I was reading in the news that President Donald Trump has written a check for $25,000 for the family of a fallen soldier. The article, indirectly quoted Donald Trump as saying:

“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge said. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

And that got me thinking, Presidents are often directly responsible for wars (professional if not personally). So has any other president paid a "death gratuity"?

  • 3
    ... My bad. Apparently, he did eventually pay up, after WaPo wrote an article pointing out that he hadn't yet. Oct 24, 2017 at 6:54
  • 2
    Reminder to commenters: We don't care about your political opinions.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 24, 2017 at 8:52
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    @Oddthinking, why did you roll back the edit, the quote in the question doesn't say that he actually wrote the check, only that he promised to write one.
    – SIMEL
    Oct 24, 2017 at 9:02
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    Might be worth mentioning that families are routinely paid $100,000 compensation - in this case, the father complained that the payment was being paid into the mother's account and he was not optimistic about getting a share because they had split up - and the promised cheque was to be specifically for the father personally, not the family Oct 24, 2017 at 10:15
  • @SIMEL: Shadur changed it, and then apologised (above) for changing it, so I changed it back.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 24, 2017 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


He wasn't president at the time, but George Washington has paid out money to the family of a fallen soldier in the past.

Time Magazine reported on the statement made by President Trump with a historical footnote involving the first President of the United States.

Here's what happened: Elizabeth Neil (sometimes identified as Eliza Neil or Neill) was the widow of a Capt. Daniel Neil, killed early in 1777 at the Revolutionary War's Battle of Princeton; her husband's death had left her impoverished. So, noting that she had heard of Washington's benevolence, she went right to the top.

The Neil farm was "rendered useless by the Enemy" and she was "left with two small Children destitute of Support," unless the Continental Congress could provide help for the widows of fallen soldiers, she wrote to him. Washington forwarded the letter to John Hancock, noting that he wasn't sure what provision had been made for people in her situation but hoped to be able to answer her. Unfortunately for Neil and Washington, the very young nation had not yet created a system to provide pensions for the families of fallen soldiers.

Replying to Neil on April 27, 1777, the future president expressed his disappointment that he didn't have better news to report. Congress had "thought it rather too early to adopt a measure of this kind yet" and he could make no promises about their future decisions. "In the meantime, as I sincerely feel for your distress," he added, "I beg your acceptance of the Inclosd [sic] as a small testimony of my Inclination to serve you upon any future occasion."

The letter itself doesn't specify what the "inclosd" is — but Washington's papers do. What Washington enclosed in the letter was the not inconsequential sum of $50. As Phillip Thomas Tucker explains in his book George Washington's Surprise Attack, the money came out of Washington's own pocket.

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