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A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789 by Edward C. Papenfuse, et. al.
Volume 426, Page 589   View pdf image (33K)
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BIOGRAPHIES McH

of the Revolution, he apparently gave up this
profession permanently when he joined General
Washington's staff. McHenry was included as a
partner in the family mercantile business, Daniel
McHenry & Son, before 1775, although his par-
ticipation was probably not significant until after
his father's death in 1782. When McHenry ac-
cepted the position as secretary of the War De-
partment in 1796, he gave up his share in two
"mercantile partnerships" to enter public office
free of private business interests. McHenry com-
piled and published the Baltimore Directory and
Citizens Register for 1807. PUBLIC CAREER. LEG-
ISLATIVE SERVICE: Senate, Western Shore, Term
of 1781-1786: 1781-1782, 1782-1783, 1783, 1784,
1785 (did not attend; resigned on January 7, 1786);
Lower House, Baltimore Town, 1788, 1789; Sen-
ate, Western Shore, Term of 1791-1796: 1791-
1792, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795. OTHER STATE OF-
FICE: Constitution Ratification Convention, Bal-
timore Town, 1788. LOCAL OFFICES: justice, Bal-
timore County, 1782-1784 (resigned); justice,
Orphans' Court, Baltimore County, 1783, 1784.
MILITARY SERVICE: volunteered as a surgeon for
the American army in Cambridge, Massachu-
setts, by January 1776; surgeon, Fifth Pennsyl-
vania Battalion, commissioned on August 10, 1776,
taken prisoner by the British at Fort Washington
on November 16, 1776, paroled on January 27,
1777, exchanged March 1778; senior surgeon,
Flying Hospital, 1778; assistant secretary to Gen.
George Washington, appointed on May 15, 1778,
sworn on June 9, 1778; transferred to Lafayette's
staff in August 1780; major, with commission dated
October 30, 1780; remained with Lafayette through
the southern campaign and at Yorktown; re-
signed from the Army on December 3, 1781. OUT
OF STATE SERVICE: delegate, Continental Con-
gress, 1783-1785 (elected on May 12, 1783, to
fill vacancy; reelected in November 1783 and De-
cember 1784); delegate, Federal Constitutional
Convention, signer, 1787; secretary, Department
of War, appointed on January 27, 1796, resigned
on May 6, 1800 (effective June 1, 1800). As sec-
retary of war, McHenry handled Indian affairs as
well as military and naval business until the latter
was assigned to Benjamin Stoddert (ca. 1751-1813)
in 1798. Involved with the preparations for pos-
sible war with France, McHenry frequently relied
on Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) for advice
on problems of the War Department and on mat-
ters referred by President Adams to the cabinet.
It was this reliance upon Hamilton which caused
Adams to request McHenry's resignation in 1800.

As for McHenry's performance in office, Wash-
ington wrote, "I early discovered after he
(McHenry) entered upon the duties of his office,
that his talents were unequal to great exertions,
or deep resources." Hamilton defended Mc-
Henry, writing that he was "sensible, judicious,
well-informed, of an integrity never questioned.
....."A later biographer of McHenry wrote that
his management of the War Department was
"marked more by fidelity and industry than by
any conspicuous talent for conducting the com-
plicated affairs of a great department." STANDS
ON PUBLIC/PRIVATE ISSUES: McHenry signed the
U.S. Constitution with some reservations, but with
the feeling that its superiority to confederation
warranted its approval. He supported ratification
of the Constitution without amendments.
Throughout his career McHenry was a staunch
Federalist; he maintained an active correspond-
ence with his Federalist associates until his death.
In 1791 McHenry wrote a commendation of Ben-
jamin Banneker's almanac, saying, "I consider
this negro as a fresh proof that the powers of the
mind are disconnected with the color of his skin.
....."He supported the establishment of a college
in Baltimore City, 1803. A modern historian has
written that McHenry "was not a great man, but
he participated in great events and great men
loved him." WEALTH DURING LIFETIME. PERSONAL

PROPERTY: 6 slaves, 1790. ANNUAL INCOME: When

divesting himself of his shares in two Baltimore
partnerships in 1796, McHenry stated that one
had netted him £1,000.0.0 per year for five years
and that the other was sold at an "actual loss" of
about £3,000.0.0. He once told President Wash-
ington that there was no need to increase his sal-
ary as secretary of the War Department. LAND
AT FIRST ELECTION: probably none. SIGNIFICANT

CHANGES IN LAND BETWEEN FIRST ELECTION AND

DEATH: received 400 acres of federal bounty lands
for service in the Revolution; inherited the prop-
erty of his brother John, probably including 3 lots
and a lease on a fourth lot in Baltimore Town,
1790; purchased 8 lots and the ground rents on
additional lots, all in Baltimore Town, 1791; pur-
chased ca. 92 acres and 9 lots adjoining Baltimore
Town to the west in 1792, and built his mansion,
"Fayetteville," named for the Marquis de Lafay-
ette; purchased the title to those lots on which
he held ground rents, 1796; sold 1 and one-half
lots in Baltimore City, 1796-1799; purchased 2
lots and obtained long-term leases on 3 lots in
Baltimore City, 1799-1803; leased out 9 lots in
Baltimore City, 1803-1804; purchased over 9 acres

589



 

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A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature 1635-1789 by Edward C. Papenfuse, et. al.
Volume 426, Page 589   View pdf image (33K)
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