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Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 7 [1774]

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Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 7.

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Vol. VII (Military Papers (continued)) of a twelve volume collection of the works of Alexander Hamilton who served at a formative period of the American Republic. His papers and letters are important for understanding this period as he served as secretary and aide-de-campe to George Washington, attended the Constitutional Convention, wrote many of The Federalist Papers, and was secretary of the treasury.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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G.P. Putnam's Sons
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John Adams
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The Works of Alexander Hamilton in Twelve Volumes
Federal Edition
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The Works of Alexander Hamilton
Edited by
Henry Cabot Lodge

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

[HamiltonThe Farmer Refuted, 1775, Æt. 18.]

“We are laboring hard to establish in this country principles more and more national, and free from all foreign ingredients, so that we may be neither ‘Greeks nor Trojans,’ but truly Americans.”—[Hamilton to King, 1796, Æt. 19.]

Volume VII
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
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The Knickerbocker Press, New York

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  • Military PapersContinued:
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........3
    • Hamilton to Washington..........6
    • Washington to Mchenry..........6
    • Hamilton to Washington..........38
    • Hamilton to Gunn..........41
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........42
    • Hamilton to Gunn..........45
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........47
    • Measures of Defence..........48
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........50
    • Hamilton to ——..........61
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........62
    • Hamilton to Wilkinson..........64
    • Hamilton to Washington..........67
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........69
    • Plan for the Providing and Issuing of Military Supplies..........70
    • Hamilton to Wilkinson..........75
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........76
    • Hamilton to Washington..........77
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........80
    • Hamilton to Hamtranck..........82
    • Circular..........83
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........85
    • Hamilton to Col. Stevens..........86
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........87
    • Hamilton to Hamtranck..........89 Edition: current; Page: [iv]
    • Hamilton to Washington..........90
    • Hamilton to ——92
    • Hamilton to Washington..........92
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........94
    • Hamilton to ——..........96
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........97
    • Hamilton to Secretary at War..........100
    • Hamilton to Stoddert..........102
    • Hamilton to Colonel Smith..........102
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........103
    • Hamilton to Harrison..........110
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........111
    • Circular..........111
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........113
    • Circular..........116
    • Hamilton to Washington..........117
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........125
    • Hamilton to Colonel Moore..........140
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........141
    • Hamilton to Col. Moore..........147
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........149
    • Hamilton to Caleb Gibbs..........159
    • Hamilton to Wilkinson..........160
    • Hamilton to Col. Smith..........170
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........170
    • Hamilton to Washington..........174
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........179
    • Hamilton to General Pinckney..........190
    • General Order..........191
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........194
    • Hamilton to Col. Smith..........196
    • Hamilton to Mchenry..........197
    • The Step..........200
    • Hamilton to McHenry..........203
    • Hamilton to Denoailles..........207
    • Hamilton to McHenry..........208 Edition: current; Page: [v]
    • Hamilton to Col. Smith..........211
    • Hamilton to Denoailles..........212
    • Hamilton to General Pinckney..........213
    • Hamilton to McHenry..........215
    • Hamilton to Adams..........216
    • Hamilton to Caleb Swan..........218
    • Hamilton to Rivardi..........221
    • Hamilton to McHenry..........221
    • General Order..........224
    • Hamilton to McHenry..........224
  • The Jefferson Controversy:
    • An American..........230
    • Amicus..........244
    • Catullus to Aristides..........247
    • Metellus..........283
    • Catullus..........288
    • A Plain Honest Man..........301
    • Hamilton to Washington..........303
  • The Adams Controversy:
    • John Adams..........309
    • Hamilton to Adams..........364
  • The Reynolds Pamphlet..........369
    • Appendix..........412
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hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—I now communicate the result of my conference with Commander-in-Chief and General Pinckney, on the subject of extra allowance to officers detached on service, so as to be obliged to incur expenses on the road, and at places where there are no military posts.

We are all of opinion, that in such cases an extra allowance ought to be made, and this even to officers who receive extra compensations for peculiar duties, such as inspectors, quartermasters, etc. These extra compensations are considered as relative to ideas of greater skill or greater trouble, rather than to that of greater expense, in the execution of the offices to which they are annexed. Without extra allowance in the cases in question, it is easy to see that officers may exhaust in extra expenses their whole pay, and that great difficulty must be experienced in finding fit characters to execute employments which may expose these persons to frequent journeys. It is useless to say that the principle will not apply where the law shall have specifically provided for traveling expenses.

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But the greatest embarrassment is to settle the rule of extra allowances. Shall they be left at large on the ground of reasonable expenses according to circumstances, or shall fixed rates be attempted? The former is liable to great abuse, and the latter is not easy to be regulated so as to unite economy with justice. It is, however, our opinion that it ought to be attempted.

In adjusting a rate or rates, it is to be remembered, that the officer receives established allowances for his time, service and expenses. A full compensation is not therefore to be aimed at in the extra allowances, but something proportioned to the probable excess of expense. This has governed the estimate which is now submitted, viz., a dollar and a quarter per day for man and horse for each day that the officer must sleep at a place not a military post, and when the officer is of a rank to be entitled to a servant, then the addition of three quarters of a dollar per day for the servant and his horse. This to apply to all but the seat of government and the principal town in each State. At such places the allowance is to be a dollar and a half for the officer and his horse, and a dollar for the servant and his horse. It is understood that the established allowances to the officer go on at the same time.

The case of an officer detached from one military post to another which he may reach the same night, but yet so far distant as to incur expenses on the road, was not provided for in the above arrangement.

It is my opinion that half a dollar per day will Edition: current; Page: [5]suffice for such cases, and this only where the distance is not less than forty miles. The servant may in such cases, without inconvenience, take his provisions with him.

It may, perhaps, be expedient to regulate a day’s journey by a number of miles, and for this the following proportions may not be improper: forty miles to a day, when the whole distance does not exceed two hundred miles: thirty to a day, for all above two hundred and not exceeding three hundred and fifty; and twenty-five to a day, for all above three hundred and fifty and not exceeding six hundred; twenty to a day, for all above six hundred.

But while these rates are offered as the general rule, it is foreseen that there may arise extraordinary cases where greater allowances may be indispensable. Such cases must be referred to the special discretion of the head of the War Department, to be assisted by a certificate from the commanding officer, by whom the officer claiming was detached on the special service, stating the reasons and circumstances. It is my opinion, too, on which point also I have not consulted any other, that the rates ought not to retrospect, but ought to be established for the future, and that in all past and intervening cases, applying only the general principle, reasonable expenses, according to circumstances, ought to govern. The application of a new rule may produce hardship and injustice when the service may have been performed in the expectation that practice on former occasions would prevail.

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hamilton to washington

General Hamilton presents his respects to the Commander-in-chief, and sends, the sketch of a letter, in conformity to what passed this morning.

washington to mchenry, secretary of war


Sir:—Since my arrival at this place, I have been closely engaged, with the aid of Generals Hamilton and Pickney, in fulfilling the objects of your letter of the 10th of November. The result is now submitted.

The first two questions you propose, respecting the appointment of the officers and men of the troops to be raised, in virtue of the act of Congress of the 16th of July last, among districts and States, will naturally be answered together.

1. As to the appointment of the commissioned officers of the infantry, no particular reason is discovered to exist at the present period for combining the States into districts; but it is conceived to be expedient to adopt as a primary rule the relative representative population of the several States. The practice of the government on other occasions in the appointment of public officers, has had regard, as far as was practicable, to the same general principle, as one which, by a distribution of honors and emoluments among the citizens of the different States, Edition: current; Page: [7]tends both to justice and to public satisfaction. This principle, however, must frequently yield to the most proper selection of characters among those willing as well as qualified to serve, and sometimes to collateral considerations which, arising out of particular cases, do not admit of precise specification. In the application of the rule in this, as in other instances, qualifications of it must be admitted. The arrangement, which will be now offered, proceeds on this basis. You will observe that it does not deviate from the table you have presented.

2. As to the non-commissioned officers and privates, it is conceived to be both unnecessary and inexpedient to make any absolute appointment among the States. It is unnecessary, because contemplating it as desirable that the men shall be drawn in nearly equal proportions from the respective States, this object, where circumstances are favorable, will be attained by the very natural and proper arrangement of assigning to the officers who shall be appointed, recruiting stations within the States to which they belong. It is inexpedient, because, if it should happen that the proportion of fit men cannot easily be had in a particular State, there ought to be no obstacle to obtaining them elsewhere.

3. As to the officers of the dragoons, it does not seem advisable to confine the selection to any subdivision of the United States. Though very strong conjectures may be formed as to the quarter in which they would probably be employed in the case Edition: current; Page: [8]of invasion, there can be nothing certain on this point, if this were even the criterion of a proper arrangement. And it may be presumed, that it will conduce most to the general satisfaction to exclude considerations of local aspect. But from the small number of this corps which is to be raised, it would be found too fractional, and, for that among other reasons, inconvenient to aim at a proportional distribution among all the States. It is, therefore, supposed most advisable to be governed principally by a reference to the characters who have occurred as candidates; leaving the inequality in the distribution to be remedied in the event of a future augmentation of this description of troops. The proportion at present is in various views inadequate; a circumstance which, it may be presumed, will of course be attended to, should the progress of public danger lead to an extension of military preparations.

The materials furnished by you, with the addition of those derived from other sources, are insufficient for a due selection of the officers whom it is proposed to allot to the States of Connecticut, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Hence the selection for these States must of necessity be deferred. It is conceived that the best plan for procuring the requisite information and accelerating a desirable conclusion, as to the three last-mentioned States, will be to choose Major-General Pinckney, who will avail himself of the assistance of Brigadier-Generals Davis and Washington; to make the arrangement of those officers provisionally, and subject to the ratification of the President. It will be in their Edition: current; Page: [9]power to ascertain who are best qualified among those willing to serve; which will at the same time assure a good choice, and avoid the disappointment and embarrassment of refusals. As to Connecticut, you are aware of the progress that has been made, and of the misapprehension which has occasioned an obstacle to a definitive arrangement. You will, it is presumed, be speedily in possession of the further information necessary, and, having it, can without difficulty complete the arrangement for this State.

The third, fourth, and fifth of your questions may likewise be answered together.

The act for augmenting the army is peremptory in its provisions. The bounds of executive discretion, as to the forbearance to execute such a law, might perhaps involve an investigation, nice in itself, and of a nature which it is generally most prudent to avoid. But it may safely be said negatively, for reasons too plain to be doubted, that the voluntary suspension of the execution of a similar law could not be justified but by considerations of decisive cogency. The existence of any such considerations is unknown.

Nothing has been communicated respecting our foreign relations, to induce the opinion that there has been any change in the situation of the country, as to external danger, which dictates an abandonment of the policy of the law in question. It need not now be examined how far it may be at any time prudent to relinquish measures of security, suggested by the experience of accumulated hostility, merely because there are probable symptoms of Edition: current; Page: [10]approaching accommodation. It need not be urged that, if such symptoms exist, they are to be ascribed to the measures of vigor adopted by the government, and may be frustrated by a relaxation in those measures, affording an argument of weakness or irresolution. For, has it not been in substance stated from the highest authority, that no decisive indications have been given by France of a disposition to redress our past wrongs and do us future justice; that her decree, alleged to be intended to restrain the depredations of French cruisers on our commerce, has not given, and from its nature cannot give relief; that the most hostile of the acts, by which she has oppressed the commerce of neutrals, and that which subjects to capture and condemnation neutral vessels and cargoes, if any part of the latter be of British production or fabric, not only has not been abrogated, but has recently received an indirect confirmation; and that hitherto nothing is discoverable in the conduct of France, which ought to change or relax our measures of defence?

Could it be necessary to enforce by argument so authoritative a declaration, as it relates to the immediate object of consideration, these, among other reflections, would at once present themselves.

Though it may be true, that some late occurrences have rendered the prospect of invasion by France less probable or more remote, yet, duly considering the rapid vicissitudes, at all times, of political and military events, the extraordinary fluctuations, which have been peculiarly characteristic of the still subsisting contest in Europe, and the more Edition: current; Page: [11]extraordinary position of most of the principal nations of that quarter of the globe, it can never be wise to very our measures of security with the continually varying aspect of European affairs. A very obvious policy dictates to us a strenuous endeavor, as far as may be practicable, to place our safety out of the reach of the casualities which may befall the contending parties and the powers more immediately within their vortex. The way to effect this is to pursue a steady system, to organize all our resources, and put them in a state of preparation for prompt action. Regarding the overthrow of Europe at large as a matter not entirely chimerical, it will be our prudence to cultivate a spirit of self-dependence and to endeavor by unanimity, vigilance, and exertion, under the blessing of Providence, to hold the scales of our destiny in our own hands. Standing as it were in the midst of falling empires, it should be our aim to assume a station and attitude which will preserve us from being overwhelmed in their ruins.

It has been very properly the policy of our government to cultivate peace. But, in contemplating the possibility of our being driven to unqualified war, it will be wise to anticipate, that frequently the most effectual way to defend is to attack. There may be imagined instances of very great moment to the permanent interests of this country, which would certainly require a disciplined force. To raise and prepare such a force will always be a work of considerable time, and it ought to be ready for the conjuncture whenever it shall arrive. Not to be ready Edition: current; Page: [12]then, may be to lose an opportunity which it may be difficult afterwards to retrieve.

While a comprehensive view of external circumstances is believed to recommend perseverance in the precautions which have been taken for the safety of the country, nothing has come to my knowledge, in our interior situation, which leads to a different conclusion. The principal inquiry in this respect concerns the finances. The exhibition of their state from the Department of the Treasury, which you have transmitted, as I understand it, opposes no obstacle; nor have I been apprised, that any doubt is entertained by the officer who presides in that department, of the sufficiency of our pecuniary resources. But on this point I cannot be expected to assume the responsibility of a positive opinion. It is the province of the Secretary of the Treasury in pronounce definitively, whether any insuperable impediment arises from this source.

The sound conclusion, viewing the subject in every light, is conceived to be, that no avoidable delay ought to be incurred in appointing the whole of the officers, and raising the whole of the men, provided for by the act which has been cited. If immediately entered upon, and pursued with the utmost activity, it cannot be relied upon, that the troops will be raised and disciplined in less than a year. What may not another year produce? Happy will it be for us, if we have so much time for preparation, and ill-judged, indeed, if we do not make the most of it! The adequateness of the force to be raised, in relation to a serious invasion, is foreign to the Edition: current; Page: [13]present examination. But it is certain, that even a force of this extent well instructed and well disciplined, would in such an event be of great utility and importance. Besides the direct effects of its own exertions, the militia rallying to it would derive, from its example and countenance, additional courage and perseverance. It would give a consistency and stability to our first efforts, of which they would otherwise be destitute; and would tend powerfully to prevent great, though perhaps partial, calamities.

The Senate being in session, the officers to be appointed must of course be nominated to that body.

The pay of all who shall be appointed ought immediately to commerce. They ought all to the employed, without delay, in different ways in the recruiting service; but, were it otherwise, there ought to be no suspension of their pay. The law annexes it as a matter of right. The attempt to apply a restriction by executive discretion might be dissatisfactory; and justice to the public does not seem to require it, because the acceptance of an office, which makes the person liable at pleasure to be called into actual service, will commonly from the moment of that acceptance interfere with any previous occupation, on which he may have depended. This observation cannot be applicable to myself, because I have taken a peculiar and distinct ground, to which it is my intention to adhere.

On the subject of your sixth question, the opinion is, that, under existing circumstances, it is not advisable to withdraw any of the troops from the quarter of the country which you mention towards Edition: current; Page: [14]the Atlantic frontier. But the disposition in those quarters probably requires careful revision. It is not impossible that it will be found to admit of alterations favorable both to economy and to the military objects to be attained. The local knowledge of General Wilkinson would be so useful in an investigation of this sort, that it is deemed very important to direct him forthwith to repair to Philadelphia. If this be impracticable by land, he may, it is presumed, come by way of New Orleans. It is observed, that in his late communications with the Governor he has taken pains to obviate jealousy of the views of the United States. This was prudent, and he ought to be encouraged to continue the policy. It will also be useful to employ a judicious engineer to survey our posts on the lakes, in order that it may be ascertained, in the various relations of trade and defence, what beneficial changes, if any, can be made. In this examination Presque Isle and the southwestern extremity of Lake Erie will demand particular attention.

The reply to your seventh question is, that the companies directed to be added to the regiments of the old establishments ought, as soon as convenient, to reinforce the Western army. It is probable, that, in the progress of events, they will not be less useful there than on the sea-board. Their destination in the first instance may be Pittsburgh.

The following disposition of the artillery (the subject of your eighth question) is recommended. The two regiments by their establishment consist of twenty-eight companies. Of these nearly a battalion, Edition: current; Page: [15]in point of number, forms part of the Western army. A complete battalion there will suffice. Let there be assigned to the fortifications at Boston one company, to those at New York two, to those at Newport two companies, to those at West Point one, to those at Mud Island two, to those at Baltimore one, to those at Norfolk two, to those on Cape Fear River one, to those at Charleston two, to those at Savannah one, to those at the mouth of the St. Mary’s one. The remaining two battalions and best be reserved for the army in the field. During the winter they may retain the stations they now occupy. But, as soon as they can conveniently go into tents, it will be advisable to assemble them at some central or nearly central point, there to be put in a course of regular instruction, together with successive detachments of the officers and noncommissioned officers of the sea-board garrisons, until their services shall be actually required. The field officers of course will be distributed proportionally, assigning to each the superintendence of a certain number of companies, and, as to those in garrison, of the posts at which they are stationed.

The permanent distribution of the troops, after they shall have been raised, which is understood to be an object of your ninth question, will probably be influenced by circumstances yet to be unfolded, and will best be referred to future consideration.

An arrangement for the recruiting service is the point of primary urgency. For this purpose, each State should be divided into as many districts as there are companies to be raised in it, and to every Edition: current; Page: [16]company a particular district should be allotted, with one place of rendezvous in it, to which the recruits should be brought as fact as they are engaged. A certain number of these company districts, whenever it can be done, should be placed under the supervision of a field-officer. During the winter, in most of the States, it would be inconvenient to assemble in larger corps than companies. Great cities are to be avoided. The collection of troops there may lead to disorders, and expose, more than elsewhere, the morals and principles of the soldiery. But though it might now be premature to fix permanent disposition of the troops, it may not be unuseful to indicate certain stations, where they my be assembled provisionally, and may probably be suffered to continue while matter remain in their present posture. The stations eligible in this view may be found for two regiments in the vicinity of Providence River, somewhere near Uxbridge; for two other regiments, in the vicinity of Brunswick, in New Jersey; for two other regiments, in the vicinity of the Potomac, near Harper’s Ferry’ for two other regiments, in the vicinity of Augusta, but above the falls of the Savannah. This disposition will unite considerations relative to the discipline and health of the troops, and to the economical supply of their wants by water. It will also have some military aspects, in the first instance, towards the security of Boston and Newport; in the second, towards that of New York and Philadelphia; in the third and fourth, towards that of Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, and the Southern States generally; and, in the third, Edition: current; Page: [17]particularly towards the reinforcement of the Western army in certain events. But the military motives have only a qualified influence; since it is not doubted, that, in the prospect of a serious attack upon this country, the disposition of the army ought to look emphatically to the Southern region, as that which is by far the most likely to be the scene of action.

As to your tenth question, the opinion is, that the government itself ought to provide the rations. The plan of furnishing money to the recruits, as a substitute for this, is likely to be attended with several inconveniences. It will give them a pretence for absence injurious to discipline and order, and facilitating marauding and desertion. Many of the soldiery will be disposed to lay out too much of their money in ardent spirits, and too little in provisions, which, besides occasioning them to be ill, will lead to habits of intemperance.

The subject of your eleventh question is peculiarly important. The two modes have severally their advantages and disadvantages. That of purchases by agents of the government is liable to much mismanagement and abuse, sometimes from want of skill, but much oftener from infidelity. It is too frequently deficient in economy; but it is preferable, as it regards the quality of the articles to be supplied, the satisfaction of the troops, and the certainty of the supply, which last is a point of the utmost consequence to the success of any military operation. The mode by contract is sometimes found more economical; but, as the calculations of contractors Edition: current; Page: [18]have reference primarily to their own profit, they are apt to endeavor to impose on the troops articles of inferior quality. The troops, suspecting this, are apt to be dissatisfied even when there is no adequate cause, and when defects may admit of reasonable excuse. In the attention to cheapness of price, and other savings of expense, it from time to time happens, that the supplies are not laid in as early as the service requires, or not in sufficient quantity, or are not conveyed with due celerity to the points where they are wanted. Circumstances like these tend to embarrass and even to defeat the best-concerted military plans; which, in this mode, depend for their execution too much upon the combinations of individual avarice. It also occasionally happens, that the public, from the failures of the contractors, is under the necessity of interposing with sudden and extraordinary efforts to obviate the mischiefs and disappointments of those failures, producing, in addition to other evils, an accumulation of expense, which the fortunes of the delinquent contractors are insufficient to indemnify.

The union of the two modes will probably be found safest and best. Prudence always requires, that magazines shall be formed beforehand at stations relative to the probable or expected scene of action. These magazines may be laid in by contract, and the transportation of the supplies from the magazines, and the issuing of them to the army, may be the business of the military agents, who must be likewise authorized and enabled to provide for the deficiencies of the contractors, and for whatever may Edition: current; Page: [19]not be comprehended in the contracts. This plan will to a great extent admit the competition of private interest to furnish the supplies at the cheapest rate. By narrowing the sphere of action of the public agents, it will proportionably diminish the opportunities of abuse, and it will unite, as far as is attainable, economy with the efficiency of military operations.

But, to obtain the full advantages of this plan, it is essential, that there shall be a man attached to the army of distinguished capacity and integrity, to be charged with the superintendence of the department of supplies. To procure such a man, as military honor can form no part of his reward, ample pecuniary compensation must be given; and he must be intrusted with large authority for the appointment of subordinate agents, accompanied with a correspondent responsibility. Proceeding on this ground there would be a moral certainty of immense savings to the public in the business of supplies; savings, the magnitude of which will be easily understood by any man, who can estimate the vast difference in the results of extensive money transactions between a management at once skilful and faithful, and that which is either unskilful or unfaithful.

This suggestion contemplates, as a part of the plan, that the procuring of supplies of every kind, Which in our past experience has been divided between two departments, of quartermaster and commissary, shall be united under one head. This unity will tend to harmony, system, and vigor. It will avoid the discordant influence of civil with military functions. Edition: current; Page: [20]The quartermaster-general, in this case, instead of being a purveyor as formerly, will, besides the duties purely military of his station, be confined to the province of calling for the requisite supplies, and of seeing that they are duly furnished; in which he may be rendering a very useful check upon the purveyor.

The extent of your twelfth question has been matter of some doubt. But no inconvenience can ensue from answering it with greater latitude than may have been intended. It is conceived, that the strongest considerations of national policy and safety require, that we should be as fast as possible provided with arsenals and magazines of artillery, small-arms, and the principal articles of military stores and camp equipage, equal to such a force as may be deemed sufficient to resist with effect the most serious invasion of the most powerful European nation. This precaution, which prudence would at all times recommend, is peculiarly indicated by the existing crisis of Europe. The nature of the case does not furnish any absolute standard of the requisite force. It must be more or less a matter of judgment. The opinion is, that the calculation ought to be on the basis of fifty thousand men; that is, forty thousand infantry of the line, two thousand riflemen, four thousand horse, and four thousand artillerymen. And, with regard to such articles, as are expended by the use, not less than a full year’s supply ought to be ready. This will allow due time from internal and external sources to continue the supply, in proportion to the exigencies which shall occur. As to clothing, since we may always on a Edition: current; Page: [21]sudden emergency find a considerable supply in our markets, and the articles are more perishable, the quantity in deposit may be much less than of other articles; but it ought not under present circumstances to be less than a year’s supply for half the above-mentioned force, especially of the woollen articles.

I proceed to the last of your questions, that which respects the stations for magazines. It is conceived that three principal permanent stations will suffice, and that these ought to be Springfield and Harper’s Ferry, which are already chosen, and the vicinity of Rocky Mount, on the Wateree, in South Carolina. These stations are in a great measure central to three great subdivisions of the United States; they are so interior as to be entirely safe, and yet on navigable waters which empty into the ocean and facilitate a water conveyance to every point on our sea-coast. They are also in well-settled and healthy districts of country. That near Harper’s Ferry, it is well known possesses extraordinary advantages for foundries and other manufactories of iron. It is expected, that a canal will erelong effect a good navigation between the Wateree and the Catawba, which, whenever it shall happen, will render the vicinity of Rocky Mount extremely convenient to the supply of North Carolina by inland navigation. Pittsburgh, West Point in New York, the neighborhood of Trenton in New Jersey, and Fayetteville in North Carolina, may properly be selected as places of particular and occasional deposit. Large cities are as much as possible to be avoided.

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The foregoing comprises, it is believed, a full answer to the questions you have stated. I shall in another letter offer to your consideration some further matters, which have occurred, and are deemed to be of importance to our military service.

With respect and esteem,

I have the honor to be, sir, etc.

washington to mchenry

Draft by Hamilton.


Sir:—I shall now present to your view the additional objects alluded to in my letter of this date.

A proper organization for the troops of the United States is a principal one. In proportion as the policy of the country is adverse to extensive military establishments, ought to be our care to render the principles of our military system as perfect as possible, and our endeavors to turn to the best account such force as we may at any time have on foot, and to provide an eligible standard for the augmentations to which particular emergencies may compel a resort.

The organization of our military force will, it is conceived, be much improved by modelling it on the following plan:

Let a regiment of infantry, composed as at present, of two battalions, and each battalion of five companies, consist of these officers and men, namely: one colonel; two majors, a first and second; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, Edition: current; Page: [23]each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; ten captains; ten first and ten second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; two cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; two sergeant-majors; two quartermaster-sergeants; two chief musicians, first and second, and twenty other musicians; forty sergeants; forty corporals; and nine hundred and twenty privates.

Let a regiment of dragoons consist of ten troops, making five squadrons, and, of these, officers and men, namely: one colonel; two majors, a first and second; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; ten captains, ten first and ten second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; five cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; two sergeant-majors; two quartermaster-sergeants; two chief musicians, first and second, and ten other musicians; forty sergeants; forty corporals; and nine hundred and twenty privates; the privates including, to each troop, one saddler, one blacksmith, and one bootmaker.

Let a regiment of artillery consist of four battalions, each battalion of four companies, and, of these, officers and men, namely: one colonel; four majors; one adjutant, one quartermaster, and one paymaster, each of whom shall be a lieutenant; one surgeon, and two surgeon’s mates; sixteen captains; sixteen first and sixteen second lieutenants, besides the three lieutenants above mentioned; thirty-two Edition: current; Page: [24]cadets, with the pay and emoluments of sergeants; four sergeant-majors; four quartermaster-sergeants; sixty-four sergeants; sixty-four corporals; one chief musician and ten other musicians; eight hundred and ninety-six privates, including, to each company, eight artificers.

The principal reasons for this organization will be briefly suggested.

It will be observed, that the proportion of men to officers in the infantry and cavalry is considerably greater than by the present establishment. This presents, in the first place, the advantage of economy. By the proportional decrease of the officers, savings will result in their pay, subsistence, and the transportation of their baggage. The last circumstance, by lessening the impediments of an army, is also favorable to the celerity of its movements.

The command of each officer will become more respectable. This will be an inducement to respectable men to accept military appointments, and it will be an incentive to exertion among those, who shall be engaged, by upholding that justifiable pride, which is a necessary ingredient in the military spirit.

A company will then admit of an eligible subdivision into platoons, sections, and demi-sections, each of a proper front. Each battalion will then be of the size judged proper for a manœuvring column in the field, and it is that portion of an army which, in the most approved system of tactics, is destined to fulfil this object. A battalion ought neither to be too unwieldy for rapid movements, nor so small as to multiply too much the subdivisions, and Edition: current; Page: [25]render each incapable either of a vigorous impulse or resistance.

The proportion of officers to men ought not to be greater than is adequate to the due management and command of them. A careful examination of this point will satisfy every judge, that the number now proposed will be equal to both. This conclusion will be assisted by the idea, that our fundamental order, in conformity with that of the nations of Europe generally, ought to place our infantry in three ranks, to oppose to an enemy, who shall be in the same order, an equal mass for attack or defence.

These remarks explain summarily the chief reasons for the most material of the alterations suggested.

But it is not the intention to recommend a present augmentation of the number of rank and file to the proposed standard. It is only wished, that it may be adopted as that of the war establishment. The regiments, which have been authorized, may continue in this respect upon the footing already prescribed; leaving the actual augmentation to depend on events, which may create a necessity for the increase of our force. The other alterations recommended have relation rather to systematic propriety, than to very important military ends.

The term lieutenant-colonel, in our present establishment, has a relative signification, without any thing in fact to which it relates. It was introduced during our revolutionary war, to facilitate exchanges of prisoners; as our then enemy united the grade of colonel with that of general. But the permanent form of our military system ought to be regulated Edition: current; Page: [26]by principle, not by the changeable and arbitrary arrangement of a particular nation. The title of colonel, which has greater respectability, is more proper for the commander of a regiment, because it does not, like the other, imply a relation having no existence.

The term ensign is changed into that of lieutenant, as well because the latter from usage has additional respectability, offering an inducement to desirable candidates, as because the former, in its origin, signified a standard-bearer, and supposed that each company had a distinct standard. This, in practice, has ceased to be the case, and for a variety of good reasons a stand of colors to each battalion of infantry is deemed sufficient. This standard is intended to be confided to a cadet, in whom it may be expected to excite emulation and exertion. The multiplication of grades, inconvenient with regard to exchanges, is thus avoided.

In the cavalry it is proper to allow a standard to each squadron, and hence it is proposed to have five cadets to a regiment.

The nature of the artillery service, constantly in detachment, renders it proper to compose a regiment of a greater number of battalions than the other corps. This our present establishment has recognized. But there is now want of uniformity, which leads to disorderly consequences; one regiment being composed of four battalions, the other of three. The same organization ought to be common to all.

The diminution of the number of musicians, while it will save expense, is also warranted by the peculiar Edition: current; Page: [27]nature of the artillery service. They answer in this corps few of the purposes which they fulfil in the infantry.

The existing laws contemplate, and with good reason, that the aids-de-camp of general officers, except the commander-in-chief and the officers, in the department of inspection, shall be taken from the regiment. But they do not provide that, when so taken, their places shall be supplied by others. It is conceived that this ought to be the case. The principles of the establishment suppose, for example, that three officers to a company of a given number are the just and due proportion. If, when an an officer be taken from a company to fill one of the stations alluded to, his place be not filled by another, so that the number of officers to a company may remain the same, it must follow that the company will be deficient in officers. It is true, that the number of a company is continually diminishing, but it diminishes in officers as well as men; and it is not known that the proportion is varied. Practice in every institution ought to conform to principle, or there will result more or less of disorder. An army is in many respects a machine; of which the displacement of any of the organs, if permitted to continue, injures its symmetry and energy, and leads to disorder and weakness. The increase of the number of rank and file, while it strengthens the reasons for replacing the officers who may be removed, will more than compensate in point of economy for the addition of officers by the substitution. This may be reduced to the test of calculation. But, though the Edition: current; Page: [28]place of an officer in his regiment ought to be supplied upon any such removal, he ought not to lose his station in the regiment, but ought to rank and rise as if he had continued to serve in it.

The provision, that the aids-de-camp and the officers of inspection shall be drawn from the line of the army, is not restricted as to grade. There ought to be such a restriction. The aids of major-generals ought not to be taken from a rank superior to that of captain, nor those of brigadiers from a rank superior to that of first lieutenant. The inspectors ought in like manner to be limited, those of brigadiers to the rank of captain, those of divisions to that of major. This will guard against the multiplication of superior grades by removals to fill such stations.

The judicious establishment of general rules of promotion, liable to exceptions in favor of extraordinary service or merit, is a point of greatest consequence. It is conceived, that these rules are the most convenient that can be devised; namely, that all officers shall rise in the regiments to which they respectively belong up to the rank of major inclusively; that afterwards they shall rise in the line of the army at large, with the limitation, however, that the officers of artillery, cavalry, and infantry shall be confined to their respective corps until they shall attain the rank of colonel.

It is very material to the due course of military service, that the several classes of an army shall be distinguished from each other by certain known badges, and that there shall be uniformity in dress and equipment subject to these distinctions. The Edition: current; Page: [29]dress itself will indeed constitute a part of them. It is of inferior moment what they shall be, provided they are conspicuous, economical, and not inconsistent with good appearance, which in an army is far from being a matter of indifference. The following uniforms and badges are recommended; but, if any of them are supposed liable to exception, they may be changed at pleasure.

The uniform of the commander-in-chief to be a blue coat, with yellow buttons and gold epaulets (each having three silver stars), with linings, cape, and cuffs of buff; in winter, buff vest and breeches; in summer, a white vest, and breeches of nankeen. The coat to be without lapels and embroidered on the cape, cuffs, and pockets. A white plume in the hat to be a further distinction. The adjutant-general and the aids and secretaries of the commander-in-chief to be likewise distinguished by a white plume.

The uniform of the other general officers to be a blue coat with yellow buttons, gold epaulets, the lining and facings of buff; the under clothes the same as those of the commander-in-chief. The major-generals to be distinguished by two silver stars on each epaulet, and, except the inspector-general, by a black and white plume, the black below. The brigadiers to be distinguished by one silver star on each epaulet, and by a red and white plume, the red below. The aids of all general officers, who are taken from regiments, and the officers of inspection, to wear the uniforms of the regiments from which they are taken. The aids to Edition: current; Page: [30]be severally distinguished by the like plumes which are worn by the general officers to whom they are respectively attached.

The uniform of the aids and secretaries of the commander-in-chief, when not taken from regiments, to be a blue coat with yellow buttons and gold epaulets, buff lining and facings; the same under clothes as the commander-in-chief.

The inspector-general, his aids, and the officers of the inspection generally, to be distinguished by a blue plume. The quartermaster-general and other military officers in his department to be distinguished by a green plume.

The uniform of the infantry and artillery to be a blue coat, with white buttons and red facings, white under clothes, and cocked hats. The coats of the infantry to be lined with white; of the artillery, with red.

The uniform of the cavalry to be a green coat, with white buttons, lining, and facings; white vest and breeches; with helmet caps.

Each colonel to be distinguished by two epaulets, each major by one epaulet on the right shoulder and a strap on the left. All the field-officers, except as above, and the regimental staff, to wear red plumes.

Captains to be distinguished by an epaulet on the right shoulder. Lieutenants by one on the left shoulder. Cadets by a strap on the right shoulder. The epaulets and straps of the regimental officers to be of silver.

Sergeant-majors and quartermaster-sergeants to be distinguished by two red worsted epaulets. Sergeants Edition: current; Page: [31]by a like epaulet on the right shoulder. The flank companies to be distinguished by red wings on the shoulders.

The coats of the musicians to be of the color of the facings of the corps to which they severally belong. The chief musicians to wear two white worsted epaulets.

All the civil staff of the army to wear plain blue coats, with yellow buttons and white under clothes. No gold or silver lace, except in the epaulets and straps, to be worn.

The commissioned officers and cadets to wear swords.

All persons belonging to the army to wear a black cockade, with a small white eagle in the centre. The cockade of the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates to be of leather, with eagles of tin.

The regiments to be distinguished from each other numerically. The number of each regiment to be expressed on the buttons.

It cannot fail to happen that clothing made at a distance from the army will in numerous instances be ill fitted to the persons to whom it is issued. This is an inconvenience, as it respects appearance, comfort, and use. It merits consideration, whether it may not be remedied by making provision by law for the necessary alterations at the cost of the soldiery. As there are always to be found tailors in an army, the alterations may be made there during seasons of inactivity; and moderate compensations may be established, to be deducted out of the pay. Edition: current; Page: [32]The tailors, when so employed, being exempted from military duty, will be satisfied with very small allowances; and the soldiers will probably prefer this expense to the inconvenience of wearing clothes which do not fit them.

On this subject of clothing, it is remarked with regret that the returns which have been received exhibit none on hand; though from verbal communications it is understood that measures are in train for obtaining a present supply. It is desirable that some more effectual plan than has hitherto been pursued, should be adopted to procure regular and sufficient supplies on reasonable terms. While we depend on foreigners, will it not be advisable to import the materials, rather than take the chance of markets? And will it not be expedient, with a view to economy, to have the clothing made up in the countries from which it may be brought? The matter certainly deserves serious attention. Our supply in the mode hitherto practised is not only very precarious, but must doubtless be obtained at a very dear rate.

Another point, no less deserving of particular attention, is the composition of the ration of provisions. It was in the last session augmented beyond all former example. It is not recollected that the ration, which was allowed during the war with Great Britain, was found insufficient by troops once formed to military habits, and acquainted with the best methods of managing their provisions. The present ration, estimating by price, is understood to be greater than the ration in that war by at least forty Edition: current; Page: [33]per cent. This is evidently a very important augmentation. Various disadvantages attend it; a great increase of expense; additional difficulty in furnishing under all circumstances the stipulated allowance, consequently a multiplication of the possible causes of discontent, murmur, and perhaps even mutiny; the necessity of a greater number of wagons for transportation, and of course the extension of this always serious source of embarrassment to military operations.

The quantity of spirituous liquors, which is a component part of the ration, is so large as to endanger, where they might not before exist, habits of intemperance, alike fatal to health and discipline. Experience has repeatedly shown, that many soldiers will exchange their rum for other articles; which is productive of the double mischief of subjecting those with whom the exchange is made, to the loss of what is far more necessary, and to all the consequences of brutal intoxication. The step having been once taken, a change is delicate; but it is believed to be indispensable, and that the temporary evils of a change can bear no proportion to the permanent and immense evils of a continuance of the error.

It may not perhaps be advisable to bring back the ration to the standard of the late war, but to modify it in some respects differently, so as not materially to affect the aggregate expense. It may consist of eighteen ounces of bread of flour, one pound and a quarter of fresh beef, or one pound of salted beef, or three quarters of a pound of salted pork; salt, when Edition: current; Page: [34]fresh meat is issued, at the rate of one quart, and candles at the rate of a pound, for every hundred rations. With regard to liquor, it may be best to exclude it from being a component part of the ration; allowing a discretion to commanding officers to cause it to be issued in quantities not exceeding half a gill per day, except on extraordinary occasions. Vinegar also ought to be furnished, when to be had, at the rate of two quarts, and soap at the rate of two pounds, per hundred rations.

There are often difficulties in furnishing articles of this description, and the equivalent in money is frequently pernicious, rather than beneficial. Where there is a contract, the promise of such articles is apt to prove more beneficial to the contractor than to any other person. He commonly so manages it, that the substitute is not a real equivalent. But it need not be observed, that whatever is to be done in this respect must be so conducted, as not to infract the conditions on which the troops now in service were enlisted.

It is deeply to be lamented, that a very precious period of leisure was not improved towards forming among ourselves engineers and artillerists; and that, owing to this neglect, we are in danger of being overtaken by war, without competent characters of these descriptions. To form them suddenly is impossible. Much previous study and experiment are essential. If possible to avoid it, a war ought not to find us wholly unprovided. It is conceived to be advisable to endeavor to introduce from abroad at least one distinguished engineer, and one distinguished Edition: current; Page: [35]officer of artillery. They may be sought for preferably in the Austrian, and next in the Prussian armies. The grade of colonel, with adequate pecuniary compensation, may attract officers of a rank inferior to that grade in those armies, who will be of distinguished ability and merit. But in this, as we know from past experience, nothing is more easy than to be imposed upon, nothing more difficult than to avoid imposition, and that therefore it is requisite to commit the business of procuring such characters to some very judicious hand, under every caution that can put him upon his guard.

If there shall be occasion for the actual employment of military force, a corps of riflemen will be for several purposes extremely useful. The eligible proportion of riflemen to infantry of the line may be taken at a twentieth. Hence in the apportionment of an army of fifty thousand men, in my letter of this date, two thousand riflemen are included, and in the estimate of arms to be provided, two thousand rifles. There is a kind of rifle commonly called Ferguson’s, which will deserve particular attention. It is understood that it has in different European armies supplanted the old rifle, as being more quickly loaded and more easily kept clean. If the shot of it be equally sure, or nearly so, those advantages entitle it to a preference. It is very desirable that this point, and its comparative merit in other respects, be ascertained by careful examination and experiment.

Perhaps generally, but more certainly when the troops shall serve in Southern climates, flannel Edition: current; Page: [36]shirts will be most conducive to health. Will it not be advisable to make provision for retaining a discretion in such cases; either to allow a less number of flannel shirts equivalent to the present allowance of linen, or, if this cannot be, to furnish the soldiery with the requisite number, deducting the difference of cost out of their pay?

The only provision for the appointment of a quartermaster-general is to be found in the act of the 28th of May, authorizing the President to raise a provisional army, which limits his rank and emoluments of those to lieutenant-colonel. This provision is conceived to be entirely inadequate. The military duties of the office are of a nature to render it of the first importance in an army; demanding great abilities and a character every way worthy of trust. Accordingly it is the general practice, founded upon very substantial reasons, to confide it to an officer of high military rank. The probability is that, without a similar arrangement on our part, we shall not be able to command a fit character; and in taking one of inferior pretensions we shall subject the service to disadvantages, out of all proportion to any objections which may be supposed to militate against the conferring of such rank. It is feared that an appointment under the existing provision would only create embarrassment, should there be real necessity for military exertions; and that the alternative must be either to leave the army destitute of so necessary an organ, or to give it one likely in the progress of things to prove unequal to the task.

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It was much desired, for preventing future controversy, to fix in the first instance the relative grades of the regimental officers. That of the field officers has been rendered impossible, without injustice and the hazard of much dissatisfaction, by the impossibility of completing the arrangement in Connecticut and the three most Southern States. But upon close examination, many obstacles opposed a definitive establishment of the relative rank, even of the officers of companies, in the regiments which have been organized. Numerous circumstances, which ought to influence the decision, are unknown; and without this knowledge a final arrangement might lead to very awkward and perplexing results. In consideration of this difficulty, no more than a temporary one, liable to future revision, has been adopted. It will be necessary to attend to this in the appointments, and to signify to the persons that they are to obey according to the order of nomination, but that the President reserves to himself the right, where cogent reasons for it shall appear, to change the relative rank which that order may seem to recognize. He will judge whether, in making the nomination to the Senate, a like reserve is necessary.

I am well aware that several of the matters suggested in this letter will require legislative provision. If the whole or any of them shall be approved by the Executive, no time ought to be lost in recommending them to the consideration of Congress. As to some of them, it is very desirable that the necessary provision by law should precede the enlistment Edition: current; Page: [38]of the men, to avoid the obstacle to a change, which may result from contract.

With great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, etc.

hamilton to washington

Answer to Questions of the Secretary at War of November 10, 1798

No. 1. First and second questions. —The rule which appears proper as a primary one, is the relative population of the States severally. In the application of this rule, the distribution made by the Secretary appears so far correct as to be deemed an eligible standard.

Improper to tie down the recruiting service by an absolute apportionment of the men among the States.

The officers will naturally be assigned to recruit in the States of which they are; if the men can be found there they will be had; but it is possible they may not be obtainable, and there ought to be liberty to obtain them elsewhere.

The troops of horse not to be confined to any division of the United States; but an exact distribution of so small a number would be inconvenient. It is therefore deemed proper to let the arrangement be governed principally by the characters who have occurred as officers. It is proposed to assign Virginia and Maryland 3 troops; Pennsylvania 1; New Jersey 1; New York and Connecticut 1.

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The number of horse inadequate. Presuming that an increase will be found eligible, the distribution can be made with an idea to the other States. Consideration has been had as a secondary motive to the fitness of character.

Third question.—The fact solves this question.

Fourth question.—Provisions of law peremptory. Will not examine bounds of executive discretion; but it must be evident that a suspension cannot be justified but by a very urgent motive. None such are known to exist.

Nothing has been communicated as to foreign relations, to induce an opinion that the ground upon which the act for augmenting the army was passed, has been changed. As far as can be inferred from the Treasury documents communicated, no obstacle is perceived to arise from financial considerations; but this is a point on which it cannot be expected that the responsibility of any definitive opinion will be assumed. The head of the proper department will no doubt explicitly pronounce.

Fifth question.—The opinion is, that they ought all to be immediately appointed, and immediately to receive their pay and be put into activity. This is with the exception, from want of adequate information, of the two Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee.

It is conceived that it will be expedient to confide to General Pinckney, with the aid of Generals Davis and Washington, to prepare the arrangement for these States, subject to the ratification of the President, but with as large a discretion to fix the arrangement as propriety will permit.

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Sixth question.—Inexpedient at present to withdraw the troops in question, with a view to reinforce those on the sea-board. But our whole plan on the northwestern and southwestern frontier may require revision, and it is deemed eligible to require General Wilkinson to repair as soon as possible to the seat of the government, in order that it may have the benefit of his local knowledge and advice. He should be cautioned to avoid any demonstrations of hostility towards the Spaniard; but, on the contrary, as far as may be, to assume a different complexion.

Seventh question.—It is conceived best that the additional companies shall reinforce the Western army.

Eight question.—As to artillery. It is understood that the two regiments comprise twenty-eight companies; that of these, eight are in the Western country. The remaining companies may temporarily be thus disposed of: one to Bosten, three to Newport, one to West Point, three to New York, two to Fort Mifflin,, two to Baltimore, two to Norfolk, one to Cape Fear River, three to Charleston, one to Savannah, one to St. Mary’s.

It is desirable that entire companies be stationed, and the mingling of different corps be avoided. The field officers will, of course, be distributed proportionally.

Ninth question.—The permanent distribution of the troops after they shall have been raised, may be influenced by circumstances yet to be developed. The first object of attention is the distribution, with Edition: current; Page: [41]a view to the recruiting service. To this end, each State should be divided into districts, equal to the number of companies to be recruited therein. The men to be brought to the company rendezvous as soon as may be after they are recruited; and a certain number of these rendezvous, where it can conveniently be done, to be put under the superintendence of a field officer. During the winter it would be inconvenient, in most of the States, to assemble in larger corps than companies.

Tenth question.—The public ought to provide the rations by contract or otherwise, as it may be found best.

The giving money to the recruit would have many inconveniences, by giving pretext of absence to provide supply, unfavorable to discipline, tending to disputes with the inhabitants, and to desertion. Many of the men will apply their money to strong drink, rather than to food.

Eleventh question.—Contracts for stationary posts are to be preferred; but for an army operating in the field, purchasing is to be preferred, except that the magazines, which are to be formed at particular places, may be best formed by contract.

Twelfth question.—Springfield, Harper’s Ferry, Rocky Mount on the Wateree.

hamilton to gunn

New York,
Dear Sir:

I regretted that my excessive avocations did not permit me, as I intended, to call upon you before Edition: current; Page: [42]I left Philadelphia. In addition to the pleasure of doing it, I was desirous of knowing the state of your mind with regard to military service. It was not that there was any thing worth your acceptance, upon the disposal of which at the time I could have had any influence; but I wished to understand what would be agreeable to you, with a view to the progress of affairs. If we are to be seriously engaged in military operations, ’t is not a compliment to you to say that you are one of those men who must be in the field. With such an enemy, we shall want men who will not barely do their duty, but will do it with an energy equal to all dangers.

With very great regard, etc.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

I regretted that I was detained to the last moment of being in time for the stage in which my baggage had been previously sent, and thereby prevented from calling upon you before my final departure from Philadelphia.

If the recruiting service is to be confided to me, I ought, as soon as possible, to be definitely apprised of it, and in the meantime I shall be glad to have the instructions heretofore prepared for that purpose, that I may endeavor to obtain, for your final decision, new lights from officers who have had experience in this branch of the service. My own was very limited, and it is of great importance to proceed upon a right plan.

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You recollect that, shortly after my first appointment, I was desired to turn my attention to a system of regulations for the tactics and discipline of the army. From that moment I have devoted much of my time to the preliminary investigations, and I shall devote a much larger proportion, if I am to consider myself as now in service, and entitled to the emoluments of the station; for, to be frank with you, it is utterly out of my power to apply my time to the public service without the compensations, scanty enough, which the law annexes to the office. If I were to receive them from the day of the appointment, I should be at least a thousand pounds the worse for my acceptance. From the time that it was fully known that I had re-engaged in military life, the uncertainty of my being able to render services for which I might be retained drove away more than one half of my professional practice, which I may moderately estimate at four thousand pounds a year. My pecuniary sacrifices already to the public ought to produce the reverse of a disposition everywhere to compel me to greater than the law imposes. This remark, I am well aware, is not necessary for you personally.

Again, If I am to discharge with effect the duties of my present office, I must make frequent journeys from one part of the army to another. Everybody knows that the expenses of such journeys would quickly eat out the narrow allowances of a major-general.

It will be disagreeable to be exposed to the dilemma of compromitting my reputation and that of the Edition: current; Page: [44]government by not producing the results to be expected from the department, or of ruining myself once more in performing services for which there is no adequate compensation.

The precedent of the last war is a full comment on the propriety of an extra allowance to the inspector-general. It is indeed indispensable, if he is to be useful.

It is always disagreeable to speak of compensations for one’s self, but a man past forty, with a wife and six children, and a very small property beforehand, is compelled to waive the scruples which his nicety would otherwise dictate.

With great esteem and regard, I remain, etc.

P. S.—I imagine it may be of service to communicate to Wolcott the two letters received from the Commander-in-Chief containing the results of our deliberation.

hamilton to mchenry (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir:

You are informed that Mr. Hill is in possession of drafts of surveys, made during our last war, of our harbor and bay. It is very interesting that the government should acquire these drafts. You will, I presume, think that they ought to be deposited in your department as an item in the general mass of information necessary toward plans of general defence. If so, you will purchase them, if it be not Edition: current; Page: [45]already done, and in this case, I will thank you for the immediate loan of them; having been charged by the Governor of this State, under the sanction of the President, with preparing a plan for the fortification of our port, which plan, when digested, will be sent to you. Should you decline the purchase, be so good as to say so to General McPherson, who will be requested to procure the drafts for the use of this State.

hamilton to gunn

New York,

My Dear Sir:

The post of yesterday brought me your favor of the 19th inst. The sentiments in it personal to me are extremely gratifying, and I am very glad to ascertain the military ground upon which you are not unwilling to stand. If things progress, I trust there will be no obstacle to your occupying it.

As to the further military arrangements, my ideas are these: Considering how little has been done toward raising the force already voted, that an important tax is yet in the first stage of an essay, that a prospect of peace is again presented by the temporizing conduct of France, that serious discontents exist in parts of the country with regard to particular laws, it appears to me advisable to postpone any actual augmentation of the army beyond the provisions of the existing laws, except as to the regiment of cavalry, which I should be glad to see increased by the addition of two troops, and by the allowing it to Edition: current; Page: [46]be recruited to the complement which has been proposed by the Commander-in-Chief, as that of the war establishment. What this is will probably be communicated by the Secretary at War.

But a considerable addition ought certainly to be made to our military supplies. The communications of the Commander-in-Chief will also afford a standard for the increase in this respect, as far as concerns the force to be employed in the field. There are, however, some other objects of supply equally essential, which were not within the view of those communications—heavy cannon for our fortifications, and mortars for the case of a siege. Of the former, including those already procured and procuring, there ought not to be fewer than one thousand, from eighteen to thirty-two pounders, chiefly to twenty-fours; of the latter, including those on hand, there ought to be fifty of ten-inch calibre. This, you perceive, looks to offensive operations. If we are to engage in war, our game will be to attack where we can. France is not to be considered as separated from her ally. Tempting objects will be within our grasp.

Will it not likewise be proper to renew and extend the idea of a provisional army? The force which has been contemplated as sufficient in any event, is 40,000 infantry of the line, 2,000 riflemen, 4,000 cavalry, and 4,000 artillery, making in the whole an army of 50,000. Why should not the provisional army go to the extent of the difference between that number and the actual army? I think this ought to be the case, and that the President ought to be authorized Edition: current; Page: [47]immediately to nominate the officers, to remain without pay until called into service. The arrangements can then be made with sufficient leisure for the best possible selection, and the persons designated will be employed in acquiring instruction.

It will likewise deserve consideration, whether provision ought not to be made for classing all persons from eighteen to forty-five inclusively, and for draughting out of them, in case of invasion, by lot, the number necessary to complete the entire army of fifty thousand. In the case of invasion, the expedient of draughting must be resorted to, and it will greatly expedite it if there be a previous classing with a view to such an event. The measure, too, will place the country in a very imposing attitude, and will add to the motives of caution on the part of our enemies.

These measures are all that appear to be advisable with regard to our military establishment under present appearances. A loan as an auxiliary will of course be annexed.

hamilton to mchenry1 (Private.)

New York,

Dear Sir:

As it may possibly not have come to you through any other channel, I think it well to inform you that General Huntington has been displeased at not having received official notice of his appointment, with Edition: current; Page: [48]his commission. This, if not already so, ought to be remedied.

I hear nothing of nominations. What malignant influence hangs upon our military affairs?

With great esteem and regard,

Your obedient servant,

A. Hamilton

P. S.—I left with General Pinckney a project of a military school which he was to have sent me. Has he quitted Philadelphia? If so, have you heard any thing of this paper? I want it.

James McHenry, Esq.

measures of defence1


Further measures to be taken without delay :

  • I.—To authorize the President to proceed forthwith to raise the 10,000 men already ordered.
  • II.—To establish an academy for military and naval instruction. This is a very important measure and ought to be permanent.
  • III.—To provide for the immediate raising of a corps of non-commissioned officers, viz., sergeants and corporals, sufficient with the present establishment for an army of 50,000 men. The having these Edition: current; Page: [49]men prepared and disciplined will accelerate extremely the disciplining of an additional force.
  • IV.—To provide before Congress rise that in case it shall appear that an invasion of this country by a large army is actually on foot, there shall be a draft from the militia to be classed, of a number sufficient to complete the army of 30,000 men. Provision for volunteers in lieu of drafts. A bounty to be given.
  • V.—To authorize the President to provide a further naval force of six ships of the line, and twelve frigates, with twenty small vessels not exceeding sixteen guns. It is possible the ships of the line and frigates may be purchased of Great Britain, to be paid for in stock. We ought to be ready to cut up all the small privateers and gun-boats in the West Indies, so as at the same time to distress the French islands as much as possible and protect our trade.
  • IV.—Is not the independence of the French colonies under the guaranty of the United States to be aimed at? If it is, there cannot be too much promptness in opening negotiations for the purpose. Victor Hugues is probably an excellent subject. This idea, however, deserves mature consideration.
  • VII.—It is essential the Executive should have half a million of secret-service money. If the measure cannot be carried without it, the expenditure may be with the approbation of three members of each House of Congress.
  • VIII.—Revenue in addition to the $2,000,000 of land tax, say:
Edition: current; Page: [50]

In lieu of tax on slavas, which is liable to much objection.

  • IX.—A loan of $10,000,000. The interest to be such as will insure the loan at par. It is better to give high interest, redeemable at pleasure, than low interest with accumulation of capital as in England.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—The unascertained situation in which I have been since my acceptance of the military appointment Edition: current; Page: [51]I now hold, has been not a little embarrassing to me. I had no sooner heard of the law creating the office, than I was told by members of Congress that I was generally considered as the person designated by circumstances to fill that office, and that the expectation of those who most actively promoted the passing of the law was, that the inspector-general would be brought into immediate activity, particularly to superintend the raising and organizing of the troops.

This is mentioned as a mere item in the incidents which influenced my calculations and arrangements.

Very soon after, if not at the time, you communicated to me my appointment, you intimated, though not officially, your desire that I might occupy myself in preparing for the consideration of the Executive a system of tactics and discipline; and not long after, you expressed to me your intention to commit to me the supervision of the recruiting service.

In October I received your summons to attend at the seat of government with the Commander-in-Chief. I obeyed, and devoted to the purpose of this summons about a month and a half.

I received, in due course, a letter from your department stating the expectation of the President that the generals would think it proper to waive the emoluments of their stations till called into service. In my reply I acquiesced.

But presuming that I would speedily be officially charged with the execution of duties, which would draw along with them the compensations attached by the law to the station, I have acted on that Edition: current; Page: [52]presumption. I have discontinued my practice as attorney and solicitor, from which I had derived a considerable part of my professional profits; and I have applied no small portion of my time to preliminary investigations, in order to the collection of the best lights for forming a system of tactics and discipline as perfect as exists anywhere else.

The very circumstance of my having accepted a military appointment, from the moment it was known, withdrew from me a large portion of my professional business. This, it will be perceived, was a natural effect of the uncertainty of my being able in the progress of suits to render the services for which I might be engaged, at the customary previous expense to the parties.

The result has been, that the emoluments of my profession have been diminished more than one half, and are still diminishing, and I remain in perfect uncertainty whether or when I am to derive from the scanty compensations of the office even a partial retribution for so serious a loss.

Were I rich, I should be proud to be silent on such a subject. I should acquiesce without an observation as long as any one might think the minutest public interest required an accumulation of sacrifices on my part. But after having to so advanced a period of my life devoted all my prospects of fortune to the service of the country, and dependent, as I am, for the maintenance of a wife and six children on my professional exertions, now so seriously abridged, it is essential for me to forego the scruples of delicacy, and to ask of you to define my situation, Edition: current; Page: [53]that I may determine whether to continue or to change my present plan.

It will easily be imagined that I should not accept compensations withheld from any other in a similar situation. If actual employment is to be the criterion in any other instance, it must be so in mine; but then it is material to me to understand whether, in the contemplation of the Executive, I now am, or immediately am, to be employed, or not. In the negative of this, my honor will compel submission to the consequent sacrifice, so far as it is unavoidable; but my arrangements will be different from what they are at present, and will aim at making the sacrifice as small as possible.

An early answer to this inquiry will particularly oblige me.

With great respect, etc.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

I find I cannot have ready for this day’s post the bill for the provisional army. Inclosed are some additional clauses relating to organization, consequently to be inserted in the bill sent by yesterday’s post. You will easily determine their proper position there. They are necessary to systematic propriety. General provisions of this kind will prevent continued repetitions in every new law respecting the military force.

Edition: current; Page: [54]

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

You will receive herewith the draft of a bill for a provisional army. It includes only those things of a former bill which are appropriated to this object; the other parts of that bill being now in full force. The operation of the bill, which has been already sent you, renders the repetition of several clauses in the present unnecessary. The aim, indeed, ought to be to have a fundamental arrangement which will attach of course upon all subsequent provisions of force, so that the law for every augmentation need only define the number to be raised, and the duration of service, and the mode of raising.

An eye has been had to this in the draft of the first bill, and one of the two additional clauses now sent for the same bill has the same view. This will be more deliberately and correctly attended to in the plan of a bill which I shall being to work upon from this time, but which cannot be ready for a considerable time. A bill for the hospital establishment will follow in two or three days.

Yours truly, etc.

P. S.—The considerable mutilation of the nominations proposed by the Commander-in-Chief, as it appears in the result, naturally excites curiosity. It ought to be presumed, and yet the mind naturally distrusts the presumption, that there are good reasons for it, and that the service will be finally benefited. But I confess it would be a relief to me Edition: current; Page: [55]to know a little in detail, what has influenced the departure, how the unfitness of those who have been declined has appeared, and what means are in train to do any better. Pray be particular and confidential. You will not consider any letter of mine beginning “Dear Sir,” as official.

Measures in the War Department which it may be expedient to adopt.

To organize anew the militia, on a plan something like the following, viz.:

To be divided into five classes.

First class, consisting of all unmarried men from 18 to 25, except apprentices under 21 to merchants, mechanics, and manufacturers, and students under the same age in universities, colleges, and academies, and of divinity, law, and medicine.

Second class, consisting of all unmarried men from 25 to 40.

Third class, consisting of all married men from 18 to 25, except as excepted in the first class.

Fourth class, consisting of all married men from 25 to 40.

Fifth class, consisting of all men above 40, and not exceeding 50.

Each class to be formed into corps of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, combined into legions to consist of four regiments of infantry, one regiment of horse, and a battalion of artillery. All who choose to enter into the cavalry and provide themselves Edition: current; Page: [56]with horses, arms, and accoutrements, to be at liberty to do it. Each class to be called out in succession as numbered; in whole or in part, liable to serve for a year. None of a higher number to be called out until all of any preceding lower number have been called out and served their tour.

In case of domestic insurrection, no man able to serve shall be excused on any condition.

In case of foreign war, any man may be excused, paying 50/100 dollars.

No militia (except those inhabiting frontier counties) shall be obliged to serve against Indians, nor those inhabiting frontier counties for more than one year.

Any man who shall refuse to serve his tour when required, to be imprisoned during the term of service, or compelled to labor at some public work at the option of the government.

Cases of exempts to be defined in the laws.

The respective classes to be liable to be called out for inspection and exercise as follows:

  • First class,——days in a year.
  • Second class,——days in a year.
  • Third class,——days in a year.
  • Fourth class,——days in a year.
  • Fifth class, one day in a year.
  • I.—The militia, when in service, to be subject to the same rules of discipline and government as the army of the United States.
  • II.—A regiment to be raised consisting of comsioned officers and persons engaged as sergeants, and with the pay of such—that is to say, in their own Edition: current; Page: [57]corps they shall serve by rotation as sergeants, corporals, and privates, but out of their regiment they shall only be employed as sergeants. All new regiments which may be raised shall have their sergeants from this corps, which shall have a fixed station, and be carefully instructed in all the parts of camp, field, and garrison service. It may be considered, whether this idea may not be extended to artillery and cavalry. This corps to constitute the basis of an army in case of need.
  • III.—To establish a provisional or auxiliary army, composed of four regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one battalion of artillery, formed into a legion of two brigades, each brigade commanded by a brigadier, and the legion by a major general.

This legion to be raised by voluntary enlistment, according to a certain distribution, in the following parts of the United States: in the part of Pennsylvania and Virginia lying west of the Allegheny, the Northwestern and Southwestern Governments, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia.

The consideration of enlistment to be a suit of clothes of the value of ten dollars per annum, and when in the field the same pay and allowance as other troops of the United States.

To be engaged for a term of—years, but except in case of domestic insurrection or foreign invasion, not to be obliged to serve in the field more than—months in one year. One brigade to be raised in the western part of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Northwestern Territory, and the State of Kentucky. Edition: current; Page: [58]The Brigadier to be immediately charged with all the military affairs of the United States in that scene. The other brigade to be raised in the other part of the country above described, with the same immediate charge to its Brigadier of the military affairs of the United States in that scene.

The major-General to have the general direction.

  • IV.—The following miscellaneous objects to be aimed at:
  • 1.The establishment of a system of trade with the Indians under the agents of government; a plan in detail for this purpose.
  • 2.The establishing it as a principle, that every man in arms to attack or resist Indians, except in some country under the actual jurisdiction of the laws, shall be ipso facto liable to the rules for the government of the army.
  • 3.The establishment of manufactories, under public authority, of cannon, muskets and other arms, powder and ball; all articles of clothing except hats and shoes.

The organization of the army to be revised; it is presumed to be susceptible of one more perfect.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

I send you the draft of a bill for regulating the medical establishment. (I avoid purposely the term department, which I would reserve for the great branches of administration.) You will see that Edition: current; Page: [59]nothing but an organization with a general outline of duty is provided for. Detailed regulations will properly come from the President and the departments; and the less these are legislated upon, in such cases, the better. When fixed by law, they cannot be varied, as experience advises.

This particular establishment is one to the right fashioning of which I feel myself more than ordinarily incompetent.

You mention in one of your letters, that, by the law of the 16th of July, the appropriation for the augmented army ceases at the end of the present session. This is one construction of that law. A different might perhaps be mentioned. But be this as it may, you will find by a subsequent act of the same date, entitled: “An act making certain appropriations,” etc., that 900,000 dollars are there appropriated for the same object, without any qualifications; and I take it for granted that whatever money should have been issued from the Treasury for the use of the War Department, previous to the end of the session, upon the first of those acts, might be expended afterwards by this department without any question about its regularity.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

You ask my opinion as to a proper arrangement for the command of the military force, on the ground that the Commander-in-Chief declines at present an active part.

Edition: current; Page: [60]

This is a delicate subject for me; yet in the shape in which it presents itself, I shall waive the scruples which are natural on the occasion.

