THE WHISKEY REBELLION
THE WHISKEY REBELLION
hamilton to washington
I have the honor to inclose sundry papers which have been handed to me by the Commissioners of the Revenue, respecting the state of the excise law in the Western Survey of the District of Pennsylvania.
Such persevering and violent opposition to the law gives the business a still more serious aspect than it has hitherto worn, and seems to call for vigorous and decisive measures on the part of the government.
I have directed that the supervisor of the district shall repair forthwith to the survey in question, to ascertain in person the true state of the survey; to collect evidences respecting the violences that have been committed, in order to a prosecution of the offenders; to ascertain particulars as to the meeting which appears to have been held at Pittsburgh; to encourage the perseverance of the officers; giving expectations, as far as it can be done with propriety, of indemnification from the government for any losses which they may sustain in consequence of their offices; to endeavor to prevail upon the inhabitants of the country of Alleghany, who appear at present the least refractory, to come into an acquiescence of the law; representing to discreet persons the impropriety of government’s remaining a passive spectator of the contempt of its laws.
I shall also immediately submit to the Attorney-General, for his opinion, whether an indictable offence has not been committed by the persons who were assembled at Pittsburgh, and of what nature is the paper which contains their proceedings; with a view, if judged expedient by you, that it may be brought under the notice of the Circuit Court, which, I understand, is to be held in October at Yorktown.
My present clear conviction is, that it is indispensable, if competent evidence can be obtained, to exert the full force of the law against the offenders, with every circumstances that can manifest the determination of government to enforce its execution; and if the processes of the courts are resisted, as is rather to be expected, to employ those means which in the last resort are put in the power of the Executive. If this is not done, the spirit of disobedience will naturally extend, and the authority of the government will be prostrated. Moderation enough has been shown; it is time to assume a different tone. The well-disposed part of the community will begin to think the Executive wanting in decision and vigor. I submit these impressions to your consideration, previous to any step which will involve the necessity of ulterior proceedings; and shall hope as speedily as possible to receive your instructions.
With the highest respect and the truest attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
I have to acknowledge the honor of your letter of the 31st of August.
Letters from the supervisor of North Carolina confirm the representation contained in the letter from the inspector of the 5th survey to you. My letter which accompanies this, suggests the measure which, on mature reflection, has appeared most proper to be taken upon the whole subject of the opposition to the law. If the idea is approved by you, I believe it will be advisable to transmit a copy of the proclamation to the governors of each of the States of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, calling their attention in a proper manner to the state of affairs within their respective governments.
hamilton to washington
I had the honor of writing to you by the post of Monday last, and then transmitted sundry papers, respecting a meeting at Pittsburgh on the 21st of August, and other proceedings of a disorderly nature in opposition to the laws laying a duty on distilled spirits, and I added my opinion that it was advisable for the government to take measures for suppressing these disorders and enforcing the laws with vigor and decision.
The result of further and mature deliberation is, that it will be expedient for the President to issue a proclamation adverting in general terms to the irregular proceedings, and manifesting an intention to put the laws in force against offenders. The inducements to this measure are:
- 1. That it is a usual course in like cases, and seems, all circumstances considered, requisite to the justification of the Executive Department. It is now more than fourteen months since the duty in question began to operate. In the four western counties of Pennsylvania, and in a great part of North Carolina, it has never been in any degree submitted to. And the late meeting at Pittsburgh is, in substance, a repetition of what happened last year in the same scene. The disorders in that quarter acquire additional consequence from their being acted in the State which is the immediate seat of government. Hence the occasion appears to be sufficiently serious and of sufficient importance to call for such a procedure.
- 2. As an accommodating and temporizing conduct has been hitherto pursued, a proclamation seems to be the natural prelude to a different course of conduct.
- 3. There is considerable danger that before measures can be matured for making a public impression by the prosecution of offenders, the spirit of opposition may extend and break out in other quarters, and by its extension become much more difficult to be overcome. There is reason to hope that a proclamation will arrest it, and give time for more effectual measures.
- 4. It may even prevent the necessity of ulterior coercion. The character of the President will naturally induce a conclusion, that he means to treat the matter seriously. This idea will be impressive on the most refractory, it will restrain the timid and wavering, and it will encourage the well disposed. The appearance of the President in the business will awaken the attention of a great number of persons of the last description to the evil tendency of the conduct reprehended, who have not yet viewed it with due seriousness. And from the co-operation of these circumstances good may reasonably be expected.
