James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Ebenezer Huntington, 30 December 1817

From Ebenezer Huntington

Washington 30t Decr 1817


I have the honor to inclose to your Excellency a copy of the documents presented by the Officers of the Revolutionary Army accompanying their petition to Congress for half pay from the year 1793.1

Recollecting the part your Excellency took at the time the funding system was adopted, in Endeavoring to obtain for the original holders, the difference between the Nominal price and the price at which they had been sold, and your uniform opinion that the Officers had an equitable claim on the Government2—May I not ask your Excellency whether the proposition was suggested by Congress to the Army to commute the half pay, or by the Army to Congress asking therefor. I presume your Excellency will excuse my troubling you at this time on the above subject, knowing no other person who has taken so active a part in behalf of the late Officers, nor any person so likely to know the facts materially connected with the petitions now pending before Congress.3 I have the honor to be with great respect your most Obedient servant

Eben: Huntington4

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found, but see n. 1.

1Huntington probably meant “1783.” The Confederation Congress passed a measure on 22 Mar. 1783 commuting its promise of half pay for life to five years full pay for Continental Army officers who served for the war’s duration (Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37), 24:206–7).

2For JM’s opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s system of funding the national debt and his plan of discriminating between the original holders of the debt and those who had purchased it at deep discounts, see Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (New York, 1993), 136–45. For JM’s speeches in Congress on this topic, see PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 13:34–38, 47–56, 56–57, and 58–59.

3There were a number of petitions and memorials introduced during the first session of the Fifteenth Congress in both houses, requesting justice on behalf of the surviving officers of the Continental Army. One petition before the House of Representatives sought to “adjust the claim of each surviving officer … entitled to half pay for life, calculating the amount of the principal of the arrearages from the time of his reduction, and deducting therefrom five years full pay, and the balance of arrearages being thus ascertained, to issue a certificate bearing an interest of 6 per centum per annum, to the officer for the amount of said balance; and the officer to be thenceforth entitled to receive half pay, in half yearly payments, for and during the term of his natural life.” The Senate committee rejected the petition outright; the House committee resolved to pay each veteran officer the amount of five years full pay without interest minus one-eighth of the sum (In Senate of the United States, March 12, 1818. The Committee of Claims, to Whom has been Referred … [Washington, 1818; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 46228]; Report of a Select Committee, To Whom was Referred Sundry Petitions in Behalf of the Surviving Officers of the Revolutionary Army [Washington, 1818; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 46466]).

4Ebenezer Huntington (1754–1834) was a Yale graduate and lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut Continental Line during the Revolutionary War, rising to brigadier general in the U.S. Army in 1798. He served as a representative from Connecticut in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1810–11, and 1817–19.

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