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Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01540 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 26 August 1782 Pagination: 6 p. : docket ; 33 x 20.3 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Secretary of War Lincoln to Major General Knox. Marked "Private." References Knox's private letter of last Saturday evening sent by Frothingham. Asked him to reread his public letter of 31 July because "fearing from the warmth of expression that you supposed me more responsible than I really was & that I had omitted a part of my duty -- I am now satisfied -- do not wonder at my noticing every thing which looks like a hint that there has been an omission." Believes the officers should not address the assembly of Massachusetts on half pay at this time, as Congress has not recommended it as a settlement yet. Says the officer's application "should be directly to Congress from all the officers of the main Army praying that the several states may be directed to settle the half pay." Gives list of 5 reasons why they should wait to confront the state of Massachusetts. Says he has given his opinion in full freedom.

Full Transcript: Philadelphia Augt 26. 1782
I was honored my dear Sir with your private letter on Saturday evening by Frothingham
I was induced to wish you to read again your public letter ...of the 31st: [inserted: Ulto] fearing from the warmth of [expression] that you supposed me more responsible [than] I really was & that I had omitted a part of my duty - I am now satisfied - do not wonder at my noticing every thing [struck: thing] which looks like a hint that there has been an omission - perhaps I have been too anxious - and too jealous - If so my wish to merit your friendship, which I can not obtain or preserve, without the most scrupulous discharge of that [trust] committed to my care has been the cause. - [2]
I think our officers should not immediately address the assembly of Massachusetts on the subject of half pay as Congress have not recommended to the several States a settlement of the matter with their own officers - [inserted: I once thought with you that they had,] had this been done the application to our State would go with propriety and we might be sure of a decided answer but I imagine should the officers pursue their present intentions it will only create a delay [strikeout] end in disappointment and chagrin. - The State cannot as the Resolve now Stand, grant the request of the officers for they have no assurance that they will have credit for the sum in a general settlement of which they ought to be certain before they involve themselves in so great a debt as this will create. -
I think the application should be directly to Congress from all the officers of the main Army praying that the several States may be directed to Settle the half pay of their own officers found [3] the memorial on the information which has already been obtained that the States have different ideas respecting the half pay you can give ye public act of Connecticut as one in point if this measure should be adopted it will be convenient and advantageous. -
1 Because the half pay will then become a debt of the several States and not the debt of the United States which is to be wished
2 Because it [struck: is] [inserted: would be] much easier to pay all the debts of the United States, could they be equally proportioned on the several States, than it will to pay them as debts of the United States for it is difficult if not impossible, as we see by the first attempt which has been made, to fix on a general tax on the united States which, in their opinion, shall do equal justice to all.
3 Because the several States are jealous of the power of Congress and they will very reluctantly lodge in their hands such ample funds as shall inable them to discharge this debt to their officers [4] and the multiplicity of the debts which have been contracted & [struck: must be] are of such a nature as must be paid by the States unitedly. -
4 Because here by it will put it in the power of the Officers, knowing the temper and disposition of their own State, to make such a compromise as shall conduce most to their own happiness and best comport with the [genius] of the inhabitants. -
5 Because of this mode, of recommending the [inserted: discharge of the] half pay to the several States and the expense brought into a general charge, [inserted: should be adopted] some consideration, I have no doubt, will be made to all the officers, for there are States which will do it, this will induce others to take care of their own officers as they must pay their proportion of what is paid to the officers of neighbouring States. -
Because if it is not adopted [inserted: I think nothing will be paid for] I am very apprehensive that there cannot be a vote obtained in Congress to call upon the States to establish funds for the payment of it and even if they should many States I think could not attend to the call. - [5]
These are among the reasons which induce me to wish that the officers would apply and that Congress would recommend to the several States to settle with their own officers the half pay promised. -
I am fully in opinion with you that some compensation should be made to the Soldiers of the description you have given - They were encouraged to believe that the war would [strikeout] soon be at an end - I remember that General Lee whose opinion at that time had its weight in the Army, (in general orders) in the most pointed manner assured the army that the war could not continue three years - that was the language to the men - The war has continued, some compensation is due to them on that account - but when we consider how far short we have fallen in our engagements to them we cannot doubt but they have a very considerable claim in justice upon us, justice must be done them. [6]
Thus my dear Sir, agreeable to your wish, I have given you my opinion at large on the subject of half pay and [inserted: of] a compensation to the Old Soldiers I have done it with freedom and without reprove because I know my self safe in your hands and that no improper use will be made of the letter
with affection and esteem
I am yours Sincerely
B Lincoln
NB In reading the letter since it was closed I discover some thing under the 5th. reason which doth not appear to be quite open and generous it looks like an attempt to be cunning and to lead Congress into a measure which will have consequences that do not at first appear - I do not wish anything may take place inconsistint with that [strikeout] [diamond] fair play

From Genl Lincoln 26
August 1782
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralGovernment and CivicsMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyPensionsSoldier's PayContinental CongressCongressPetition

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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