In either view, therefore, of the propriety of conduct, or the effects to be hoped for, the measure seems to be an advisable one. I beg leave to add, that, in my judgement, it is not only advisable, but necessary. Besides the state of things in the western part of North Carolina, which is known to you, a letter has just been received from the supervisor of South Carolina, mentioning that a spirit of discontent and opposition had been revived in two of the counties of that State bordering on North Carolina, in which it had been apparently suppressed. This shows the necessity of some immediate step of a general aspect, while things are preparing, if unhappily it should become necessary, to act with decision in the western counties of Pennsylvania, where the government, for several obvious considerations, will be left in condition to do it. Decision successfully exerted in one place, will, it is presumed, be efficacious everywhere.
The Secretary of War and Attorney-General agree with me in opinion on the expediency of a proclamation. The draft of one now submitted has been framed in concert with the latter, except as to one or two particulars, which are noted in the margin of the rough draft in my handwriting, herewith also transmitted. In respect to these, the objections of that gentleman did not appear to me well founded, and would, I think, unnecessarily diminish the force of the instrument.
With the highest respect and trust attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
Herewith is an official letter, submitting the draft of a proclamation. I reserve some observations as most proper for a private letter.
In the case of a former proclamation, I observe it was under the seal of the United States, and countersigned by the Secretary of State. If the precedent was now to be formed, I should express a doubt whether it was such an instrument as ought to be under the seal of the United States; and I believe usage, as well in this country under the State governments as in Great Britain, would be found against it; but the practice having been begun, there are many reasons which in this instance recommend an adherence to it, and the form of the attestation is adapted to this idea.
But still, if the Secretary of State should be at so great a distance, or if an uncertainty of his being in the way should involve the probability of considerable delay, it will be well to consider if the precedent ought not to be departed from. In this case, the attestation will be required to be varied, so as to omit from the words “In testimony” to the words “my hand,” inclusively, and to substitute the word “Given” to “Done”; and it may be advisable to direct the Attorney-General to countersign it.
Every day’s delay will render the act less impressive, and defeat part of its object.
The propriety of issuing the proclamation depends of course upon a resolution to act in conformity to it, and put in force all the powers and means with which the Executive is possessed, as occasion shall require. My own mind is made up fully to this issue, and on this my suggestion of the measure is founded. Your letter by the last post, confirming former intimations, assures me that you view the matter in the same light.
The words in the proclamation, “dictated by weighty reasons of public exigency and policy,” are not essential to the general scope of it. They amount to an additional commitment of the President on the question of the merits of the law, and will require to be well considered.
That the proclamation, both as to manner and matter, will be criticised, cannot be matter of surprise, if it should happen, to any one who is aware of the lengths to which a certain party is prepared to go. It ought to be anticipated as probable.
In a step so delicate and full of responsibility, I though it my duty to make these observations; though I was sure they would of themselves occur.
It is satisfactory to know that a jury in Chester Country convicted a person who was guilty of assaulting an officer of inspection. On being interrogated, they answered that they had found him guilty upon the count in the indictment which charged him with assaulting the officer in the execution of his duty; that the law was a constitutional act of government, and was not to be resisted by violence. I have directed Mr. Coxe to collect and publish the particulars. The symptom is a good one.
With the most faithful and affectionate attachment, etc.
hamilton to washington
I have been duly honored with your letters of the 7th and 17th instant, and perceive with much pleasure a confirmation of the expectation which your former communications had given, that your view of the measures proper to be pursued, respecting the proceedings therein referred to, would correspond with the impressions entertained here.
I flatter myself that the proclamation will answer a very valuable purpose; but every thing which the law and prudence will warrant, will be put in train as circumstances shall indicate, for such eventual measures as may be found necessary. I do not, however, despair that, with a proper countenance, the ordinary course of legal coercion will be found adequate.
The inclosed copy of a letter from the inspector of Kentucky to the supervisor of Virginia, of the 12th of July last, and the copy of a letter from one of his collectors to him of the 1st of June, contain interesting and, comparatively, not discouraging matter respecting the state of things in that survey.
