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Page and clothing, that were furnished to the soldiers out of the public arsenals ; and because the soldier often received besides liberal bounties, both at home and from Congress. , Letit then be distinctly understood, that, notwithstanding this disparity against the officers, no such losses or depreciations form any part of the foundation for this bill. A moment's attention to the history of that period will show the true ground of the appropriation. After this unequal pressure had continued nearly three years—after the officers had sustained their spirits during that trying period under such disadvantages, by the force of those principles that led them at first to join in the pledge to the cause, of “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” after their private resources had become nearly **ted in supplying those wants their country was tole rather than unwilling to satisy, there arose a state of things which led to certain proceedings by Congress, in relation to half pay. The prospect had nearly vanished, that any honorable *Commodation could be effected with the parent country. The contest seemed likely to become more severe, and to be protracted for many years; and it was obvious that many of the officers, thus impoverished and disheartened, not actually resign in order to provide themselves with detent clothing, and to maintain their families, and secure *I subsistence for advanced life, or that they must re*** *me assurance of future indemnity, if they conti***rvice, and abandoned every thing else to sink **in with the military destinies of their country. It was then that the resolve of May 15, 1778, granting * Po, for only seven years, to aii who continued in *o till the close of the war, was passed. This short period of half pay was dictated rather by the * of Congress to provide a longer one, than from an "Pression that it was, in truth, sufficient, or in accord* with any similar system in the armies of Europe. Ho, a committee, May 24th, 1779, reported a resoon, allowing half pay for life to the same class of offio, and justly grounded it on the great risks they were *dto encounter, on their great sufferings and sacrifices of youth, ease, health, and fortune, in the cause of their only. But the want of resources in Congress induced on to postpone the subject, and, on the 17th of August, 179, to urge upon the respective States the expediency of adopting such a resolution, and of pledging for its fuliment their State resources. The power of the States over those resources was much more effective than that of the confederation over the States But such were the Someral gloom and despondency of the times, that not a *gle State except Pennsylvania complied with the recommendation. The currency continued to depreciate ote and more, daily : the officers, in many instances, * utterly unable, by their whole pay, to procure de* apparel : treason had penetrated the camp in the Poon of Arnold : Charleston had been surrendered : *** captured: Gates defeated at Camden; the South. * States overrun by Cornwallis : our soldiery had be. **couraged : and the great military leader of the *rion had become convinced, and had urged with onal energy upon Congress, that the adoption of this *tion was almost the only possible method of retain*; the army together. Under such appalling circumocco, Congress passed, on the 24th of October, A. D. o the resolution, which I will now take the liberty to
“Rooked. That the officers who shall continue in the * to the end of the war, shall also be entitled to half * during life i to commence from the time of their reon” (1 U. S. Laws, 688.) * with one or two subsequent resolutions, explain. od modifying its provisions as to particular persons, *itutes the great foundation of the bill under consiWol. IV.-9
deration. The promise was most solemnly and deliberately made : the consideration for it was ample, and most honorably performed by the officers; and yet, on the part of Congress, its stipulations have, in my opinion, never, to this day, been equitably fulfilled. As to the bindin effect of the compact on Congress, nobody can preten to doubt. I shall, therefore, not waste a single moment in the discussion of that point. But I admit that the officers were first bound to perform the condition faithfully, of serving to the close of the war, however long or disastrous. Did they do it? History and tradition must convince all that, through defeat as well as victory, they clung to our fortunes to the uttermost moment of the struggle. They were actuated by a spirit and intelligence, the surest guarantees of such fidelity. Most of them had investigated, and well understood, the principles in dispute, and to defend them had flown to the field of battle, on the first alarm of war, with all the ardor of a Scottish gathering, at the summons of the fiery cross. And it is not poetry, that one of my own relatives, an officer long since no more, when the alarm was given at Lexington, left, for the tented field, the corpse of his father unburied : “One look he cast upon the bier, Dashed from his eye the gathering tear,” and hastened to devote his own life to the salvation of his country. In the same duty—in performing their part of the compact, to serve faithfully to the close of the war, these petitioners endured the frosts of winter, often half sheltered, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid. God forbid that I should exaggerate. The naked truth is stronger than any coloring of fancy. We have the authority of their commander, that they were, at times, in such a condition as to be unable and ashamed to receive their friends; but never, I believe, loth to face their enemies. Their paths were sometimes marked by their blood—their courage and constancy tried by frequent alarms, by ambuscade, and the pitched battle, but they never faltered: and when, towards the close of the war, neglect on the part of Congress, as to their monthly wages, might have justified, under most circumstances, disquiet and distrust; and when, at Newburg, they were tempted with the insidious taunt, that if, relinquishing their arms, and retiring home with the promises made to them unfulfilled, they would “go, starve, and be forgotten;” yet