Thursday, October 5, 2023

1846 Text of a Petition from Joseph D. Hill Regarding Debt of Purnell Houston


To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress assembled--

The prayer of your petitioner, Joseph D. Hill, of Monongalia County, Virginia respectfully showeth into your Honorable Body:

     That by virtue of the acts of Congress in relation to Revolutionary Soldiers, a certain Pernel Houston of said County obtained a pension for services rendered during the revolutionary war.  The declaration, evidence and papers in relation to said pension will be found of record in the Pension Office at Washington City; that said Houston drew his pension for about three years until he had received something upwards of $90; that in the year 1834 Washington G. Singleton, Esq. Attorney for the U. States, came to the home of your petitioner where said Houston then lived, and after conversing with said Houston as to his services in the revolutionary war, stated to him that he was not entitled to a pension, that a portion of the time embraced within his service was not actual service of the United States, but a month or two between the time of his entering the service and his actually rendezvousing, ought not to be counted, and that he, said Singleton,  as attorney for the United States, would be under the necessity of prosecuting him for perjury in U.S. Court, unless he, said Houston, would give his note and security for the sum so received as a pensioner; that said Houston, being ignorant of his rights, begged said Singleton to permit him to go to Morgantown to see Thomas P. Ray (who is now deceased) who had attended to procuring said pension, and consult with him in relation to the same;  That said Singleton refused to delay, but urged the giving of said note, or otherwise, he would proceed to prosecute.  Said Houston being thus threatened, applied to your petitioner to become his security, and your petitioner being entirely ignorant of the subject, and seeing that said Houston was much disturbed, being then old, infirm and afflicted with the palsy, consented to become his security, and said Houston and your petitioner executed their note to said Singleton for the use of the U.S. for the sum of $93 Dolls, and 25 cents bearing date the 1st of November 1836 and payable some months thereafter.

     That in the month of March, 1835 said Houston departed this life; that he had been for several years before almost helpless, without any estate real or personal, and at the time of his death, his property was insufficient to defray the expenses of his burial; that your petitioner being the son-in-law of said Houston, was induced by his relationship, to take him home, there to live; That your petitioner afterwards discovered it was unjust and improper in said Singleton to require payment of said note and declined paying the same, and thereupon suit was instituted in the year 1835 against your petitioner or the security of said Houston, in the United States Court at Clarksburg, a distance of upwards of 40 miles from the residence of your petitioner, and he employed Edgar C. Wilson of Morgantown, Virginia as his attorney to defend said case, and soon thereafter defense was made and pleas filed setting forth the character of the transaction, and the cause stood ready for hearing, and your petitioner and his witnesses attended, ready for trial, but the case was continued at the instance of the U. States until sometime in the year 1836, when the Clerk's Office of said Court, with all the papers relative to said case, were destroyed by fire, and your petitioner had hoped that no further proceeding would be instituted against him.  But in the month of September, in the year of 1838, a new writ was issued against your petitioner, and in the year 1840 the plaintiff filed his declaration, and in consequence of a change in the time of holding said Court, said Wilson was unable to give his personal attention thereto, and your petitioner was under the necessity of employing G. D. Camden, Esq. of Clarksburgh as additional council, and in the same year pleas in defense were again filed similar to those which had been destroyed; and the true nature of the defense is found in the 3r, 6th and fifth pleas, contained on the 6th and 7th pages of the record of said case accompanying this petition, which pleas are duly verified by your petitioner.  

     That your petitioner has ever been ready for the trial of said cause and has been in attendance at said Court at least some ten or twelve terms since the suit was first instituted, and often with his witnesses, but as often has the cause been continued at the instance of the Attorney for the United States, and never at the instance of your petitioner, which will all appear from said record.

     Your petitioner some two years since had hopes that a trail of said cause might soon be had, but within the last 18 months 20 indictments, or more have been found in said Court, which              it improbable that any trial of this case can be had for at least 5 years to come, and your petitioner is still kept in suspense;  That he has already expended in time and money much more than the original debt, and with but a very distant prospect of having his case tried for years to come.  Considering the nature of the claim, being an attempt to enforce the repayment of the pittance granted to a revolutionary soldier by the U. States, and that from a security who never received the slightest consideration therefore, but, on the other hand, was compelled to support his aged and impoverished parent; that if ever there were doubts as to the proper construction of the service of said Houston, yet, without any suppression of the truth, the pension was allowed him, considering, also, the great costs and vexation to which your petitioner has been subjected by said suit, and the distant prospect of a trial, and the probable continuing costs and expenses which must fall upon your petitioner, whether he succeeds in said suit or not,--Your petitioner has been advised, as the only remedy, that application be made to your Honorable Body;--He therefore, respectfully prays an act relieving your petitioner from all liability in consequence of the execution of said obligation for $93 Dolls & 25 cents; and that the suit now pending in the U.S. Court, held at Clarksburgh, Va against your petitioner, may be dismissed which your petitioner is advised the present atto. for the U.S. will willingly do, provided, he have authority for so doing.

     Your petitioner herewith filed a copy of the record of said suit endorsed "A", together with the affidavits of Edgar C. Wilson, Esq. and Elizabeth Robinson & John Evans, endorsed B & C.

     All which is respectfully submitted.

                                        Signed Joseph D. Hill

N.B.  Your petitioner begs leave to refer to the Hon. W. G. Brown, the Rep in Congress from this District, as to probability of having trial of the above mentioned case, he being conversant with the business of said Court.

                                        Signed J.D.H.

January 5th, 1846

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