The supervisor of Virginia, in a letter to the Commissioner of the Revenue, of the 10th instant, expresses himself thus: “I can truly say that the excise is now fairly on its legs in this district; it rests on the good-will of the greater part of the people, and our collectors are from no cause indisposed to the service, but the apprehension of too much business for too little compensation.” A letter from Mr. Hawkins (Senator) to Mr. Coxe, announces favorable symptoms in the part of North Carolina which is in the vicinity of his residence.
On the whole, I see no cause of apprehension but that the law will finally go into full operation, with as much good-will of the people as usually attends revenue laws.
With the highest respect and trust attachment, etc.
P. S.—I have the pleasure to transmit herewith a letter from Mr. G. Morris, which was handed to me by Mr. R. Morris. The supervisor has been desired to forward to the Circuit Court at Yorktown such proof as he should be able to collect, addressed to the Attorney-General. It will, I perceive, be satisfactory to that officer to receive your direction to proceed there. His presence is of importance, as well to give weight to what is may be proper to do, as to afford security that nothing which cannot be supported will be attempted. I submit the expediency of a line from you to him.
washington to governors of pennsylvania and north and south carolina
Draft by Hamilton.
Inclosed you will find a copy of a proclamation which I have thought proper to issue, in consequence of certain irregular and refractory proceedings, which have taken place in particular parts of some of the States, contravening the laws therein mentioned.
I feel an entire confidence that the weight and influence of the Executive of——————, will be cheerfully exerted in every proper way, to further the objects of this measure, and to promote on every occasion a due obedience to the constitutional laws of the Union. With respect, I am, sir, etc.
hamilton to washington
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President. The execution of the process by the marshal himself is, for many reasons, so important, that it does not appear possible to dispense with it. If there should be any failure in the deputy, it would probably furnish a topic of censure and a source of much embarrassment. The impediment in point of health is to be regretted, but, it would seem, must be surmounted.
hamilton to washington
Upon the receipt of the communication to you from the Governor of Pennsylvania, of the 18th of April last, I put that letter and the papers attending it into the hands of the Commissioner of Revenue to examine into the suggestions made, and report to me concerning them.
The result is contained in a letter from that officer, dated the 25th of April (which hurry of business put out of sight), and which is now communicated only for the information of the President, as the case does not seem to require any particular reply to the Governor, nor any act upon the subject; and the exhibition to him of the picture, which I believe is justly drawn, of the conduct of Mr. Addison and others, would perhaps only excite useless irritation.
The removal of either of the officers objected to, after the persecution they have suffered, and the perseverance they have displayed, would be a hazardous step; and a suspicion is warranted by the conduct of the parties, that it may have been recommended with an insidious view. Experience, however, may better explain in a little time, whether any concession on that point will be expedient; in which case, some means of indemnifying the officer or officers who should be removed, would be demanded both by justice and policy.
With perfect respect, etc.
hamilton to washington
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President. He had thought that the appointment of a supervisor for Pennsylvania might, without inconvenience, be deferred till the return of the President, and therefore deferred mentioning it; but on more particular reflection, as a new revenue year commences with the 1st of July, he believes it would be of use to accelerate the appointment.
The persons who have more particularly occurred to the inquiries of the Secretary (and his inquiries have been particular and extensive), are General Hand, now Inspector; Colonel Henry Miller, of York County; Charles Biddle, of this city; Colonel Francis Nichols; Mr. Clarkson, Mayor; and Major Lennox.
General Hand, from situation, would claim particular consideration; but the Secretary, with much esteem for that gentleman on personal accounts, is obliged in duty to say, that he has been so materially defective in the execution of his present office, as to forbid an assurance that the superior one would be executed by him with due attention and exertion. And it is of vast consequence to the revenue and to the government, that no mistake should be committed in the present choice.
Of the persons named, Col. Miller, all circumstances considered, has the judgement of the Secretary in his favor. All agree that he is a man of good character, of friendly dispositions to the government and laws of the United States, of industry, exertion, address and distinguished firmness, of adequate though not superior ability, and most likely, of any man on whom equal dependence can be placed, to have weight in the most refractory scene of this State. He is also a man of decent property, unembarrassed. Among those who warmly recommend him is Mr. Ross, Senator of this State, who lives in one of the most western counties.
