From Benjamin Harrison
Rich[mon]d [Va.] July 2d 1784.
My Dear Sir
The great impositions that have been practiced on the country in the settlement of the depreciation accts of the soldiers, and the number of forged certificates of service that have been produced to the auditors and warrants obtain’d on them induced me to request the attention of the assembly to the subject; in consequence of which they have directed a revision of them, and in order to a full detection of what has pass’d and to prevent the like evil in future they have requested me to call on the board of war at Philadelphia for the pay or muster rolls of the Virginia line if they can be spared, and if not send me a copy of them.1 I take the liberty to enclose you a copy of my letter and shall take it as a great favor if you will look over it, and if you think it will be necessary to add any thing to it that you will be so obliging as to write to him or any other person that can throw light on the subject.2 Two officers are appointed to do this business, and tho’ they are clever yet they may stand in need of advice how to proceed. you will oblige me much if you will favor me with your opinion on the subject.3
I recd your favor enclosing the petition & letters of the guardians of young Bristow which I immediately laid before the assembly;4 they have done nothing on them nor will they till they take up the subject generally, which I think is right, but I am afraid when they do enter on it the distresses of the country will put it out of their power to do that Justice to the claimants they may expect. It was a horrid law, and the manner of executing it was worse than the law itself, for before the money produced by it was paid into the Treasury it was in no instance worth half what it was at the time of the sales, and in many instances it was not worth the tenth part.5I am Dr Sir with perfect esteem your mo. affect. and obedient Humble servant
1. On 26 June 1784 the Virginia house of delegates resolved: “That the Executive be empowered and directed to appoint two commissioners, for the purpose of examining into all impositions which have happened in the settlement of accounts of the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line on continental or State establishments, including the navy, with the auditors, for arrearages of pay and depreciation; . . . and that a report of all proceedings herein be made to the next session of Assembly” (House of Delegates Journal, 1781–1785, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico, on Monday, the Seventh Day of May, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-One. Richmond, 1828. description ends 26 June 1784).
2. In the enclosed copy of his letter to Henry Knox, dated 2 July, Harrison wrote: “The number of forged soldiers certificates of service that have been received by the Auditors of publick accounts for this state, and for which settlements for depreciation have been made and warrants for payment obtained, is so great and amounts to such a sum, that the Legislature have thought it advisable to have a revision of them, and that it may answer the intended purpose of detection have requested me to call on your board for the necessary papers that may be wanted for a full investigation of the subject; I have therefore to request you to forward me by the Stage as soon as possible, the muster rolls of all the Virginia Regiments on continental establishment from the first of January 1777 to the last of December 1781, also those of the two State Regiments whilst in continental service; the first Regiment of Artillery, the first & third Regiments of Cavalry & such parts of Lees and Armands Legions, Hazens regt, And other corps as have been credited to this state“(DLC:GW).
3. On 1 July Harrison appointed as commissioners Samuel Hawes, Jr., who at the end of the war was a lieutenant colonel in the 5th Virginia Regiment, and Thomas Meriwether, who was major of the 1st Virginia Regiment from 1778 to 1781. See note 1. On 2 July the commissioners asked ”to be supplied with the Muster Rolls of the Virginia Line on Continental Estab’nt and for those of all Corps that have been credited to Virginia, from Jan’y, 1777 to Dec: 1781“ (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 3:596).