If I rightly understood the Commander-in-Chief, his wish was that all the military points and military force everywhere should be put under the direction of the two major-generals, who alone should be the organs of the Department of War.

The objects of this plan are to disburthen the head of that department of infinite details, which must unavoidably clog his general arrangements, and to establish a vigilant military superintendence over all the military points. There is no difficulty in this plan, except as to the Western army.

It will be a very natural disposition to give to the Inspector-General the command of all the troops and posts north of Maryland, and to General Pinckney the command of all the troops and posts south of the district assigned to the Inspector-General. How will this plan as to the Western army answer?

Let all the troops upon the lakes, including those on the Miami, which communicate with Lake Erie, be united under the command of one officer, to be stationed at—.Let all the troops in Tennessee be united under the command of one officer, to be stationed at—.Let them consider themselves under the order of the General who commands the Western army, and let the whole be placed under the Inspector-General. The officers commanding on the lakes, and in Tennessee, to be permitted to correspond immediately with the Inspector-General, and receive orders from him.

Edition: current; Page: [61]

All the communications, as well of these officers as of the General of the Western army, to be sent open, under cover of the Secretary of War, who, in urgent cases, will himself give orders, if the Inspector-General be not on the spot, which he will communicate for his future government to the Inspector-General, and in cases not urgent, will leave matters to the agency of the Inspector-General, according to the instructions which he shall receive from the Department of War.

It is easy to perceive that there are objections to this plan. I am not sure that it ought to be adopted. The pour and the contre will readily occur to you, and you will take and reject, as shall appear to you proper; assured always that, personally, I shall be content with any arrangement you may think advisable.

hamilton to —— (Circular).

New York,

Sir:—A letter from the Secretary at War, of yesterday, places under my superintendence the posts and troops under your immediate command. All future communications therefore respecting them, including reports and returns, are to be addressed to me; not as heretofore to the Secretary at War.

It is my wish, as soon as possible, to receive a full and particular communication of the state of things within your command, embracing the number and condition of the works and buildings; the quantities and kinds of artillery, arms, and stores; the number of the troops and their situations; as to discipline, Edition: current; Page: [62]equipment, and supply; and that you will in future keep me regularly advised of whatever may be material for the successful discharge of your trust or the advancement of the service.

I cannot let this first opportunity pass, without calling your attention in an official manner to the discipline of the troops. The cursory observation which I have been hitherto able to make, has been sufficient to satisfy that there exists in this respect too general a relaxation; an evil which must, at all times, be corrected by the union of care, prudence and energy.

No argument is necessary to prove how essential is discipline to the respectability and success of the service, and consequently to the honor, interest, and individual importance of every officer of the army. To the exertions for maintaining it, my firm support at all times may be absolutely counted upon, as it will be my steady aim, on the one hand, to promote, to every reasonable extent, the comfort of the troops; on the other, to secure a strict observance of their duty. With great consideration,

I am, dear sir,

Your obedient servant.

To the Commanding Officer at West Point and its dependencies.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir :

In one of your letters you desire me to think of the distribution of the States into recruiting districts. I Edition: current; Page: [63]have accordingly turned my attention to this subject. But the result is, that it will be best to assign to each regiment its district, and to charge its commanding officer with the arrangement into subdivisions. If you approve this idea, you had better write me an official letter, briefly telling me that the recruiting service is to be put under my direction, and desiring me to make a preliminary arrangement for the distribution of the States into recruiting districts and rendezvouses; upon which I will send the proper instructions to the several commanders of regiments.

I have not yet observed that the places of the officers omitted in the arrangement reported by the general officers, have been supplied. I hope the recruiting service will begin with complete, not with mutilated or defective corps.

I regret that Gibbs was not appointed. There is good reason to believe that he would command a regiment well; probably better than the person whom the objectors to him would approve. Their rule of judging of military qualification is most likely no very accurate one.

I regret, also, that the objection against anti-federalism has been carried so far as to exclude several of the characters proposed by us. We were very attentive to the importance of appointing friends of the government to military stations; but we thought it well to relax the rule in favor of particular merit in a few instances, and especially in reference to the inferior grades. It does not seem advisable to exclude all hope, and to give to appointments too absolute a party feature. Military situations, on young Edition: current; Page: [64]minds particularly, are of all others best calculated to inspire a zeal for the service and the cause in which the incumbents are employed. When the President thinks of his son-in-law, he should be moderate in this respect.

The inclosed letter from Colonel Fairlie relates to the second son of our late Chief-Justice. His father, you know, was anti-federal. This young man has as yet no fixed political creed. They tell me there is nothing personally to his disadvantage. I am clear, therefore, that it will be expedient to give him an appointment.

Adieu, my dear friend, Yours truly, etc.

hamilton to wilkinson

New York,

Sir:—The interesting incidents which have latterly occurred in our political situation, having rendered it expedient to enlarge the sphere of our military arrangements; it has in consequence become necessary to regulate the superintendence of our military force, in its various and detached positions, in such a manner as, while it will serve to disburthen the Department of War of details incompatible with its more general and more important occupations, will likewise conduce to uniformity and system in the different branches of the service.

The Commander-in-Chief having, for the present, declined actual command, it has been determined, in pursuance of the above view, to place the military Edition: current; Page: [65]force everywhere, under the superintendence of Major-General Pinckney and myself.

In the allotment for this purpose, my agency is extended to the garrisons on the northern lakes, and to all the troops in the Northwestern Territory, including both banks of the Ohio and upon the Mississippi; in short, to all the Western army, except the parts which may be in the States of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Of this you will have been informed by the Secretary at War.

From the relation, which is thus constituted between us, I allow myself to anticipate great mutual satisfaction. Every disposition on my part will certainly facilitate it, and tend to promote the discharge of your trust in the manner best adapted to your honor and the advancement of the service.

It was the united opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, General Pinckney, and myself, when lately convened at Philadelphia, that your speedy presence in this quarter was necessary, towards a full discussion of the affairs of the scene in which you have so long had the direction in their various relations, and towards the formation, with the aid of your lights, of a more perfect plan for present and eventual arrangements. Much may be examined in a personal interview, which, at so great a distance, cannot be effected by writing.

The actual and probable situation of our public affairs, in reference to foreign powers, renders this step indispensable.

You will therefore be pleased, with all practicable Edition: current; Page: [66]expedition, to repair to Philadelphia; upon your arrival there giving me immediate advice of it. If this can be most conveniently accomplished by way of New Orleans, you are at liberty to take that route. On this point you are the best judge, and will no doubt act with circumspection.

It must rest with you to dispose of the command of the troops at the different stations during your absence, and to give the proper instructions, in conformity with those which have been received from the Secretary at War.

On this head, only one remark will be made. The confidence in your judgment has probably led to the reposing in you discretionary powers too delicate to be intrusted to an officer less tried; capable, perhaps, of being so used, as to commit prematurely the peace of the United States. Discretions of this tendency ought not to be transferred beyond what may be indispensable for defensive security.

Care must be taken that the nation be not embroiled, in consequence of a liberal policy in the government.

Official letters from you to me, as you have been apprised by the Secretary at War, are to be forwarded through him. They must be open and under cover. The design of this is, that he may have an opportunity, in cases of great urgency, which could not conveniently wait for my direction, to interpose with the requisite measures.

In your absence, it will be proper that the officer, or officers, you may substitute in the command, should communicate with you, also transmitting Edition: current; Page: [67]their letters open, under cover, to the Secretary at War. This will preserve unbroken the chain of your command.

hamilton to washington

New York,

Sir:—The Secretary at War has communicated to me the following disposition with regard to the superintendence of our military forces and posts.

All those in the States south of Maryland, in Tennessee and Kentucky, are placed under the direction of Major-General Pinckney; those everywhere else under my direction, to which he has added the general care of the recruiting service.

The commencement of the business of recruiting, however, is still postponed, for the reason, as assigned by the Secretary, that a supply of clothing is not yet ready.

In conformity with your ideas, I have directed General Wilkinson to repair to the seat of government, in order to a more full examination of the affairs of the Western scene, and to the concerting of ulterior arrangements.

On this and on every other subject of our military concerns, I shall be happy to receive from time to time such suggestions and instructions as you may be pleased to communicate.

I shall regularly advise you of the progress of things, and especially of every material occurrence.

With perfect respect, I have the honor to be, etc.

Edition: current; Page: [68]

hamilton to washington (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir :

Different reasons have conspired to prevent my writing to you since my return to New York: the multiplicity of my avocations, an imperfect state of health, and the want of something material to communicate.

The official letter herewith transmitted will inform you of the disposition of our military affairs which has been recently adopted by the Department of War. There shall be no want of exertion on my part to promote the branches of the service confided to my care.

But I more and more discover cause to apprehend that obstacles of a very peculiar kind stand in the way of an efficient and successful management of our military concerns. These it would be unsafe at present to explain.

It may be useful that I should be able to write to you hereafter some confidential matters relating to our administration without the mention of names. When this happens, I shall designate the President by X, the Secretary of State by V, of the Treasury by I, and of the Department of War by C. Every thing in the Northern quarter, as far as I can learn, continues favorable to government.

Very affectionately and truly,
I remain, etc.
Edition: current; Page: [69]

hamilton to mchenry (Private.)

New York,

Beware, my dear sir, of magnifying a riot into an insurrection, by employing in the first instance an inadequate force. ’T is better far to err on the other side. Whenever the government appears in arms, it ought to appear like a Hercules, and inspire respect by the display of strength. The consideration of expense is of no moment compared with the advantages of energy. ’T is true, this is always a relative question, but ’t is always important to make no mistake. I only offer a principle and a caution.

A large corps of auxiliary cavalry may be had in Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, without interfering with farming pursuits.

Will it be inexpedient to put under marching orders a large force provisionally as an eventual support of the corps to be employed to awe the disaffected? Let all be well considered.

Yours truly.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—Nothing can be more desirable than a welldigested plan for connecting the different parts of our military system, in regard to procuring and issuing of supplies. I send you the outline of a scheme for that purpose. It is important that this, or a substitute more eligible, should be without delay established. It is particularly essential, that the Edition: current; Page: [70]channels through which supplies are to pass to the troops, and the mode of application for them, should be designated and understood. The plan now transmitted embraces this among other objects. I beg leave to urge a speedy attention to the subject.

With great respect and consideration,

I have the honor to be, etc.

Plan for the Providing and Issuing of Military Supplies

The business of providing shall constitute one distinct branch of service; that of issuing, another.

The purveyor shall be charged with the procuring of all supplies, except those for which contracts are made directly by the chiefs of the Treasury or War Departments.

The superintendent of military stores shall superintend the issues of all supplies.

The purveyor shall have near him three assistants, by whatsoever denominations: one, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Quartermaster-General, including the means of transportation; another, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Commissary of Provisions, with the addition of medical and hospital stores; a third, in relation to the supplies which, according to past practice, fall within the department of Commissary of Military Stores, with the addition of clothing. The person who now resides at the seat of government, in quality of quartermaster-general, Edition: current; Page: [71]may perform the duty of the first-mentioned assistant.

The superintendent of military stores shall have near him three principal clerks, each of whom particularly to superintend the issues in one of the above-mentioned branches, aided by as many storekeepers as may be necessary.

The purveyor shall have with each army a deputy, to be charged with the procuring of all supplies necessary to be procured with the army.

The superintendent shall have with each army a deputy, who shall have under him three assistants: one to superintend the issues of quartermaster’s stores; another, to superintend the issues of provisions; a third, to superintend the issues of other military stores and clothing.

The purveyor and this deputies shall deliver over all that they provide to the superintendent and his deputies. The actual custody and issuing of articles to be with the storekeepers, pursuant to the written orders of the superintendent and his deputies.

The quartermaster-general with the main army, and the deputy quartermaster general with each separate army, shall have the superintendence of the deputies of the purveyor with the respective armies, to see that they do their duty according to their instructions from the heads of their respective branches and the order of the commander of the army.

The inspector-general with the main army, and the deputy inspector-general with each separate army, shall have a like charge of the deputies of the superintendent of military stores.

Edition: current; Page: [72]

These officers to serve a checks upon the respective deputies, and as points of union between the military and civil authorities.

The paymaster-general shall reside at the seat of government, and be the fountain of all issues of money for the pay, bounty, etc., of the troops. He shall have a deputy with each army, who shall be charged with the issuing of all moneys to the regimental paymasters.

The quartermaster of each division shall be charged with the procuring of all supplies which may be occasionally necessary for such division, in addition to the general supplies.

The quartermaster of each brigade shall be charged with the like duty, when the brigade is detached only; and always with the superintendence of the issues for such brigade, and consequently with the direction of all brigade officers having the custody of supplies.

Each brigade shall have a commissary of forage, and another of provisions; to be charged respectively with the issues of those articles.

The regimental quartermaster shall receive and issue all supplies for the regiment, except of money and clothing.

The regimental paymaster shall issue moneys for the recruiting service to the company officers charged with that service, pursuant to warrants from the commanding officer of the regiment, or from the superintending officer of the recruiting service for such regiment, taking from each an accountable receipt.

Whenever it is practicable, he will himself pay the Edition: current; Page: [73]officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of his regiment, individually; when, by reason of distant detachments, this cannot be done, he will deliver the money to the officers commanding companies, or to the officers commanding parts of companies, at stations too distant for the agency of the commanders of companies: taking from each an accountable receipt. The money must, in each case, be paid and issued, pursuant to pay-rolls signed by such commanding officers; and, whenever it is practicable, accompanied by the warrants of the commanding officers of the regiments, or of battalions when detached.

For all moneys which shall be issued to officers, to be disbursed by them, they shall account monthly with the regimental paymaster, producing to him the requisite vouchers. Upon every such accounting, he shall give a certificate of the substance thereof to the officers with whom such accounting shall be, specifying therein the vouchers which shall have been produced and left with him. This accounting shall be provisional only, and liable to the revision and control of the proper officer of the War Department, to whom the accounts and vouchers must be forwarded.

The same regulations, as nearly as the subject will admit, shall be observed in respect to the issuing of clothing and other articles (provisions excepted), which shall be issued to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, and in respect to the accounting for the same.

Every receipt for pay, bounty, or other matter, Edition: current; Page: [74]from a non-commissioned officer or private who cannot write, shall be certified by a commissioned officer, who, wherever it shall be practicable, shall be other than the person for whom it is to serve as a voucher.

All documents or returns, upon which issues of money or other articles are to be made, must be countersigned by the chief officer of the regiment or other particular corps for which the same is to be issued.

The accounts of regimental paymasters and quartermasters shall, previous to their transmission to the War Department, be presented to the commanders of regiments, or of battalions when detached, and to the persons from whom respectively they shall have received the objects for which they are accountable, who shall summarily examine them, and certify their opinion respectively.

The above regulations shall apply to all persons who may act as substitutes for the officers to whom they relate.

All returns and requisitions for obtaining supplies from the Department of War, shall go from the deputy superintendent of military stores with each army to the said superintendent.

Estimates of supplies shall be reported by the deputy quartermaster-general with each army to the commander of such army, and shall be by him transmitted to the Secretary at War, with his opinion.

Each deputy shall send a duplicate of every estimate to the quartermaster-general, who shall report to the Commander-in-Chief general estimates for all the troops of the United States, illustrated by the Edition: current; Page: [75]particular estimates, which general estimates shall be transmitted by the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary at War, with his opinion.

hamilton to wilkinson

General Hamilton presents his compliments to General Wilkinson, and sends him at foot, heads for conversations which it is proposed to have, in order to call the attention of G.W. to the several points. Most of them have, no doubt, been topics of communication with the War Department, but the freedom and particularity of conversation will yield additional lights, and lead perhaps to a correct system for the management of our Western affairs in their various relations.


  • 1.The disposition of our Western inhabitants towards the United States and foreign powers.
  • 2.The disposition of the Indians in the same aspect.
  • 3.The disposition of the Spaniards in our vicinity—their strength in number and fortification.
  • 4.The best expedients for correcting or contracting hostile propensities in any or all these quarters, including—
  • 5.The best defensive disposition of the Western army, embracing the country of Tennessee and the northern and northwester lakes, and having an eye to economy and discipline.
  • 6.Edition: current; Page: [76]The best mode (in the event of a rupture with Spain) of attacking the two Floridas. Troops, artillery, etc., requisite.
  • 7.The best plan of supplying the Western army with provision, transportation, forage, etc.
  • 8.The best arrangement of command, so as to unite facility of communication with the sea-board, and the proper combination of all the parts under the general commanding the Western army.

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—Inclosed are the proceedings of a general court-martial, of which Major Wilcocks is president. All the sentences, except that of Richard Hunt, have been approved and directed to be executed. The corporal punishment in the case of Goldsberg is remitted, agreeably to the recommendation of the court. You will observe that the pay due to each of the offenders is forfeited.

As I do not conceive the United States to be now at war, in the legal import of that term (which I construe to be a state not of partial but of general hostility), I considered it as beyond my power to approve or execute such sentences as by the articles of war are referred to the President in time of peace. But while I think it my duty on this ground to transmit the sentence without acting upon it, I feel myself called upon by a profound conviction of the necessity of some severe examples to check a spirit of desertion which, for want of them in time past, Edition: current; Page: [77]has become too prevalent, and to respectfully declare my opinion that the confirmation and execution of the sentence are of material consequence to the prosperous course of the military service. The crime of desertion is in this instance aggravated by the condition of the offender, who is a sergeant, and by the breach of trust, in purloining the money which was in his hands for the pay of his company.

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—Upon a careful inspection of the articles of war, I entertain doubts, whether I can act upon, by approving or disapproving, sentences of courts-martial, referred to me from the Department of War in cases in which the courts have been instituted by that department through organs other than myself.

As there is peculiar delicacy in inflicting punishment upon questionable authority, I shall be glad to be exempted from the embarrassment, which references of the above-mentioned kind will occasion.1

hamilton to washington (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir :

At length the recruiting for the additional regiments has begun in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The inclosed Edition: current; Page: [78]return of clothing will sufficiently explain to you that it has at least commenced as soon as the preparations by the Department of War would permit. It might now also proceed in Maryland and Massachusetts, and the next post will, I trust, enable me to add Virginia, but that I do not think it expedient to outgo our supply of clothing. It will have the worst possible effect, if the recruits are to wait a length of time for their clothing.

I anticipate your mortification at such a state of things. Various causes are supposed to contribute to it.

It is said, that the President has heretofore not thought it of importance to accelerate the raising of the army, and it is well understood that the Secretary of the Treasury is not convinced of its utility. Yet he affirms, that for a long time past he has been ready and willing to give every aid depending on his department.

The Secretary at War imputes the deficiency in the article of clothing to a failure of a contract which he had made, and to the difficulty of suddenly finding a substitute by purchases in the market. It is therefore obvious, that the means which have since been pursued have not been the best calculated for dispatch. The materials procured at distant places have been brought to Philadelphia to be made up. They are stated to be adequate in quantity.

You will observe that six are numbered 1. This applies to a regiment in the Western country. I proposed to the Secretary to change the buttons. It has not been done.

Edition: current; Page: [79]

Yet, if the Secretary’s energies for execution were equal to his good dispositions, the public service under his care would prosper as much as could be desired. It is only to be regretted that good dispositions will not alone suffice, and that, in the nature of things, there can be no reliance that the future progress will be more satisfactory that the past.

Means, I trust sufficient, have been taken to procure from Europe a supply of clothing for the next year, and the Secretary has assured me, that he would immediately take measures for procuring a supply for the succeeding year.

As to other supplies, I believe things are in tolerable trains, and that there is a certainty of the most essential articles in due abundance.

The officers for North Carolina have been appointed. No nominations have come forward from South Carolina.

Not a single field-officer has yet been appointed for the regiment to be raised in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. It seems the members of Congress dissuaded from the nomination of those who were proposed by the general officers, and promised to recommend preferable characters; but this promise has not yet been performed. This want of organization is an obstacle to the progress of the affairs of this regiment.

It is understood that the President has resolved to appoint the officers to the provisional army, and that the Secretary has thought fit to charge the Senators of each State with the designation of characters.

With the truest respect and attachment, etc.

Edition: current; Page: [80]

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—After mature reflection on the subject of your letter of the 26th of last month, I am clearly of opinion that the President has no power to make, alone, the appointment of officers to the battalion which is to be added to the second regiment of artillerists and engineers.

In my opinion, “vacancy” is a relative term, and presupposes that the office has been once filled. If so, the power to fill a vacancy is not the power to make an original appointment. The terms, “which may have happened,” serve to confirm this construction. They imply casualty, and denote such offices as, having been once filled, have become vacant by accidental circumstances. This, at least, is the most familiar and obvious sense, and, in a matter of this kind, it could not be advisable to exercise a doubtful authority.

It is clear that, independent of the authority of a special law, the President cannot fill a vacancy which happens during a session of the Senate.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir :—It is urgent that arms for the troops to be raised be at the regimental rendezvous as speedily as possible.

Military pride is to be excited and kept up by military parade. No time ought to be lost in teaching Edition: current; Page: [81]the recruits the use of arms. Guards are necessary as soon as there are soldiers, and these require arms.

When I came to see the hats furnished for the 12th regiment, I was disappointed and distressed.

The Commander-in-Chief recommended cocked hats. This always means, hats cocked on three sides. I was assured that cocked hats were provided. I repeated the assurance to the officers. But the hats received are only capable of being cocked on one side, and the brim is otherwise so narrow, as to consult neither good appearance nor utility. They are also without cockades and loops.

Nothing is more necessary than to stimulate the vanity of soldiers. To this end, a smart dress is essential. When not attended to, the soldier is exposed to ridicule and humiliation. If the articles promised to him are defective in quality or appearance, he becomes dissatisfied, and the necessity of excusing the public delinquency towards him, is a serious bar to the enforcement of discipline. The government of the country is not now in the indigent situation in which it was during our revolutionary war. It possesses, amply, the means of placing its military on a respectable footing, and its dignity and its interest equally require that it shall act in conformity with this situation. This course is indeed indispensable, if a faithful, zealous, and well-regulated army is thought necessary to the security or defence of the country.

Edition: current; Page: [82]

hamilton to hamtranck

New York,

Sir:—* * * You are aware that the governors of the Northwestern Territory and the Mississippi Territory are severally ex officio superintendents of Indian affairs. The management of those affairs, under the direction of the Secretary at War, appertains to them. The military in this respect are only to be auxiliary to their plans and measures. In saying this, it must not be understood that they are to direct military dispositions and operations. But they are to be organs of all negotiations and communications between the Indians and the government. They are to determine when and where supplies are to be furnished to those people, and what other accommodations they are to have. The military, in regard to all such matters, are only to act as far as their co-operation may be required by the superintendent, avoiding interferences without previous concert with them, or otherwise than in conformity with their views. This will exempt the military from a responsibility which had better rest elsewhere, and it will promote a regular and uniform system of conduct towards the Indians; which cannot exist if every commandant of a post is to intermeddle separately and independently in the management of the concerns which relate to them.

This communication is made in conformity with an instruction from the Secretary at War, who particularly desires that “The military officers may be required to refer the Indians, in all matters relating to their national affairs or grievances, to the Governor Edition: current; Page: [83]of the Northwestern Territory and the Governor of the Mississippi Territory, or the temporary Indian Agent nearest to their post, as the case may require; and that the commandants of the posts in the Mississippi Territory may be instructed to furnish on the order of Governor Sargent, when the same can be spared, such rations for the Indians who may visit the said posts, as he may from time to time direct.”

This letter being addressed to you as the temporary commander in the presumed absence of General Wilkinson, you will act on it accordingly, recollecting that your attention is to extend to all the troops and posts from Pittsburgh westward to the Mississippi, on the lakes and Tennessee; in short, to all which constitute the Western army and its dependencies.

But in saying this, as a guide to you, it is not my intention to contravene any arrangements of command which General Wilkinson may have made previous to his departure.


New York,

Sir:—It is important to the service in every way, that vacancies which happen in the several regiments should be an speedily as possible filled. As no person can be more interested in this being done, and with a careful selection of character, than the commandants of regiments, it is desirable that they should, from time to time, propose to the general Edition: current; Page: [84]under whose command they may be, candidates for filling those vacancies, in order that they may be by him offered to the consideration of the Executive.

In doing this, however, it must be recollected, that there is no part of his functions in which it is upon principle more essential that the Executive should be perfectly free from extrinsic influences of every kind, than that of the choice of officers. Hence it is proper that no expectation should be entertained that the characters presented for consideration will be preferred, that no encouragement should be given them which may occasion embarrassment or chagrin in case of their not being adopted, and that no inferences painful to the person recommending should be drawn from the failure of the recommendation. This failure will doubtless often happen. Information of more eligible candidates will frequently come through other cannels. Collateral considerations will in no small number of instances occur, which, between candidates of equal pretensions, will naturally lead to a preference of persons who may have been presented through other channels.

In a word, the recommendation of the commandant is only to be considered as one mode in which information of fit characters may be conveyed to the Executive.

It occasionally happens that experience leads to alterations in the sub-districts or their rendezvouses. It is expected that whenever this happens, the commandant within whose circle it occurs will give notice of the change to the contractor of his circle, in order that provision may be made for the requisite supply.

Edition: current; Page: [85]

It is understood that some misapprehension has existed among some recruiting officers about the articles which the contractors and their agents are to supply.

It will be proper to signify to them that these are only to embrace provisions, quarters, fuel, straw, and, where there is no surgeon, medical aid and supply.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

* * * Embarrassment being likely to grow out of the question about the sales of the Indians to the individuals alluded to, will it not be expedient for the public to hold a treaty with them, and make the acquisition of the lands to the use of the United States? A small compensation to the Indians will satisfy all their scruples, and the United States will be enabled to control the intrusions of the irregular purchasers. Otherwise it is probable settlements will grow up under their titles hostile to government, because originally in disobedience to law. It may also be a question whether, if by the effect of their purchase the acquisition can be made by the United States on easier terms, it may not be advisable to extinguish their pretensions by the grant of a portion of their lands. This probably may be accomplished without difficulty. Temporizing measures on a distant frontier are often proper for a government which does not choose to keep on foot a considerable force, effectually to awe sedition and hostility.

Edition: current; Page: [86]

hamilton to col. stevens

New York,

Sir:—I understand from the Secretary at War, that in the capacity of agent for the War Department I am to look to you for the duties usually performed by the quartermaster-general and commissary of military stores. I shall look to you accordingly for these services, and therefore shall direct all returns relating to the proper objects to be made to you, in the expectation that you will attend to the procuring and forwarding of such as are required with propriety. With this view you will open a correspondence with the proper officers at the seat of government. The present system is that Tench Francis, Esq., as purveyor of supplies, procures all articles in the several branches of supply, which are placed by him in the disposition of Samuel Hodgdon, Esq., as superintendent of military stores, who is to oversee all the issues of those articles. I believe the quartermaster-general is to take his station at the seat of government, and is to be the auxiliary of those officers.

It is expected that the great mass of supplies will be procured and furnished by the immediate agency of the officers above mentioned, and that you will only be incidentally called upon to provide. But you will have to make application for the supplies which will be wanted at the different stations and posts of the army, and to see that they are punctually and expeditiously furnished by those whose province it is to do so. For this purpose you will forward to them the returns which you shall receive, Edition: current; Page: [87]first taking such abstracts from them as will enable you to judge how far they have been complied with. This points out the general line of the service expected from you. Explanations, as occasions occur, will be made for your more particular information.

I shall count fully upon your diligence and zeal, and if not in the first instance, at least eventually, I shall confide that a compensation adequate to what shall appear to be the extent of your trouble and responsibility will be made.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir :—I recur to two of your letters of the 9th and 10th instant. The reflections in the first respecting the enlistment of foreigners entirely accord with my impressions, as you have heretofore seen. I adhere to the opinion, that none but natives, or naturalized citizens, ought to be engaged. Of the latter, residence in this country anterior to our revolution, to be proved to the satisfaction of the recruiting officer, or a certificate of the naturalization, ought to be the criterion; and none ought to be enlisted who have not resided in the country where they shall be enlisted at least one year immediately preceding the enlistment.

It is true that contraventions of the rule, by imposition upon, or connivance of, the recruiting officers, will in some instances happen. But they will not be so numerous as to prevent the object being essentially attained.

The idea is held out in your letter of postponing the enlistment of foreigners until after a district Edition: current; Page: [88]should be exhausted of natives willing to enlist. I should doubt the expediency of a distinction which is not permanent. The preference might create disgust, and perhaps an injurious collision.

I shall be glad to know speedily the result of your further consideration of the subject.

P. S.—In a scene so near the seat of government as that in which the late insurrection has existed, and so perfectly within its command, the policy of stationing, for any length of time, a small body of foot-soldiers, with the manifest intention to awe the spirit of insurrection, appears to me questionable. Were I at liberty to pursue my own inclination, I should now order the troops to the destinations to which they have been assigned.

Under this impression, I inclose an order for Capt. Henry’s company to proceed to Powles Hook, on his way to his ultimate destination in the Eastern quarter. If you approve, you will please forward it. Capt. Freeman’s company at West Point, which is to form part of the battalion for the field, is ordered to New York, whence, if you think proper, it can march to replace Capt. Henry’s company.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—The returns from every quarter show that desertion prevails to a ruinous extent. For this the natural remedies are: 1st, greater attention to discipline; 2d, additional care in furnishing the supplies due to the soldiery, of such quality and with Edition: current; Page: [89]such exactness as will leave no real cause for dissatisfaction; 3d, the forbearance to enlist foreigners; and lastly, energy in the punishment of offenders.

To promote the first, will be my peculiar care. The second, I doubt not, will have from you all the attention due to a matter of primary importance. The third I hope soon to receive your instruction to put in execution. As to the fourth, I must entreat that you will make such a representation to the President as will convince him of the absolute necessity, where his agency must intervene, of giving effect to the sentences of the courts. His determination upon one some time since reported to you has not yet been received, and I expect it with great solicitude; there cannot occur a more fit case for exemplary punishment. If this culprit escapes, the example of his impunity will have a most malignant aspect towards the service. I repeat it, sir, this is a point of such essential consequence, that you cannot bestow too much pains to satisfy the President that severity is indispensable. It is painful to urge a position of this kind, especially wherelife is concerned; but a military institution must be worse than useless—it must be pernicious,—if a just severity does not uphold and enforce discipline.

hamilton to hamtranck (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir:

I duly received your private letters of the—and the 25th of January last, to which a very extraordinary Edition: current; Page: [90]pressure of business has prevented a reply. Such of your remarks as are personal to me are very gratifying.

I hope your expectations will not finally be disappointed, though it will require time before a complete organization of what is now a very disjointed mass, will enable me to establish perfect order. Zeal, at least, my friends know will not be wanting.

The request you make with respect to yourself, though unusual, is very natural, considering past experience. It will not fail to influence my advice, unless I perceive that your feelings and your interest as a soldier can be mutually consulted.

Communicate to me freely and confidentially on the subject of Western affairs; you are sure of my discretion and honor.

hamilton to washington

New York,
Dear Sir:

I did myself the honor to write to you at some length on the 3d of May. I hope the letter got safe to hand.

The recruiting service is now in motion in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts; I might, perhaps, add Virginia, from the assurances which I have received as to the transmission of supplies, but I am not as yet informed of its actual commencement in that State. This cannot be much longer delayed.

Edition: current; Page: [91]

The field-officers for the regiment, which embraces New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island have been lately appointed. They are Rufus Graves, lieutenant-colonel; Timothy Tarling and Cornelius Lynde, majors. The moment money and clothing shall arrive, the recruiting will begin there and in North Carolina. But I do not view this as very near.

I do not understand that the officers for South Carolina and Georgia have yet been recommended.

The information I receive as to the progress and prosperity of the recruiting service, is sufficiently encouraging. Colonel Taylor, commandant of the regiment raising in Connecticut, assures me that he is persuaded, if no obstacle arises from supplies, that in two months his regiment will be filled by native Americans. From other quarters the intelligence is very well. I permit myself to hope that in the summer and fall the army will be at its complement.

I send you a copy of the arrangement which has been made of the two regiments of artillerists; measures are taking to carry it into execution. The distribution of the officers of the Western army is referred to Colonel Burbeck.

There is nothing further in the military line worthy of your attention to communicate. When I shall have obtained more assistance I shall write more frequently.

A letter from Mr. King contains this unpleasant intelligence. The publication of the treaty of Campo-Formio by the Directory, will injure the affairs of the emperor. It will increase the jealousy of the Edition: current; Page: [92]king of Prussia and of the emperor, whose safety and interests were too little in view in that treaty. There is no end to the folly of the potentates who are arrayed against France. We impatiently expect further accounts of the operations of the archduke, and entertain a strong hope that his genius and energy will turn to good account the advantage he has gained.

Most respectfully and affectionately I have the honor to be, etc.

hamilton to —— ——

New York,

It will be with great regret that I shall at any time see in the conduct of an officer intentional negligence or disrespect. I am the less disposed to suppose either in the present case, because it is impossible to imagine a motive. Yet I owe it to propriety to remark, that your continued silence has been ill-judged.

The obstacles which you mention to the making of the returns, did not render it impracticable to acknowledge the receipt of my letters, and to inform me of the causes of delay, and of what was intended, which certainly ought to have been done.

hamilton to washington (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir:

I wrote to you a few days since, chiefly to inform you of the progress of the measures respecting the Edition: current; Page: [93]recruiting service, and that the symptoms with regard to it were sufficiently promising. The accounts continue favorable.

I have just received a letter from General Wilkinson, dated the 13th April, in which he assures me he will set out in the ensuing month for the seat of government. The interview with him will be useful.

It strikes me forcibly, that it will be right and expedient to advance this gentleman to the grade of major-general. He has been long steadily in service, and long a brigadier. This, in so considerable an extension of the military establishment, gives him a pretension to promotion.

I am aware that some doubts have been entertained of him, and that his character on certain sides, gives room for doubt. Yet he is at present, in the service, is a man of more than ordinary talent, of courage and enterprise; has discovered upon various occasions a good zeal, has embraced military pursuits as a profession, and will naturally find his interest, as an ambitious man, in deserving the favor of the government; while he will be apt to become disgusted, if neglected; and through disgust may be rendered really what he is now only suspected to be. Under such circumstances, it seems to me good policy to avoid all just grounds of discontent, and to make it the interest of the individual to pursue his duty.

If you should be also of this opinion, I submit to your consideration, whether it would not be advisable for you to express it in a private letter to the Secretary at War.

Edition: current; Page: [94]

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

Seeing the terrible delays which take place, is it not advisable immediately to authorize your agent at New York and Boston, to take prompt measures for increasing your supply of clothing, tents, and such other articles as are in arrear? Considering past experience, can you possibly depend on the present plan for the future supply? If blue cloth cannot be found for the whole, better to take some other color by entire regiments for those which have not yet begun to recruit.

The Brest fleet is out. Its destination is in all probability Ireland; but ought we so entirely to rely upon this as to omit to take the precaution of having some fast-sailing vessels on the look-out before our principal ports—Charleston, the entrance of the Chesapeake, the Delaware, New York, Newport, Boston,—with perhaps the establishment of signals?

It would be awkward to be entirely surprised, and to have some of our banks fall into the hands of the Philistines. When we think of Egypt, we ought not to consider the attempt as impracticable. Announcing that it is a mere act of caution without intelligence, no inconvenient alarm will be created. It may even be useful to bring home to the minds of our citizens, that our government does not deem an invasion impossible.

Colonel Stevens informs me, that some time since the United States lent to New York a thousand stand of arms which are exposed in a situation to be Edition: current; Page: [95]lost, and are not wanted by the State. There is no reason why their return should not be asked.

hamilton to mchenry (Private.)

New York.
My Dear Sir:

I conclude from your letter by to-day’s post, that your own opinion in regard to the raising of a troop of horse is made up, and that you only delay a determination from the necessity of a reference elsewhere. This is a point that I have so much at heart, that I should be sorry any thing was risked about it. If you think there is the least danger of disappointment, I will write to the Commander-in-Chief to obtain for you the support of his ideas.

It is of very material consequence to have a troop raised, as a stock on which to ingraft a system of tactics for the cavalry. Hitherto, it may be said, we have had none. Improvements are going on in Europe. This particular arm is not brought to perfection even there. Opinions are somewhat unsettled. It is very desirable to have an organ by which we can essay the various plans, and upon which we can establish the model of a good system.

As to the two troops already raised, they ought to remain where they are.

Another subject:

General Wilkinson is soon expected. I am strongly inclined to see him made a major-general. He has had now a great deal of experience; he possesses Edition: current; Page: [96]considerable military information; he has activity, courage, and talents; his pretensions to promotion, in every view, are strong. If he should become disgusted without it, it would not be extraordinary.

Half-confidence is always bad. This officer has adopted military life as a profession. What can his ambition do better than be faithful to the government, if it gives him fair play?

hamilton to —— ——

New York,

* * * You will allow me, however, to remark to you with frankness, that there is in my opinion something too absolute in your manner of declining this service, and that I cannot give my sanction to the sentiment in your letter, contained in these words: “I cannot possibly, except in actual war, separate myself from her [your wife] and my children,” etc. You have too much discernment, and too well know the principles of service, not to be sensible that it is the essential condition of military employment that, in peace as in war, an officer shall be ready to execute the trusts, relatively to his station, to which he may be designated. That the peremptory claim of an exemption from this rule cannot be advanced, whatever may be the hope of indulgence towards a very peculiar situation.

Doubtless, therefore, you will see it proper to correct the latitude and force of the expressions which you have used, as transcending your real meaning.

Edition: current; Page: [97]

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

It is a pity, my dear sir, and a reproach, that our administration have no general plan. Certainly there ought to be one formed without delay. If the chief is too desultory, his ministry ought to be more united and steady, and well-settled in some reasonable system of measures.

Among other things, it should be agreed what precise force should be created, naval and land, and this proportioned to the state of our finances. It will be ridiculous to raise troops, and immediately after to disband them. Six ships of the line and twenty frigates and sloops of war are desirable. More would not now be comparatively expedient. It is desirable to complete and prepare the land force which has been provided for by law. Besides eventual security against invasion, we ought certainly to look to the possession of the Floridas and Louisiana, and we ought to squint at South America.

Is it possible that the accomplishment of these objects can be attended with financial difficulty? I deny the possibility. Our revenue can be considerably reinforced. The progress of the country will quickly supply small deficiencies, and these can be temporarily satisfied by loans, provided our loans are made on the principle that we require the aliment of European capital,—that lenders are to gain, and their gains to be facilitated, not obstructed.

If all this is not true, our situation is much worse than I had any idea of. But I have no doubt that it is easy to devise the means of execution.

Edition: current; Page: [98]

And if there was everywhere a disposition, without prejudice and nonsense, to concert a rational plan, I would cheerfully come to Philadelphia and assist in it; nor can I doubt that success may be insured.

Break this subject to our friend Pickering. His views are sound and energetic. Try together to bring the other gentlemen to a consultation. If there is everywhere a proper temper, and it is wished, send for me, and I will come.

Yours truly,
A. Hamilton.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I have considered the rules transmitted in your letter of the 2d instant relative to rank and promotion.

They appear to me founded on just principles, nor do I know that they can be improved. I will, however, present to your consideration some observations on two or three points.

It seems to me questionable whether the preference given to full colonels of the deranged officers over the lieutenant-colonel commandants, who served to the end of the war, be expedient.

It is making that a matter of substance which was purely nominal. The grade of lieutenant-colonel commandant was in our system, to all intents and purposes of service and promotion, equal to that of colonel. And the general principle of preferring officers who served to the end of the war, seems to me as applicable to this particular as to any other.

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It is desirable to exempt, a military commander from the exercise of a discretion in personal matters which may expose him to the supposition of favoritism. It is possible the Commander-in-Chief may not like to be charged with that which is proposed to be conferred upon him; though he could have no objection to aid the determination of the President with all requisite information. Perhaps the clause may with advantage be altered to stand thus: “The relative rank of officers who have not been in service will be determined by the President. The Commander-in-Chief will report to him their names, with such information as he may deem proper.”

The last clause will, I think, be more accurate, if altered into this form: “On the happening of a vacancy, the officer next in rank will in ordinary cases be considered as the most proper person to fill the same. But this rule is considered as subject to exceptions in extraordinary cases.”

It will be useful, also, in my opinion, to add a clause to this effect: “In promotions to the several ranks of generals, the officers of cavalry, artillery, and infantry will be considered as eligible indiscriminately, or without distinction of one corps for another.”

To confine the officers of artillery and cavalry to their particular corps in the appointments of general officers, is to render the chance of promotion unequal, and to discourage in the several classes of officers the study of all the branches of tactics. The contrary principle will have a contrary effect; and though it is rarely to be expected that an officer of cavalry or infantry will be competent to the service Edition: current; Page: [100]of the artillery, yet nothing is more easy than for the officers of those corps to be acquainted with the tactics of each, and an officer of artillery can without difficulty make himself master of the tactics of the cavalry and infantry. The plan of an indiscriminate choice will also increase the chances of having qualified generals.

And if the idea itself be approved, it is expedient to prepare the army to expect its application by engrafting it in the system of promotion.

hamilton to secretary at war

New York,

Sir:—I have honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th instant, inclosing a warrant for the execution of Sergeant Hunt.

I have reflected carefully on the point submitted to our joint consideration, and, upon the whole, I incline to the side of forbearance.

The temper of our country, is not a little opposed to the frequency of capital punishment. Public opinion, in this respect, though it must not have too much influence, is not wholly to be disregarded. There must be some caution not to render our military system odious by giving it the appearance of being sanguinary.

Considering, too, the extreme lenity in time past, there may be danger of shocking even the opinion of the army by too violent a change. The idea of cruelty inspires disgust, and ultimately is not much more favourable to authority than the excess of lenity.

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Neither is it clear that one example, so quickly following upon the heels of another, in the same corps, will materially increase the impression intended to be made, or answer any valuable purpose.

If, for any or all of these reasons, the utility of the measure be doubtful, in favor of life it ought to be forborne. It is the true policy of the government to maintain an attitude which shall express a reluctance to strike, united with a determination to do it whenever it shall be essential.

It is but too certain in will not be long before other instances will occur in which the same punishment will be decreed for the same offence. To disseminate the examples of executions so far as they shall be indispensable, will serve to render them more efficacious.

Under these impressions, if I hear nothing to the contrary from you by the return of the post, I shall issue an order to the following effect: “That, though the President has fully approved the sentence of Sergeant Hunt, and, from the heinous nature of his conduct, considers him a very fit subject for punishment; yet, being unwilling to multiply examples of severity, however just, beyond what experience may show to be indispensable, and hoping that the good faith and patriotism of the soldiery will spare him the painful necessity of frequently resorting to them, he has thought fit to authorize a remission of the punishment; directing, nevertheless, that Sergeant Hunt be degraded from his station.”

I request to be speedily instructed.

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hamilton to stoddert

New York,
Dear Sir:

A press of various business has delayed a reply to your favor of the 19th instant.

The principle you suggest for my consideration, though, if it could be introduced, it would work well, cannot, in my opinion, be put into practice. It would contravene too much pretensions rooted as well in the human heart as in unconquerable prejudices of the military state; by which expressions I include the naval department. Carrying in the very fact an avowed preference, humiliating to the pride of the superior officer, and reversing the order of antecedent relations, a cheerful submission could never be obtained.

The alternative you mention is the proper expedient, and a very necessary one it is. It will be happy if Congress can be induced to adopt it.

With very great esteem, I have the honor, etc.

To Secretary of Navy.

hamilton to colonel smith (Circular).

New York,

Sir:—Our political situation renders it very urgent that not a moment shall be lost in disciplining our troops as fast as they shall be raised. To this end it is essential that every officer shall personally exert himself to the utmost; and that a very faulty practice which has occasionally prevailed in our Edition: current; Page: [103]armies, as well as others, shall be carefully avoided—namely, commanders of regiments leaving too much to their majors, these to the adjutants, and the company officers to their sergeants.

It is expected that each commandant of a regiment will himself industriously exercise his regiment in the manual and evolutions; that each major will do the like in his battalion, and the company officers in their several companies. These last must charge themselves with the detail of instructing their men from the beginning; using their non-commissioned officers as auxiliaries, not as their representatives or substitutes; and the field-officers must carefully superintend the company officers in relation to this detail.

This course will have the double advantage of insuring the rapid improvement of the soldiers, and of giving every officer practical expertness within his sphere, without which an army is nothing but a mass of disorderly elements.

In the reply which I expect to make to the several corps, I hope for the gratification of observing, in the proficiency of officers and men, that the instruction contained in this letter has been carefully and zealously executed.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

Every day must prove more and more to everybody that it is impossible to serve two masters. I Edition: current; Page: [104]cannot be a general and a practiser of the law at the same time, without doing injustice to the government and myself. Hence I am anxious to disentangle myself more completely than I have yet done from forensic pursuits. But to be able to do this, I must call to my succor all the emoluments which I have a right to claim. Hitherto I have had neither quarters, nor fuel, nor servants. The two last I shall take measures for myself. But the former I have had some scruples about, and wish an instruction concerning it from you, which may be addressed as well to General Pinckney as to myself. On this article, too, I have no doubt of my right to order the person acting as quartermaster to provide quarters for me and my suite. Every commanding general has this right, and situated as I am, in a time of no active operations, which the force under my command dispersed to various points, I have no doubt that the strictest propriety accords with my personal station being where it is, and that in this station it is in every view fit that I should have provided at public expense for myself and suite, a house as quarters suited to my rank and command. The procuring of a better one than I now occupy would be strictly justifiable; but it is not my wish to do it.

How do you construe the 4th section of the act of March 3, 1797, respecting double rations, in reference to the officers appointed under the act for augmenting the army?

This question has, in cases foreign to the spirit of the provision, come up from some of the officers of the twelve additional regiments, and it will probably Edition: current; Page: [105]soon come up in others. It is important to the two major-generals, as well as others; and it ought to apply to them. Yet the law must not be strained, but future provision made where the existing one is deficient.

You must not think me rapacious. I have not changed my character. But my situation as commanding general exposes me to much additional expense in entertaining officers occasionally in the city of New York, and citizens and foreigners who come to pay their respects to the commanding general; and adding this consideration to the circumstance of a wife and six children, whose maintenance and education are to be taken care of, I shall stand in need of all I can fairly get from the public, if I am essentially to renounce my profession.


hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—It is now time to take measures for the establishment of the additional regiments in winter quarters.

It has been already determined to dispose of them in four bodies, and the positions generally have been designated. These positions will, of course, be adhered to, unless alterations shall become expedient from considerations relative to the comparative prices of rations at different places. It is necessary speedily to understand whether any deviations will result from this source, which has been heretofore a subject of correspondence between us.

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As to mode, I incline to that of huts. Every thing in our military establishment is too unsettled to justify the expense of permanent barracks, and the hiring of quarters in towns will be adverse to the health and discipline of the troops, and may lead to disorders, unfriendly to harmony between the citizens and the soldiery.

The experience of the last war has proved that troops cannot be more comfortable in any way than in huts; and these they can build themselves. Perhaps as these in question are quite raw, it may be expedient where they do not happen to have carpenters among themselves, to indulge each regiment with the aid of a few to be procured on hire, who may direct the mode of construction, and lend a helping hand to the huts of the officers. The ground will be to be hired. The material for building must be found upon each spot. It you approve, and as soon as I shall receive from you the information which is to guide as to prices of rations, I will give directions to the respective contractors to procure the ground, with the co-operation, where it can be conveniently had, of the agent for the War Department, and of the commandant of a regiment nearest to the intended site.

Any suggestions which you shall think fit to make with regard to the detail, will receive careful attention.

Applications have been made to me to authorize the providing of a wagon and four horses for the use of each regiment. It is suggested that for the transportation of fuel and straw, and for a variety of current Edition: current; Page: [107]services, many difficulties attend the continual dependence on the contractor, which would be obviated by a wagon attached to the regiment. I am of opinion that the measure is right, and would direct it to be put in execution, but that it is my rule to enter into no new arrangement involving expense without previous recourse to you, where there is no pressure of circumstances to require immediate decision.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

I return you the papers of Mr. Williams, which you sent me, at his desire, for perusal. The explanation and your final opinion of the affair have given me pleasure, as I should be sorry that any circumstances of improper conduct should have stood in the way of the employment of Mr. Williams.

I regret extremely that obstacles should exist to the requiring of the resignation of Mr.—.You are apprised of the good opinion I entertain of the probity of this gentleman, and of his talents for business within a sphere of action which will admit of an immediate personal attention to every thing which is to be done. But you are no less apprised of my perfect conviction of his incompetency, at his present time of life, to exercise an office which embraces extensive and complicated objects; in which system and arrangement and various combinations are necessary. It is a satire upon our government that he cannot for whatever cause be removed. The Edition: current; Page: [108]number of powerful connections which he has, is, I trust, not the obstacle. If it has any weight, I think it may be relied upon that the most influential of them would, from conviction, acquiesce in the propriety of the measure. But if he must remain, certainly there ought to be no ceremony about giving him good assistance whether of his own choice or not. In this it is most regular that the two departments concur. But if they cannot, as Secretary at War I should not hesitate to insist, that he should employ such organs as I deemed requisite for executing well the business of my department.

You observe, that no present inconvenience attends the suspension of such a measure, Believe me the service everywhere is suffering for the want of proper organization. It is one thing for business to drag on,—another for it to go on well. The business of supply in all its branches (except as to provisions), proceeds heavily, and without order or punctuality,—in a manner equally ill adapted to economy on a large scale, as to efficiency and the contentment of the army. It is painful to observe how disjointed and piecemeal a business it is. Among other evils is this that the head of the War Department and the chief of the several divisions of the army exhaust their time in details, which beyond a general superintendence are foregin to them, and plans for giving perfection to our military system are unavoidably neglected.

Let me repeat, my dear friend, my earnest advice, that you proceed to organize without delay the several branches of the department of supply; that is, to Edition: current; Page: [109]fix the places and appoint the agents. You will experience great relief and many advantages from it. The saving from better management will infinitely overpay the expense of salaries. The contractors who feel little responsibility execute very carelessly every thing in which they are merely agents. The increase of numbers will make this a very important consideration.

Supplies in general are neither duly procured nor duly forwarded, frequently not of good quality nor agreeing in kind,—and the system of accountability, excellent in theory, I venture to say, entirely fails in execution. The inevitable consequence is that there must be a great waste of property. It is in vain to have good plans, if there are not proper organs for execution. Every new step to be taken is attended with embarrassment for want of organization.

It is much to be regretted that Carrington was not appointed quartermaster-general according to the new arrangement, before the last session of the Senate ended, so that every thing in that branch of service might be now in complete train.

If this appointment is determined upon, will it not be well to notify the intention to him, and to prevail upon him to come to the seat of government, to the end that you may concert with him the proper arrangement. Till the Commander-in-Chief take the field, his residence would very naturally be at or near the seat of government, and you would find his assistance in every view very valuable.

I have heretofore requested Mr. Hodgdon to send me from time to time a return of the supplies which Edition: current; Page: [110]he forwards. This may save you the trouble of reading applications for things which have been done. The request has not been complied with. I do not mention this by way of complaint, but for information, to induce you to give him a specific direction. Once a week such a return ought to be made to you, and a duplicate might be sent to me.

hamilton to harrison1

New York,

Sir:—Attempts are making in different parts of the country to procure the enlargement of soldiers on writs of habeas corpus issued by and returnable before State judges. As this practice will probably involve serious consequence, it becomes necessary for me to avail myself of the information of those officers of the United States who are particularly charged with the consideration of legal questions. I wish, therefore, for your deliberate opinion, distinguishing between courts and individual judges, on the legality of this practice, and especially on the effect of a return to the writ, that the person demanded had been duly enlisted by an officer of the United States, in conformity with the laws and with his instruction. You will also be pleased to consider whether upon such a return it is necessary to produce the person who is the object of the habeas corpus. The charge for this opinion you will make against the Department of War.

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hamilton to mchenry

I must again press for the settlement of a rule of promotion. It is essential of fix principles and the conditions and expectations of officers as fast as possible. The army never will be organized and in order unless points are successively established as they occur to consideration, and, when established, strictly adhered to. The total defect of organization in the Western army (the extent of which I did not know till very lately) has increased my solicitude for another course of things, lest we get everywhere into inextricable chaos. I send you an arrangement of the seventh regiment, in conformity with my idea, which I hope may be adopted.


New York,

In military service it is essential that each individual should move within his proper sphere, according to a just gradation and the relations which subsist between him and others. It is a consequence of this principle that a regular chain of communication should be preserved, and that, in all matters relating to service each person should address himself for information or direction to his immediate superior officer, and should not step beyond him to a higher authority. This observation of course excepts the case where an individual, having received an injury Edition: current; Page: [112]from his immediate superior, is disposed to seek redress from the superior of both; but in other cases the principle ought to be rigidly observed.

It is not so in practice. I have received communications from captains of companies, which in propriety ought to have been addressed to commandants of their regiments or of the districts within which they are stationed; and I know that communications have in some instances been made my particular officers to the Secretary of War, which ought to have been addressed to me. These things are not regular, and must be avoided. The good of the service and the dignity of every officer, from the highest to the lowest, require that they should not prevail. The officers and persons attached to the army, who are charged with the expenditure of money and with the providing or issuing of supplies, will properly correspond with the Department of War on those subjects; but every other officer ought to address himself to his immediate chief, and the chiefs of corps or distinct commands must make their communications to me, except in the cases in which particular regulations direct otherwise.

To apply the rule. The officers must not go beyond you with their verbal or written communications; you must address yours to me, except—

1st. Returns and applications respecting ordnance, arms, accoutrements, and other military stores, clothing, articles of quartermaster’s supply, hospital stores, including medicines, which for the present must be addressed to Ebenezer Stevens, Esquire, agent for the War Department in New York Edition: current; Page: [113](the proper officers in respect to these objects not being yet appointed).

2d. Monthly and other returns respecting the numbers and state of corps and detachments, including inspection and recruiting returns, which must be addressed to Brigadier-General North, Adjutant-General.

3d. Muster-and pay-rolls to Caleb Swan, Esquire, Paymaster-General, at the seat of government.

These last had best be forwarded by the respective paymasters of regiments and detachments, where any exist.

The Paymaster-General has been advised to confine his communications to paymasters, and to such others as have received public money, for which they are accountable directly to the War Department.

It is expected that other officers will shortly be appointed and annexed to head-quarters, to whom the objects under the first and third heads will properly belong.

This, when it taken place, will be announced in general orders.

You will take care to make these instructions known within the sphere of your command.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—Your letter of the 29th instant is received. I shall conform to what I understand to be the spirit of the practice of which it gives examples. It is Edition: current; Page: [114]right not to make an extra allowance to officers for performing a military duty at a place where they are stationed, or where they actually are resident, or where there is a military post, at which they can be accommodated as usual, except for travelling from another place to that post. But I submit that this is not applicable to a person, not a member of the army, who may be specially designated to such a duty. Nor do I think that it consists with the dignity or policy of the government to desire the service of such a person gratis. A person not of the army acting as judge-advocate, ought, in my opinion, to be compensated. Trials in some instances exhaust too large a portion of time to be employed for a public purpose, without an equivalent. It will be agreeable to me, in the three instances in which I have been the agent, to announce that an allowance is to be received. I have thought of three dollars per day. The persons are, Mr. Hare, in the trial of Capital Vance; Mr. Morton, in the trial of Captain Frey; and Doctor Osborne and Mr. Malcom, in those of Major Hoops and Captain Cochran. The state of the military hereafter will obviate the necessity of incurring a similar expense.

In the case of the court-martial of which Major Wilcocks was president, I applied the regulations of December, 1798, though from the wording of them, I thought there might be some doubt of their applicability, but your construction will solve the doubt. It is the convenient one.

I shall announce to the several commandants, that law and usage consider the two dollars per head as Edition: current; Page: [115]the equivalent for the extra expenses of recruiting officers, and that no further allowance can be made.

Nothing is more just than your observation, “that officers, instead of encouraging the complaints of their men on the occasions to which you refer, ought to endeavor to satisfy them that the article complained of, for some good reason, could not be otherwise.” I have inculcated this doctrine in different instances, and shall make it a subject of a circular-instruction.

You add that nothing is more common among officers, than complaints about everything furnished by the public. I am inclined to believe with you, that the spirit of complaining is apt to be carried to an excess. But it is important, when it is observed to prevail, to inquire with candor and calmness whether it has not been produced in whole or in part from real causes of complaint, If it has, it is then essential that any defects in the public plan which may have occasioned them, should be corrected.

This is essential for two reasons: one, that justice, the success of the service, and the public good require that right should be done to the troops; the other, that the doing of it will most certainly and effectually remedy the evil.

In a new army especially, the force of discipline can hardly be expected to stifle complaint if material ground for it truly exist. To be frank on this point is a duty. Viewing the matter from a variety of positions in which I have stood, it is an opinion of some standing with me, that the supply of the army, except in the article of provisions, has been most Edition: current; Page: [116]commonly so defective as to render a considerable degree of discontent a natural consequence. In some instances the quality of articles, in others their form or workmanship, have been faulty; in others they have been supplied too irregularly and too much by retail.

These things, amidst a revolution, will be acquiesced in. In the first essays of a new government, this will be tolerated; but in a more mature state of its affairs, as that of ours at present, a government should not stand in need of indulgence from its armies. In strict justice to them, it should lay the foundation of an absolute claim to their strict obedience and rigid compliance with every duty.

In recurring to ideas of this sort, I only embrace an occasion which seems to call for the expression of them. I well know your disposition to ameliorate our plan. I count upon the success of your efforts, but till the amelioration has been exemplified, you are not to wonder if murmurs continue, and it will not be my fault if they are not as moderate as possible.


New York,

Sir:—It has been suggested to me that particular officers, in some instances, have incautiously indulged remarks in the presence of their men, respecting the bad qualities of articles furnished, which were of a nature to foster discontent in the minds of the soldiery. Instances of this sort, I am persuaded, Edition: current; Page: [117]must have been very rare, as the impropriety of the thing is too glaring to escape an officer of the least reflection; and I am convinced it is only necessary to mention the matter to you, to engage your endeavors to prevent a similar imprudence. If any articles of supply are exceptionable, the proper course is to represent it to me, in order that the remedy, if in my power, may be applied; if not, that it may be sought through the Secretary at War. Of my constant exertions to place the army on a comfortable and respectable footing, no doubt can be entertained.

Desultory observations have from time to time been made to me, respecting particular articles. I am desirous of having a special and very accurate report from the commandant of each regiment, of the quantity and quality of all the articles which have been received for its use, viz., arms, accoutrements, clothing, tents, and camp utensils. You will as soon as possible transmit it to me. Any suggestions of improvements in any of the articles which are supplied will be acceptable.

hamilton to washington (Private.)

New York,
Dear Sir:

Two days since I received from General Wilkinson a report of which I now send you the original. You will find it intelligent and interesting. Perhaps on Edition: current; Page: [118]the score of intrinsic propriety, it deserves to be adopted to a larger extent than some collateral and extraneous considerations may permit.

I had previously thought of the subject, but had purposely limited myself to a few very general ideas, that I might examine with the less prepossession the plan of an officer who, possessing talents to judge, has for years had his mind occupied with the scene to which he refers. Since the receipt of his plan, I have assiduously contemplated it with the aid of a full personal explanation; and my judgment has formed a result, though not definitive, but liable to revision. I adopt several of the leading ideas of the General, but I vary in some particulars: as well because I think the change might be too strong with reference to its influence on public opinion, and the feelings of the parts of the country immediately concerned, as because it seems to me that motives of real weight dictate a modification of his plan.

Premising that one complete regiment of infantry should be left for Tennessee and the frontiers of Georgia, I would propose the following disposition of the remaining three of the old regiments, and for the battalion of artillerists and the two troops of dragoons allowed for the Western army. It is taken for granted that the plan must contemplate only the four old regiments of infantry (with those portions of artillerists and dragoons), inasmuch as these are the only infantry regarded by our system as permanent. The twelve additional regiments will dissolve, of course, as to the non-commissioned Edition: current; Page: [119]officers and privates, by the simple fact of the settlement of our dispute with France.

Let these troops be disposed of as follows, viz.:

A Battalion of Infantry and a Company and a Half of Artillery

Niagara.—Two companies of infantry and a half company of artillery.

Detroit.—Three companies of infantry and one company of artillery, to furnish a detachment for

Michilimackinac.—A subaltern, two sergeants, and twenty-four rank and file infantry, and a sergeant and twelve artillerists.

A Battalion of Infantry and a company of Artillery

Fort Fayette and Pittsburgh.—One company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.

Fort Wayne.—One company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.

Fort Massac.—Three companies of infantry and half a company of artillery, to furnish detachments for

Fort Knox.—A sergeant and eight rank and file.

Fort Pickering, Chickasaw Bluffs.—A subaltern, two sergeants, and twenty-four rank and file.

A Battalion of Infantry and a Company of Artillery

Fort Adams, Loftus Heights.—A battalion of infantry and a company of artillery, to furnish for

Fort Stoddard, function of Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, Mobile.—Not exceeding a company of infantry and a quarter of a company of artillery.

There will then remain a regiment and a battalion of Edition: current; Page: [120]infantry, half a company of artillery, and two troops of dragoons. Let these be stationed at some convenient point at or near the rapids of the Ohio, to form an army of observation, and act as exigencies may require.

The other posts now occupied to be relinquished.

A few remarks will illustrate the reasons of this plan.

As a general principle it is desirable to concentrate the force as much as possible. This tends to efficiency for action, to the preservation of order and discipline, and to the promoting of economy. It is conceived that the occupying a small number of critical points with a reserve of force to support an attack, will be more impressive on the Indians than the dissipation of the whole force among a great number of small posts. This reserve ought to be so placed as to look to all the principal objects, and it may, as an incidental one, with propriety, look to that of preventing or suppressing insurrections. The concentration of force, with a proper disposition, will render the maintenance of it far less expensive than if subdivided into small and scattered portions.

These more particular considerations co-operate.

As to Niagara and Detroit.—The effectual possession of the straits which connect Lake Erie on the one side with the Ontario, on the other with the Huron, appears to me very material as a security against British attack, and as a means of controlling the northern and northwestern Indians, by enabling us to obstruct communication. These points are mentioned because they now exist as posts; but the straits ought to be reviewed by a skilful engineer, Edition: current; Page: [121]and such points selected as will be most defensible, and will best command the straits. The force proposed for these stations at present is inadequate in a prospective view; but as there is a probability of a continuance of good understanding with Great Britain for some time, it is conceived that it may now suffice for the sake of obtaining a respectable corps de reserve, to be augmented as our military means may increase.

When the proper points shall have been definitively selected, it would be my plan to have at each station a regular fortification, requiring a garrison of from 500 to 1,000 men, as the nature of the ground to be occupied may indicate, with a citadel in each, defensive by from two to three hundred men. These, in times of complete harmony with Great Britain, may suffice; but, on the appearance of approaching differences, to be increased to the complement. The posts at all times to be supplied for a siege. The progress of settlement will speedily furnish the means of prompt reinforcement.

As to Michilimackinac.—The only motive for retaining this post is to preserve the occupancy of an old communication in some sort calculated to influence the Indians. As to trade, it is now only useful to the British, and likely to continue so for some years, except in so far as they find it their interest to turn their trade into our channels. There are here a few white families, supposed to be able to furnish about sixty arm-bearing men, who are said to be well disposed to our government, and who certainly, in a controversy merely with the Indians, would Edition: current; Page: [122]co-operate with the garrison. A small one is deemed sufficient for the present purpose of the post. For this an additional reason is, that the maintenance of troops there is excessively costly. Any greater force which, with our present total, could be thought of for that station, must be considered as a corps perdu in case of war with Britain, as it would be entirely out of the reach of succor. Consequently, the smaller the force there, if sufficient for the other objects, the better. It is to be observed as to this place, that the Indians whose situations are relative to it, are in no view, formidable. The insular situation is a further security.

As to Fort Fayette.—It may be doubtful whether any force here is really essential, and whether, as being a mere depot, it may not be left, as at other places, to the safeguard of the inhabitants; but, considering that it is a portal to the Western country, and that disaffection to the government has been shown by the inhabitants of the neighboring country, the force proposed is deemed expedient as a guard and as a rallying-point to the well-affected.