Mr. Biddle has many things in his favor. Perhaps he has more ability than any of the persons named, and no doubts are entertained of his firmness, activity, or attention. His connections and influence are principally among the malcontents; but most persons who have been consulted entertain an unfavorable impression of his political principles, and think there is not full assurance that he would not sacrifice the duties of his station and the interests of the government to party considerations. He was named by the Democratic Society Vice-President, which he has, it seems, neither accepted nor publicly disavowed. Several attach an idea of cunning and duplicity to the character. One good judge of character thinks favorably of his principles, and that reliance may be placed; but the result of a comprehensive inquiry is, that there would be hazard in the appointment, and the case is believed to be one in which nothing ought to be hazarded.
Col. Nichols and Major Lennox stand nearly on a level—both men of adequate understanding, honorable characters, some property, undoubted firmness, and probable exertion; but on the last point there is greater assurance of Major Lennox. But neither of these gentlemen seem to have that extensive notoriety and popularity of character which is desirable to assist the progress of disagreeable laws. In this particular, Mr. Miller or Mr. Biddle has greatly the advantage.
Mr. Clarkson has several things in his favor; perhaps rather more ability than most of the other persons; but he wants bodily activity, which may be a point of consequence; and he is said to be much embarrassed in his circumstances.
The Secretary has committed these remarks to writing, not wishing to intrude on the President today, and desirous of placing the subject immediately before him. If he should conclude on the person before he leaves town, it is requested that he would leave a commission, signed but not completed, in order that it may be previously ascertained whether Mr. Miller will accept.
Among the persons who have been consulted is the Attorney-General. He gave a preference to Mr. Miller. His knowledge of State characters is diffusive and accurate. Mr. Miller was lately a very promising candidate for the place of Senator in the Senate of the United States.
hamilton to washington
In compliance with your requisitions, I have the honor to submit my opinion as to the course which it will be advisable for the President to pursue, in regard to the armed opposition recently given in the four western counties of Pennsylvania to the execution of the laws of the United States laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills.
The case upon which an opinion is required, is summarily as follows. The four most western counties of Pennsylvania, since the commencement of those laws, a period of more than three years, have been in steady and violent opposition to them. By formal public meetings of influential individuals, whose resolutions and proceedings had for undisguised objects to render the laws odious, to discountenance a compliance with them, and to intimate individuals from accepting and executing offices under them; by a general spirit of opposition (thus fomented) among the inhabitants, by repeated instances of armed parties going in disguise to the houses of the officers of the revenue, and inflicting upon them personal violence and outrage, by general combinations to forbear a compliance with the requisitions of the laws, by examples of injury to the property and insult to the persons of individuals who have shown by their conduct a disposition to comply, and by an almost universal non-compliance with the laws, their execution within the counties in question has been completely frustrated.
Various alterations have been made in the laws by the Legislature, to obviate, as far as possible, the objections of the inhabitants of those counties.
The executive, on its part, has been far from deficient in forbearance, lenity, or a spirit of accommodation.
But neither the legislative nor the executive accommodations have had any effect in producing compliance with the laws.
The opposition has continued and matured, till it has at length broken out in acts which are presumed to amount to treason.
Armed collections of men, with the avowed design of opposing the execution of the laws, have attacked the house of the Inspector of the Revenue, burnt and destroyed his property, and shed the blood of persons engaged in its defence; have made prisoner of the marshal of the district, and did not release him till, for the safety of his life, he stipulated to execute no more processes within the disaffected counties; have compelled both him and the Inspector of the Revenue to fly the country by a circuitous route, to avoid personal injury, perhaps assassination; have proposed the assembling of a convention of delegates from those counties and the neighboring ones of Virginia, probably with a view to systematize measures of more effectual opposition; have forcibly seized, opened, and spoliated a mail of the United States.
What in this state of things is proper to be done? The President has, with the advice of the heads of departments and the Attorney-General, caused to be submitted all the evidence of the foregoing facts to the consideration of an associate judge, under the act entitled, “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repeal invasion.”
If the judge shall pronounce that the case described in the second section of that act exists, it will follow that a competent force of militia should be called forth and employed to suppress the insurrection, and support the civil authority in effectuating obedience to the laws and punishment of offenders.
It appears to me that the very existence of government demand this course, and that a duty of the highest nature urges the Chief Magistrate to pursue it. The Constitution and laws of the United States contemplate and provide for it.