they disbanded in peace, and expressed their “unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress.” Washington himself declared, in substance, that, by means of this resolve, the officers were inspired to make renewed exertions; to feel a security for themselves and families, which enabled them to devote every faculty to the common cause ; and that thus was an army kept together, which otherwise must have dissolved, and we probably have been compelled to pass again under the yoke of colonial servitude. For all this fidelity to the performance of their part of the compact, the officers have been duly thanked by many Congresses, and applauded by the world. They have occupied a conspicuous niche in toasts, odes, and orations, and some of them have animated the canvas, and breathed in marble. But has the promise to them of half pay ever been either literally or substantially fulfilled 2 That, sir, is the important question. I answer not literally, by any pretence, from any quarter. No half pay, as such, has ever, for any length of time, been either paid or provided for one of the petitioners. Almost as little, sir, can there be a pretence that it has been substantially fulfilled. No kind of fulfilment has been attempted, except in the commutation act, passed March 22d, 1783. That act grew out of objections, in some of the States, to the system of half pay as a system, because not strictly republican in theory, and because every thing of a pension character had become odious by its abuse in some Go
seNATE.} ` surviving officers of the Retolution. Gas. 24, 183
vernments, in the maintenance of hirelings who had per- was expected, probably even majorities in the lines would formed secret and disreputable services. - never have been obtained. The certificates were made Some of the officers, being anxious to remove any for out for all, without application, and left with the agents: mal objection, petitioned congress for a commutation or no other provision was made for those entitled to half pay, change in the mode of indemnifying and rewarding them, and it remained with the younger officers to receive those No opposition had been made to the amount or value of certificates or nothing. - - the half pay, and, therefore, as appears in the commuta. But it is most manifest that Congress had no legal right tion act itself, the officers expected, if a change took to take away from a single officer his vested half pay for place, a full “equivalent” in value to the half pay for life. life, without giving him a full equivalent ; or, to say the [Mr. W. here read the act from 1 U. States’ i.aws, 687.] least, what the officer should freely and distinctly assent But, instead of such an equivalent, Congress gave, by to, as a full equivalent. It would be contrary to the ele. that act, what was far short of an equivalent, whether we mentary principles of legislation and jurisprudence ; and regard ific particular ages at that time of these petitioners, a majority of the lines could no more bind the minority or their average age with the other officers, or the period on this subject of private rights of property, than they they have actually since lived. Congress gave only five could bind,00ngress or the States on questions of politics. years' full pay to the youngest in the line, and just as This point need not be argued to men, who, like those - much to the eldest : treating the officer of 25 as not likely ; around me, have watched the discussions and decisions in to live any longer than him of 70; and subjecting the this country the last quarter of a century. But no such former to take for his half pay, which he was entitled to individual assent was asked here : it was indeed declared for his whole life, of probably 35 years, the same small to be useless for any minority of individuals to dissent; sum bestowed on him not likely to live over 10 or 14 years. the commutation not having been in any view a full-eqr. If we look to the average age of all the officers at that valent, individual assent cannot fairly be presumed. The time, the commutation was still inadequate. That age subsequent taking of the certificates was merely taking was probably not over 30 : none have pretended to con- all that was provided, and all they eduld get, without any. sider it over 35; and on all observations, in similar cli- pretence that they took it as a full and fairequivalent. And ... mates, āū; all calculations of annuity tables, such persons' hence it follows that, on the lowest computation, two lives would be likely to extend beyond 30 years; and years' more full pay are necessary to make any thing like thus their half pay for life obe, on an average, worth the a substantial fulfilment of the compact on the part of Col. . gross sum, in presenti, of at least seven years' full pay. gress. In truth, 20 years more would be less than the Any gentleman can test the general accuracy of these re. petitioners could rightfully claim now, if the commutation sults, by a reference to Price's Annuity. Tables, and to act had never passed ; or if the position was clearly esta. Milne on Annuities. in England, Sweden, and France, blished that the commutation act, as to them, was, under , , it will be seen that a person of 30 years of age is ascer. the circumstances, entirely null and void. To say \hat ... tained to be likely to live 34 more ; and of 35 years of such a transaction, resorted to under the pressure of the age, to live about 28 more. An annuity for 34 years is times, and finding no apology except in the security and worth a fraction more than 14 times its annual amount, if necessities of that pressure, should not be relieved agains st paid in a gross sum in advance ; and one for 28 years, when the pressure is over, and our means have becomé only a fraction less than 14 times its annual amount. So aniple, is to nake a mockery of justice, and to profa. that seven years' full pay is as near a fair commutation for every principle of good faith. *
- the half pay for life, taking their average ages, as can But consider a little farther the history of those pið. , - well be calculated, or as is necessary for the present in- ceedings, on the supposition that the five years' full pay * quiry. was an ample equivalent to all. Was it either paid of it.