As to Fort Wayne.—The critical situation of this place with regard to a number of different waters, and the influence of its immediate aspect upon the most warlike of the Indians in that quarter, make it, in my view, a post to be maintained, contrary to the idea of General Wilkinson.

As to Fort Massac.—This being another portal, and the great outlet for the commodities of the Northwestern Territory, Kentucky, etc., it appears to me that, for obvious reasons, it ought to be secured Edition: current; Page: [123]by a strong regular fortification and a respectable garrison.

As to Fort Knox.—There has been for some time no more force than is now proposed, which is only necessary as a guard. The settlement is of itself an overmatch for the feeble Indians in the vicinity; who, besides, will be within the speedy stroke of the main body.

As to Fort Pickering.—The considerations mentioned by General Wilkinson are referred.

As to Fort Adams..—I make the like reference. This is an essential point. It is on a height which completely commands the river and the surrounding country, and, according to General Wilkinson, can easily be put in a state to defy every thing but famine with a garrison of about two hundred men. The force allowed will always afford this garrison.

As to Fort Stoddard.—This is now occupied with a company. It is critical as to an important river. The Indians are in the habit of seeing it occupied by the Spaniards. It commands an important communication with the powerful nations of savages in the neighborhood, and it is calculated to have an influence upon them. It is in the bosom of a white settlement. These are reasons for keeping it as a post. But an objection to it is, that at present it can with difficulty be supplied otherwise than through the Spanish territory. To make it proper as a permanent one, an easy communication through our own territory must be established. General Wilkinson says this is practicable.

I take no notice of the other posts suggested by Edition: current; Page: [124]General Wilkinson to be established along our Southern line; because, in his own view they are eventual. The Indians must be first reconciled there. And leaving a regiment for Georgia and Tennessee there is no present force for the purpose. It is also liable to the objection of an extreme frittering of our force.

I do not concur with General Wilkinson in the disposition of the corps de reserve. He would have it in the neighborhood of Fort Adams (say Natchez). I propose for it the vicinity of the rapids of the Ohio.

On General Wilkinson’s plan its great utility would be narrowed to a point, the meeting in the first instance an invasion from below, and in case of rupture of a prompt attack upon New Orleans.

But the strength of the reserve alone could not be relied upon as adequate to either object. If a superior force from below should attack, the principal body of our regular force might in the outset be defeated, dissipated, and lost. Thus depriving the militia of a necessary support might lead to greater misfortunes. If an attack is to be made, as little as possible should be left to chance, and consequently the force ought to be greater than the plan would admit.

The stationing of a large body below would give jealousy to the Spaniards, and lead to the measure of augmenting their regular force by drawing reinforcements from some other quarter.

Stationed above, no jealousy will be excited. For attack or defence the regular force can descend with the addition of the force of the country. Concerted and combined operations may insure efficiency.

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In this situation the force will look to various points: to the northern Indians, to the disaffected of the neighboring country, etc., etc. Enough is said. Your reflection will supply the rest.

I send this letter without a copy, that I may not lose a post, as time and the season urge. Favor me as soon as possible with your observations and directions, for which I wait.

With the greatest respect and affection, etc., etc.

P. S.—Presque Isle is very healthy situation, and capable of much defence. The neighboring country is fast growing powerful, so as to take care of itself.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—In recurring to your letter of the 29th of August, I observe there are points which, for a clear understanding, require from me some observations.

I shall make this preliminary remark, that in presenting them with emphasis, as I am accustomed to do, I am actuated by the sole and exclusive motive of showing by particular instances that the past plan has been productive of imperfect results, and that more comprehensive and adequate measures are necessary for the future.

Our provisions have been made too much on the spur of the occasion, have been too generally confined to the absolutely necessary for the moment, rejecting the idea of surplus for future casualties and exigencies. This defect in our plan is not imputable Edition: current; Page: [126]to any one individual. It may be traced partly to the immaturity of our institutions and affairs, and partly to errors of opinion which embraced persons in various situations.

I am sensible that important steps, both legislative and administrative, have been taken toward a more provident and efficacious system; but a frequent contemplation of the imperfections of the past plan ought to have the effect of increasing the tendency toward improvement.

I must at the same time be permitted to add, that, in my opinion, the want of a proper organization of agents in the various branches of the public service, and of a correct and systematic delineation of their relative duties, has been a material cause of the imperfect results which have been experienced; that it continues to embarrass every operation, and that while it lasts it cannot fail to enfeeble and disorder every part of the service.

To exemplify the present defect of organization, it is sufficient to refer to the situation of the quartermaster-general’s department, of the medical establishment, and of that of the pay office. The paymaster-general, with propriety, is stationed at the seat of government; but he has no deputy either at my head-quarters or at that of General Pinckney.

I am sensible that where the appointment of the chief requires the consent of the Senate, it must now be deferred to the future meeting of that body, and that the subordinate persons whom the law places in the choice of those chiefs, cannot be constituted without them; but temporary arrangements may Edition: current; Page: [127]still be made as a substitute; and I confess my anxiety that this may be done, either immediately by you or by your direction to General Pinckney and myself, each to regulate the matter within the sphere of his command.

Permit me earnestly to request that this business of organization in all its branches may engage a prompt and decisive attention. Till this shall have been the case, no commanding officer can perform well his peculiar duties; as his time and attention might be engrossed in details, which are foreign to his station. And the consequence must be inefficiency and disorder.

I proceed to some particulars of your letter.

You observe that you consider it as the duty of the commanding general not only to make returns of all articles, among these clothing wanted for his troops, but to make them in such season as to allow of making up and transporting them to their destinations.

If this idea shall be adhered to, I shall be very ready to perform my part; but I should wish a more precise definition of the objects. What are the articles to be embraced? There are some objects, as artillery, muskets, etc., of which it is always to be presumed there are sufficient quantities constantly ready in the public arsenals and magazines. What time or times will be deemed proper for the transmission of the returns? Are the destinations in detail to be pointed out or not?

But I beg leave to recommend the point to a serious reconsideration; and I will take the liberty to Edition: current; Page: [128]offer some reflections in relation to it, which seem to me to deserve attention.

The total force which is to compose the military establishment is regulated by law. That force, as prescribed by law, is itself the standard of all ordinary supplies to be provided, which ought always rather to exceed than fall short of the complement. The secretary at War consequently possesses ipso facto the rule which is to govern as to providing all fixed and stated supplies.

If this force is to be divided into different armies, still the aggregate of supply must be the same. Besides, that distribution will be arranged by the Secretary at War in concert with the Commander-in-Chief. If left to the discretion of the latter, he only is competent to furnish the criterion.

It follows, that the principal articles of supply, all those which are not dependent on the particular nature of military movements, will always depend on the establishment, and will not be to be regulated by the returns from particular generals.

The temporary strength of corps, at one time increased by the accession of recruits, at another diminished by the casualties of service, ought never to be a guide in providing; because such a standard is fluctuating and uncertain, and because the supply ought to be commensurate with the full complement of the establishment.

The commanding general, who should have to present an estimate to the head of the War Department, (and whose agency as to the ordinary and stated supplies is rendered unnecessary by the circumstance Edition: current; Page: [129]of there being other data previously in the possession of the department,) would be bound to govern himself in his estimate by the scale of the establishment, and not by the temporary state of things.

Requisitions, from time to time, for the issuing of supplies, may fall under a different consideration. These would have reference to the actual state of the forces; but these do not answer to the import of the terms you employ, which appear to aim at some annual, or other periodical estimate to govern the providing as well as the issuing of the articles.

Premising these things as objections to the idea you have suggested in its full latitude, it remains to examine what is the proper course.

The head of the War Department must no doubt be aided by agents who are conversant in the various branches of supply and competent judges of what may be wanted.

These agents ought to be certain officers, or boards established at the seat of government, more permanently fixed in their stations than the precarious commander of a particular army; such as the purveyor of supplies, a board or master of ordnance; or, instead of these, the inspector of artillery, the superintendent of military stores; which officers ought to be aided by information from the chiefs of the branches of supply connected with the army, as in our present system the quartermaster-general, etc.

These latter officers being under the direction of the military commanders, would be obliged to communicate with them to receive their instructions, Edition: current; Page: [130]and to inform them of what is done or intended, so that they may be apprised of the competency of the provision made or to be made, and may be able to direct calls, or to represent to the head of the War Department such further provision as they may judge expedient.

As to the supplies to be from time to time issued, requisitions ought to come from the chiefs of the several branches of supply, acting with the armies, to those officers who at the seat of government are charged with providing and furnishing the respective articles.

As on the one hand, the complement of the establishment will be the guide in providing, so on the other, the returns of actual force to the Secretary at War from the commander of each army, will, in the first instance, be a collateral guide to the officers, and a check upon extravagant demands, and the accounts afterwards to be rendered will show the application.

The forming of the permanent arsenals and magazines of a country, which ought to be always prepared to furnish the principal articles of supply, is naturally a work of administration, predicated upon an entire view of the political and military relations, and the forces and resources of the country. When these are thus formed, how few are the objects to which the estimate of a particular general can apply? How are the partial and detached estimates of several particular generals to reach the full extent of the supplies aggregately necessary? How is each to make his estimate of what may be requisite, unless each has under his eye the entire state of all the national Edition: current; Page: [131]arsenals and magazines, and enters into a minute examination of all the issues which may have been made? If he is to do all this upon his own responsibility, what time will he have for his purely military duties? Is it proper in theory that each general having a separate command should possess complete view of the state of all the public arsenals and magazines?

I conclude, that from the nature of the thing, the business of procuring and of issuing supplies ought, in a general view, to be unconnected with the particular commander of a particular army; that it is properly a business of administration, in which the head of the War Department is to be aided by the subordinate organs of his department stationed at the seat of government, and by the heads of the several branches of supply who act with the armies.

The agency of the Commander-in-Chief, and the commanders of particular armies, where requisite, ought to be collateral and auxiliary, not direct and primary.

It is true, that there is a class of supplies which, being governed by the actual operations contemplated—such as transportation, forage, etc.—must be regulated by estimates and returns to come from the armies. But even in these cases, the responsible persons to make the estimates and returns, ought to be the chief or chiefs of the departments of supply with the armies, who ought previously to submit their estimates and returns to the military commanders, in order that they may be transmitted with their opinions and observations.

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Thus far it is conceived, the agency of the commanding general may be useful and proper. But the scheme of it, as now indicated, supposes as a preliminary, the appointment of the proper heads of the several branches of supply.

Indeed, this preliminary is essential to every form of agency in this respect, which may be assigned to a commanding general. It is not presumable in principle, and would never be found true in fact, that the general of an army is so minutely acquainted with all the details of supply as to be qualified to present a correct view of all the objects which may be requisite, without the intervention of those officers whose peculiar province it is to manage the business of supply.

As to the subject of pay, it would seem from your manner of expression to be your idea, that the warrant of a commanding general must be founded on certificates of the paymaster-general. But I must conclude that this cannot be your meaning; as a very natural and fair construction of the laws will for this services substitute to him his deputy with each army; and as it is essential, in practice, that the interpretation should admit of this substitution. How else are the troops remote from the paymaster-general to be paid at all? Consider, especially, the position of the Western army.

When the law of the 8th of May, 1792, which charges the duty on the paymaster-general was passed, there was but one army—hence that act designates him singly.

But the act of the 3d of March last, contemplating Edition: current; Page: [133]that there may be several different armies, provides that there shall be a deputy paymaster-general to each of them, without particularly defining his duties. It is evident that he must be intended to perform duties, and important ones; what are they? The law being silent, they are of course all such as the paymaster-general is to perform where he may be; except as to any particular one, which, from the nature of things, ought to be confined to the chief. On any other principles, the deputy will be as much excluded from one duty as from another, which was before performed by his chief, and the appointment will become nugatory.

I infer that all moneys for the purpose of paying the pay, subsistence, and forage of the troops, must still be delivered in the first instance by the treasurer to the paymaster-general, because this is conducive to union and to a regular chain of accountability; but that the paymaster is to deliver over to each deputy in mass a sum sufficient to answer all these purposes with the army to which he is attached, and the deputy is to disburse it in detail, and to exercise all the services preparatory to that disbursement, which by the first law were charged upon the paymaster-general, including that of certifying the sums due, to the commanding-general.

Principles of law, no less than those of convenience, warrant this construction, beyond the possibility of doubt, after mature reflection.

Accordingly, in consequence of a representation of difficulty, on the point of warrants, by the paymaster-general, I have advised him, as the legal and Edition: current; Page: [134]proper remedy, to appoint without delay one deputy to the troops under the command of General Pinckney, another to that under my command. I confidently trust that you will approve, and, if necessary, enforce this advice; the ground of it is unquestionably solid.

The course which you indicate in the last paragraph but one of your letter, appears to me perfectly correct and convenient.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—Part of the contents of your letter of the 10th of July last, (which has happened to escape a definitive attention,) being connected with the subject of the 7th September, I shall reply to them together.

Previous to the receipt of the last, I had drafted rules relating to extra expenses, which after careful revision I send for your determination. They contemplate, it will be seen, a discretion, to make exceptions in special cases. The rule in such matters cannot be entirely absolute without involving too much embarrassment. As the establishment of a general rule will attach a particular responsibility to each deviation from it, it will, in the main, prevent unnecessary deviations. The regulations do not include the restrictions which may be thought fit to be laid on the commanding generals. These, it is supposed, had better be the subject of particular communications by letter to those officers.

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The two other points mentioned in your letter of the 10th of July, shall now be attended to.

First, as to compensation or allowances to servants not soldiers. It appears to me a clear point, that the resolution of Congress of March, 1780, is not in force, and consequently cannot be an authority for such allowances. There being no other, it is not seen how any general practice of the government could be now supported. With regard to the expediency of the practice on principle, I have strong doubts. I fear that it might lead to the abuse of compensations for nominal servants, while soldiers would still be the real ones. Pretexts of sickness, etc., in the hurry of a campaign, might disguise the abuse. I question, too, whether in time of peace it would be advisable to augment the public expense by the addition of persons of this description.

I incline most to the plan of the Great Frederick, which was to let the officers, in time of peace, be served by the ordinary soldiers; in time of war by supernumeraries, specially enlisted for the purpose, and discriminated by a distinct uniform or livery, forbidding the soldiers of the ranks on any pretence to be employed in this capacity. This practice procured all the advantage without the dangers of the other plan.

The number of servants which it is conceived proper to allow to the respective grades of officers, are—

To the commander-in-chief, or general having a separate command, three, without arms, to attend him on horseback.

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To the inspector-general, quartermaster-general, each major-general not having a separate command, and to the adjutant-general, two of the like description.

To a brigadier-general, paymaster-general, deputy quartermaster-general, deputy inspector-general, one of the above description, and one with arms.

To each field-officer, and every other officer who ordinarily serves on horseback, one of the first-mentioned description.

To every officer who usually serves on foot, one with arms.

The servants required to have arms in all general exercises, marches, and movements, are to be found in the ranks. When annexed to officers detached from corps, they must join the guards connected with such officers or their baggage. In the cases in which they would be otherwise without arms, if they are attached to officers of dragoons, they will retain their arms.

The drawing of provisions for children appears to me inadmissible, and, as far as I know, unusual. They are, without this, incumbrance enough, when in camp or quarters, especially in the camp of a campaign.

I remark, incidentally, that it is to be wished that a corps of invalids, and an establishment for the maintenance and education of the children of persons in the army and navy, were provided for by law. Policy, justice, and humanity forbid the abandoning to want and misery men who have spent their best years in the military service of a country, Edition: current; Page: [137]or who, in that service, have contracted infirmities which disqualify them to earn their bread in other modes.

Employment might be found for such a corps which would indemnify the public for the mere maintenance of its members in clothing, lodging, and food. The United States is perhaps the only country in which an institution of this nature is not to be found—a circumstance, which, if continued, will be discreditable. The establishment as to children is recommended by similar motives, with the additional consideration that they may be rendered by it useful members of society, and acquisitions to the army and navy as musicians, etc. I shall wait for your opinion as to the abolition of issues to children.

You will observe what articles are supposed by me to be proper to be furnished by the contractors. These are the only ones which I recollect, as of ordinary and stated supply, that will not naturally come from the superintendent of military stores. Contingent or extra articles had better be under the management of the agents. As to the scale of allowance in each case, this has either been regulated by your department, or has already been the subject of some former communication from me, except in the instance of forage. I forbear to offer any scale for this article, because I take it for granted that one is already established on the basis of long experience.

If your are desirous of a revision of it by me, I shall be ready to obey your orders for the purpose.1

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Regulations Respecting Certain Supplies, and Respecting Special and Extra Expense

The several contractors, besides rations, including ardent spirits and vinegar, shall only provide and furnish quarters, transportation, forage, fuel, straw, stationery, and, where there shall be no other provision for the purpose, medical assistance.

The quarters intended are those of a temporary kind. The power to provide them shall not extend to the building or repairing of barracks. In what they furnish, they shall govern themselves exclusively by the regulations which shall have been established by law or by the War Department; and, where none exist, by the orders of the particular commanding officer.

No barrack or other building shall be erected but by order of the quartermaster-general, the deputy quartermaster-general, or, in a separate command, Edition: current; Page: [139]the commander of an army, or the commander within a separate military district or department, or of the Secretary at War. No repairs shall be made to any barrack or building which shall incur a disbursement of money exceeding fifty dollars; but, by the like order, where there are several distinct forts or posts in a subdivision of a great military district, united under the command of an intermediate superior, the particular commandant of either of those posts shall not cause any such repairs to be made, though occasioning no greater expense than fifty dollars, without a previous report to such superior, and his approbation. No extra expense for any special object or purpose shall be incurred by such particular commandant, without a previous report to the said superior; who, when such expense may exceed fifty dollars, shall not authorize it without first obtaining the sanction of his superior. The commandant of a particular fort or district, having no intermediate superior, shall incur no expense for repairs, nor any extra expense for any special object or purpose, which may require a disbursement exceeding fifty dollars, without the permission of the commander of the army or district, or of the Secretary at War.

As often as any matter which may require any special or extra expense can wait, without material injury to the service, for a communication to and the direction of the commander of an army or district, it is not to be undertaken till after such communication and direction shall have been had.

These regulations admit of exceptions in cases of extraordinary emergency and of peculiar urgency, Edition: current; Page: [140]when the service would be likely to suffer materially from the delay which might attend the observance of them. Every such exception will be on the special responsibility of the officer by whom it may be made, who must immediately report to his superior the occasion, and the expense, probable or actual. The commander of an army, or within a great district, may, by instructions in writing, to be forthwith communicated to the Secretary at War, make exceptions in cases where the remoteness of the fort or post shall render the application of these regulations manifestly inconvenient; intrusting a large discretion to the commandant of such fort or post.

The quartermaster-general, his deputies and assistants, are primarily charged with the making of the disbursements in the cases above mentioned. When there is no such officer, the agent of the War Department in the vicinity shall do it. All orders for such disbursement must be definite, and in writing, to be transmitted with the accounts of them to the accountant of the War Department.

hamilton to colonel moore

New York,

I have received your letter of the 17th instant, and regret extremely the event of which it informs me. Although it is not my intention to contravene military prejudices on the subject, yet I doubt not you will agree with me that it is proper to discourage a spirit which would lead to frequent events of this Edition: current; Page: [141]nature. I have been the more naturally led to this reflection, as I am informed by General Wilkinson that the practice of duelling in the Western army has been carried to an extreme in every view reprehensible and injurious. I must request from you a particular statement of the circumstances of this unhappy affair.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I have communicated to Colonel Bentley your resolution, as expressed in your letter of the 30th of August, in respect to the late appointments for his regiment.

But the occasion claims from me some remarks, as due to my own opinion of propriety and the good of the service.

I cannot doubt that the practice of your department, as to the filling of vacancies in new corps, previous to your coming into it, was just as you state; but in the latitude in which it is stated, I cannot easily be persuaded that it is such a practice as ought to be continued, or that it is not of a nature to sow the seeds of permanent discontent in the infancy of every corps.

I can, nevertheless, agree in the position of the Commander-in-Chief, that when, in the case of a newly created corps, an officer declines his appointment, during the act of formation, the vacancy is not necessarily to be filled by the next in seniority.

But this is a rule rather to be narrowed than extended in its application; because it clashes with Edition: current; Page: [142]expectations that will inevitably grow up in the minds of officers, and in which their pride and self-love will always take a very active part. It is, in my opinion, to carry it to an impolitic extreme, to say that it shall operate until “the regiment, legion, or corps has been recruited, or nearly so, and has marched to head-quarters.” And to apply it to a single case of promotion is to mistake its principle, as, from the subsequent expressions of the Commander-in-Chief, may be inferred to be his idea. The rule is naturally confined to the case of an officer in the original creation, who declines his appointment; in other words, who refuses to accept. The moment a station has been filled by acceptance, though but for a day, the right of promotion attaches to it, and, if becoming afterward vacant, it is filled by a new person, this is a violation of the principles of service and of the just expectations of subordinate officers. It is not a correct answer to this to say, that a corps “is open to new appointments,” or, as I understand the phrase, that the right of promotion does not commence till after the relative rank of the officers who have been appointed has been settled.

The want of a settlement of relative rank among them only leaves it doubtful what individual of their number shall succeed, but it does not involve any doubt whether aggregately they do not exclude a stranger. There is still a clear right of some one of them to succeed, to be effectuated as soon as the relative rank is established; and new persons ought to come in junior to them all.

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The appointment, therefore, of a new person in the place of one designated to an office in the regimental staff, to take precedence of others before appointed, is irregular, and not warranted by the rule, if taken within just limits, or within the definition of the Commander-in-Chief.

Even the practice of introducing new men to vacancies occasioned by the non-acceptance of officers in the original appointment, ought not, in my judgment, to be continued till the corps should have been recruited or nearly so, and marched to head-quarters, as you state to have been the case.

This may be so long protracted as to postpone inconveniently the routine of promotion, and produce dissatisfaction. A reasonable period should be fixed within which acceptances may with due diligence be ascertained—suppose three months from the first appointment of officers. To keep the thing open for a year or more, which is likely to be the case in the present instance, if the completion of the regiment should be the criterion, could not fail to beget discontent even in men of moderate and subordinate tempers.

The recommendation of persons as officers by the commandants of regiments ought, I think, when the contrary is not expressed, to be understood to mean, that they shall come in as junior second lieutenants. If I recollect rightly, in one or two instances of an early date they have expressed the contrary, and relying upon their judgment of the probable effect on their regiments, I have countenanced the recommendation. But I am clearly of opinion that this Edition: current; Page: [144]ought not to be the case in future; and that, considering the length of time which has elapsed since the organization of the regiment, it is indispensable that the routine of promotion shall henceforth prevail, with the exception perhaps of the fifth regiment, in consideration of the receiving of the appointments for it.

Military prejudices are not only inseparable from, but they are essential to, the military profession.

The government which desires to have a satisfied and useful army must consult them. They cannot be moulded at its pleasure; it is vain to aim at it.

I must entreat, sir, that the observations which I have offered in this letter may be attentively weighed. They are urged upon mature reflection, and are believed to be material to your satisfaction and that of the officers-principal in command, to the satisfaction of all the officers, present and future, to whom they are applicable, and to the harmonious course of our military affairs.

With great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, etc.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I feel it as a mark of consideration for my recommendation, that notwithstanding the force of the difficulties which in your view operate against further advances not founded upon the prescribed forms, you are pleased to declare that you will once Edition: current; Page: [145]more give your sanction to the measure. I must entreat you even to go a step further, and to order that it be without fail done. For symptoms bordering on mutiny, for the want of pay, have been reported to me as having appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth regiments; and discontents, less turbulent, have been communicated from several other quarters. An explosion anywhere would injure and discredit the service, and, wherever the blame might really be, would be shared by all. No one can be more deeply impressed than I am with the necessity of a strict adherence to general rules and to established forms. But there will occur circumstances in which these ought to be dispensed with, and it is equally important to judge rightly when exceptions ought to be admitted, as when the general rule ought to be maintained.

The creation of a new army, in which every officer from the highest to the lowest is of new appointment, and in respect to which, in and out of the administration, there is a deficiency of some essential organs, presents a case which with the utmost diligence and care will require and justify relaxations.

For instance, the law and the instructions of the Treasury Department require that the pay of the troops shall be founded upon warrants of the commanding general, regulated by the reports of the paymaster-general; or, as I maintain the construction of the late law to be, of his deputy, with a separate command. How was that practicable when the paymaster-general was at Cincinnati, and Edition: current; Page: [146]he had no deputy anywhere? How can it now be done with reasonable convenience and expedition, when he resides at Philadelphia, and he has no deputy attached either to my command or to that of General Pinckney?

Again, muster- and pay-rolls are to be in certain precise forms, prescribed by the Treasury; these forms were received by me only four days since, and consequently could not hitherto be in the possession of the commandants of regiments. It will not be said that I ought to have called for them; because certainly it lies with the department to communicate its own regulations uncalled for. Are the soldiery to suffer a privation of pay for several months, because these forms, never prescribed, have not been fulfilled?

It is true that when I was at the head of the Treasury Department, these forms passed under my eye; but it is less true that I had forgotten the circumstance, and that considering it as an attribute of the inspector-general to devise forms, where none were before established by higher authority, I had caused to be prepared forms of muster- and pay-rolls to answer the present exigency. Surely, as the matter is situated, these forms ought provisionally at least to serve as substitutes for the established ones.

Various other particulars might be added to prove that dispensations with the ordinary forms ought to take place in relation to the new regiments; but the foregoing are sufficient for the illustration.

Every effort, no doubt, ought to be made, and on Edition: current; Page: [147]my part will be made as fast as possible, to put this and every other matter in its proper and regular train; but time is requisite, and the organs which depend on administrative authority must first be instituted.

The Treasury as well as the War Department has too often experienced the necessity of accommodating relaxations in special cases, not readily to admit upon reflection that they are right in the existing position of our new army.

As to the persons who are to muster the twelve regiments, they are, by my direction, the commandant of the regiment, and the surgeon, or person officiating in that capacity. It seems to me that, till inspectors are appointed, nothing could be done which would promise greater security to the public. I did not like to multiply agents; I consider that this is substantially conformable to the instruction from the Treasury, and will be so understood; if not, you will please to inform me.

With great respect, I have the honor to be, sir,

Your obedient servant, etc.

hamilton to col. moore

New York,

Sir:—I have received your letter of the 28th instant, and shall make but one inquiry more with respect to the unfortunate affair between Lieut—and Capt—You will be so good as to inform me of the particular subject on which the political Edition: current; Page: [148]dispute turned, and of the principles that were maintained by the respective parties. The information I am anxious to receive.

I am pleased with the pains you have take to discourage a repetition of such instances. If examples were wanting to illustrate the pernicious effects of drinking to intoxication, the present unfortunate affair would be a very instructive one. How necessary is it, as well by the means which affect the pride and delicacy of officers, as by those which are furnished by the principles of discipline, to discountenance so ungentlemanly a propensity. You have the leave of absence which you request.

hamilton to col. moore

New York,

Sir—It is afflicting to learn that such a dispute as you state in your letter of the 3d instant should have occurred between two officers of the American army. Particular attachment to any foreign nation is an exotic sentiment which, where it exist, must derogate from the exclusive affection due to our own country. Partiality to France at this late day is a bad symptom. The profession of it by Capt.—, in my opinion, does him no honor. How far it ought to impair confidence, must depend in a degree on personal character. But as often as a similar bias is manifested, the conduct of the person ought to engage the vigilant attention of the commanding officer. I hesitate as to what my duty requires on Edition: current; Page: [149]the occasion, and must think further of the matter. You will be pleased to ascertain, and inform me whether Lieut.— be an American citizen or not. You will receive another letter of this date on the subject of winter quarters.

With confidence and esteem.

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—It is now time to contemplate the distribution of the troops of the United States into divisions and brigades. The arrangement which appears to me expedient for the present is this: “That the four old regiments shall form one division and two brigades; the twelve new ones, two divisions and four brigades.”

The very great sphere of action to which the former are destined, including important and complicated objects appears to me to render it expedient that not more than two regiments shall constitute a brigade. But the latter, till there should be actual service, when the system supposes that the number of each regiment would be increased, may, for the mere purposes of discipline, be conveniently formed three to a brigade. The disposition for winter quarters accords with this idea.

Correspondent officers should be appointed, who are principally generals, quartermasters, and inspectors.

The latter are of the competency of the inspector-general, Edition: current; Page: [150]who will proceed without delay to make the appointments.

If the non-appointment of the quartermaster-general, provided for by the Act of the 3d of March last for the better organizing of the army, or the absence of the former quartermaster-general, be an impediment to the regular course of constituting a deputy quartermaster-general to each military district, and division and brigade quartermasters, a substitute must be adopted.

Usage, founded on necessity in similar cases, would authorize each commanding general to designate persons provisorily to perform the duties. But he cannot annex the extra compensation, and without this, or the expectation of it, the business would labor.

I request your interposition. I deem essential the immediate appointment within my command of a deputy quartermaster-general, and one division and two brigade quartermasters; and I will observe incidentally, that the same thing must be requisite within the command of General Pinckney.

As to generals, the President must decide. With the Western army there is no major-general and one brigadier. Two brigadiers were appointed for the additional army, but no more than one is understood to have accepted. I am anxious that the deficiency should be supplied. The discipline of the troops ought to be accelerated. It must suffer more or less as often as one organ is transferred from its proper situation to another. I entreat a prompt decision on the subject of quartermaster.

Edition: current; Page: [151]

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—I have the honor to transmit the plan which is conceived to be proper for the disposition of the four regiments of the permanent establishment. It is the result of communications with General Wilkinson and the Commander-in-Chief, and accords with the opinion of the latter.

The principal objects of this plan are: 1. The distribution of the troops by corps in contiguous relative positions, keeping the men embodied under their own officers, and making the commandants of regiments and battalions to superintend their respective corps; an arrangement no less favorable to the convenience and regularity of supply than to the order and discipline of the troops. 2. The reduction of the number of posts; some of which, however useful when originally occupied, can, under existing circumstances, answer no valuable purpose, but tend to subdivide too much our inconsiderable force, and to increase the difficulty and expense of supply. 3. The obtaining of a reserve force, which, being stationed in a central position, will bear upon various points either for succor or attack, and by its concentration will be capable of discipline and ready for active and efficient efforts. 4. The promotion of economy, by lessening the garrisons of some of the most remote stations, and bringing a principal part of the force to a situation where it can be supplied with comparative cheapness.

In judging of the effect of the plan in the last view, it is necessary to advert that the present low state of Edition: current; Page: [152]the corps, in point of numbers, is not the criterion. In the natural order of service, the recruits would reinforce them several companies, and in this case the actual distribution of the troops would give to posts in the most expensive situations greater numbers than are allotted to them by the present plan.

The reduction of the garrison of Michilimackinac, in particular, has been very much influenced by the consideration of economy. This motive was the more readily yielded to, as it is not perceived that a greater number there, if bearing any proportion to the whole force which we have to employ in the Western quarter, would answer any better purpose than the number proposed to be continued. This number will serve to occupy the point as one of the portals of the country, and to cover the few white inhabitants there settled. In a suitable fortification, especially as the site is an island, it may effectually resist Indian attack; and any greater number which could be spared could neither act offensively against them, nor maintain themselves against serious attack from our English neighbors. In the last supposition the increase of number, from the impracticability of reinforcement and succor, would only serve to increase loss.

It is not understood that the station procures to us at the present juncture any commercial advantage, but in this respect is principally convenient to the British traders in peltry, who, in their intercourse with the neighboring Indians, have a rendezvous at this place.

The primary inducement to us to keep a post Edition: current; Page: [153]there is, as before intimated, to retain the occupation of what may be considered as one of the portals of our Northwestern Territory, and to avoid the appearance to the Indians of an abandonment of that part of the country. It contributes also, in some degree, to an influence over the tribes connected with Lake Michigan; and in time to come it may be an encouragement to the enterprises of American traders. But all these ends will, it is conceived, be accomplished by a small force.

The force now upon the lower parts of the Mississippi will also be reduced.

It is conceived that the number contemplated by the plan will be sufficient to garrison and maintain the forts which ought at this time to exist in that region, to impress with due respect the adjacent Indians, to give reasonable protection to the inhabitants, and to keep such of them as may have foreign attachments in check. A greater number would be inexpedient, because any number which the state of our military establishment would permit to be stationed there would not be adequate to the repelling of a serious attack from our neighbors, and, being out of the reach of succor, would, for that reason, be in imminent danger of total defeat and loss; while it would be still more inadequate to an offensive operation, and, by its proximity, would be likely to create alarm and occasion reinforcement.

In the event of an invasion from below, our reserved force placed on the Ohio, reinforced by the militia, to which it would be a rallying point, can descend to meet it with effect, or can take such other Edition: current; Page: [154]measures as circumstances may dictate. If a rupture with Spain should induce us to become the invaders, the force assigned to the undertaking can rapidly descend the Mississippi, and, being at a great distance, will have a better chance of making its approach and of arriving unexpectedly, than if stationed at a place which by its nearness would excite jealousy and vigilance.

But I agree in opinion with General Wilkinson, that a strongly fortified post ought to guard our extremity on the Mississippi. It will not only serve as an impediment to invasion by the Spaniards, but will have an impressive influence on the powerful tribes of Indians in our Southwestern Territory. Loftus’ Heights (where you are informed a fortification is begun), according to the description and plans communicated by General Wilkinson, is peculiarly designated as the proper site of such a post. It is near our southern line, by much the highest point in an extensive district of country, and commands the narrowest part of the river. The dimensions of the summit are understood to correspond with a fort which may be defended with about two hundred men, and which would protect the batteries in advance towards the river, and in other directions. I concur in the expediency of occupying this height with a regular fortification of stone or brick, garnished into the proper exterior batteries. Bricks, I am assured, are easily made in the vicinity. Inclosed is an estimate of the probable expense. Though by no means an advocate for multiplying, in the present circumstances of the country, the number of our fortifications, Edition: current; Page: [155]already too great, I entertain no doubt of the expediency of the one in question, and the object is well worth the probable expense.

It will be seen that a battalion is assigned to the care of this fort, and of another now possessed on the Mobile.

The propriety of continuing the latter post may, however, depend on circumstances. It is useful for the protection of an existing settlement, and will add to the influence of our establishment upon the minds of the Indians; but the supply of it difficult and expensive, and it is now effected through the Spanish territory. In case of a diminution of amity with Spain, that circumstance would compel to a removal, unless another channel can be conveniently opened. Indeed, if this cannot be shortly done, it will hardly be proper to retain the post. The duration of the arrangement, in this particular, may, therefore, be considered as contingent.

The position which has been chosen for the reserve corps has various aspects. It looks to the succor of the more northern as well as the more southern posts, and will be likely to control efficaciously the Northwestern Indians; it has an eye to a co-operation with the troops in the State of Tennessee, whenever a good communication shall be established, which is conceived to be an object of pressing moment; and it is convenient for a descent by the river Mississippi, for offensive operations against our neighbors on the south, if future circumstances should recommend them. But, as well with a view to defence as offence, it is deemed Edition: current; Page: [156]requisite to prepare and keep ready below the rapids of the Ohio a number of boats equal to the transportation of three thousand men, with baggage, stores, provisions, artillery, and other apparatus. The number and the estimate of their cost will be found herewith.

A firm occupation of the straits which connect Lake Erie with the Huron and Ontario, appears to me a material point. It is doubtful whether the posts now on those straits are the best adapted to that end either as to local situation or construction. But unfortunately the want of a skilful engineer (a very painful circumstance in our military affairs) is an obstacle to the due examination of this point. It is, nevertheless, one which must be attended to, as early as shall be practicable. It would seem to me desirable erelong to have on each strait, a work suited to about a thousand men, with an interior work in the nature of a citadel, adapted to about two hundred. These might be expected to secure the place against a coup de main with a small force, and the growth of settlement in the vicinity will soon furnish through the militia the means of augmenting the garrison upon a sudden emergency. The good understanding which at this time subsists between the United States and Great Britain, justifies an arrangement less efficient than that just intimated. But the permanency of friendship between nations is too little to be relied upon not to render it prudent to look forward to more substantial precautions than are immediately meditated. You will likewise have observed that particular attention is paid to Massac. Edition: current; Page: [157]In my opinion, very cogent and comprehensive reasons render it the policy of the United States to secure and command the confluence of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with the Ohio, and of the Ohio with the Mississippi. To this end respectable fortifications, to be gradually executed, are necessary.

The leading motives to the plan, which I have the honor to submit, have been sketched; considerations not mentioned will readily present themselves to your reflections as having operated on parts of the plan. Among these, the maintenance of the troops on moderate terms has not been overlooked in the choice of the principal station.

Nothing particular has been said as to the regiment allotted to General Pinckney’s command because the disposition of it belongs to him.

But the plan which I offer requires your interposition to give it effect within the limits of that officer’s district. There are now there a regiment and part of another. An instruction from you is necessary to incorporate the men so as to form one full regiment—marching the overplus to Harper’s Ferry, to be sent in the spring to the Ohio.

The fourth regiment will naturally be that to be assigned to Tennessee and Georgia. The men of the third, now in Georgia, can continue there, but transferred to the fourth. These, with those at present under Colonel Butler, in Tennessee, will make a full regiment. And the recruits, under Major Bradley, may at once be sent to Harper’s Ferry. In the course of the winter the officers of the third, in Georgia, can Edition: current; Page: [158]repair to Harper’s Ferry, and a sufficient number of those of the fourth can replace them in Georgia.

An arrangement for the officers of the four old regiments is now submitted to your consideration; when approved, no time will be lost in bringing officers and men together at the several stations. At present they are extremely mingled and confused; officers of one regiment are with the men of another, and so great is the disorder that I am assured that in one instance two companies are mustered to the same captain—I allude to the case of Captain—.

It is alike important and urgent to be enabled to carry this arrangement into execution, or with such alterations as you may think fit to prescribe. The advanced state of the season renders it necessary that General Wilkinson should depart without delay. This he cannot do until he receives my instructions, and these cannot be given to him until I shall receive your answer to this communication; my antecedent authority not being commensurate with all the objects contemplated, and the Commander-in-Chief having confined himself to advice without giving directions.

With perfect respect and esteem,

I have the honor to be, sir,

Your obedient servant, etc.1

Edition: current; Page: [159]

hamilton to caleb gibbs.1

New York,

Sir:—I have received your very improper letter of the 30th of September. This is not the first instance of my life in which good offices on my part have met with an ill return.

When you were informed, that the Commander-in-Chief (who, aided by General Pinckney and myself, made, in the first instance, the nomination of officers for the twelve regiments) had presented your name for the place of lieutenant-colonel commandant, you had an explanation of what I meant, when I wrote to you that your disappointment had not proceeded from want of friendship in General Washington or myself—what could I do more than co-operate in your nomination to the President? This I did, and with great cordiality. What agency can I be supposed to have had after this? Evidently whatever happened subsequently is as foreign to me as to General Washington.

’T is therefore as curious as it is unbecoming to interrogate me in a peremptory and even censorious manner about the causes which may have induced the President to reject the nomination. It is true that collaterally, and after the thing was determined upon, I heard what they were, but it was in a manner which did not leave me at liberty to explain to you. This I before hinted, and you must, on reflection, see the impropriety of your having addressed me on the subject as you have done. It is very certain that Edition: current; Page: [160]you never can nor will have an explanation from me on the point.

If any one has wickedly endeavored to make you believe that there has been any thing uncandid or unfriendly in my conduct, you ought to despise the author of such an attempt to impose on your understanding. If you have inferred it from the reserves in my mode of writing to you on the subject, you formed as false an estimate of what the delicacy of my situation required as you did of my true character.

I am, sir,
Your humble servant, etc.

hamilton to wilkinson

New York,

Sir:—The copious explanations which have been had between us in conversation, on the subjects of your several communications of the 6th of September, 12th, 15th, 19th and 27th instant, will abridge the observations naturally connected with the plan which has been adopted as the result, and which forms the object of the present instruction.

This plan, as you know, has the same basis with that which has been presented by you. As far as there may be variances in the application of principles, collateral considerations have chiefly influenced.

It is contained in the inclosed paper, A. The letters between the Secretary of War and myself, of which B, C, D, and E are copies, exhibit the views which have reciprocally governed. In the execution Edition: current; Page: [161]of this plan, many details arise which I do not enter into, because they will most properly be left with you. Neither would I be understood to require a literal execution. The great outline is, under existing circumstances, to be adhered to; but you are at liberty to deviate in details which do not contravene the leading objects.

I will only remark, that it is deemed material that no greater force than the plan contemplates shall be assigned to the posts below the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi; and that the reserve force shall not be stationed more westward or southward than the vicinity of the rapids of the Ohio.

That vicinity, as passing the obstacles of the navigation above and facilitating a communication with the posts below, presents itself to consideration.

A question arises, whether the north or the south side of the Ohio should be preferred. In favor of the latter is the important consideration that by the contract for the ensuing year the ration is at least two cents and eight mills cheaper there than on the north side. On the other hand, it is possible that the troops there may be exposed to vexations, and in danger of seduction from the acts of disaffected persons, which might not attend them in the opposite territory; but these inconveniences do not appear likely to be so great as to countervail so considerable a difference in the price of the ration, though they might be allowed to prevail against a small difference. Unless, therefore, there should be some important alteration in this particular, I recommend to you the south side for the station of your reserve force.

Edition: current; Page: [162]

It will be my endeavor to engage the administration to organize in Tennessee, Kentucky, the North-and South-western territories, two regiments of infantry, a battalion of riflemen, and a regiment of dragoons, under the act which provides for an eventual army. This, if effected, may afford a powerful auxiliary for defensive or offensive measures, as future exigencies may dictate.

The recruiting for the corps of which your command is to be composed, demands and has my particular attention. You are apprised that the business is going on under Major Bardley in North Carolina and Virginia, under Major Cass in the State of Delaware, and under Major Buel in the State of Vermont. In addition to this, I have proposed to the Secretary at War to send to the Westward bounty money and clothing for re-enlisting and recruiting to the extent of a full regiment.

There are small detachments of recruits for the infantry of the permanent establishment at Norfolk in Virginia, Fredericktown in Maryland, and at West Point in the State of New York, which, as soon as practicable, will reinforce the army under your command; and exertions, efficacious as I trust, will be made to complete the force allotted to you, and to have it on the ground early in the next temperate season.

The new organization of the officers of the four regiments, which you have suggested, has been transmitted to the Secretary at War, with an expression of my opinion in its favor. If you hear nothing to the contrary from that officer previous to your Edition: current; Page: [163]departure for the Mississippi, you will consider the plan as ratified and you will give it effect within your command. If, however, in the execution you find small deviations expedient, you will make them, reporting to me the instances and the motives.

The inspectors of division and brigades, recommended by you, are appointed. The affair of judge-advocate has not yet been definitely acted upon.

The propriety of strongly fortifying Loftus’ Heights, being on all sides admitted, so far as the force which can be allowed for this object will permit, it remains to say something concerning the kind of fortification.

Professing no skill as an engineer, and, as a consequence of the improvidence of our national policy in time past, possessing no competent aid in others, I shall attempt nothing more than to offer hints. Indeed, a critical view of the local situation in all its bearings, not merely a representation on paper of the part which looks toward the river, ought to guide and regulate the plan which is to be definitely adopted. This, therefore, must be left to you, with the help of the best lights you have or can procure.

But I will observe, that it appears to me advisable to occupy the summit of the height with a fort or redoubt, in nature of a citadel, adapted to a garrison of four hundred men, and capable, as far as possible, of resisting, by its construction, a coup de main, and of obliging an enemy, not in a condition to make considerable sacrifices of men, to attack it in form.

This redoubt, with a battery towards the river, at Edition: current; Page: [164]the point F, in the plan you have as furnished, is as much as can be immediately undertaken. In process of time, if the relative situation of territorial boundary remains as it now is, it will probably be necessary to extend from this citadel, in different directions, outworks, which, in conjunction with the citadel, will require a thousand men for their defence. This operation may be a successive one.

The idea of resisting a siege presupposes a work of solid materials, as well as of regular design. You have stated that brick is of easy fabrication in the vicinity; wood, of an elastic quality, it is presumed, may also be procured with facility. A revêtement of brick, with an interior of wood and earth mingled, will form a strong fortress, at a moderate expense. Your estimate of the expense of a water battery, barracks, and magazine, presents a total of $16,024; and you compute that a similar sum will suffice for a work such as you contemplate.

I have informed the Secretary at War that you would be authorized by me to incur an expense not exceeding this sum for the purpose in question, unless he should signify his negative to you before your departure. But while this sum is given to you as a limit, it is believed that the object may be accomplished for less, and it is not doubted that you will exert yourself to have it done as cheaply as possible.

In this place, an answer to your inquiry as to the proper employment of the soldiery, very fitly occurs. Doubtless, utility and usage both unite to recommend the employment of the soldiery in the construction Edition: current; Page: [165]of works as far as may be practicable. Not to do it must tend to an augmentation of expense which the finances of no country can bear; besides that it is to forego a powerful instrument already prepared for accomplishing the object.

I do not overlook the obstacle from the climate, which you mention in reference to our Southern frontier. But for a great part of the year, I must hope that this obstacle is not formidable. If the heats of July and August, and the sultry damps of September, should drive us during that period to another resource; yet the residue of the year, it is hoped, will permit the labor of the troops to be employed with advantage. I am well informed that on the sea-board of South Carolina and Georgia, the season from November to April, inclusively, is deemed unexceptionable for the employment of troops in laborious operations. In the three months which have been mentioned, it may be requisite to hire the labor of negroes, but even then there may be things to which that of whites can, without injury, be applied.

In general the idea must be to construct the works by the labor of the soldiery. The resort to a different aid must be by way of exception, to be used as little as possible; circumstances may be permitted to decide in each case whether to continue any works with the aid of blacks, during the hot season, or to suspend them till the return of a season favorable to the exertion.

You will find in my letter to the Secretary, doubts as to the permanent maintenance of Fort Stoddard. Edition: current; Page: [166]That part of the plan which conforms to the disposition you have made, calls for your careful revision. You will ascertain the practicability of a safe and easy interior communication, without more expense to prepare it than the advantage may be worth. There is an intrinsically strong objection to the keeping of a post to which the access must be through a foreign territory.

The importance of securing and commanding the confluence of the rivers Tennessee and Cumberland with the Ohio, and of the latter with the Mississippi, has been duly felt by you. The selection of a spot the most eligible for a strong fort, with a view to this object and the kind of work which it will be proper to establish, are worthy of your early and careful attention. You must, however, bear in mind that it is to be successively effected by the labor of the troops. A garrison of five hundred men may be the standard of the dimensions. You will report to me the result of your investigations on this subject.

In a permanent arrangement for the galleys, watermen ought to be engaged for the mass of the crew.

Perhaps some soldiers may be employed as auxiliaries without inconvenience, and with saving. A provision by law is requisite for the first purpose. You will order the galleys to such situation as you judge best. You are informed that the artillery you have requested for Fort Adams, with correspondent ammunition and stores, have been ordered, and are to embark with you for the Mississippi. It will be my endeavor that such other artillery as may be necessary in conformity with the general plan shall be Edition: current; Page: [167]forwarded as soon as possible. As to the artillery and stores now at the several Western posts, it is your province to have them disposed of as you deem most advisable.

I have desired E. Stevens, Esq., to procure the mathematical instruments which you have requested. A regular military academy appears to me indispensable, and will command, in reference to the ensuing session of Congress, my best exertions for its establishment. This meets your suggestion as to mathematical teachers.

The general orders issued by you, which you have submitted to my perusal, have been considered. They appear to me proper. But as I intend to prepare, in the course of the winter, a code of regulations which will embrace their objects, I forbear to give any formal sanction to them at this time. They will remain in force by your authority.

Your convention with the Spanish governor respecting deserters, considered as a temporary arrangement, appears to me a measure of convenient operation. Yet it is beyond my powers to give it an authoritative sanction, and I have concluded not to ask one of the government, from the opinion that it is best it should retain the shape of a mere military arrangement between the local commanders. In this respect I do not hesitate to advise that it may continue to be executed.

I understand that arrangements have been made which will satisfy a portion of the arrears of pay which you state to be due to the troops in the Western quarter. The subject shall not cease to occupy my Edition: current; Page: [168]anxious attention. It is impossible to feel more strongly than I do the extreme impolicy of permitting large arrears to accumulate. The affair of boats to be provided and kept ready for the transportation of troops, upon an emergency, will be matter of future instruction. Should the Spanish governor or commander object to the conveyance of your artillery and stores to their destination, you will make a formal and peremptory requisition of free passage on the basis of treaty, and persevere in it till there shall be an unequivocal refusal, when you will send back the vessel with those articles to Savannah and Georgia, addressed to the commanding officer of the artillery of the United States at that place.

Your own permanent station will of course be with your reserve force; and it is expected that you will lose no time in repairing to it as early as may be, after the coming winter.

In the meantime, it is necessary for you to concentrate all the upper posts, under the superintendence of the officer next in seniority, and to assign to him such a position as will facilitate a communication with me for the transmission of returns and information; taking care to let him understand that he is no more than your organ—an idea to which I shall be scrupulously attentive on my part.

The policy of our government toward Spain continues as heretofore, pacific and conciliatory. You will of course give the same character to your proceedings, as far as may depend upon you.

By a communication from the Secretary at War, some time since received, it is indicated that the management Edition: current; Page: [169]of Indian affairs is exclusively reserved to the superintendents and their agents; the military officers to be auxiliary, but only so as to imply no control of military operations. It will be expedient, nevertheless, that all issues to Indians at military posts should appear, in returns from them, not confounded with the issues for the military, but distinct. You will, as far as may depend upon you, give effect to this system with a spirit of accommodation. Emergencies really extraordinary must always be exceptions to a general plan. These must be left to the discretion of a military commander, at his peril.

I conform in an especial manner to the views of the administration, and to the deep impressions of my own mind, derived from a full consideration of the comparative resources and necessities of our country, when I recommend to you in every arrangement a careful regard to economy. Without it, our government cannot maintain the institutions or pursue the measures which are essential to its security and welfare. Without it, the condition of its military force can neither be respectable nor satisfactory. The interest of the army, as a corps, concurs with that of the public at large to enforce the practice of economy as a primary duty. I entertain a full confidence that your conduct will always evince a due sense of its importance, and that it will not cease to be your study, in this and every other matter, to deserve the confidence and estimation of the government.

In regard to the citizens of the Western country, as far as your agency may be concerned, you will do everything to foster good-will and attachment toward Edition: current; Page: [170]the Government of the United States. A firm and cordial union is certainly the vital interest of every part of our country.

hamilton to col. smith1 (Private.)

New York,

Sir:—Herewith is an official answer to your letter. I regret the intimation with which it is closed, to which, however, I can and must annex no precise meaning. I will only observe upon it, that in no sense can the affair be viewed as a personal injury, or be proper for the manifestation of personal resentment in any form. Any one who should give you a different opinion can hardly be your friend. Such an opinion, if followed, could be productive of no possible advantage, and would be attended in various ways with great inconvenience to you.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I am this moment honored with your letter of the 8th instant. Considering the nature of my agency in respect to the subject of it, I must understand the remarks which are made as not applying to what I have done, but to the previous measures of General Wilkinson. It is known to you that the project was adopted and acted upon long before I was in command; that, agreeing in opinion with Edition: current; Page: [171]General Wilkinson as to the expediency of the measure, I submitted it to the Commander-in-Chief, whose concurrence it received; that, in a written communication to you, I supported the propriety of completing the work on a specified scale; that afterwards, in conversation, it was expressed by you to be your impression that, situated as the matter was, it must proceed, unless the further expense necessary should, upon estimate, appear to be very considerable.

The addition of 16,000 dollars on the aggregate of 32,000, for establishing an important barrier post, did not strike me as a large, but as a very moderate, expenditure; such as would not contravene the most scrupulous ideas of economy in national affairs.

Hence I presumed on the ready sanction of the Executive; yet did I not suffer this presumption to engage me in any definitive act, but confined myself to giving promissory authority, subject to the eventual control of the President through you as his organ.

Even this much I should not have done, had it not been for the previous circumstances, and had there not been a pressure as to time, owing to the necessity of expediting General Wilkinson, for which purpose the delivery of my instructions was an essential preliminary. Considering the circumstances, I cannot but believe that I have acted with all proper delicacy and caution; as, on the other hand, it is evident that I have in no shape infringed the general principle which is advanced in your letter.

To this principle, as it respects permanent fortification, I subscribe without reserve; and I agree Edition: current; Page: [172]that it is always right for military commanders, when the exigencies of service do not command the contrary, to forbear measures involving considerable expense, till they shall have been considered and sanctioned by the Executive. It seems to me, too, that in my practice the rule has been observed even beyond its terms and spirit; but I cannot adopt the opinion, that every measure, in all its circumstances, which may involve considerable expenditure, should be submitted through the Secretary of the appropriate department to the President for his approval, and that, without such approval, formally and explicitly announced, no act leading to its execution should take place.

In the course of military operations, measures which involve very great expense are frequently in-dispensable, without incurring the delay of resorting to the Executive as a preliminary.

A precise rule for distinguishing the different cases is impracticable; it must be matter of sound discretion and of fair confidence on all sides.

The disbursements, finally, must no doubt be regulated by the laws of appropriation; but provisory measures will often be unavoidable, and confidence must sometimes be reposed in an after legislative sanction and provision.

This has been the course in times past, and it must always be the case. A different plan will arrest and disorder all the wheels of public service. The theory of no system can be invariably pursued with liberal strictness.

I commit myself without hesitation to the consequences Edition: current; Page: [173]of this opinion, because, as far as I am concerned, I would rather be responsible on proper occasions for formal deviations, than for a feeble, insufficient, and unprosperous course of public business, proceeding from an over-scrupulous adherence to general rules; and I have no doubt that a different spirit will ever be found in experience injurious equally to the interests of the state and to the reputation and success of the persons whom it may govern. I understand that such a progress has been made in the business as that the plan cannot now be relinquished without loss of the fruits of past expense; but I am not so well informed on this point as to be able to present it as a positive ground of determination.

I adhere, however, without hesitation, to the opinion that it is expedient to pursue the plan upon the scale which has been contemplated. It is very true that this fort could not be expected to interrupt a great invading force; but it would be an obstacle to the enterprises of such a force as now exists, or is likely to be found in the quarter in question.

It would give additional security to the troops, who, with the views you mention, must be stationed within the scene. It would also be more impressive on the Indians; and the difference between the expense of the fort intended and that which you indicate, would be inconsiderable. I shall take care that such a communication be made to General Wilkinson, as that there may be no danger in future of his undertaking a permanent fortification without the previous approbation of the Executive.

Edition: current; Page: [174]

But, if it is thought proper to arrest the execution of the plan communicated, I must beg that you will address your orders immediately to General Wilkinson, since it is probable that they would not reach him in time, if they are to pass through me.

With great respect and esteem,

I have the honor to be, sir,

Your obedient servant, etc.

hamilton to washington

New York,

Sir:—I have been duly honored with your letters of the 26th and 27th of October.

General Pinckney happening to be at my house when they were received, I communicated them to him, together with such other letters as had come to hand relating to the same subject; and I have since furnished him with the subsequent information transmitted to me, in order that he might take the proper measures in whatever might require his interposition. This would principally be to order the tenth regiment to Carlisle.

It is my duty, in compliance with your inquiry concerning the delay of payment of the troops, to enter into a free explanation. The complaints of which you have heard, have certainly existed; they have existed in the Northern as well as in the Southern quarter, and the painful circumstance is, that they have been well founded. There has, no doubt, been a great and a very unfortunate delay, Edition: current; Page: [175]which has been a pretext for, if not a cause of, desertion, which has made ill impressions on the minds of the troops, and has occasioned much embarrassment to the officers.

The history of the course of the business will best unfold the causes of the delay.

Early after the recruiting service was in train, I caused to be prepared and transmitted to the several regiments, the forms of muster- and pay-rolls. If my information be right, muster and pay-rolls were made out according to these forms, and forwarded first to the Department of War, afterwards to the office of the paymaster-general.

It has since appeared that forms for muster-and pay-rolls had been previously established by the Department of War, but these forms were never sent to me, nor otherwise communicated to the additional regiments, till some time after the arrival of the paymaster-general at Philadelphia. A compliance with them on the part of the distant regiments, the officers of which, for the purpose of recruiting, were dispersed over extensive regions, would, of course, involve a very distressing delay, in addition to that which unavoidably attended the mustering of the troops, and the preparation of the rolls on the plan which I had prescribed; yet for some time a compliance with these new forms seems to have been expected as a preliminary to the transmission of the money.

But in consequence of very importunate representations from me, and it being admitted that the different rolls corresponded in substantial points, I Edition: current; Page: [176]was given to understand by the paymaster-general, that as to past dues, the new forms would not be insisted upon, but that the money would be sent without waiting for them.

Difficulties, however, about modes of remitting the money, which, it is believed, had before operated in producing delay, continued to occasion it; and to this moment the three most northern and the two most southern regiments remain unsupplied.

To call every regimental paymaster to the seat of government as often as money is to be paid, is inadmissible on the score of delay, as well as of expense. To send them the money by post, must involve the double risk of loss in the post-office, and loss by a fraudulent concealment of the receipt of it. To send it to intermediate public agents, must be attended with the same risk, though in a less degree. The paymaster-general, in order to discharge himself at the Treasury, is obliged to produce vouchers in certain prescribed forms, which he has been (as he states) in the habit of obtaining before he parted with any money out of his hands; and he appeared to be fearful of a deviation from this course.

The truth is, that these difficulties being inherent in the nature of the thing, they ought, for this very reason, as I conceive, to have been overcome. Similar ones occur in all the pecuniary operations of the government, and it has been found indispensable to surmount them by expedients. The same expedients, which are familiar in other cases, would have answered in the one under consideration.

Edition: current; Page: [177]

In my opinion, the paymaster-general would have done right not to have been deterred by the additional responsibility which might have attended the employment of the usual expedients. In my opinion, if peculiar caution was incumbent upon him as a subordinate officer, it was to have been expected that the Secretary at War, in concert with the Secretary of the Treasury, would have interposed to remove the impediment by sanctioning a course which was unavoidable.

It is not my fault that the obstacles have not been surmounted. Aware that, in the first stages of the raising of new corps, (of which most of the officers as well as the men were unacquainted with service,) where the officers, for the purpose of recruiting, were dispersed over extensive districts, delay and difficulty would unavoidably attend the preparation of muster- and pay-rolls in strict form; strongly impressed with the idea that it was of great importance, in the first instance, to inspire the troops with favorable ideas of the justice and attention of the government; and that it would be very inexpedient to have to assign to the non-commissioned officers and privates excuses for the delay of their dues on the score of want of formal documents, which it did not lie with them to prepare, I pressed the Secretary at War and the paymaster-general for advances of money to the several regiments, in anticipation of those documents, upon estimates of which I furnished the data. I thought the temporary departure from ordinary rules, and the small addition of risk, from dispensing with the usual preliminary checks, Edition: current; Page: [178]were less evils than those which were inseparable from any considerable procrastination of payment.

But my efforts were not successful. Expectations, which, in consequence of my representations, were given to me by the paymaster-general, and which were by me given to the commandants of regiments, were not fulfilled. Disappointment and dissatisfaction have, of course, ensued.

It is but candor for me to mention that, while Secretary of the Treasury I had knowledge of the forms which had been prescribed; but I had entirely forgotten the circumstance. And it is self-evident that all regulations prescribed by the Department of War, for observance in an army, ought to be communicated from that department, either to the military commander or to the chief of the particular branch of service to which they relate—and that it is not incumbent upon the military commander to make inquiry of the Department of War for them; I therefore did what was natural in the case—I prescribed forms where I did not know that any had been previously established by superior authority.

It is very probable that the necessity of transmitting these forms did not occur to the Secretary at War. Or he may have considered it as the province of the paymaster-general to do it; but this officer being with the Western army, a very great delay could not fail to attend the transmission of them by him. The truth is, that a want of sufficient organization in this particular, as in others, occasioned an omission.

Edition: current; Page: [179]

The only material remark in respect to it is, that the omission having happened, it was a decisive reason for not insisting upon the forms in question as a preliminary to payment.

Upon the whole (since I have not understood that there was any deficiency of money), I am led to conclude that unwillingness to incur extraordinary responsibility, by a deviation from general rules, has been a principal cause of the very inconvenient delay which has been experienced. The mode of proceeding has certainly not corresponded with my ideas of propriety and expediency; yet I do not presume to expect that my ideas should be a standard for the conduct of others. And I am certainly very far from imagining that any motive more exceptionable than the one I have suggested has had the least influence in the affair. The paymaster is, no doubt, shielded by his instructions.

I trust that things are now in a train for a more satisfactory course in future.

With perfect respect and attachment, etc.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—The near approach of a session of Congress will naturally lead you to the consideration of such measures for the improvement of our military system as may require legislative sanction.

Under this impression, I am induced now to present to you some objects which appear to me very Edition: current; Page: [180]interesting, and shall take the liberty to add here-after such others as shall have occurred.

One which I have always thought of primary importance, is a military academy. This object has repeatedly engaged the favorable attention of the administration, and some steps toward it have been taken. But these, as yet, are very inadequate. A more perfect plan is in a high degree desirable.

No sentiment is more just than this, that in proportion as the circumstances and policy of a country forbid a large military establishment, it is important that as much perfection as possible should be given to that which may at any time exist. Since it is agreed that we are not to keep on foot numerous forces instructed and disciplined, military science in its various branches ought to be cultivated with peculiar care, in proper nurseries, so that there may always exist a sufficient body of it ready to be imparted and diffused, and a competent number of persons qualified to act as instructors to the additional troops which events may successively require to be raised.

This will be to substitute the elements of an army to the thing itself, and it will greatly tend to enable the government to dispense with a large body of standing forces, from the facility which it will give of forming officers and soldiers promptly upon emergencies.

No sound mind can doubt the essentiality of military science in time of war, any more than the moral certainty that the most pacific policy on the part of a government will not preserve it from being engaged in war more or less frequently.

Edition: current; Page: [181]

To avoid great evils, it must either have a respectable force prepared for service, or the means of preparing such a force with expedition. The latter, most agreeable to the genius of our government and nation, is the object of a military academy.

I propose that this academy shall consist of five schools—one to be called “The Fundamental School”; another, “The School of Engineers and Artillerists”; another, “The School of Cavalry”; another, “The School of Infantry”; and a fifth, “The School of the Navy”; and of the following offices and persons:

A director-general, to superintend the whole institution.

A director of the Fundamental School.

A director of the School of Engineers and Artillerists.

A director of the School of Cavalry.

A director of the School of Infantry.

A director of the School of the Navy.

Six professors of mathematics.

Three professors of natural philosophy.

One professor of chemistry.

Two architects.

Two drawing masters.

A riding master.

A fencing master.

To be thus distributed among the several schools.

To the Fundamental School:

A director,

Four professors of mathematics,

One professor of natural philosophy,

One drawing master.

Edition: current; Page: [182]

To the School of Engineers and Artillerists:

A director,

A professor of mathematics,

A professor of natural philosophy,

A professor of chemistry,

An architect,

A drawing master.

To the School of Cavalry:

A director,

A riding master,

A fencing master.

To the School of Infantry:

A director.

To the School of the Navy:

A director,

A professor of mathematics,

A professor of natural philosophy,

An architect.

In the Fundamental School to be taught:

Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, the laws of motion, mechanics, geography, topography, and surveying, designing of structures and landscapes.

The principles of tactics.

In the School of Engineers and Artillerists to be taught:

Fluxions, conic sections, hydraulics, hydrostatics, and pneumatics.

The theory and practice of gunnery.

Fortifications, including sapping and mining, and the attack and defence of places.

Chemistry, especially mineralogy.

The fabrication of cannon and other arms.

The principles of construction, with particular reference to aqueducts, canals, and bridges.

The composition of artificial fires.

Edition: current; Page: [183]

In the School of Cavalry:

The tactics and police of cavalry, equitation, the use of the small- and broad-sword.

In the School of Infantry:

The tactics and police of the infantry.

In the School of the Navy:

Spherics, astronomy, navigation, with the doctrines of the tides.