What force of militia shall be called out, and from what State or States?
The force ought, if attainable, to be an imposing one, such, if practicable, as will deter from opposition, save the effusion of the blood of citizens, and serve the object to be accomplished.
The quantum must, of course, be regulated by the resistance to be expected. ‘T is computed that the four opposing counties contain upwards of sixteen thousand males of sixteen years and more; that of these about seven thousand may be expected to be armed.
‘T is possible that the union of the neighboring counties of Virginia may augment this force. ‘T is not impossible that it may receive an accession from some adjacent counties of this State on this side of the Alleghany Mountains.
To be prepared for the worst, I am of opinion that twelve thousand militia ought to be ordered to assemble—9,000 foot and 3,000 horse. I should not propose so many horse, but for the probability that this description of militia will be more easily procured for the service.
From what State or States shall these come?
The law contemplates that the militia of a State in which an insurrection happens, if willing and sufficient, shall first be employed, but gives power to employ the militia of other States in the case either of refusal or insufficiency.
The Governor of Pennsylvania, in an official conference this day, gave it explicitly as his opinion to the President, that the militia of Pennsylvania alone would be found incompetent to the suppression of the insurrection.
This opinion of the Chief Magistrate of the State is presumed to be a sufficient foundation for calling in, in the first instance, the aid of the militia of the neighboring States.
I would submit, then, that Pennsylvania be required to furnish 6,000 men, of whom 1,000 to be horse; New Jersey 2,000, of whom 800 to be horse; Maryland 2,000, of whom 600 to be horse; Virginia 2,000, of whom 600 to be horse.
Or, perhaps, it may be as eligible to call upon each State for such a number of troops, leaving to itself the proportion of horse and foot according to convenience. The militia called for to rendezvous at Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, and Cumberland Fort, in Virginia, on the 10th of September next. The law requires that previous to the using of force, a proclamation shall issue, commanding the insurgents to disperse and return peaceable to their respective abodes within a limited time. This step must, of course, be taken.
The application of the force to be called out and other ulterior measures must depend on circumstances as they shall arise.
With the most perfect respect, etc.
hamilton to washington
Report on Opposition to Internal Duties
The disagreeable crisis at which matters have lately arrived in some of the western counties of Pennsylvania, with regard to the law laying duties on spirits distilled within the United States, and on stills, seems to render proper a review of the circumstances which have attended those laws in that scene from their commencement to the present time, and of the conduct which has hitherto been observed on the part of the government, its motives and effect, in order to a better judgement of the measures necessary to be pursued in the existing emergency.
The opposition to those laws in the four most western counties of Pennsylvania (Alleghany, Washington, Fayette, and Westmoreland) commenced as early as they were knows to have been passed. It has continued with different degrees of violence in different counties, and at different periods, but Washington has uniformly distinguished its resistance by a more excessive spirit than has appeared in the other counties, and seems to have been chiefly instrumental in kindling and keeping alive the flame.
The opposition first manifested itself in the milder shape of the circulation of opinions unfavorable to the law, and calculated by the influence of public disesteem to discourage the accepting or holding of offices under it, or the complying with it by those who might be so disposed, to which was added the show of a discontinuance of the business of distilling.
These expedients were shortly after succeeded by private associations to forbear compliance with the law. But it was not long before these more negative modes of opposition were perceived to be likely to prove ineffectual. And in proportion as this was the case, and as the means of introducing the laws into operation were put into execution, the disposition to resistance became more turbulent and more inclined to adopt and practise violent expedients. The officers now began to experience marks of contempt and insult. Threats against them became more frequent and loud; and after some time these threats were ripened into acts of ill treatment and outrage.
These acts of violence were preceded by certain meetings of malcontent persons, who entered into resolutions calculated at once to confirm, inflame, and systematize the spirit of opposition.
The first of these meetings was holden at a place called Red Stone Old Fort, on the 27th of July, 1791, where it was concerted that county committees should be convened in the four countries, at the respective seats of justice therein. On the 23d of August following one of these committees assembled in the county of Washington.
This meeting passed some intemperate resolutions, which were afterward printed in the Pittsburgh Gazette, containing a strong censure on the law, declaring that any person who had accepted or might accept an office under Congress, in order to carry it into effect, should be considered as inimical to the interests of the country; and recommending to the citizens of Washington County to treat every person who had accepted or might thereafter accept any such office, with contempt, and absolutely to refuse all kind of communication or intercourse with the officers, and to withhold from them all aid, support, or comfort.
