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Arthur St. Clair
Chapter VI. St. Clair's Later Years - Critical Biography


After St. Clair's removal from office he returned to Ligonias where he passed the remaining years of his life. He was now an old man, unfit for business and yet destitute. The heavy expenses which he had incurred in the Northwest were not repaid because they had not been previously authorized by law. He writes in his latter years "To the establishment of that country which was by me led up from 30 men to upwards of 60,000 in about fourteen years, the general government never contributed one cent, except the salary, which was not equal to my travelling expenses for a good many years. His salary as governor and superintendent of Indian affairs was $2,000 a year.

St. Clair had still other claims against the government. He had during the revolution, when it seemed as if Washington's army was about to melt away, advanced funds in 1776 to Major William Butler to begin the recruiting. After the close of the war he tried to get this refunded but because of the non-adjustment of other accounts the Paymaster General did not allow it, though conceding the regularity of the claim. Later a committee on claims in congress reported that the United States had received the benefit of the sum advanced and that neither the United States nor Major Butler had repaid any part of it to St. Clair, but that it was barred by the Statute.

This was not St. Clair's only claim on the government. As superintendent of Indian affairs in the territory it had been necessary for him in order to carry out the instructions of the secretary of war to forward a considerable amount of money. His account to the treasury department was disallowed because his vouchers were not receipted. When this omission was supplied, the contractor required St. Clair to give his personal bond for the payment of the vouchers. They were again presented to the treasury department for payment, but this time the vouchers could not be paid because there was no appropriation for the payment of debts contracted under the confederation. St. Clair was not, however, uneasy about it as Hamilton promised to see to the matter, but the latter went out of office before that was done. His successor refused to have anything to do with it and so St. Clair applied to congress where payment was refused because it was not previously authorized by law. His creditors got a judgment in 1810 and St. Clair's property, land, dwelling, mill, smelting furnace and all, were sold at a great loss, while the money owed him by the public would have enabled him to save it.

After the loss of this property St. Clair was obliged to move to Chestnut Ridge where he lived in a log house. An exaggerated account describes his life here as one spent "in the most abject poverty, in a miserable cabin, upon a sterile and dreary waste, among rocks and precipices of emblems of his career".

His condition excited considerable pity and numerous efforts were made for his relief. Finally in 1818 a bill was passed the House granting him a pension of sixty dollars a month, at a vote of 102 to 90.

Pennsylvania did her part by settling on St. Clair an annuity of $300 which was increased in 1817 to $600. And in 1857, thirty nine years after St. Clair's death, congress appropriated a considerable sum for the relief of his heirs.

St. Clair lived to enjoy to an none of this relief, for he died late in August 1818, as the result of a fall from his wagon when on a trip to Youngstown to buy flour. Thus ended the career of a man who seemed destined to misfortune. For forty-two years he had taken a prominent part in the events of the time, and in almost every instance had failed, owing in some cases to adverse circumstances, but in others to mere incapacity for the task undertaken.


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