Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR. - 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 JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 29 July, 1798.
Your letter of the 25th instant came to Alexandria yesterday evening, and was put into my hands this morn. For the rules and regulations accompanying it, I thank you, and will read them attentively, if I am allowed time; but this is questionable, as I am assailed from all quarters, and by all descriptions of people, for Commissions, Introductions, and recommendations &c; to all of which common civility makes some sort of reply necessary, while among them there are a few, to whom more particular answers must be given.
This leads me to ask whether a Secretary, previous to the contingencies on which my taking the field is placed, will be allowed? The pay I mean. Without which the moments employed in my usual and necessary avocations, and which at all leisure hours I have been devoting to the arrangement and overhaul of my voluminous public papers, civil and military, that they may go into secure deposits, and hereafter into hands, that may be able to separate the grain from the Chaff; I say, without this aid, my time (and in truth I had from a variety of causes, which it is needless to enumerate, little enough before) will be entirely taken up by personal visits and written applications for office, and such other matters as are incidental to my late appointment.
The motives to this question are explained. The necessity I conceive is apparent; but, as I have placed my own services, pay, and emoluments upon contingencies, which may happen sooner or later, or never, you are to decide, and accordingly advise, whether or not a Secretary can be appointed previously to this event, with the pay and forage allowance annexed to the office or not.1
You will not have transmitted you the half, perhaps not a tenth part of the applications, which are made to me. It may be taken for granted, therefore, that all who appear to you under my auspices are such, as I am either personally acquainted with their families, or am satisfied with the recommendations they bring.
Your answers to Mr. Caton and Judge Chase were judicious and proper. Of the propriety of remaining perfectly free from all engagements, respecting my aids, I am more and more convinced, as the applications encrease, and the little knowledge displayed of the qualifications, which the aids of the Commander-in-Chief ought to possess, is discovered by the applicants. The variegated and important duties of the Aids of a Commander-in-Chief, or the Commander of a separate Army, require experienced Officers, men of Judgment, and men of business, with ready pens to execute them properly and with dispatch. A great deal more is required of them than attending him at a parade, or delivering verbal orders here and there or copying a written one. They ought, if I may be allowed to use the expression, to possess the soul of the General; and, from a single idea given to them, to convey his meaning in the clearest and fullest manner. This, young men, unacquainted with the service and diffident, would not do, be their abilities what they may. One or two of the latter, as extra, might be received, but the choice must depend on circumstances.
Why do you not say something about the Quarter-Master-General and Adjutant-General? I am thrown entirely into the field of conjecture, to account for the cause of silence on these interesting points; nor am I relieved in either by the Gazettes, except by a blind account in Bache’s that Col. Smith as Brigadier did not obtain. Will Col. Hamilton accept? Have you heard from the other General Officers? My paper is done, & I am always yours.
[1 ]The Secretary of War replied: “The President desires me to inform you, that he considers you in the public service from the date of your appointment, and entitled to all the emoluments of it; that you are at liberty to receive all, or any part, at your discretion; that you are fully authorized to appoint your aids and secretaries when you shall think fit; that one secretary at least is indispensable immediately; and that he ought to be allowed his pay and rations. You will be pleased, therefore, to make any or all of these appointments, when you may judge proper.”—Trenton, August 25th.