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Osgood, Samuel (1748-1813) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01730 Author/Creator: Osgood, Samuel (1748-1813) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 4 December 1782 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 33 x 20.2 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Osgood as a Continental Congressmen from Massachusetts to Major General Knox. References Knox's letter of 2 November. After reading it says he "began to repent that I had wrote you with Respect to the System for the Adjutant Genl. Department." Feels honored that Knox was willing to be candid about what he felt were the reasons for the Massachusetts legislature denying half-pay pensions to army officers. It seems that a letter Osgood wrote to Lowell, a member of the legislative committee considering the pension issue, was harmful to the officer's cause. Says "I am extremely sorry that I ever wrote that Letter; which was never intended for the public Eye." Says it was written to a friend and that it was not written with the accuracy and attention it deserved. Claims "If I us'd the Word 'excessive' I think the Tenor of my Letter will fully show in what Sense I us'd it." Describes his use of the word "excessive" in relation to officers who only served 1 or 2 years. Says he has worked to convince members of Congress to recommend that states individually satisfy the pensions, but that an officer who served 7-8 years has "disqualified himself for private Business." Goes on to say "I have little Idea of Roman Virtue contented with a few Acres. - But my dear Friend, what can a Person have suffered in one or two years by mere Absence from private Business?" Says he simply wants a distinction made.

Full Transcript: [draft]
My dear Sir Philadelphia 4 Dec. 1782

This Morning I Recd. your Favor of the 2d. of November: It gave me the more sensible
Pleasure, because I began to repent that ...I had wrote you with Respect to the system for the
Adjutant Genl. Department. - And more especially, as you have mentioned with Freedom, a
Matter which has given [inserted: me] no small Degree of Anxiety. - I must acknowledge it as a
particular Mark of Friendship in you, so candidly to give me one of the Reasons, why the
Application of the Officers of the Masstts. Line to the Legislature thereof fail'd: you mention my
Letter to Mr. Lowell, as having conduced to prevent a Plan which would have given much
Dignity to the state, & Contentment to the Army upon this Observation I am extremely sorry that
I ever wrote that Letter; which was never intended for the public Eye; - It was wrote to a Friend
in whom I had never discovered any Thing but the most cordial Affection for the Army, &
consequently was not wrote with that Accuracy & Attention which I should have otherwise
aimed at - If I us'd the Word "excessive" I think the Tenor of my Letter will fully show in what
sense I us'd it. If I do not misremember, it stands in [inserted: this] Views - If, for Instance, the
state of Masstts. should promise to pay a hundred Pounds when they were only able to pay fifty, it
would excused their Ability & on their Part be an excessive Promise. I did not give my Opinion
that half Pay was more than [2] the united States will be able to discharge; but aimed particularly
to show, the Inequality of Rewarding an Officer for one, or two years Service, with as great
pecuniary Emoluments, as one, who may have served Eight or ten years - This appeared to me
then & still appears to me excessive - It does not seem to me to be founded in Reason - from all
the Information I have been able to collect of the sentiments of the Officers of the Masstts. Line, I
do not find that mine differs from theirs in substance & Mode they may differ as to Time; which
probably arises from my situation, where I have an Opportunity of discovering the sentiments of
the states from their Delegates more fully than the Army can possibly do. -
I have endeavored to convince the Members of Congress that it would be best to recommend to the States individually, to satisfy their Officers on Acc.t of half Pay - my ill success on this Head, induced me to write Mr. Lowell - for altho' no particular Questions in Congress has been taken on the Matter of referring it to the several states, yet when the Memorial of the [discharged] Officers of the Connecticut Line was before Congress last summer, the subject was largely debated; & it was declared from various Quarters of the House, that if any state undertook to satisfy their Officers half pay, they would do it in their own wrong, & that it could [inserted: not] discharge such state from Requisitions of Congress for half Pay - In this View could [inserted: you] have advised Masstts. to have compromised with her Officers, & have thereby probably laid the Foundation of a very serious dispute with the federal Union. - I sincerely wish to render the Officers of the Masstts. Line every Service in my Power; & nothing will give me greater Pleasure, than to let them know all my [3] Views respecting them, & the Reasons on which I found them; & if, in their Opinion, they should not be Right, to hear their Objections - Heaven forbid that I should be obstinate on illiberal, in any system respecting them. -
I am fully of Opinion that an Officer who has been in the Service for seven or Eight years, must have almost entirely disqualified himself for private Business - I have little Idea of Roman Virtue contented with a few Acres. - But my dear Friend, what can a Person have suffered in one or two years by mere Absence from private Business? do you think the Damage to him in the exact Proportion of two to Eight supposing those to be the different Periods of Service? - Indeed I esteem Eight to be much more than four Times two, in this View of the Matter. - It has appeared to me that from the great Number of Officers which have been commissioned many of whom cannot have performed much service in the Field, that it would be necessary to make some Distinction - And I can assure [inserted: you] I feel a hearty Disposition to reward those very liberally who have, hitherto gone thro all the Distress Fatigue Want, & Danger of their Duty in the Field. -
I am, Dear Sir,
with Sentiments of the highest Esteem
your most obedient Servant
The Honble. Samuel Osgood.
Major general Knox. -
[address leaf]
The Honorable
Major General Knox
New York
Samuel Osgood. West Point
from Mr S. Osgood 4 Dec 1782
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Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Continental ArmyContinental CongressCongressMilitary HistoryRevolutionary WarSoldier's PayFinancePensionsNewburgh ConspiracyRevolutionary War GeneralClassical World and Ancient Civilization

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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