Not content with this vindictive proscription of those who might esteem it their duty, in the capacity of officers, to aid in the execution of the constitutional laws of the land, the meeting proceeded to accumulate topics of crimination of the government, though foreign to each other; authorizing, by this zeal for censure, a suspicion that they were actuated, not merely by the dislike of a particular law, but by a disposition to render the government itself unpopular and odious.
This meeting, in further prosecution of their plan, deputed three of their members to meet delegates from the counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, and Alleghany, on the first Tuesday of September following, for the purpose of expressing the sense of the people of those counties, in an address to the Legislature of the United States upon the subject of the excise law and other grievances.
Another meeting accordingly took place on the 7th of September, 1791, at Pittsburgh, in the county of Alleghany, at which there appeared persons in the character of delegates from the four western counties.
This meeting entered into resolutions more comprehensive in their objects, and not less inflammatory in their tendency than those which had before passed the meeting in Washington.
Their resolutions contained severe censures, not only on the law which was the immediate subject of objection, but upon what they termed the exorbitant salaries of officers, the unreasonable interest of the public debt, the want of discrimination between original holders and transferees, and the institution of a national bank. The same unfriendly temper towards the Government of the United States, which seemed to have led out of their way the meeting at Washington, appears to have produced a similar wandering in that at Pittsburgh.
A representation to Congress, and a remonstrance to the Legislature of Pennsylvania against the law more particularly complained of, were prepared by this meeting, published together with the other proceedings in the Pittsburgh Gazette, and afterwards presented to the respective bodies to whom they were addressed.
These meetings, composed of very influential individuals, and conducted without moderation or prudence, are justly chargeable with the excesses which have been from time to time committed; serving to give consistency to an opposition which has at length matured to a point that threatens the foundations of the government and of the Union, unless speedily and effectually subdued.
On the 6th of the same month of September, the opposition broke out in an act of violence upon the person and property of Robert Johnson, collector of the revenues for the counties of Alleghany and Washington.
A party of men, armed and disguised, waylaid him at a place on Pidgeon Creek, in Washington County, seized, tarred and feathered him, cut off his hair, and deprived him of his horse, obliging him to travel on foot a considerable distance in that mortifying and painful situation.
The case was brought before the District Court of Pennsylvania, out of which processes issued against John Robertson, John Hamilton, and Thomas McComb, three of the persons concerned in the outrage.
The serving of these processes was confided by the then marshall, Clement Biddle, to his deputy, Joseph Fox, who in the month of October went into Alleghany County for the purpose of serving them.
The appearances and circumstances which Mr. Fox observed himself, in the course of his journey, and learned afterwards, upon his arrival at Pittsburgh, had the effect of deterring him from the service of the processes, and unfortunately led him to adopt the injudicious and fruitless expedient of sending them to the parties by a private messenger under cover.
The deputy’s report to the marshal states a number of particulars evincing a considerable fermentation in the part of the country to which he was sent, and inducing a belief on his part, that he could not with safety have executed the processes. The marshal, transmitting this report to the district attorney, makes the following observations upon it: “I am sorry to add, that he (the deputy) found the people in general in the western part of the State, and particularly beyond the Alleghany Mountains, in such a ferment on account of the act of Congress for laying a duty on distilled spirits, and so much opposed to the execution of the said act, and from a variety of threats to himself personally, although he took the utmost precaution to conceal his errand, that he was not only convinced of the impossibility of serving the process, but that any attempt to effect it would have occasioned the most violent opposition from the greater part of the inhabitants; and he declares that if he had attempted it, he believes he should not have returned alive. I spared no expense nor pains to have the process of the court executed, and have not the least doubt that my deputy would have accomplished it, if it could have been done.”
The reality of the danger to the deputy was countenanced by the opinion of General Neville, the inspector of the revenue, a man who before had given, and since has given, numerous proofs of a steady and firm temper. And what followed is a further confirmation of it. The person who had been sent with the processes was seized, whipped, tarred and feathered, and after having his money and horse taken from him, was blindfolded and tied in the woods, in which condition he remained five hours.
