George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Harris, 17 July 1789

From Joseph Harris

King’s District County of Albany State of New York

SirJuly 17th 1789

Permit me to trouble you with a matter respecting individuality and draw your attention a minute from the important national Affairs.

In the Year 1775 in the Battle at Bunkerhill I received a Wound by which I have ben reduced from a handsome freehold Interest to a state of Distress with the Care of an expensive family—Have received a Pension of 60 Dol. perr Annum from the Year 1782 to 88 inclusive but for the Years from 1775 to 1782 I have receiv’d nothing.

The Auditor of this State pretends that a scruple is in his mind respecting the payment of the last Years mentioned, that is whether they shall be payed in money or Certificates—several respectable Attornies have examined the Resolves of Congress and find that the whole is to be paid in Money.

I have petitioned to the Legislature now sitting and they have refered the Matter to the Auditor which not only prolongs the Business and still leaves me in Distress without help but renders it uncertain whether I obtain any thing or not.1

I therefore beg Your patronange and Assistance with Capt. Increase Bennett in solliciting and treating with the Auditor for a just and expeditious Conclusion of the Business in the favour of your Distressed yet respectful and very humble servant

Joseph Harris

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

Harris may have originally lived in Connecticut. He is probably the same Joseph Harris who was the subject of a certificate sent to Congress, 7 April 1789, from a group of citizens in Canaan, Conn., stating that Joseph Harris “before the late American War” was a man who “possessed a Competency of Wealth viz. a farm . . . also a valuable Stock of Cattle and other Necessaries of Life to the amount of what may be properly called a comfortable Subsistance.” Because of wounds received in the service of his country, “he is now reduced to a State of poverty and stands in great need of Assistance from his Country” (DNA:PCC, item 78). Harris again petitioned Congress for relief on 18 Mar. 1790, and his petition was referred to the secretary of war. See DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 3:334, 375.

1On 11 July 1789 “a petition of Joseph Harris a disabled soldier” was read in the New York assembly and referred to Peter T. Curtenius, auditor of the state (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, at Their First Meeting of the Thirteenth Session, description begins Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, At the First Meeting of their Thirteenth Session, begun and holden at the City of Albany, the Sixth Day of July, 1789. New York, 1789. description ends 13). The assembly adjourned on 16 July without receiving Curtenius’s report.

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