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, 15 September, 1799.
Your letter of the 3d instant, with the papers accompanying it, did not get to my hands till the 11th. At the same time I received a long letter from General Hamilton, with voluminous references, to which he requested my immediate attention, and the communication of my sentiments thereon. These circumstances will account for your not having received an answer before this time.
The rules, which have been adopted by the President of the U. S. relative to rank in the army, point out the mode, which must determine the relative rank of those officers, who have heretofore been in service. The documents in the war-office, and the information obtained from the parties, would enable you to fix the rank of those officers, at least as well as I can do it. But to manifest my readiness to comply, so far as is in my power, with any request from your department, I have in the enclosed list noted numerically the names of the lieutenant-colonels and majors, who have been in service, as they should rank, agreeably to the documents from the war-office, which you forwarded to me, annexed to their names, and in conformity with the regulations established by the President relative to rank.
By these rules resignation precludes all claim to rank, and places the party on a footing with those officers, who have never before been in service; but, where a resignation took place from any cause not affecting the character of the officer (as it is presumed is the case with all who are now appointed under this circumstance), it does not, in my opinion, deprive the party of that consideration, which his having been in service would give, provided he stands on equal ground, in other respects, with those who have never served.
As the relative rank of officers, who have not been in service, is to be determined by the Commander-in-chief, I shall make the arrangement in the best manner I can, with respect to the officers in your list who are of this description. But, in order to do this with propriety and satisfaction, a personal knowledge of the several officers, or full information of their respective qualifications, talents, and merits, is necessary. The former I do not possess. The latter I have, respecting most of those who have not been in service, so far as could be ascertained from the documents laid before the general officers in November last from the war-office. But to proceed on this ground alone, and without any document relative to the characters of the officers from Connecticut, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, (who, you will recollect, were selected without any agency of mine,) and fix the rank definitively, would be very repugnant to my ideas of propriety and justice. In a word, it would be little better than to decide their relative rank by lot. I have tried and tried again to make an arrangement of the majors, who have been in service, and I enclose a list of the result; but it is so unsatisfactory to myself, that I request no weight may be given to it, farther than it accords with better information and circumstances.
In your letter you have requested, that the relative rank of the field-officers of the cavalry, as well as of the twelve regiments of infantry, should be fixed; but you have not furnished the names of those officers; and there is one major wanting, according to your list, to complete the number for the twelve regiments of infantry.
I feel much obliged by your intention of remitting me two months’ pay; but, excepting in cases which may involve me in pecuniary expenses, I must beg leave, on the principle I set out with, to decline the acceptance of it. The letters written to you by the Lieut.-Colonels and Majors, in answer to your queries, are herewith returned. With due consideration, I have the honor to be, &c.