George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Steuben, 29 January 1790

From Steuben

New York Jany 29th 1790.

Sir

Though sensibly imprest with the marks of confidence & freindship, you have been pleased to manifest for me, since my arrival in America.

Nothing but the most urgent necessity could induce me at this time, to divert your attention from more important Objects of National concern, to the consideration of one, which may be of a more personal nature.

Unaccustomed to suffer pecuniary distress before I came to this Country, the indigent situation to which I find myself reduced, becomes every hour more insupportable.

Seven Years have now been spent in vain solicitations for the determination of a cause, the justice of which was at all times acknowledged by a large and respectable majority of the old Congress.

Flattered from Session to Session with the hopes of a determination in my favor—I have been induced to prolong my stay in this Country untill I have incumbered myself with Debt, and every possible resource exhausted—The immediate decision of Congress on my Memorial presented at their last Sessions1 is therefore become indispensible to my existance, and it is to solicit such Official assistance as propriety may authorise in this respect, that I now take the liberty to address you.

The peculiarity of my situation in every respect is submitted as the true reason for making the request—It is indeed peculiar—Whatever the decision may be, I shall at least be releived from all that anxiety of mind, which arises from expectations so long deferred.

In whatever quarter of the Globe I may be obliged to seek an Asylum, the reputation I established in my own Country before, I left it, will always insure me the esteem of every honest Man, nor will this sentiment be lessened by the small share I have had, in the glorious Revolution of the United States.

And as I shall have nothing to reproach myself with, I shall be able to support my situation (however reduced) without a blush.2 With the highest respect I have the honor to be Sir Your Most Obedient & very humble Servant

Steuben

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

For the background to Steuben’s claims against the United States, see Steuben to GW, 25 Aug. 1789; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:25; and Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 5:211, n.2.

GW wrote on 29 Jan.: “Received also a letter from the Baron de Steuben, declarative of his distresses; occasioned by the Non-payment, or nonfulfilment of the Contract which was made with him by the Congress under the former Confederation and requesting my Official interference in his behalf. The delicacy of this case from the nature, and long labouring of it, requires consideration” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:24). See also GW to Thomas Jefferson, 15 Mar. 1784, n.1.

1Steuben’s 25 Aug. 1789 memorial was presented to Congress on 14 September. On 21 Sept. the House appointed a committee to study it and similar petitions, and four days later the committee referred the petitions to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to be reported upon at the next session of Congress. Hamilton completed his report on Steuben’s case on 29 Mar. and presented it on 6 April. A new committee appointed on 19 April brought a bill on 30 April that was read for the third time and sent to the Senate on 10 May. The amended bill returned to the House and passed on 28 May. GW signed “An Act for finally adjusting and satisfying the claims of Frederick William de Steuben” on 4 June (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 3:205–6, 219, 233, 256, 359, 363, 372, 392, 394, 397, 403–5, 430–31, 444, 446; 6 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 2; Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 6:310–27).

2GW apparently transmitted this letter to Hamilton, for noted on its cover is: “returned from the Secy of the Treasy Feby 24th 1790.”

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