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Secretary of the Navy's Opinion Regarding Presidential Power Over Officers' Commissions, Relative to the Court Martial of Richard Hunt

Sources & Images
Source Name Image(s)
CollectionMassachusetts Historical Society: John Adams Papers view image
Document Information
Date July 6, 1799
Author Name Benjamin Stoddert (primary) Location: Navy Department
Recipient Name James McHenry (primary)
Summary The Secretary of the Navy expresses his opinions on the matter of presidential power of military appointment, and its relation to the recent court martial of Sgt. Richard Hunt. Notes that the officers who comprised the court had received notification of appointment and each sent word of his acceptance; states his view that a commission is a sign of appointment, not the appointment itself. Believes it most ideal for proving authority that officers have their commissions in hand, but notes that this is not vital, and that many officers served in the Revolution for years without having received their commissions. Notes that the perceived issue of a lack of a 2/3 concurrence of the court upon the death sentence was purportedly caused by an omitted line in the report, not a breach in procedure, and this was added later by the president and judge advocate of the court -- believes this later addition, outside of the proceedings of the court itself, to have been illegal. Says that only the sentence as originally transmitted can be legal -- but whether that sentence was sufficiently authoritative to sentence death depends upon Army precedent in similar cases. In his opinion, all depends on whether the inclusion of a line signifying the 2/3 majority has been considered necessary or merely a formality by the army.
Document Format Autograph Letter Signed
Document Notes Enclosed in McHenry to Adams, 07/12/1799.
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups James McHenry; Benjamin Stoddert; Sergeant Hurt; Hart; officers; General Alexander Hamilton; President of the Court; Judge Advocate; prisoner; ;
Related Places Navy Department;
Keywords sentence; court martial; Commissions; appointment; evidence; certificate; proceedings; execution; opinion;
Key Phrases sentenced to death by a court martial;

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