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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to Benjamin Lincoln

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01532 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New Windsor, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 August 1782 Pagination: 5 p. : docket ; 33.5 x 21 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Major General Knox to Secretary of War Lincoln. References 2 private letters from 7 and 10 August. Says he cannot furnish him estimates. Says he read over his last public letter (which was on the issue of soldiers pensions at half pay) to Lincoln of 31 July and cannot find anything improper in it. On the peace negotiations, he says "Unequivocally then, we have drank such liberal draughts at the fountain of peace that we can see no other object." Goes on to say that "The independence of America being fully acknowledged, say we[,] France will be easily satisfied by the adjustment of interests which it is in the power of Great Britain to make. Spain and Holland are too much like America, in the want of energy in their governments to be able to depart from the proposition which shall be thought reasonable by the imperial power." Says the idea of half pay for officers is an idea that is circulating now that peace is spoken of. Says the officers want to know if the state will conform to what Congress recommends. Says it would be beneficial if Lincoln was with the army to hear his advice. Says he thinks the army deserves to be properly compensated for its services and claims "a full denial of this justice will be a moral crime of great magnitude." Says the "old soldiers" deserve to be compensated and that those who enlisted before 1777 for the war's duration deserve to be compensated like the officers. Says "the expense of it can be no objection if the measure be just" as most of the officers have expended more than half their pay in the service of their country. Expresses frustration that Congress can do nothing. Says the other states need to follow Connecticut's lead and grant lands in lieu of half pay. Will send a list of books to recommend to Congress next week. 5 page letter -- first 4 pages on a sheet 33.5 x 21 cm. Last page on a smaller sheet -- 20.3 x 20.8 cm. The smaller page seems to be a cleaner write-up of material on page 3.

