George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates of the New-York Line, 20 January 1794

From the Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates of the New-York Line

[New York City, c.20 Jan. 1794]


THE non-commissioned officers and privates of the New-York line, in the late American army, beg leave most respectfully to address you, and to present to you the services we rendered to our country during the late glorious struggle with the armies of the King of Great-Britain, and the mode in which we have been paid.

That at the conclusion of the war we retired to private life, with assurances of compensation for our hard but approved of services.

That for reasons unknown to us, we were paid (not in specie) agreeably to contract, but in certificates, which we were compelled through extreme distress and poverty, to sell for two ⟨and⟩ sixpence for every twenty shillings, after g⟨e⟩tting to our respective homes or to such places a⟨s coul⟩d be found as an asylum from fatigue, and which were after some time funded and paid to holders at the rate of sixteen shillings in the pound.

That there at present remains a ballance of four shillings for every twenty shillings due to us in the hands of government, which we conceive ought in honor of the country, to be paid to those who earn’t it, or to their representatives, and which can be done without interfering with any system heretofore established.

That in the last and former sessions of Congress, we were well pleased to hear that Mr. James Madison, with several other of the members of the House of Representatives of the United States, stept forward in our defence and proposed a mode of payment of the certificates so issued, in our favor; but to our unhappy situations add the failure of their good intentions.

That a recital of our past services so well known to you, Sir, we conceive to be useless, but beg leave to say that for want of the ballance due, justly due us from our country, we are obliged to seek relief from the cold hand of charity, even from those who enjoy affluence through our earnings and the destruction of our families.

We therefore relying on your wisdom, humbly implore your assistance and influence at the present session of Congress, to obtain for us the ballance due on the said certificates.

And subscribe as well for ourse⟨l⟩ves as in behalf of the said line. Your most obedient humble servants. To be presented by Serjeant John Clark, on behalf of the said line.1

JOHN CLARK, late Serjt. 2d New-York Regt.

L, Daily Advertiser [New York], 13 Feb. 1794; Greenleaf’s New York Journal, 15 Feb. 1794. The text in angle brackets is from the 15 Feb. printing.

1On the complaints contained in this letter, see the notes to a similar letter of 30 Aug. 1793 that was sent by the same veterans of the Revolutionary War. Apparently, after receiving no response from GW to the earlier letter, Clark wrote this later version and delivered it personally to GW’s house in Philadelphia. GW’s response is contained in Clark’s report to the veterans, which accompanied the publication of this letter: “ON the 21st of January last I delivered your petition to the Secretary of the President [Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr.], who promised me he would present it to him the moment he was at leisure. On the 25th following I had a private conference with the President—he informed me that he was not the proper person to be applied to, that it was Congress we should apply to, ’tho it was his opinion, if we did, we should not meet with success—I answered that it was the opinion of many, and I acquiesced that he was the proper person—for two reasons. 1st. That the commissioned officers had applied repeatedly to Congress, and never received any redress. 2d. That he had promised the army, that he would before they quitted the service, see that full and ample compensation should be made to them, and that their hard and approved service should not go unregarded—he answered that he had done every thing he could: I replied I never heard of your stepping forward in any respect, and further, that while in Congress there were speculators, and enemies to a republican government, the veteran need not or may not expect justice.

“President—I never bought nor sold a note to either officer or private.

“Clark—I never said you did, or know whether you did or did not.

“President—If Congress is applied to, and they think proper to compensate the late army, whatever they do, I should gladly augment, was it in my power, rather than diminish.

“Clark—I wish you may live to see a pure Congress, and perform your promise.”

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