Naval architecture.

The director-general and the other directors to be officers of the army and navy, conforming to the nature of each school.

These schools to be provided with proper apparatus and instruments for philosophical and chemical experiments, for astronomical and nautical observations, and for surveying, and for such other processes as are requisite to the illustration of the several topics of instruction.

The cadets of the army, and young persons who are destined for military and naval service, ought to study for two years in the Fundamental School; and it destined for the corps of engineers and artillerists, of for the navy, two years more in the appropriate school; but persons who, by previous instruction elsewhere, may have been acquainted with some or all of the branches taught in the Fundamental School, may, after due examination by the professors of that school, be either received there for a shorter term, or pass immediately to one of the other schools, according to the nature and extent of their acquisitions.

In addition to these, detachments of officers and Edition: current; Page: [184]non-commissioned officers of the army ought to attend the academy in rotation, for the purposes of instruction and exercise, according to the nature of the corps to which they respectively belong.

It would be a wise addition to the system if the government would always have such a number of sergeants, in addition to those belonging to the regiments of the establishment, as would suffice with them for an army of 50,000 men.

The site of the academy ought to be upon a navigable water.

For this purpose, a piece of ground ought to be purchased by the government, of dimensions sufficient for experiments in gunnery—that is, not less than twelve hundred yards in length, and four hundred yards in breadth. The situation upon a navigable water is requisite to admit of exemplifications of naval construction and exercises.

It would also tend greatly to the perfection of the plan if a position for the academy could be obtained, suited to foundries of cannon and manufactories of small-arms. The pupils could here acquire the knowledge of the arts, and the detachments of troops could be made useful in the prosecution of the works.

Barracks and other proper buildings must be erected for the accommodation of the directors, professors, and students, and for laboratories and other works to be carried on.

It is proposed by the foregoing plan that the school of engineers and artillerists shall be united. The studies relative to these two branches of service Edition: current; Page: [185]run into each other so much that they may with convenience be pursued in the same school.

Yet it is conceived that the entire union of the officers of both in one corps, as in our present establishment, is not advisable. The art of fortification, and the service of artillery, though touching each other in many points, are, in the main, distinct branches, and each so comprehensive that this separation is essential to perfection in either.

This has been ascertained by experience. It is understood that one or more governments of Europe, particularly attentive to the military art, have essayed the union of the two corps, induced to it by their mutual relations in certain respects, and by the desire of insuring harmony in the service, and that the result of the experiment has led to a renunciation of the plan, as being productive of more disadvantages than advantages.

Influenced, as well by this experience in other countries as by my own observations and reflections, I beg leave to suggest for consideration a new arrangement on the subject, to be submitted, if approved, to the legislative body.

Let the corps of engineers and artillerists be placed under one head, that head to be a general officer; but let the other officers be separated, and form a distinct corps.

A regiment of engineer officers, and two of artillery officers, will form a due proportion in the scale of our military establishment. If deemed expedient to increase the total number of officers, the object may be effected by suppressing two of the battalions Edition: current; Page: [186]of the corps, as now organized, increasing the number of non-commissioned officers and privates in the remaining battalions, so as to continue the present total, and transferring the surplus officers, with due selection to the regiment of engineers, to be composed of two battalions.

Instead of the artificers at present forming a part of each company, let there be a corps of miners and artificers, consisting of four companies, one company of armorers and smiths, one of wheelwrights and carpenters, one of masons, and one of miners. This corps to be a portion of the corps of engineers and artillerists under the command of its chief. The officers to be taken from the regiment of engineers and artillerists at his discretion, continuing, nevertheless, to rank and rise in the corps from which they may be taken, but the President to be empowered, if he thinks proper, to appoint others to their places in the regiment from which they shall be detached. The union of these different corps under one chief, is intended to promote a spirit of harmony and co-operation, while the separation of the other officers is designed to favor a more profound and accurate knowledge of each branch.

It will no doubt be observed, that though provision should be made by the law for the proposed establishment in its full latitude, yet it may be left in the discretion of the President to appoint only so many of the professors as experience shall show to be necessary.

With great respect and esteem, etc.

Edition: current; Page: [187]

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—The preparation of a good system for the tactics and police of the different portions of our army is probably the most valuable service which it may be in my power to render the United States in my present station, and there are urgent reasons why this should be accomplished in the course of the present winter.

To do it at all would in every situation require the aid of others; since I do not pretend, myself, to understand in detail all the branches of service. To do it within the time proposed, or rather within any period not manifestly longer than it would be prudent to delay, must render a subdivision indispensable, were I competent to the whole.

I have accordingly thought of this distribution of the subject: 1. To occupy myself with the tactics of the infantry. 2. To confide to General Pinckney, with the aid of Brigadier-General Washington, Colonel Watts, and Lieutenant Walbach, or such of them as he may choose, the tactics of the cavalry. 3. To employ Majors Toussard and Hoops in framing regulations for the exercise and police of the artillery. And, lastly, to charge the adjutant-general, aided by another officer, to be selected by him, with the regulations for the police of troops in camp, quarters, and garrisons.

The labors of these different persons will afterwards undergo revision for adoption or correction, and them will be transmitted to you for your consideration, and the determination of the President.

Edition: current; Page: [188]But as this service will occasion constant and laborious occupation to the persons who will be employed, it is just and agreeable to usage to allow a special compensation. This, too, will be expected by them, and is essential to a cheerful and zealous execution of the duty. An allowance per diem not less than one dollar nor more than two will suffice. It may vary in reference to rank. It, of course, will not be expected to extend to General Pinckney, the adjutant-general, or myself.

I entreat a speedy decision and the communication of it.

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—Pursuant to an instruction some time since received from you, I have now the honor to offer to your consideration a new plan for the uniform of the army.

You are too sensible of the influence of good appearance in point of dress and equipment upon the spirit and temper of an army, to make it necessary to illustrate its importance.

The present uniform is materially defective in this respect. The plan now offered has been digested with a careful eye to the advantages of good appearance, without departing improperly from considerations of simplicity and economy.

It is very desirable that there should be an early decision upon it, as a great number of officers suspend Edition: current; Page: [189]the procuring of new uniforms in expectation of a change; and if obliged by delay to provide according to the present standard, would be exposed in case of alteration to an additional expense, which, to many of them, would be burthensome.

As to any article not provided for by law, an expectation may be signified that it will be provided at the expense of the troops themselves. It is believed that this idea will meet with no impediment.

I send you an estimate of clothing necessary for the future year’s supply of the troops under my immediate command. If materials for coats, vests, and overalls could be soon put into the hands of the different corps, they might be made up during the winter quarters, which would save expense to the public, and afford an opportunity of having the articles much better fitted to the wearers of them.

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—I have heretofore submitted to you a scale for the allowance of servants to the different grades of officers, with some supplementary ideas. I beg leave to add another suggestion in relation to this subject.

The detaching from their corps soldiers as servants to the various officers of the general staff, is productive of material inconvenience, by withdrawing altogether from military service a considerable number of persons; and occasions dissatisfaction to the Edition: current; Page: [190]commandants of corps who never see their men removed without uneasiness, and are sometimes much disgusted by the selection of those whom they are anxious to retain. There is no doubt that it would operate beneficially, if, after fixing the number of servants to which the several characters of the general staff should be entitled, they were to be allowed an equivalent in money regulated by the cost of a soldier to the public, and were to be required to provide their own servants. Penalties may secure the faithful execution of this arrangement, which, from the force of circumstances, would be very liable to abuse.

hamilton to general pinckney


Sir:—The death of our beloved Commander-in-Chief 1 was known to you before it was to me. I can be at no loss to anticipate what have been your feelings. I need not tell you what have been mine. Perhaps no friend of his has more cause to lament on personal account than myself. The public misfortune is one which all the friends of our government will view in the same light. I will not dwell on the subject. My imagination is gloomy—my heart is sad.

Inclosed is an order relative to the occasion which speaks its own object.

With the sincerest esteem, etc., etc.

Edition: current; Page: [191]

general order for the ceremonial to be used on the interment of washington

Major-General Hamilton has received, through the Secretary at War, the following order from the President of the United States.

“The President, etc.”

The impressive terms in which this calamitous event is announced by the President, could receive no new force from any thing that might be added. The voice of praise would in vain endeavor to exalt a name unrivalled on the lists of true glory. Words would in vain attempt to give utterance to the profound and reverential grief which will enthral every American bosom, and arrest the sympathy of an admiring world. If the sad privilege of pre-eminence in sorrow may justly be claimed from the companions in arms of our lamented chief, their affections will spontaneously perform the dear though painful duty. “T is only for me to mingle my tears with theirs, embittered by recollection that in mourning the loss of the “MAN OF THE AGE,” I equally mourn that of the long-tried patron—the kind and unchanging friend.

In obedience to the directions of the President, the following funeral honors will be paid at the several stations of the army.

At daybreak, sixteen guns will be fired in quick succession, and one gun at the distance of each half hour till sunset.

During the procession of the troops to the place representing that of the interment, and until the Edition: current; Page: [192]conclusion of the ceremonial, minute guns will be fired.

The bier will be received by the troops formed in line presenting their arms, and the officers, drums, and colors saluting. After this the procession will begin: the troops marching by platoons, in inverted order, and with arms reversed, to the place of interment, the drums muffled, and the music playing a dead march.

The bier, carried by four sergeants, and attended by six pall-bearers, where there is cavalry, will be preceded by the cavalry, and will be followed by the troops on foot.

Where there is no cavalry, a detachment of infantry will precede the bier, which itself will in every case be preceded by such of the clergy as may be present. The officers of the general staff will immediately succeed the bier.

Where a numerous body of citizens shall be united with the military in the procession, the whole of the troops will precede the bier, which will be followed by the citizens.

When arrived near the place of interment, the procession will halt; the troops in front of the bier will form in line, and, opening their ranks, will face inwards, to admit the passage of the bier, which will then pass through the ranks—the troops leaning upon their arms, reversed, while the bier passes.

When the bier shall have passed, the troops will resume their position in line, and, reversing their arms, will remain leaning upon them until the ceremonial shall be closed.

Edition: current; Page: [193]

The music will now perform a solemn air, after which the introductory part of this order will be read.

At the end of this a detachment of infantry, appointed for the purpose, will advance and fire three volleys over the bier.

The troops will then return, the music playing the President’s March, the drums being previously unmuffled.

The uniform companies of militia are invited to join in arms the volunteer corps. The commanders at particular stations, conforming generally to this plan, will make such exceptions as will accommodate it to situation.

At places where processions of unarmed citizens shall take place, it is the wish of the Major-General that the military ceremonial should be united; and the particular commanders at those places are authorized to vary the plan so as to adapt it to the circumstances.

Brigadier-General McPherson is charged to superintend the ceremonial in the city of Philadelphia; Major Toussard will attend to Fort Mifflin, and will co-operate with him.

The day of performing the ceremonial at each station is left to the particular commander.

Major-General Pinckney will make such further arrangements within his district as he shall deem expedient.

Edition: current; Page: [194]

hamilton to mchenry


Sir:—A complete revision of the articles of war is desirable, as they require amendment in many particulars. But this would be so serious a work, that I fear it is not likely to be undertaken with a prospect of being speedily finished. Waiving the expectation of such a revision, there are some things which could be done that would be important improvements. You are aware of the great obscurity which envelops the provisions of the existing articles respecting the power to appoint general courts-martial. On one construction, it is inconveniently narrow, so as to occasion too great delay, as well in constituting courts, as in giving effect to their sentences. On another, it would be too much diffused, and would place in too many hands a trust no less delicate than important.

To attempt to attain the proper medium by a mere legislative definition of the characters who may execute the power, would be attended with much difficulty, and might often not meet the new situations which are apt to occur in the infinite combinations of military service. The expedient which has appeared to me the most proper is, to give the President a discretionary authority to empower other officers than those designated by the articles of war, to appoint general courts-martial under such circumstances and with such limitations as he shall deem advisable.

The provisions which refer to the President the determination on sentences affecting life and the Edition: current; Page: [195]dismission of officers must, no doubt, have been frequently attended with perplexity to him, and are inconvenient to the service. It is scarcely possible for any but the military commander to appreciate duly the motives which in such cases demand severity or recommend clemency. To this an accurate view of all the circumstances of the army in detail is often necessary. On the other hand, the efficacy of punishment, when requisite, depends much upon its celerity, and must be greatly weakened by the unavoidable delay of a resort to the Executive. These reasons certainly render it expedient to enable the commanding general of an army to decide upon the sentences in question as in other cases.

The proper mode of treating the crime of desertion has been, in most cases, an embarrassing subject. In ours it is particularly so. The punishment of death, except in time of war, is contrary to the popular habits of thinking. Whipping is found ineffectual. I have a hope that confinement and labor would prove more effectual. Believing this punishment to be within the discretion of courts-martial, I encourage its adoption. But as the matter now stands, the confinement would not exceed the term of service, and when this is nearly expired, it would be inadequate. Some auxiliary provisions are desirable to give a fair chance to the experiment. It is not, however, my idea to abolish death, which in some aggravated cases would be proper even in time of peace, and in time of war ought invariably to ensure. I incline even to the opinion, that the power of pardoning ought to be taken away in this case, certainly Edition: current; Page: [196]in every instance of desertion, or an attempt to desert to enemies or traitors.

hamilton to col. smith

New York,

Sir:—Your different letters of the 23rd, 24th, and 28th of December have been delivered to me.

It is always difficult in contracts to define the quality of the articles which are to be furnished, and hence has arisen the silence of which you complain in the contract with the agent for New Jersey.

It is, however, implied in the nature of the transaction, that the articles be good, according to the common acceptation of the term; and when this is not the case, the agent violates his engagement, and the United States are at liberty to refuse the articles, provide them otherwise, and look to him for damages.

When bread is furnished in lieu of flour, it ought to be made of flour, and not of middlings. The bread should undoubtedly be made of the article for which it is given as a substitute. The attention which you have paid to this subject has my warm approbation. I shall write to the contractor pointedly respecting it, and you will make the idea contained in this letter your guide in your future transactions with him.

I am much pleased with your disposition, and with the soldierly conduct of the troops in paying the funeral honors to our departed chief. I am likewise Edition: current; Page: [197]much pleased with your resolution of erecting a monument as a testimonial of reverence for his character, and only regret that I cannot make the expense a public instead of a private charge. No alterations occur to me as proper to be made in the inscription, except that I would submit to you, whether a more dignified simplicity would not be given to it by leaving out the verses; although they certainly have merit, yet they appear to me to interfere with that simplicity which should be studied on such occasions.

It is true that I said nothing with respect to extra expense. This proceeded from the supposition that no expense would be necessary independently of the articles furnished by the public; and from a conviction, which experience has produced in my mind, of the extreme caution to be observed with respect to every object that involves an expenditure of money out of the regular course.

You will be pleased, however, to send me an account of the expenses that were incurred. Such of them as were necessarily incident to the celebration I will press the payment of with the Secretary at War, and to the rest I will give every attention in my power.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—Some of the maxims which obtain with the officers at the seat of government, charged with the adjustment of the accounts of those agents who Edition: current; Page: [198]have to furnish supplies and make disbursements for the military service, are of a nature to produce much perplexity and inconvenience. To me they appear mistaken, such as are to be found nowhere else, and such as must render it impracticable to discharge military duties with satisfaction or success. It is one thing to have and enforce rules which check improvident expenditure, and secure a due accountability. It is a very different thing to practise upon such as embarrass and retard the settlement of proper charges, as refuse credit for expenditures regularly made, as keep agents out of money to which they are entitled, as subject to painful animadversions and harass with unnecessary explanations officers who, in the exercise of a reasonable discretion, direct measures which incur expense.

Specimens of the operation of these rules are to be seen in the communications herewith transmitted, from E. Stevens, Esq., and from Majors Toussard and Jackson.

It is perhaps impossible, in military affairs, to devise any system of regulations so perfect as to embrace all the cases in which expenditures by the order of particular officers for current occasions are necessary. Some discretion must be allowed. This must be the case, even with regard to officers of inferior rank, detached to remote stations. But it must be frequently and extensively the case as to a commanding general. In time of war, nothing could proceed without this discretion upon a large scale. In time of peace, incidents of a more limited nature constantly arise, involving expense, which could not Edition: current; Page: [199]be deferred for a special resort to the head of the War Department, without real injury to the service, while the officer, by the necessity of that resort in matters of minutiæ, would be placed in a situation extremely humiliating and irksome.

When in pursuance of this discretion, directions for the disbursement of money are given to a subordinate agent, in cases in which there has been no special restriction upon him, his charges ought to be admitted without difficulty, and the superior officer made responsible for improper directions in his office or in his pocket—in both, according to circumstances.

Though it may be necessary to confine the ordinary accounting officers to the admission of such items only as are within established regulations, yet, when others occur, they ought not to be rejected and thrown back upon the party to oblige him to go through the tedious and circuitous process of an application to the head of the department for an extra-ordinary sanction; but there ought to be an interior arrangement of the department for bringing it in the first instance before the head or some competent substitute in order to a special direction, and, when what has been done shall appear proper, the needful sanction should follow.

In the instances in which no regulations have been established by the department as a guide to the officers, their acts ought to be viewed with greater liberality, and the mismanagement which should subject them to blame or embarrassment, ought to be unequivocal.

Edition: current; Page: [200]

It happens that no rules have been prescribed with regard to extra expenses. Officers are left to exercise their judgments as occasions require. They do it in good faith, and yet their acts are not received as authority in favor of agents, who could not with propriety refuse obedience to them. The fundamental principle of the military system is thus subverted. Agents for their own safety are taught to reason about the fitness of compliance with the requisitions made upon them. The service is clogged. Commanding officers are let down; and in very trifling matters are perplexed how to act. This awkward state of things demands a correction. The dignity and delicacy of officers, as well as the good of the service, demands it.

the step1

Tacticians agree that a proper regulation of the length and speed of the step is of primary importance in a system of tactics.

Upon this depends essentially the exactness of all evolutions, the attainment of the best results with the least inconvenience to the soldier. Yet, in the theories of military writers, and in the establishments of military nations, there is great diversity in this important article. For example: while our step is two feet English, that of France (and it is believed Edition: current; Page: [201]of Russia) is two feet French, or about twenty-six inches English; that of Great Britain, two feet six inches English. There is also some, though less, difference as to the velocity of the step: that of France being 76, 100, 120 in a minute; that of Great Britain, 75, 108, and 120 in a minute.

This diversity is a reason against adopting implicitly any foreign standard, and a motive to investigation of the principles on which the step ought to be predicated. It is desirable, if possible, to find a standard in nature.

As to length, the step ought to be accommodated to men of the smaller sizes. A tall man can abridge easier than a short man extend. And yet, perhaps neither extreme ought to govern; a short man may, by habit, somewhat lengthen his usual step without fatigue, while a tall man may be too much constrained, if obliged to contract his step to the measure of a very short man. The man of middle stature may be the proper criterion, or perhaps the average of a number of men of different sizes marching together, may furnish a still better rule. In such case, a kind of compromise naturally takes place, by the mutual effort of all to move in unison.

But to arrive at a full result, it is necessary that the experiments should be multiplied, should be by individuals of different sizes, and by bodies of different numbers from few to many, and especially that they should be on different sorts of ground, rough as well as smooth, unequal as well as plain. By this diversification of the experiments, it may be possible to discover some medium which, being adopted as Edition: current; Page: [202]a standard, and made habitual to the troops, will best accommodate itself to the variety of circumstances which occur.

It is a fact which, in this investigation, demands particular attention, that the length of the step naturally increases with its speed or velocity. In a slow movement, the body is nearly perpendicular, and the leg kept back; in a rapid one, the body is impelled forward, and with it the leg, which, without effort, takes a greater distance in this than in the former case.

Hence a question whether the length of the step ought not to be proportioned to the speed, and whether, instead of that uniformity which seems to have been preferred, it ought not to be less in the slower and greater in the quicker steps. It is evident, that by lengthening the step with the speed, a greater quantity of ground will be passed over in a given time, and perhaps with less fatigue, from the men being less constrained.

The varieties in the speed of the step demand careful examination. A slow, cadenced, majestic step has been adopted, especially in reference to manœuvres of parade and the march in line. From 75 to 80 in a minute have been latterly deemed an eligible standard. For occasions which require greater celerity, about 100 in a minute has been adopted, to be increased in particular cases to 120.

These questions arise. Are all these varieties desirable as fundamental rules? If not, what ought to be substituted? Is the slowest of these steps ever useful in the actual service of the field? If not, Edition: current; Page: [203]ought it to obtain for any, and for what collateral reasons? To what kind of movements is each variety applicable? In fine, what ought to be established as to the speed of the step.

Respect for the institutions of nations who have arrived at considerable perfection in the art of war, is a dictate of good sense; but when we consider the influence of the spirit of imitation, and how liable men habituated to routine are to be trammelled by that to which they have been accustomed, we shall find good reason not to follow those institutions implicitly. In the particular affair of the length and speed of the step, there is room to suspect that principles have not been sufficiently consulted, and that real improvements may be made. This, however, is to be carefully examined, with a temper no less remote from the love of innovation than from a spirit of blind deference to authority and precedent.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,
Dear Sir:

Though, from repeated reflection and action upon the subject, my opinion was well made up when I received your letter of the 19th, yet I thought it proper once more to review the matter before I complied with your request. The principle of the doctrine advanced by the accountant will go much farther than the position which he now avows, namely, “that no authority short of Congress can Edition: current; Page: [204]make allowances to an officer beyond the emoluments fixed to his office by law.” It will go the length of denying to the Executive, in all its branches, any discretion not confirmed by some special law, to call forth and compensate any services, not merely of officers, but of any other persons, which are not indicated and provided for by particular statutes.

It will interdict the employment and compensation of a citizen as a writer, or even as an express, no less than that of an officer, for either purpose. The foundation of the doctrine must be, that there is no power in the Executive to subject the public to expense in any case not specially provided for by law. What substantial difference can there be between employing a private citizen for some contingent service, and paying him for it, and employing an officer for something not within the sphere of his official duty, and compensating him for it? I discover none in the theory; for as to such extra service he is a private citizen, and I know no law that declares a distinction.

It is certain that in the course of the discharge of its trust, there will occur numerous instances in which the public service must stagnate, or the Executive must employ and compensate agents not contemplated by special laws.

It follows, in my opinion, that he must have an inherent right to do it, under these restrictions; that it ought to be relative to some object confided to his agency by the Constitution, or by the laws; and that no money ought actually to be paid, for Edition: current; Page: [205]which there is not an appropriation by statute, either with particular reference to the purpose, or under the general denomination of contingencies. This is, in my opinion, a right necessarily implied; nor do I see why the Executive may not claim the exercise of implied powers, as well as the legislative. In a word, there is no public function which does not include the exercise of implied as well as express authority.

This reasoning, as far as I know, is consonant with the practice of every government, and with that of ours, as well under the Confederation, as under the present Constitution. If my memory deceive me not, there was an act of Congress prohibiting the union of two offices in the same person, with distinct compensations. Yet this did not hinder the allowance of special compensations to officers for special and extra service. Still less did it hinder the indemnification for extra expenses of an officer in peculiar situations. Such compensations and indemnifications were, I believe, made by the executive boards, under the former government. Indeed, I am unusually mistaken, if the uniform practice of the Treasury and War Departments under this government, does not recognize the rule for which I contend, and reject that which is advanced by the accountant. This practice, too, has been right. A different one will be found in experience a fatal clog on the wheels of public business. The administration at large is interested in discountenancing it, and that spirit of cavil in the accountant, on which it is founded, and which my observations in my present Edition: current; Page: [206]station have convinced me is ruinous to the military department of the government. There was not an appropriation law passed, while I was at the head of the Treasury, which did not sanction my principle. There was always, I believe, a sum for the contingencies of the War Department.

The power to incur charges which involve expense, not falling under any specific head, presupposes the right to employ agents and engage services not particularly contemplated by law. I always viewed such appropriations as a virtual sanction of the right, including in them a warranty, if necessary, to exercise the power. Such too was the practical construction.

Nobody knows better the truth in this respect than Mr. Wolcott. Nobody ought more decidedly to frown upon the dangerous metaphysics of Mr. Simmons. The recognition of this doctrine will be a fatal precedent in the administration. It will be a palsy, destructive of all energy in the government. Considering the dispositions which prevail among certain men, in a certain body, there ought to be more than a common anxiety not to establish such a fetter upon Executive operations.

Yours, etc.

hamilton to mchenry1

New York,

Sir:—I shall doubtless bear in mind the intimation of Mrs. Adams, and shall take great pleasure in Edition: current; Page: [207]fulfilling her wish if there shall be occurrences which shall render it not incompatible with the good of the service.

On the disposition of the troops for the ensuing summer, I shall, erelong, make you an official communication.

hamilton to de noailles

New York,
Dear Sir:

I observe that the French regulations, as well as those of several other countries, adopt a fixed measure for the pace (pas), without regard to the velocity, which, in the French code, is two feet French. As the measures differ in different European establishments, I have been causing experiments to be made, in order to discover, if practicable, a standard in nature relatively to the medium size of a man. In the course of these experiments, it appears that though two feet is about the natural length of the cadenced step—say seventy-five in a minute—of a body of men, yet they naturally increase the length of the step with the velocity.

This has led me to some new reflections on the point; and as I respect European precedents, in a science which has been so much studied and practised, I am desirous of knowing what reasoning has led to the adopting of a determinate length for all the direct steps, without regard to the velocity—that is to say, the same for the quick and quickest.

Nobody can better enlighten me on this subject than yourself, and I rely on your friendly disposition. Edition: current; Page: [208]I therefore do not hesitate to request that you will, as soon as may be, let me hear from you on the point, and as particularly as may be convenient.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I have the honor to transmit you the copy of a letter of the 4th instant, from Colonel Taylor. It presents a picture, of which the similitude has too frequently come under my observation.

I must be permitted to observe that nothing can be more injurious to the service, than that pecuniary embarrassment should be occasioned to officers in reference to services duly performed and expenditures regularly made, by reason either of the want of a proper distribution and definition of the duties of the respective officers of the War Department, or by misapprehensions among themselves as to the boundaries of their powers and duties. It presents an image of defect of system calculated to inspire sentiments very different from those of confidence and respect, and it is attended with serious inconveniences to officers, who are kept out of compensations and reimbursements very essential to their accommodation. Besides that, it interferes with the settlement of their accounts in every case in which for want of funds applicable to the special objects, there has been necessity for the temporary transfer of funds which had other destination.

The call upon the officers to refund, as mentioned by Colonel Taylor, is a violent measure. It Edition: current; Page: [209]is in most instances impracticable for them to comply, and surely an anterior arrangement in the modes of accounting ought to have obviated such a requisition. It is in my knowledge, as formerly a member of the administration, that there was often a necessity for accommodations of this kind, and that they were practised; nor can the public business proceed without them.

It is a delicate matter, in my station, to animadvert upon the conduct of officers in the civil departments of government. Yet there are occasions in which it is proper to waive a scruple of this sort, and to state the tendency of their conduct toward the service.

Yielding to a sense of duty, I do not hesitate to say, that in my opinion the accountant displays very often a spirit which, if not designed, certainly tends to injure the service, and sour and dissatisfy all who are parts of or connected with the army.

I know that officer to be capable, diligent, and honest, but he is certainly not as accommodating as the complicated urgencies of military service require; and he rigidly adheres to rules which, if universally applied, are incompatible with practice.

This disposition must either be corrected or our military affairs must always be in disorder. The public will be burthened with a large additional expense as an indemnification for the evils of the accountant’s rigor, and general dissatisfaction will prevail.

The paymaster-general is charged by law with certain definite objects: the pay, arrears of pay, subsistence and forage of the troops. These are Edition: current; Page: [210]regulated by law, and involve the exercise of little or no discretion. The accountant has a more extensive authority, embracing among other things, the expenses of the recruiting service, and all incidental and contingent expenses of the department.

Where cases occur relatively to his duties, which are either within the specific provisions of the laws, or within the established regulations of the head of the department, founded upon the general provisions of the laws, or the nature of his office, the accountant is to adjust them of course. Where matters are presented, not comprehended in the one or the other, and which must be governed by discretion, these are to be reported by him to the Secretary at War for his instruction, and in these cases the accountant is to obey that instruction, leaving the responsibility to rest upon the superior.

I premise this view of the scheme of the department, as preliminary to a proposition which I shall submit.

It seems to me that it will be expedient to extend the functions of the paymaster-general and his sub-ordinates to some objects not now understood to come within their sphere—namely, 1st. The travelling expenses when detached, and extra compensations to officers for extra services. 2d. The expenses of apprehending deserters. 3d. Postage and stationery, when paid for by officers of the line; and lastly, the affair of bounty money, and the contingent expenses of the recruiting service.

In order to defray such expenses in the first instance, let the regimental paymasters and persons Edition: current; Page: [211]acting as such, be furnished with small sums as a fund for contingencies; out of this fund let them defray those expenses, and let the accounts be settled provisionally by the paymaster-general, under the eventual control of the accountant.

For this purpose, it ought to be understood, that if in any instance an officer receives more than he ought to have, it shall be a charge against his pay, but shall be no obstacle to the settlement of the accounts of the paymasters, except where they may be chargeable with wilful default or gross carelessness.

The accounts for these supernumerary objects may be rendered and settled distinctly from those provided for by law; and perhaps an additional compensation may be made to the paymaster-general.

This plan, I think, would remove some obstacles, and give some facilities which would be convenient to the service. But whatever may be the plan pursued, it is of primary importance that some arrangement shall be devised, which shall provide for a speedy adjustment of similar matters, and prevent the disgusting altercations and delays which now continually ensue. I entreat your prompt and careful attention to the subject, and that you will immediately give in the particular case such orders as will remove the difficulty represented by Colonel Taylor.

hamilton to col. smith

New York,

Sir:—I duly received your letter of the 2d of April, which has lain by from the pressure of more urgent Edition: current; Page: [212]business. In breaking silence now, I wish only to prevent misapprehension, as it may influence future cases.

I am persuaded in what you did you were actuated by a very praiseworthy zeal, and I perceive that there were circumstances from which you were led to infer a larger discretion than it was my intention to imply. Yet I ought in candor to observe, that those circumstances were designed by me, essentially, to enable you to exert your own immediate agency, without previous resort to me, as to objects within the purview and spirit of the general directions, and that several of the items in question do not appear to me to answer this description.

This must not be received as a censure, but as explanation to guide in future. When an officer bona fide misconstrues an instruction, and acts with a sincere view to the good of the service, I should with reluctance blame, though I should always think it proper to tell him frankly, that a misconstruction had happened, as a caution for other occasions.

I do not understand that any impediment to the settlement of the accounts exists, and if not, no further step on my part is necessary.

hamilton to de noailles

New York,
Dear Sir:

I find by your reply to my inquiry, that I did not convey my meaning to you with sufficient perspicuity.

Edition: current; Page: [213]

I was aware that in the French system the length of the pace in the direct step is uniform, without regard to the velocity; but I was desirous of knowing what mode of reasoning may have produced this uniformity, notwithstanding the fact that the length of the step naturally agrees with the velocity.

It would seem upon principles better to proportion the pace to the velocity; that is, to have one length for the ordinary step, another for the route step, and perhaps (but this I doubt) a third for the charge step.

The effect of restraining the quick step to the measure of the slow step, is to make a greater quantity of effort necessary to attain a given distance, and thereby to render marches more fatiguing than they ought to be.

Having now explained myself, I shall be obliged by your further thoughts on the matter.

hamilton to general pinckney

New York,

Sir:—I was in due time favored with your letter of the 25th April.

I am glad that our ideas coincide as to the formation of a regiment for exercise and battle.

It is a part of the plan, (though the extract sent you did not go so far as to show it,) that the companies for those purposes shall always be equalized. This is no doubt essential. The inconvenience of occasionally separating the men from their officers must be submitted to for the overbalancing advantages of the equalization.

Edition: current; Page: [214]

In primary formations, we must of necessity contemplate the corps as complete, and prescribe what a sound theory requires on that supposition; taking care to provide for casualties by means agreeing with the general principle. With the latter view “the places of officers and non-commissioned officers who may be wanting or absent are to be supplied by those next in grade, and when necessary in the formation for exercise or battle, the commandant of a regiment may assign officers of one company to another company.” The application of this provision will require that the junior of the two captains shall command the division when the senior is absent, in every case in which the division acts collectively. An occasional change of position for this purpose will not be difficult.

What would you think of varying the plan of formation by placing the captain in the rear of the centre of his company, stationing the first lieutenant on the right of the right platoon, the second on the right of the left platoon?

The arguments for such a disposition are, that when in action in line, the captain will be in the best situation to attend to his whole company, to extend his influences over the whole, and to keep every part at its post. In movements which may require a different position, a correspondent change can be made.

This idea has some attractions for me, though I have not as yet embraced it even provisionally. And you will understand that no part of my plan is definitely adopted. It is all sub judice—open to revisal and correction.

Edition: current; Page: [215]

The fact which you notice, that the length of the step increases with the velocity, is confirmed by other experiments which I had caused to be made; and, when observed, is seen to depend on a very obvious reason. This fact at present inclines me to vary the length of the step in proportion to velocity—at least, to have two different standards. It is certain that the contrary principle must augment the quantity of exertion requisite to attain a given distance, and tend to render marches more slow and more fatiguing.

I doubt not that the prudent change you have made in the situation of your troops will be attended with salutary effects.

With great consideration and esteem,

I have the honor to be, etc.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—I have transmitted to the paymaster-general an abstract of the numbers of the twelve additional regiments, and have urged him to make an estimate of the sums which will be due, including the three months’ extra pay, and without delay to remit adequate funds.

I beg you to send for him, and to second by your authority the instruction I have given.

I am thus particular, because without great exertion the troops cannot be paid up before the time fixed for their discharge; and, in my opinion, it is essential that this should be done. Public clamor, Edition: current; Page: [216]infinite disgust in the officers and men, possibly great irregularities on the routes homeward, and certainly additional obstacles in obtaining men on future occasions, would attend the disbanding without full satisfaction.

Hence I press for every possible exertion to be prepared for the time which has been assigned; and hence, also, I think it proper to say that, should circumstances prevent the payment of their dues to the troops by that time, I shall consider it as consistent with the orders I have received, no less than with the interest and honor of the government, to defer the disbanding till the payment shall have been received, unless I have fresh and precise instructions to the contrary.

With great respect, etc.

hamilton to adams

Camp, Scotch Plains,

Sir:—I had the honor of receiving, an hour since, your letter of the 22d instant, with a copy of one to you from Colonel Smith.

I am happy to think that the question presented is on mere military principles a very simple one. The rule of promotion by succession does not, in any service, as far as my knowledge goes, apply to a new corps in its fresh organization. Officers for such a corps, it is understood, may be found wheresoever it is thought fit, without regard to those of the antecedent establishment. This rule has been repeatedly and recently acted upon in this country, and is necessary and right.

Edition: current; Page: [217]

The regularity of complying with the wish of Colonel Smith depends, then, on the fact, whether the second regiment of artillery has ever been organized. I believe that it never has been, never yet having had a commandant; and, I have supposed, that this state of the thing was the reason why the eldest major of the two regiments was not long before this appointed as a matter of right. If I am correct in the fact (of which the Secretary at War can give you precise information), the conclusion is, that the appointment of Colonel Smith will violate no military rule, nor the right of any other officer. It may, and probably will, contravene expectations entertained on reasonable grounds; but this is a different thing from the infraction of a right.

But except on the principle that the regiment was never organized, Colonel Smith, an officer of infantry, could not be placed in the command of it, in exclusion of the majors of the corps without departing from military ideas.

The major and other officers of the additional battalion may, doubtless, with strict regularity, be appointed from the officers on this ground, if it shall be thought expedient.

What has been said is, I imagine, a full answer to the inquiry you have been pleased to make; and perhaps I ought to say no more. Yet if I did stop here, I should not be satisfied that I had fulfilled all that candor and delicacy required of me. I will therefore take the liberty to add a few words. There are collateral considerations affecting the expediency of the measure, which, I am sure, will not escape Edition: current; Page: [218]your reflection, and if, after weighing them duly, you shall be of opinion that they ought not to prevail as obstacles, you will without doubt anticipate criticism.

I trust this remark will not be misunderstood. The opinion I have of Colonel Smith’s military pretensions, my personal regard for him, and my sensibility to his situation, conspire to beget in me sentiments very different from a disposition to throw the least impediment in the way of his success.

hamilton to caleb swan

Camp, Scotch Plains,

Sir:—I send you the copy of a letter of the 14th instant, from Captain Ellery, with the documents to which it refers.

If my recollection be right, there lies an appeal from the accountant to the Comptroller of the Treasury. If so, I request that you will, without delay, on behalf of Captain Ellery, make an appeal.

After much reflection, I do not perceive any sound distinction between special compensations to persons not of the army, and similar compensations to officers of the army for services which do not appertain to the nature of their offices.

Their established compensations cannot be presumed to embrace such services; as to these they are mere strangers, with the sole difference, that being already in the employ and pay of the government, it is reasonable they should receive less allowances.

If, as the practice admits, it is within Executive Edition: current; Page: [219]discretion to allow special compensations to strangers, payable out of the fund for contingencies, it must be on the principle, that such services being casually necessary, and not provided for by law, it is requisite to the progress of the service, and agreeable to an implied license in the appropriation of the fund, that they should be called forth and recompensed by Executive authority. And the same principle would extend to allowances to particular officers for services which the laws did not contemplate that they were to perform, and consequently did not provide for. The interest of the service will manifestly be promoted by this extension. In numerous instances officers may be made use of for such purposes without interfering with the parts of the service for which they were destined; and in all such instances, as their allowances will be less than would be made to strangers, there will be economy in employing them; besides that in many cases they are best qualified, and in some situations other qualified persons could not be found at all.

To say that special compensation for special service is in no case within Executive discretion, would be contrary to uniform usage, and would arrest the wheels of every branch of the government. In the military service, especially, innumerable casualties occur in which the exercise of that discretion is indispensable.

What is to be done? A person is appointed lieutenant of a regiment; there is a certain routine of duties incident to the station. These are foreign to the clerical and peculiar duties attached to Edition: current; Page: [220]different branches of the staff. These, besides demanding particular qualifications, frequently involve close application and constant drudgery.

Suppose an officer is called to exchange the one station for the other, without an equivalent for the additional labor and skill; may he not reasonably decline it, and say, this service is not within the terms of my undertaking with the public? Suppose even, that the disposition of military subordination would not tolerate a refusal; could a service proceed with harmony and satisfaction and advantage, in which such a despotism was exercised?

Will it be said that the future justice of the Legislature is to be relied upon? Will officers cheerfully undertake or assiduously perform on such precarious ground? Is it right to compromise a commanding general by laying him under the necessity of giving expectations which may not be realized?

There can be no doubt on this question where justice and expediency point; and though first appearances may countenance the distinction which has been made, a more thorough view of the subject shows it to be too nice and subtle for practice.

I trust that the Comptroller, on mature consideration, will regret the distinction. You will please to communicate to him this letter, that he may see the reasoning on which I gave my sanction to Captain Ellery for the expenditure which he has made. It may be depended upon that the business of the department absolutely required it.

With great consideration, etc.

The Paymaster-General.

Edition: current; Page: [221]

hamilton to rivardi

Camp, Scotch Plains,

Sir:—I have received your letter of the 15th instant.

As we live in a jealous country, and in jealous times, a visit from Governor Hunter and the Duke of Kent is not to be courted.

If, however, circumstances should occur in which the thing cannot be avoided without a breach of politeness or liberality, it must be met with a good grace. With this caution, I leave the matter to your prudence and delicacy.

If a visit shall take place, the same ceremonies are to be observed towards the Governor, as would be observed towards a similar character in our own country. That is, he will be received by the garrison with presented arms—officers and colors saluting, and music playing. In the reception of the Duke of Kent, there will be the additional ceremonies of a discharge of artillery, and the honors of the flag.

Under the circumstances stated, I consent to your taking an additional servant from the garrison.

hamilton to mchenry

New York,

Sir:—An extraordinary pressure of business since the receipt of your letter of the 10th instant, has delayed a reply to that part of it which respects the rule of promotion.

This rule was not adopted on my recommendation Edition: current; Page: [222]singly, but on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, supported by the opinion of General Pinckney and myself.

Of its expediency with regard to the corps of artillerists and engineers, I have always had some doubt.

The smallness of that corps in point of number avoids the inconvenience of a lineal promotion of captains. The nature of its service, almost always by detachments, causes the reason for a different mode to be inapplicable to it, and the scientific nature of the corps strengthens the inducements to a strict succession according to seniority.

But a uniform rule was thought most eligible; and I have not the least doubt that the rule of promotion, regimentally to the rank of majority, inclusively, is the best with regard to the infantry and cavalry.

In corps which act collectively, there is an advantage in keeping the men as much as possible with the officers to whom they have been accustomed. As often as you bring an officer from another regiment the advantage is lost.

But more justice is done by a regimental promotion than by any other mode. Corps in active service are, in various ways, subject to losses in a much greater degree than those in a state of repose. It is justly congenial with the natural feelings of the human heart, and an incentive to exertion, that promotion should keep pace with danger and suffering.

If, when a regiment had been half destroyed by a bloody action, the advancement of all the remaining officers was impeded by bringing captains from garrisons perhaps a thousand miles off, the effect upon Edition: current; Page: [223]those officers would be very discouraging, and the influence upon the service very inauspicious.

It may be asked, Why not apply this reasoning to the field-officers? The answer is, that when the grade becomes of this importance it carries with it a tenaciousness of the principle of promotion by seniority; and the whole number not being very considerable, the delay of lineal promotion is less sensibly felt and the effect less extensive.

Balancing the opposite considerations, it is judged the least inconvenient to regulate the higher grades by a lineal promotion.

You have herewith a report of Major Hoops concerning the late disturbance at West Point.

North has since set on foot criminal prosecutions against Captain Stille and several of his men for riot and theft. A hot-headed magistrate, without the decency of a previous resort to higher authority, issued a warrant, upon which the captain and those men were apprehended, and after a refusal to bail them, committed them to the common jail of the county. On the representation of the district-attorney, a habeas corpus was issued by our Supreme Court, and the prisoners have all been liberated on easy bail. The honor and success of the service require absolutely that this affair should be probed with all possible attention. I have expressed this opinion; you may perhaps think it expedient to confirm the sentiment.

Edition: current; Page: [224]

general order

Major-General Hamilton has it in command from the President of the United States, to assure the officers and men of the corps which are about to retire from the service, that he entertains a strong sense of the laudable zeal by which they were induced to take the field at the appearance of danger to their country, and of their good conduct in every respect, since they have been in the service; and that he deeply regrets any inconvenience which may result to any of them from an anticipated dissolution of their services; that he doubts not their patriotism will lead them to make a just construction of the motives of the government; and that he relies firmly upon them as the zealous defenders of their country in any future emergency.

The Major-General is happy to be the organ of this expression of the sentiments of the President. To add the assurance of his high sense of their merits, is a tribute due to them and to justice. He cherishes a deep sympathy in the feelings which naturally actuate them at so interesting a moment, and he entreats them to be persuaded that his warm affection will follow them, wheresoever they may be.

hamilton to mchenry

Sir:—From the terms of the act disbanding the additional army and correspondence with the Department of War, I consider our military operations Edition: current; Page: [225]ceased. When, therefore, any remnants of the business formerly under my superintendence present themselves, I can only lay them before you for your consideration and decision.

In pursuance of this idea I send you the inclosed account.

Edition: current; Page: [226] Edition: current; Page: [227]


Edition: current; Page: [228] Edition: current; Page: [229]


For the Gazette of the United States.

Mr. Fenno:

The editor of the National Gazette receives a salary from government.

Quere.—Whether this salary is paid him for translations, or for publications, the design of which is to vilify those to whom the voice of the people has committed the administration of our public affairs—to oppose the measures of government, and, by false insinuations, to disturb the public peace?

In common life it is thought ungrateful for a man to bite the hand that puts bread in his mouth; but if the man is hired to do it, the case is altered.

T. L.
Edition: current; Page: [230]

an american For the Gazette of the United States.


Mr. Fenno:

It was easy to foresee, when the hint appeared in your Gazette of the 25th July, that the editor of the National Gazette received a salary from the general government, that advantage would be taken of its want of explicitness and particularity, to make the circumstance matter of merit in Mr. Freneau, and an argument of his independent disinterestedness. Such a turn of the business cannot be permitted to succeed. It is now necessary that the whole truth should be told, and that the real state of the affair should be well understood.

Mr. Freneau, before he came to this city to conduct the National Gazette, was employed by Childs & Swaine, printers of the Daily Advertiser, in New York, in the capacity of editor or superintendent.

A paper more devoted to the views of a certain party, of which Mr. Jefferson is the head, than any to be found in this city, was wanted. Mr. Freneau was thought a fit instrument; a negotiation was opened with him which ended in the establishment of the National Gazette, under his direction.

Mr. Freneau came here, at once editor of the National Gazette and clerk for foreign languages in the department of Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of State; an experiment somewhat new in the history of political manœuvres in this country: a newspaper instituted by a public officer, and the editor of it Edition: current; Page: [231]regularly pensioned with the public money in the disposal of that officer; an example savoring not a little of that spirit which, in the enumeration of European abuses, is the continual theme of declamatory censure; an example which could not have been set by the head of any other department, without having long since rung throughout the United States.

Mr. Freneau is not, then, as he would have it supposed, the independent editor of a newspaper, who, though receiving a salary from government, has firmness enough to expose its mal-administration: he is the faithful and devoted servant of the head of a party, from whose hands he receives the boon. The whole complexion of his paper exhibits a decisive internal evidence of the influence of that patronage under which he acts.

Whether the services rendered by him are equivalent to the compensation he receives, is best known to his employer and himself: there is, however, some room to doubt. It is well known that his employer is, himself, well acquainted with the French language, the only one of which Mr. Freneau is the translator, and it may be a question how often his aid is necessary.

It is somewhat singular, too, that a man acquainted with but one foreign language, engaged in an occupation which, it may be presumed, demands his whole time and attention—the editor of a newspaper,—should be the person selected as the clerk for foreign languages in the department of the United States for foreign affairs. Could no person be found acquainted with more than one foreign language, and who in so Edition: current; Page: [232]confidential a trust could have been regularly attached to, and in the constant employ of, the department, as well as immediately under the eye of the head of it?

But it may be asked—is it possible that Mr. Jefferson, the head of a principal department of the government, can be the patron of a paper, the evident object of which is to decry the government and its measures? If he disapproves of the government itself, and thinks it deserving of his opposition, can he reconcile it to his own personal dignity, and the principles of probity, to hold an office under it, and employ the means of official influence in that opposition? If he disapproves of the leading measures which have been adopted in the course of its administration, can he reconcile it with the principles of delicacy and propriety, to hold a place in that administration, and at the same time to be instrumental in vilifying measures which have been adopted by majorities of both branches of the Legislature, and sanctioned by the Chief Magistrate of the Union?

These questions would certainly be natural. An answer might be left to the facts which establish the relation between the Secretary of State and the editor of the National Gazette as the text, and to the general tenor of that paper, as the commentary. Let any intelligent man read the paper from the commencement of it, and let him determine for himself whether it be not a paper virulently hostile to the government and its measures. Let him then ask himself whether, considering the connection which has subsisted between the Secretary of State and Edition: current; Page: [233]the editor of that paper, coëval with its first establishment, it be probable that the complexion of the paper is contrary to the views of that officer.

If he wishes for a confirmation of the inference which he cannot fail to draw, as a probable one, let him be informed in addition:

1st. That while the Constitution of the United States was depending before the people of this country for their consideration and decision, Mr. Jefferson, being in France, was opposed to it in some of its most important features, and wrote his objections to some of his friends in Virginia. That he at first went so far as to discountenance its adoption, though he afterwards recommended it, on the ground of expediency in certain contingencies.

2d. That he is the declared opponent of almost all the important measures which have been devised by the government, more especially the provision which has been made for the public debt, the institution of the Bank of the United States, and such other measures as relate to the public credit, and the finances of the United States.

It is proper that these facts should be known, for if the people of the United States believe, that their happiness and their safety are connected with the existence and maintenance of an efficient national or federal government; if they continue to think that which they have created and established worthy of their confidence—if they are willing that the powers they have granted to it should be exercised with sufficient latitude to attain the ends they had in view in granting them, and to do the essential business of Edition: current; Page: [234]the nation; if they feel an honest pride in seeing the credit of their country, so lately prostrate, elevated to an equal station with that of any nation upon earth; if they are conscious that their own importance is increased by the increased respectability of their country, which from an abject and degraded state, owing to the want of government, has, by the establishment of a wise Constitution, and the measures which have been pursued under it, become a theme for the praise and admiration of mankind; if they experience that their own situation is improved and improving—that commerce and navigation have advanced, that manufactures are progressive—that agriculture is thriving—that property is more secure than it was—industry more certain of a real, not nominal reward—personal liberty perfectly protected—that, notwithstanding the unavoidable demands upon them to satisfy the justice, retrieve the reputation, and answer the exigencies of the country, they are either less burthened than they were, or more equal to the burthen they have to sustain;—if these are their opinions and their experience, let them know and understand, that the sentiments of the officer who has been mentioned—both as to the principles and the practice of the Constitution which was framed by them, and has been administered by their representatives, freely chosen—are essentially different from theirs.

If, on the contrary, the people of the United States are of opinion, that they erred in adopting their present Constitution—that it contains pernicious principles and dangerous powers—that it Edition: current; Page: [235]has been administered injudiciously and wickedly; that men whose abilities and patriotism were tried in the worst of times, have entered into a league to deceive, defraud, and oppress them; that they are really oppressed and ruined, or in imminent danger of being so; if they think the preservation of national union a matter of no or small consequence; if they are willing to return to the situation from which they have escaped, and to strip the government of some of the most necessary powers with which they have clothed it; if they are desirous that those which may be permitted to remain should be frittered away by a narrow, timid, and feeble exercise of them; if they are disposed to see the national government transformed into the skeleton of power; if they are persuaded that nations are under no ties of moral obligation—that public credit is useless, or something worse—that public debts may be paid or cancelled at pleasure—that when a provision is not likely to be made for them, the discontents to be expected from the omission may honestly be transferred from a government able to vindicate its rights to the breasts of individuals who may first be encouraged to become the substitutes to the original creditors and may afterwards be defrauded without danger1; if for national union, national respectability, public order, and public credit, they are willing to substitute national Edition: current; Page: [236]disunion, national insignificance, public disorder, and discredit, then let them unite their acclamations and plaudits in favor of Mr. Jefferson; let him be the toast of every political club, and the theme of every popular huzza; for to those points, without examining his motives, do the real or pretended political tenets of that gentleman most assuredly tend.

These strictures are made from a conviction that it is important to the people to know the characters intrusted with their public affairs.

As Mr. Jefferson is emulous of being the head of a party whose politics have ever aimed at depressing the national authority, let him enjoy all the glory and all the advantage of it. But let it at the same time be understood by those who are persuaded that the real and permanent welfare of the country is to be promoted by other means, that such are the views by which he is actuated.

An American.


Facts, Mr. Fenno, speak louder than words, and, under certain circumstances, louder than oaths. The editor of the National Gazette must not think to swear away their efficacy. If he is truly, as they announce, the pensioned tool of the public character who has been named, no violation of truth in any shape ought to astonish; equivocations and mental reservations are the too common refuge of minds struggling to escape from disgraceful imputations.

It may be very true, in a literal sense, that no Edition: current; Page: [237]negotiation was ever opened with Mr. Freneau by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, and yet it may be very certain, that a negotiation was opened with him, directly or circuitously, by a particular friend1 of that officer, and expectation given of his patronage and encouragement.

It may be very true, in the same sense, that Mr. Freneau’s coming to the city of Philadelphia, as publisher of a newspaper, was at no time urged, advised, or influenced, by the same officer, and yet it may be equally a fact, that it was urged, advised, and influenced by a friend of his, in concert with him, and to answer his views, and with authority to engage his assistance and support. It may in the strictest sense be true, that Mr. Freneau’s coming to Philadelphia was his own voluntary act; and yet true that he came from interested motives, and to do the work of a party; for a man acts not the less voluntarily because he yields to considerations of interest. It may be even true, that the editor of the National Gazette was never either directed, controlled, or attempted to be influenced in any manner, either by the Secretary of State, or any of his friends; and yet it may, in the strongest sense, be true, that under the influence of the emoluments received from that officer, he has acted in precise conformity to his known principles and views.

As to the assertion, that not a single line in the National Gazette was ever, directly or indirectly, written, Edition: current; Page: [238]dictated, or composed for it, by the Secretary of State, it is a shocking instance of rashness and levity. Unless Mr. Freneau be himself the author of every line which has been contained in every one of his papers (a thing not to be believed), it is impossible that he can know that none has ever been directly or indirectly written, dictated, or composed by the officer in question. And if he had been as scrupulous about an oath as he ought to have been, he never could have sworn so positively as he has done, to a thing which it was impossible for him to know; temerity like this would invalidate his testimony in a court of justice, if he were even, as he is not in the present case, a disinterested witness.

No, Mr. Freneau, this is not the way to exculpate yourself before a judicious public, from the conclusions which are to be drawn from the most convincing facts. Nor can it be believed, from any thing that you have either sworn or said, that the whole of what has been alleged is “a lie.”

The material facts which have been alleged, and may be added in confirmation, are either acknowledged, or such as you dare not deny; and they prove decisively your improper connection with the Secretary of State, and the influence of that connection upon your press.

It is a fact which you have acknowledged, that you receive a regular salary from the Secretary of State, as clerk in his department for foreign languages, while you pretend not to act in any other capacity than that of translator of one foreign language.

It is a fact which you tacitly concede, that you Edition: current; Page: [239]came from New York, where you were in the capacity of an editor or director of a newspaper, to become in this city editor of the National Gazette.

It is a fact which you dare not deny, that your appointment as clerk for foreign languages was contemporary with or rather antecedent to the commencement of your paper. The first number of your paper is dated 31st of October, 1791, your appointment was announced in the Daily Advertiser of October 26, 1791 (a paper printed in New York), in the following terms: “We hear from Philadelphia that the Hon. Thomas Jefferson, Esq., Secretary of State for the United States, has appointed Captain Philip Freneau, interpreter of the French language for the Department of State.”1

It is a fact, which the debates in the Virginia Convention will testify, that Mr. Jefferson was in the origin opposed to the present Constitution of the United States.

It is a fact known to every man who approaches that officer (for he takes no pains to conceal it, and will not thank you to deny it), that he arraigns the principal measures of the government, and it may be added, with indiscreet if not indecent warmth.

It is a fact which results from the whole complexion of your paper, that it is a paper intemperatively devoted to the abuse of the government, and all the conspicuous actors in it, except the Secretary of State and his coadjutors, who are the constant theme of your panegyric. Even the illustrious Patriot who Edition: current; Page: [240]presides at the head of the government has not escaped your envenomed shafts.

And from these facts the inferences which have been drawn are irresistible.

The circumstances of your having come from another State to set up and conduct a new paper; the circumstance of the editor of that new paper being appointed a clerk in the Department of State; the coincidence in point of time of that appointment with the commencement of your paper, or, to speak more correctly, its precedency; the conformity between the complexion of your paper, and the known politics of the head of the department who employed you,—these circumstances, collectively, leave no doubt of your true situation; the conviction arising from them is too strong to be weakened by any of those bold or even solemn declarations, which are among the hackneyed tricks employed by the purists in politics, of every country and age, to cheat the people into a belief of their superior sanctity, integrity, and virtue.

If you had been previously the conductor of a newspaper in this city—if your appointment had been any considerable time subsequent to the institution of your paper, there might have been some room for subterfuge; but as matters stand, you have no possible escape.

The fact of the preliminary negotiation which brought you to this city is not material, when so many other facts presupposing it occur; but even this, if the scruples of family connection, or the dread of party resentment, do not prevent the evidence being brought forward, will be proved incontestably; Edition: current; Page: [241]not, indeed, a negotiation in which Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, was the immediate agent, but one carried on by a very powerful, influential, and confidential friend and associate of that gentleman.

That officer has had too considerable a part of his political education amidst the intrigues of a European court, to hazard a direct personal commitment in such a case; he knows how to put a man in a situation calculated to produce all the effects he desires without the gross and awkward formality of telling him: “Sir, I mean to hire you for this purpose.”

It is impossible for a correct mind not to pronounce that, in the abstract, a connection like that which is acknowledged to subsist between you and Mr. Jefferson, between the editor of a newspaper and the head of a department of the government, is indelicate and unfit, and consequently of a nature to justify suspicion.

A connection of that sort in a free country is a pernicious precedent, inconsistent with those pretensions to extraordinary republican purity, of which so suspicious a parade is upon every occasion exhibited.

The apology you attempt for it is ill-founded and inadmissible; there is no law which annexes a particular salary to the clerkship in question—the appointment is under the general authority given to the head of the department, to appoint clerks with salaries not exceeding aggregatively five hundred dollars to each; there is therefore no restriction to the sum you mention to induce, as matter of necessity, the employment of a person engaged in other occupations, and not ordinarily and regularly attached to Edition: current; Page: [242]the department. Five hundred dollars, or even more, might be legally given, for a clerk, competent to the duty, and if it was not sufficient wholly to employ him, his surplus time might be dedicated to other business of the department—nor could there have been any mighty difficulty in finding a clerk so qualified.

But if there had been such difficulty, some other character should undoubtedly have been found; the precedent of such a species of influence erected over the press ought to have been avoided. This is so obvious, that the not having avoided it is a proof of sinister design.

The employment of Mr. Pintard, by the Secretary of State, was a natural consequence of particular situation. Mr. Pintard, if I am rightly informed, had been employed in the same capacity under the old government, and it was natural enough to continue him in the old occupation and employment; but Mr. Pintard was not the printer of a gazette.

These strictures, though involving Mr. Freneau, it shall be confessed, have been drawn forth principally with a view to a character of greater importance in the community. They aim at exposing a public officer who is too little scrupled to embarrass and disparage the government of which he is a member, and who has been the prompter, open or secret, of unwarrantable aspersions on men who, so long as actions, not merely professions, shall be the true test of patriotism and integrity, need never decline a comparison with him of their titles to the public esteem.

An American.
Edition: current; Page: [243]


The charges which have been brought against the editor of the National Gazette, as he himself states them to be, are no otherwise personal charges than as they designate the person against whom they are made.

In their application to Mr. Freneau, they affect him solely in his capacity of editor of a public paper [which may justly be considered as a public capacity], and in relation to matters of public or national concern. It is, therefore, a mere subterfuge to call them personal charges, and then to say they shall not be answered, unless the author of them will come forward to support them. It was easily anticipated that he might have good reasons for not discovering himself, at least at the call of Mr. Freneau, and it was necessary for him to find a shelter. What else could he do? The charges brought against him are substantiated by facts, some of them acknowledged by himself; others proved by a reference to public documents, and to his own paper; others of general notoriety.

The inferences from these facts are the only things that remain for discussion, and these so naturally flow from the premises that they defy the arts of sophistry to obscure them. The expedient, however, which has been adopted comes rather late, considering that Mr. Freneau began to answer even under the solemnities of an oath.

An American.
Edition: current; Page: [244]


A writer in the Gazette of Saturday last, after several observations with regard to certain charges which have been lately brought forward against the Secretary of State, proceeds to make or insinuate several charges against another political character.

As to the observations which are designed to exculpate the Secretary of State, I shall do nothing more than refer to the discussions which have taken place, and appear to be in a train to be pursued in the Gazette of the United States.

As to the charges which have been brought against the other public character alluded to, I shall assert, generally, from a long, intimate, and confidential acquaintance with him, added to some other means of information, that the matters charged, as far as they are intelligible, are either grossly misrepresented or palpably untrue.

A part of them is of a nature to speak for itself without comment, the malignity and turpitude of the accuser denoting clearly the personal enemy in the garb of the political opponent.

The subject and the situation of the parties naturally impose silence, but this is not the first attempt of the kind that has been made fruitlessly hitherto, and I doubt not, equally fruitlessly in time to come. An opinion on the experience of fifteen years, the greatest part of the time under circumstances affording the best opportunity for an accurate estimate of character, cannot be shaken by slanderous surmises. Edition: current; Page: [245]The charge of which I shall take more particular notice, is contained in the following passage:

“Let him explain the public character, who, if uncontradicted fame is to be regarded, opposed the Constitution in the Grand Convention, because it was too republican, and advocated the British monarchy as the perfect standard to be approached as nearly as the people could be made to bear.” This I affirm to be a gross misrepresentation. To prove it is so, it were sufficient to appeal to a single fact, namely, that the gentleman alluded to was the only member from the State to which he belonged who signed the Constitution, and it is notorious, against the prevailing weight of the official influence of the State, and against what would probably be the opinion of a large majority of his fellow-citizens, till better information should correct their first impressions.

How, then, can he be believed to have opposed a thing which he actually agreed to, and that in so unsupported a situation, and under circumstances of such peculiar responsibility? To this I shall add two more facts. One, that the member in question never made a proposition to the Convention which was not conformable to the republican theory. The other, that the highest-toned of any of the propositions made by him was actually voted for by the representation of several States, including some of the principal ones; and including individuals who, in the estimation of those who deem themselves the only republicans, are pre-eminent for republican character. More than this I am not at liberty to say.

Edition: current; Page: [246]

It is a matter generally understood, that the deliberations of the Convention, which were carried on in private, were to remain undisturbed. And every prudent man must be convinced of the propriety both of the one and the other. Had the deliberations been open while going on, the clamors of faction would have prevented any satisfactory result; had they been afterwards disclosed, much food would have been afforded to inflammatory declamation. Propositions made without due reflection, and perhaps abandoned by the proposers themselves, on more mature reflection, would have been handles for a profusion of ill-natured accusation.

Every infallible declaimer, taking his own ideas as the perfect standard, would have railed without measure or mercy at every member of the Convention who had gone a single line beyond his standard.

The present is a period fruitful in accusation—much anonymous slander has been and will be vented—no man’s reputation can be safe, if charges in this form are to be lightly listened to. There are but two kinds of anonymous charges that can merit attention: where the evidence goes along with the charge; and where reference is made to specific facts, the evidence of the truth or falsehood of which is in the power or possession of the party accusing, and he at liberty to make a free use of it. None of the charges brought forward in this instance falls within either of these rules.

Edition: current; Page: [247]

catullus to aristides For the Gazette of the United States.


Though there would be no great hazard of mistake in inferring the writer of the paper under the signature of “Aristides” from “the appropriate and prominent features” which characterize the style of that paper; yet I forbear to imitate the example which has been set, with too little decorum, by naming or describing the supposed author. The similitude of style, or any other circumstance merely probable, is too slight a foundation for so improper a procedure.

Peculiar circumstances which it is not necessary to explain, uniting with the conjecture which is indulged respecting the real “Aristides,” lead to a change of the original party to the charges. The discussion will be taken up and pursued by one who is willing to be responsible for the allegations he shall make, and who consequently will not refuse to be known on proper terms to the officer concerned. It is, however, not meant to invite inquiry on that head. It is most advisable that none should be made. For any public purpose, none will be requisite. For any personal one, none will be proper. What shall be said will merely apply to public conduct, and will be supported by proof and argument.

Why, then, it may be asked, the intimation of a willingness to be known, if required? The answer is merely to put an end to the epithets “cowardly Edition: current; Page: [248]assassin,” “striking in the dark,” and other tropes and figures of a similar nature. Some rhetoric may be spoiled, but the elucidation of truth will be promoted.

It occurs at once to an observant reader, that “Aristides” passes over, in total silence, the leading article of charge brought by “An American” against Mr. Jefferson, namely: That he is the institutor and patron of a certain gazette published in this city, the object and tendency of which are to vilify and depreciate the government of the United States, to misinterpret and traduce the administration of it, except in the single department of which that gentleman is the head; implicating in the most virulent censure the majorities of both houses of Congress, the heads both of the Treasury and War departments, and sparing not even the Chief Magistrate himself; that in the support of this paper, thus hostile to the government, in the administration of which he holds so important a trust, he has not scrupled to apply the money of that very government, departing by this conduct from the rules of official propriety and obligation, and from the duty of a discreet and patriotic citizen.

