Administrative History

When hostilities broke out between British and American troops in 1775, New York had no provision for the regular compensation of its troops. The Provincial Congress adopted a militia bill on August 22, 1775 providing for payment to New York State Militia troops equal to that of Continental Army troops. The treasurer, first appointed by the Provincial Congress in 1775 and continued by the State constitution of 1777, was empowered to collect revenues as necessary and disburse funds in payment of the State's obligations. The office of auditor-general, responsible for maintaining and reconciling the public accounts of the State, was established by resolution of the Provincial Convention on July 24, 1776. The first Pay Master for the Militia was appointed by a resolution of April 4, 1777.

The mechanism for paying troops was in place, but the payments quickly fell far behind or had to be made with inflated State and Continental currency. In 1780, the governor appointed three special auditors to settle accounts for back pay. The auditors issued certificates of debt bearing five percent interest. Soldiers or other creditors could use the certificates as payment for estates forfeited by loyalists, unappropriated lands, or taxes. A schedule was set up to calculate depreciated and real pay due creditors.

In 1781, the continuing lack of funds led to compensation for war service in land rights. Officers and privates were granted bounty rights to unappropriated lands (a "right" being 500 acres) according to rank. In 1782, each "class" (fifteen or thirty-five man subdivision of a Militia regiment) was granted a 200-acre bounty for furnishing one man for service in the Levies (drafts from Militia regiments who could be called on to serve outside the state for the entire term of their service) as required by law. The man enlisted for service in the Levies received a 500-acre bounty right. The 200-acre bounty granted to the class could be assigned to the enlisted man or any other person.

The State Auditor, permanently established by statute in 1782, was empowered to receive from civil and military officers all accounts, vouchers, and other records needed to settle the State's accounts. In 1784, special auditors were directed to settle the accounts of New York troops in service of the United States and to issue printed certificates dated January 1, 1782 entitling the holder to receive a specified sum. Officers of the Militia and Levies whose regiments saw actual service in the war submitted unpaid accounts to the State Auditor for settlement. The State Treasurer was to issue certificates bearing five percent interest to each person named on the payrolls and accounts, taking a receipt for each certificate issued. Others to whom the State owed money received certificates of debt. Unappropriated lands were granted to holders of various Treasurer's certificates, and all certificates were now negotiable. The Military Tract was laid out and land granted to those eligible for bounty rights.