Friday, April 23, 2010

Anna Welsh & Brother George Hurlbut 1797.

This is interesting not because of Anna Welsh trying to get a seven year half-pay pension because of her husbands death nor that she was the executrix of her brothers will, and was trying to get his land warrants. It is the law that was in place that would not allow her either. This information shows the thinking of your government and how it work at this time in our history.



Mr. DWIGHT FOSTER, from the Committee of Claims, to whom was referred the petition of Anna Welsh, made the following report:

That the petitioner asks for an allowance of the seven years’ half-pay promised certain officers killed in the service of the United States during the late war. It appears that Mrs. Welsh’s husband was a captain of marines; that he served on the expedition to Penobscot, and was there slain. The resolutions of Congress, promising seven years’ half-pay to the widows of officers who fell in service, did not extend to officers of the navy.

The repeated decisions made by Congress against petitions of this nature forbid the expectation of an allowance; and the committee can discover no sufficient reason for making a discrimination between this and other similar cases heretofore considered.

The petitioner, as executrix of the last will and testament of her brother, George Hurlbut, deceased, further asks for an allowance of the commutation and land warrants, to which she apprehends she is entitled, on the principle that her brother continued in service till the end of the war. That gentleman was a captain in Sheldon’s regiment of light dragoons; he was wounded by the enemy, in the performance of his duty, at Tarrytown, in the summer of 1781, and languished of his wounds until the 8th day of May, 1783, when he died. On this statement, there is no doubt but a right to so much land as was promised to captains in the army has vested in the petitioner; and, on proof of the facts, she may now receive the warrants at the War Office, without aid from Congress. With respect to the claim for commutation, some further attention will be requisite. By the act of Congress, of the 21st of October, 1780, half-pay for life was promised to the officers of the army who should continue in the service to the end of the war. This was afterwards, on the 22d of March, 1783, commuted for five years full pay.

If Captain Hurlbut lived to the end of the war, he was entitled to commutation, and in his right the petitioner, as executrix of his will and legatee, would be entitled; otherwise; not. The question then arising is, when did the war end? or, in other words, was there an end of the war before the 8th of May, 1783, the day of Captain Hurlbut’s death? On the solution of this question rests the claim of the petitioner for commutation; it being placed on the ground of contract only.

The provisional articles of peace between the United States and Great Britain were signed November 30, 1782; and the treaty between France and Great Britain, on which the efficacy of those articles was conditioned, upon the 20th of January, 1783. The first information Congress appears to have had of them was on the 24th of March, 1783, when the armed vessels, cruising under commissions from the United States, were recalled. On the 11th of April, 1783, a cessation of hostilities was ordered by proclamation of Congress.

On the 23d of April, Congress, by their resolution of that date, declared their opinion that “the time of the men engaged to serve during the war does not expire until the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace.” By the acts of May 26, June 11, August 9, and September 26, 1783, Congress directed parts of the army to be furloughed; and, by their proclamation on the 18th of October of the same year, they discharged absolutely, after the third day of November then ensuing, such part of the federal armies as had been furloughed by the several acts aforesaid.

On the 25th of November, New York was evacuated by the British troops. The definitive treaty of peace was, in fact, signed on the 3d of September, 1783, but not received by Congress until about the middle of January, 1784. In the settlements made for pay, &c., by the commissioners of Congress, with the officers and men engaged to serve during the war, and furloughed as aforesaid, the 3d day of November, the day when the troops were discharged by proclamation, has been regarded as the end of the war; and they have been settled with and paid to that day accordingly.

It appears, by the accounts of Colonel Sheldon’s regiment, that certificates for Captain Hurlbut’s commutation were, in fact, issued; but, on a further examination of the nature of the claim, it was thought that no act of Congress would justify the granting of commutation for any officer similarly circumstanced, and therefore the certificates were cancelled. Had the committee found no resolution of Congress which seemed to have determined the question when the war ended, they might have been induced to fix on a period antecedent to the death of Captain Hurlbut, and, consequently, have been of the opinion that the petitioner was entitled to relief. But as Congress seem to have fixed on a later period by their resolution of the 23d of April, and by continuing in service the troops engaged to serve during the war, and paying the officers and men till the 3d of November, 1783, as they were liable until that time to be again called into service, and, in case of disobedience, would have been subjected to the penalties of the rules and articles of war; and as the House of Representatives, under the present Governmen, rejected a petition for commutation, founded on principles exactly similar to the present, by the administrator to the estate of Major Torrey, who died in September, 1783, the committee conceive they are not at liberty to contradict authority and precedent so respectable. They therefore report that the prayer of the petition of the said Anna Welsh ought not to be granted.

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