This is the leading and main charge, which has been brought by “An American” against Mr. Jefferson, which he supports in several ways.

1st.—By direct proof of an official connection between the Secretary of State and the editor of the National Gazette, coëval with, or rather antecedent to, the first establishment of that paper.

2d.—By the suggestion of his being opposed to the Edition: current; Page: [249]present government of the United States, while it was under the consideration of the people.

3d.—By the suggestion of his being opposed to the principal measures which have been adopted in the course of its administration, particularly those relating to the finances.

The object of the above recapitulation is to show the true original state of the question, in order that it may be clearly seen how entirely “Aristides,” in his defence, loses sight of the principal point, and contents himself with an indirect endeavor to involve it in uncertainty, by disputing or denying some positions which form only the collateral evidence.

It will now remain to see how the charges of “An American” have been and can be supported.

As to the connection between the Secretary of State and the editor of the National Gazette, neither of the following facts can or will be disputed. If any of them should be denied, it will be proved beyond the possibility of doubt:

1st.—That the editor of the National Gazette is a clerk in the Department of State for foreign languages, and as such receives a salary of two hundred and fifty dollars a year.

2d.—That he became so, antecedent to the establishment of his gazette, having actually received his salary from the 17th August, 1791, and not having published the first number of his paper till the 31st of October following.

3d.—That at the time he became so, there was another character, a clerk in the same department, who understood the French language; and that the Edition: current; Page: [250]editor of the National Gazette is a translator of that language only.

4th.—That the appointment was not made under any special provision, marking out a particular clerkship of the kind, its duties, or its emoluments; but, under a general authority to appoint clerks, and allow them salaries not exceeding the average of five hundred dollars to each.

5th.—That the editor of the National Gazette, immediately preceding the establishment of that paper, was the superintendent or conductor of a paper belonging to Childs & Swaine, printed at New York.

These are the facts: the conclusion is irresistible. The secret intentions of men being in the repositories of their own breasts, it rarely happens, and is therefore not to be expected, that direct and positive proof of them can be adduced.

Presumptive facts and circumstances must afford the evidence; and when these are sufficiently strong they ought to decide.

We find the head of a department taking the editor of a gazette into his employment, as a clerk, with a stated salary—not for any special purpose, which could not have been accomplished otherwise; for he had, at the time, in his department, a clerk who was capable of performing the very service required, and could without difficulty have procured others similarly qualified; nor from any particular necessity arising from a too limited allowance, or any other cause; for he had it in his power to allow an adequate compensation to a character who might have been regularly attached to the department.

Edition: current; Page: [251]

The very existence of such a connection, then, is alone a sufficient foundation for believing that the design of the arrangement was to secure an influence over the paper, the editor of which was so employed. But the circumstances which attend it explain the nature of it beyond a doubt. That which has been just mentioned, namely, there having been previously a clerk in the department qualified to render the service, is a weighty one. The coming of a new printer, from another State, to institute a new paper—his having been appointed clerk in the department prior to his removal to this city—his having been compensated before he was even present, to satisfy the appearance of his rendering service,—these circumstances give a point and energy to the language of the transaction which render it unequivocal. There perhaps never was a more flimsy covering for the pensioning of a printer. Some ostensible ground for giving him the public money was necessary to be contrived—the clerkship of foreign languages was deemed a plausible pretext. But no man acquainted with human nature, or with the ordinary rules of political intrigue, can be deceived by it.

The medium of negotiation between the Secretary of State and Mr. Freneau, in order to the institution of his paper, is known, and documents are possessed which ascertain the person, but they are at present withheld, from considerations of a particular nature. These are the more readily yielded to, because the facts which have been stated render it unnecessary to exhibit them. These facts prove, to the satisfaction of every impartial mind, that Mr. Jefferson Edition: current; Page: [252]is the Institutor and Patron of the National Gazette.

As to the complexion and tendency of that gazette, a reference to itself is sufficient. No man, who loves the government, or is a friend to the public tranquillity, but must reprobate it as an incendiary and pernicious publication, and condemn the auspices under which it is supported.

In another paper, the charges which have occasioned so much umbrage to “Aristides” will be more correctly stated and enforced. The precise terms of the advice which was given by Mr. Jefferson to Congress, respecting the transfer of the French debt to a company of Hollanders, will be recited.

This characteristic trait in the political principles of that gentleman, will be submitted to the honest feelings not only of the great body of the yeomanry, to whom such affected appeals are so often made, but to honest men of whatsoever class and condition.



“An American,” to confirm the inferences resulting from the official connection between the Secretary of State and the editor of the National Gazette, appeals to a conformity of the political principles and views of that officer with those which are sedulously inculcated in that gazette. If this conformity exists, it certainly affords a strong presumption, in aid of direct facts, of the operation of his influence on the complexion of that paper.

Edition: current; Page: [253]

The circumstances of conformity alleged, fall under two heads: one, that the Secretary of State was in the origin opposed to that Constitution which it is the evident object of the National Gazette to discredit; the other, that he has been, and is, opposed to those measures which it is the unremitted, and, it may be said, the avowed endeavor of that paper to censure and subvert.

In contradiction to the first suggestion, “Aristides” cites an authority, which “An American” appears to have relied upon in support of his assertion: the speech of Mr. Pendleton in the Convention of Virginia. Let an analysis of this speech show whether it supports or contradicts the assertion.

Mr. Pendleton represents a certain letter of Mr. Jefferson as containing these particulars: 1st. A strong wish that the first nine conventions may accept the new Constitution, because it would secure the good it contains, which is great and important. 2d. A wish that the four latest, whichever they should be, might refuse to accede to it till amendments were secured. 3d. A caution to take care that no objection to the form of the government should produce a schism in the Union; which Mr. Jefferson admits to be an incurable evil.

From this it appears that, though Mr. Jefferson was of opinion that the Constitution contained “great and important good,” and was desirous that the first nine deliberating States should consent to it for the sake of preserving the existence of the Union, yet he had strong objections to the Constitution; so strong that he was willing to risk an ultimate dismemberment Edition: current; Page: [254]in an experiment to obtain the alterations which he deemed necessary.

If the four last deliberating States (particularly if they had happened to be States in geographical contiguity, which was very possible) had refused to ratify the Constitution, what might not have been the consequence? Who knows whether the assenting States would have been willing to have been coerced into the amendments which the non-assenting States might have been supposed to dictate? Calculating the intrigues and machinations which were to have been expected to stand in the way, who can say, if even two thirds of both houses of Congress should have been found willing to propose that three fourths of the Legislatures, or conventions, in three fourths of the States, would have been brought to adopt the required amendments?

Could any thing but objections to the Constitution of the most serious kind have justified the hazarding an eventual schism in the UNION, in so great a degree as would have attended an adherence to the advice given by Mr. Jefferson? Can there be any perversion of truth in affirming that the person who entertained those objections was opposed to the Constitution?

The opposition which was experienced in every part of the United States, acknowledged the necessity and utility of the Union; and, generally speaking, that the Constitution contained many valuable features; contending only that it wanted some essential alterations to render it upon the whole a safe and good government.

It may be satisfactory to review what was said in Edition: current; Page: [255]the same Convention of Virginia by some other members on the subject of the letter in question.

Mr. Henry (p. 109 of the “Debates”) replies thus to Mr. Pendleton:—"The honorable gentleman has endeavored to explain the opinion of Mr. Jefferson, our common friend, into an advice to adopt this new government. He wishes nine States to adopt, and that four States may be found somewhere to reject it. Now, sir, I say, if we pursue his advice, what are we to do? To prefer form to substance? for give me leave to ask, what is the substantial part of his counsel? It is, sir, that four States should reject. They tell us that, from the most authentic accounts, New Hampshire will adopt it. Where, then, will four States be found to reject, if we adopt it? If we do, the counsel of this worthy and enlightened countryman of ours will be thrown away,” etc. Whether this gentleman argued sincerely, from his impression of the true import of the letter, or made an attempt “to pervert Mr. Jefferson’s sentiments,” as “Aristides” affirms, must be reserved to his own consciousness, and to the candid construction of an impartial public.

Mr. Madison, in reply to Mr. Henry (p. 122 of the same “Debates”), expresses himself thus:—"The honorable member, in order to influence our decision, has mentioned the opinion of a citizen, who is an ornament to this State. When the name of this distinguished character was introduced, I was much surprised. Is it come to this, then, that we are not to follow our own reason? Is it proper to adduce the opinions of respectable men, not within these walls? Edition: current; Page: [256]If the opinion of an important character were to weigh on this occasion, could we not adduce a character equally great on our side? Are we, who (in the honorable gentleman’s opinion) are not to be guided by an erring world, now to submit to the opinion of a citizen beyond the Atlantic? I believe that were that gentleman now on this floor, he would be for the adoption of this Constitution. I wish his name had never been mentioned; I wish every thing spoken here relative to his opinion may be suppressed, if our debates should be published. I know that the delicacy of his feelings will be wounded, when he will see in print what has and may be said concerning him on this occasion. I am in some measure acquainted with his sentiments on this subject. It is not right for me to unfold what he has informed me. But I will venture to assert that the clause now discussed is not objected to by Mr. Jefferson. He approves of it because it enables the government to carry on its operations,” etc. It is observable that Mr. Madison neither advocates the accuracy of Mr. Pendleton’s comment nor denies the justice of that of Mr. Henry. His solicitude appears to be to destroy the influence of what he impliedly admits to be the opinion of Mr. Jefferson, to press out of sight the authority of that opinion, and to get rid of the subject as fast as possible. He confesses a knowledge of Mr. Jefferson’s sentiments, but prudently avoids disclosure, wrapping the matter in mysterious reserve, and leaving the public to this day to conjecture what was the precise import of the sentiments communicated. Enough, however, Edition: current; Page: [257]is seen to justify the conclusion that if the spirit of Mr. Jefferson’s advice had prevailed with the Convention, and full credence had been given to the expected adoption by New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island would have temporarily thrown themselves out of the Union. And whether, in that event, they would have been at this day reunited to it, or whether there would be now any Union at all, is happily a speculation which need only be pursued to derive the pleasing reflection that the danger was wisely avoided.

To understand more accurately what “An American” meant in asserting that Mr. Jefferson had been opposed to the Constitution, let him be compared with himself. In his first paper he expresses himself thus: “While the Constitution of the United States was depending before the people of this country for their consideration and decision, Mr. Jefferson being in France was opposed to it in some of its most important features, and wrote his objections to some of his friends in Virginia. He at first went so far as to discountenance its adoption; though he afterwards recommended it on the ground of expediency in certain contingencies.”

From this it is evident that so far from denying, he has even admitted, that Mr. Jefferson, at one stage of the business, recommended the adoption of the Constitution to his fellow-citizens, but upon a contingency. And this is literally the fact, as established by the letter quoted in the debates of the Convention. The advice is to adopt, if nine States had not previously adopted; to reject, if that number Edition: current; Page: [258]of States had previously adopted. This is clearly to adopt, or not, upon a contingency. Thus the authority appealed to by “Aristides” confirms the latter part of “An American’s” assertion, without contradicting the former part of it.

“Aristides” has not denied, nor do I believe he will deny, that Mr. Jefferson, in his early communications, discountenanced the adoption of the Constitution in its primitive form. I know the source of “An American’s” information. It is equally authentic and friendly to Mr. Jefferson. Allowing for the bare possibility of misapprehension, it exactly accords with the statement which has been made of it. If the fact shall be denied, the source of information will be indicated, under due guards for the delicacy of the proceeding.

This will serve either to confirm, or, in case of misconception, to correct.

I add that some of Mr. Jefferson’s objections to the Constitution have not been removed by the amendments which have been proposed. Part of his objections went to the structure of particular parts of the government.

As to the second fact which “An American” corroborates, the charge of Mr. Jefferson’s participation in the views of the National Gazette, it is in a degree conceded by “Aristides.” He confesses, nay, he even boasts, Mr. Jefferson’s abhorrence of some of the leading principles of Mr. Hamilton’s fiscal administration,—that is, the leading principles of those measures which have provided for the public debt and have restored public credit.

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It would have been well if “Aristides” had told us what those leading principles are which are the objects of so much abhorrence to Mr. Jefferson.

The leading principles of Mr. Hamilton’s administration have been: that the public debt ought to be provided for, in favor of those who, according to the express terms of the contract, were the true legal proprietors of it; that it ought to be provided for, in other respects, according to the terms of the contract, except so far as deviations from it should be assented to by the creditors, upon the condition of a fair equivalent; that it ought to be funded on ascertained revenues pledged for the payment of interest, and the gradual redemption of principal; that the debts of the several States ought to be comprised in the provisions, on the same terms with that of the United States; that to render this great operation practicable, avoid the oppression of trade and industry, and facilitate loans to the government in cases of emergency, it was necessary to institute a national bank; that indirect taxes were, in the actual circumstances of the country, the most eligible means of revenue; and that direct taxes ought to be avoided as much and as long as possible.

I aver, from competent opportunities of knowing Mr. Jefferson’s ideas, that he has been hostile to all these positions, except, perhaps, the last; and that even in regard to that, his maxims would oblige the government in practice speedily to resort to direct taxes.

I aver, moreover, that Mr. Jefferson’s opposition to the administration of the government has not been Edition: current; Page: [260]confined to the measures connected with the Treasury Department, but has extended—to use the words of “An American,” to almost all the important measures of the government. The exceptions to the generality of both the preceding assertions I am content to rest on a designation by Mr. Jefferson, or by any person who shall speak from a knowledge of his sentiments, of those principles of the fiscal department, or of those measures of the government of any importance, which he does approve. I insist only that the designation be precise and explicit, and come with such marks of authenticity as are adapted to the nature of an anonymous discussion.

To give an idea of the accuracy with which “Aristides” discloses Mr. Jefferson’s opinions, I shall cite one of his phrases with a short observation. He asserts that a suggestion against Mr. Jefferson, which he states, is made on no better foundation than his being opposed to some of the principles of the funding system of the national bank, and certain other measures of the Secretary of the Treasury. It is matter of general notoriety and unquestionable certainty, that Mr. Jefferson has been opposed to the national bank in toto, to its constitutionality, and to its expediency. With what propriety is it then said that he has been opposed only to “some of the principles of that institution"?

I proceed now to state the exact tenor of the advice which Mr. Jefferson gave to Congress respecting the transfer of the debt due to France to a company of Hollanders. After mentioning an offer which had been made by such a company for the purchase of Edition: current; Page: [261]the debt, he concludes with these extraordinary expressions: “If there is a danger of the public payment not being punctual, I submit whether it may not be better that the discontents which would then arise should be transferred from a court of whose good-will we have so much need to the breasts of a private company.

The above is an extract which was made from the letter in February, 1787. The date of it was not noted, but the original being on the files of the Department of State, will ascertain that and all other particulars relating to its contents. The genuineness of the foregoing extract may be depended upon.

The letter was the subject of a report from the Board of Treasury in February, 1787. That board treated the idea of the transfer proposed as both unjust and impolitic:—unjust, because the nation would contract an engagement which there was no well-grounded prospect of fulfilling; impolitic, because a failure in the payment of interest, on the debt transferred (which was inevitable), would justly blast all hopes of credit with the citizens of the United Netherlands in future pressing exigencies of the Union; and gave it as their opinion that it would be advisable for Congress, without delay, to instruct their minister at the court of France, to forbear giving his sanction to any such transfer.

* * * * * *

Congress agreeing in the ideas of the board, caused an instruction to that effect to be sent to Mr. Jefferson. Here, then, was a solemn act of government condemning the principle as unjust and impolitic.

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If the sentiment contained in the extract which has been recited can be vindicated from the imputation of political profligacy, then is it necessary to unlearn all the ancient notions of justice, and to substitute some new-fashioned scheme of morality in their stead.

Here is no complicated problem which sophistry may entangle or obscure. Here is a plain question of moral feeling. A government is encouraged, on the express condition of not having a prospect of making a due provision for a debt which it owes, to concur in a transfer of that debt, from a nation well able to bear the inconveniences of failure or delay, to individuals whose total ruin might have been the consequence of it, and that upon the interested consideration of having need of the good-will of the creditor nation, and, with the dishonorable motive, as it is clearly implied, of having more to apprehend from the discontents of that nation, than from those of disappointed and betrayed individuals. Let every honest and impartial mind, consulting its own spontaneous emotions, pronounce for itself upon the rectitude of such a suggestion. Let every sober and independent member of the community decide whether it is likely to be a misfortune to the country, that the maxims of the officer at the head of its Treasury Department are materially variant from those of the author of that suggestion.

And let “Aristides” prove, if he can, that Mr. Jefferson gave advice “expressly contrary to that which has been ascribed to him.” Amidst the eccentric ramblings of this political comet, its station in Edition: current; Page: [263]another revolution will not prove that its appearance was not, at one time, at the place which has been assigned for it.

“An American,” it ought to be confessed, has in this instance drawn larger than the life. This he has done by blending with the fact the sudden though natural comments of an honest indignation. But the original itself, in its true size and shape, without the help of the least exaggeration, is to the moral eye a deformed and hideous monster.

Say, “Aristides"! did the character to whom you are so partial, imitate, in this case, the sublime virtue of that venerable Athenian, whose name you have assumed; did he dissuade his countrymen from adopting a proposition, because though “nothing could be more advantageous, nothing could be more unjust"? Did he not rather advise them to do what was both disadvantageous and unjust? May he not, as a public man, discard all apprehension of ostracism, for being the superlatively just?


P. S.—Some additional observations are reserved for another paper.


“Aristides” complains that “An American” has charged Mr. Jefferson with being the patron and promoter of national disunion, national insignificance, public disorder, and discredit. “An American,” however, has only affirmed, that “the real or pretended Edition: current; Page: [264]political tenets of that gentleman tend” to those points.

The facts which have been established clearly demonstrate, that, in the form in which it is made, the charge is well founded.

If Mr. Jefferson’s opposition to the funding system, to the bank, and to the other measures which are connected with the administration of the national finances, had ceased, when those measures had received the sanction of law, nothing more could have been said, than, that he had transgressed the rules of official decorum, in entering the lists against the head of another department (between whom and himself there was a reciprocal duty to cultivate harmony); that he had been culpable in pursuing a line of conduct, which was calculated to sow the seeds of discord in the executive branch of the government, in the infancy of its existence.

But when his opposition extended beyond that point, when it was apparent, that he wished to render odious, and of course to subvert (for in a popular government these are convertible terms), all those deliberate and solemn acts of the Legislature, which had become the pillars of the public credit, his conduct deserved to be regarded with a still severer eye.

Whatever differences of opinion may have preceded those acts, however exceptionable particular features in them may have appeared to certain characters, there is no enlightened nor discreet citizen but must agree that they ought now to remain undisturbed. To set afloat the funding system, after the faith of the nation has been so deliberately and Edition: current; Page: [265]solemnly pledged to it—after such numerous and extensive alienations of property for full value have been made under its sanction—with adequate revenues little burthensome to the people—in a time of profound peace1—with not even the shadow of any public necessity—on no better ground than that of theoretical and paradoxical dogmas,—would be one of the most wanton and flagitious acts that ever stained the annals of a civilized nation.

Yet positions tending to that disgraceful result have been maintained, in public discourses, by individuals known to be devoted to the Secretary of State; and have been privately smiled upon as profound discoveries in political science.

Yet the less discreet, though not least important partisans of that officer, talk familiarly of undoing the funding system as a meritorious work. Yet his gazette (which may fairly be regarded as the mirror of his views), after having labored for months to make it an object of popular detestation, has at length told us, in plain and triumphant terms, that “the funding system has had its day”; and very clearly, if not expressly, that it is the object of the party to overthrow it.

“An American,” then, has justly, and from sufficient data, inferred that Mr. Jefferson’s politics, whatever may be the motives of them, tend to national disunion, insignificance, disorder, and discredit. That the subversion of the funding system would produce national discredit, proves itself. Loss Edition: current; Page: [266]of credit, the reason being the same, must attend nations, as well as individuals, who voluntarily and without necessity violate their formal and positive engagements.

Insignificance and disorder, as applied to communities, equally with individuals, are the natural offspring of a loss of credit, premeditatedly and voluntarily incurred.

Disunion would not long lag behind. Soberminded and virtuous men in every State would lose all confidence in, and all respect for, a government, which has betrayed so much levity and inconstancy, so profligate a disregard to the rights of property and to the obligations of good faith. Their support would of course be so far withdrawn or relaxed as to leave it an easy prey to its enemies. These comprise the advocates for separate confederacies; the jealous partisans of unlimited sovereignty, in the State governments—the never to be satiated lovers of innovation and change—the tribe of pretended philosophers, but real fabricators of chimeras and paradoxes, the Catilines and the Cæsars of the community (a description of men to be found in every republic), who, leading the dance to the tune of liberty without law, endeavor to intoxicate the people with delicious but poisonous draughts to render them the easier victims of their rapacious ambition; the vicious and fanatical of every class, who are ever found the willing or deluded followers of those seducing and treacherous leaders.

But this is not all—the invasion of sixty millions of property could not be perpetrated without violent Edition: current; Page: [267]concussions. The States, whose citizens, both as original creditors and purchasers, own the largest portions of the debt (and several such there are), would not remain long bound in the trammels of a party which had so grossly violated their rights. The consequences in experiment would quickly awaken to a sense of injured right, and interest such of them, whose representatives may have wickedly embarked, or been ignorantly betrayed, into the atrocious and destructive project.

Where would all this end but in disunion and anarchy?—in national disgrace and humiliation?

“Aristides” insinuates that “An American” has distinguished Mr. Jefferson as “the Catiline of the day—the ambitious incendiary.” Those epithets are not to be found in either of the papers over that signature. But “An American” has said that Mr. Jefferson “has been the prompter, open or secret, of unwarrantable aspersions on men who, as long as actions, not merely professions, shall be the true tests of patriotism and integrity, need never decline a comparison with him of their titles to the public esteem,” and he is supported in the assertion by facts.

Not to cite or trace those foul and pestilent whispers which, clandestinely circulating through the country, have, as far as was practicable, contaminated some of its fairest and worthiest characters, an appeal to known circumstances will justify the charge.

Some time since there appeared in print certain speculations,1 which have been construed into an Edition: current; Page: [268]advocation of hereditary distinctions in government. These (whether with or without foundation, is to this moment matter of conjecture) were ascribed to a particular character, pre-eminent for his early intrepid, faithful, persevering, and comprehensively useful services to his country—a man, pure and unspotted in private life, a citizen having a high and solid title to the esteem, the gratitude, and the confidence of his fellow-citizens.

The first volume of the Rights of Man makes its appearance. The opportunity is eagerly seized to answer the double purpose of wounding a competitor, and of laying in an additional stock of popularity, by associating and circulating the name of Thomas Jefferson with a popular production of a favorite writer on a favorite subject.

For this purpose, the Secretary of State sits down and pens an epistle to a printer in the city of Philadelphia, transmitting the work for republication, and expressing his approbation of it in a way which we learn, from the preface of that printer to his edition of the work, was calculated not only to do justice to the rights of Mr. Paine, but to do honor to Mr. Jefferson, by directing the mind to a contemplation of that republican firmness and democratic simplicity which ought to endear him to every friend to the Rights of Man.

The letter, as we learn from the same preface, contained the following passages: “I am extremely pleased to find it will be reprinted here, and that something is at length to be publicly said against the political heresies which have sprung up among us.” Edition: current; Page: [269]“I have no doubt our citizens will rally a second time round the standard of common-sense.”

There was not a man in the United States acquainted with the insinuations which had been propagated, who did not instantly apply the remark, and the signal was so well understood by the partisans of the writer, that a general attack immediately commenced. The newspapers in different States resounded with invective and scurrility against the patriot, who was marked out as the object of persecution and, if possible, of degradation.

Under certain circumstances, general expressions designate a person or an object as clearly as an indication of it by name. So it happened in the present case. The javelin went directly to its destination.

It was quickly perceived that discerning and respectable men disapproved the step. It was of consequence to endeavor to maintain their good opinion. Protestations and excuses as frivolous as awkward were multiplied to veil the real design.

“The gentleman alluded to never once entered into the mind. It was never imagined that the printer would be so incautious as to publish the letter or any part of it. Nothing more was in view than to turn a handsome period, and avoid the baldness of a note that did nothing but present the compliments of the writer.”

Thus a solemn invocation to the people of America, on the most serious and important subject, dwindled at once into a brilliant conceit, that tickled the imagination too much to be resisted. The imputation of levity was preferred to that of malice.

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But when the people of America presented themselves to the disturbed patriotic fancy, as a routed host, scattered and dispersed by political sorcerers, how was it possible to resist the heroic, the chivalrous desire of erecting for them some magic standard of orthodoxy, and endeavoring to rally them round it for mutual protection and safety?

In so glorious a cause, the considerations that a citizen of the United States had written in a foreign country a book containing strictures on the government of that country which would be regarded by it as libellous and seditious, that he had dedicated this book to the Chief Magistrate of the Union, that a republication of it under the auspices of the Secretary of State would wear the appearance of its having been promoted, at least of its being patronized, by the government of this country, were considerations too light and unimportant to occasion a moment’s hesitation or pause.

Those who, after an attentive review of circumstances, can be deceived by the artifices which have been employed to varnish over this very exceptional proceeding, must understand little of human nature, must be little read in the history of those arts, which in all countries and at all times have served to disguise the machinations of factious and intriguing men.

The remaining circumstance of public notoriety, which fixes upon Mr. Jefferson the imputation of being the prompter or instigator of detraction, exists in his patronage of the National Gazette.

Can any attentive reader of that gazette, doubt for a moment that it has been systematically devoted to Edition: current; Page: [271]the calumniating and blackening of public characters? Can it be a question, that a main object of the paper is to destroy the public confidence in a particular public character, who it seems is to be hunted down at all events, for the unpardonable sin of having been the steady, invariable, and decided friend of broad national principles of government? Can it be a question, that the persecution of the officer alluded to is agreeable to the views of the institutor of the paper?

Does all this proceed from motives purely disinterested and patriotic? Can none of a different complexion be imagined, that may at least have operated to give a stimulus to patriotic zeal?

No. Mr. Jefferson has hitherto been distinguished as the quiet, modest, retiring philosopher; as the plain, simple, unambitious republican. He shall not now, for the first time, be regarded as the intriguing incendiary, the aspiring turbulent competitor.

How long it is since that gentleman’s real character may have been divined, or whether this is only the first time that the secret has been disclosed, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the history of his political life to determine; but there is always a “first time” when characters studious of artful disguises are unveiled; when the visor of stoicism is plucked from the brow of the epicurean; when the plain garb of Quaker simplicity is stripped from the concealed voluptuary; when Cæsar coyly refusing the proffered diadem, is seen to be Cæsar rejecting the trappings, but tenaciously grasping the substance of imperial domination.

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It is not unusual to defend one post by attacking another. “Aristides” has shown a disposition to imitate this policy. He by clear implication tells us, and doubtless means it as a justification of the person whom he defends, that attachment to aristocracy, monarchy, hereditary succession, a titled order of nobility, and all the mock pageantry of kingly government, form the appropriate and prominent features in the character to which he boasts Mr. Jefferson’s opposition, and which it seems to be a principal part of the business of his gazette to depreciate. This is no more than what has been long matter for malevolent insinuation. I mistake, however, the man to whom it is applied, if he fears the strictest scrutiny into his political principles and conduct; if he does not wish there “were windows in the breast,” and that assembled America might witness the inmost springs of his public actions. I mistake him—however a turn of mind less addicted to dogmatizing than reasoning, less fond of hypotheses than experience, may have led to speculative doubts concerning the probable success of the republican theory—if he has not uniformly and ardently, since the experiment of it began in the United States, wished it success; if he is not sincerely desirous that the sublime idea of a perfect equality of rights among citizens, exclusive of hereditary distinctions, may be practically justified and realized; and if among the sources of the regret which his language and conduct have testified, at the overdriven maxims and doctrines that too long withstood the establishment of firm government in the United States, and now embarrass the execution of Edition: current; Page: [273]the government which has been established, a principal one has not been their tendency to counteract a fair trial of the theory to which he is represented to be adverse. I mistake him, if his measures proceeding upon the ground of a liberal and efficient exercise of the powers of the national government, have had any other object than to give it stability and duration: the only solid and rational expedient for preserving republican government in the United States.

It has been pertinently remarked by a judicious writer, that Cæsar, who overturned the republic, was the Whig, Cato, who died for it, the Tory, of Rome; such, at least, was the common cant of political harangues, the insidious tale of hypocritical demagogues.



Attempts in different shapes have been made to repel the charges which have been brought against the Secretary of State. The defence of him, however, in the quarter in which he has been principally assailed, has hitherto gone no further than a mere show of defending him. I speak as to his improper connection with the editor of the National Gazette. But a more serious and plausible effort has been made to obviate the impression which arises from his having been originally an objector to the present Constitution of the United States.

For this purpose several letters said to have been written by Mr. Jefferson while in Europe have been Edition: current; Page: [274]communicated. How far they are genuine letters or mere fabrications; how far they may have been altered or mutilated, is liable, from the manner of their appearance, to question and doubt. It is observable also, that the extract of a letter of the 6th July, contained in the American Daily Advertiser of the 10th instant, though it seems to be intended as part of the one which is mentioned in the “Debates of the Virginia Convention,” does not answer to the description given of it by Mr. Pendleton, who professes to have seen it. For Mr. Pendleton expressly states with regard to that letter, that Mr. Jefferson, after having declared his wish respecting the issue of the deliberations upon the Constitution, proceeds to enumerate the amendments which he wishes to be secured. The extract which is published, speaks only of a bill of rights, as the essential amendment to be obtained by the rejection of four States, which by no means satisfies the latitude of Mr. Pendleton’s expressions.

Such, nevertheless, as it is, it affords an additional confirmation of that part of “An American’s” statement, which represents Mr. Jefferson as having advised the people of Virginia to adopt or not upon a contingency.

It happens, likewise, that the letters which have been communicated tend to confirm the only parts of “An American’s” statement of the sentiments and conduct of Mr. Jefferson, in relation to the Constitution, which remained to be supported; namely, “that he was opposed to it in some of its most important features, and at first went so far as to discountenance Edition: current; Page: [275]its adoption.” By this I understand without previous amendments.

From the first of those letters, dated “Paris the 20th December, 1787,” it appears that Mr. Jefferson, among other topics of objection, “disliked, and greatly disliked, the abandonment of the principle of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of President,” from which the inference is clear, that he would have wished the principle of rotation to have extended not only to the executive, but to the other branches of the government, to the Senate at least, as is explained by a subsequent letter. This objection goes to the structure of the government in a very important article; and while it justifies the assertion that Mr. Jefferson was opposed to the Constitution, in some of its most important features, it is a specimen of the visionary system of politics of its author. Had it been confined to the office of Chief Magistrate, it might have pretended not only to plausibility but to a degree of weight and respectability. By being extended to other branches of the government, it assumes a different character, and evinces a mind prone to projects which are incompatible with the principles of stable and systematic government, disposed to multiply the outworks, and leave the citadel weak and tottering.

But the fact not the merit of the objection is the material point. In this particular, it comes fully up to the suggestion which has been made.

It now only remains to see how far it is proved, that Mr. Jefferson at first discountenanced the adoption of the Constitution in its primitive form.

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Of this, a person acquainted with the manner of that gentleman, and with the force of terms, will find sufficient evidence in the following passage: “I do not pretend to decide, what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in the Constitution, and of getting rid of the bad: whether by adopting it in hopes of future amendment; or after it has been duly weighed and canvassed by the people,—after seeing the parts they generally dislike, and those they generally approve, to say to them, ’We see now what you wish—send together your deputies again—let them frame a Constitution for you, omitting what you have condemned, and establishing the powers you approve.’”

Mr. Jefferson did not explicitly decide which of these two modes was best, and while it is clear, that he had not determined in favor of an adoption without previous amendments, it is not difficult to infer from the terms of expression employed, that he preferred the last of the two modes; a recurrence to a second convention. The faintness of the phrase “in hopes of future amendment,” and the emphatical method of displaying the alternative, are sufficient indications of the preference he entertained.

The pains which he takes in the same letter to remove the alarm naturally inspired by the insurrection which had happened in Massachusetts, are an additional illustration of the same bias. It is not easy to understand what other object his comments on that circumstance could have, but to obviate the anxiety which it was calculated to inspire, for an Edition: current; Page: [277]adoption of the Constitution, without a previous experiment to amend it.

It is not possible to avoid remarking by the way, that these comments afford a curious and characteristic sample of logic and calculation. “One rebellion in thirteen States, in the course of eleven years, is but one for each State in a century and a half”; while France, it seems, had had three insurrections in three years. In the latter instance the subdivisions of the entire nation are confounded in one mass; in the former, they are the ground of calculation. And thus a miserable sophism is gravely made a basis of political consolation and conduct. For, according to the data stated, it was as true that the United States had had one rebellion in eleven years, endangering their common safety and welfare, as that France had had three insurrections in three years.

Thus it appears from the very documents produced in exculpation of Mr. Jefferson, that he in fact discountenanced, in the first instance, the adoption of the Constitution, favoring the idea of an attempt at previous amendments by a second convention; which is the only part of the allegation of “An American” that remained to be established.

As to those letters of Mr. Jefferson which are subsequent to his knowledge of the ratification of the Constitution by the requisite number of States, they prove nothing but that Mr. Jefferson was willing to play the politician.

They can at best only be received as acts of submission to the opinion of the majority which he professes to believe infallible, resigning to it, with Edition: current; Page: [278]all possible humility, not only his conduct but his judgment.

It will be remarked that there appears to have been no want of versatility in his opinions. They kept pace tolerably well with the progress of the business, and were quite as accommodating as circumstances seemed to require. On the 31st July, 1788, when the adoption of the Constitution was known, the various and weighty objections of March, 1787, had resolved themselves into the simple want of a bill of rights; in November following, on the strength of the authority of three States (overruling in that instance the maxim of implicit deference for the opinion of a majority), that lately solitary defect acquires a companion in a revival of the objection to the perpetual re-eligibility of the President. And another convention, which appeared no very alarming expedient while the entire Constitution was in jeopardy, became an object to be deprecated, when partial amendments to an already established Constitution were alone in question.

From the fluctuations of sentiment which appear in the letters that have been published, it is natural to infer, that had the whole of Mr. Jefferson’s correspondence on the subject been given to the public, much greater diversities would have been discovered.

In the preface to the publication of the letters under consideration, the question is put, “Wherein was the merit or offence of a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Constitution, and to whom rendered?”

It is a sufficient answer to this question, as it relates Edition: current; Page: [279]to the present discussion, to say, that the intimation which was given of Mr. Jefferson’s dislike of the Constitution, in the first instance, was evidently not intended as the imputation of a positive crime, but as one link in a chain of evidence tending to prove that the National Gazette was conducted under his auspices, and in conformity to his views.

After showing that the editor of that paper was in his pay, and had been taken into it some short time previous to the commencement of the publication, the inference resulting from the circumstance, of that paper being a political engine, in his hands, is endeavored to be corroborated, first, by the suggestion that Mr. Jefferson had originally serious objections to the Constitution; secondly, by the further suggestion, that he has disapproved of most of the important measures adopted in the course of the administration of the government.

In this light, and with this special reference, were those suggestions made, and certainly as far as they are founded in fact, the argument they afford is fair and forcible. A correspondency of the principles and opinions of Mr. Jefferson, with the complexion of a paper, the conductor of which is in the regular pay of his department, is surely a strong confirmation of the conclusion—that the paper is conducted under his influence, and agreeably to his views.

Nothing but a known opposition of sentiment on the part of Mr. Jefferson to the doctrines inculcated in the National Gazette, could obviate the inference deducible from his ascertained and very extraordinary connection with it. A coincidence of Edition: current; Page: [280]sentiments is a direct and irresistible confirmation of that inference.

An effort scarcely plausible has been made by another “Aristides”1 to explain away the turpitude of the advice, which was given respecting the French debt. It is represented that a company of adventuring speculators had offered to purchase the debt at a discount, foreseeing the delay of the payment, calculating the probable loss, and willing to encounter the hazard. The terms employed by Mr. Jefferson refute this species of apology. His words are: “If there is a danger of the public payments not being punctual, I submit whether it may not be better, that the discontents which would then arise, should be transferred from a court, of whose good-will we have so much need, to the breasts of a private company.

He plainly takes it for granted that discontents would arise from the want of an adequate provision, and proposes that they should be transferred to the breasts of individuals. This he could not have taken for granted if, in his conception, the purchasers had calculated on delay and loss.

The true construction then is, that the company expected to purchase at an undervalue, from the probability that the court of France might be willing to raise a sum of money on this fund, at a sacrifice,—supposing that the United States, counting that her friendly indulgence might be less inclined to press the reimbursement,—not that they calculated on Edition: current; Page: [281]material delay or neglect when the transfer should be made to them. They probably made a very different calculation (to wit), that as it would be ruinous to the credit of the United States abroad, to neglect any part of its debt which was contracted there with individuals, from the impossibility of one part being distinguishable from another in the public apprehension, this consideration would stimulate to exertions to provide for it. And so it is evident, from his own words, that Mr. Jefferson understood it.

But the persons who offered to purchase were speculators. The cry of speculation as usual is raised, and this, with some people, is the panacea, the universal cure for fraud and breach of faith.

It is true, as alleged, that Mr. Jefferson mentioned an alternative, the obtaining of money by new loans, to reimburse the court of France; but this is not mentioned in any way that derogates from, or waives the advice given in the first instance. He merely presents an alternative, in case the first idea should be disapproved.

It may be added, that the advice respecting the transfer of the debt was little more honorable to the United States as it regarded the court of France, than as it respected the Dutch company. What a blemish on our national character, that a debt of so sacred a nature should have been transferred at so considerable a loss to so meritorious a creditor!

A still less plausible effort has been made to vindicate the National Gazette from the charge of being a paper devoted to calumniating and depreciating the government of the United States. No original Edition: current; Page: [282]performance in defence of the government or its measures, has, it is said, been refused by the editor of that paper. A few publications of that tendency have appeared in it, principally, if not wholly, since the public detection of the situation of its conductor.

What a wretched apology! Because the partiality has not been so daring and unprecedented, as to extend to a refusal of original publications in defence of the government, a paper which industriously copies every inflammatory publication against it that appears in any part of the United States, and carefully avoids every answer which is given to them, even when specially handed to the editor for the purpose, is not to be accounted a malicious and pernicious engine of detraction and calumny towards the government!!!

But happily here no proof nor argument is necessary. The true character and tendency of the paper may be left to the evidence of every reader’s senses and feelings. And “Aristides,” as often as he looks over that paper, must blush, if he can blush, at the assertion that “it has abounded since its commencement with publications in favor of the measures of the government.”

Deception, however artfully veiled, seldom fails to betray some unsound part. “Aristides” assures us that Mr. Jefferson “has actually refused in any instance to mark a single paragraph, which appeared in the foreign prints, for republication in the National Gazette.” On what ground was such an application to Mr. Jefferson made, if he was not considered as the patron of the paper? What printer Edition: current; Page: [283]would make a similar application to the head of any other department? I verily believe none. And I consider the circumstance stated as a confirmation of the relation of patron and client between the SECRETARY OF STATE and the editor of the National Gazette.

The refusal, if it happened, is one of those little underplots, with which the most intriguing man in the United States is at no loss, to keep out of sight the main design of the drama.



The votaries of Mr. Jefferson, whose devotion for their idol kindles at every form in which he deigns to present himself, have deduced matter of panegyric from his opposition to the measures of the government. ’T is according to them the sublimest pitch of virtue in him, not only to have extra-officially embarrassed plans, originating with his colleagues in the course of their progress, but to have continued his opposition to them, after they had been considered and enacted by the Legislature, with such modifications as appeared to them proper, and had been approved by the Chief Magistrate. Such conduct, it seems, marks “a firm and virtuous independence of character.” If any proof were wanting of that strange inversion of the ideas of decorum, propriety, and order, which characterizes a certain party, this making a theme of encomium of what is Edition: current; Page: [284]truly a demonstration of a caballing, self-sufficient, and refractory temper, would afford it.

In order to show that the epithets have been mis-applied, I shall endeavor to state what course a firm and virtuous independence of character, guided by a just and necessary sense of decorum, would dictate to a man in the station of Mr. Jefferson.

This has been rendered more particularly requisite by the formal discussion of the point, which appears to be the object of a continuation of a defence of that gentleman, in the American Daily Advertiser of the 10th inst.

The position must be reprobated that a man who had accepted an office in the Executive Department, should be held to throw the weight of his character into the scale, to support a measure which in his conscience he disapproved, and in his station had opposed—or, that the members of the administration should form together a close and secret combination, into whose measures the profane eye of the public should in no instance pry. But there is a very obvious medium between aiding or countenancing, and intriguing and machinating against a measure; between opposing it in the discharge of an official duty, or volunteering an opposition to it in the discharge of no duty; between entering into a close and secret combination with the other members of an administration, and being the active leader of an opposition to its measures.

The true line of propriety appears to me to be the following: A member of the administration, in one department, ought only to aid those measures of Edition: current; Page: [285]another which he approves—where he disapproves, if called upon to act officially, he ought to manifest his disapprobation, and avow his opposition, but out of an official line he ought not to interfere as long as he thinks fit to continue a part of the administration. When the measure in question has become a law of the land, especially with a direct sanction of the chief magistrate, it is peculiarly his duty to acquiesce. A contrary conduct is inconsistent with his relations as an officer of the government, and with a due respect as such for the decisions of the Legislature, and of the head of the executive department. The line here delineated, is drawn from obvious and very important considerations. The success of every government—its capacity to combine the exertion of public strength with the preservation of personal right and private security, qualities which define the perfection of a government, must always naturally depend on the energy of the executive department. This energy again must materially depend on the union and mutual deference which subsists between the members of that department, and the conformity of their conduct with the views of the executive chief.

Difference of opinion between men engaged in any common pursuit, is a natural appendage of human nature. When only exerted in the discharge of a duty, with delicacy and temper, among liberal and sensible men, it can create no animosity; but when it produces officious interferences, dictated by no call of duty—when it volunteers a display of itself in a quarter where there is no responsibility, to Edition: current; Page: [286]the obstruction and embarrassment of one who is charged with an immediate and direct responsibility, it must necessarily beget ill-humor and discord between the parties. Applied to the members of the executive administration of any government, it must necessarily tend to occasion, more or less, distracted councils, to foster factions in the community, and practically to weaken the government.

Moreover, the heads of the several executive departments are justly to be viewed as auxiliaries to the executive chief. Opposition to any measure of his, by either of those heads of departments, except in the shape of frank, firm, and independent advice to himself, is evidently contrary to the relations which subsist between the parties. And it cannot well be controverted that a measure becomes his, so as to involve the duty of acquiescence on the part of the members of his administration, as well by its having received his sanction in the form of a law, as by its having previously received his approbation.

In the theory of our government, the chief magistrate is himself responsible for the exercise of every power vested in him by the Constitution. One of the powers intrusted to him, is that of objecting to bills which have passed the two houses of Congress. This supposes the duty of objecting, when he is of opinion that the object of any bill is either unconstitutional or pernicious. The approbation of a bill implies, that he does not think it either the one or the other; and it makes him responsible to the community for this opinion. The measure becomes his by adoption, nor could he escape a portion of the Edition: current; Page: [287]blame which should finally attach itself to a bad measure to which he had given his consent.

I am prepared for some declamation against the principles which have been laid down. Some plausible flourishes have already been indulged; and it is to be expected that the public ear will be still further assailed with the commonplace topics that so readily present themselves, and are so dexterously detailed by the traffickers in popular prejudices. But it need never be feared to submit a solid truth to the deliberate and final opinion of an enlightened and sober people.

What! (it will probably be asked) is a man to sacrifice his conscience and his judgment to an office? Is he to be a dumb spectator of measures which he deems subversive of the rights or interests of his fellow-citizens? Is he to postpone to the frivolous rules of a false complaisance, or the arbitrary dictates of a tyrannical decorum, the higher duty which he owes to the community?

I answer, No! he is to do none of these things. If he cannot coalesce with those with whom he is associated, as far as the rules of official decorum, propriety, and obligation may require, without abandoning what he conceives to be the true interest of the community, let him place himself in a situation in which he will experience no collision of opposite duties. Let him not cling to the honor or emolument of an office, whichever it may be that attracts him, and content himself with defending the injured rights of the people by obscure or indirect means. Let him renounce a situation which is a clog upon Edition: current; Page: [288]his patriotism; tell the people that he could no longer continue in it without forfeiting his duty to them, and that he had quitted it to be more at liberty to afford them his best services.

Such is the course which would be indicated by a firm and virtuous independence of character. Such the course that would be pursued by a man attentive to unite the sense of delicacy with the sense of duty, in earnest about the pernicious tendency of public measures, and more solicitous to act the disinterested friend of the people, than the interested, ambitious, and intriguing head of a party.




It was my intention to have closed with my last paper the discussion of Mr. Jefferson’s conduct, in the particulars which have been suggested, but the singular complexion of the last number of a series of papers originating in the American Daily Advertiser, obliges me to resume it.

As if bold assertion were capable of imposing any thing for truth, an attempt is made in the papers alluded to to impress the following opinions: 1st. That the extract which was given of Mr. Jefferson’s letter, on the subject of a proposition for the transfer of the French debt, is “false,” “deceptive,” and “mutilated.” These are the epithets in different passages applied to it. 2d. That Mr. Jefferson was Edition: current; Page: [289]the mere vehicle, or, to use the precise terms, “only the vehicle of communication to Congress.” 3d. That he “discountenanced” the proposition. 4th. That the “only” proposition which he made to Congress was to borrow the money in Holland to discharge the debt.

To give color to these assertions, I am called upon to produce the entire paragraph, from which the extract has been made, and it is suggested that the whole was deposited in the quarter whence the extract is believed to have been taken.

I pledge my veracity that this suggestion is unfounded; as is another—that the information which has been communicated by me is derived from the opportunities of official situation. I affirm unequivocally that I obtained, through different channels, a full knowledge of the transaction in February, 1787—being in no public station whatever; that I then saw the extract, which has been published, and which was at that time taken from the original letter, and has since been preserved in the most authentic form; that I then also received information equally authentic of the general substance of the letter, as relating to the matter in question, and of all other particulars concerning it, which have heretofore been stated, and which have been preserved in a manner that admits no doubt of their accuracy and genuineness. For this, I again appeal to the letter itself, on the files of the Department of State, where alone, as far as I am informed, its entire contents are deposited, and which I entertain no doubt will confirm not only the truth of the extract which has been Edition: current; Page: [290]given, but the justness of the representation of the contents of the letter in all other respects.

Considering the extract as genuine, which undoubtedly it is, it speaks for itself—and unequivocally falsifies the suggestion that Mr. Jefferson was “only the vehicle” of communication to Congress. It imports, without the possibility of evasion, advice to accede to the proposition which was made to the Dutch company, on the dishonorable ground of there being danger that the public payments would not be punctual, and of its being in that case expedient to transfer the discontents, which would arise from the want of punctuality, from the court of France to the breasts of a private company. It therefore clearly makes him more than the mere vehicle of communication—the patron and adviser of the measure upon the condition which has been stated. It as clearly refutes the astonishing assertion that he “discountenanced” the proposition, whatever subterfuge may be brought to color it. And it equally destroys the other allegation, that the only proposition which Mr. Jefferson made to Congress, was to borrow the money in Holland to discharge the debt.

It has been admitted, that there was another proposition, in the same letter, of that import; but it is denied, under the appeal which has been made, that it in any manner derogates from the advice contained in the extract. It is understood to have been offered as an alternative, in case the proposition of the Dutch company should not be approved—as another mode which might be adopted to effect the payment of France.

Edition: current; Page: [291]

It will be remarked by an attentive reader that, while an artful attempt is made to bring into question the genuineness of the extract, a direct denial of its genuineness is not hazarded. Recourse is had to equivocal implications. It is said to be “false” and “deceptive,” not in terms, but “upon a sound construction,"—that “the contents of the letter, even in the extract published, have been shamefully misrepresented,“—not that the extract is itself a forgery, but that “other parts of the letter, absolutely necessary for the full comprehension of it, are kept back.” The jargon of asserting, that a literal extract from a paper is “false and deceptive upon a sound construction,” is a proof of the embarrassment of the commentator. Whoever will examine the extract will perceive, that as to the purpose to which it has been applied, it is an entire thing. The sentiment reprobated is there complete, and can be affected by nothing collateral. The inferences resulting from it can only be repelled by establishing that the extract is in terms false. This, I believe, will not be pretended.

It is as little true (in the sense in which it is evidently meant to be understood) that the proposition for the transfer of the debt has been imposed upon Mr. Jefferson as his own, as it is that he discountenanced it. It has been acknowledged that the offer was first made by the Dutch company; and has only been maintained that Mr. Jefferson advised its acceptance on principles contrary to good morals; a position which can never be overthrown without introducing a new system of ethics. In this sense, too, and with the disapprobation which belongs to Edition: current; Page: [292]it, was it understood by those to whom the advice was addressed, to the honor of the public councils of the day.

It is suggested that the animadversions upon Mr. Jefferson’s conduct in these papers proceed from “private revenge.” This supposes some private injury, real or imagined. The assertor must be not a little embarrassed to support the probability of such a cause. It is affirmed that none such exists. Private revenge, therefore, cannot be the stimulus. Let facts speak the true motives.



If perseverance can supply the want of judgment, Mr. Jefferson has an excellent advocate in the writer of his “Vindication.” But I mistake, if his last attempt is not found to involve still more deeply the character he wishes to extricate.

To repel the imputation on Mr. Jefferson arising from the advice which he gave to Congress respecting the debt to France, he not only labors to show that, taken in all its circumstances, it is not of the exceptional complexion under which it has been represented, but endeavors to infuse a belief, that the sense of the extract originally communicated has been altered by the interpolation of certain words, as well as by the suppression of a part of a paragraph from which the extract is derived.

It will strike the most careless observer as not a Edition: current; Page: [293]little extraordinary, that a person who by undertaking to state the contents of a letter with precise accuracy, and even to detect a minute verbal deviation, must be understood to have access to the original, should, instead of submitting to the public eye a literal transcript of that original, content himself with giving his own paraphrase of it, and should expect that this would be accepted upon the strength of his assurance, that it exhibits the genuine contents of the letter, on the point in dispute, contained in one paragraph only; “that the arrangement of the idea is the same, and that in substance nothing has been added to or taken from it,” thus modestly offering his own construction of substance, the very thing in question, for the thing itself.

That the extract, as given by me, is correct in every material expression, is proved by the statement in the VINDICATION. That it is literally correct, I must continue to believe until something more to be depended upon than constructive substance is offered in lieu of it.

The information I possess is drawn from two sources; one a memorandum in the handwriting of a friend, which was given to me as an exact transcript of the words of the letter, and which was copied verbatim, in the second of these papers; the other, a document of unquestionable authenticity, not long since consulted, which states the contents of Mr. Jefferson’s letter in the following form:

Mr. Jefferson suggests, that if there is a danger of the public payments not being punctual, “whether it might not be better that the discontents which Edition: current; Page: [294]would then arise, should be transferred from a court, of whose good will we have so much need, to the breasts of a private company.”

“That the credit of the United States is sound in Holland, and that it would probably not be difficult to borrow in that country the whole sum of money due to the court of France; and to discharge that debt without any deduction, thereby doing what would be grateful to the court, and establishing with them a confidence in our honor.”

This statement in the document alluded to serves to confirm the memorandum, in form as well as substance. Speaking in the third person, it represents Mr. Jefferson as suggesting “whether it might not be better,” etc., whence it is natural to infer that, speaking in the first person in the letter, the terms are, “I submit whether it may not be better,” etc.

The form of conveying the idea by way of question is common to both vouchers; and the word “whether,” which is also common to both, presupposes the words “I suggest,” or “I submit,” the last being the most accurate, and in that view the most likely to have been used.

It is observable, also, that the same statement disconnects the two propositions, and gives them a distinct and independent aspect. The conjunction “but,” which is alleged to be in the original, does not appear in that statement.

It is possible, nevertheless, that some immaterial departures from literal precision may have found their way into the transcripts, which are relied upon. Edition: current; Page: [295]But while this concession as a bare possibility is made, it is not intended as an escape from a rigorous responsibility for the essential accuracy of the disclosure. If there be in what has been communicated as a literal extract, any expression the least material, tending to the crimination of Mr. Jefferson, which is not to be found in the original, it is admitted to be inexcusable. But not having been possessed of the original, as has been several times stated, any accidental variation of expression, not affecting at all the sense of the quotation, or not affecting it disadvantageously to Mr. Jefferson, cannot be admitted to be of moment in regard either to the merits of the discussion or to the fairness of the procedure. To press such a variance as an objection, is to cavil, and to betray a consciousness of weakness.

Now it happens that the variance which is alleged to exist, if it has any influence upon the meaning of the passage, has one favorable to Mr. Jefferson; taking it for granted that his apologist has given a true account of it. This will be seen by carefully contrasting the phraseology in the two cases.

The extract, as stated by me, is in these words:

If there is a danger of the public payments not being punctual, I submit whether it may not be better that the discontents which would then arise, should be transferred from a court, of whose good will we have so much need, to the breasts of a private company.

The statement in the vindication represents that Mr. Jefferson “having stated the proposition as above (referring to the proposition for the purchase of the debt), observes further upon it in its relation to this Edition: current; Page: [296]country, that if there be a danger our payments may not be punctual, it might be better that the discontents which would then arise, should be transferred from a court, of whose good will we have so much need, to the breasts of a private company.”

All the material and exceptionable phrases are the same in the two statements. The only difference between them is that in the first Mr. Jefferson is made to submit in the modest form of a question, “whether it might not be better,” the identical sentiment or advice, which, in the last, he is made to convey in the affirmative tone of an observation, that “it might be better.” The last mode of expression is certainly stronger than the first, and if the sentiment conveyed be, as it undoubtedly is, an improper one, the censure due to it is increased by the greater degree of decision with which it is expressed, as being an indication of a more decided state of mind concerning it. This remark, which might otherwise appear nice and critical, is naturally drawn forth by the attempt to have it understood that the words “I submit whether,” which are said to have been interpolated, have an influence upon the sense of the clause injurious to Mr. Jefferson.1

The result is that the alteration of terms said to have been made, if real, must have been casual, because it either does not vary the sense, or varies it favorably to Mr. Jefferson; and, consequently, that the charge which has been brought rests upon him in Edition: current; Page: [297]its primitive force, unmitigated by the alleged change of terms.

In like manner, admitting the statement of what is said to follow as a part of the same paragraph, to be truly represented in the vindication, it either corresponds with the view I have heretofore given of the matter, or it implicates Mr. Jefferson in greater reprehensibility than has yet been charged upon him. It either presents an alternative proposition predicated upon the supposition of a state of things different from that which is the basis of the first, namely, the danger of a deficiency of means for punctual payment, and in that case does not derogate from the first; or proceeding upon the supposition of the same state of things, it contains advice to Congress to avail themselves of the yet sound state of their credit in Holland, treacherously to induce individuals upon the invitation of the government to lend their money on the ordinary terms, for the purpose of making full payment to France, in order to guard her from loss, and preserve her confidence, in direct contemplation of not being able to render the stipulated justice to those individuals. If this was the advice of Mr. Jefferson, it leaves his conduct without even those slight extenuations which have been supposed to afford a semblance of apology. It takes away the feeble pretexts deduced from the offer having originated with the company, and from their gaining a considerable boon in the first purchase.

The last, I acknowledge, is the construction best warranted by the structure of the paragraph as delineated in the vindication. This, as it there Edition: current; Page: [298]stands, would be the most obvious and natural reading. If there be a danger that our payments may not be punctual, it may be better that the discontents which would then arise, should be transferred from a court, of whose good will we have so much need, to the breasts of a private company. But still it has occurred to me that we may do what is preferable to accepting the proposition of the Dutch company. We may find occasion to do what would be grateful to the court of France, and establish with them a confidence in our honor. Our credit is good in Holland—may it not be possible then to borrow there the four and twenty millions due to France, and pay them the whole debt at once? This, besides transferring the discontents to be expected from the want of punctual payments, from the court of France to the breasts of individuals, would have the further advantage of saving that court from any loss on our account. It is in this sense only, that the first suggestion can be considered as overruled by or absorbed in the last, and that Mr. Jefferson can be said to have discountenanced the proposition made by the Dutch company. If this be the meaning intended to be contended for, no pains will be taken to dispute it; and the comment will be left to Mr. Jefferson’s most partial admirers.

The writer of the vindication continues to insist that Mr. Jefferson was only the vehicle of communication, assigning as reasons for this assertion, that the transaction had taken place between the parties, before any mention was made of it to him, and that in communicating it to Congress, he only made Edition: current; Page: [299]known to that body the desire both of the company and of the French court, that the opinion which he gave arose out of the proposition, was in furtherance of the views of the parties, and that, in fact, no decision could be formed on it, either by the Congress, or himself, without a comparison of the parties as creditors of the United States. But these reasons do not prove that Mr. Jefferson was only the vehicle of communication; they prove the contrary: that he was both the vehicle of communication, and the patron though not the author of the proposition. The precise difference between being the mere vehicle, and being both the vehicle and the patron of a proposition, consists in this: that in the first case the agent does nothing more than communicate the proposition; in the last, he gives an opinion arising out of it, in furtherance of the views of the proposers; which is exactly what is acknowledged to have been done by Mr. Jefferson.

The plea that there could be no immortality or indelicacy in espousing a proposition coming from the parties interested, amounts to nothing. The charge is not that advice was given to accede to the proposition, but that advice was given to accede to it, upon a ground which was dishonorable and unjust. It is the condition upon which the acceptance is advised that constitutes the culpability.

In No. 4 of the vindication, the attack upon Mr. Jefferson is said to proceed from private revenge. In No. 5, it changes its nature, and becomes an attack upon principles—a monarchical plot against the republican character of the community. How long Edition: current; Page: [300]and how often are the people of America to be insulted with this hypocritical rant? When will these political pharisees learn that their countrymen have too much discernment to be the dupes of their hollow and ostentatious pretensions; that the citizens know how to distinguish the men who serve them from those who only flatter them, the men who have substantial claims to their confidence from those who study to conceal the want of qualities, really solid and useful, under the mask of extraordinary and exclusive patriotism and purity?

It is curious to observe the pathetic wailings which have been produced by the animadversions in these papers. It would seem as if a certain party considered themselves as the sole and rightful censors of the Republic; and every attempt to bestow praise or blame not originating with them, as a usurpation of their prerogative,—every stricture on any of their immaculate band, as a breach of their privilege. They appear to think themselves authorized to deal out anathemas, without measure or mercy, against all who dare to swerve from their standard of political orthodoxy, which are to be borne without retaliation or murmur. And if any symptom of either shows itself, they are sure to raise the dismal cry of persecution; themselves the first to assail, and the first to complain. But what is not permitted to men who have so clearly established a title, little less than divine, to a monopoly of all the patriotic virtues!

The only answer which is due to the feint of offering to enter into arrangements for ascertaining Edition: current; Page: [301]whether the writer of these papers has, in the instance under consideration, been guilty of misrepresentation—and the breach of an official duty,—is to remind the public, that in my first paper I declared myself willing to be known on proper terms to the officer concerned. To this I adhere in the spirit of the original intimation, but I deem a personal disclosure to any subaltern of his, improper; nor do I perceive that it is in the present case necessary to an investigation of the facts. The writer of the vindication admits in substance what is alleged; and as to his collateral statements, it has been shown that they imply more blame on the character meant to be exculpated than was originally charged. I forbear any comment on the indecency of naming upon conjecture the person who has been named as the author of these papers, or upon the palpable artifice of making an avowal of them, by that particular person, the condition of a disclosure of the name of the writer of the vindication. Indecency and artifice are the proper weapons of such adversaries.


a plain honest man

For the Gazette of the United States.

In consequence of the intimation contained in the first number of the vindication of Mr. Jefferson, which originated in the American Daily Advertiser, that, “if any doubt should be suggested of the authenticity of the extracts published, they should be Edition: current; Page: [302]immediately made accessible to others,” a person called upon Mr. Dunlap to obtain an inspection of those originals. He replied that they had not been left with him, neither was he possessed of the necessary information where to direct or inquire, but if desired he would, by advertisement, notify the application for a perusal of the letters.

A statement of this answer, as extraordinary as unexpected, was prepared to be inserted in this gazette, and was communicated to Mr. Dunlap with a view to verify its accuracy. The evening before that destined for its appearance, Mr. D. called upon the person and informed him that the originals were now to be seen, and would be communicated to any person who might incline to see them, observing, at the same time, that it appeared to him that it could not be necessary to publish the statement which has been mentioned, as intended. This was accordingly forborne.

On the 17th November, Mr. D. was again applied to and again proposed an advertisement, but afterwards hinted, as a preliminary condition of the letters being seen, that the person in whose possession the letters were should be made acquainted with the name of the person who applied for that purpose. Mr. D. afterwards said he would apply again for the letters and have them in his own possession to show them, agreeable to the declaration published; but after this, being again applied to, answered as before, that the applicant must be previously known.

On the—a note appeared in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of that day, which, after commenting on the Edition: current; Page: [303]disingenuousness of some doubts printed in one of the papers under the signature of “Catullus,” gives “notice that any gentleman of known honor and delicacy, who shall be named to the editor of the American Daily Advertiser shall have an opportunity of examining not only the passages extracted, but the entire contents of the original letter.”

What gentleman of real delicacy would be willing to present himself under the professed character of a “gentleman of known honor and delicacy,” at the hazard of being affronted by a rejection to obtain the proffered access? Is not an offer so clogged a felo de se? What is the natural inference? If I am not, Mr. Printer, a “gentleman of known honor and delicacy,” I hope you will not think the worse of me for being only

A Plain Honest Man.

hamilton to washington1


Sir:—I have the pleasure of your private letter of the 26th of August. The feelings and views which are manifested in that letter are such as I expected would exist. And I most sincerely regret the causes of the uneasy sensations you experience. It is my most anxious wish, as far as may depend upon Edition: current; Page: [304]me, to smooth the path of your administration, and to render it prosperous and happy. And if any prospect shall open of healing or terminating the differences which exist, I shall most cheerfully embrace it; though I consider myself as the deeply injured party. The recommendation of such a spirit is worthy of the moderation and wisdom which dictated it. And if your endeavors should prove unsuccessful, I do not hesitate to say, that in my opinion the period is not remote, when the public good will require substitutes for the differing members of your administration. The continuance of a division there must destroy the energy of government, which will be little enough with the strictest union. On my part there will be a most cheerful acquiescence in such a result.

I trust, sir, that the greatest frankness has always marked, and will always mark, every step of my conduct towards you. In this disposition I cannot conceal from you, that I have had some instrumentality of late in the retaliations which have fallen upon certain public characters, and that I find myself placed in a situation not to be able to recede for the present.

I considered myself as compelled to this conduct by reasons public as well as personal, of the most cogent nature. I know that I have been an object of uniform opposition from Mr. Jefferson, from the moment of his coming to the city of New York to enter upon his present office. I know from the most authentic sources, that I have been the frequent subject of the most unkind whispers and insinuations from the same quarter. I have long seen a Edition: current; Page: [305]party formed in the Legislature under his auspices, bent upon my subversion. I cannot doubt from the evidence I possess, that the National Gazette was instituted by him for political purposes, and that one leading object of it has been to render me, and all the measures connected with my department, as odious as possible. Nevertheless, I can truly say, that, except explanations to confidential friends, I never directly or indirectly retaliated or countenanced retaliation till very lately. I can even assure you, that I was instrumental in preventing a very severe and systematic attack upon Mr. Jefferson by an association of two or three individuals, in consequence of the persecution which he brought upon the Vice-President, by his indiscreet and light letter to the printer, transmitting Paine’s pamphlet.

As long as I saw no danger to the government from the machinations which were going on, I resolved to be a silent sufferer of the injuries which were done me. I determined to avoid giving occasion to any thing which could manifest to the world dissensions among the principal characters of the government; a thing which can never happen without weakening its hands, and in some degree throwing a stigma upon it.