. Again : If we advert to the real facts, as since develop-scored to them in such manner as to become anything.
ed, . petitioners, had the commutation act not passed, like a substantial fulfilment of the promise ’. Though the or not been at all binding, would now receive twenty two act allowed Congress to give the officers money or sect
instead of five years' full pay, as they have survived, since rities, and though these last might be in the form pre: the close of the war, over 44 years. scribed for other creditors, yet the act contemplated giv Gongress, as if conscious that the pressure of the times ing them money or money’s worth, else it doubly violated had driven them to propose a substitute for the half pay the former engagement to give them half pay for life,
for fife, nok in any view, sufficient or equivalent, as re; The very nature of half pay, or of any commutation so ***-garded the younger officers, who alone now survive and it, implies that it should be actually paid, or so secured a ask for redress, provided in the commutation act, not that to raise the money whenever it becomes due. They wen.”
to **-orach officer might accept or reject it at pleasure, but that here intended as means for immediate maintenance a - it should take effeet, if accepted within certain periods business to those who, by peace, would be thrown out o' * - not exceeding six months, by majorities in the several their accustomed employment and support. This is to +. of the army. The most influential officers in any plain for further illustration; and, in conformity with thes --- ine are of course the elder and superior ones. To these, views, Congress forthwith effected a loan in £urope, ano as a general rule, five years' full pay was a fair equivalent; paid in money all the foreign officers entitled to the com * and by their exertions the commutation was accepted by mutation. But how were the petitioners ureated The majorities if most of the lines, and no provision ever after. did not obtain a dollar in money, and even their certifi wards made for such officers as were either absent or pre- cates were not delivered till six or nine months after the sent, and dissenting: . . . . . - right to half pay-accrued ; and when received, so far from No evidence can now be found, however, of any accept. being secured by pledges or requisitions rendering then ance, even by majorities, in any of the lines, till after the ex. valuable as money, the officers could not obtain for then piration of the six months prescribed. But a report of in the market over one-fifth of their nominal amous the Secretary of War, dated Oct. 31, 1783, (8 Journals of The receipts given for these certificates truly omitted to Congress, 478,) enumerates certainlines and individuals, state that they were in full payment of either the commu that had then signified their acceptance. It would beltation or the half pay. By such means, these petitioners difficult, as might be expected, to find among the indivi. to $upply the then existing wants of themselyes and semiduals named one who still survives. Those, then the lies, which was the legitimate object of both the half pa: youngest and now surviving, must have felt deeply the | and its commutation, in fact realized only one instead o inequality proposed ; and if most of them had not been ifive years' full pay, or only two years' haif pay instead or absent on furlough, by a resolve of Congress, after peace half pay for life. - . . . - -, - * -
If this was a substantial fulfilment of the promise to them, I think it would be difficult to define what would bite been a defective, delusive, and unsubstantial fulfilment, But it has been suggested, that the petitioners might all have retained their certificates till afterwards funded, and in that event have escaped loss. Can gentlemen, however, forget that the very design of half pay was to furnish daily food and raiment, and not a fund to be deposited in bank f #. * and that, though the use of a portion of it...ifass had been past at once, might have been postponed to a future period, yet their neces. sites utterly forbade most of them from not resorting, forthwith, to a.single year’s pay, which was the entire value of the whole certificate 2 it is another part of the distressing history of this case, that if, on the contrary, every officer had retained his certificate till funded, his. loss on it would have been very near one-third of its amount. But on this point I shall not dwell, as its particulars are more recent and familiar. It will suffice to recall to your minds, that the provision-made for the payment of these certificates in A. D. 1790, was not by money, nor virtually to their full amount, but by opening a loan, payable in those certificates, and a scrip of stock given for them on these terms: one third of the principal was to draw no interest whatever for ten years; and all the interest then due was to draw thereafter only three per cent Without going into any calculations of the value of different kinds of stock, under different-circum: stances, it is obvious that such a payment or security was not worth so much, by nearly a third, as the money would have been worth, or as scrip would have been worth for the whole then due on six per cent. interest. ft is true that this loan was in form voluntary , but it is equally true that, as no other provision was made for pay. ment, no alternative remained but to accept the terms. Hence, if the officer sold his.certificate from me he obtained only one-fifth of the amount therein promised ; o, if he retained it, he obtained only about two-thirds of that amount. . . . .”.” . . . . .” - What renders this circumstance still more striking, we anrselves have in this way saved, and reduced our na. tional debt below what it would have been, many millions of dollars—from 13 to 15, I believe—and yet, now in our prosperity, hesitate' to restore what was taken in part from these very men, and, when not from them, taken from others on account of their speculatious on these very men, and their associates in arms. It was at the time of the finding thought just, and attempted by some of our blest statesmen to provide some retribution to the origibal holders of certificates for the losses that had been
Surviving Qsficers of the Revolution.
