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Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00878 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 23 January 1781 Pagination: 5 p. ; 32.4 x 20.1 cm.

Summary of Content: General Lincoln discusses the issue of paying officers at half-pay for the rest of their lives at the close of the war. Instead, advocates giving them one lump sum at the end of the war.

Full Transcript: Boston, January 23rd 1781

My dear Sir,
About the time that the address from the General Officers of the New England line reached this State, the resolves of Congress, providing half-pay ...for the Officers, from the close of the war, during life, came to hand - which, it was then said, suppressed the necessity of any orders being taken on the matter by the different Assemblies - this I supposed was in fact the case; as no person was requested to second and support it -
It would pain me exceedingly should the application die here-for the idea of half pay is so opposite to the genius of New England - that the money will be paid with reluctance, the Officers made unhappy in the use of it, and his feelings constantly wounded by insinuations that he is a pensioner on public alms -
I therefore wish that the half pay for life might be relinquished, though we should not be able to obtain in another way a sum equal thereto - I think it would not be difficult [struck: to get something] [inserted: now to get a resolution [struck: from] of the Genl . Court offering the officers something] very handsome [struck: From this State] [inserted: to be paid] at the close [2] of the war- and their acknowledgements that the donation was the just tribute due their services-which circumstance would be more acceptable and grateful to the Officers, than an augmented sum paid with reluctance and remarked on with murmurs -
I find by Doctor Halley's table of annuties [sic] that at Twenty-five years of age a man's life is estimated at 12-27. years purchase
at Thirty years----------------------at 11-72.
at Thirty five years----------------at 11-12.
at Forty years-----------------------at 10-57.
at Forty five-------------------------at 9-91.
at Fifty-------------------------------at 9-21.
at Fifty five--------------------------at 8-57.
at Sixty-------------------------------at 7-60.
Should a proposition be made by the Officers, urging to receive a sum in gross at the close of the war - I have, an order to regulate our judgements, made the following calculations, founded on the above principles [illegible] supporting 20/ the half pay for a year

Age Years purchase Amount for Life Years pay at ye Close of ye War Amount of the Sum in Gross
25 12.27 £ 17.09 4~ 9/20 £ 17.09
30 ~11.72 ~15.57 4 31/100 ~15.57
35 ~11.12 ~15.03 4 3/10 ~15.03
40 10.57 ~13.58 3 9/10 ~13.58
45 9.91 ~12.08 3 7/10 ~12.08
50 9[.]21 ~11.60 3.5 ~11.60
55 8.51 ~10.17 3.33 ~10.17
60 7.60 8.67 2.95 ~8.67

[3] Thus you see, Sir, that all under thirty may safely compromise for 4 ½ Years pay on the close of the war - all above thirty and under forty for four years - all above forty and under fifty for 3 ½ and all above fifty and under 60 for 3 ¼.
Much is said with respect to the half pay for life, and it is considered as a burden on the people - I am confident without foundation; and that every complaint would subside if the matter was reviewed with the eye of justice and impartiality - for I am sure that one year's pay at the close of the war, or indeed no other compensation than a fair settlement of all past wages would be better for the Officer, and put more money in his pocket than half pay for life, sat down with the present settlement of affairs -
For in the first place, when the pay of the Officer was established the necessaries of life were near fifty pcent lower than they were rated at by the Committee who estimated and settled the Officer's depreciation money -
I suppose that it will be said the Articles were estimated according to the value they bore, when the new Army was raised, and that if any Officer [4] knowing his wages, compared with the produce of the Country, disapproved of them he might have declared the service - I would appeal to such persons, and enquire whether at that time any Officer, who was invited to remain in service, could have declined it with honor to himself - and whether his complaint of the high price of articles at that time would have been thought a sufficient justification for his returning home - Besides, the depreciation is but in part made up - no consideration has been made prior to January 1777. although the Officers suffered greatly before - and since that time, instead of settling with them once a year, and giving them credit for their ballance [sic] and interest the next year, they have estimated the whole sum at once, and thereby have in fact kept the Officers out of most of their pay for three years together; while they were at that time borrowing money of their friends for which and the interest thereon they must be accountable - But, in addition to all this were the Officers paid at the expiration of the three years? -No- They received a State note for the sum, postponing the payment for fifteen months - What proportion did the notes bear in value to money in hand? Not more than one half - so that this very act postponing [5] payment of the Officers and Soldiers notes sunk one half the value - It may be said that the Army should have kept them - It was not in their power to do it - for having received so little of the real value of their wages antecedent thereto, many of them had exhausted every resource within their reach - whose fault was it that the exchange of those notes was so far under par? I will venture to say that it cannot be charged upon the army - the cause is to be lamented - & I think it may easily be investigated -
What stamps value on paper money, bills notes & fees? - their being considered to have a certain worth compared with the silver and gold they will bring - If, then, such was the state of our public credit that those notes would not bring more than half their nominal sum in silver & gold- should the Army, in justice, be charged with more, because in some future period they may be of more value - Had it been at the option of the Army to have taken them on the money - nothing could be said by way of objection - but, when these are palmed on them at a certain value far above what they would pass at between Man and Man it gives cause of complaint and is a real injury to the Army - I am my dear Sir,
Affectionately yours
B. Lincoln
General Knox
See More

People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryContinental ArmySoldier's PayFinance

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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