James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Ebenezer Huntington, 4 January 1818

To Ebenezer Huntington

Montpellier Jany. 4. 1818


I have duly reced. your letter of the 30th. Ult; in which you ask “whether the proposition to commute the half pay was suggested by Congress to the army, or by the army to Congress.”

Not being able at this moment to consult the Journals of Congress, or the co[n]temporary documents, I cannot answer the enqui[r]y with the certainty & precision1 I would wish. I beleive that the measure was brought into veiw by the Memorial of the Deputies from the army, Genl. McDougal &c, in the year 1783;2 and that ⟨it⟩ originated with the army in the mortifying attempts to stigmatize the receivers of half-pay as Pensioners. It cannot be doubted however that the gross sum substituted was accepted in the expectation that it wd be made of Specie value to the army. The Journals of the Revolutionary Congress will probably shew that unsuccessful propositions were made in that body to raise the sum to more than five years full pay.

I saw with sincear pleasure the late recommendation of the President on this subject,3 and wish that the sentiments of the Legislature may be found to corrispond with those that dictated it. Be pleased sir to accept my respects

J. M

FC (DLC). In Dolley Payne Madison’s hand, marked “Copy.” At head of document in JM’s hand, “Ebend: Huntington.”

1JM interlined here: “& precision.”

2For a summary of the issues presented by the army memorial to Congress on 6 Jan. 1783, see nn. 2 and 3 to the diary entry for 31 Dec. 1782 in E. James Ferguson et al., eds., The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784 (9 vols.; Pittsburgh, 1973–99), 7:247–50.

3In his annual message to Congress in December 1817, President Monroe drew attention to “the surviving officers and soldiers of our Revolutionary Army,” some of whom “are reduced to indigence and even to real distress,” and who “have a claim on the gratitude of their country” (Hamilton, Writings of James Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe.… (7 vols.; 1898–1903; reprint, New York, 1969). description ends [1969 reprint], 6:33, 43).

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