Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) to Henry Knox
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01729
Author/Creator: Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810)
Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 3 December 1782
Pagination: 10 p. : docket ; 23.5 x 18.8 cm.
Summary of Content: Written by Secretary of War Lincoln to Major General Knox. References Knox’s letter of 25 November. Says he has suffered anxiety over his long silence and lack of acknowledgement of his letters. Says he told Congress in strong terms of the distress the army suffered for want of pay. Says he told Congress that the information came from the best sources and was not simply grumbling. Says he told Congress that many troops still need pay dating back to 1 January and that some states have helped, but others have not. Reported to the legislature that this caused ”uneasiness” among the troops. Also reported that the officers are upset about Congress’s inability to decide on a half-pay pension. Says a committee in Congress have put together a report and he believes it will recommend the states to fund their own lines to 1 January 1781. Says the same committee seems to want to recommend that pensions be funded by the states, but does not want to seem as if they are passing the buck. Discusses the details of how to handle the situation in Congress. Marked ”copy” on verso.
Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783
Full Transcript: Philadelphia Decr. 3d: 1782 - , Private, I was the last evening Mr. dear Sir honored with your favor of the 25 Ulto - , Your long silence and your omitting even to acknowledg the receipt of many of my letters has been a source from which I have suffered much anxiety from an apprehension that by some means or other [inserted: I had] wounded your feelings and thereby had forfeited your friendship, this led me to review with the most scrupulous concern every action which related to you, and though I was not conscious of having, either in thought word of deed been betrayed into an unkind act yet my apprehensions were strengthened when I found myself leaving camp, after a journey to visit of one hundred & thirty miles and a stay therein for five days that I had neither seen or received a line from my  friend Knox - I meant notwithstanding on my way to the Massachusetts, [struck: to leave] which I now expect will be in two or three weeks, to have called on you for a friendly explaination of these matters and to have settled some business of a public nature this I mean yet to do should the weather permit it when I arrive at Head Quarters though I have not now every motive for doing it which existed before the receipt of your letter - , Just before I went to camp I represented [inserted: to Congress] in very strong terms the difficulties which really existed in the army from the want of pay and that the most disagreeable consequence were to be feared if some supply should not be given before the close of the year I informed them that my information on this matter did not rest on the vague whispers of idle and disaffected  but on the apprehensions of those who have the best intentions and the best means of information - , Immediately after my return from camp I again represented to Congress the sufferings of the army from the same cause - That the [inserted: a]mount of their pay antendent to the first day of Jany last was is an unsettled condition - That the army d[insert: id] not know when to look for a settlement - That some states have settled for the pay and rations of their lines to the first of Jany 1782 others had omitted the retained rations and had not brought their settlement so far forward, that these things created uneasiness among the troops - That the mode of filling up [vacancies] which might happen in the retained regiments was unpleasing to the Army they supported that retiring officers should not again come into service  but when new corps were raised for them - That the resolve which prohibited the issuing [inserted: commissions] to fill up all vacancy was considered as an injury - That the officers were alarmed in the amount of uncertainty of the half pay promised by Congress, the proviso in the act of one of the United States* granting a duty of five percent much increased their apprehensions that it appeared to me that much the greatest part of the officers would be more happy were the States called upon to settle with their own officers that half pay - promised., My letter was committed, Congress have removed two of the complaints that respecting to the filling vacancies & issuing commissions - That part of my letter which relates to the fear of the Army is committed to Mr. Morris on which he is to report ,  The committee have agreed on a report relative to a settlement with the Army, I believe it will be finally recommended to the Several States to settle with their own hires to the first of Jany 178[struck: 2] [inserted: 1]- 1781, That part of my letter which relates to that half pay of the Army has also been under consideration of the committee - they seem to be of opinion that it must be referred to the Several States but so as not to absolve Congress from their promise should the states neglect the settlement - Thus the matters now stand. I think the committee [inserted: from ye Army] will have a very easy task in all the matters saving that of procuring the money instantly this I think will be impossible though I am confident that Mr. Morris is doing everything  which is possible to be done and I think he will succeed. -, I am deeply interested in bringing about a speedy settlement with the Army and in placing the half pay upon some permanent basis and shall certainly give them all the support in my power - much I think depend on the measures we now take respecting the half pay and as I am to stand or fall with the army I am confident I shall be indulged in giving my sentiments freely on the Subject -, I say my dear Sir that in my opinion we have no well founded expectations of receiving our half pay, or any compensation for it, unless the matter is referred for a settlement to the Several States - For in the first place nominees can be appropriated but by the voice of nine, [*Connecticut], States - Nine States were never in favor of the half pay consequently  was the money now in the hands of Congress a vote could not be obtained therein for the appropriating it to this purpose - But the money is not there it must be placed in the continental treasury by general taxes to be hereafter agreed on or in the mode pointed out by the consideration - If we trace the progress of the act - through the United States for laying the five pcent duty and view it in the present state we shall have little reason to suppose that it will finally pass - even if it should it cannot be of any use in the payment of the half pay of the army while the [illegible] remain which have been put upon it by some of the states - If this tax which was supposed the least exceptionable is attended with so much difficulty we may not expect any other general tax will pass - indeed I think it is not to be wondered at [inserted: that they will not] [struck: that] in so extensive a  continent where the quality of the lands and the views of the inhabitants are so different - if therefore we may not expect money will be placed in the hands [inserted: of Congress] by the Several States under the operation of general taxes sufficient to enable them annually to pay the half pay promised to the army it must be placed there, if lodged at all, by the United States in a mode pointed out by the consideration. Let us examine, in short, the progress of this mode - In the first place an estimate must be made of the expense annually and laid before Congress it is then considered by that body they may or may not pass it this will depend on the ideas of the several members & on the instructions they may receive on the subject - if the states who originally opposed the measure should instruct their Delegates not to appropriate any money to this purpose  an appropriation could not pass Congress and the opposition is to formidable to be coerced by the other part of the United States but suppose there should be no instructions given and Congress should recommend to the Several States to assess their proportion on their inhabitants before this could be done it must be the subject of debate in the several general assemblies - in determining the propriety or impropriety of assessing the sum the character and even the dress and mode of living of the several officers and of their families, if they have any, will be handled with some little freedom, if old habits are kept up, and if on the whole any thing should be granted it would be considered as a gift - These are circumstances too humiliating to be endured and the tenour on which we shall hold the half pay too uncertain to be  submitted to - I have no hopes of reaping any benefits from the resolves of Congress of the 21 Oct 1780 unless we are referred to our Several States for a settlement [strikeout] I hope that will be the object of the committee I have great confidence in the justice of our States, [strikeout] [inserted: as well as in others,] I have not a doubt but something handsome will be done for the officers -, If the committee came I wish they would do it before I have the City [struck: and] [inserted: for] if there should go a recommendation to the State I shall be happy in giving it all the support in my power, with esteem & affection , I am my Dear Sir, Yours, B Lincoln, Hon Gen , Knox -, , [docket], from General Lincoln 3 Dec. , 1782 -, Copy., that -
Keywords/Subjects: Revolutionary War;, Revolutionary War General;, Military History;, Continental Army;, Continental Congress;, Congress;, Government and Civics;, Soldier’s Pay;, Finance;, Newburgh Conspiracy;, Pension
Sub Era: The War for IndependenceOrder Image