But when I no longer doubted that there was a formed party deliberately bent upon the subversion of measures, which in its consequences would subvert the government; when I saw that the undoing of the funding system in particular (which, whatever may be the original merits of that system, would prostrate the credit and the honor of the nation, and Edition: current; Page: [306]bring the government into contempt with that description of men who are in every society the only firm supporters of government) was an avowed object of the party, and that all possible pains were taken to produce that effect, by rendering it odious to the body of the people, I considered it as a duty to endeavor to resist the torrent, and, as an effectual means to this end, to draw aside the veil from the principal actors. To this strong impulse, to this decided conviction, I have yielded. And I think events will prove that I have judged rightly.

Nevertheless, I pledge my honor to you, sir, that if you shall hereafter form a plan to reunite the members of your administration upon some steady principle of coöperation, I will faithfully concur in executing it during my continuance in office; and I will not directly or indirectly say or do a thing that shall endanger a feud.

I have had it very much at heart to make an excursion to Mount Vernon, by way of the federal city, in the course of this month, and have more than once been on the point of asking your permission for it. But I now despair of being able to effect it. I am, nevertheless, equally obliged by your kind invitation.

With the most affectionate and faithful attachment, etc.

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the public conduct and character of john adams, esq., president of the united states1


Some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those Federalists who advocate the equal support of General Pinckney at the approaching election of President and Vice-President. They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory. Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious; sometimes they are ambitious spirits, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them; sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great Britain, who, devoted to the advancement of her views, are incensed Edition: current; Page: [310]against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct.

In addition to a full share of the obloquy vented against this description of persons collectively, peculiar accusations have been devised to swell the catalogue of my demerits. Among these, the resentment of disappointed ambition forms a prominent feature. It is pretended that, had the President, upon the demise of General Washington, appointed me Commander-in-Chief, he would have been, in my estimation, all that is wise, and good, and great.

It is necessary, for the public cause, to repel these slanders, by stating the real views of the persons who are calumniated, and the reasons of their conduct.

In executing this task, with particular reference to myself, I ought to premise that the ground upon which I stand is different from that of most of those who are confounded with me in pursuit of the same plan. While our object is common, our motives are variously dissimilar. A part, well affected to Mr. Adams, have no other wish than to take a double chance against Mr. Jefferson. Another part, feeling a diminution of confidence in him, still hope that the general tenor of his conduct will be essentially right. Few go as far in their objections as I do. Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction that he does not possess the talents adapted to the administration of government, and that there are great and intrinsic Edition: current; Page: [311]defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of chief magistrate.

To give a correct idea of the circumstances which have gradually produced this conviction, it may be useful to retrospect to an early period.

I was one of that numerous class who had conceived a high veneration for Mr. Adams, on account of the part he acted in the first stages of our revolution. My imagination had exalted him to a high eminence, as a man of patriotic, bold, profound, and comprehensive mind. But in the progress of the war, opinions were ascribed to him, which brought into question, with me, the solidity of his understanding.

He was represented to be of the number of those who favored the enlistment of our troops annually, or for short periods, rather than for the term of the war; a blind and infatuated policy, directly contrary to the urgent recommendation of General Washington, and which had nearly proved the ruin of our cause. He was also said to have advocated the project of appointing yearly a new commander of the army; a project which, in any service, is likely to be attended with more evils than benefits; but which in ours, at the period in question, was chimerical, from the want of persons qualified to succeed, and pernicious, from the peculiar fitness of the officer first appointed, to strengthen, by personal influence, the too feeble cords which bound to the service an ill-paid, ill-clothed, and undisciplined soldiery.

It is impossible for me to assert, at this distant Edition: current; Page: [312]day, that these suggestions were brought home to Mr. Adams in such a manner as to ascertain their genuineness; but I distinctly remember their existence, and my conclusion from them; which was, that, if true, they proved this gentleman to be infected with some visionary notions, and that he was far less able in the practice, than in the theory, of politics. I remember, also, that they had the effect of inducing me to qualify the admiration which I had once entertained for him, and to reserve for opportunities of future scrutiny, a definitive opinion of the true standard of his character.

In this disposition I was, when, just before the close of the war, I became a member of Congress.

The situation in which I found myself there, was far from being inauspicious to a favorable estimate of Mr. Adams.

Upon my first going into Congress, I discovered symptoms of a party already formed, too well disposed to subject the interests of the United States to the management of France. Though I felt, in common with those who had participated in our revolution, a lively sentiment of good will toward a power whose co-operation, however it was and ought to have been dictated by its own interest, had been extremely useful to us, and had been afforded in a liberal and handsome manner; yet, tenacious of the real independence of our country, and dreading the preponderance of foreign influence, as the natural disease of popular government, I was struck with disgust at the appearance, in the very cradle of our republic, of a party actuated by an undue complaisance Edition: current; Page: [313]to a foreign power; and I resolved at once to resist this bias in our affairs—a resolution which has been the chief cause of the persecution I have endured in the subsequent stages of my political life.

Among the fruits of the bias I have mentioned, were the celebrated instructions to our commissioners, for treating of peace with Great Britain; which, not only as to final measures, but also as to preliminary and intermediate negotiations, placed them in a state of dependence on the French ministry, humiliating to themselves, and unsafe for the interests of the country. This was the more exceptionable, as there was cause to suspect, that in regard to the two cardinal points of the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi, the policy of the cabinet of Versailles did not accord with the wishes of the United States.

The commissioners, of whom Mr. Adams was one, had the fortitude to break through the fetters which were laid upon them by those instructions; and there is reason to believe that, by doing it, they both accelerated the peace with Great Britain, and improved the terms, while they preserved our faith with France.

Yet a serious attempt was made to obtain from Congress a formal censure of their conduct. The attempt failed, and instead of censure, the praise was bestowed which was justly due to the accomplishment of a treaty advantageous to this country, beyond the most sanguine expectation. In this result, my efforts were heartily united.

The principal merit of the negotiation with Great Edition: current; Page: [314]Britain, in some quarters, has been bestowed upon Mr. Adams; but it is certainly the right of Mr. Jay, who took a lead in the several steps of the transaction, no less honorable to his talents than to his firmness. The merit, nevertheless, of a full and decisive co-operation, is justly due to Mr. Adams.

It will readily be seen, that such a course of things was calculated to impress me with a disposition friendly to Mr. Adams. I certainly felt it, and gave him much of my consideration and esteem.

But this did not hinder me from making careful observations upon his several communications, and endeavoring to derive from them an accurate idea of his talents and character. This scrutiny enhanced my esteem in the main for his moral qualifications, but lessened my respect for his intellectual endowments. I then adopted an opinion, which all my subsequent experience has confirmed, that he is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct; and I began to perceive what has been since too manifest, that to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.

Strong evidence of some traits of this character is to be found in a journal of Mr. Adams, which was sent by the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Congress. The reading of this journal extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetts, who, more than once, interrupted it, Edition: current; Page: [315]and at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had gotten into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humor of that body yielded to the suggestion.

The particulars of this journal cannot be expected to have remained in my memory—but I recollect one which may serve as a sample. Being among the guests invited to dine with the Count de Vergennes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adams thought fit to give a specimen of American politeness, by conducting Madame de Vergennes to dinner; on the way, she was pleased to make retribution in the current coin of French politeness—by saying to him, “Monsieur Adams, vous êtes le Washington de négociation.1 Stating the incident, he makes this comment upon it: “These people have a very pretty knack of paying compliments.” He might have added, they have also a very dexterous knack of disguising a sarcasm.

The opinion, however, which I have avowed, did not prevent my entering cordially into the plan of supporting Mr. Adams for the office of Vice-President, under the new Constitution. I still thought that he had high claims upon the public gratitude, and possessed a substantial worth of character, which might atone for some great defects. In addition to this, it was well known that he was a favorite of New England, and it was obvious that his union Edition: current; Page: [316]with General Washington would tend to give the government, in its outset, all the strength which it could derive from the character of the two principal magistrates.

But it was deemed an essential point of caution to take care, that accident, or an intrigue of the opposers of the government, should not raise Mr. Adams, instead of General Washington, to the first place. This, every friend of the government would have considered a disastrous event; as well because it would have displayed a capricious operation of the system, in elevating to the first station a man intended for the second; as because it was conceived that the incomparably superior weight and transcendent popularity of General Washington rendered his presence at the head of the government, in its first organization, a matter of primary and indispensable importance. It was therefore agreed that a few votes should be diverted from Mr. Adams to other persons, so as to insure to General Washington a plurality.

Great was my astonishment, and equally great my regret, when, afterwards, I learned from persons of unquestionable veracity, that Mr. Adams had complained of unfair treatment, in not having been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, by leaving the votes to an uninfluenced current.

The extreme egotism of the temper, which could blind a man to considerations so obvious as those that had recommended the course pursued, cannot be enforced by my comment. It exceeded all that Edition: current; Page: [317]I had imagined, and showed, in too strong a light, that the vanity which I have ascribed to him existed to a degree that rendered it more than a harmless foible.

Mr. Adams was elected Vice-President. His public conduct, in that station, was satisfactory to the friends of the government, though they were now and then alarmed by appearances of some eccentric tendencies.

It is, in particular, a tribute due from me to acknowledge that Mr. Adams, being, in quality of Vice-President, ex officio one of the trustees of the sinking fund, I experienced from him the most complete support, which was the more gratifying to me, as I had to struggle against the systematic opposition of Mr. Jefferson, seconded occasionally by Mr. Randolph. Though it would be an ill compliment to Mr. Adams not to presume that the support which he gave me was the dictate of his sense of the public interest; yet, so cordial and useful a co-operation, at a moment when I was assailed with all the weapons of party rancor, won from me an unfeigned return of the most amicable sentiments.

I lost no opportunity of combating the prejudices industriously propagated against him by his political enemies; and, for a considerable time, went quite as far as candor would permit, to extenuate the failings which more and more alarmed and dissatisfied his friends.

The epoch at length arrived when the retreat of General Washington made it necessary to fix upon a successor. By this time, men of principal influence Edition: current; Page: [318]in the Federal party, whose situation had led them to an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Adams’ character, began to entertain serious doubts about his fitness for the station; yet, his pretensions, in several respects, were so strong that, after mature reflection, they thought it better to indulge their hopes than to listen to their fears. To this conclusion, the desire of preserving harmony in the Federal party, was a weighty inducement. Accordingly, it was determined to support Mr. Adams for the chief magistracy.

It was evidently of much consequence to endeavor to have an eminent Federalist Vice-President. Mr. Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, was selected for this purpose. This gentleman, too little known in the North, had been all his lifetime distinguished in the South, for the mildness and amiableness of his manners, the rectitude and purity of his morals, and the soundness and correctness of his understanding, accompanied by an habitual discretion and self-command, which has often occasioned a parallel between him and the venerated Washington. In addition to these recommendations, he had been, during a critical period, our Minister at the court of London, and recently Envoy Extraordinary to the court of Spain; and in both these trusts he had acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all parties. With the court of Spain he had effected a treaty which removed all the thorny subjects of contention that had so long threatened the peace of the two countries, and stipulated for the United States, on their southern frontier, and on the Mississippi, advantages of real magnitude and importance.

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Well-informed men knew that the event of the election was extremely problematical; and while the friends of Mr. Jefferson predicted his success with sanguine confidence, his opposers feared that he might have at least an equal chance with any Federal candidate.

To exclude him was deemed, by the Federalists, a primary object. Those of them who possessed the best means of judging were of opinion that it was far less important whether Mr. Adams or Mr. Pinckney was the successful candidate, than that Mr. Jefferson should not be the person; and on this principle, it was understood among them, that the two first-mentioned gentlemen should be equally supported, leaving to casual accessions of votes in favor of the one or the other to turn the scale between them.

In this plan I united with good faith, in the resolution, to which I scrupulously adhered, of giving to each candidate an equal support. This was done wherever my influence extended, as was more particularly manifested in the State of New York, where all the electors were my warm personal or political friends, and all gave a concurrent vote for the two Federal candidates.

It is true that a faithful execution of this plan would have given Mr. Pinckney a somewhat better chance than Mr. Adams; nor shall it be concealed, that an issue favorable to the former would not have been disagreeable to me; as indeed I declared at the time, in the circles of my confidential friends.1 My Edition: current; Page: [320]position was, that if the chance should decide in favor of Mr. Pinckney, it probably would not be a misfortune; since he, to every essential qualification for the office, added a temper far more discreet and conciliatory than that of Mr. Adams.

This disposition, on my part, at that juncture, proves, at least, that my disapprobation of Mr. Adams has not originated in the disappointment, to which it has been uncandidly attributed. No private motive could then have entered into it. Not the least collision or misunderstanding had ever happened between that gentleman and myself—on the contrary, as I have already stated, I had reason individually to be pleased with him.

No: The considerations which had reconciled me to the success of Mr. Pinckney, were of a nature exclusively public. They resulted from the disgusting egotism, the distempered jealousy, and the ungovernable indiscretion of Mr. Adams’ temper, joined to some doubts of the correctness of his maxims of administration. Though in matters of finance he had acted with the Federal party; yet he had, more than once, broached theories at variance with his practice. And in conversation he repeatedly made excursions into the field of foreign politics, which alarmed the friends of the prevailing system.

The plan of giving equal support to the two Federal candidates, was not pursued. Personal attachment for Mr. Adams, especially in the New England States, caused a number of the votes to be withheld from Mr. Pinckney, and thrown away. The result was, that Mr. Adams was elected President by a Edition: current; Page: [321]majority of two votes, and Mr. Jefferson Vice-President.

This issue demonstrated the wisdom of the plan which had been abandoned, and how greatly, in departing from it, the cause had been sacrificed to the man. But for a sort of miracle, the departure would have made Mr. Jefferson President. In each of the States of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, Mr. Adams had one vote. In the two latter States, the one vote was as much against the stream of popular prejudice, as it was against the opinions of the other electors. The firmness of the individuals who separated from their colleagues, was so extra-ordinary as to have been contrary to all probable calculation. Had only one of them thrown his vote into the other scale, there would have been an equality, and no election. Had two done it, the choice would have fallen upon Mr. Jefferson.

No one, sincere in the opinion that this gentleman was an ineligible and dangerous candidate, can hesitate in pronouncing, that in dropping Mr. Pinckney, too much was put at hazard; and that those who promoted the other course, acted with prudence and propriety.

It is a fact, which ought not to be forgotten, that Mr. Adams, who had evinced discontent, because he had not been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, was enraged with all those who had thought that Mr. Pinckney ought to have had an equal chance with him. But in this there is perfect consistency. The same turn of temper is the solution of the displeasure in both cases.

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It is to this circumstance of the equal support of Mr. Pinckney, that we are in a great measure to refer the serious schism which has since grown up in the Federal party.

Mr. Adams never could forgive the men who had been engaged in the plan; though it embraced some of his most partial admirers. He has discovered bitter animosity against several of them. Against me, his rage has been so vehement as to have caused him, more than once, to forget the decorum which, in his situation, ought to have been an inviolable law. It will not appear an exaggeration to those who have studied his character, to suppose that he is capable of being alienated from a system to which he has been attached, because it is upheld by men whom he hates. How large a share this may have had in some recent aberrations, cannot easily be determined.

Occurrences which have either happened or come to light since the election of Mr. Adams to the Presidency, confirming my unfavorable forebodings of his character, have given new and decisive energy, in my mind, to the sentiment of his unfitness for the station.

The letter which has just appeared in the public prints, written by him, while Vice-President, to Tench Coxe, is of itself conclusive evidence of the justness of this sentiment. It is impossible to speak of this transaction in terms suited to its nature, without losing sight that Mr. Adams is President of the United States.

This letter avows the suspicion, that the appointment of Mr. Pinckney to the court of London, had Edition: current; Page: [323]been procured or promoted by British influence. And considering the parade with which the story of the Duke of Leeds is told, it is fair to consider that circumstance as the principal, if not the sole, ground of the odious and degrading suspicion.

Let any man of candor or knowledge of the world, pronounce on this species of evidence.

It happened unfortunately for the Pinckneys, that, while boys, and long before our revolution, they went to school with a British duke, who was afterwards Minister of the British Government for the Foreign Department. This indiscreet duke, perhaps for no better reason than the desire of saying something to a parting American Minister, and the want of something better to say, divulges to him the dangerous secret, that the two Pinckneys had been his classmates, and goes the alarming length of making inquiry about their health. From this, it is sagaciously inferred, that these gentlemen have “many powerful old friends in England”; and from this again, that the Duke of Leeds (of course of the number of these old friends) had procured by intrigue the appointment of one of his classmates to the court of London; or, in the language of the letter, that much British influence had been exerted in the appointment.

In the school of jealousy, stimulated by ill-will, logic like this may pass for substantial; but what is it in the school of reason and justice?

Though this contaminating connection of the Pinckneys with the Duke of Leeds, in their juvenile years, did not hinder them from fighting for the Edition: current; Page: [324]independence of their native country throughout our revolution, yet, the supposition is, that the instant the war was terminated, it transformed them from the soldiers of liberty into the tools of the British monarchy.

But the hostility of the Pinckneys to Mr. Adams, evidenced by their “long intrigue” against him, of which he speaks in the letter, is perhaps intended as a still stronger proof of their devotion to Great Britain. The argument may be thus understood: Mr. Adams is the bulwark of his country against foreign influence. The batteries of every foreign power, desirous of acquiring an ascendant in our affairs, are of consequence always open against him; and the presumption, therefore, must be, that every citizen who is his enemy, is the confederate of one or another of those foreign powers.

Let us, without contesting this argument of self-love, examine into the facts upon which its applicability must depend.

The evidence of the “long intrigue” seems to be, that the family of the Pinckneys contributed to limit the duration of Mr. Adams’ commission to the court of London to the term of three years, in order to make way for some of themselves to succeed him. This, it must be confessed, was a long-sighted calculation in a government like ours.

A summary of the transaction will be the best comment on the inference which has been drawn.

The resolution of Congress by which Mr. Adams’ commission was limited, was a general one, applying to the commissions of all ministers to foreign courts. Edition: current; Page: [325]When it was proposed and adopted, it is certain that neither of the two Pinckneys was a member of Congress; and it is believed that they were both at Charleston, in South Carolina, their usual place of abode, more than eight hundred miles distant from the seat of government.

But they had, it seems, a cousin, Mr. Charles Pinckney, who was in Congress; and this cousin it was who moved the restrictive resolution. Let us inquire who seconded and who voted for it.

It was seconded by Mr. Howell, a member from Rhode Island, the very person who nominated Mr. Adams as Minister to Great Britain, and was voted for by the four Eastern States, with New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina. Mr. Gerry, always a zealous partisan of Mr. Adams, was among the supporters of the resolution. To make out this to be a machination of the two Pinckneys, many things must be affirmed: first, that their cousin Charles is always subservient to their views (which would equally prove that they have long been, and still are, opposers of the Federal administration); second, that this cunning wight had been able to draw the four Eastern States into his plot, as well as New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina; third, that the Pinckneys could foresee, at the distance of three years, the existence of a state of things which would enable them to reap the fruit of their contrivance.

Would not the circumstances better warrant the suspicion that the resolution was a contrivance of the friends of Mr. Adams to facilitate in some way his Edition: current; Page: [326]election, and that Mr. Pinckney was their coadjutor, rather than their prompter?

But the truth most probably is, that the measure was a mere precaution to bring under frequent review the propriety of continuing a minister at a particular court, and to facilitate the removal of a disagreeable one, without the harshness of formally displacing him. In a policy of this sort, the cautious maxims of New England would very naturally have taken a lead.

Thus, in the very grounds of the suspicion as far as they appear, we find its refutation. The complete futility of it will now be illustrated by additional circumstances.

It is a fact, that the rigor with which the war was prosecuted by the British armies in our Southern quarter, had produced among the friends of our revolution there, more animosity against the British Government, than in the other parts of the United States; and it is a matter of notoriety in the same quarter, that this disposition was conspicuous among the Pinckneys and their connections. It may be added, that they were likewise known to have been attached to the French Revolution, and to have continued so, till long after the appointment of Mr. Thomas Pinckney to the court of London.

These propensities of the gentlemen were certainly not such as to make them favorites of Great Britain, or the appointment of one of them to that court an object of particular solicitude.

As far as appeared at the time, the idea of nominating Mr. Thomas Pinckney, originated with the Edition: current; Page: [327]then President himself; but whatever may have been its source, it is certain that it met the approbation of the whole administration, Mr. Jefferson included. This fact alone, will go far to refute the surmise of a British agency in the appointment.

Supposing that, contrary to all probability, Great Britain had really taken some unaccountable fancy for Mr. Pinckney, upon whom was her influence exerted?

Had the virtuous, circumspect Washington been ensnared in her insidious toils? Had she found means for once to soften the stern, inflexible hostility of Jefferson? Had Randolph been won by her meretricious caresses? Had Knox, the uniform friend of Mr. Adams, been corrupted by her seducing wiles? Or was it all the dark work of the alien Secretary of the Treasury? Was it this arch juggler, who debauched the principles, or transformed the prejudices of Mr. Pinckney; who persuaded the British Government to adopt him as a pliant instrument; who artfully induced the President to propose him as of his own selection; who lulled the zealous vigilance of Jefferson and Randolph, and surprised the unsuspecting frankness of Knox?

But when the thing had been accomplished, no matter by what means, it was surely to have been expected that the man of its choice would have been treated at the court of London with distinguished regard, and that his conduct towards that court would have been marked, if not by some improper compliances, at least by some displays of extraordinary complaisance.

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Yet, strange as it may appear, upon Mr. Adams’ hypothesis, it might be proved, if requisite, that neither the one nor the other took place. It might be proved that, far from Mr. Pinckney’s having experienced any flattering distinctions, incidents not pleasant to his feelings had occurred, and that in the discharge of his official functions he had advanced pretensions in favor of the United States, from which, with the approbation of the then Secretary of State, Mr. Jefferson, he was instructed to desist.

What will Mr. Adams or his friends reply to all these facts? How will he be excused for indulging and declaring, on grounds so frivolous, a suspicion so derogatory of a man so meritorious—of a man who has acted in a manner so unexceptional?

But a more serious question remains: How will Mr. Adams answer to the government and to his country, for having thus wantonly given the sanction of his opinion to the worst of the aspersions which the enemies of the administration have impudently thrown upon it? Can we be surprised that such a torrent of slander was poured out against it, when a man, the second in official rank, the second in the favor of the friends of the government, stooped to become himself one of its calumniators? It is peculiarly unlucky for Mr. Adams in this affair, that he is known to have desired, at the time, the appointment which was given to Mr. Pinckney. The President declined the measure, thinking that it was compatible neither with the spirit of the Constitution nor with the dignity of the government, to designate the Vice-President to such a station.

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This letter, better than volumes, develops the true, the unfortunate character of Mr. Adams.

The remaining causes of dissatisfaction with him, respect his conduct in the office of President, which, in my opinion, has been a heterogeneous compound of right and wrong, of wisdom and error.

The outset was distinguished by a speech which his friends lamented as temporizing. It had the air of a lure for the favor of his opponents at the expense of his sincerity; but being of an equivocal complexion, to which no precise design can be annexed, it is barely mentioned as a circumstance, which, in conjunction with others of a more positive tint, may serve to explain character.

It is in regard to our foreign relations, that the public measures of Mr. Adams first attract criticism.

It will be recollected that General Pinckney, the brother of Thomas, and the gentleman now supported together with Mr. Adams, had been deputed by President Washington as successor to Mr. Monroe, and had been refused to be received by the French Government in his quality of Minister Plenipotentiary.

This, among those of the well-informed, who felt a just sensibility for the honor of their country, excited much disgust and resentment. But the opposition party, ever too ready to justify the French Government at the expense of their own, vindicated or apologized for the ill-treatment: and the mass of the community, though displeased with it, did not appear to feel the full force of the indignity.

As a final effort for accommodation, and as a Edition: current; Page: [330]means, in case of failure, of enlightening and combining public opinion, it was resolved to make another, and a more solemn, experiment, in the form of a commission of three.

This measure (with some objections to the detail) was approved by all parties; by the anti-Federalists, because they thought no evil so great as the rupture with France; by the Federalists, because it was their system to avoid war with every power, if it could be done without the sacrifice of essential interests or absolute humiliation.

Even such of them as conceived that the insults of the French Government and the manifestation of its ill-will had already gone far enough to call for measures of vigor, perceiving that the nation was not generally penetrated with the same conviction, and would not support with zeal measures of that nature, unless their necessity was rendered still more apparent, acquiesced in the expediency of another mission. They hoped that it would serve either to compose the differences which existed, or to make the necessity of resistance to the violence of France palpable to every good citizen.

The expediency of the step was suggested to Mr. Adams, through a Federal channel, a considerable time before he determined to take it. He hesitated whether it could be done after the rejection of General Pinckney, without national debasement. The doubt was an honorable one; it was afterwards very properly surrendered to the cogent reasons which pleaded for a further experiment.

The event of this experiment is fresh in our recollection. Edition: current; Page: [331]Our envoys, like our minister were rejected. Tribute was demanded as a preliminary to negotiation. To their immortal honor, though France at the time was proudly triumphant, they repelled the disgraceful pretension. Americans will never forget that General Pinckney was a member, and an efficient member, of this commission.

This conduct of the French Government, in which it is difficult to say, whether despotic insolence or unblushing corruption was most prominent, electrified the American people with a becoming indignation. In vain the partisans of France attempted to extenuate. The public voice was distinct and audible. The nation, disdaining so foul an overture, was ready to encounter the worst consequences of resistance.

Without imitating the flatterers of Mr. Adams, who, in derogation from the intrinsic force of circumstances, and from the magnanimity of the nation, ascribe to him the whole merit of producing the spirit which appeared in the community, it shall with cheerfulness be acknowledged that he took upon the occasion a manly and courageous lead—that he did all in his power to rouse the pride of the nation—to inspire it with a just sense of the injuries and out-rages which it had experienced, and to dispose it to a firm and magnanimous resistance; and that his efforts contributed materially to that end.

The friends of the government were not agreed as to the ulterior measures. Some were for immediate and unqualified war; others for a more mitigated course; the dissolution of treaties, preparation of force by land and sea, partial hostilities of a Edition: current; Page: [332]defensive tendency; leaving to France the option of seeking accommodation, or proceeding to open war. The latter course prevailed.

Though not as bold and energetic as the other, yet, considering the prosperous state of French affairs when it was adopted, and how many nations had been appalled and prostrated by the French power, the conduct pursued bore sufficiently the marks of courage and elevation to raise the national character to an exalted height throughout Europe.

Much is it to be deplored that we should have been precipitated from this proud eminence without necessity, without temptation.

The latter conduct of the President forms a painful contrast to his commencement. Its effects have been directly the reverse. It has sunk the tone of the public mind—it has impaired the confidence of the friends of the government in the Executive Chief—it has distracted public opinion—it has unnerved the public councils—it has sown the seeds of discord at home, and lowered the reputation of the government abroad. The circumstances which preceded, aggravate the disagreeableness of the results. They prove that the injudicious things which have been enacted, were not the effects of any regular plan, but the fortuitous emanations of momentary impulses.

The session, which ensued the promulgation of the dispatches of our commissioners, was about to commence. Mr. Adams arrived at Philadelphia from his seat at Quincy. The tone of his mind seemed to have been raised, rather than depressed.

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It was suggested to him that it might be expedient to insert in his speech to Congress, a sentiment of this import: That after the repeatedly rejected advances of this country, its dignity required that it should be left with France in future to make the first overture; that if, desirous of reconciliation, she should evince the disposition by sending a minister to this government, he would be received with the respect due to his character, and treated with in the frankness of a sincere desire of accommodation.

The suggestion was received in a manner both indignant and intemperate.

Mr. Adams declared, as a sentiment which he had adopted on mature reflection: That if France should send a minister to-morrow, he would order him back the day after.

So imprudent an idea was easily refuted. Little argument was requisite to show that, by a similar system of retaliation, when one government in a particular instance had refused the envoy of another, nations might entail upon each other perpetual hostility, mutually barring the avenues of explanation.

In less than forty-eight hours from this extra-ordinary sally, the mind of Mr. Adams underwent a total revolution; he resolved not only to insert in his speech the sentiment which had been proposed to him, but to go farther, and to declare, that if France would give explicit assurances of receiving a minister from this country, with due respect, he would send one.

In vain was this extension of the sentiment opposed by all his ministers, as being equally incompatible Edition: current; Page: [334]with good policy, and with the dignity of the nation; he obstinately persisted, and the pernicious declaration was introduced.

I call it pernicious, because it was the groundwork of the false steps which have succeeded.

The declaration recommended to the President was a prudent one.

The measures of Congress, by their mitigated form, showed that an eye had been still kept upon pacification. A numerous party were averse from war with France at any rate. In the rest of the community, a strong preference of honorable accommodation to final rupture was discernible, even amidst the effusions of resentment.

The charges which we had exhibited in the face of the world against the French Government, were of a high and disgraceful complexion; they had been urged with much point and emphasis.

To give an opening to France to make conciliatory propositions, some salve for her pride was necessary. It was also necessary she should be assured that she would not expose herself to an affront by a refusal to receive the agent whom she might employ for that purpose. The declaration proposed fulfilled both objects.

It was likely to have another important advantage. It would be a new proof to the American people of the moderate and pacific temper of their government; which would tend to preserve their confidence, and to dispose them more and more to meet inevitable extremities with fortitude and without murmurs.

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But the supplement to the declaration was a blamable excess. It was more than sufficient for the ends to be answered. It waived the point of honor, which, after two rejections of our ministers, required that the next mission between the two countries should proceed from France. After the mortifying humiliations we had endured, the national dignity demanded that this point should not be departed from without necessity. No such necessity could be pretended to exist. Moreover, another mission by us would naturally be regarded as evidence of a disposition on our part to purchase the friendship of revolutionary France, even at the expense of honor; an impression which could hardly fail to injure our interests with other countries: and the measure would involve the further inconvenience of transferring the negotiation from this country, where our government could regulate it according to its own view of exigencies, to France, where that advantage would be enjoyed by her government, and where the power of judging for us must be delegated to commissioners, who, acting under immense individual responsibility, at a distance too great for consultation, would be apt to act with hesitancy and irresolution, whether the policy of the case required concession or firmness. This was to place it too much in the power of France to manage the progress of the negotiation according to events.

It has been said that Paris was wisely preferred as the place of negotiation, because it served to avoid the caballings of a French minister in this country. But there is not enough in this argument to counter-balance Edition: current; Page: [336]the weighty considerations on the other side. The intrigues of Genet and his successors were perplexing to the government, chiefly because they were too well seconded by the prepossessions of the people. The great alteration in public opinion had put it completely in the power of our Executive to control the machinations of any future public agent of France. It ought also to be remembered, that if France has not known agents, she never will be without secret ones, and that her partisans among our citizens can much better promote her cause than any agents she can send. In fact, her agents, by their blunders, were in the event rather useful than pernicious to our affairs.

But is it likely that France would have sent a minister to this country? When we find, that from calculations of policy she could brook the ignominy which the publication of the despatches of our commissioners was calculated to bring upon her; and stifling her resentment could invite the renewal of negotiation; what room can there be to doubt, that the same calculations would have induced her to send a minister to this country when an opening was given for it?

The French Minister for Foreign Relations, through the French diplomatic agent at The Hague, had opened a communication with Mr. Murray, our resident there, for the purpose of reviving negotiation between the two countries. In this manner, assurances were given that France was disposed to treat, and that a minister from us would be received and accredited. But they were accompanied with intimations Edition: current; Page: [337]of the characters proper to be employed, and who would be likely to succeed; which was exceptionable, both as it savored of the pretension (justly censured by the President himself) of prescribing to other governments how they were to manage their own affairs; and as it might, according to circumstances, be construed into a tacit condition of the promise to receive a minister. Overtures so circuitous and informal, through a person who was not the regular organ of the French Government for making them, to a person who was not the regular organ of the American Government for receiving them, might be a very fit mode of preparing the way for the like overtures in a more authentic and obligatory shape. But they were a very inadequate basis for the institution of a new mission.

When the President pledged himself in his speech to send a minister, if satisfactory assurances of a proper reception were given, he must have been understood to mean such as were direct and official, not such as were both informal and destitute of a competent sanction.

Yet upon this loose and vague foundation, Mr. Adams precipitately nominated Mr. Murray as Envoy to the French Republic, without previous consultation with any of his ministers. The nomination itself was to each of them, even to the Secretary of State, his constitutional counsellor in similar affairs, the first notice of the project.

Thus was the measure wrong, both as to mode and substance.

A President is not bound to conform to the advice Edition: current; Page: [338]of his ministers. He is even under no positive injunction to ask or require it. But the Constitution presumes that he will consult them; and the genius of our government and the public good recommend the practice.

As the President nominates his ministers, and may displace them when he pleases, it must be his own fault if he be not surrounded by men who, for ability and integrity, deserve his confidence. And if his ministers are of this character, the consulting of them will always be likely to be useful to himself and to the state. Let it even be supposed that he is a man of talents superior to the collected talents of all his ministers (which can seldom happen, as the world has seen but few Fredericks), he may, nevertheless, often assist his judgment by a comparison and collision of ideas. The greatest genius, hurried away by the rapidity of its own conceptions, will occasionally overlook obstacles which ordinary and more phlegmatic men will discover, and which, when presented to his consideration, will be thought by himself decisive objections to his plans.

When, unhappily, an ordinary man dreams himself to be a Frederick, and through vanity refrains from counselling with his constitutional advisers, he is very apt to fall into the hands of miserable intriguers, with whom his self-love is more at ease, and who without difficulty slide into his confidence, and by flattery govern him.

The ablest men may profit by advice. Inferior men cannot dispense with it; and if they do not get it through legitimate channels, it will find its Edition: current; Page: [339]way to them through such as are clandestine and impure.

Very different from the practice of Mr. Adams was that of the modest and sage Washington. He consulted much, pondered much, resolved slowly, resolved surely.

And as surely, Mr. Adams might have benefited by the advice of his ministers.

The stately system of not consulting ministers is likely to have a further disadvantage. It will tend to exclude from places of primary trust the men most fit to occupy them.

Few and feeble are the inducements to accept a place in our administration. Far from being lucrative, there is not one which will not involve pecuniary sacrifice to every honest man of pre-eminent talents. And has not experience shown, that he must be fortunate indeed, if even the successful execution of his task can secure to him consideration and fame? Of a large harvest of obloquy he is sure.

If excluded from the counsels of the Executive Chief, his office must become truly insignificant. What able and virtuous man will long consent to be so miserable a pageant?

Every thing that tends to banish from the administration able men, tends to diminish the chances of able counsels. The probable operation of a system of this kind, must be to consign places of the highest trust to incapable honest men, whose inducement will be a livelihood, or to capable dishonest men, who will seek indirect indemnifications for the deficiency of direct and fair inducements.

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The precipitate nomination of Mr. Murray, brought Mr. Adams into an awkward predicament.

He found it necessary to change his plan in its progress, and instead of one, to nominate three envoys, and to superadd a promise, that, though appointed, they should not leave the United States till further and more perfect assurances were given by the French Government.

This remodification of the measure was a virtual acknowledgment that it had been premature. How unseemly was this fluctuation in the Executive Chief. It argued either instability of views, or want of sufficient consideration beforehand. The one or the other, in an affair of so great moment, is a serious reproach.

Additional and more competent assurances were received; but before the envoys departed, intelligence arrived of a new revolution in the French Government; which, in violation of the Constitution, had expelled two of the Directory.

Another revolution: another Constitution overthrown. Surely here was reason for a pause, at least till it was ascertained that the new Directory would adhere to the engagement of its predecessors, and would not send back our envoys with disgrace.

In the then posture of French affairs, which externally as well as internally were unprosperous, a pause was every way prudent. The recent revolution was a valid motive for it.

Definite compacts between nations, called real treaties, are binding, notwithstanding revolutions of governments. But to apply the maxim to ministerial Edition: current; Page: [341]acts, preparatory only to negotiation, is to extend it too far; to apply it to such acts of an unstable revolutionary government (like that of France at that time) is to abuse it.

Had any policy of the moment demanded it, it would have been not at all surprising to have seen the new Directory disavowing the assurance which had been given, and imputing it as a crime to the ex-directors, on the pretence that they had prostrated the dignity of the republic by courting the renewal of negotiation with a government which had so grossly insulted it.

Yet our envoys were dispatched without a ratification of the assurance by the new Directory, at the hazard of the interests and the honor of the country.

Again, the dangerous and degrading system of not consulting ministers, was acted upon.

When the news of the revolution in the Directory arrived, Mr. Adams was at his seat in Massachusetts. His ministers addressed to him a joint letter, communicating the intelligence, and submitting to his consideration, whether that event ought not to suspend the projected mission. In a letter which he afterwards wrote from the same place, he directed the preparation of a draft of instructions for the envoys, and intimated that their departure would be suspended for some time.

Shortly after he came to Trenton, where he adjusted with his ministers the tenor of the instructions to be given; but he observed a profound silence on the question, whether it was expedient that the mission should proceed. The morning after the instructions Edition: current; Page: [342]were settled, he signified to the Secretary of State that the envoys were immediately to depart.

He is reported to have assigned as the reason of his silence, that he knew the opinions of his ministers from their letter; that he had irrevocably adopted an opposite one; and that he deemed it most delicate not to embarrass them by a useless discussion.

But would it not have been more prudent to have kept his judgment in some degree of suspense, till after an interview and discussion with his ministers? Ought he to have taken it for granted that the grounds of his opinion were so infallible that there was no possibility of arguments being used which were sufficient to shake them? Ought he not to have recollected the sudden revolution which his judgment had undergone in the beginning of the business, and to have inferred from this that it might have yielded in another instance to better lights? Was it necessary for him, if he had had a conference with his ministers, to have alarmed their delicacy by prefacing the discussion with a declaration that he had fixed an unalterable opinion? Did not the intimation respecting a suspension of the departure of the envoys, imply that this would continue till there was a change of circumstances? Was it not a circumstance to strengthen expectation in the ministers, when consulted about the instructions, that they would be heard as to the principal point, previous to a definitive resolution?

Giving Mr. Adams credit for sincerity, the desultoriness of his mind is evinced by the very different Edition: current; Page: [343]grounds upon which, at different times, he has defended the propriety of the mission.

Sometimes he has treated with ridicule the idea of its being a measure which would terminate in peace; asserting that France would not accommodate, on terms admissible by the United States, and that the effect to be expected from the mission was the demonstration of this truth, and the union of public opinion on the necessity of war.

Sometimes, and most frequently, he has vindicated the measure as one conformable with the general and strong wish of the country for peace, and as likely to promote that desirable object.

It is now earnestly to be hoped, that the final issue of the mission, in an honorable accommodation, may compensate for the sacrifice of consistency, dignity, harmony, and reputation, at which it has been undertaken.

But even in relation to the adjustment of differences with the French Republic, the measure was injudicious. It was probable that it would delay rather than accelerate such an adjustment.

The situation of French affairs, at the time of the overtures for renewing the negotiation, coincides with the solicitude which was manifested for that object, to render it likely that, at this juncture, France really desired accommodation. If this was so, it is presumable (as observed in another place) that, had not the declaration about sending a minister to her intervened, she would have sent one to us, with adequate powers and instructions. Towards a minister here, our government might have acted Edition: current; Page: [344]such a part as would have hastened a conclusion; and the minister, conforming to the impressions of his government when he was sent, it is not improbable that a desirable arrangement might some time since have been effected.

Instead of this the mode pursued naturally tended to delay. A lapse of time, by changing the circumstances, is very apt to change the views of governments. The French agents, charged with the negotiation at Paris, could find little difficulty in protracting it till events (such as the fate of a campaign) should be ascertained, as a guide to rise or fall in their pretensions. And in this way, obstacles might supervene which would not have existed in the beginning, and which might render accommodation impracticable—or practicable only on terms injurious to our interests.

Thus, on every just calculation, whatever may be the issue, the measure, in reference either to our internal or foreign affairs, even to our concerns with France herself, was alike impolitic.

It is sometimes defended by the argument, that when our commissioners departed, there were circumstances in the position of Europe which made a general peace during the succeeding winter probable, and that it would have been dangerous for this country, remote as it is from Europe, to have been without agents on the spot authorized to settle its controversy with France, at the same epoch. The country, it is said, might otherwise have been left in the perilous situation of having a subsisting quarrel with France, after she had disembarrassed herself of all her European enemies.

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The idea that a general peace was likely to happen during that winter, was, I know, entertained by Mr. Adams himself; for, in a casual conversation at Trenton, he expressed it to me, and I supported a different opinion. But waiving now a discussion of the point, and admitting that the expectation was entertained on substantial grounds, though it has not been verified by experience, still the argument deduced from it is not valid.

The expediency of the measure must be tested by the state of things when it had its inception. At the time the foundation was laid for it by the speech, when even the nomination of Mr. Murray took place, the affairs of France and of her enemies portended a result very inauspicious to her, and very different from that of a general peace, on conditions which would leave her the inclination or the power to prosecute hostilities against this country.

But even on the supposition of other prospects, Mr. Adams had the option of a substitute far preferable to the expedient which he chose.

He might secretly and confidentially have nominated one or more of our ministers actually abroad for the purpose of treating with France; with eventual instructions predicated upon appearances of an approaching peace.

An expedient of this sort, merely provisory, could have had none of the bad effects of the other. If the secret was kept, it could have had no inconvenient consequences; if divulged, it would have been deemed here and elsewhere, a prudent precaution only, recommended by the distant situation of the Edition: current; Page: [346]country, to meet future casualties, with which we might otherwise not have been able to keep pace. To the enemies of France, it could have given no ill impression of us; to France, no motive to forbear other conciliatory means, for one and the same reason, namely, because the operation was to be eventual.

There are some collateral incidents connected with this business of the mission, which it may not be useless to mention, as they will serve still further to illustrate the extreme propensity of Mr. Adams’ temper to jealousy.

It happened that I arrived at Trenton a short time before the President—Chief-Justice Ellsworth a short time after him. This was considered as evidence of a combination between the heads of departments, the Chief-Justice, and myself, to endeavor to influence or counteract him in the affair of the mission.

The truth, nevertheless, most certainly is, that I went to Trenton with General Wilkinson, pursuant to a preconcert with him of some weeks’ standing, to accelerate by personal conferences with the Secretary of War, the adoption and execution of arrangements which had been planned between that general and myself, for the future disposition of the Western army; that when I left New York upon this journey, I had no expectation whatever that the President would come to Trenton, and that I did not stay at this place a day longer than was indispensable to the object I have stated. General Wilkinson, if necessary, might be appealed to, not only as knowing that Edition: current; Page: [347]this was a real and sincere purpose of my journey, but as possessing satisfactory evidence, that in all probability I had no anticipation of the movement of the President.

As to Chief-Justice Ellsworth, the design of his journey was understood to be to meet his colleague, Governor Davie, at the seat of the government, where they would be at the fountain-head of information, and would obtain any lights or explanations which they might suppose useful. This was manifestly a very natural and innocent solution of the Chief-Justice’s visit, and I believe the true one.

Yet these simple occurrences were, to the jealous mind of Mr. Adams, “confirmation strong,” of some mischievous plot against his independence.

The circumstance, which next presents itself to examination, is the dismission of the two secretaries, Pickering and McHenry. This circumstance, it is known, occasioned much surprise, and a strong sensation to the disadvantage of Mr. Adams.

It happened at a peculiar juncture, immediately after the unfavorable turn of the election in New York, and had much the air of an explosion of combustible materials which had been long prepared, but which had been kept down by prudential calculations respecting the effect of an explosion upon the friends of those ministers in the State of New York. Perhaps, when it was supposed that nothing could be lost in this quarter, and that something might be gained elsewhere by an atoning sacrifice of those ministers, especially Mr. Pickering, who had been for some time particularly odious to the opposition Edition: current; Page: [348]party, it was determined to proceed to extremities. This, as a mere conjecture, is offered for as much as it may be worth.

One fact, however, is understood to be admitted, namely, that neither of the dismissed ministers had given any new or recent cause for their dismission.

A primary cause of the state of things which led to this event, is to be traced to the ungovernable temper of Mr. Adams. It is a fact that he is often liable to paroxysms of anger, which deprive him of self-command, and produce very outrageous behavior to those who approach him. Most, if not all his ministers, and several distinguished members of the two houses of Congress, have been humiliated by the effects of these gusts of passion.

This violence, and the little consideration for them which was implied in declining to consult them, had occasioned great dryness between the President and his ministers, except, I believe, the Secretary of the Navy.

The neglect was, of course, most poignant to Mr. Pickering, because it had repeatedly operated in matters appertaining to his office. Nor was it in the disposition of this respectable man, justly tenacious of his own dignity and independence, to practise condescensions towards an imperious chief. Hence the breach constantly grew wider and wider, till a separation took place.

The manner of the dismission was abrupt and uncourteous; ill suited to a man who, in different stations, had merited so much from his country.

Admitting that when the President and his minister Edition: current; Page: [349]had gotten into a situation thus unpleasant, a separation was unavoidable; still, as there was no surmise of misconduct, the case required a frank politeness, not an uncouth austerity.

But the remark most interesting in this particular to the character of the President, is, that it was by his own fault that he was brought into a situation which might oblige him to displace a minister, whose moral worth has his own suffrage, and whose abilities and services have that of the public.

The dismission of this minister was preceded by a very curious circumstance. It was, without doubt announced as a thing shortly to happen in an opposition circle, before any friend of the government had the slightest suspicion of it. This circumstance, taken in connection with the period at which it happened, naturally provokes the conjecture that there may have been some collateral inducements to the step.

The dismission of the Secretary at War took place about the same time. It was declared in the sequel of a long conversation between the President and him, of a nature to excite alternately pain and laughter: pain, for the weak and excessive indiscretions of a Chief Magistrate of the United States; laughter at the ludicrous topics which constituted charges against this officer.

A prominent charge was, that the Secretary, in a report to the House of Representatives, had eulogized General Washington, and had attempted to eulogize General Hamilton, which was adduced as one proof of a combination, in which the Secretary Edition: current; Page: [350]was engaged, to depreciate and injure him, the President.

Wonderful! passing wonderful! that a eulogy of the dead patriot and hero, of the admired and beloved Washington, consecrated in the affections and reverence of his country, should, in any shape, be irksome to the ears of his successor!

Singular, also, that an encomium on the officer, first in rank in the armies of the United States, appointed and continued by Mr. Adams, should in his eyes have been a crime in the head of the War Department, and that it should be necessary, in order to avert his displeasure, to obliterate a compliment to that officer from an official report.

Another principal topic of accusation was, that the Secretary had, with the other ministers, signed the joint letter, which had been addressed to the President respecting a suspension of the mission to France. It was ostentatiously asked, how he or they should pretend to know any thing of diplomatic affairs; and it was plainly intimated that it was presumption in them to have intermeddled in such affairs.

A variety of things equally frivolous and outré passed. By way of episode, it fell to my lot to be distinguished by a torrent of gross personal abuse; and I was accused of having contributed to the loss of the election in New York, out of ill-will to Mr. Adams: a notable expedient truly for giving vent to my ill-will. Who is so blind as not to see, that, if actuated by such a motive, I should have preferred, by the success of the election, to have secured the choice of electors for the State of New York, who Edition: current; Page: [351]would have been likely to co-operate in the views by which I was governed?

To those who have not had opportunities of closely inspecting the weakness of Mr. Adams’ character, the details of this extraordinary interview would appear incredible; but to those who have had these opportunities, they would not even furnish an occasion of surprise. But they would be, to all who knew their truth, irrefragable proofs of his unfitness for the station of Chief Magistrate.

Ill treatment of Mr. McHenry cannot fail to awaken the sympathy of every person well acquainted with him. Sensible, judicious, well-informed, of an integrity never questioned, of a temper, which, though firm in the support of principles, has too much moderation and amenity to offend by the manner of doing it—I dare pronounce that he never gave Mr. Adams cause to treat him, as he did, with unkindness. If Mr. Adams thought that his execution of his office indicated a want of the peculiar qualifications required for it, he might have said so with gentleness, and he would have only exercised a prerogative intrusted to him by the Constitution, to which no blame could have attached; but it was unjustifiable to aggravate the deprivation of office by humiliating censures and bitter reproaches.

The last material occurrence in the administration of Mr. Adams, of which I shall take notice, is the pardon of Fries, and other principals in the late insurrection in Pennsylvania.

It is a fact that a very refractory spirit has long existed in the western counties of that State. Edition: current; Page: [352]Repeatedly have its own laws been opposed with violence, and as often, according to my information, with impunity.

It is also a fact, which everybody knows, that the laws of the Union, in the vital article of revenue, have been twice resisted in the same State by combinations so extensive, and under circumstances so violent, as to have called for the employment of military force; once under the former President, and once under the actual President; which together cost the United States nearly a million and a half of dollars.

In the first instance it happened, that by the early submission of most of the leaders, upon an invitation of the government, few offenders of any consequence remained subject to prosecution. Of these, either from the humanity of the juries or some deficiency in the evidence, not one was capitally convicted. Two poor wretches only were sentenced to die, one of them little short of an idiot, the other a miserable follower in the hindmost train of rebellion, both being so insignificant in all respects, that after the lenity shown to the chiefs, justice would have worn the mien of ferocity, if she had raised her arm against them. The sentiment that their punishment ought to be remitted was universal; and the President, yielding to the special considerations, granted them pardons.

In the last instance, some of the most important of the offenders were capitally convicted—one of them by the verdicts of two successive juries. The general opinion of the friends of the government demanded an example, as indispensable to its security.

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The opinion was well founded. Two insurrections in the same State, the one upon the heels of the other, demonstrated a spirit of insubordination or disaffection which required a strong corrective. It is a disagreeable fact, forming a weighty argument in the question, that a large part of the population of Pennsylvania is of a composition which peculiarly fits it for the intrigues of factious men, who may desire to disturb or overthrow the government. And it is an equally disagreeable fact, that disaffection to the national government is in no other State more general, more deeply rooted, or more envenomed.

The late Governor Mifflin himself informed me that, in the first case, insurrection had been organized down to the very liberties of Philadelphia, and that, had not the government anticipated it, a general explosion would speedily have ensued.

It ought to be added, that the impunity so often experienced had made it an article in the creed of those who were actuated by the insurgent spirit, that neither the General nor the State Government dared to inflict capital punishment.

To destroy this persuasion, to repress this dangerous spirit, it was essential that a salutary rigor should have been exerted, and that those who were under the influence of the one and the other should be taught that they were the dupes of a fatal illusion.

Of this Mr. Adams appeared so sensible, that, while the trials were pending, he more than once imprudently threw out that the accused must found their hopes of escape either in their innocence or in Edition: current; Page: [354]the lenity of the juries; since from him, in case of conviction, they would have nothing to expect. And a very short time before he pardoned them he declared,1 with no small ostentation, that the mistaken clemency of Washington on the former occasion had been the cause of the second insurrection, and that he would take care there should not be a third, by giving the laws their full course against the convicted offenders.

Yet he thought proper, as if distrusting the courts and officers of the United States, to resort, through the Attorney-General, to the counsel of the culprits for a statement of their cases1; in which was found, besides some objections of form, the novel doctrine, disavowed by every page of our law books, that treason does not consist of resistance by force to a public law, unless it be an act relative to the militia, or other military force.

And upon this or upon some other ground, not easy to be comprehended, he of a sudden departed from all his former declarations, and, against the unanimous advice of his ministers, with the Attorney-General, came to the resolution, which he executed, of pardoning all those who had received sentence of death.

No wonder that the public was thunderstruck at such a result—that the friends of the government regarded it as a virtual dereliction. It was impossible to commit a greater error. The particular Edition: current; Page: [355]situation of Pennsylvania, the singular posture of human affairs, in which there is so strong a tendency to the disorganization of government; the turbulent and malignant humors which exist, and are so industriously nourished throughout the United States; every thing loudly demanded that the Executive should have acted with exemplary vigor, and should have given a striking demonstration that condign punishment would be the lot of the violent opposers of the laws.

The contrary course, which was pursued, is the most inexplicable part of Mr. Adams’ conduct. It shows him so much at variance with himself, as well as with sound policy, that we are driven to seek a solution for it in some system of concession to his political enemies; a system the most fatal for himself, and for the cause of public order, of any that he could possibly devise. It is by temporizings like these that men at the head of affairs lose the respect both of friends and foes; it is by temporizings like these that, in times of fermentation and commotion, governments are prostrated, which might easily have been upheld by an erect and imposing attitude.

I have now gone through the principal circumstances in Mr. Adams’ conduct which have served to produce my disapprobation of him as Chief Magistrate. I pledge my veracity and honor that I have stated none which are not either derived from my own knowledge, or from sources of information in the highest degree worthy of credit.

I freely submit it, sir, to your judgment, whether the grounds of the opinion I have expressed are not Edition: current; Page: [356]weighty; and whether they are not sufficient to exculpate those Federalists, who favor the equal support of Mr. Pinckney, from all blame, and myself, in particular, from the unworthy imputation of being influenced by private resentment.

At the same time, I will admit, though it should detract from the force of my representations, that I have causes of personal dissatisfaction with Mr. Adams. It is not my practice to trouble others with my individual concerns; nor should I do it at present, but for the suggestions which have been made. Even with this incentive, I shall do it as little as possible.

The circumstances of my late military situation have much less to do with my personal discontent than some others. In respect to them, I shall only say, that I owed my appointment to the station and rank I held, to the express stipulation of General Washington, when he accepted the command of the army, afterwards peremptorily insisted upon by him in opposition to the strong wishes of the President; and that, though second in rank, I was not promoted to the first place when it became vacant by the death of the commander-in-chief. As to the former, I should have had no cause to complain, if there had not been an apparent inconsistency in the measures of the President; if he had not nominated me first on the list of major-generals, and attempted afterwards to place me third in rank. As to the latter, the chief command, not being a matter of routine, the not promoting me to it cannot be deemed a wrong or injury; yet certainly I could not see in the Edition: current; Page: [357]omission any proof of good-will or confidence, or of a disposition to console me for the persecutions which I had incessantly endured. But I dismiss the subject, leaving to others to judge of my pretensions to the promotion, and of the weight, if any, which they ought to have had with the President.

On other topics, my sensations are far less neutral. If, as I have been assured from respectable authorities, Mr. Adams has repeatedly indulged himself in virulent and indecent abuse of me; if he has denominated me a man destitute of every moral principle; if he has stigmatized me as the leader of a British faction; then, certainly, I have a right to think that I have been most cruelly and wickedly traduced; then have I a right to appeal to all those who have been spectators of my public actions; to all who are acquainted with my private character in its various relations, whether such treatment of me by Mr. Adams is of a nature to weaken or strengthen his claim to the approbation of wise and good men; then will I so far yield to the consciousness of what I am, as to declare, that in the cardinal points of public and private rectitude, above all, in pure and disinterested zeal for the interests and service of this country, I shrink not from a comparison with any arrogant pretender to superior and exclusive merit.

Having been repeatedly informed that Mr. Adams had delineated me as the leader of a British faction, and having understood that his partisans, to counteract the influence of my opinion, were pressing the same charge against me, I wrote him a letter on the subject, dated the first of August last. No reply Edition: current; Page: [358]having been given by him to this letter, I, on the first of the present month, wrote him another; of both which letters I send you copies.

Of the purity of my public conduct in this, as in other particulars, I may defy the severest investigation.

Not only is it impossible for any man to give color to this absurd charge by a particle of proof, or by any reasonable presumption; but I am able to show that my conduct has uniformly given the lie to it.

I never advised any connection1 with Great Britain other than a commercial one; and in this I never advocated the giving to her any privilege or advantage which was not to be imparted to other nations. With regard to her pretensions as a belligerent power in relation to neutrals, my opinions, while in the administration, to the best of my recollection, coincided with those of Mr. Jefferson. When, in the year 1793, her depredations on our commerce discovered a hostile spirit, I recommended one definitive effort to terminate differences by negotiation, to be followed, if unsuccessful, by a declaration of war. I urged, in the most earnest manner, the friends of the administration, in both houses of Congress, to prepare by sea and land for the alternative, to the utmost extent of our resources; and to an extent far exceeding that to which any member of Edition: current; Page: [359]either party was found willing to go. For this alternative, I became so firmly pledged to the friends and enemies of the administration, and especially to the President of the United States, in writing as well as verbally, that I could not afterwards have retracted without a glaring and disgraceful inconsistency. And being thus pledged, I explicitly gave it as my opinion to Mr. Jay, Envoy to Great Britain, that “unless an adjustment of the differences with her could be effected on solid terms, it would be better to do nothing.” When the treaty arrived, it was not without full deliberation and some hesitation, that I resolved to support it. The articles relative to the settlement of differences were upon the whole satisfactory; but there were a few of the others which appeared to me of a different character. The article respecting contraband, though conformable with the general law of nations, was not in all its features such as could have been wished. The XXVth article, which gave asylum in our ports, under certain exceptions, to privateers with their prizes, was in itself an ineligible one, being of a nature to excite the discontent of nations against whom it should operate, and deriving its justification from the example before set of an equivalent stipulation in our treaty with France. The X☑th article was, in my view, inadmissible. The enlightened negotiator, not unconscious that some parts of the treaty were less well arranged than was to be desired, had himself hesitated to sign; but he had resigned his scruples to the conviction that nothing better could be effected, and that, aggregately considered, the instrument Edition: current; Page: [360]would be advantageous to the United States. On my part, the result of mature reflection was, that as the subjects of controversy which had threatened the peace of the two nations, and which implicated great interests of this country, were in the essential points well adjusted, and as the other articles would expire in twelve years after the ratification of the treaty, it would be wise and right to confirm the compact, with the exception of the XIIth article. Nevertheless, when an account was received that the British cruisers had seized provisions going to ports of the French dominions, not in fact blockaded or besieged, I advised the President to ratify the treaty conditionally only—that is, with express instructions not to exchange ratifications, unless the British Government would disavow a construction of the instrument authorizing the practice, and would discontinue it.

After the rejection of Mr. Pinckney by the government of France, immediately after the instalment of Adams as President, and long before the measure was taken, I urged a member of Congress, then high in the confidence of the President, to propose to him the immediate appointment of three commissioners, of whom Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madison to be one, to make another attempt to negotiate. And when afterwards commissioners were appointed, I expressly gave it as my opinion, that indemnification for spoliations should not be a sine qua non of accommodation. In fine, I have been disposed to go greater lengths to avoid rupture with France than with Great Britain; to make greater sacrifices for reconciliation with the former than with the latter.

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In making this avowal, I owe it to my own character to say, that the disposition I have confessed, did not proceed from predilection for France (revolutionary France, after her early beginnings, has been always to me an object of horror), nor from the supposition that more was to be feared from France, as an enemy, than from Great Britain (I thought that the maritime power of the latter could do us much mischief), but from the persuasion that the sentiments and prejudices of our country would render war with France a more unmanageable business than war with Great Britain.

Let any fair man pronounce, whether the circumstances which have been disclosed bespeak the partisan of Great Britain, or the man exclusively devoted to the interests of this country. Let any delicate man decide, whether it must not be shocking to an ingenuous mind, to have to combat a slander so vile, after having sacrificed the interests of his family, and devoted the best part of his life to the service of that country, in counsel and in the field.

It is time to conclude. This statement, which has been made, shows that Mr. Adams has committed some positive and serious errors of administration; that in addition to these, he has certain fixed points of character which tend naturally to the detriment of any cause of which he is the chief, of any administration of which he is the head; that by his ill humors and jealousies he has already divided and distracted the supporters of the government; that he has furnished deadly weapons to its enemies by Edition: current; Page: [362]unfounded accusations, and has weakened the force of its friends by decrying some of the most influential of them to the utmost of his power; and let it be added, as the necessary effect of such conduct, that he has made great progress in undermining the ground which was gained for the government by his predecessor, and that there is real cause to apprehend it might totter, if not fall, under his future auspices. A new government, constructed on free principles, is always weak, and must stand in need of the props of a firm and good administration, till time shall have rendered its authority venerable, and fortified it by habits of obedience.

Yet with this opinion of Mr. Adams, I have finally resolved not to advise the withholding from him a single vote. The body of Federalists, for want of sufficient knowledge of facts, are not convinced of the expediency of relinquishing him. It is even apparent, that a large proportion still retain the attachment which was once a common sentiment. Those of them, therefore, who are dissatisfied, as far as my information goes, are, generally speaking, willing to forbear opposition, and to acquiesce in the equal support of Mr. Adams with Mr. Pinckney, whom they prefer. Have they not a claim to equal deference from those who continue attached to the former? Ought not these, in candor, to admit the possibility that the friends who differ from them act not only from pure motives, but from cogent reasons? Ought they not, by a co-operation in General Pinckney, to give a chance for what will be a safe issue, supposing that they are right in their preference, and Edition: current; Page: [363]the best issue, should they happen to be mistaken? Especially, since by doing this they will increase the probability of excluding a third candidate, of whose unfitness all sincere Federalists are convinced. If they do not pursue this course, they will certainly incur an immense responsibility to their friends and to the government.

To promote this co-operation, to defend my own character, to vindicate those friends, who with myself have been unkindly aspersed, are the inducements for writing this letter. Accordingly, it will be my endeavor to regulate the communication of it in such a manner as will not be likely to deprive Mr. Adams of a single vote. Indeed, it is much my wish that its circulation could forever be confined within narrow limits. I am sensible of the inconveniences of giving publicity to a similar development of the character of the Chief Magistrate of our country; and I lament the necessity of taking a step which will involve that result. Yet to suppress truths, the disclosure of which is so interesting to the public welfare as well as to the vindication of my friends and myself, did not appear to me justifiable.

The restraints, to which I submit, are a proof of my disposition to sacrifice to the prepossessions of those, with whom I have heretofore thought and acted, and from whom in the present question I am compelled to differ. To refrain from a decided opposition to Mr. Adams’ re-election has been reluctantly sanctioned by my judgment; which has been not a little perplexed between the unqualified conviction of his unfitness for the station contemplated, Edition: current; Page: [364]and a sense of the great importance of cultivating harmony among the supporters of the government; on whose firm union hereafter will probably depend the preservation of order, tranquillity, liberty, property; the security of every social and domestic blessing.

hamilton to adams1

New York,

Sir:—It has been repeatedly mentioned to me, that you have, on different occasions, asserted the existence of a British faction in this country; embracing a number of leading or influential characters of the Federal party (as usually denominated), and that you have sometimes named me, at others plainly alluded to me, as one of this description of persons. And I have likewise been assured, that of late some of your warm admirers, for electioneering purposes, have employed a corresponding language.

I must, Sir, take it for granted, that you cannot have made such assertions or insinuations, without being willing to avow them, and to assign the reasons to a party who may conceive himself injured by them. I therefore trust, that you will not deem it improper, that I apply directly to yourself to ascertain from you, in reference to your own declarations, whether the information I have received has been Edition: current; Page: [365]correct or not; and if correct, what are the grounds upon which you have founded the suggestion.

With respect I have the honor to be,

Sir, your obedient servant,

A. Hamilton.
To John Adams, Esq.

President of the United States.

New York,

Sir:—The time which has elapsed since my letter of the first of August was delivered to you, precludes the further expectation of an answer.

From this silence, I will draw no inference; nor will I presume to judge of the fitness of silence on such an occasion on the part of the Chief Magistrate of a republic, towards a citizen who, without a stain, has discharged so many important public trusts.

But this much I will affirm, that by whomsoever a charge of the kind mentioned in my former letter, may, at any time, have been made or insinuated against me, it is a base, wicked, and cruel calumny; destitute even of a plausible pretext, to excuse the folly, or mask the depravity which must have dictated it.

With due respect, I have the honor to be,

Sir, your obedient servant,

A. Hamilton.
To John Adams, Esq.

President of the United States.

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Observations on Certain Documents contained in Nos. V. and VI. of The History of the United States for the Year 1796, in which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, late Secretary of the Treasury, is fully refuted. Written by himself. Philadelphia: Printed for John Fenno, by John Bioren, 1797.

The spirit of Jacobinism, if not entirely a new spirit, has at least been clothed with a more gigantic body and armed with more powerful weapons than it ever before possessed.

