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, 21st Octr., 1798.
Your letter of the 16th instant came by the last mail.1 The enclosures are well calculated to effect their objects. But the explicit declaration contained in the one to General Knox, added to his knowledge of my sentiments on the subject of relative Rank, leaves little hope in my mind, that he will obey your summons, and render his aid in the manner required of him.
I hope no difficulty will occur with General Pinckney; and, if he cannot be prevailed on to remain at the Seat of Government until the 10th of November, (the ulterior day allowed for the assembling of the Major-Generals,) that you will avail yourself of all his information relatively to the characters best qualified to officer the Corps allotted to the States of South Carolina & Georgia; and as far as his knowledge extends to those of No. Carolina and Tennessee also.
I have said in the beginning of this letter, that the enclosures were well calculated to effect their objects, but I must except that part of them, which relates to the officering of the New Corps in the Southern and Western States, as greatly inferior to the one I suggested in my last letter to you, dated the 15th instant; first, because it involves more delay; and, 2dly because the chance of obtaining good officers is not equal.
If the President of the United States, or the Secretary of War, had a personal and intimate knowledge of the characters of the applicants, the mode suggested by me would be indelicate & improper; but at such a distance, & in cases where information must govern, from whom, (as I observed in my former letter,) can it be so much relied on, as from those whose interest, honor, and reputation are pledged for its accuracy?
The applications are made chiefly through members of Congress. These, oftentimes to get rid of them, oftener still perhaps for local & electioneering purposes, and to please & gratify their party, more than from any real merit in the applicant, are handed in, backed by a solicitude for success in order to strengthen their interest. Possibly no injustice might be done, if I were to proceed a step further, and give it as an opinion, that most of the candidates brought forward by the opposition members possess sentiments similar to their own, and might poison the army by disseminating them, if they were appointed. If, however, the plan suggested by you is to be adopted, indeed in any case, you will no doubt see the propriety of obtaining all the information you can from Majr.-General Pinckney; and, if he accepts his appointment, and cannot be prevailed on to remain with you until the other Majr.-Generals assemble, of requesting him to call on Brigr.-General Davie on his route to Charleston, and, after a full & free conversation with him on fit characters to officer the quota of Troops from the States of No. Carolina (and Tennessee, if he can aid in it,) to inform you of the result without delay.1
I hardly think it will be in my power to attend at Trenton or Philadelphia at the time alloted to the Majr.-Generals; 1st, because I am yet in a convalescent state, (although perfectly recovered of the fever,) so far at least as to avoid exposure and consequent colds; 2dly, my Secretary, (Mr. Lear,) has had a severe fever, and is now very low, and several others of my family are much indisposed; and, 3dly and principally, because I see no definite ground to proceed upon, if I should go, from anything that has hitherto appeared. Nor is it probable you will have received the President’s instructions, and Genr. Knox’s answer, in time to serve me with a notice of the results by the 10th of November; I mean, for me to get there, on or about that day.
If General Pinckney could be prevailed on to remain with you, & there was a moral certainty of meeting Generals Hamilton and Knox, I would, maugre the inconveniences and hazard I might run, attempt to join them, for the valuable purpose of projecting a plan in concert with you and them, which might be ineffectually accomplished at a partial meeting. I shall therefore stand prepared, as well as the situation of things will admit, and wait your full communications on these several points, and govern myself accordingly.
[1 ]From this letter it appeared that a final determination had at length passed in regard to the relative rank of the major-generals, and that the commissions had been made out according to the first plan. The following is an extract.
[1 ]“My opinion is, that, in making a selection of the field-officers, an entire range of the State should be taken; but, in the company officers, regard should be had to distribution, as well for the purpose of facilitating the Recruiting Service, as for other considerations. And, where officers of celebrity in the revolutionary army can be obtained, who are yet in the prime of life, habituated to no bad courses, and well-disposed, that a preference ought to be given to them. Next to these, gentlemen of character, liberal education, and, as far as the fact can be ascertained from inexperience, men who will face danger in any shape in which it can appear; for, if we have a land war, it will be sharp and severe. I must beg leave to add, that all violent opposers of the Government, and French Partisans, should be avoided, or they will disseminate the poison of their principles in the army, and split what ought to be a band of brothers into parties.”—Washington to William R. Davie, 24 October, 1798.