Very serious reflections naturally occurred upon this occasion. It seemed highly probable, from the issue of the experiment which had been made, that the ordinary course of civil process would be ineffectual for enforcing the execution of the law in the scene in question, and that a perseverance in this course might lead to a serious concussion. The law itself was still in the infancy of its operation, and far from established in other important portions of the Union. Prejudices against it had been industriously disseminated, misrepresentations diffused, misconceptions fostered. The Legislature of the United States had not yet organized the means by which the Executive could come in aid of the Judiciary, when found incompetent to the execution of the laws. If neither of these impediments to a decisive exertion had existed, it was desirable, especially in a republican government, to avoid what is in such cases the ultimate resort, till at the milder means had been tried without success.
Under the united influence of these considerations, it appeared advisable to forbear urging coercive measures, until the laws had gone into more extensive operation, till further time for reflection and experience of its operation had served to correct false impressions and inspire greater moderation, and till the Legislature had had an opportunity, by a revision of the law, to remove, as far as possible, objections, and to reinforce the provisions for securing its execution.
Other incidents occurred from time to time, which are further proofs of the very improper temper that prevailed among the inhabitants of the refractory counties.
Mr. Johnson was not the only officer who about the same period experienced outrage. Mr. Wells, collector of the revenue for Westmoreland and Fayette, was also ill-treated at Greensburgh and Union Town; nor were the outrages perpetrated confined to the officers; they extended to private citizens who only dared to show their respect for the laws of their country.
Some time in October, 1791, an unhappy man of the name of Wilson, a stranger in the country, and manifestly disordered in his intellects, imagining himself to be a collector of the revenue, or invested with some trust in relation to it, was so unlucky as to make inquiries concerning distillers who had entered their stills, giving out that he was to travel through the United States, to ascertain and report to Congress the number of stills, etc. This man was pursued by a party in disguise, taken out of his bed, carried about five miles back to a smith’s shop, stripped of his clothes, which were afterwards burnt, and, after having been himself inhumanly burnt in several places with a heated iron, was tarred and feathered, and about daylight dismissed—naked, wounded, and otherwise in a very suffering condition. These particulars are communicated in a letter from the inspector of the revenue, of the 17th of November, who declares that he had them himself seen the unfortunate maniac, the abuse of whom, as he expresses it, exceeded description, and was sufficient to make human nature shudder. The affair is the more extraordinary, as persons of weight and consideration in that country are understood to have been actors in it, and as the symptoms of insanity were, during the whole time of inflicting the punishment, apparent—the unhappy sufferer displaying the heroic fortitude of a man who conceived himself to be a martyr to the discharge of some important duty.
Not long after, a person of the name of Roseberry underwent the humiliating punishment of tarring and feathering, with some aggravations, for having in conversation hazarded the very natural and just but unpalatable remark, that the inhabitants of that county could not reasonably expect protection from a government whose laws they so strenuously opposed.
The audacity of the perpetrators of those excesses was so great, that an armed banditti ventured to seize and carry off two persons who were witnesses against the rioters in the case of Wilson, in order to prevent their giving testimony of the riot to a court then sitting, or about to sit.
Designs of personal violence against the Inspector of the Revenue himself, to force him to a resignation, were repeatedly attempted to be put in execution by armed parties, but by different circumstances were frustrated.
In the session of Congress which commenced in October, 1791, the law laying a duty on distilled spirits and stills came under the revision of Congress, as had been anticipated. By an act passed May 8, 1792, during that session, material alterations were made in it. Among these the duty was reduced to a rate so moderate as to have silenced complaint on that head; and a new and very favorable alternative was given to the distiller, that of paying a monthly instead of a yearly rate, according to the capacity of his still, with liberty to take a license for the precise term which he should intend to work it, and to renew that license for a further term or terms. This amending act, in its progress through the Legislature, engaged the particular attention of members who themselves were interested in distilleries, and of others who represented parts of the country in which the business of distilling was extensively carried on.
Objections were well considered, and great pains taken to obviate all such as had the semblance of reasonableness.
The effect has in a great measure corresponded with the views of the Legislature, Opposition has subsided in several districts where it before prevailed; and it was natural to entertain, and not easy to abandon, a hope that the same thing would by degrees have taken place in the four western countries of this State. But, notwithstanding some flattering appearances at particular junctures, and infinite pains by various expedients to produce the desirable issue, the hope entertained has never been realized, and is now at an end, as far as the ordinary means of executing laws are concerned.
