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Peters, Richard (1744-1828) to Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04833 Author/Creator: Peters, Richard (1744-1828) Place Written: Belmont, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 12 September 1785 Pagination: 3 p. ; 23.2 x 19 cm.

Written by Peters, a former Pennsylvania Continental Congressman, to von Steuben in retirement. Peters is trying to put Von Steuben at ease after he was denied a large part of the inflated expense account he sumbitted to Congress and the rejection of his pension application by that same body. Marked No. 12. Mentions that he heard reports that von Steuben's mind was not at ease and that he was about to return to Europe. Even though he hasn't heard from in a while he thinks they are credible and says "loving you so much as I do I Cannot be uninterested in them." Says if he can have better financial circumstances in Europe he should go, but hopes he stays. Goes on to write glowingly about von Stueben's service as a soldier. Written in a very fanciful writing style.

Belmont Septr. 12. 1785
My dear Baron
I have heard that your State of Mind is extremely uneasy & that you have determined to go to Europe. By this I conjecture your Finances are deranged & that Nothing is likely to be done for you. Altho' I have not been favoured with a Line from you for a long time I [struck: guess] am inclined to believe there is Something in these Reports & loving [inserted: you] so much as I do I cannot be uninterested in them. It would be doubly disagreeable to me to think you Should join the Corps of Malcontents in Europe who are perpetually wiling against this Country with little of your Merit or Worth either as a Soldier or a Man to ground their Complaints upon & yet many of them have absolutely founded their military Fortunes upon their Services here & are now in a Situation they never would have been had they grown grey in their Stations in Europe. I do not think we are the less obliged to those who have really done us Service because they have derived Benefits to themselves from it but I think the Circumstance Sufficient to keep them Silent. It is too a Singular Complaint of Some of them that you have had pecuniary Advantages which were denied to them. If you had however better Prospects in Europe than I am acquainted with I wish you to go wherever you can be happier - tho' I shall lose one I highly esteem & this Country will one Day want you when the Small Stipend which would now make you comfortable will go but a little Way towards obtaining one who could be so useful & even he will want what no Consideration will procure - your Experience of our Affairs & Disposition to accommodate European Knowledge with American Habits. I hope my dear Sir you have well considered the Step you are about to take & that it is not founded on Chagrin. You know best but Things are altered very favourably if the Court of France will Serve you, tho' at the Instance of her Minister you abandoned your young [2] European Prospects & Connexions. If is possibly only a wild Conjecture of Some that thro' this Court you expected a Recommendation to a considerable Employment which was given to one that Court surely for political Motives had placed in it & because she thought him more attached to & more likely to be directed by her Councils than she could Suppose would be the Case with one not of her Nation. I am perhaps talking in the Clouds to you on this Subject. All I mean is that you should be sure of doing better before you quit us & do not abandon yourself to an Ideal that there is no Disposition among us to Serve you. The Delicacy of your Mind is at Variance with the Mode in which I believe you could be made comfortable & the Goodness of your Heart is perpetually running you into Situations which appear to the World expensive tho' I know in your own Person you are moderate & that all you wish is to live like a private Gentleman. I say this because I have the greatest Reason to believe that if you would accept of Something annual it could be procured for you & that in a Way which ought not to offend you & that would not give Umbrage to any one. You should consider that in our weak Government public Men must accommodate their Measures in a Way not requisite in old or despotic Administrations. With my little Share of Discernment I cannot See the Distinction in a Reward given in gross or by annual Stipends. Is not to letter the Mode taken by all European Governors & the only Objection to it is that those who receive do not deserve? It is therefore but the Abuse of the Thing which renders it obnoxious & one would little expect even Hesitation in this Case from an European; especially where there ought to be a Consciousness of deserving it. What if some Fools & more Knaves have affixed a disagreeable Idea to a just & necessary Measure? It does not alter the Nature of it or render it less just or proper. The ribaldry of these People should only give Opportunities to Men of Strong Minds to despise them. [3] It is no Matter as to its Effect whether it be a Fact or not; but it is thought even by some who respect & esteem you that your having a certain annual Income would make you happier than any other Mode of Supply. They believe that tho' you would Serve a Strap or a Buckle for the Public yet you are a bad Financier over your own Friends. Will you forgive me when I say that I do not totally condemn the opinion of those who think thus of you? Do I not know that your Heart & your Purse have declared perpetual War? That Peace will never be brought about between them 'till the letter, according to the modern Systems of other belligerent Powers, is no longer able to furnish Supplies? Take my dear Sir what I say in good Part of it flows from my Friendship & take what will be of more Use to you, any genteel Thing Congress will do for you. Open your Mind to some of your Friends on this Subject & if you will not love for endeavouring to [strikeout] [inserted: remove your Prejudices] at least do not think the worse of me because I speak plainly to you. If I am mistaken there is an End of the Matter; but I have been assured by People from all Points of these states that if you would take Something handsome annually you could have it with Some Appointment to justify the Sallery.
Some private Business of Consequence to me will call me to Europe this Fall. Mrs. Peters is recovering from a dangerous Illness from which she has had a Hair breadth Escape. Wherever I am or wherever you are believe me
your affectionate hble Servt.
Richard Peters

Baron Steuben

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