McHENRY, James (1753-1816)

MCHENRY, JAMES, a Delegate from Maryland; born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, November 16, 1753; pursued classical studies; immigrated to the United States about 1771 and settled in Philadelphia, Pa.; attended Newark Academy in Delaware; studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush, Philadelphia, Pa.; during the Revolution was appointed assistant surgeon in 1776 and later surgeon in the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion; British prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War, 1776-1778; assistant secretary to General George Washington, 1778-1780; appointed in 1780 to the staff of General Marquis de Lafayette and served in that capacity until the end of the war; Md. justice of the peace, c. 1782; member of the state senate 1781-1786, 1791-1796; member of the state house of delegates, 1788-1790; Member of the Continental Congress 1783-1786; delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and signed the Constitution; delegate to the Maryland ratification convention, 1788; appointed Secretary of War in the Cabinet of Presidents Washington and Adams and served from January 29, 1796, to May 13, 1800; resided at ``Fayetteville,'' his country estate, near Baltimore, Md., until his death on May 3, 1816; interment in Westminster (Presbyterian) Churchyard, Baltimore, Md.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Papers: ca. 1775-1862, 4.6 linear feet.
The papers of James McHenry include correspondence, memoranda, financial papers, and other papers relating to James McHenry's service in the Revolution, particularly as secretary to George Washington and on the staff of the Marquis de Lafayette; a diary (1787) kept by him as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention; and correspondence and related materials (1796-1800) covering his tenure as U.S. secretary of war and relating to such topics as Indian affairs, frigate construction, army regulations, and U.S. relations with England, France, and Spain. The papers are also accessible on microfilm. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Marian S. Carson Collection of Manuscripts, ca. 1656-1995, 26.4 linear feet.
Correspondents include James McHenry. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Robert Goodloe Harper Papers, 1796-1823, 50 items.
Correspondents include James McHenry.

Papers: In the The William A. Oldridge Collection of George Washington's Headquarters Staff Writings, 1775-1962, 200 items.
Correspondents include James McHenry.

Papers: In the Benjamin Stoddert Papers, 1784-1812, 37 items.
Correspondents include James McHenry.


Rutgers University Libraries
Special Collections and University Archives
New Brunswick, NJ
Papers: 1744-1815, 0.07 cubic foot.
The collection contains drafts and fair copies of verse (1774-1815) written by James McHenry and others; holograph copy of a 22 page letter (September 4, 1799) and related enclosures sent by Secretary of War McHenry from Trenton, New Jersey, to William Simmons, Esq., "Accountant War Department." Many of the poems are addressed to Mrs. McHenry, typically on the anniversary of the couple's marriage, although other family members and events are sometimes alluded to in the poems or their dedications. Separate poems are dedicated to Charles Carroll, Esq., and to Samuel D. Purviance. Titles represented include "On the River Rariton" and "To the River Rariton." Poems written by persons other than McHenry include "The Speculation" by Mr. [Samuel D.] Purviance "of Congress."

  • Brown, Frederick J. A Sketch of the Life of Dr. James McHenry... A Paper Read Before the Maryland Historical Society, November 13th, 1876. Baltimore: [Printed by J. Murphy], 1877.
  • McHenry, James. The James McHenry Papers... Sold by Order of the Heirs... Public Auction Sale... New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 1944.
  • ___. Journal of a March, a Battle, and a Waterfall, Being the Version Elaborated by James McHenry from his Diary of the Year 1778. [Greenwich?, Conn.]: Privately printed, 1945.
  • ___. Papers of Dr. James McHenry on the Federal Convention of 1787. [New York: N.p., 1906].
  • ___. A Sidelight on History. Being the Letters of James McHenry [to Thomas Sim Lee, Written During the Yorktown Campaign, 1781. [Southhampton, N.Y.]: Privately printed, 1931. Reprint, New York: The New York Times, [1971].
  • Robbins, Karen E. James McHenry: Forgotten Federalist. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.
  • Steiner, Bernard C. The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry, Secretary of War under Washington and Adams. Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1907. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1979.