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Von Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin (1730-1794) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01952 Author/Creator: Von Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin (1730-1794) Place Written: Schuylkill, Pennsylvania Type: Manuscript letter signed Date: 25 February 1783 Pagination: 4 p. ; 23.5 x 19.4 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Major General von Steuben to Major General Knox. Reports that "In all proba[b]ility the Peace is signed." Says "At present all our lost Battles are turned to Victories. Great Britain acknowledges our Independence, may other nations acknowledge that we are worthy to be free." Says America's first impressions are important as they will decide "whether we shall be respected as an Empire or be despised as a Banditti." Says the situation of the army and the news of peace are all that are talked about. Wants to know what will happen if Congress disperses the army without pay. Presents a plan for Knox's consideration: after peace is officially announced, wants the army to present an address to Congress that is strongly worded, "that neither Officers nor soldiers have the least doubt that there services will be recompensed." Says Washington should also take an address to Congress. Claims "This demand will shelter Congress from the unjust claims of the people." Has also reported this plan to General McDougall.

Full Transcript: [draft]
Schuylkil 25 Feby 1783

I should have written you frequently my dear friend could I have told you any thing more than that my love equaled my esteem for you; this ...truth I hope you are assured of, therefore it was needless to repeat it.
In all probality [sic] the Peace is signed, receive my sincere felicitations on the occasion.
At present my dear Knox, not one of your bombs have fallen without effect. At present all our lost Battles are turned to Victorys. Great Britain acknowledges our Independence, [struck: may] & other nations acknowledge that we are worthy to be free. This is the moment when our new Republick takes her rank among the Sovereigns of the earth; the eyes of the universe are fixed upon us, their prejudices are in our favor.
The nations prepare to see the new Sovereign arise with dignity decorated with every virtue; God Grant we may equal their expectations.
Every thing depends on the first impression, this is the critical moment: Whether we shall be respected as an Empire or be despised as a Banditti, the alternative is terrible, but I can [2] see nothing between.
You can not doubt my dear friend that I am greatly interested in the common cause, & I flatter myself that the Officers and Soldiers are convinced of my attachment [for] the Army. I have been their advocate with more zeal than prudence, but no matter, I will never change my sentiments. It is on their account I write the present letter, you will make what use of it you may judge proper.
The situation of the army, & the news of Peace are the only topicks of conversation; the better Patriots are alarmed at the situation of Congress also, all agree that the pretentions of the army are founded in justice, & it is supposd that they will not desert 'till their grievances are redressed. It is presumed that the Army will not submit to the least separation or reform of any kind until this is the case.
The People at large are convinced that neither promises nor any thing else, except the establishment of a fund for the payment of the army will satisfy them.
The method of establishing this fund is the object of discussion with the states, but time & measures are required for settling this important affair.
If Peace should take [3] place before this is fixed what becomes of the army during this time? This is the Object in question, & from this result two others. First If Congress should disperse or reform the army before they are paid, or funds appropriated for the payment of their dues, what will be the consequence on the part of the army?
2d If Congress should of themselves resolve, that the army should remain on its present footing untill funds were provided for the liquidation of their debts, what would be the consequence on the part of the People?
In a conversation with persons who have the honor, & dignity of the nation at heart, & who wish to see the army receive that justice to which they are intitled; an expedient was proposed, which I offer to your consideration.
Voici. When the news of Peace should be confirmed, the Army shall present an address to Congress, in the which, their great confidence in the future of Congress & of the People must be strongly express'd, that neither Officers nor soldiers have the least doubt that their services will be recompensed as soon as the means for this purpose are provided, but as those means require time & arrangements to alter them & as the distress of the army would be intole [4] intolerable if they are obliged to enter into the class of Citizens in their present situation, the greatest part not having subsistance [sic] for a day, when their support from the public ceases. They supplicate Congress & the people to continue their subsistance, & their emoluments & that they may remain on their present footing, without being reformed dismembered or changed in any manner whatever, untill the necessary arrangements are made & put in execution.
This demand, the same friends of their country are of opinion ought to be made by the army through the Commander in Chief to Congress.
If this memorial or demand is concurred in terms respectfull, but firm, I dare engage for the immediate acquiescence of Congress.
This demand will shelter Congress from the [inserted: unjust] clamers [sic] of the people. I have communicated this Idea to McDougall who I suppose will write you more full on the subject. See my friend if any thing better can be done; the honor of the nation ought to be as dear to us, as the Glory which we have acquired.
I hope in a little time to see you.
Steuben
[struck: HK]
Adieu
Mes tres humble Respect a Mad. Knox.
[written at the bottom of page one: Genl Knox]
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Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Newburgh ConspiracyRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralImmigration and MigrationFreedom and IndependenceMilitary HistoryContinental ArmyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyDiplomacyTreatyContinental CongressCongressSoldier's PayFinancePensionsPresidentGovernment and Civics

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