Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON. [PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.] - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON. [PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.] - 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 ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Mount Vernon, 14 July, 1798.
My dear Sir,
Your letter of the 8th instant, was presented to me by the Secretary of War on the 11th. I have consented to embark once more on a boundless field of responsibility and trouble, with two reservations, First, that the principal officers in the line and of the Staff shall be such as I can place confidence in; and that I shall not be called into the field, until the army is in a situation to require my presence, or it becomes indispensable by the urgency of circumstances; contributing, in the mean while, every thing in my power to its efficient organization, but nothing to the public expense until I am in a situation to incur expense myself.
It will be needless, after giving you this information, and having indelibly engraved on my mind the assurance contained in your letter of the 2d of June, to add that I rely upon you as a coadjutor and assistant in the turmoils I have consented to encounter.
I have communicated very fully with the Secretary of War on the several matters contained in the powers vested in him by the President, who, as far as it appears by them, is well disposed to accommodate. But I must confess, that, besides nominating me to the command of the armies without any previous consultation or notice, the whole of that business seems to me to stand upon such ground as may render the Secretary’s journey and our consultation of no avail.
Congress, it is said, would rise this week. What then has been done, or can the President do, with respect to appointments under that bill, if it has been enacted? Be his inclinations what they may, unless a law could and has passed, enabling him in the recess of the Senate to make appointments conformable thereto, the nominations must have been made, and the business done here with the Secretary is rendered nugatory.
By the pending Bill, if it passes to a Law, two Major-Generals and an Inspector-genl. with the Rank of Majr.-General, and three brigadiers are to be appointed. Presuming on its passing, I have given the following as my sentiments respecting the following characters fit and proper to be employed, in which the Secretary concurs.
And I have enumerated the most prominent characters, that have occurred to my mind, from whom to select field-officers for the Regiments of Infantry and that of Cavalry, which are proposed to be raised.
And now, my dear Sir, with that candor, which you always have and I trust ever will experience from me, I shall express to you a difficulty, which has arisen in my mind relative to seniority between you and Genl Pinckney; for, with respect to my friend, General Knox, whom I love and esteem, I have ranked him below you both. That you may know from whence this difficulty proceeds, it is proper I should observe, and give it as my decided opinion, that, if the French should be so mad as to Invade this Country in expectation of making a serious impression, that their operations will commence in the States south of Maryland.1 * * *
If these premises are just, the inference is obvious, that the Services and Influence of General Pinckney in the southern States would be of the highest and most interesting importance. Will he serve, then, under one whom he will consider a junr officer? And what would be the consequence, if he should refuse, and his numerous and powerful connexions and acquaintances in those parts get disgusted? You have no doubt heard, that his military reputation stands high in the Southern States; that he is viewed as a brave, intelligent, and enterprising officer; and, if report be true, that no officer in the late American army made Tactics and the art of War so much his study. To this account of him may be added, that his character has received much celebrity by his conduct as minister and envoy at Paris.
Under this view of the subject, my wish to put you first, and my fear of losing him, are not a little embarrassing. But why? For after all, it rests with the President to use his pleasure. I shall only add, therefore, that, as the welfare of the country is the object I persuade myself we all have in view, I shall sanguinely hope, that smaller matters will yield to measures, which have a tendency to promote it. I wish devoutly, that either of you, or any other fit character had been nominated in my place; for no one can make a greater sacrifice, at least of inclination, than will your ever affectionate, &c.
[1 ]A paragraph containing the reasons is omitted, being precisely the same as in the letter to Mr. Pickering, dated July 11th. See p. 33.