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Continental Congress Report on the Claim of Baron von Steuben, 30 December 1782

Continental Congress
Report on the Claim of Baron von Steuben1

[Philadelphia] December 30, 1782

The Committee2 to whom was referred the letter from Major General The Baron De Steuben3 having conferred with him thereupon, submit to the consideration of Congress the following facts, resulting from the communications made to them supported by the testimonials of the Commander in Chief and many other principal officers of the army:

First. That the Baron De Steuben was in Europe possessed of respectable military rank and different posts of honor and emolument, which he relinquished to come to America and offer his services, at a critical period of the war, and without any previous stipulations.

Secondly. That on his arrival here he actually engaged in the army in a very disinterested manner and without compensations similar to those which had been made to several other foreign officers.

Thirdly. That under singular difficulties and embarrassments, in the department in which he has been employed he has rendered very important and substantial services by introducing into the army a regular formation and exact discipline and by establishing a spirit of order and œconomy in the interior administration of the Regiments, which besides other advantages, have been productive of immense savings to The United States.

That in the commands in which he has been employed he has upon all occasions conducted himself like an experienced and brave officer.

Your Committee are therefore of opinion that the sacrifices and services of the Baron De Steuben justly entitle him to the distinguished notice of Congress, and to a generous compensation whenever the situation of public affairs will permit.

Your Committee further report that the Baron De Steuben has considerable arrearages of pay due to him from these states on a liquidated account, and that having exhausted his resources in past expences, it is now indispensable that a sum of money should be paid to him for his present support and to enable him to take the field another campaign, and propose that the sum of two thousand four hundred dollars be paid to him for that purpose and charged to his account aforesaid.4 Your Committee observing that from the nature of the department, in which The Baron De Steuben is employed, he is under the necessity of making frequent journies, by which he incurs an additional expence and is often deprived of the allowance of forage to which he is entitled, propose

That he be allowed three hundred dollars per Month in lieu of his extra pay, and of subsistence and forage for himself and family (including waggon as well as saddle horses), and that these allowances hereafter cease.5

ADf, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

1H’s draft differs in minor particulars from the report published in the Journals of the Continental Congress. See JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 833–34.

2The letter of Frederick William Augustus Henry, Baron von Steuben, was read in Congress on December 10 and referred to H, Abraham Clark of New Jersey, and Ezekiel Cornell of Rhode Island. The committee which reported consisted of H, Clark, and Daniel Carroll.

3Von Steuben’s letter, addressed to Elias Boudinot and dated December 5, 1782, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.

The acceptance, early in 1778, by Congress of von Steuben’s services in the American army was accompanied by an unwritten financial agreement. According to von Steuben, Congress promised 1. that his expenses, while on duty in the Continental Army, would be paid by the government; 2. that if he contributed effectively to the success of the patriot cause he would be reimbursed both the cost of his trip to America and the income with interest which he would have received had he remained in Germany; 3. that at the successful conclusion of the war he would receive an income for the rest of his life. Since the pending peace treaty would establish American independence, von Steuben requested congressional fulfillment of what he believed to be the terms of the agreement. In addition, the Baron’s pay and expenses were in arrears.

In his letter of December 5, von Steuben recounted his services to the American cause and requested Congress to grant him the emoluments to which he considered himself entitled.

4At this point there appears in the Journals the following sentence: “Whereupon, Resolved, That the foregoing proposal of the committee be referred to the Superintendant of finance to take order” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 834).

5Von Steuben’s claim, although he repeatedly petitioned Congress during the remaining six years of government under the Articles of Confederation, was not settled by the Continental Congress. In 1789, just before the expiration of the Congress, Charles Thomson, its secretary, wrote the following as an introduction to the papers Congress had on file relating to Baron von Steuben: “These papers were collected from different files by Comee. on meml. of Baron Steuben. The report not being acted on they are preserved together in case it should again be brought into view by the future government” (Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives).

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