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Financial Difficulties

clair, st, sold, sale, money, army, real and estate


The story of the financial difficulties which so clouded his latter years, is not a pleasant one to contemplate. Be sides the 14,000 pounds which came to him by marriage, he was the owner of large tracts of lands which he had purchas ed or received by grant from the Penns for services rendered them. He also made some good land investments. All his property was sold by the sheriff to satisfy his creditors and the most lamentable feature of his embarrassment is that his debts were nearly all contracted in the interests of the state and nation and should have been paid by them and not by St. Clair. In a letter to Hon. William B. Giles he says that the office of Governor was forced upon him by friends who thought it would afford him an opportunity to replenish his fortunes, hut that it proved otherwise. He writes, "I had neither taste nor genius for speculation in land, nor did I con sider it consistent with the office." During- his last years he presented memorials to the state l'egislature and to Congress, asking, not for charity, but for a simple reimbursement of the moneys he had expended for the public, and not a statement in any of them was ever dis believed or denied. In one of them he explains his situation by saying that, when he entered the Revolution he could not leave his young wife, born and reared in the best of society of Boston, alone with her children on an unprotected and hostile frontier. This compelled him to sell part of his real estate, in Western Pennsylvania, upon some of which he had expended large amounts of money, at a great sacrifice. It was sold for 2,00o pounds in deferred payments. But the purchaser paid him in depreciated Continental currency, so that of the 2,000 pounds he received less than one hundred. He purchased a house in Pottsgrove near Philadelphia as a family residence while he was in the army. On selling this he lost the half by the bankruptcy and suicide of the pur chaser.

In a memorial to the AsSembly he says that, beginning in 1774 (in Dunmore's War) he supplied nearly all the forts and blockhouses in Westmoreland county with arms and means of defense at his own expense. To Congress he says that in the darkest days of the Revolution, when Washing ton's soldiers were daily deserting and the army rapidly melt ing away because they had not been paid, Washingtin him self to him (St. Clair) to save the Pennsylvania line, the best organization in the army. He accordingly advanced the money for recruiting and for bounty and with the aid of Colonel William Butler, the line was saved. To this claim

the Government actually pleaded the statute of limitations.

But the indebtedness which directly caused the sale of his real estate, was contracted while he was Governor of the Territory. Among other duties which he performed there, was to act as Indian agent and as such he negotiated several important treaties. But the amounts appropriated were not generally sufficient to cover the terms of the treaty and rather than have it fail, St. Clair advanced the necessary money.

In one treaty lie was forced to expend sixteen thousand dol lars while hut eight had been set aside for it. When the army for the campaign of 1791 was assembled at Cincinnati, it was found that the appropriation was not sufficient to equip it. St. Clair gave his bond for the amount necessary, on the express promise of the Secretary of the Treasury that it would he repaid. It probably would have been had Hamil ton remained in office, but the new administration was averse to making good the amounts expended by the Federalists. There was hope, however, while Hamilton lived, for he, bet ter than any other, knew of the justice of the claim. St. Clair with no desire whatever to contest the validity of the bond, came into the Westmoreland courts and confessed a judgment against his real estate for the face of the bond with interest, in August, 1803, or $7,042.0o. Payments had been made on it from time to time by St. Clair so that at the time of the sale in 1808, it amounted to $10,632.17.

His property was sold by the sheriff in 1808-09-10, when the embargo had driven all of the money out of the country, and, though valued at 850,000, it did not bring more than the debt, interest and costs. The residence and furnace were sold for $4,000, though the furnace and mill alone had been rented to James Hamilton & Co., for $3,000 per year. The first sale took place, as the Westmoreland records show, in June, 1808, and the last tract was sold on October 15, 181o. His creditors did not stop with the sale of his real estate but sold also, all of his personal property, save a few articles which he select ed as exempt from levy and sale. Among these was one bed and bedding, a few books from his English library, embracing his favorite Horace, whose classic beauty of verse he had long admired, and a bust of Paul Jones, King of the Seas, presented to him and sent by Jones himself from Paris.