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conviction, I know of nothing that will have Chap. I. greater influence; especially when we recollect 1783 that the system referred to, being the result of \ja7. the collected wisdom of the continent, must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the least objectionable of any that could be devised; and that if it should not be carried into immediate execution, a national bankruptcy, with all its deplorable consequences, will take place before any different plan can possibly be proposed and adopted. So pressing are the present circumstances, and such is the alternative now offered to the states.
"The ability of the country to discharge the debts which have been incurred in its defence is not to be doubted; an inclination I flatter myself will not be wanting. The path of our duty is plain before us....honesty will be found, on every experiment, to be the best and only true policy. Let us then as a nation, be just; let us fulfil the public contracts which congress had undoubtedly a right to make, for the purpose of carrying on the war, with the same good faith we suppose ourselves bound to perform our private engagements. In the mean time, let an attention to the cheerful performance of their proper business as individuals, and as members of society, be earnestly inculcated on the citizens of America. Then will they strengthen the hands of government, and be happy under its protection. Every one will reap the fruit of his labours; every one will enjoy his own acquisitions, without molestation, and without danger.
vOL. v. II •
Chap. i. "In this state of absolute freedom and perfect 1783 security, who will grudge to yield a very little of l787 his property to support the common interest of society, and ensure the protection of government? who does not remember the frequent declarations, at the commencement of the war, that we should be completely satisfied, if at the expense of one half, we could defend the remainder of our possessions? where is the man to be found who wishes to remain indebted for the defence of his own person and property, to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of others, without making one generous effort to repay the debt of honour and of gratitude? in what part of the continent shall we find any man or body of men, who would not blush to stand up and propose measures purposely calculated to rob the soldier of his stipend, and the public creditor of his due? and were it possible that such a flagrant instance of injustice could ever happen, would it not excite the general indignation, and tend to bring down upon the authors of such measures, the aggravated vengeance of heaven? if after all, a spirit of disunion, or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness, should manifest itself in any of the states; if such an ungracious disposition should attempt to frustrate all the h >ppy effects that might be expected to flow from the union; if there should be a refusal to comply with the requisitions for funds to discharge the annual interest of the public debts; and if that refusal should revive again all those jealousies, and produce all those evils, which are now happily removed; congress, who
have in all their transactions, shewn a great Chap. I. degree of magnanimity and justice, will stand justified in the sight of God and man; and the ^l7 state alone which puts itself in opposition to the aggregate wisdom of the continent, and follows such mistaken and pernicious counsels, will be responsible for all the consequences.
"For my own part, conscious of having acted while a servant of the public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real interests of my country; having, in consequence of my fixed belief, in some measure pledged myself to the army, that their country would finally do them complete and ample justice; and not wishing to conceal any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world; I have thought proper to transmit to your excellency the enclosed collection of papers, relative to the half pay and commutation granted by congress to the officers of the army. From these communications, my decided sentiments will be clearly comprehended, together with the conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend the adoption of the measure, in the most earnest and serious manner. As the proceedings of congress, the army, and myself, are open to all, and contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudices, and errors, which may have been entertained by any, I think it unnecessary to say any thing more than just to observe, that the resolutions of congress now alluded to, are undoubtedly as absolutely binding upon the United States, as the most solemn acts of confe
52 THE LIFE OFChap. i. deration or legislation. As to the idea which I 1783 am informed, has in some instances prevailed, that the half pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a pension, it ought to be exploded forever. That provision should be viewed as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to the officers of the army, for services then to be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service....It was a part of their hire....I may be allowed to say it was the price of their blood, and of your independence. It is therefore more than a common debt; it is a debt of honour. It can never be considered as a pension, or gratuity; nor be cancelled until it is fairly discharged.
"With regard to a distinction between officers and soldiers, it is sufficient that the uniform experience of every nation of the world, combined with our own, proves the utility and propriety of the discrimination. Rewards in proportion to the aids the public derives from them, are unquestionably due to all its servants. In some lines, the soldiers have perhaps generally had as ample a compensation for their services, by the large bounties which have been paid to them, as their officers will receive in the proposed commutation; in others, if besides the donation of lands, the payment of arrearages of clothing and wages, (in which articles all the component parts of the army must be put upon the same footing) we take into the estimate the bounties many of the soldiers have received, and the gratuity of one year's full pay which is promised to all,
possibly their situation (every circumstance duly Chap. I. considered) will not be deemed less eligible than \jss that of the officers. Should a further reward, ^°e7t however, be judged equitable, I will venture to assert, no one will enjoy greater satisfaction than myself, on seeing an exemption from taxes for a limited time (which has been petitioned for in some instances) or any other adequate immunity or compensation, granted to the brave defenders of their country's cause. But neither the adoption nor rejection of this proposition will in any manner affect, much less militate against, the act of congress, by which they have offered five years full pay, in lieu of the half pay for life which had been before promised to the officers of the army."Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I cannot omit to mention the obligations this country is under to that meritorious class of veteran non-commissioned officers and privates who have been discharged for inability, in consequence of the resolution of congress of the 2bd April 1782, on an annual pension for life. Their peculiar sufferings, their singular merits, and claims to that provision, need only be known, to interest all the feelings of humanity in their behalf. Nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance can rescue them from the most complicated misery, and nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their country, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of obtaining any of the necessaries or comforts