this view of the subject, I think it would be impolitic, and might be dangerous, to sow the seeds of discontent at so important a crisis. To this may be added, that impediments to the return of General Pinckney, and causes unforeseen, might place Colo. Hamilton in the situation you wish to see him. Inspector-General, with a command in ye line, would, I hope and trust, satisfy him. You will readily perceive, that the difficulty in my mind arises from thorough conviction, that, if an Invasion is attempted, it will commence South of Maryland, and from the importance of so influential a character as Pinckney (if among us) being heartily engaged in repelling it. But, not having the Laws at hand to refer to, or knowing precisely what General Officers are authorized by them, I am speaking much at random, and request for that reason that nothing which I have here said may be considered as definite.
What arrangements the Secretary of War is empowered by the President to make with me, I know not. In the letter of the former to me, he has not touched upon them. He is not yet arrived; but the bearer of this to the Post-office in Alexanda. carrys up my carriage in order to accommodate him down, this being the afternoon on which the mail-stage is expected at that place. I regret, however, that he should have left Philadelphia before a letter, which I had written to him, could have reached that place.
This letter went from here on friday last, before I knew, or had the most distant suspicion of the President’s intention of nominating me, (without previous notice,) to the trust he has. But was written in consequence of a wish expressed in a letter from the Secretary to me, that the crisis might overcome my reluctance to appear again on ye public theatre.
Upon this occasion, I thought it expedient, before matters proceeded further, to be candid and explicit, and accordingly wrote him my sentiments in detail, the substance of which was, that, if an actual Invasion by a formidable force, or such demonstrations of the intention as could not be mistaken, I conceive it to be a duty, wch. I owed to my Country and to my own reputation, to step forward with my best endeavors to repel it, however painful the measure might be to a person at my time of life, and under the circumstances I am; that, for the satisfaction of my own mind, I should like to know, from the best evidence the case was susceptible of, that my Services as Commander-in-Chief would be preferred to those of a man of more Juvenile years and more in the prime and vigor of life; and that, as neither ambition, Interest, nor personal gratification of any sort, could induce me to engage again in the turmoils and hazards of War, as I had every thing to risk and hardly any thing to gain (the vicissitudes of War being in the hands of the Supreme Director, where no control is), and, as the army was about to be formed, and every thing in a manner depending upon the arrangement and organization, it could not be expected that I would take the command of it without previously knowing who my Coadjutors were to be, and having the assistance of those in whom I could place confidence. I mentioned no names, for at that time I knew nothing of my own appointment, and thought the matter too much in embryo to go further, and to allow him, if a fit occasion occurred, to let these, as my sentiments, be known to the President. I shall conclude with great esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]Alexander Hamilton.
[1 ]He had not yet returned from his mission to France.