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WILLIS WILSON AND WM. W. WILSON.
FEBRUARY 2, 1855.-- Laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. SHOWER, from the Committee on Revolutionary Claims, made the
The Committee on Revolutionary Claims, to whom was referrel the petition
of Willis Wilson and William W. Wilson, grandsons of Lieut. Willis Wilson, deceased, make the following report: The application made to the Congress of the United States by Lieut. Willis Wilson, and subsequently by his heirs, for commutation pay for his services in the war of the Revolution, has been of long standing, and, if age and perseverance can be regarded in such cases, this is certainly a case of the highest merit.
It made its first appearance in the House of Representatives in the year 1818, in the proper person of Lieut. Wilson, and was referred to the Committee on Revolutionary Claims. On the 4th day of February of that year, the committee made an adverse report; but for what reasons it does not now appear, as no report of that date, either printed or written, can be found. In 1820 he renewed his application, and again failed obtaining relief. There is no evidence of any action having been had on the case at that time.
On the 4th day of February, 1839, his heirs presented to the Senate their additional petition, representing that the original petitioner died in the year 1822; that his deeds were most valorous and his sufferings from the wounds received in battle most intense, scarcely endurable by any other human being except by himself. They assert that he received twenty-two wounds, all in front; three of them sabre wounds through the skull, and one of them a bayonet wound through the body." These wounds, if equally distributed among the members of this committee, would have destroyed every man of them.
The Committee on Revolutionary Claims of that body to whom the petition was then referred, passed it by without notice. On the 4th day of January, 1840, it was again submitted to that committee, and met with a similar fate.
Its reference to that committee was renewed on the 29th of December, 1846. On the 25th March ensuing, the committee made the report contained in the printed paper marked “Senate Report,” which this committee would adopt as part of their report.
It again turned up in the Committee on Revolutionary Claims of the House of Representatives, on the 16th February, 1848, and, without any additional facts having been produced since the report was made by the Senate, it reappeared before that committee on the 24th of February, 1852. On each occasion it met with a cold reception and elicited no action by the commillee.
Not at all discouraged by these repeated discomfitures, with a commendable perseverance, the petitioners for the last time appeared before this committee on the 12th January, 1854, and, on the 23 June following, a bill was reported by it granting the relief sought. Untortunately for the claimants, on the following day it was discovered that the report was made in error, and consequently, on the 27th day of the same month, the bill was recommitted.
Highly as this committee appreciates the services of Lieut. Wilson, deeply as it sympathizes with the petitioners on account of the painful feelings with which their bosoms must be filled whenever they contemplate the sufferings of their ancestor, profoundly as it holds in reverence the antiquity of this case, and much as it admires the zeal with which it was prosecuted, the arguments in the accompanying report of the Senate are so conclusive that the prayer of the petitioners ought not to be granted, that it cannot arrive at any other determination, and would therefore report the following resolution:
Resolved, That the prayers of the petitioner be denied.
IN SENATE-March 25, 1846.
The Committee on Revolutionary Claims, to whom was referred the petition
of Willis Wilson and William W. Wilson, grandsons of Willis Wilson, deceased, make the following report:
The petitioners state that Willis Wilson, deceased, in the year 1775, enlisted as a soldier, and that he served about three years as a sergeant; that, in the year 1779, he was appointed a lieutenant; and that, in the year 1780, he was ordered to the south, under Col. Butord, where, in the battle of the Waxhaws, better known as Buford's defeat, he received twenty-two wounds, "all in front," and some of them being very serious, so much so that seven years elapsed before his wounds were all closed, and he was enabled to do anything for his support. They further state that their grandfather received a certificate of commutation at the termination of the war; that Congress being unable at that time to pay him the money due on the certificate, he applied for a pension as an invalid, and that the pension was refused him unless he would surrender his certificate of commutation, and that he agreed to accept the pension on this condition, and surrendered his certificate. He continued thereafter to receive his pension until his death, in 1822.
The petitioners now ask that the commutation, with interest, may be paid to them as the grandsons and heirs-at-law of Willis Wilson.
The petition is unaccompanied by any evidence; but assuming the facts stated to be true, your committee are of the opinion that the petitioners are not entitled to the relief they seek.
By the resolve of Congress, of the 7th June, 1785, under which Willis Wilson was put upon the pension roll, and drew his pension, it is provided : “ That no officer, who has accepted his commutation for halfpay, shall be entered on the list of invalids, unless he shall have first returned his commutation.” This proviso shows it to have been the intention of Congress that no officer should be entitled to both pension and commutation. The resolution on its face presented to the officer a case of election, and the reception of the pension, by the terms of the law, was in itself a waiver of all claim to commutation. But in this case there seems to have been an actual surrender of the certificate; thus assenting formally to the terms of the law. The officer enjoyed his pension in contentment until his death, in 1822. Congress, during the life of him who had suffered in the cause of his country, hear no complaint from him; but twenty-four years after his death, they having rendered no service to the country, his grandsons become dissatisfied with the provision which had been made for him, and complain that injustice has been done to him, and they ask that the commutation which was denied to him may be paid to them, with interest; in other words, that the ancestor, who had rendered the service, should be content with the pension during his life, and that they, after his death, shall receive the commutation.
Were this an application by the officer himself, standing in need of the assistance of his government, all men would be disposed to be liberal towards him. But the question here is not one of liberality, but of strict justice. The government being under no legal obligation to the deceased officer, his grand-children can have no claim upon it. By the resolution of Congress, Willis Wilson had the option given him to take the pension or commutation. He elected to take the pension, and his heirs are concluded by his choice.
FEBRUARY 2, 1855.–Laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Eddy, from the Committee on Revolutionary Claims, made the
The Committee on Revolutionary Claims, to whom was referred the petition
of Clement Sewall, praying five years' full pay under the resolution of 22d March, 1783, report:
That the petitioner avers, that in March, 1777, he entered the military service of his country as a private in Capt. Ford's company of the 1st Maryland regiment, and that the day after the battle of Brandywine, in which he was engaged, he was promoted to ensign in the 3d Maryland regiment; that he received a severe wound in the leg at the batile of Germantown, which long disabled him for field service, and from which he had severely suffered up to the date of his petition ; but that he continued in service with the rank of ensign to the close of the revolutionary war; and that being in such service when the several resolutions of 21st October, 1780, and 220 March, 1783, passed the Continental Congress, and the Maryland line, with which he was connected, having duly elected, in the manner prescribed by the latter resolution, to accept the “five years' full pay,” he therefore asks that his full pay as ensign for that period be given him by act of Congress.
Capt. Sewall has been dead for some years, and the claim is now prosecuted by the daughter and heir of the original petitioner.
Capt. Sewall presented his claim to Congress as early as 1813; and the Committee on Pensions and Revolutionary Claims, on the 230 February, 1814, reported a resolution to the House recommending that the petitioner have leave to withdraw his petition, which was concurred in. The petition now before the committee, and of which a brief abstract has been given in this report, seems to have been first presented during the 2d session of the 20th Congress, and to have had two successive references to the Committee on Military Affairs, and commencing with the 24th Congress, an almost annual reference to this committee up to the present time, but without heretofore receiving action thereon.
The evidence before the committee, while it shows Capt. Sewall to have been a gallant officer and an estimable citizen, is insufficient, in its judgment, to entitle his heirs to the commutation pay claimed.
From a letter dated Third Auditor's Office, 28th July, 1828, over the signature of the Auditor thereof, it appears that Clement Sewall was at