Full Transcript: New Windsor 19 Augt 1782
I have to thank you my dear friend for your two [inserted: private] letters of the 7th and 10th instant. I really feel for your Situation ...in not having the power to comply with or furnish your own estimates, and I can very readily participate with [struck: you] you in the pain of a fruitless application. I have done as you desired and read over my public letter to you of the [31] ultimo, and not having then, or ever any other idea, than that every thing that was possible your part, has been [struck: done] [inserted: performed], I can see nothing improper as it applys to you [strikeout] certainly I meant [struck: noth] no imputation. perhaps there may be a warmth of regret that I cannot see, but which [struck: has] [inserted: may have] insensibly involved itself with my public transactions. be so candid my dear Sir as to point [struck: no] out the defect and assure yourself you shall have no cause to repeat your hint.
You ask [struck: me what will be the effect] [inserted: my opinion of] the present negociations for peace? Unequivocally then, we have drank such [struck: large] liberal draughts at the fountain of peace that we can see no other object. Our reasonings [struck: then] all tend to this point. The independence of America being [strikeout] [inserted: fully] acknowledged [inserted: by [illegible]], France will be easily satisfied by the adjustment of interests which it is in the power of Great Britain to [struck: give] [inserted: make]. Spain and Holland, are too much like America, in the want of energy [inserted: in] their governments to be able [2] to disent from the propositions which shall be thought reasonable by the imperial power on our side the question. the issue depends on the sincerity of England - Thus you see, we are ready reasoners, and can Square the event [struck: accordingly] as we wish.
The cry of peace, has awaken'd the idea [struck: of] in the Army of half pay, or compensation for service in some form. [strikeout] It is the general opinion among the officers that a commutation would be more beneficial considering all things; than the half pay itself - The officers talk of [inserted: immediately] addressing the State [struck: on the subject] and requesting to know in explicit terms, whether they will conform to the ordinance of Congress, or [struck: make that a commutation of it in [strikeout] form] [inserted: modify it] so as to be more agreeable to the people. This is a matter of great moment to the Army, [struck: and] I sincerely wish you were here, to assist with your [advice] it.
It appears to me to be highly reasonable that America who under heaven is indebted to the Army for their existence, should besides the pay and rations, which were intended, and which indeed had they been [regularly receiving] would have amounted only to the daily subsistance could the [struck: only their daily subsistance, should] make some further allowance as a compensation in a degree for the loss of hea[l]th, time and [text loss] the peculiar hardships & severities they have undergone. a [inserted: full] denial of this [inserted: justice] [struck: in some]. [3] [struck: form or in some way or other, in substance] [inserted in the left hand margin: a full denial of this Justice would be a crime a great enormity. [inserted in the left hand margin and struck: perhaps I am rather singular on this subject -] [strikeout: It would be the detestable sin of ingratitude] [struck: to speak in the style of my country] Justice will be a moral crime [struck: of such] [inserted: great] magnitude. [struck: to and such as I hope [cause in] [illegible illegible] [highest] of [loses] to pull down the imediate vengence of illegible of the authors of it if not the whole community to.] But I suppose [struck: the Legislature] [inserted: Massachusetts] will be more liberal than to deny what is so [strikeout] [inserted: richly] due. The form is immaterial, it is the Justice the Army want.
[struck: B] In requesting compensation for the [struck: officers] [inserted: Army], I cannot see the propriety of omitting the case of the old soldiers. I think if [struck: recompense] [inserted: it] should be obtaind [inserted: at the rate of any given number of years pay] that the [struck: old] soldiers who enlisted in 77 for the War, ought to be as [struck: fully com] amply comprehended, as any officers of the same standing. [struck: without] [inserted and struck: unless] [inserted: Except] this [struck: shall] be urged, [inserted and struck: by the] [struck: that will be cause for] [inserted: we shall incur] the charge of selfishness, which is an abominable military crime. [struck: The reason] I take up none of a later date [struck: is that] [inserted: because] [inserted then struck: they] all [struck: of them] [inserted: of them] have received enormous bounties, without performing [struck: the same t] any [struck: thing like the same] [inserted: comparative] services as the [struck: soldiers] [inserted then strikeout] [inserted: veterans] of 77. But it would be [struck: just] [inserted: proper] to deduct from their accounts all state bounties and donatives of mony they may have received. I have have [struck: endevord to place] [inserted: endeavd to placed] this subject in all the different points of view, and I cannot see any reasons or objections to it - The expence [struck: of it] can be no objection [struck: of it is just] if the measure be just - However even that [struck: would] [inserted: can] not be [struck: very great] [inserted: much] as the number [inserted: is not great] of the description it ought to be extended to. [struck: If it] if you can spare so much time I beg you to [struck: write] [inserted: detail] me your [4] [inserted: opinion] at large by the return of Frothingham - [struck: some] [inserted: Gentlemen] have thought that an application ought to be made to Congress - but I see no propriety of this - Congress have recommended the measure and the States have not complied [struck: with it] [struck: What] They can do nothing but repeat the recommendation. If we rely on Congress for the payment, we shall deceive ourselves. [struck: Congress] [inserted: They] have no funds or will they ever [inserted: any] have for this purpose. Connecticut has set the example of guarding the funds [struck: against and] [inserted: from] appropriations to half pay. The same reasons must operate, with many additional ones, to obtain all arrearages of pay from the State. [struck: in pursuence to Congress, who have not, and who probably will not have in their [inserted: to make] power to make any promises to upon that same. upon that point]
[struck: I have entrusted] Mr. Frothingham [struck: to obtain] [inserted: will receive] some money for me. if [strike: he gets it] I have directed him to pay you the ballance of the bank account. I should have done it before but I have not had a good opportunity.
I am my dear Sir
Your affectionate friend
and humble Servt
General Lincoln.
[strike: I have not yet had]
You request me to send my opinion respecting such books as may be necessary for
the War department. this I shall under take with diffidence, but [strike: shall not be able to Com] but will submit it to you next post.
[5] [marked for insertion in place of equivalent text on pages 2-3:] It appears to me so highly reasonable that America who under Heaven is indebted to the Army for her existence should make it some compensation, for the value of its Service. The pay and rations were intended, and were not more than Sufficient for clothing [struck: and] daily subsistence [inserted: and other expences as were incident to their stations]. There are few or no officers in the Army who are a credit to their profession but what have expended as much money as is equal to all the pay due to them. Those who had it not of their own are in debt for it. This applys with accumulated strength to those officers who have had families to maintain. certainly some further allowance is due, as a recompense in a degree for the loss of hea[l]th time and the peculiar severities and hardships they have undergone. A full denial of this justice would be a [struck: moral] crime of great enormity. It would be the [strikeout] [inserted: execrable] [struck: crime] [inserted: sin] of ingratitude.

To General Lincoln 19 Augt
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralPensionsSoldier's PayFinanceDiplomacyTreatyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFreedom and IndependenceFranceGovernment and CivicsContinental ArmyMorality and EthicsContinental CongressCongressLand TransactionLibraryBook Selling

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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