James Madison Papers

Christian Holmer to Virginia Delegates in Congress, [ca. 3 January] 1781

Christian Holmer
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

MS (NA: PCC, No. 41, IV, 153).

[ca. 3 January 1781]1

The Honourable Gentlemen Delegates from the Common Wealth of Virginia.

Your Most Humble Memorialist Shew that he in August last year, Acquainted the Honourable Congress, and Delegates from Virginia2 his Circumstances and Condition in Health as in Wanting every Thing Nessesary, and beg’d to be help whit a part for which he have Ventered his life Spend in your Service his Fortune, lost his Health, Cripled and unfit to Earn any thing, but by Colonel Muhlenberg3 a Member of Congress Received a Answer Un exspected, that the Resolve was I Should wait the[re] was no money; Pray I beg you to Consider if a Major can Seport him Self with One Shilling a day for Three Ration and Sixty Two and a half Dollar in Gold or Silver According to promiss a month if that is not enough to make any officer Run in Debt I leve to your own Genereose Consideration; for to Seport me Self I must Sell one thing after a other to I am most Ruind and Nou But Waiting 6 or 7 Months before one Shilling a day Can be paid, is that Just, Right, or Generouse, I will leve it to God and the world. Shall I as I exspect go to Goal for my own Money and Suffer Missery in my Weekniss of Body, the Almighty God I hope will Soon Relieve me, but my Complain Shall Appear for his Throne Against Unjustice done me on Earth. Pardon my free writing Gentlemen for Dead is a Nothing to Compare Against that Miserable life I must leve in, all for my True and Faithfull Service pass Five years. One Hundred Pound hard money or the Exchance is all what I at present time Want[,] pass Sixty Thousand dollars is due me, if Such Sum of 100 Pound may be Granted as a avance or part of my due, that I may Cleare my Self as a Honest man for the world I shall be Extremly Glad and Thankfull. if not I beg a Answer to or from, that I may give me Self up to my Creditors, and Acquaint the world of my Suffering.

I Remain with the Greatest Regard Honourable Gentlemen

Your Most obedient and most Humb. Serv.

Christian Holmer.

Majr. in the Virginia Artillary Continental Armee.4

1The petition is undated, but it was presented to Congress on this day. Probably, as the next note suggests, Christian Holmer was in Philadelphia and penned his plea very shortly before it was laid before Congress. Even though the Treasury office believed Holmer deserving of relief, it seems not to have been extended by Congress at this time (NA: PCC, No. 136, V, 9; Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 15, 34–35).

2This memorial, addressed to Congress rather than to the delegates of Virginia, was dated 22 August 1780 and read to Congress on that day. Holmer was then in Philadelphia, as he would also be on 13 March 1781, when his third petition to Congress for back pay from August 1780 was finally granted (ibid., XVII, 755; XIX, 254; NA: PCC, No. 41, IV, 135; No. 42, III, 401).

3Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (1750–1801), a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania. He would be the first speaker of the House of Representatives and serve in that body from 1789 to 1797.

4On 30 November 1776 Congress elected Holmer to be the major of Colonel Charles Harrison’s artillery battalion, ordered to be raised in Virginia (Journals of the Continental Congress, VI, 195). About three years later, although he was the oldest officer of his rank in the 1st Artillery Regiment of that state, he was denied promotion because, as Washington wrote, his “qualifications as an officer [are] far below mediocrity” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XV, 96). Judging from his memorial of 22 August 1780, Holmer had suffered other misfortunes, including losing his horses, partial blindness resulting from illness, lameness sufficient to unfit him for further active duty, creditors threatening to imprison him for debt, and no money with which to satisfy them and to pay his way back to Virginia. “I am undone,” he declared, “and in my Old Age must suffer Misery for Fightin for America Liberty” (NA: PCC, No. 41, IV, 135). By the summer of 1781, he was in Richmond, asking the state government for money because he was obliged “to sell one thing after a other to maintain me with.” “Old Holmer,” as Colonel Christian Febiger then called him, seems to have been granted a half year’s pay. Without avail, he sought help from Washington on 13 December 1782, and died about six months later (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, II, 211, 322; III, 498; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XXVI, 8 and n. 13).

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