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Von Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin (1730-1794) to John Hancock

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00598 Author/Creator: Von Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin (1730-1794) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Letter signed Date: 14 October 1784 Pagination: 4 p. : docket ; 32 x 20 cm.

Written by von Steuben in retirement after resigning his commission in March 1784 to Hancock as Governor of Massachusetts. Says he is writing to secure his prospects for a satisfactory retirement. Says he is waiting to hear if the United States government will provide him with monetary support for his service during the Revolution. Says he is tired of the "bussle of ambition" and hopes for rest, but wants to remain in America as a citizen. If he is not made a citizen he will have to return to Europe. Lists his merits, even though he says it is "an undelicate task." Says "It is the practice of all nations to bestow ample rewards on foreigners who have served them usefully - can the American Government after a conflict which gave them Independence, refuse to make such a provision for me[?]" Says he is writing to gain support from various public bodies in the states to support his application to Congress because he knows that body is "diffident" to measures not agreeable to their constituents. Silked for preservation and slightly age-stained.

New York Octr. 14th. 1784
The opinion I entertain of your freindly disposition towards me induces me to address you on a subgect in which I am deeply interested. At my time of life you will easily concieve my dear Sir, it is essential to me to decide upon that plan which affords me the fairest prospect of being able to spend the remainder with satisfaction-At all events I must come to a determination; and that determination will depend on the fate of an appeal which I shall shortly make to the justice and generosity of the United States-Tired of the bustle of ambition desirous of repose and attach'd from sentiment to a Country for the service of which I have made important sacrifices, and at a critical moment risked my fortunes and my hon'or-I shall be happy if that Country will put it in my power to indulge my partiality for it by remaining its citizen-This I confess to you is the first wish of my Heart- If I am disappointed I must return to Europe to avail myself of the resources which that part of the world may afford me-
It would seem to me that so adventurous a step as that which embarked in the late revolution an old Soldier with reputation to lose.-to say [2] nothing of the relinquishment of offices and emolument, has some claim to the attention of the nation in whose behalf it was taken, especially when possessed of the obgect for which it was taken
It would also seem to me that when it is acknowledged not only by the general voice of the citizens but by the records of the state that the services of such a person have contributed to the attainment of that object in a manner that intitled him to [struck: the] public distinction, it is not unreasonable for him to expect that, that [inserted: distinction] will be accompanied by such a provision as will enable him to enjoy it-
It is an indelicate task for a man to details his own merits, but if as Congress have declared I have been eminently useful in giving form and discipline to the American Army; and by introducing a spirit of order and oeconomy have been the occasion of large savings of public money-may I not with propriety expect from the public to whom those services were rendered, for the remainder of an advanced life, a genteel and competent support-I know well the situation of the Country-my wishes are not immoderate-they are such as a frugal republic may with prudence gratify, and such as in my apprehension the justice an honour of the government cannot refuse-
[3] It is the practice of all nations to bestow ample rewards on foreigners who have served them usefully-can the American Government after a contest which gave them Independence, refuse to make such a provision for one whom they acknowledge to have been a useful instrument in obtaining it as will save him from the necessity of leaving a country to which inclination binds him, in quest of resources which are denied him there
These expostulations my dear Sir are unnecessary as addressed to you-your own sensibility I am persuaded will suggest more than I can offer and you will only recieve them as the effusions of feeling-dictated by a situation sufficiently critical
The intention of this letter is briefly this immediately after the reassembling of Congress I intend to bring my affairs with body to a conclusion-and to ascertain definitively what I am to expect I [struck: illegible] [inserted: could] wish-if such is the sense of the public bodies in the different States-that the delegates of each may have some intimation, no matter in how informal a manner, that it is the desire of the government to which the respectively belong-that my application to Congress may meet, with a prompt and liberal dicision-this is not suggested by any Distrust of Congress [4] but because I have found from experience, that the members of that body are very properly diffident of adopting any measure which do not know to be agreable to the sense of their constituents I am [text loss] your influence would go far towards procuring such an intimation, and if you see nothing improper in the thing I would take the liberty to ask your friendship upon this occasion
I have the Honor to be
your Excellency's
most obedient
Humble Servt.
Steuben HH
His Excellency
Jno. Hancock Esqr.

Baron Steuben

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