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It is perhaps not too much to say, that it threatens more extensive and complicated mischiefs to the world than have hitherto flowed from the three great scourges of mankind, WAR, PESTILENCE, and FAMINE. To what point it will ultimately lead society, it is impossible for human foresight to pronounce; but there is just ground to apprehend that its progress may be marked with calamities of which the dreadful incidents of the French Revolution afford a very faint image. Incessantly busy in undermining all the props of public security and private happiness, it seems to threaten the political and moral world with a complete overthrow.

A principal engine, by which this spirit endeavors to accomplish its purposes, is that of calumny. It is essential to its success that the influence of men Edition: current; Page: [371]of upright principles, disposed and able to resist its enterprises, shall be at all events destroyed, Not content with traducing their best efforts for the public good, with misrepresenting their purest motives, with inferring criminality from actions innocent or laudable, the most direct falsehoods are invented and propagated with undaunted effrontery and unrelenting perseverance. Lies often detected and refuted are still revived and repeated, in the hope that the refutation may have been forgotten, or that the frequency and boldness of accusation may supply the place of proof. The most profligate men are encouraged, probably bribed, certainly with patronage if not with money, to become informers and accusers. And when tales, which their character alone ought to discredit, are refuted by evidence and facts which oblige the patrons of them to abandon their Edition: current; Page: [372]support, they will continue in corroding whispers to wear away the reputations which they could not directly subvert. If, luckily for the conspirators against honest fame, any little foible or folly can be traced out in one whom they desire to persecute, it becomes at once in their hands a two-edged sword, by which to wound the public character and stab the private felicity of the person. With such men, nothing is sacred. Even the peace of an unoffending and amiable wife is a welcome repast to their insatiate fury against the husband.

In the gratification of this baleful spirit, we not only hear the Jacobin newspapers continually ring with odious insinuations and charges against many of our most virtuous citizens; but, not satisfied with this, a measure new in this country has been lately adopted to give greater efficacy to the system of defamation—periodical pamphlets issue from the same presses, full freighted with misrepresentation and falsehood, artfully calculated to hold up the opponents of the FACTION to the jealousy and distrust of the present generation, and, if possible, to transmit their names with dishonor to posterity. Even the great and multiplied services, the tried and rarely equalled virtues, of a WASHINGTON, can secure no exemption.

How then can I, with pretensions every way inferior, expect to escape? And if truly this be, as every appearance indicates, a conspiracy of vice against virtue, ought I not rather to be flattered, that I have been so long and so peculiarly an object of persecution? Ought I to regret, if there be any Edition: current; Page: [373]thing about me so formidable to the FACTION as to have made me worthy to be distinguished by the plenitude of its rancor and venom?

It is certain that I have had a pretty copious experience of its malignity. For the honor of human nature, it is to be hoped that the examples are not numerous of men so greatly calumniated and persecuted as I have been, with so little cause.

I dare appeal to my immediate fellow-citizens, of whatever political party, for the truth of the assertion, that no man ever carried into public life a more unblemished pecuniary reputation, than that with which I undertook the office of Secretary of the Treasury; a character marked by indifference to the acquisition of property rather than by avidity for it.

With such a character, however natural it was to expect criticism and opposition, as to the political principles which I might manifest or be supposed to entertain, as to the wisdom or expediency of the plans, which I might propose, or as to the skill, care, or diligence with which the business of my department might be executed, it was not natural to expect, nor did I expect, that my fidelity or integrity in a pecuniary sense would ever be called into question.

But on this head a mortifying disappointment has been experienced. Without the slightest foundation, I have been repeatedly held up to the suspicions of the world as a man directed in his administration by the most sordid views; who did not scruple to sacrifice the public to his private interest, his duty and honor to the sinister accumulation of wealth.

Merely because I retained an opinion once common Edition: current; Page: [374]to me and the most influential of those who opposed me, that the public debt ought to be provided for on the basis of the contract upon which it was created, I have been wickedly accused with wantonly increasing the public burthen many millions in order to promote a stock-jobbing interest of myself and friends.

Merely because a member of the House of Representatives entertained a different idea from me, as to the legal effect of appropriation laws, and did not understand accounts, I was exposed to the imputation of having committed a deliberate and criminal violation of the laws, and to the suspicion of being a defaulter for millions; so as to have been driven to the painful necessity of calling for a formal and solemn inquiry.

The inquiry took place. It was conducted by a committee of fifteen members of the House of Representatives—a majority of them either my decided political enemies or inclined against me, some of them the most active and intelligent of my opponents, without a single man, who, being known to be friendly to me, possessed also such knowledge and experience of public affairs as would enable him to counteract injurious intrigues. MR. GILES, of Virginia, who had commenced the attack, was of the committee.

The officers and books of the treasury were examined. The transactions between the several banks and the treasury were scrutinized. Even my private accounts with those institutions were laid open to the committee; and every possible facility given to the inquiry. The result was a complete demonstration Edition: current; Page: [375]that the suspicions that had been entertained were groundless.

Those which had taken the fastest hold were, that the public monies had been made subservient to loans, discounts, and accommodations to myself and friends. The committee in reference to this point reported thus: “It appears, from the affidavits of the cashier and several officers of the Bank of the United States and several of the directors, the cashier, and other officers of the Bank of New York, that the Secretary of the Treasury never has either directly or indirectly, for himself or any other person, procured any discount or credit from either of the said banks upon the basis of any public monies which at any time have been deposited therein under his direction: And the committee are satisfied, that no monies of the United States, whether before or after they have passed to the credit of the Treasurer, have ever been directly or indirectly used for or applied to any purposes but those of the government, except so far as all monies deposited in a bank are concerned in the general operations thereof.”

The report, which I have always understood was unanimous, contains in other respects, with considerable detail, the materials of a complete exculpation. My enemies, finding no handle for their malice, abandoned the pursuit.

Yet unwilling to leave any ambiguity upon the point, when I determined to resign my office, I gave early previous notice of it to the House of Representatives, for the declared purpose of affording an opportunity for legislative crimination, if any ground Edition: current; Page: [376]for it had been discovered. Not the least step towards it was taken. From which I have a right to infer the universal conviction of the House, that no cause existed, and to consider the result as a complete vindication.

On another occasion, a worthless man of the name of Fraunces found encouragement to bring forward to the House of Representatives a formal charge against me of unfaithful conduct in office. A Committee of the House was appointed to inquire, consisting in this case, also, partly of some of my most intelligent and active enemies. The issue was an unanimous exculpation of me, as will appear by the following extract from the journals of the House of Representatives of the 19th of February, 1794:

“The House resumed the consideration of the report of the Committee, to whom was referred the memorial of Andrew G. Fraunces: whereupon,

Resolved, That the reasons assigned by the Secretary of the Treasury for refusing payment of the warrants referred to in the memorial, are fully sufficient to justify his conduct; and that, in the whole course of this transaction, the Secretary and other officers of the Treasury have acted a meritorious part towards the public.

Resolved, That the charge exhibited in the memorial against the Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the purchase of the pension of Baron de Glaubeck, is wholly illiberal and groundless.”1

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Was it not to have been expected that these repeated demonstrations of the injustice of the accusations hazarded against me would have abashed the enterprise of my calumniators? However natural such an expectation may seem, it would betray an ignorance of the true character of the Jacobin system. It is a maxim deeply ingrafted in that dark system, that no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false. It is well understood by its disciples that every calumny makes some proselytes, and even retains some; since justification seldom circulates as rapidly and as widely as slander. The number of those who from doubt proceed to suspicion, and thence to belief, of imputed guilt, is continually augmenting; and the public mind, fatigued at length with resistance to the calumnies which eternally assail it, is apt at the end to sit down with the opinion that a person so often accused cannot be entirely innocent.

Relying upon this weakness of human nature, the Jacobin Scandal-Club, though often defeated, constantly return to the charge. Old calumnies are served up afresh, and every pretext is seized to add to the catalogue. The person whom they seek to blacken, by dint of repeated strokes of their brush, becomes a demon in their own eyes, though he might be pure and bright as an angel but for the daubing of those wizard painters.

Of all the vile attempts which have been made to injure my character, that which has been lately revived in Nos. V. and VI. of the History of the Edition: current; Page: [378]United States for 1796, is the most vile. This it will be impossible for any intelligent, I will not say candid, man to doubt, when he shall have accompanied me through the examination.

I owe perhaps to my friends an apology for condescending to give a public explanation. A just pride with reluctance stoops to a formal vindication against so despicable a contrivance, and is inclined rather to oppose to it the uniform evidence of an upright character. This would be my conduct on the present occasion, did not the tale seem to derive a sanction from the names of three men of some weight and consequence in the society; a circumstance which I trust will excuse me for paying attention to a slander that, without this prop, would defeat itself by intrinsic circumstances of absurdity and malice.

The charge against me is a connection with one James Reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation. My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife for a considerable time, with his privity and connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design to extort money from me.

This confession is not made without a blush. I cannot be the apologist of any vice because the ardor of passion may have made it mine. I can never cease to condemn myself for the pang which it may inflict in a bosom eminently entitled to all my gratitude, fidelity, and love. But that bosom will approve, that, even at so great an expense, I should effectually wipe away a more serious stain from a Edition: current; Page: [379]name which it cherishes with no less elevation than tenderness. The public, too, will, I trust, excuse the confession. The necessity of it to my defence against a more heinous charge could alone have extorted from me so painful an indecorum.

Before I proceed to an exhibition of the positive proof which repels the charge, I shall analyze the documents from which it is deduced, and I am mistaken if with discerning and candid minds more would be necessary. But I desire to obviate the suspicions of the most suspicious.

The first reflection which occurs on a perusal of the documents is that it is morally impossible I should have been foolish as well as depraved enough to employ so vile an instrument as Reynolds for such insignificant ends, as are indicated by different parts of the story itself. My enemies to be sure have kindly pourtrayed me as another Chartres on the score of moral principle. But they have been ever bountiful in ascribing talents. It has suited their purpose to exaggerate such as I may possess, and to attribute to them an influence to which they are not entitled. But the present accusation imputes to me as much folly as wickedness. All the documents show, and it is otherwise matter of notoriety, that Reynolds was an obscure, unimportant, and profligate man. Nothing could be more weak, because nothing could be more unsafe than to make use of such an instrument; to use him, too, without any intermediate agent more worthy of confidence who might keep me out of sight; to write him numerous letters recording the objects of the improper Edition: current; Page: [380]connection (for this is pretended and that the letters were afterwards burnt at my request); to unbosom myself to him with a prodigality of confidence, by very unnecessarily telling him, as he alleges, of a connection in speculation between myself and Mr. Duer. It is very extraordinary, if the head of the money department of a country, being unprincipled enough to sacrifice his trust and his integrity, could not have contrived objects of profit sufficiently large to have engaged the co-operation of men of far greater importance than Reynolds, and with whom there could have been due safety, and should have been driven to the necessity of unkennelling such a reptile to be the instrument of his cupidity.

But, moreover, the scale of the concern with Reynolds, such as it is presented, is contemptibly narrow for a rapacious speculating Secretary of the Treasury. Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife were manifestly in very close confidence with each other. It seems there was a free communication of secrets. Yet in clubbing their different items of information as to the supplies of money which Reynolds received from me, what do they amount to? Clingman states that Mrs. Reynolds told him, that at a certain time her husband had received from me upwards of eleven hundred dollars. A note is produced which shows that at one time fifty dollars were sent to him, and another note is produced, by which and the information of Reynolds himself through Clingman, it appears that at another time three hundred dollars were asked and refused. Another sum of two hundred dollars is spoken of by Clingman as having been Edition: current; Page: [381]furnished to Reynolds at some other time. What a scale of speculation is this for the head of a public treasury, for one who, in the very publication that brings forward the charge, is represented as having procured to be funded at forty millions a debt which ought to have been discharged at ten or fifteen millions for the criminal purpose of enriching himself and his friends? He must have been a clumsy knave, if he did not secure enough of this excess of twenty-five or thirty millions, to have taken away all inducement to risk his character in such bad hands and in so huckstering a way—or to have enabled him, if he did employ such an agent, to do it with more means and to better purpose. It is curious that this rapacious Secretary should at one time have furnished his speculating agent with the paltry sum of fifty dollars; at another, have refused him the inconsiderable sum of three hundred dollars, declaring upon his honor that it was not in his power to furnish it. This declaration was true or not: if the last, the refusal ill comports with the idea of a speculating connection; if the first, it is very singular that the head of the Treasury, engaged without scruple in schemes of profit, should be destitute of so small a sum. But if we suppose this officer to be living upon an inadequate salary, without any collateral pursuits of gain, the appearances then are simple and intelligible enough, applying to them the true key.

It appears that Reynolds and Clingman were detected by the then Comptroller of the Treasury, in the odious crime of suborning a witness to commit Edition: current; Page: [382]perjury, for the purpose of obtaining letters of administration on the estate of a person who was living, in order to receive a small sum of money due to him from the Treasury. It is certainly extraordinary that the confidential agent of the head of that department should have been in circumstances to induce a resort to so miserable an expedient. It is odd, if there was a speculating connection, that it was not more profitable both to the Secretary and to his agent than are indicated by the circumstances disclosed.

It is also a remarkable and very instructive fact that, notwithstanding the great confidence and intimacy which subsisted between Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife, and which continued till after the period of the liberation of the two former from the prosecution against them, neither of them has ever specified the objects of the pretended connection in speculation between Reynolds and me. The pretext that the letters which contained the evidence were destroyed is no answer. They could not have been forgotten, and might have been disclosed from memory. The total omission of this could only have proceeded from the consideration that detail might have led to detection. The destruction of letters besides is a fiction, which is refuted not only by the general improbability that I should put myself upon paper with so despicable a person on a subject which might expose me to infamy, but by the evidence of extreme caution on my part in this particular, resulting from the laconic and disguised form of the notes which are produced; they prove incontestably Edition: current; Page: [383]that there was an unwillingness to trust Reynolds with my handwriting. The true reason was that I apprehended he might make use of it to impress upon others the belief of some pecuniary connection with me, and besides implicating my character, might render it the engine of a false credit, or turn it to some other sinister use. Hence the disguise; for my conduct in admitting at once and without hesitation that the notes were from me proves that it was never my intention by the expedient of disguising my hand to shelter myself from any serious inquiry.

The accusation against me was never heard of till Clingman and Reynolds were under prosecution by the Treasury for an infamous crime. It will be seen by the document No. I. (a) that during the endeavors of Clingman to obtain relief, through the interposition of Mr. Muhlenburg, he made to the latter the communication of my pretended criminality. It will be further seen by document No. II. that Reynolds had, while in prison, conveyed to the ears of Messrs. Monroe and Venable that he could give intelligence of my being concerned in speculation, and that he also supposed that he was kept in prison by a design on my part to oppress him and drive him away. And by his letter to Clingman of the 13th of December, after he was released from prison, it also appears that he was actuated by a spirit of revenge against me; for he declares that he will have satisfaction from me at all events, adding, as addressed to Clingman: “And you only I trust.

Three important inferences flow from these circumstances: one, that the accusation against me Edition: current; Page: [384]was an auxiliary to the efforts of Clingman and Reynolds to get released from a disgraceful prosecution; another, that there was a vindictive spirit against me at least on the part of Reynolds; the third, that he confided in Clingman, as a coadjutor, in the plan of vengeance. These circumstances, according to every estimate of the credit due to accusers, ought to destroy their testimony. To what credit are persons entitled who, in telling a story, are governed by the double motive of escaping from disgrace and punishment and of gratifying revenge? As to Mrs. Reynolds, if she was not an accomplice, as it is too probable that she was, her situation would naturally subject her to the will of her husband. But enough besides will appear in the sequel to show that her testimony merits no attention.

The letter which has been just cited deserves a more particular attention. As it was produced by Clingman, there is a chasm of three lines, which lines are manifestly essential to explain the sense. It may be inferred from the context, that these deficient lines would unfold the cause of the resentment which is expressed. ‘T was from them that might have been learnt the true nature of the transaction. The expunging of them is a violent presumption that they would have contradicted the purpose for which the letter was produced. A witness offering such a mutilated piece discredits himself. The mutilation is alone satisfactory proof of contrivance and interposition. The manner of accounting for it is frivolous.

The words of the letter are strong—satisfaction is Edition: current; Page: [385]to be had at all events, per fas et nefas, and Clingman is the chosen confidential agent of the laudable plan of vengeance. It must be confessed he was not wanting in his part.

Reynolds, as will be seen by No. II. (a), alleges that a merchant came to him and offered as a volunteer to be his bail, who he suspected had been instigated to it by me, and after being decoyed to the place the merchant wished to carry him to, he refused being his bail, unless he would deposit a sum of money to some considerable amount, which he could not do, and was in consequence committed to prison. Clingman (No. IV. a) tells the same story in substance though with some difference in form, leaving to be implied what Reynolds expresses, and naming Henry Seckel as the merchant. The deposition of this respectable citizen (No. XXIII.) gives the lie to both, and shows that he was, in fact, the agent of Clingman, from motives of good-will to him, as his former book-keeper; that he never had any communication with me concerning either of them till after they were both in custody; that when he came as a messenger to me from one of them, I not only declined interposing in their behalf, but informed Mr. Seckel that they had been guilty of a crime, and advised him to have nothing to do with them.

This single fact goes far to invalidate the whole story. It shows plainly the disregard of truth, and the malice by which the parties were actuated. Other important inferences are to be drawn from the transaction. Had I been conscious that I had any Edition: current; Page: [386]thing to fear from Reynolds of the nature which has been pretended, should I have warned Mr. Seckel against having any thing to do with them? Should I not rather have encouraged him to have come to their assistance? Should I not have been eager to promote their liberation? But this is not the only instance in which I acted a contrary part. Clingman testifies in No. V. that I would not permit Fraunces, a clerk in my office, to become their bail, but signified to him that if he did it, he must quit the department.

Clingman states in No. IV. (a) that my note in answer to Reynolds’ application for a loan towards a subscription to the Lancaster Turnpike was in his possession from about the time it was written (June, 1792). This circumstance, apparently trivial, is very explanatory. To what end had Clingman the custody of this note all that time, if it was not part of a project to lay the foundation for some false accusation?

It appears from No. V. that Fraunces had said, or was stated to have said, something to my prejudice. If my memory serves me aright, it was that he had been my agent in some speculations. When Fraunces was interrogated concerning it, he absolutely denied that he said any thing of the kind. The charge which this same Fraunces afterward preferred against me to the House of Representatives, and the fate of it, have been already mentioned. It is illustrative of the nature of the combination which was formed against me.

There are other features in the documents which are relied upon to constitute the charge against me, Edition: current; Page: [387]that are of a nature to corroborate the inference to be drawn from the particulars which have been noticed. But there is no need to be over-minute. I am much mistaken if the view which has been taken of the subject is not sufficient, without any thing further, to establish my innocence with every discerning and fair mind.

I proceed in the next place to offer a frank and plain solution of the enigma, by giving a history of the origin and progress of my connection with Mrs. Reynolds, of its discovery, real and pretended, by the husband, and of the disagreeable embarrassments to which it exposed me. This history will be supported by the letters of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, which leave no room for doubt of the principal facts, and at the same time explain with precision the objects of the little notes from me which have been published, showing clearly that such of them as have related to money had no reference to any concern in speculation. As the situation which will be disclosed will fully explain every ambiguous appearance, and meet satisfactorily the written documents, nothing more can be requisite to my justification. For frail indeed will be the tenure by which the most blameless man will hold his reputation, if the assertions of three of the most abandoned characters in the community, two of them stigmatized by the discrediting crime which has been mentioned, are sufficient to blast it. The business of accusation would soon become, in such a case, a regular trade, and men’s reputations would be bought and sold like any marketable commodity.

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Some time in the summer of the year 1791, a woman called at my house in the city of Philadelphia, and asked to speak with me in private. I attended her into a room apart from my family. With a seeming air of affliction she informed me that she was a daughter of a Mr. Lewis, sister to a Mr. G. Livingston of the State of New York, and wife to a Mr. Reynolds, whose father was in the Commissary Department during the war with Great Britain; that her husband, who for a long time had treated her very cruelly, had lately left her to live with another woman, and in so destitute a condition that, though desirous of returning to her friends, she had not the means; that knowing I was a citizen of New York, she had taken the liberty to apply to my humanity for assistance.

I replied, that her situation was a very interesting one—that I was disposed to afford her assistance to convey her to her friends, but this at the moment not being convenient to me (which was the fact), I must request the place of her residence, to which I should bring or send a small supply of money. She told me the street and the number of the house where she lodged. In the evening I put a bank-bill in my pocket and went to the house. I enquired for Mrs. Reynolds and was shown up stairs, at the head of which she met me and conducted me into a bedroom. I took the bill out of my pocket and gave it to her. Some conversation ensued, from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.

After this I had frequent meetings with her, most Edition: current; Page: [389]of them at my own house; Mrs. Hamilton with her children being absent on a visit to her father. In the course of a short time, she mentioned to me that her husband had solicited a reconciliation, and affected to consult me about it. I advised to it, and was soon after informed by her that it had taken place. She told me besides that her husband had been engaged in speculation, and she believed could give information respecting the conduct of some persons in the department which would be useful. I sent for Reynolds who came to me accordingly.

In the course of our interview, he confessed that he had obtained a list of claims from a person in my department which he had made use of in his speculations. I invited him, by the expectation of my friendship and good offices, to disclose the person. After some affectation of scruple, he pretended to yield, and ascribed the infidelity to Mr. Duer, from whom he said he had obtained the list in New York, while he (Duer) was in the department.

As Mr. Duer had resigned his office some time before the seat of government was removed to Philadelphia, this discovery, if it had been true, was not very important—yet it was the interest of my passions to appear to set value upon it, and to continue the expectation of friendship and good offices. Mr. Reynolds told me he was going to Virginia, and on his return would point out something in which I could serve him. I do not know but he said something about employment in a public office.

On his return he asked employment as a clerk in the Treasury Department. The knowledge I had Edition: current; Page: [390]acquired of him was decisive against such a request. I parried it by telling him, what was true, that there was no vacancy in my immediate office, and that the appointment of clerks in the other branches of the department was left to the chiefs of the respective branches. Reynolds alleged, as Clingman relates, No. IV. (a), as a topic of complaint against me, that I had promised him employment and had disappointed him. The situation of the wife would naturally incline me to conciliate this man. It is possible I may have used vague expressions which raised expectation; but the more I learned of the person, the more inadmissible his employment in a public office became. Some material reflections will occur here to a discerning mind. Could I have preferred my private gratification to the public interest, should I not have found the employment he desired for a man whom it was so convenient to me, on my own statement, to lay under obligations. Had I had any such connection with him, as he has since pretended, is it likely that he would have wanted other employment? Or is it likely that, wanting it, I should have hazarded his resentment by a persevering refusal? This little circumstance shows at once the delicacy of my conduct, in its public relations, and the impossibility of my having had the connection pretended with Reynolds.

The intercourse with Mrs. Reynolds, in the meantime continued; and though various reflections (in which a further knowledge of Reynolds’ character and the suspicion of some concert between the husband and wife bore a part) induced me to wish acessation Edition: current; Page: [391]of it; yet, her conduct made it extremely difficult to disentangle myself. All the appearances of violent attachment, and of agonizing distress at the idea of a relinquishment, were played with a most imposing art. This, though it did not make me entirely the dupe of the plot, yet kept me in a state of irresolution. My sensibility, perhaps my vanity, admitted the possibility of a real fondness; and led me to adopt the plan of a gradual discontinuance rather than of a sudden interruption, as least calculated to give pain, if a real partiality existed.

Mrs. Reynolds, on the other hand, employed every effort to keep up my attention and visits. Her pen was freely employed, and her letters were filled with those tender and pathetic effusions which would have been natural to a woman truly fond and neglected.

One day, I received a letter from her, which is in the appendix (No. I., b), intimating a discovery by her husband. It was a matter of doubt with me whether there had been really a discovery by accident, or whether the time for the catastrophe of the plot was arrived.

The same day, being the 15th of December, 1791, I received from Mr. Reynolds the letter (No. II., b) by which he informs me of the detection of his wife in the act of writing a letter to me, and that he had obtained from her a discovery of her connection with me, suggesting that it was the consequence of an undue advantage taken of her distress.

In answer to this I sent him a note, or message, desiring him to call upon me at my office, which I think he did the same day.

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He in substance repeated the topics contained in his letter, and concluded, as he had done there, that he was resolved to have satisfaction.

I replied that he knew best what evidence he had of the alleged connection between me and his wife, that I neither admitted nor denied it; that if he knew of any injury I had done him, entitling him to satisfaction, it lay with him to name it.

He travelled over the same ground as before, and again concluded with the same vague claim of satisfaction, but without specifying the kind which would content him. It was easy to understand that he wanted money, and, to prevent an explosion, I resolved to gratify him. But willing to manage his delicacy, if he had any, I reminded him that I had, at our first interview, made him a promise of service, that I was disposed to do it as far as might be proper, and in my power, and requested him to consider in what manner I could do it, and to write to me. He withdrew with a promise of compliance.

Two days after, the 17th of December, he wrote me the letter (No. III., b). The evident drift of this letter is to exaggerate the injury done by me, to make a display of sensibility, and to magnify the atonement which was to be required. It, however, comes to no conclusion, but proposes a meeting at the George Tavern, or at some other place more agreeable to me, which I should name.

On receipt of this letter, I called upon Reynolds, and, assuming a decisive tone, told him that I was tired of his indecision, and insisted upon his declaring Edition: current; Page: [393]to me explicitly what it was he aimed at. He again promised to explain by letter.

On the 19th, I received the promised letter (No. IV., b), the essence of which is that he was willing to take a thousand dollars as a plaister for his wounded honor.

I determined to give it to him, and did so in two payments, as per receipts (Nos. V. and IV.), dated the 22d of December and 3d of January. It is a little remarkable that an avaricious speculating Secretary of the Treasury should have been so straitened for money as to be obliged to satisfy an engagement of this sort by two different payments!

On the 17th of January, I received the letter No. V., by which Reynolds writes me to renew my visits to his wife. He had before requested that I would see her no more. The motive to this step appears in the conclusion of the letter: “I rely upon your befriending me, if there should any thing offer that should be to my advantage, as you express a wish to befriend me.” Is the pre-existence of a speculating connection reconcilable with this mode of expression?

If I recollect rightly, I did not immediately accept the invitation, nor till after I had received several very importunate letters from Mrs. Reynolds. See her letters, No. VII. (b), IX., X.

On the 24th of March following, I received a letter from Reynolds, No. XI., and on the same day one from his wife, No. XII. These letters will further illustrate the obliging co-operation of the husband with his wife to aliment and keep alive my connection with her.

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The letters from Reynolds, No. XIII. to XIV., are an additional comment upon the same plan. It was a persevering scheme to spare no pains to levy contributions upon my passions on the one hand, and upon my apprehensions of discovery on the other. It is probably to No. XIV. that my note, in these words, was an answer: “To-morrow what is requested will be done. ‘T will hardly be possible to-day.” The letter presses for the loan which is asked for to-day. A scarcity of cash, which was not very uncommon, is believed to have modelled the reply.

The letter No. XVII. is a masterpiece. The husband there forbids my future visits to his wife, chiefly because I was careful to avoid publicity. It was probably necessary to the project of some deeper treason against me that I should be seen at the house. Hence was it contrived, with all the caution on my part to avoid it, that Clingman should occasionally see me.

The interdiction was every way welcome, and was, I believe, strictly observed. On the second of June following, I received the letter, No. XVIII., from Mrs. Reynolds, which proves that it was not her plan yet to let me off. It was probably the prelude to the letter from Reynolds, No. XIX., soliciting a loan of three hundred dollars towards a subscription to the Lancaster Turnpike. Clingman’s statement, No. IV., admits, on the information of Reynolds, that to this letter the following note from me was an answer: “It is utterly out of my power, I assure you ‘pon my honor, to comply with your request. Your note is returned.” The letter itself demonstrates, Edition: current; Page: [395]that here was no concern in speculation on my part—that the money is asked as a favor and as a loan, to be reimbursed simply and without profit in less than a fortnight. My answer shows that even the loan was refused.

The letter, No. XX., from Reynolds, explains the object of my note in these words: “Inclosed are fifty dollars; they could not be sent sooner,” proving that this sum was also begged for in a very apologetic style as a mere loan.

The letters of the 24th and 30th of August, Nos. XXI. and XXII., furnished the key to the affair of the two hundred dollars mentioned by Clingman in No. IV., showing that this sum was likewise asked by way of loan, towards furnishing a small boarding-house, which Reynolds and his wife were, or pretended to be, about to set up.

These letters, collectively, furnish a complete elucidation of the nature of my transactions with Reynolds. They resolve them into an amorous connection with his wife, detected, or pretended to be detected by the husband, imposing on me the necessity of a pecuniary composition with him, and leaving me afterwards under a duress for fear of disclosure, which was the instrument of levying upon me from time to time forced loans. They apply directly to this state of things, the notes which Reynolds was so careful to preserve, and which had been employed to excite suspicion.

Four, and the principal, of these notes have been not only generally but particularly explained. I shall briefly notice the remaining two.

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“My dear sir, I expected to have heard the day after I had the pleasure of seeing you.” This fragment, if truly a part of a letter to Reynolds, denotes nothing more than a disposition to be civil to a man whom, as I said before, it was the interest of my passions to conciliate. But I verily believe it was not part of a letter to him, because I do not believe that I ever addressed him in such a style. It may very well have been part of a letter to some other person, procured by means of which I am ignorant, or it may have been the beginning of an intended letter, torn off, thrown into the chimney in my office, which was a common practice, and there, or after it had been swept out, picked up by Reynolds, or some coadjutor of his. There appears to have been more than one clerk in the department somehow connected with him.

The endeavor, shown by the letter No. XVII., to induce me to render my visits to Mrs. Reynolds more public, and the great care with which my little notes were preserved, justify the belief that at a period before it was attempted, the idea of implicating me in some accusation, with a view to the advantage of the accusers, was entertained. Hence the motive to pick up and preserve any fragment which might favor the idea of friendly or confidential correspondence.

Secondly: “The person Mr. Reynolds inquired for on Friday waited for him all the evening at his house, from a little after seven. Mr. R. may see him at any time today or tomorrow, between the hours of two and three.”

Mrs. Reynolds more than once communicated to Edition: current; Page: [397]me that Reynolds would occasionally relapse into discontent at his situation, would treat her very ill, hint at the assassination of me, and more openly threaten, by way of revenge, to inform Mrs. Hamilton. All this naturally gave some uneasiness. I could not be absolutely certain whether it was artifice or reality. In the workings of human inconsistency it was very possible that the same man might be corrupt enough to compound for his wife’s chastity, and yet have sensibility enough to be restless in the situation and to hate the cause of it.

Reflections like these induced me for some time to use palliatives with the ill-humors which were announced to me. Reynolds had called upon me in one of these discontented moods, real or pretended. I was unwilling to provoke him by the appearance of neglect, and having failed to be at home at the hour he had been permitted to call, I wrote her the above note to obviate an ill impression.

The foregoing narrative and the remarks accompanying it have prepared the way for a perusal of the letters themselves. The more attention is used in this, the more entire will be the satisfaction which they will afford.

It has been seen that an explanation on the subject was had contemporarily, that is, in December, 1792, with three members of Congress,—F. A. Muhlenburg, J. Monroe, and A. Venable. It is proper that the circumstances of this transaction should be accurately understood.

The manner in which Mr. Muhlenburg became engaged in the affair is fully set forth in the document Edition: current; Page: [398](No. I., a). It is not equally clear how the two other gentlemen came to embark in it. The phraseology, in reference to this point, in the close of No. I. and beginning of No. II. is rather equivocal. The gentlemen, if they please, can explain it.

But on the morning of the 15th of December, 1792, the above-mentioned gentlemen presented themselves at my office. Mr. Muhlenburg was then speaker. He introduced the subject by observing to me that they had discovered a very improper connection between me and a Mr. Reynolds; extremely hurt by this mode of introduction, I arrested the progress of the discourse by giving way to very strong expressions of indignation. The gentlemen explained, telling me in substance that I had misapprehended them; that they did not take the fact for established; that their meaning was to apprise me that, unsought by them, information had been given them of an improper pecuniary connection between Mr. Reynolds and myself; that they had thought it their duty to pursue it, and had become possessed of some documents of a suspicious complexion; that they had contemplated laying the matter before the President, but before they did this they thought it right to apprise me of the affair and to afford an opportunity of explanation; declaring at the same time that their agency in the matter was influenced solely by a sense of public duty and by no motive of personal ill-will. If my memory be correct, the notes from me in a disguised hand were now shown to me, which without a moment’s hesitation I acknowledged to be mine.

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I replied, that the affair was now put upon a different footing—that I always stood ready to meet fair inquiry with frank communication—that it happened, in the present instance, to be in my power by written documents to remove all doubts as to the real nature of the business, and fully to convince that nothing of the kind imputed to me did in fact exist. The same evening at my house was by mutual consent appointed for an explanation.

I immediately after saw Mr. Wolcott, and for the first time informed him of the affair and of the interview just had; and delivering into his hands for perusal the documents of which I was possessed, I engaged him to be present at the intended explanation in the evening.

In the evening the proposed meeting took place, and Mr. Wolcott according to my request attended. The information, which had been received to that time, from Clingman, Reynolds, and his wife, had been communicated to me, and the notes were I think again exhibited.

I stated in explanation, the circumstances of my affair with Mrs. Reynolds and the consequence of it, and in confirmation produced the documents No. I., b, to XXII. One or more of the gentlemen (Mr. Wolcott’s certificate No. XXIV. mentions one, Mr. Venable, but I think the same may be said of Mr. Muhlenburg) were struck with so much conviction, before I had gotten through the communication, that they delicately urged me to discontinue it as unnecessary. I insisted upon going through the whole, and did so. The result was a full and Edition: current; Page: [400]unequivocal acknowledgment on the part of the three gentlemen of perfect satisfaction with the explanation, and expressions of regret at the trouble and embarrassment which had been occasioned to me. Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Venable, in particular, manifested a degree of sensibility on the occasion. Mr. Monroe was more cold but entirely explicit.

One of the gentlemen, I think, expressed a hope that I also was satisfied with their conduct in conducting the inquiry. I answered that they knew I had been hurt at the opening of the affair; that, this excepted, I was satisfied with their conduct, and considered myself as having been treated with candor or with fairness and liberality. I do not now pretend to recollect the exact terms. I took the next morning a memorandum of the substance of what was said to me, which will be seen by a copy of it transmitted in a letter to each of the gentlemen—No. XXV.

I deny absolutely, as alleged by the editor of the publication in question, that I entreated a suspension of the communication to the President, or that from the beginning to the end of the inquiry I asked any favor or indulgence whatever, and that I discovered any symptom different from that of a proud consciousness of innocence.

Some days after the explanation I wrote to the three gentlemen the letter No. XXVI., already published. That letter evinces the light in which I considered myself as standing in their view.

I received from Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Monroe in answer the letters Nos. XXVII. and XXVIII.

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Thus the affair remained till the pamphlets Nos. V. and VI. of the History of the United States for 1796 appeared, with the exception of some dark whispers, which were communicated to me by a friend in Virginia, and to which I replied by a statement of what had passed.

When I saw No. V., though it was evidence of base infidelity somewhere, yet firmly believing that nothing more than a want of due care was chargeable upon either of the three gentlemen who had made the inquiry, I immediately wrote to each of them a letter, of which No. XXV. is a copy, in full confidence that their answer would put the whole business at rest. I ventured to believe, from the appearances on their part at closing our former interview on the subject, that their answers would have been both cordial and explicit.

I acknowledge that I was astonished when I came to read in the pamphlet No. VI. the conclusion of the document No. V., containing the equivocal phrase: “We left him under an impression our suspicions were removed,” which seemed to imply that this had been a mere piece of management, and that the impression given me had not been reciprocal. The appearance of duplicity incensed me; but resolving to proceed with caution and moderation, I thought the first proper step was to inquire of the gentlemen whether the paper was genuine. A letter was written for this purpose, the copy of which I have mislaid.

I afterward received from Messrs. Muhlenburg and Venable the letters Nos. XXIX., XXX., and XXXI.

Receiving no answer from Mr. Monroe, and hearing Edition: current; Page: [402]of his arrival at New York, I called upon him. The issue of the interview was that an answer was to be given by him, in conjunction with Mr. Muhlenburg and Mr. Venable, on his return to Philadelphia, he thinking that, as the agency had been joint, it was most proper the answer should be joint, and informing me that Mr. Venable had told him he would wait his return.

I came to Philadelphia accordingly to bring the affair to a close; but upon my arrival I found Mr. Venable had left the city for Virginia.

Mr. Monroe reached Philadelphia according to his appointment. And the morning following wrote me the note No. XXXII. While this note was on its way to my lodgings, I was on my way to his. I had a conversation with him, from which we separated with a repetition of the assurance in the note. In the course of the interviews with Mr. Monroe the equivoque in document No. V. (a) and the paper of January 2, 1793, under his signature, were noticed.

I received the day following the letter No. XXXIII., to which I returned the answer No. XXXIV., accompanied with the letter No. XXXV., which was succeeded by the letters Nos. XXXVI., XXXVII., XXXVIII., XXXIX., XL. In due time the sequel of the correspondence will appear.

Though extremely disagreeable to me, for very obvious reasons, I at length determined, in order that no cloud whatever might be left on the affair, to publish the documents which had been communicated to Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, Edition: current; Page: [403]all which will be seen in the appendix from No. I. (b) to No. XXII. inclusively.

The information from Clingman of the 2d of January, 1793, to which the signature of Mr. Monroe is annexed, seems to require an observation or two in addition to what is contained in my letter to him No. XXXIX.

Clingman first suggests that he had been apprised of my vindication through Mr. Wolcott a day or two after it had been communicated. It did not occur to me to inquire of Mr. Wolcott on this point, and he being now absent from Philadelphia, I cannot do it at this moment. Though I can have no doubt of the friendly intention of Mr. Wolcott, if the suggestion of Clingman in this particular be taken as true, yet from the condition of secrecy which was annexed to my communication, there is the strongest reason to conclude it is not true. If not true, there is besides but one of two solutions, either that he obtained the information from one of the three gentlemen who made the inquiry, which would have been a very dishonorable act in the party, or that he conjectured what my defence was from what he before knew it truly could be. For there is the highest probability, that through Reynolds and his wife, and as an accomplice, he was privy to the whole affair. This last method of accounting for his knowledge would be conclusive on the sincerity and genuineness of the defence.

But the turn which Clingman gives to the matter must necessarily fall to the ground. It is, that Mrs. Reynolds denied her amorous connection with me, Edition: current; Page: [404]and represented the suggestion of it as a mere contrivance between her husband and myself to cover me, alleging that there had been a fabrication of letters and receipts to countenance it. The plain answer is that Mrs. Reynolds’ own letters contradict absolutely this artful explanation of hers; if indeed she ever made it, of which Clingman’s assertion is no evidence whatever. These letters are proved by the affidavit No. XLI., though it will easily be conceived that the proof of them was rendered no easy matter by a lapse of near five years. They show explicitly the connection with her, the discovery of it by her husband, and the pains she took to prolong it when I evidently wished to get rid of it. This cuts up, by the root, the pretence of a contrivance between the husband and myself to fabricate the evidence of it.

The variety of shapes which this woman could assume was endless. In a conversation between her and a gentleman whom I am not at liberty publicly to name, she made a voluntary confession of her belief and even knowledge, that I was innocent of all that had been laid to my charge by Reynolds or any other person of her acquaintance, spoke of me in exalted terms of esteem and respect, declared in the most solemn manner her extreme unhappiness lest I should suppose her accessory to the trouble which had been given me on that account, and expressed her fear that the resentment of Mr. Reynolds on a particular score might have urged him to improper lengths of revenge—appearing at the same time extremely agitated and unhappy. With the gentleman who gives this information, I have never been in any Edition: current; Page: [405]relation personal or political that could be supposed to bias him. His name would evince that he is an impartial witness. And though I am not permitted to make a public use of it, I am permitted to refer any gentleman to the perusal of his letter in the hands of William Bingham, Esquire; who is also so obliging as to permit me to deposit with him for similar inspection all the original papers which are contained in the appendix to this narrative. The letter from the gentleman above alluded to has been already shown to Mr. Monroe.

Let me now, in the last place, recur to some comments, in which the hireling editor of the pamphlets Nos. V. and VI. has thought fit to indulge himself.

The first of them is that the soft language of one of my notes addressed to a man in the habit of threatening me with disgrace, is incompatible with the idea of innocence. The threats alluded to must be those of being able to hang the Secretary of the Treasury. How does it appear that Reynolds was in such a habit? No otherwise than by the declaration of Reynolds and Clingman. If the assertions of these men are to condemn me, there is an end of the question. There is no need by elaborate deductions from parts of their assertions to endeavor to establish what their assertions collectively affirm in express terms. If they are worthy of credit I am guilty; if they are not, all wire-drawn inferences from parts of their story are mere artifice and nonsense. But no man, not as debauched as themselves, will believe them independent of the positive disproof of their story in the written documents.

Edition: current; Page: [406]

As to the affair of threats (except those in Reynolds’ letters respecting the connection with his wife, which, it will be perceived, were very gentle for the occasion,) not the least idea of the sort ever reached me till after the imprisonment of Reynolds. Mr. Wolcott’s certificate shows my conduct in that case,—notwithstanding the powerful motives I may be presumed to have had to desire the liberation of Reynolds, on account of my situation with his wife, I cautioned Mr. Wolcott not to facilitate his liberation till the affair of the threat was satisfactorily cleared up. The solemn denial of it in Reynolds’ letter No. XLII. was considered by Mr. Wolcott as sufficient. This is a further proof that, though in respect to my situation with his wife I was somewhat in Reynolds’ power, I was not disposed to make any improper concession to the apprehension of his resentment.

As to the threats intimated in his letters, the nature of the cause will show that the soft tone of my note was not only compatible with them, but a natural sequence of them.

But it is observed that the dread of the disclosure of an amorous connection was not a sufficient cause for my humility, and that I had nothing to lose as to my reputation for chastity; concerning which the world had fixed a previous opinion.

I shall not enter into the question what was the previous opinion entertained of me in this particular—nor how well founded, for it was indeed such as it is represented to have been. It is sufficient to say that there is a wide difference between vague Edition: current; Page: [407]rumors and suspicions and the evidence of a positive fact. No man not indelicately unprincipled, with the state of manners in this country, would be willing to have a conjugal infidelity fixed upon him with positive certainty. He would know that it would justly injure him with a considerable and respectable portion of the society; and especially no man, tender of the happiness of an excellent wife, could, without extreme pain, look forward to the affliction which she might endure from the disclosure, especially a public disclosure of the fact. Those best acquainted with the interior of my domestic life will best appreciate the force of such a consideration upon me.

The truth was, that in both relations, and especially the last, I dreaded extremely a disclosure—and was willing to make large sacrifices to avoid it. It is true that, from the acquiescence of Reynolds, I had strong ties upon his secrecy, but how could I rely upon any tie upon so base a character. How could I know, but that from moment to moment he might, at the expense of his own disgrace, become the mercenary of a party with whom to blast my character in any way is a favorite object.

Strong inferences are attempted to be drawn from the release of Clingman and Reynolds with the consent of the Treasury—from the want of communicativeness of Reynolds while in prison—from the subsequent disappearance of Reynolds and his wife, and from their not having been produced by me in order to be confronted at the time of the explanation.

As to the first, it was emphatically the transaction Edition: current; Page: [408]of Mr. Wolcott, the then Comptroller of the Treasury, and was bottomed upon a very adequate motive—and one, as appears from the document No. I. (a), early contemplated in this light by that officer. It was certainly of more consequence to the public to detect and expel from the bosom of the Treasury Department an unfaithful clerk to prevent future and extensive mischief, than to disgrace and punish two worthless individuals. Besides that, a powerful influence foreign to me was exerted to procure indulgence to them—that of Mr. Muhlenburg and Col. Burr—that of Col. Wadsworth, which, though insidiously placed to my account, was, to the best of my recollection, utterly unknown to me at that time, and, according to the confession of Mrs. Reynolds herself, was put in motion by her entreaty. Candid men will derive strong evidence of my innocence and delicacy from the reflection, that under circumstances so peculiar, the culprits were compelled to give a real and substantial equivalent for the relief which they obtained from a department over which I presided.

The backwardness of Reynolds to enter into detail, while in jail, was an argument of nothing but that, conscious of his inability to communicate any particulars which could be supported, he found it more convenient to deal in generals, and to keep up appearances by giving promises for the future.

As to the disappearance of the parties after the liberation, how am I answerable for it? Is it not presumable that the instance discovered at the Treasury was not the only offence of the kind of Edition: current; Page: [409]which they were guilty? After one detection, is it not very probable that Reynolds fled to avoid detection in other cases? But exclusive of this, it is known, and might easily be proved, that Reynolds was considerably in debt! What more natural for him than to fly from his creditors after having been once exposed by confinement for such a crime? Moreover, atrocious as his conduct had been toward me, was it not natural for him to fear that my resentment might be excited at the discovery of it, and that it might have been deemed a sufficient reason for retracting the indulgence which was shown by withdrawing the prosecution and for recommencing it?

One or all of these considerations will explain the disappearance of Reynolds without imputing it to me as a method of getting rid of a dangerous witness.

That disappearance rendered it impracticable, if it had been desired, to bring him forward to be confronted. As to Clingman it was not pretended that he knew any thing of what was charged upon me, otherwise than by the notes which he produced, and the information of Reynolds and his wife. As to Mrs. Reynolds, she in fact appears by Clingman’s last story to have remained, and to have been accessible, through him, by the gentlemen who had undertaken the inquiry. If they supposed it necessary to the elucidation of the affair, why did not they bring her forward? There can be no doubt of the sufficiency of Clingman’s influence for this purpose, when it is understood that Mrs. Reynolds and he Edition: current; Page: [410]afterward lived together as man and wife. But to what purpose the confronting? What would it have availed to the elucidation of truth if Reynolds and his wife had impudently made allegations which I denied? Relative character and the written documents must still determine. These could decide without it, and they were relied upon. But could it be expected that I should so debase myself as to think it necessary to my vindication to be confronted with a person such as Reynolds? Could I have borne to suffer my veracity to be exposed to the humiliating competition?

For what?—why, it is said, to tear up the last twig of jealousy—but when I knew that I possessed written documents which were decisive, how could I foresee that any twig of jealousy would remain? When the proofs I did produce to the gentlemen were admitted by them to be completely satisfactory, and by some of them to be more than sufficient, how could I dream of the expediency of producing more—how could I imagine that every twig of jealousy was not plucked up?

If, after the recent confessions of the gentlemen themselves, it could be useful to fortify the proof of the full conviction my explanation had wrought, I might appeal to the total silence concerning this charge, when at a subsequent period, in the year 1793, there was such an active legislative persecution of me.

It might not even perhaps be difficult to establish that it came under the eye of Mr. Giles, and that he discarded it as the plain case of a private amour unconnected Edition: current; Page: [411]connected with any thing that was the proper subject of a public attack.

Thus has my desire to destroy this slander completely led me to a more copious and particular examination of it, than I am sure was necessary. The bare perusal of the letters from Reynolds and his wife is sufficient to convince my greatest enemy that there is nothing worse in the affair than an irregular and indelicate amour. For this, I bow to the just censure which it merits. I have paid pretty severely for the folly, and can never recollect it without disgust and self-condemnation. It might seem affectation to say more.

To unfold more clearly the malicious intent by which the present revival of the affair must have been influenced, I shall annex an affidavit of Mr. Webster, tending to confirm my declaration of the utter falsehood of the assertion, that a menace of publishing the papers which have been published had arrested the progress of an attempt to hold me up as a candidate for the office of President. Does this editor imagine that he will escape the just odium which awaits him, by the miserable subterfuge of saying that he had the information from a respectable citizen of New York? Till he names the author the inevitable inference must be that he has fabricated the tale.

Alexander Hamilton.
Edition: current; Page: [412]


no. I. (a)


Jacob Clingman being a clerk in my employment, and becoming involved in a prosecution commenced against James Reynolds, by the Comptroller of the Treasury, on a charge of information exhibited before Hillary Baker, Esq., one of the aldermen of this city, for subornation of perjury, whereby they had obtained money from the treasury of the United States, he (Clingman) applied to me for my aid and friendship on behalf of himself and Reynolds, to get them released or discharged from the prosecution. I promised, so far as respected Clingman, but, not being particularly acquainted with Reynolds, in a great measure declined, so far as respected him. In company with Col. Burr, I waited on Col. Hamilton for the purpose, and particularly recommended Clingman, who had hitherto sustained a good character. Col. Hamilton signified a wish to do all that was consistent. Shortly after, I waited on the Comptroller, for the same purpose, who seemed to have some difficulties on the subject; and from some information I had, in the mean time, received, I could not undertake to recommend Reynolds, as I verily believed him to be a rascal; which words I made use of to the Comptroller. In a second interview with the Comptroller, on the same subject, the latter urged the propriety of Clingman's delivering up a certain list of money due to individuals, which Reynolds and Clingman were said to have in their possession, and of his informing him of whom, or Edition: current; Page: [413]through whom, the same was obtained from the public offices; on doing which, Clingman's request might, perhaps, be granted with greater propriety. This, Clingman, I am informed, complied with, and also refunded the money, or certificates, which they had improperly obtained from the treasury. After which, I understand the action against both was withdrawn, and Reynolds discharged from imprisonment, without any further interference of mine whatsoever. During the time this business was thus depending, and which lasted upwards of three weeks, Clingman, unasked, frequently dropped hints to me, that Reynolds had it in his power very materially to injure the Secretary of the Treasury, and that Reynolds knew several very improper transactions of his. I paid little or no attention to those hints, but when they were frequently repeated, and it was even added that Reynolds said he had it in his power to hang the Secretary of the Treasury, that he was deeply concerned in speculation, that he had frequently advanced money to him (Reynolds), and other insinuations of an improper nature, it created considerable uneasiness on my mind, and I conceived it my duty to consult with some friends on the subject. Mr. Monroe and Mr. Venable were informed of it yesterday morning.

Mr. Muhlenburg.

no. II. (a)


Being informed yesterday, in the morning, that a person of the name of Reynolds, from Virginia Edition: current; Page: [414](Richmond), was confined in jail upon some criminal prosecution relative to certificates, and that he had intimated he could give some intelligence of speculations of Mr. Hamilton which should be known, we immediately called on him, as well to be informed of the situation of the man, as of those other matters in which the public might be interested. We found it was not the person we had been taught to believe, but a man of that name from New York, and who had, for some time past, resided in this city. Being there, however, we questioned him respecting the other particular; he informed us that he could give information of the misconduct, in that respect, of a person high in office, but must decline it for the present and until relieved, which was promised him that evening: that, at ten to-day, he would give us a detail of whatever he knew on the subject. He affirmed he had a person in high office in his power, and has had a long time past. That he had written to him in terms so abusive that no person should have submitted to it, but that he dared not to resent it. That Mr. Wolcott was in the same department, and, he supposed, under his influence or control. And, in fact, expressed himself in such a manner as to leave no doubt he meant Mr. Hamilton. That he expected to be relieved by Mr. Wolcott at the instance of that person, although he believed that Mr. Wolcott, in instituting the prosecution, had no improper design. That he was satisfied the prosecution was set on foot only to keep him low and oppress him, and ultimately drive him away, in order to prevent his using the power he had over him; that Edition: current; Page: [415]he had had, since his residence here for eighteen months, many private meetings with that person, who had often promised to put him into employment, but had disappointed him. That, on hearing the prosecution was commenced against him, he applied to this person for counsel, who advised him to keep out of the way for a few days. That a merchant came to him and offered, as a volunteer, to be his bail, who, he suspects, had been instigated by this person, and, after being decoyed to the place the merchant wished to carry him, he refused being his bail unless he would deposit a sum of money to some considerable amount, which he could not do, and was, in consequence, committed to prison. As well as we remember, he gave as a reason why he could not communicate to us what he knew of the facts alluded to, that he was apprehensive it might prevent his discharge, but that he would certainly communicate the whole to us at ten this morning, at which time, we were informed, he had absconded or concealed himself.

James Monroe and Abraham Venable.

no. III. (a)


Being desirous, on account of their equivocal complexion, to examine into the suggestions which had been made us respecting the motive for the confinement and proposed enlargement of James Reynolds, from the jail of this city, and inclined to suspect, for Edition: current; Page: [416]the same reason, that, unless it were immediately done, the opportunity would be lost, as we were taught to suspect he would leave the place immediately after his discharge, we called at his house last night for that purpose; we found Mrs. Reynolds alone. It was with difficulty we obtained from her any information on the subject, but at length she communicated to us the following particulars:

That since Col. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and at his request she had burned a considerable number of letters from him to her husband, and in the absence of the latter, touching business between them, to prevent their being made public; she also mentioned that Mr. Clingman had several anonymous notes addressed to her husband, which, she believed, were from Mr. Hamilton (which we have), with an endorsement “from Secretary Hamilton, Esq.,” in Mr. Reynolds' handwriting: That Mr. Hamilton offered her his assistance to go to her friends, which he advised: That he also advised that her husband should leave these parts, not to be seen here again, and in which case he would give something clever. That she was satisfied this wish for his departure did not proceed from friendship to him, but upon account of his threat, that he could tell something that would make some of the heads of departments tremble. That Mr. Wadsworth had been active in her behalf, first at her request; but, in her opinion, with the knowledge and communication of Mr. Hamilton, whose friend he professed to be; that he had been at her house yesterday and mentioned to her that two gentlemen of Congress Edition: current; Page: [417]had been at the jail to confer with her husband, enquired if she knew what they went for, observed he knew Mr. Hamilton had enemies who would try to prove some speculations on him, but, when enquired into, he would be found immaculate; to which she replied, she rather doubted it. We saw in her possession two notes, one in the name of Alexander Hamilton, of the sixth of December, and the other signed “S. W.,” purporting to have been written yesterday, both expressing a desire to relieve her.

She denied any recent communication with Mr. Hamilton, or that she had received any money from him lately.

James Monroeand F. A. Muhlenburg.

no. IV. (a)


Jacob Clingman has been engaged in some negotiations with Mr. Reynolds, the person who has lately been discharged from a prosecution instituted against him by the Comptroller of the Treasury. That his acquaintance commenced in September, 1791. That a mutual confidence and intimacy existed between them. That in January or February last, he saw Col. Hamilton at the house of Reynolds; immediately on his going into the house Col. Hamilton left it. That in a few days after, he (Clingman) was at Mr. Reynolds' house with Mrs. Reynolds, her husband being then out; some person knocked at Edition: current; Page: [418]the door; he arose and opened it, and saw that it was Col. Hamilton. Mrs. Reynolds went to the door; he delivered a paper to her, and that he was ordered to give Mr. Reynolds that, but asked Mrs. Reynolds who could order the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to give that; she replied that she supposed he did not want to be known. This happened in the night. He asked her how long Mr. Reynolds had been acquainted with Col. Hamilton. She replied some months. That Col. Hamilton had assisted her husband; that some few days before that time he had received upward of eleven hundred dollars of Col. Hamilton. Some time after this, Clingman was at the house of Reynolds, and saw Col. Hamilton come in; he retired and left him there. A little after Duer's failure, Reynolds told Clingman in confidence that if Duer had held up three days longer, he should have made fifteen hundred pounds, by the assistance of Col. Hamilton; that Col. Hamilton had informed him that he was connected with Duer. Mr. Reynolds also said that Col. Hamilton had made thirty thousand dollars by speculation; that Col. Hamilton had supplied him with money to speculate. That about June last, Reynolds told Clingman that he had applied to Col. Hamilton for money to subscribe to the Turnpike road at Lancaster, and had received a note from him in these words: “It is utterly out of my power, I assure you, upon my honor, to comply with your request. Your note is returned.” Which original note, accompanying this, has been in Clingman's possession ever since. Mr. Reynolds has once or twice mentioned Edition: current; Page: [419]to Clingman that he had it in his power to hang Col. Hamilton; that if he wanted money he was obliged to let him have it. That he (Clingman) has occasionally lent money to Reynolds, who always told that he could always get it from Col. Hamilton to repay it. That on one occasion Clingman lent him two hundred dollars that Reynolds promised to pay him through the means of Col. Hamilton, that he went with him, saw him go into Col. Hamilton's; that after he came out he paid him one hundred dollars, which, he said, was part of the sum he had got, and paid the balance in a few days; the latter sum paid was said to have been from Col. Hamilton, after his return from Jersey, having made a visit to the manufacturing society there. After a warrant was issued against Reynolds, upon a late prosecution, which was instituted against him, Clingman, seeing Reynolds, asked him why he did not apply to his friend Col. Hamilton, he said he would go immediately, and went accordingly; he said afterwards that Col. Hamilton advised him to keep out of the way, a few days, and the matter would be settled. That after this time, Henry Seckel went to Reynolds, and offered to be his bail, if he would go with him to Mr. Baker's office, where he had left the officer, who had the warrant in writing; that he prevailed on Reynolds to go with him; that after Reynolds was taken into custody, Seckel refused to become his bail, unless he would deposit, in his possession, property to the value of four hundred pounds; upon which Reynolds wrote to Col. Hamilton, and Mr. Seckel carried the note; after two or three times Edition: current; Page: [420]going, he saw Col. Hamilton; Col. Hamilton said he knew Reynolds and his father; that his father was a good Whig in the late war; that was all he could say: That it was not in his power to assist him; in consequence of which, Seckel refused to be his bail, and Reynolds was imprisoned. Mr. Reynolds also applied to a Mr. Francis, who is one of the clerks in the Treasury Department: he said he could not do any thing, without the consent of Mr. Hamilton; that he would apply to him. He applied to Mr. Hamilton; who told him, that it would not be prudent; if he did, he must leave the department.

After Reynolds was confined, Clingman asked Mrs. Reynolds why she did not apply to Col. Hamilton to dismiss him, as the money was ready to be refunded, that had been received; she replied that she had applied to him, and he had sent her to Mr. Wolcott, but directed her not to let Mr. Wolcott know that he had sent her there; notwithstanding this injunction, she did let Mr. Wolcott know by whom she had been sent; who appeared to be surprised at the information, but said he would do what he could for her, and would consult Col. Hamilton on the occasion. Col. Hamilton advised her to get some person of respectability to intercede for her husband, and mentioned Mr. Muhlenburg.

Reynolds continued to be kept in custody for some time. Clingman had conversation with Mr. Wolcott, who said, if he would give up a list of claims which he had, he should be released. After this, Mrs. Reynolds informed Clingman, that Col. Hamilton had told her, that Clingman should write a letter Edition: current; Page: [421]to Mr. Wolcott, and a duplicate of the same to himself, promising to give up the list and refund the money, which had been obtained on a certificate, which had been said to have been improperly obtained.

Clingman asked Mrs. Reynolds for the letters that her husband had received from Col. Hamilton, from time to time, as he might probably use them to obtain her husband's liberty. She replied, that Col. Hamilton had requested her to burn all the letters that were in his handwriting, or that had his name to them; which she had done; he pressed her to examine again, as she might not have destroyed the whole, and they would be useful; she examined and found ——— notes, which are herewith submitted, and which, she said, were notes from Col. Hamilton.

Mrs. Reynolds told Clingman that having heard that her husband's father was in the late war, a commissary, under the direction of Col. Wadsworth, waited on him to get him to intercede for her husband's discharge; he told her he would give her his assistance, and said, now you have made me your friend, you must apply to no one else. That, on Sunday evening, Clingman went to the house of Reynolds and found Col. Wadsworth there; he was introduced to Col. Wadsworth by Mrs. Reynolds; Col. Wadsworth told him he had seen Mr. Wolcott; that Mr. Wolcott would do any thing for him (Clingman) and Reynolds' family, that he could; that he had called on Col. Hamilton but had not seen him; but he might tell Mr. Muhlenburg that a friend of his (Clingman's) had told him that Col. Wadsworth was Edition: current; Page: [422]a countryman and schoolmate of Mr. Ingersoll, and that Col. Wadsworth was also intimate with the governor, and that the governor would do almost any thing to oblige him; that his name must not be mentioned to Mr. Muhlenburg as telling him this; but that if Mr. Muhlenburg could be brought to speak to him first on the subject, he would then do any thing in his power for them; and told him not to speak to him, if he should meet him in the street, and said, if his name was mentioned, that he would do nothing. That, on Wednesday, Clingman saw Col. Wadsworth at Reynolds' house; he did not find her at home, but left a note; but, on going out, he met her, and said he had seen everybody and done every thing.

Mrs. Reynolds told Clingman that she had received money of Col. Hamilton, since her husband's confinement, enclosed in a note, which note she had burned.

After Reynolds was discharged, which was eight or nine o'clock on Wednesday evening: about twelve o'clock at night, Mr. Reynolds sent a letter to Col. Hamilton by a girl; Reynolds followed the girl, and Clingman followed him; he saw the girl go into Col. Hamilton's house; Clingman then joined Reynolds, and they walked back and forward in the street until the girl returned, and informed Reynolds that he need not go out of town that night, but call on him early in the morning. In the morning, between seven and eight o'clock, he saw Reynolds go to Col. Hamilton's house and go in; he has not seen him since, and supposes he has gone out of the State.

Mr. Clingman further adds, that, some time ago, Edition: current; Page: [423]he was informed by Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, that he had books containing the amount of the cash due to the Virginia line, at his own house at New York, with liberty to copy, and was obtained thro' Mr. Duer.

The above contains the truth to the best of my knowledge and recollection, and to which I am ready to make oath.

Given under my hand, this 13th of December, 1792.

Jacob Clingman.

no. I

Col. Hamilton,

Dear Sir:—I have not tim to tell you the cause of my present troubles only that Mr. has rote you this morning and I know not wether you have got the letter or not and he has swore that If you do not answer It or If he dose not se or hear from you to day he will write Mrs. Hamilton he has just Gone oute and I am a Lone I think you had better come here one moment that you May know the Cause then you will the better know how to act Oh my God I feel more for you than myself and wish I had never been born to give you so mutch unhappiness do not rite to him no not a Line but come here soon do not send or leave any thing in his power


no. II


I am very sorry to find out that I have been so Cruelly treated by a person that I took to be my Edition: current; Page: [424]best friend instead of that my greatest Enimy. You have deprived me of every thing thats near and dear to me, I discovred whenever I Came into the house. after being out I found Mrs. Reynolds weeping I ask'd her the Cause of being so unhappy. She always told me that she had bin Reding. and she could not help Crying when she Red any thing that was Afecting. but seing her Repeatedly in that Setevation gave me some suspicion to think that was not the Cause, as fortain would have it. before matters was carred to two great a length. I discovered a letter directed to you which I copied of and put it in the place where I found it without being discovered by Her. and then the evening after. I was Curious anough to watch her. and see give a leter to a Black man in Market Street. which I followed him to your door. after that I Returned home some time in the evening, and I broached the matter to her and Red the Copy to her which she fell upon her knees and asked forgiveness and discovered every thing to me Respecting the matter and ses that she was unhappy. and not knowing what to do without some assistance. She called on you for the lone of some money. which you toald her you would call on her the Next Evening. which accordingly you did. and there Sir you took the advantage a poor Broken harted woman. instead of being a Friend. you have acted the part of the most Cruelist man in existance. you have made a whole family miserable. She ses there is no other man that she Care for in this world. now Sir you have bin the Cause of Cooling her affections for me. She was a woman. I should as soon sespect Edition: current; Page: [425]an angiel from heven. and one where all my happiness was depending. and I would Sacrefise almost my life to make her Happy. but now I am determined to have satisfaction. it shant be onely one family thats miserable. for I am Robbed of all happiness in this world I am determined to leve her. and take my daughter with me that Shant see her poor mother Lot. now Sir if I Cant see you at your house call and see me. for there is no person that Knowes any thing as yet. And I am tiremd to see you, by some means or other. for you have made me an unhappy man for eve. put it to your own case and Reflect one moment. that you should know shush a thing of your wife. would not you have satisfaction yes. and so will I before one day passes me more.

