George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Lawrence, Jr., 15 May 1789

From Jonathan Lawrence, Jr.

New York Greenwich Street May, 15. 1789

My Dear General

I have made several attempts to address you, and as often drop’d my pen almost in Dispair, my Situation almost distracts and destroys me, I was my Dear General born to fair prospects, and under those prospects enterd the Service of my Country where I served untill my health became the Sacrifice. I was obligated to leave the Service tho happily to my feelings, it was on the day that the preliminary Articles of peace took place, the Consequence has been that I am the Singular Instance of having Served thro the War from an Early period without any part of the Gratuity allowed to all the Officers of the Army, Your Excellency was pleased before you left this City after the peace to address me on the Subject and doubted not I came within the Limits of the Resolution of Congress.1 I made Use of that letter through General Lincoln, whose Resignation causd its not being laid before Congress, and was mislaid with others of his papers so as never again to be had[.] I have since Petitioned the former Congress, who referrd my Case to Genl Knox who were pleasd to Report thereon, to my disadvantage, Your Excellency has also been Informd that my Aged parents All, to the Amount of Several thousands fell a Sacrifice to British Rapine, whereby my Prospects for future life has and still does remain Gloomy, General Lamb has Suggested to me to Solicit Your Excellency for the Appointment as principal in the Gaugeing Department for this port, or the Weighing Department, I do therefore take the liberty of placeing myself in View to Your Excellency, with a hope that I may be thought of. I hope any thing Your Excellency may see amiss in this my Incorrect Address, will not be Construed as disrespectfull to my General to whom I am bound by the most sincere regard, but rather attributed to that burden which hangs so heavily on my mind from being an Outcast of fortune, from the most pleasing prospects.2 I have the honor to Subscribe myself Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

Jonathan Lawrence Junr


Jonathan Lawrence, Jr., had served in the Revolution as a lieutenant in Malcolm’s Additional Continental Regiment and as a captain in the Corp of Sappers and Miners but resigned because of ill health before the end of the war. He is often confused with the antifederalist politician and merchant of the same name.

1On 11 Nov. 1783 Lawrence wrote to GW: “When I look around me and View the smiles of Content on the Countenances of the Officers of the Army who receive so Generous a Compensation for their Services and Compare their Good fortune to mine of Unsuccessfull, I feel every Remorse.” Lawrence asserted that he had the support of Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln for his claims for compensation and requested GW “to Interest Yourself in my behalf.” GW replied on 17 Nov. that “it gives me real uneasiness when I am unable to afford any assistance in a case that seems evidently to bear very hard on an individual who merits well of the public. In this predicament I now find myself with regard to the situation you have described in your Letter of the 11 Instant. . . . I will candidly inform you it was my opinion that an Officer totally disconnected with the service by resignation could not be entitled to any of the emoluments that might afterwards accrue in the course of it; and that a deviation from this rule would establish a precedent to which no limit could be set: but if Congress should think otherwise I shall not be the less pleased in your availing yourself of the circumstance as I know the ill State of your health as well as your peculiar situation in other respects carry a strong recommendation with them.” In 1785 Lawrence petitioned Congress for a pension, and on 14 July of that year Henry Knox, then secretary at war, reported: “That Jonathan Lawrence junior esquire late a captain in the corps of sappers and miners resigned his commission on the 31st November 1782. . . . That by the resolutions of Congress of the 3d and 21st October 1780 granting halfpay for life, it is declared that no officers except those that shall continue in service untill the end of the war or otherwise be deranged before the conclusion thereof shall be entitled to the benefits of the said acts.” Since Lawrence had resigned his commission before the conclusion of the war, Knox concluded “he cannot be allowed those emoluments promised to the officers who should continue in service to the end of the war” (DNA:PCC, item 151; JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 19:550–51).

2On 20 July 1789 Lawrence again wrote to GW requesting the presidents attention to his application (DLC:GW).

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