rity ; and where the debt itself was, as in the present case, the price of blood lavished for the creditor, the wages of those sufferings and toils, which secured our present liberties, and fill the brightest page of glory in our country's history. The great military leader of the Revolution has given his sanction to this measure, in the strongest terms, when, calling to mind the lion hearts, and eagle eyes, that had surrounded and sustained him in all his arduous trials, and reflecting that they, not soldiers by profession, nor adventurers, but citizens, with tender ties of kindred and friendship, and with cheering prospects in civil life, had abandoned all to follow him, and to sink or swim with the sacred cause in which he had enlisted, he
invoked towards them the justice of his country, and ex- .
pressed the fullest confidence, that “a country rescoqby. their arms will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude”
It is not to be forgotten, that a measure like this would
remove a stain from our history.
y correspondence and verbal inquiries, i
Massachusetts and Maine, 5 or 6 in Rhode Island, 5 in Vermont, 16 in Connecticut, 20 in New York, 12 in New Jersey, 18 in Pennsylvania, 3 in Delaware, 12 in Maryland, 33 to 38 in Virginia and Kentucky, 10 to 12 in Ohio, 12 or 15 in the Carolinas, and 5 or 6 in Georgia. As, by the annuity tables, something like 250 ought now to be alive, the computations have been made on a medium of 230 between the number ascertained and the conjectural number. . . . . . - The question, then, is of a general, public nature, and presents the single point, whether, in the late language of an eloquent statesman of New York, these veterans slallany longer remain “living monuments of the neglect
sustained on them—to provide in some way a partial re. of their country.” All the foreign officers, whose claims rested on the
Horation. But the inherent difficulty of the subject, and
same resolve, were, as I have before stated, promptly paid in specie ; and their illustrious leader, Lafayette, by whosc side these petitioners faced equal toils and dangers, has been since loaded with both money and applause. Even the Tories, who deserted the American cause, and
adhered to one so much less holy and pure, have been .
fully and faithfully rewarded by England ; and it now re. mains with the Senate to tlecide, not whether the sum
that a creditor of the public should be treated with at proposed shall be bestowed in mere charity, however **qual, if not greater kindness, than the creditor of charity may bless both him that gives and him that takes, *individual. That when the embarrassments of a debtor nor in mere #. sensible the petitioners may * rise to a mode of payment altogether inadequate to | be to the influence of either ; but whether, let these consi. *t is justly due, and this kind of payment is forced derations operate as they may, the officers should be re. on the creditor by the necessities of either party, the munerated for their losses, on those broad principles of *tor ought, when relieved from his embarrassments or cternal justice which are the cement of society, and which, *sities, to make ample restitution. That it is the dic- without a wound to their delicacy and honest pride, will, *of every moral and honorable feeling to supply the in that event, prove the solace and staff of their declining *ency; and especially should the debtor do this years.
* debt; where the debtor, by a part of the arrange
* the inadequacy was more than four-fifths of the | *" oved millions to contribute to his present prospe- i.
is proposed as the proper one for filling the blank.
I shall detain the Senate no longer, except to offer a few remarks on the computations, on which the sum $ 1,100,000 Wa
Surviving Officers of the Revolution.
[JAN. 24, 1828.
rious estimates, on various hypotheses, are annexed to
officers, and support this motion. If any think a differ.
m ich inferior sacrifices : they were not contending under
the stigma of traitors, liable to the halter; they were 1 pe.
- class, they have often distinguished themselves in forums,
longer period than the five years. Besides, a great por.