I am yours

James Reynolds.
Mr. Alexander Hamilton.

no. III


I now have taken till tuesday morning to Consider on What Steps will be Best for me to take. I should not have let the matter Rested till then, if it had not been for the news of the death of my Sister. which it Semes as if all my troubles are Comming on me in one moment. if it had been any other person except yourself. that treated me as you have done. I should not have taken the trouble to Call on them more than once. but your being in the Station of life you are. induses me to way every Surcomcance well Edition: current; Page: [426]Respecting the matter it will be impossible for me ever to think of liveing or Reconsiling myself to Stay with a woman that I no has plased her affections on you. and you know if you Reflect one moment. that you have been the sole Cause of it. I have all Reason in the world to believe its true. I am that man that will always have Satisfaction by some means or other when treated ill. Especially when I am treated in the mannor, as you have done. you may rest ashured that the matter as yet is Not known. If think proper to Call at the sign of the George tuesday morning at 8 oclock I will be there for your house or office is no place to converse about these matters. if that is not agreeable to you. let me know what place I shall see you at. at that time, for I am determined to know what corse I shall take, more miserable I cant be than I am at present. let the consequence be as it will. for when I come into the house. I find the wife always weeping and praying that I wont leve her. And its all on your account. for if you had not seeked for her Ruin it would not have happined. Could you not have Relieved the disstressed without transgressing in the mannor you have done. Sertainly you did not show the man of honnor. in taking the advantage of the afflicted, when Calling on you as a father and protector in the time of disstress. put that home to yourself and tell me what you would do in such a Case. or what amend Could be made to you or wether it would be possible to make any. you will answer no. it be impossible after being Robbed of all your happiness and your whole family made misseable. I know Edition: current; Page: [427]you are a man thats not void of feeling. I am not a man that wishes to do any thing Rashly. or plunge myself into Ruin. now if you think proper to se me at the place I have mentioned. or any other. please to let me no before. for I wish to be by ourselfs where we Can converse together. for if you do not Call on me or let me no where I Can see. you at that time. I shant call on you after this

I am yours

James Reynolds
Mr. Alexander Hamilton.

no. IV


When we were last togeather you then would wis to know my Determination what I would do and. you exspess a wish to do any thing that was in your power to Serve me. its true its in your power to do a great deal for me, but its out of your power to do any thing that will Restore to me my Happiness again for if you should give me all you possess would not do it. god knowes I love the woman and wish every blessing may attend her, you have bin the Cause of Winning her love, and I Dont think I Can be Reconciled to live with Her, when I know I hant her love. now Sir I have Considered on the matter Serously. I have this preposial to make to you. give me the Sum Of thousand dollars and I will leve the town and take my daughter with me and go where my Friend Shant here from me and leve her to Yourself to do for her as you thing proper. I Edition: current; Page: [428]hope you wont think my request is in a view of making Me Satisfaction for the injury done me. for there is nothing that you Can do will compensate for it. your answer I shall expect This evening or in the morning early, as I am Determined to wate no longer till. I know my lot


James Reynolds
Mr. Alexr. Hamilton.

no. V

Received December 22 of Alexander Hamilton six hundred dollars on account of a sum of one thousand dollars due to me.

James Reynolds

no. VI

Received Philadelphia January 3. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton four hundred dollars in full of all demands.

James Reynolds

no. VII


I Suppose you will be surprised in my writing to you Repeatedly as I do. but dont be Alarmed for its Mrs. R. wish to See you. and for My own happiness and hers. I have not the Least Objections to your Calling. as a friend to Boath of us. and must rely intirely on your and her honnor. when I conversed with you last. I told you it would be disagreeable Edition: current; Page: [429]to me for you to Call, but Sence, I am pritty well Convinsed, She would onely wish to See you as a friend. and sence I am Reconciled to live with her, I would wish to do every thing for her happiness and my own, and Time may ware of every thing, So dont fail in Calling as Soon as you Can make it Conveanant. and I Rely on your befriending me if there should anything Offer that would be to my advantage. as you Express a wish to befriend me. So I am

yours to Serve

James Reynolds
Mr. Alexr. Hamilton.

no. VIII


I need not acquaint that I had Ben Sick all moast Ever sence I saw you as I am sure you allready no it Nor would I solicit a favor wich Is so hard to obtain were It not for the Last time Yes Sir Rest assurred I will never ask you to Call on me again I have kept my Bed those tow dayes and now rise from My pilliow wich your Neglect has filled with the shorpest thorns I no Longer doubt what I have Dreaded to no but stop I do not wish to se you to to say any thing about my Late disappointment No I only do it to Ease a heart wich is ready Burst with Greef I can neither Eat or sleep I have Been on the point of doing the moast horrid acts at I shudder to think where I might been what will Become of me. In vain I try to Call reason to aid me but alas ther Is no Comfort for me I feel as If I should not Contennue long and all the wish I have Is to se you Edition: current; Page: [430]once more that I may my doubts Cleared up for God sake be not so voed of all humannity as to deni me this Last request but if you will not Call some time this night I no its late but any tim between this and twelve A Clock I shall be up Let me Intreat you If you wont Come to send me a Line oh my head I can rite no more do something to Ease My heart or Els I no not what I shall do for so I cannot live Commit this to the care of my maid be not offended I beg.

no. IX

Dear Sir

I have kept my bed those tow days past but find my self mutch better at presant though yet full distreesed and shall till I se you fretting was the Cause of my Illness I thought you had been told to stay away from our house and yesterday with tears I my Eyes I beged Mr. once more to permit your visits and he told upon his honnour that he had not said anything to you and that It was your own fault believe me I scarce knew how to beleeve my senses and if my seturation was insupportable before I heard this It was now more so fear prevents my saing more only that I shal be miserable till I se you and if my dear freend has the Least Esteeme for the unhappy Maria whos greateest fault Is Loveing him he will come as soon as he shall get this and till that time My breast will be the seate of pain and woe


Col. Hamilton.
Edition: current; Page: [431]

P. S. If you cannot come this Evening to stay just come only for one moment as I shal be Lone Mr. is going to sup with a friend from New York.

no. X

the Girl tells me that you said If I wanted any thing that I should write this morning alas my friend want what what can ask for but peace wich you alone can restore to my tortured bosom and do My dear Col hamilton on my kneese Let me Intreatee you to reade my Letter and Comply with my request tell the bearer of this or give her a line you need not be the least affraid let me not die with fear have pity on me my freend for I deserve it I would not solicit this favor but I am sure It cannot injure you and will be all the happiness I Ever Expect to have But oh I am disstressed more than I can tell My heart Is ready to burst and my tears wich once could flow with Ease are now denied me Could I only weep I would thank heaven and bless the hand that

no. XI


On my entering the Room the last evening. I found Mrs Reynolds in a setuvation little different from distraction and for some time could not prevail on her to tell me the Cause. at last She informed me that you had been here likewise of a letter she had wrote you in a fright. which she need not have don as I Never intended doing any thing I told her but did it to humble Her. for the imprudent language Edition: current; Page: [432]she made yuse of to me. and You may Rest ashured sir, that I have not a wish to do any thing that may give you or your family a moments pain I know not what you may think of me. but suppose yourself for a moment in my setuvation. that your wife whom you tenderly love. should plase her affections on another object and hear her say. that all her happiness depends intirely on that object. what would you do in such a Case. would you have acted as I have don. I have Consented to things which I thought I never could have don. but I have dun it to make life tolerable. and for the sake of a person whose happiness is dearer to me than my own. I have another afliction added to the Rest that is almost insupportable. I find when ever you have been with her. She is Cheerful and kind. but when you have not in some time she is Quite to Reverse. and wishes to be alone by her self. but when I tell her of it. all her answer is she Cant help it. and hopes I will forgive her. shurely you Cannot wonder if I should act ever so imprudent. though at present if I could take all her Grief upon myself I would do it with pleasure. the excess of which alarm me untill now. I have had no idea of. I have spent this day at her bed side in trying to give her the Consolation which I myself stand in need of. she also tell me, you wish to see me tomorrow evening and then I shall Convince you. that I would not wish to trifle with you And would much Rather add to the happiness of all than to distress any

am sir Your

James Reynolds
Mr. Alex. Hamilton.
Edition: current; Page: [433]

no. XII

Reade this all

My dear friend

In a state of mind which know language can paint I take up the pen but alas I know not what I write or how to give you an idea of the anguish wich at this moment rends my heart yes my friend I am doomed to drink the bitter cup of affliction Pure and unmixed but why should I repine why pour forth my wretched soul in fruitless complainings for you have said It you have commanded and I must submit tow heaven Inexorable heaven Is deaf to my anguish and has marked me out for the child of sorrow oh my dear friend wether shall I fly for consolation oh all all consolation is shut against me there is not the least gleme of hope but oh merciful God forgive me and you my friend Comply with this Last Request Let me once more se you and unbosom Myself to you perhaps I shal be happier after It I have mutch to tell wich I dare not write And which you ought to know oh my dear Sir give me your advice for once In an Affair on wich depends my Existence Itself Think not my friend that I say this to make you come and se me and that I have nothing to tell you for heaven by which I declare knows that I have woes to relate wich I never Expected to have known accept by the name Come therefore to-morrow sometime or Els in the Evening do I beg you to come gracious God had I the world I would lay It at your feet If I could only se you oh I must or I shall lose my senses at It is not because I think to prevail on Edition: current; Page: [434]you to visit me again no my dear Col Hamilton I do not think of It but will when I se you do just as you tell me so doant be offended with me for pleading so hard to se you If you do not think it proper to come here Let me know by a line where I shal se you and what hour you need not put your name to It or mine Either Just direct Mr or Els leve It blank adieu my Ever dear Col hamilton you may form to yourself an Idea of my distress for I Cant desscribe It to you Pray for me and be kind to me Let me se you death now would be welcome Give

no. XIII


I hope you will pardon me in taking the liberty I do In troubling you so offen. it hurts me to let you Know my Setivation. I should take it a a protickeler if you would Oblige me with the lone of about thirty Dollars I am in hopes in a fue days I shall be In a more better Setivation. and then I shall Be able to make you ample Satisfaction for your Favours shewn me. I want it for some little Necessaries of life for my family. sir you granting the above favour this morning will very much Oblige your most Obedient and humble Servant

James Reynolds
Alex. Hamilton Esqr.

N B the inclose is a Receipt for Ninety dollars. that is if you Can Oblige me with the thirty. thats Including Boath Sums

Edition: current; Page: [435]

Received philadelphia 3d. April. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton Esqr. Ninety dollars which I promise to pay on demand

James Reynolds

90, Dollars

no. xiv


I am sorry to inform you my setivation is as such. I am indebted to a man in this town about 45. dollars which he will wate no longer on me. now sir I am sorrey to be troubleing you So Offen. which if you Can Oblige me with this to-day. you will do me infenate service. that will pay Nearly all I owe in this town except yourself. I have some property on the North River wich I have Wrote to my Brother sell which as soon as it Come in my hands. I pay you every shilling with strictest Justice you Oblige me with. the inclose is the Receipt, for the amount

I am sir with due regard. your humble servant

James Reynolds
alexander Hamilton Esqr.

Received philadelphia, 7th. April. 1792. of Alexander Hamilton Esqr. Forty five dollars which I promise to pay on demand

James Reynolds

45 dollars

Edition: current; Page: [436]

no. xv


I am sorry to be the barer of So disagreeable. an unhappy infermation. I must tell you Sir that I have bin the most unhappiest man. for this five days in Existance, Which you aught to be the last person I ever Should tell my troubles to. ever Sence the night you Calld and gave her the Blank Paper. She has treated me more Cruel than pen cant paint out. and Ses that She is determed never to be a wife to me any more, and Ses that it Is a plan of ours. what has past god knows I Freely forgive you and dont wish to give you fear or pain a moment on the account of it. now Sir I hope you will give me your advise as freely as if Nothing had eve passed Between us I think it is in your power to make matter all Easy again. and I suppose you to be that Man of fealling that you would wish to make every person happy Where it in you power I shall wate to See you at the Office if its Convenant. I am sir with Asteem yours

James Reynolds
Alexander Hamilton Esqr.

no. xvi


I am sorry I am in this disagreeable sutivation which Obliges me to trouble you So offen as I do. but I hope it wont be long before it will be In my power to discharge what I am indebted to you Edition: current; Page: [437]Nothing will give me greater pleasure I must Sir ask the loan of thirty dollars more from you, which I shall esteem as a particular favour. and you may Rest ashured that I will pay you with Strictest Justice. for the Reliefe you have afforded me, the Inclosed is the Receipt for the thirty dollars. I shall wate at your Office. Sir for an answer I am sir your very Humble Servant

James Reynolds.
Alexander Hamilton Esqr.

no. xvii


I must now forever forbid you of visiting Mrs. R any more I was in hopes that it would in time ware off, but I find there is no hopes. So I determed to put a finell end to it. if its in my power. for I find by your Seeing her onely Renews the Friendship, and likewise when you Call you are fearful any person Should See you am I a person of Such a bad Carector. that you would not wish to be seen Coming in my house in the front way, all any Person Can say of me is that I am poore and I dont know if that is any Crime. So I must meet my fate, I have my Reasons for it for I cannot be Reconsiled to it. for there is know person Can tell the pain it gives me except the were plased in my sutivation I am sure the world would despise me if the Onely new what I have bin Reconsiled to, I am in hopes in a short Edition: current; Page: [438]time to make you amends for your favour Rendered me I am Sir your humble Servant

J. Reynolds
Alexander Hamilton, Esqr.

no. xviii

Dear Sir

I once take up the pen to solicit The favor of seing again oh Col hamilton what have I done that you should thus Neglect me Is it because I am unhappy But stop I will not say you have for perhaps you have caled and have found no opportunity to Come In at least I hope you have I am now A lone and shall be for a few days I believe till Wensday though am not sartain and would wish to se you this Evening I poseble If not as soon as you can make It convenant oh my deer freend how shal I plede Enough what shal I say Let me beg of you to Come and If you never se me again oh if you think It best I will submit to It and take a long and last adieu

Col Hamilton

for heaven sake keep me not In suspince Let me know your Intention Either by a Line or Catline.

no. xix


I am now under the necessity of asking a favour from you Which if Can Oblige me with the loan of Edition: current; Page: [439]three Hundred dollars. it will be in my power to make five hundred Before the Next week is out. and if you Can oblege me with it. you may rely on haveing of it again the last of Next Week. if I am alive and well. the use I wont it for is to Subscribe to the turn pike Road. there is a number of gentleman in town wants me to go up to Lancaster to Subscribe for them. no sir if you Can oblige as I want to leve town tomorrow morning and the books will be open for subscribing on monday morning Next. so that I shall have little time to get there. you never Sir Can oblige me more than Complying with the above, please to let me know between this and 4 oClock if you dont I shant be able to go—from your Humble Sev't

James Reynolds.
Alexr. Hamilton Esqr.

no. xx

Honnored Sir,

Your Goodness will I hope overlook the present application you will infenately Oblige me if you Can let me have the Loan of fifty dollars. for a few days. what little money I had I put into the turnpike Scrip. and I dont like to sell At the low advance the are selling at. at present, as its very low. if you Can Oblige me with that much in the morning sir you shall have it in a very short time again and you Will very much Oblige your Humble and Obed. Serv.

J. R.
Alexr. Hamilton Esq.
Edition: current; Page: [440]

N B. you will I hope pardon me in taking the liberty to call today. but my Necessaty is such that it Oblige me to do it: sunday evening.

Received philadelphia 24th June. 1792 of Alexander Hamilton Esq. Fifty Dollars. which I promise to pay on demand to the said Alexr. Hamilton or Order as witness my hand

James Reynolds

50 Dollars

no. xxi

Honored Sir.

When I Conversed with you last I mentioned that I was going to move. Sence that I have moved I have taken a very convenant house for a boarding house. but being disappointed in receiving Some money. put it entirely out of my power to furnish the house I have taken. I have four genteal boarders will come to live with me, as soon as I can get the Rooms furnished. dear Sir, this is my Setuvation. I am in no way of business. the Cash last lent me, inable me to pay my Rent. and some little debts I had Contracted for my Familys youse. now sir if I Can ask a favour once more of the loan of two Hundred dollars. I will give you Surity of all I process. for the payment of what I owe you. without your assistance. this time I dont know what I shall do. Mrs. Reynolds and myself has made a Calculation. and find with that much money will inable us to take in four boarders. and I am in hopes in the meantime Edition: current; Page: [441]will. something will turn up in my favour. which will enable me to keep myself and famy. dear Sir your Complying with the above will for ever, lay me under the greatist Obligation to you and I will. you may Rest ashured. Repay it again as soon as it is in my power.

I am Honored Sir with Respect your most Obedt. and Humble Servt.

James Reynolds

Vine Street No. 161 Second door from the Corner of fifth Street

Alexr. Hamilton Esqr.

no. xxii

Honored Sir,

you will I hope pardon me if I intrude on your goodness thinking the multiplycity of business. you have to encounter With. has been the cause of my not hereing from you. which induces me to write the Second time. flatering myself it will be in your Power to Comply with my Request. which I shall make it my whole Study. to Remit it to you as soon as its in my power your Compyance dear Sir will very much

Oblige your most Obed. and Humble Servant.

James Reynolds.

Vine street No. 161, one door from the Corner of Fifth Street.

Alexander Hamilton, Esq.
Edition: current; Page: [442]

no. xxiii

City of Philadelphia

Henry Seckel of the City aforesaid Merchant maketh oath that on or about the thirteenth day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety two Jacob Clingman sent for this Deponent to the house of Hilary Baker, Esquire, then Alderman, that this Deponent went accordingly to the house of the said Alderman and was there requested by the said Jacob Clingman to become his bail which he did upon the promise of the said Clingman to deposit with him a sum in certificates sufficient to cover and secure him for so becoming bail—That the said Clingman having failed to make the said deposit according to his promise this Deponent applied to the said Hilary Baker and obtained for him a warrant upon which the said Clingman was arrested and carried again to the said Hilary Baker—That said Clingman again urged this Deponent to become his bail but he declining said Clingman requested this Deponent to go and bring to him one James Reynolds from whom as this Deponent understood the said Clingman expected to obtain assistance towards his release from Custody—That this Deponent went accordingly to the said James Reynolds and in the name of Clingman engaged him to accompany the Deponent to the House of the said Alderman where the said James Reynolds was also apprehended and detained—That thereupon the said James Reynolds requested this Deponent to carry a letter for him to Alexander Hamilton then Secretary Edition: current; Page: [443]of the Treasury—that this Deponent carried the said letter as requested and after two or three calls found the said Alexander Hamilton and delivered the letter to him—that the said Hamilton after reading it mentioned to this Deponent that he had known the father of the said Reynolds during the war with Great Britain, and would be willing to serve the said James, if he could with propriety, but that it was not consistent with the duty of his office to do what Reynolds now requested; and also mentioned to this Deponent that Reynolds and Clingman had been doing something very bad and advised this Deponent to have nothing to do with them lest he might bring himself into trouble—And this Deponent further saith that he never had any conversation or communication whatever with the said Alexander Hamilton respecting the said Reynolds or Clingman till the time of carrying the said letter. And this Deponent further saith that the said Clingman formerly lived with this Deponent and kept his books which as he supposes was the reason of his sending for this Deponent to become his bail thinking that this Deponent might be willing to befriend him.

Henry Seckel.

MDCCXCVII before me

Hilary Baker, Mayor.

no. xxiv

Having perused the fifth and sixth numbers of a late publication in this City entitled The History of Edition: current; Page: [444]the United States for the Year 1796, and having reviewed certain letters and documents which have remained in my possession since the Year 1792, I do hereby at the request of Alexander Hamilton Esquire of New York Certify and declare,

That in the Month of December 1792, I was desired by Mr. Hamilton to be present at his house as the witness of an interview which had been agreed upon between himself and James Monroe, Frederick Augustus Muhlenburg and Abraham Venable, Esquires, with which I accordingly complied.

The object of the interview was to remove from the minds of those Gentlemen, certain suspicions which had been excited by suggestions of James Reynolds then in Prison and Jacob Clingman a Clerk to Mr. Muhlenburg, (against both of whom prosecutions had been instituted for frauds against the United States,) that Mr. Hamilton had been concerned in promoting or assisting speculation in the public funds, contrary to Law and his duty as Secretary of the Treasury.

The conference was commenced on the part of Mr. Monroe by reading certain Notes from Mr. Hamilton and a Narrative of conversations which had been held with the said Reynolds and Clingman—After the grounds upon which the suspicions rested, had been fully stated, Mr. Hamilton entered into an explanation and by a variety of written documents, which were read, fully evinced, that there was nothing in the transactions to which Reynolds and Clingman had referred, which had any connection with, or relation to speculations in the Funds, claims upon the Edition: current; Page: [445]United States, or any public or official transactions or duties whatever. This was rendered so completely evident, that Mr. Venable requested Mr. Hamilton to desist from exhibiting further proofs. As however an explanation had been desired by the Gentleman before named, Mr. Hamilton insisted upon being allowed to read such documents as he possessed, for the purpose of obviating every shadow of doubt respecting the propriety of his Official conduct.

After Mr. Hamilton's explanation terminated Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, severally acknowledged their entire satisfaction, that the affair had no relation to Official duties, and that it ought not to affect or impair the public confidence in Mr. Hamilton's character;—at the same time, they expressed their regrets at the trouble which the explanation had occasioned. During a conversation in the streets of Philadelphia immediately after retiring from Mr. Hamilton's house Mr. Venable repeated to me, that the explanation was entirely satisfactory, and expressed his concern, that he had been a party to whom it had been made. Though in the course of the conversation Mr. Venable expressed his discontent with public measures which had been recommended by Mr. Hamilton, yet he manifested a high respect for his Talents, and confidence in the integrity of his character.

When Mr. Reynolds was in Prison, it was reported to me, that he had threatened to make disclosures injurious to the character of some head of a Department. This report I communicated to Mr. Edition: current; Page: [446]Hamilton, who advised me to take no steps towards a liberation of Reynolds while such a report existed and remained unexplained. This was antecedent to the interview between Mr. Hamilton, and Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable, or to any knowledge on my part of the circumstance by which it was occasioned.

The Offence for which Reynolds and Clingman were prosecuted by my direction, was for suborning a person to commit perjury for the purpose of obtaining Letters of Administration on the estate of a person who was living. After the prosecution was commenced, Clingman confessed to me, that he and Reynolds were possessed of lists of the names and sums due to certain Creditors of the United States, which lists had been obtained from the Treasury—Both Clingman and Reynolds obstinately refused for some time to deliver up the lists or to disclose the name of the person, through whose infidelity they had been obtained. At length on receiving a promise from me, that I would endeavor to effect their liberation from the consequences of the prosecution, they consented to surrender the lists, to restore the balance which had been fraudulently obtained, and to reveal the name of the person, by whom the lists had been furnished.

This was done conformably to the proposition contained in a letter from Clingman dated December 4, 1792, of which a copy is hereunto annexed. The original letter and the lists which were surrendered now remain in my possession. Agreeably to my engagement I informed Jared Ingersol Esqr. Attorney Edition: current; Page: [447]General of Pennsylvania, that an important discovery had been made, and the condition by which it could be rendered useful to the public in preventing future frauds; in consequence of which the prosecutions against Clingman and Reynolds were dismissed.

In the publication referred to, it is suggested that the lists were furnished by Mr. Duer; this is an injurious mistake—nothing occurred at any time to my knowledge, which could give colour to a suspicion, that Mr. Duer was in any manner directly or indirectly concerned with or privy to the transaction. The infidelity was committed by a clerk in the office of the Register—Mr. Duer resigned his office in March, 1790, while the Treasury was at New York—the Clerk who furnished the lists was first employed in Philadelphia in January 1791. The Accounts from which the lists were taken, were all settled at the Treasury subsequent to the time last mentioned; on the discovery above stated the Clerk was dismissed, and has not since been employed in the public offices.

The name of the Clerk who was dismissed has not been publicly mentioned for a reason which appears in Clingman's letter; but if the disclosure is found necessary to the vindication of an innocent character it shall be made.

Certified in Philadelphia, this twelfth day of July, 1797.

Oliv. Wolcott.
Edition: current; Page: [448]

copy of a letter from jacob clingman to the comptroller of the treasury


Having unfortunately for myself been brought into a very disagreeable situation, on account of Letters of Administration taken out by a certain John Delabar on the effects of a certain Ephraim Goodanough, who, it since appears, is still living, I beg leave to mention that I am ready to refund the money to the Treasury or to the proper owner or his order, and if it can be of any service to the Treasury Department or to the United States, in giving up the lists of the names of the persons to whom pay is due, and to disclose the name of the person in the utmost confidence from whom the list was obtained, earnestly hoping that may be some inducement to withdraw the action against me, which if prosecuted can only end in injuring my character without any further advantage to the United States.

I have the honor to be your most humble servant,

Jacob Clingman.
Hon. Oliver Wolcott, Esq.

no. xxv

New York,

In a pamphlet lately published, entitled No. V. of The History of the United States for 1796, etc., are sundry papers respecting the affair of Reynolds, in which you once had an agency, accompanied with Edition: current; Page: [449]these among other comments. “They [certain attacks on Mr. Monroe] are ungrateful, because he displayed on an occasion, that will be mentioned immediately, the greatest lenity to Mr. Alexander Hamilton, the prime mover of the Federal party. When some of the papers which are now to be laid before the world were submitted to the Secretary; when he was informed that they were to be communicated to President Washington, he entreated in the most anxious tone of deprecation that the measure might be suspended. Mr. Monroe was one of the three gentlemen who agreed to this delay. They gave their consent to it on his express promise of a guarded behavior in future, and because he attached to the suppression of these papers a mysterious degree of solicitude which they, feeling no personal resentment against the individual, were unwilling to augment.” Pages 204 and 205. It is also suggested, page 206, that I made “a volunteer acknowledgment of seduction,” and it must be understood from the context that this acknowledgment was made to the same three gentlemen.

The peculiar nature of this transaction renders it impossible that you should not recollect it in all its parts, and that your own declaration to me at the time contradicts absolutely the construction which the editor of the pamphlet puts upon the affair.

I think myself entitled to ask from your candor and justice a declaration equivalent to that which was made me at the time, in the presence of Mr. Wolcott, by yourself and the two other gentlemen, accompanied by a contradiction of the representations Edition: current; Page: [450]in the comments cited above. And I shall rely upon your delicacy that the manner of doing it will be such as one gentleman has a right to expect from another—especially as you must be sensible that the present appearance of the papers is contrary to the course which was understood between us to be proper, and includes a dishonorable infidelity somewhere. I am far from attributing it to either of the three gentlemen; yet the suspicion naturally falls on some agent made use of by them.

I send you a copy of a memorandum of the substance of your declaration, made by me the morning after our interview.

With consideration, I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your very obed. servt.,

Alexander Hamilton.

P. S.—I must beg the favor of expedition in your reply.

Memorandum of Substance of Declaration of Messrs. Monroe, Muhlenburg, and Venable concerning the Affair of J. Reynolds.

That they regretted the trouble and uneasiness which they had occasioned to me in consequence of the representations made to them, that they were perfectly satisfied with the explanation I had given, and that there was nothing in the transaction which ought to affect my character as a public officer or lessen the public confidence in my integrity.

Edition: current; Page: [451]

no. xxvi


On reflection, I deem it advisable for me to have copies of the several papers which you communicated to me in our interview on Saturday evening, including the notes, and the fragment of Mr. Reynolds' letter to Mr. Clingman. I therefore request that you will either cause copies of these papers to be furnished to me, taken by the person in whose handwriting the declarations which you showed to me were, or will let me have the papers themselves to be copied. It is also my wish that all such papers as are original may be detained from the parties of whom they were had, to put it out of their power to repeat the abuse of them in situations which may deprive me of the advantage of explanation. Considering of how abominable an attempt they have been the instruments, I trust you will feel no scruples about this detention. With consideration

I have the honor to be, Gentlemen,

Your obedient servant, ALEXANDER HAMILTON.

F. Augustus Muhlenburg,
James Monroe, and Abraham Venable.


no. xxvii


I have communicated your letter of yesterday to Edition: current; Page: [452]Messrs. Venable and Monroe. The latter has all the papers relating to the subject in his possession, and I have the pleasure to inform you that your very reasonable request will be speedily complied with. I have the honor to be, with much esteem,

Your most obedient,

Humble servant,

Fredk. A. Muhlenburg.
Alexander Hamilton, Esq.

no. xxviii


I have the honor to enclose you copies of the papers requested in yours a few days past. That of the notes you will retain; the others you will be pleased, after transcribing, to return to me.

With due respect, I have the honor to be,

Your very humble servant,

Jas. Monroe.

Every thing you desire in the letter above mentioned shall be most strictly complied with.

The Hon. Alexander Hamilton, Esq.,

no. xxix


As I do not reside in the city at present, your letter of the 5th inst. did not reach me time enough to answer by Saturday's post. Whilst I lament the Edition: current; Page: [453]publication of the papers respecting the affair of Reynolds (of which I hope I need not assure you that I had neither knowledge nor agency, for I never saw them since the affair took place, nor was I ever furnished with a copy), I do not hesitate to declare that I regretted the trouble and uneasiness this business had occasioned, and that I was perfectly satisfied with the explanation you gave. At the same time permit me to remind you of your declaration, also made in the presence of Mr. Wolcott, that the information and letters in our possession justified the suspicions we entertained before your explanation took place, and that our conduct toward you in this business was satisfactory. Having no share or agency whatever in the publication or comments you are pleased to cite, I must beg to be excused from making any remarks thereon. Were I to undertake to contradict the many absurdities and falsehoods which I see published on a variety of subjects which heretofore came under my notice, it would require more time than I am willing to sacrifice. I have the honor to be,

Sir, Your obedt. humble servt.,

Fredk. A. Muhlenburg.
A. Hamilton, Esq.

no. xxx


I have received your letter of the fifth instant by the hands of Mr. Wolcott.

Edition: current; Page: [454]

I had heard of the pamphlet you mention some days before, but had not read it. I am entirely ignorant of the Editor, and of the means by which he procured the papers alluded to.

I have had nothing to do with the transaction since the interview with you. I do not possess a copy of the papers at present, nor have I at any time had the possession of any of them. I avoided taking a copy, because I feared that the greatest care which I could exercise in keeping them safely might be defeated by some accident, and that some person or other might improperly obtain an inspection of them. I have endeavored to recollect what passed at the close of the interview which took place with respect to this transaction: it was said, I believe, by us in general terms, that we were satisfied with the explanation that had been given, that we regretted the necessity we had been subjected to in being obliged to make the inquiry, as well as the trouble and anxiety it had occasioned you; and on your part you admitted in general terms that the business as presented to us bore such a doubtful aspect as to justify the inquiry, and that the manner had been satisfactory to you.

I have now to express my surprise at the contents of a letter published yesterday in Fenno's paper, in which you endeavor to impute to party motives the part which I have had in this business, and endeavor to connect me with the releasement of persons committed as you say for heinous crimes. Clingman had been released before I heard of the business, and Reynolds on the very day I received the first intimation Edition: current; Page: [455]of it, arrangements having been previously made for that purpose, by those who had interested themselves to bring it about, so that no application was made to me on that subject, either directly or indirectly, the object being entirely accomplished by other means, and before I was informed of their confinement. If you will take the trouble to examine the transaction you will find this statement correct, and you cannot be insensible of the injury you do me when you say this was an attempt to release themselves from imprisonment by favor of party spirit, and that I was one of the persons resorted to on that ground. I appeal to your candor, and ask you if any part of my conduct in this whole business has justified such an imputation. This having been a joint business, and Mr. Monroe living now in New York, I must avoid saying any thing more on this subject until I can see him and Mr. Muhlenburg together, which I hope will be in the present week.

I am, sir, your humble servant,

Abm. B. Venable.

no. xxxvii

Mr. Monroe has the honor to inform Col. Hamilton that he arrived in this city yesterday A.M. 12; that Mr. Muhlenburg and himself are to have a meeting this morning upon the subject which concerns him, and after which Col. Hamilton shall immediately hear from them.

Edition: current; Page: [456]

no. xxxiii


It was our wish to have given a joint answer with Mr. Venable to your favor of the 5th instant concerning the publication of the proceedings in an inquiry in which we were jointly engaged with him in 1792, respecting an affair between yourself and Mr. Reynolds; and into which, from the circumstances attending it, we deemed it our duty to enquire. His departure, however, for Virginia precludes the possibility of so doing at present. We nevertheless readily give such explanation upon that point as we are now able to give; the original papers having been deposited in the hands of a respectable character in Virginia soon after the transaction took place, and where they now are.

We think proper to observe that as we had no agency in or knowledge of the publication of these papers till they appeared, so of course we could have none in the comments that were made on them.

But you particularly wish to know what the impression was which your explanation of that affair made on our minds, in the interview we had with you upon that subject at your own house, as stated in the paper No. V., of the publication referred to; and to which we readily reply, that the impression which we left in your mind, as stated in that number, was that which rested on our own, and which was, that the explanation of the nature of your connection with Reynolds which you then gave removed the suspicions we had before entertained of your Edition: current; Page: [457]being connected with him in speculation. Had not this been the case we should certainly not have left that impression on your mind, nor should we have desisted from the plan we had contemplated in the commencement of the inquiry, of laying the papers before the President of the United States.

We presume that the papers to which our signatures are annexed are in all cases correct. 'T is proper however to observe that as the notes contained in No. V. were intended only as memoranda of the explanation which you gave us in that interview, as likewise the information which was afterwards given us by Mr. Clingman on the same subject, and without a view to any particular use, they were entered concisely and without form. This is sufficiently obvious from the difference which appears in that respect, between the papers which preceded our interview and those contained in No. V. of the publication.

We cannot conclude this letter without expressing our surprise at the contents of a paper in the Gazette of the United States of the 8th instant, which states that the proceedings in the inquiry in question were the contrivance of two very profligate men who sought to obtain their liberation from prison by the favor of party spirit. You will readily recollect that one of those men, Mr. Clingman, was never imprisoned for any crime alleged against him by the Department of the Treasury, and that the other, Mr. Reynolds, was upon the point of being released, and was actually released, and without our solicitation or even wish, by virtue of an agreement made with Edition: current; Page: [458]him by that department before the inquiry began. We feel, too, very sensibly the injustice of the intimation that any of us were influenced by party spirit, because we well know that such was not the case; nor can we otherwise than be the more surprised that such an intimation should now be given, since we well remember that our conduct upon that occasion excited your sensibility, and obtained from you an unequivocal acknowledgment of our candor.

With consideration we are, sir,

Your most obedient and very humble servants,

Fredk. A. Muhlenburg.
Jas. Monroe.

no. xxxiv


I have your letter of this date. It gives me pleasure to receive your explanation of the ambiguous phrase in the paper No. V. published with your signatures and that of Mr. Venable, and your information of the fact, that my explanation had been satisfactory to you.

You express your surprise at the contents of a paper in the Gazette of the United States of the 8th instant. If you will review that paper with care, you will find that what is said about party spirit refers to the view with which the accusation was instituted by Reynolds and Clingman, not to that with which the inquiry was entered into by you. They sought by the favor of party spirit to obtain liberation from Edition: current; Page: [459]prison—but tho' they may have rested their hopes on this ground, it is not said, nor in my opinion implied, that you in making the inquiry were actuated by that spirit. I cannot, however, alter my opinion that they were influenced by the motive ascribed to them. For though, as you observe, Clingman was not in prison (and so far my memory has erred), and though it be true that Reynolds was released before the inquiry began by virtue of an agreement with the Treasury Department (that is, the Comptroller of the Treasury), for a reason of public utility which has been explained to you, yet it will be observed that Clingman as well as Reynolds was actually under a prosecution for the same offence, and that it appears by No. I. of the papers under your signatures, that for a period of more than three weeks, while Clingman was in the act of soliciting the “aid and friendship of Mr. Muhlenburg on behalf of himself and Reynolds to get them released or discharged from the prosecution,” he Clingman frequently dropped hints to Mr. Muhlenburg, that Reynolds had it in his power very materially to injure the Secretary of the Treasury and that Reynolds knew several very improper transactions of his; and at last went so far as to state that “Reynolds said he had it in his power to hang the Secretary of the Treasury, who was deeply concerned in speculation.” From this it appears, that the suggestions to my prejudice were early made, and were connected with the endeavor to obtain relief through Mr. Muhlenburg. I derive from all this a confirmation of my opinion, founded on the general nature of the proceeding, that Reynolds and Clingman, Edition: current; Page: [460]knowing the existence in Congress of a party hostile to my conduct in administration, and that the newspapers devoted to it frequently contained insinuations of my being concerned in improper speculations, formed upon that basis the plan of conciliating the favor and aid of that party towards getting rid of the prosecution by accusing me of speculation. This is what I meant in the publication alluded to and what I must always believe.

With this explanation, you will be sensible that there is nothing in the publication inconsistent with my declaration to you at closing our interview. It is very true, that after the full and unqualified expressions which came from you, together with Mr. Venable,—differing in terms but agreeing in substance,—of your entire satisfaction with the explanation I had given, and that there was nothing in the affair of the nature suggested, accompanied with expressions of regret at the trouble and anxiety occasioned to me,—and when (as I recollect it) some of the gentlemen expressed a hope that the manner of conducting the inquiry had appeared to me fair and liberal,—I replied in substance that though I had been displeased with the mode of introducing the subject to me (which you will remember I manifested at the time in very lively terms), yet that in other respects I was satisfied with and sensible to the candor with which I had been treated. And this was the sincere impression of my mind. With consideration I am, gentlemen,

Your most obedt. and hum. serv.

Alexander Hamilton.
Edition: current; Page: [461]

no. xxxv


I send herewith an answer to the joint letter of Mr. Muhlenburg and yourself. It appears to me on reflection requisite to have some explanation on the note of January 2, 1793, with your signature only. It may be inferred from the attention to record the information of Clingman therein stated, after what had passed between us, that you meant to give credit and sanction to the suggestion that the defence set up by me was an imposition. You will, I doubt not, be sensible of the propriety of my requesting you to explain yourself on this point also.

I remain, with consideration,

Sir, your obedient servant,

Alexander Hamilton.

no. xxxvi


It is impossible for me to trace back at this moment, occupied as I am with other concerns, all the impressions of my mind at the different periods at which the memoranda were made in the publication to which you refer in your favor of to-day, but I well remember that in entering the one which bears my single signature, although I was surprised at the communication given, yet I neither meant to give nor imply any opinion of my own as to its contents. I simply entered the communication as I received it, reserving to myself the liberty to form an opinion upon it at such future time as I found convenient, Edition: current; Page: [462]paying due regard to all the circumstances connected with it.

I am, sir, with consideration,

Your very humble servant,

James Monroe.

no. xxxvii


Your letter of yesterday in answer to mine of the same date was received last night. I am sorry to say that, as I understand it, it is unsatisfactory. It appears to me liable to this inference, that the information of Clingman had revived the suspicions which my explanation had removed. This would include the very derogatory suspicion, that I had concerted with Reynolds not only the fabrication of all the letters and documents under his hand, but also the forgery of the letters produced as those of Mrs. Reynolds—since these last unequivocally contradict the pretence communicated by Clingman. I therefore request you to say whether this inference be intended.

With consideration, I am, sir,

Your very obedient servant,

Alexander Hamilton.
James Monroe, Esqr.

no. xxxviii


I can only observe that in entering the note which bears my single signature, I did not convey or mean Edition: current; Page: [463]to convey any opinion of my own, as to the faith which was due to it, but left it to stand on its own merits, reserving to myself the right to judge of it, as upon any fact afterwards communicated according to its import and authenticity.

With due respect I am, sir,

Your very humble servant,

James Monroe.

no. xxxix


In my last letter to you I proposed a simple and direct question, to which I had hoped an answer equally simple and direct. That which I have received, though amounting, as I understand it, to an answer in the negative, is conceived in such circuitous terms as may leave an obscurity upon the point which ought not to have remained. In this situation, I feel it proper to tell you frankly my impression of the matter.

The having any communication with Clingman, after that with me, receiving from him and recording information depending on the mere veracity of a man undeniably guilty of subornation of perjury, and one whom the very documents which he himself produced to you showed sufficiently1 to be the accomplice of a vindictive attempt upon me, the leaving it in a situation where, by possibility, it might rise up at a future and remote day to inculpate me, without Edition: current; Page: [464]the possibility perhaps from the lapse of time of establishing the refutation, and all this without my privity or knowledge, was, in my opinion, in a high degree indelicate and improper. To have given or intended to give the least sanction or credit, after all that was known to you, to the mere assertion of either of the three persons—Clingman, Reynolds, or his wife—would have betrayed a disposition toward me which, if it appeared to exist, would merit epithets the severest that I could apply.

With consideration I am, sir,

Your very humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton.
James Monroe, Esq.

no. xl


Your favor of yesterday (to use your own language) gives an indelicate and improper coloring to the topic to which it refers. I will endeavor, in a few words, to place the points in discussion where they ought to stand.

It was never our intention other than to fulfil our duty to the public, in our inquiry into your conduct, and with delicacy and propriety to yourself, nor have we done otherwise.

To this truth, in respect to the inquiry as to our conduct upon that occasion, you have so often assented, that nothing need now be said on that point. Indeed, I should have considered myself as highly criminal, advised as I was of your conduct, had I not Edition: current; Page: [465]united in the inquiry into it; for what offence can be more reprehensible in an officer, charged with the finances of his country, than to be engaged in speculation? And what other officer, who had reason to suspect this, could justify himself for failing to examine into the truth of this charge? We did so; apprised you of what we had done; heard your explanation, and were satisfied with it. It is proper to observe, that in the explanation you gave, you admitted all the facts upon which our opinion was founded, but yet accounted for them, and for your connection with Reynolds, on another principle. 'T is proper also to observe that we admitted your explanation upon the faith of your own statement, and upon the documents you presented, though I do not recollect they were proved, or that proof was required of them.

You will remember that in this interview in which we acknowledged ourselves satisfied with the explanation you gave, we did not bind ourselves not to hear further information on the subject, or even not to proceed further in case we found it our duty so to do. This would have been improper, because subsequent facts might be disclosed which might change our opinion, and in which case it would be our duty to proceed further. And with respect to Mr. Clingman we thought it highly proper to hear what he had to say, because we had before heard him on the subject, and because you had acknowledged all his previous information to be true, and because he was a party and had a right to be heard on it. You observe by the entry that we did not seek him, nor Edition: current; Page: [466]even apprise him of the explanation received from you; on the contrary, that he sought us, and in consequence of information received from Mr. Wolcott.

The subject is now before the public, and I repeat to you what I have said before, that I do not wish any opinion of my own to be understood as conveyed in the entry which bears my single signature, because when I entered it I had no opinion upon it, as sufficiently appears by my subsequent conduct, having never acted upon it, and deposited the papers with a friend when I left my country, in whose hands they still are. Whether the imputations against you as to speculation are well or ill founded, depends upon the facts and circumstances which appear against you upon your defence. If you show that they are ill founded, I shall be contented, for I have never undertaken to accuse you since our interview, nor do I now give any opinion on it, reserving to myself the liberty to form one, after I see your defence; being resolved, however, so far as depends on me, not to bar the door to free inquiry as to the merits of the case in either view.

This contains a just state of this affair so far as I remember it, which I presume will be satisfactory to you: and to which I shall only add that as on the one hand I shall always be ready to do justice to the claims of any one upon me, so I shall always be equally prepared to vindicate my conduct and character against the attacks of any one who may assail them.

With due respect, I am, sir,

Your obedient servant,

James Monroe.
Edition: current; Page: [467]

no. xli

City of Philadelphia

Mary Williams of the City aforesaid Boarding House Keeper maketh Oath that She is acquainted with Mrs. M. Reynolds formerly reputed to be the Wife of Mr. James Reynolds that her acquaintance commenced by the said Mrs. Reynolds calling upon her to obtain admission as a lodger which the Deponent declined that afterwards the Deponent frequently saw the said Mrs. Reynolds and also frequently saw her write that from this she the Deponent conceives herself to be well acquainted with the hand writing of the said Mrs. Reynolds and is well satisfied that the handwriting of the letters hereunto annexed numbered I—VIII—IX—X—XII—XIII—is of the proper handwriting of the said Mrs. Reynolds to identify which letters the more particularly this Deponent hath upon each of them endorsed her name.

Sworn this XXIst day of July MDCCXCVII. before me

Mary Williams
Robert Wharton

One of the Aldermen of the City of Philadelphia.

no. xlii

Honnoured Sir,

too well you are acquainted with my unfortenate setuvation, to give you an explanation thereof, I am Edition: current; Page: [468]informed by a Note from Mrs. Reynolds this Evening, wherein She informed Me that you have bin informed that I Should have Said, if I were not discharged in two days. that I would make Some of the heads of the Departments tremble. now Sir I declare to god, that I never have said any Such thing. nor never have I said any thing, against any Head of a department whatever. all I have Said, Sir. is that I am under the Necessaty of letting you Know. which of the Clarks in the publick Office has givein out the List, of the ballance due. from the United States. to the individual States. and when it Comes to your knowledge, that the would tremble, Now Can I have an Enemy So base as to lodge such False allegations to my Charge, which is tottely Groundless. and without the least foundation Immaginable. now Sir, if you will give me the pleashure of waiting uppon your honour tomorrow I will give you every information that lies in my power Respecting the Matter. which I hope it will give you final Satisfaction. what I have done never Was with a wish to Rong the United States or any Other person whatever, the person that Administer On this mans pay. which he Received from the United States. had my monies in his hands and would not transfer the Certificate to Mrs. Clingman and myself untill wee signed the bond of indamnification. to him now dear Sir. that was our Situvation. to Secure our own Interest. wee executed the Bond, which was an Oversight of ours, now Sir Can you Suppose In my present Setuvation, that I would say anything against you Sir or any Other head of department whatever, Edition: current; Page: [469]where it even was in my power which was not. Especially where all my hopes and Dependance where. now dear Sir, think of my poor innocent. family. not of me for them I Onely wish to live

I am, honnored Sir

Your most Obediant and Humble Servt.

James W, Reynolds.
Oliver Woolcot Esqr.

no. xliii

Having seen in a pamphlet published in Philadelphia, entitled The History of the United States, No V a paragraph to the following effect:

“During the late canvass for the election of a President, Webster, in his Minerva, gave a hint that Mr. Hamilton would be an advisable candidate. A person in this city, who chanced to see this newspaper, wrote immediately to a correspondent in New York. The letter desired him to put himself in the way of Mr. Hamilton, and inform him that if Webster should in future print a single paragraph on that head, the papers referred to were instantly to be laid before the world. The message was delivered to Mr. Hamilton and the Minerva became silent.”

I declare that the contents of the foregoing paragraph, as far as they relate to myself, are totally false. I never entertained an idea that Mr. Hamilton was a candidate for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency at the late election. I never uttered, Edition: current; Page: [470]wrote, or published a hint or suggestion of the kind; nor did I ever receive from Mr. Hamilton or any other person, either directly or indirectly, any hint or communication to discontinue any notice or suggestions on that subject. I have examined the Minerva for several months previous to the late election, and I cannot find a suggestion published in that paper, of Mr. Hamilton's being a candidate as aforesaid, either from any correspondent or republished from any other paper; nor have I the least knowledge what the suggestions in the foregoing paragraph allude to.

My own idea uniformly was, that Mr. Adams and Mr. Pinckney were the only candidates supported by Mr. Hamilton and the friends of our government in general.

Sworn the 13th July, 1797, before me, ABM SKINNER, N. P.

Noah Webster, Jun.

no. xliv


It would have highly gratified me had it been in my power to furnish the relief you ask; but I am preparing for my departure, and find, on winding up my affairs, that I shall not have one dollar to spare. It is, therefore, with sincere regret I have nothing better to tender you than the sentiments of good will of

Sir, Your most obedient servant,

Th. Jefferson.
Edition: current; Page: [471]

no. xlv


I know well that you were a clerk in the Treasury Department while I was in the office of Secretary of State; but as I had no relation with the interior affairs of that office, I had no opportunity of being acquainted with you personally, except the single occasion on which you called on me. The length of time you were in the office affords the best presumption in your favor, and the particular misunderstanding which happened to you with your principals may account for your not having obtained from them those certificates of character which I am not able to supply. I doubt not, however, that a knowledge of your conduct, wherever you establish yourself, will soon render all certificates unnecessary, and I sincerely wish you may obtain employment which may evince and reward good conduct.

I am, sir, Your very humble servant,

Th. Jefferson.

no. xlvi


I have maturely considered your letter of yesterday, delivered to me at about nine last night, and cannot find in it cause of satisfaction.

There appears to me, in the first place, an attempt to prop the veracity of Clingman by an assertion which is not correct—namely, that I had acknowledged all his previous information to be true. This Edition: current; Page: [472]was not and could not be the fact. I acknowledged parts of it to be true, but certainly not the whole. On the contrary, I am able to prove that a material part of it, according to its obvious intent, is false, and I know other parts of it to be so. Indeed, in one sense, I could not have made the acknowledgment alleged without acknowledging myself guilty.

In the second place, there appears a design at all events to drive me to the necessity of a formal defence, while you know that the extreme delicacy of its nature must be very disagreeable to me. It is my opinion that, as you have been the cause, no matter how, of the business appearing in a shape which gives it an adventitious importance, and this against the intent of a confidence reposed in you by me, as contrary to what was delicate and proper, you recorded Clingman's testimony without my privity and thereby gave it countenance, as I had given you an explanation with which you was satisfied, and which could leave no doubt upon a candid mind, it was incumbent upon you, as a man of honor and sensibility, to have come forward in a manner that would have shielded me completely from the unpleasant effects brought upon me by your agency. This you have not done.

On the contrary, by the affected reference of the matter to a defence which I am to make, and by which you profess your opinion is to be decided—you imply that your suspicions are still alive. And as nothing appears to have shaken your original conviction but the wretched tale of Clingman, which you have thought fit to record, it follows that you Edition: current; Page: [473]are pleased to attach a degree of weight to that communication which cannot be accounted for on any fair principles. The result, in my mind, is that you have been and are actuated by motives towards me malignant and dishonorable; nor can I doubt that this will be the universal opinion, when the publication of the whole affair which I am about to make shall be seen.

I am, sir,

Your humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton.
J. Monroe, Esq.

no. xlvii


I received your letter of the 22d instant by Major Jackson, and have paid it the attention it merits.

Always anxious to do justice to every one, it would afford me pleasure could I answer it in a manner satisfactory to your feelings; but while the respect which I owe to myself forbids me replying in that harsh style which you have adopted, that same respect, with an attention to truth, according to the impressions existing on my mind, will compel me upon all occasions to place this affair on its true ground.

Why you have adopted this style I know not. If your object is to render this affair a personal one between us you might have been more explicit, since you well know, if that is your disposition, what my Edition: current; Page: [474]determination is, and to which I shall firmly adhere. But if it is to illustrate truth, and place the question on its true merits, as I have always been disposed to do, it appears illy calculated to promote that end.

I have constantly said and I repeat again, that in making an entry which appears after our interview with you, and which ought to have been signed by the other gentlemen as well as myself, I never intended to convey an opinion upon it, nor does it convey any opinion of my own, but merely notes what Clingman stated, leaving it upon his own credit only. But you wish me to state that this communication made no impression on my mind, and this I shall not state, because in so doing I should be incorrect. On the other hand, I do not wish to be understood as intimating that this communication had absolutely changed my opinion, for in that event I should have acted on it, whereas, the contrary was the case as you well know. And with respect to the propriety of noting down that communication, I have no doubt on that point, since I should have noted any other that might have been made on the same topic by that or any other party. Indeed if it was proper to note the communications first received, it was equally so to note this, and that you did not disapprove. Had we proceeded in it you may be well assured we should have apprised you of it, as in the other case, as well as from motives of candor towards you, as propriety on our own parts.

It is not my wish to discuss the fact whether you admitted all or only parts of Clingman's communication Edition: current; Page: [475]in our interview with you, because upon the principle in which I stand engaged in this affair, not as your accuser, but called on to explain, it is one of no importance to me. Such was the impression upon my mind; if, however, the contrary were the case, and you showed it to be so, I should be equally contented as if it were otherwise, since it is my wish that truth appear in her genuine character, upon the present, as upon all other occasions.

I am, sir, with due respect,

Your obedient servant,

James Monroe.

no. xlviii

New York,

Your letter of the 25th instant reached me yesterday.

Without attempting to analyze the precise import of your expressions in that particular, and really at a loss for your meaning when you appeal to my knowledge of a determination to which you say you should firmly adhere, I shall observe, in relation to the idea of my desiring to make the affair personal between us, that it would be no less unworthy of me to seek than to shun such an issue. It was my earnest wish to have experienced a conduct on your part such as was, in my opinion, due to me, to yourself, and to justice. Thinking, as I did, on the coolest reflection, that this had not been the case, I did not hesitate to convey to you the impressions which Edition: current; Page: [476]I entertained, prepared for any consequences to which it might lead.

Nevertheless, it would have been agreeable to me to have found in your last letter sufficient cause for relinquishing those impressions. But I cannot say that I do. The idea is every way inadmissible, that Clingman's last miserable contrivance should have had weight to shake, though not absolutely change, the opinion which my explanation had produced; and that, having such an effect, it should have been recorded and preserved in secret, without the slightest intimation to me. There was a vast difference between what might have been proper before and after my explanation; though I am not disposed to admit that the attention which was paid to such characters, even before, would have been justifiable, had it not been for the notes in my handwriting.

But the subject is too disgusting to leave me any inclination to prolong this discussion of it. The public explanation to which I am driven must decide, as far as public opinion is concerned, between us. Painful as the appeal will be in one respect, I know that in the principal point it must completely answer my purpose.

I am, sir,

Your humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton.

no. xlix


Your letter of the 28th, which I have received, claims a short answer.

Edition: current; Page: [477]

I have stated to you that I have no wish to do you a personal injury. The several explanations which I have made accorded with truth and my ideas of propriety. Therefore I need not repeat them. If these do not yield you satisfaction, I can give you no other, unless called on in a way which, for the illustration of truth, I wish to avoid, but which I am ever ready to meet. This is what I meant by that part of my letter which you say you do not understand.

With due respect, I am, sir,

Your humble servant,

Jas. Monroe.
Alexander Hamilton, Esq.

no. l (Copy.)

New York,

In my opinion the idea of a personal affair between us ought not to have found a place in your letters, or it ought to have assumed a more positive shape. In the state to which our correspondence had brought the question, it lay with you to make the option whether such an issue should take place. If what you have said be intended as an advance towards it, it is incumbent upon me not to decline it. On the supposition that it is so intended, I have authorized Major Jackson to communicate with you and to settle time and place.

I am, sir, Your humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton.
James Monroe, Esq.
Edition: current; Page: [478]

no. li


I do not clearly understand the import of your letter of the 4th instant, and therefore desire an explanation. With this view I will give an explanation of mine which preceded.

Seeing no adequate cause, by any thing in our late correspondence, why I should give a challenge to you, I own it was not my intention to give or even provoke one by any thing contained in those letters. I meant only to observe that I should stand on the defensive, and receive one if you thought fit to give it. If, therefore, you were under a contrary impression, I frankly own you are mistaken. If, on the other hand, you meant this last letter as a challenge to me, I have then to request that you will say so, and in which case, have to inform you that my friend, Col. Burr, who will present you this, and who will communicate with you on the subject, is authorized to give my answer to it, and to make such other arrangements as may be suitable in such an event.

With due respect, I am,

Your very humble servt,

James Monroe.
A. Hamilton, Esq.

no. lii

New York,

The intention of my letter of the 4th instant, as itself imports, was to meet and close with an advance Edition: current; Page: [479]towards a personal interview, which it appeared to me had been made by you.

From the tenor of your reply of the 6th, which disavows the inference I had drawn, any further step on my part, as being inconsistent with the ground I have heretofore taken, would be improper.

I am, sir,

Your humble servant,

Alexander Hamilton.
James Monroe, Esq.

N. B.—It may be proper to observe that, in addition to the original letters of Mrs. Reynolds, there are in the hands of the gentlemen with whom the papers are deposited, two original letters from her, one addressed to Mr. R. Folwell—the other to a Mrs. Miller, and both of them signed MARIA CLINGMAN, in the former of which she mentions the circumstance of her being married to Clingman.

end of vol. vii.

Now first published from the Hamilton MSS., vol. xviii., p. 99.


It does not appear whether this document was published at the time, or whether it was a letter for private circulation among leading men in the Cabinet and in Congress. It is a very interesting paper, as it shows the precise policy which the leader of the war Federalists wished to have adopted at a grave crisis in the history of the country and of his own party. It was probably written early in 1799.


I have written personally to Col. Strong to abstain from the execution of martial law at Detroit till further orders, as I desire maturely to reflect on the subject before a definite step.


Probably Col. R. H Harrison, who served on Washington’s staff with Hamilton, and was afterwards a lawyer.


One point occurs in connection with the general subject of this letter. It appears to be the practice of accounting officers to reject items in the accounts of contractors, which have been furnished, upon the orders of particular military commanders, even in cases in which no rule has been prescribed to the contractors. This, in my opinion, is neither just nor regular. The disbursement, if vouched by such an order, ought to be admitted to the credit of the contractor, and charged to the officer, till a satisfactory explanation shall satisfy the department that it ought to be a public charge. In most cases, when not strictly proper in the abstract, it will be expedient that the expense shall be defrayed by the public, and a repetition prevented by more precise instructions, or, where these have not been deficient, by the reprehension or punishment of the officer.

One bad consequence of embarrassing the adjustment of the contractors’ accounts may be that they will refuse, in cases of the least doubt, to comply with orders which are dictated by necessary and emergent services. Besides that, on principle, two discretions in undefined cases are an absurdity; and if but one, it is properly with the commanding officer, upon his responsibility; and the contractor, who ought not to exercise a discretion, ought in no event to suffer.


With this letter was a plan for the disposition of the regiments. It is given in the J. C. Hamilton Edition, but as it is substantially the same as that sent to Washington, by Hamilton, in his letter of September 9th (see above), it did not seem necessary to reprint it here.


Now first published from the Hamilton MSS., vol. xviii., p. 125.


Col. Wm. Smith, son-in-law of John Adams and a strong friend of Hamilton.


Washington died on the 14th of December.


This was a subject to which Hamilton gave a great deal of attention, and in regard to which he carried on an extensive correspondence, some of which is given below.


Now first published from the Hamilton MSS., vol. xviii., p.125.


The enmity between Jefferson and Hamilton had been smouldering for some time, when Philip Freneau was made a translating clerk in Jefferson’s department, and thence continued his attacks upon the Administration, as editor of the National Gazette. Knowing Jefferson’s hostility, Hamilton proceeded to answer the attacks of the clerk, and made his own articles the vehicle for a similar assault upon the Secretary of State. This personal controversy has an important bearing upon the history and development of parties, and whatever we may think of the taste displayed by the Secretary of the Treasury in entering upon such a conflict, there can be no question of the ability of his letters.


Such was the advice given to Congress by Mr. Jefferson, when Minister Plenipotentiary to the court of France, respecting the debt due to the French nation. The precise terms are not recollected, but the substance may be depended upon. The poor Hollanders were to be victims.


Mr. Madison is the “particular friend” referred to. He brought Freneau to Philadelphia, encouraged him to start his newspaper, and helped him to obtain subscribers. Madison, in his letters, makes no secrecy of his agency in the affair.


It is believed that Mr. Freneau could throw light upon this question, by naming the day when his salary commenced.


The partial Indian hostilities which exist can hardly be deemed an interruption of the general peace.


The Discourses on Davila, by John Adams.


The total dissimilarity of style and manner, leaves no doubt that the writer of the first piece signed “Aristides,” is a different person from the writer of the last. The forces are well marshalled.


The words “might not be better,” are also said to have been interpolated, though all but the “not” are in the quotation made by the Vindicator; a specimen of his accuracy.


The quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson gave Washington much pain, and he accordingly wrote to both, urging forbearance and harmony in the interests of the administration. This was Hamilton’s reply. It is brief and manly and compares very favorably with Jefferson’s answer, written at the same time.


The quarrel between Adams and Hamilton had reached such a point in 1800 that, in the midst of the Presidential canvass, Hamilton lost his self-control and prepared this famous attack on Mr. Adams, which was intended for distribution among a few leading Federalists but which by an unfortunate accident fell into hostile hands and was hurried before the world by the machinations of Burr. It was certainly a very destructive pamphlet to the Federalist party, and no good was done by the impotent conclusion of advising people to vote for the very man whom the writer so fiercely assailed.


Mr. Adams, you are the Washington of negotiation.


I appeal particularly to Lt. Governor Van Rensselaer and R. Troup, Esq.


Of these two facts, my evidence is inferior to that which supports the other allegations of this letter; yet it is so strong that I feel myself warranted to state them.


I mean a lasting connection. From what I recollect of the train of my ideas, it is possible I may at some time have suggested a temporary connection for the purpose of co-operating against France, in the event of a definitive rupture; but of this I am not certain, as I well remember that the expediency of the measure was always problematical in my mind, and that I have occasionally discouraged it.


This and the next were the letters which preceded the publication of the pamphlet.


The reasons for printing here these famous “Observations,” known to history as the “Reynolds Pamphlet,” have already been given in the preface to these volumes. With his usual power of statement, Hamilton has told the story of the miserable affair so strongly and succinctly, that any words of explanation from his editor seem wholly superfluous. A brief statement, however, of the events which led to the publication of the pamphlet may not be out of place. In 1792, two men named Clingman and Reynolds were in jail for subornation of perjury in an attempt to obtain fraudulently the payment of a debt due from the United States. Muhlenburg, the Democratic Speaker, interested himself in behalf of Clingman in getting the prosecution stopped on restitution of the money, and Clingman then took occasion to intimate that Reynolds had a high officer of the government in his power. This fact Muhlenburg communicated to Venable and Monroe, and they all thereupon proceeded to the prison, where they had an interview with Reynolds. The upshot of this, and of another interview with Mrs. Reynolds, was that these two worthies and their confederate, Clingman, hinted that Hamilton had been concerned with Reynolds in buying up old claims against the government, and produced four anonymous and unimportant notes, which they attributed to Hamilton. Muhlenburg and his friends made memoranda of these precious conversations, and took possession of the notes. They then proceeded to call on Hamilton, who at once explained the matter by stating that he had had an intrigue with Mrs. Reynolds, and by producing letters from her in proof. All three of the inquisitors declared themselves satisfied. The next day, at Hamilton’s request, they sent him copies of their memoranda and of the notes, and agreed that the originals should be carefully kept from the former owners, so that they should be beyond the reach of misuse or of publication. Whether Monroe was even then plotting a second mean attack at a later time it is impossible to say. It is only certain that he had another interview with Clingman, who declared Hamilton’s explanation to be a fabrication originally made up between Hamilton and Reynolds to cover their real transactions, and all this rascally stuff Monroe embodied in still another memorandum. He then gave all the papers to “a respectable character in Virginia,” who four years later apparently turned them over to Callender, who printed them in his history avowedly to avenge the attacks then making on Monroe. Hamilton at once wrote to the three gentlemen for an explanation. Muhlenburg and Venable, as became men of honor, replied that they had been perfectly satisfied with Hamilton’s explanation, that they had never had copies of the papers, and had nothing to do with the publication. Monroe, on the contrary, dodged about, and backed and filled, and argued until Hamilton called him malevolent and dishonorable. He then said he was ready to fight, and Hamilton invited him to send a challenge, whereupon Monroe disclaimed any wish to send such a missive. Still he would not act like an honest man, and so Hamilton gave the whole story and all the documents to the world, and killed at a blow the despicable charge that he had been speculating in government claims. In so doing he cleared his name and fame as a public man, but it was at the cost of bitter mortification to himself, and displayed to the public gaze a wretched blot upon his private life. No harder trial and no more honorable act could well be devised than were involved in issuing this pamphlet. The original wrong-doing was terribly expiated, and the atonement to a proud, sensitive man was very hard to bear. The character which suffers most in the business is that of Monroe. On him rests a dark stain of dishonor, of slippery evasion, and of mean revenge, which has never been wiped out, and which apparently can never be lightened or diminished.


Would it be believed, after all this, that Mr. Jefferson, Vice-President of the United States, would write to this Fraunces friendly letters? Yet such is the fact, as will be seen in the Appendix, Nos. xliv. and xlv.


See the letter from Reynolds to Clingman, in which he declares that he will have satisfaction of me at all events, and that he trusts only to Clingman.