The first law had left the number and positions of the offices of inspection, which were to be established in each district for receiving entries of stills, to the discretion of the supervisor. The second, to secure a due accommodation to distillers, provides peremptorily that there shall be one in each county.
The idea was immediately embraced, that it was a very important point in the scheme of opposition to the law, to prevent the establishment of offices in the respective countries. For this purpose the intimidation of well-disposed inhabitants was added to the plan of molesting and obstructing the officers by force or otherwise, as might be necessary. So effectually was the first point carried (the certain destruction of property and the peril of life being involved), that it became almost impracticable to obtain suitable places for offices in some of the countries, and when obtained, it was found a matter of necessity, in almost every instance, to abandon them.
After much effort, the Inspector of the Revenue succeeded in procuring the house of William Faulkner, a captain in the army, for an office of inspection in the country of Washington. This took place in August, 1792. The office was attended by the inspector of the revenue in person, till prevented by the following incidents.
Captain Faulkner, being in pursuit of some deserters from the troops, was encountered by a number of people in the same neighborhood where Mr. Johnson had been ill-treated the preceding year, who reproached him with letting his house for an office of inspection, drew a knife upon him, threatened to scalp him, tar and feather him, and reduce his house and property to ashes, if he did not solemnly promise to prevent the further use of his house for an office. Capt. Faulkner was induced to make the promise exacted, and, in consequence of the circumstance, wrote a letter to the inspector, dated the 20th of August, countermanding the permission for using his house, and the day following gave a public notice in the Pittsburgh Gazette that the office of inspection should be no longer kept there.
At the same time another engine of opposition was in operation. Agreeable to a previous notification, there met at Pittsburgh, on the 21st of August, a number of persons styling themselves “A Meeting of Sundry Inhabitants of the Western Countries of Pennsylvania.”
This meeting entered into resolutions not less exceptionable than those of its predecessors. The preamble suggested that a tax on spirituous liquors is unjust in itself, and oppressive upon the poor; that internal taxes upon consumption must, in the end, destroy the liberties of every country in which they are introduced; that the law in question, from certain local circumstances which are specified, would bring immediate distress and ruin upon the western country; and concludes with the sentiment, that they think it their duty to persist in remonstrances to Congress, and in every other legal measure that may obstruct the operation of the law.
The resolutions then proceed, first, to appoint a committee to prepare and cause to be presented to Congress an address, stating objections to the law, and praying for its repeal; secondly, to appoint committees of correspondence for Washington, Fayette, and Alleghany, charged to correspond together, and with such committee as should be appointed for the same purpose in the country of Westmoreland, or with any committees of a similar nature that might be appointed in other parts of the United States, and also, if found necessary, to call together either general meetings of the people, in their respective counties, or conferences of the several committees; and lastly, to declare that they will, in future, consider those who hold offices for the collection of the duty, as unworthy of their friendship, that they will have no intercourse nor dealings with them, will withdraw from them every assistance, withhold all the comforts of life which depend upon those duties that as men and fellow-citizens we owe to each other, and will upon all occasions treat them with contempt, earnestlyrecommending it to the people at large to follow the same line of conduct towards them.
The idea of pursuing legal measures to obstruct the operation of a law, needs little comment. Legal measures may be pursued to procure the repeal of a law, but to obstruct its operation presents a contradiction in terms. The operation, or what is the same thing, the execution of a law, cannot be obstructed after it has been constitutionally enacted, without illegality and crime. The expression quoted is one of those phrases which can only be used to conceal a disorderly and culpable intention under forms that may escape the hold of the law.
Neither was it difficult to perceive that the anathema pronounced against the officers of the revenue placed them in a state of virtual outlawry, and operated as a signal to all those who were bold enough to encounter the guilt and the danger to violate both their lives and their properties.
The foregoing proceedings, as soon as known, were reported by the Secretary of the Treasury to the President. The President, on the 15th of September, 1792, issued a proclamation, “earnestly admonishing and exhorting all persons whom it might concern to refrain and desist from all unlawful combinations and proceedings whatsoever, having for object, or tending, to obstruct the operation of the laws aforesaid, inasmuch as all lawful ways and means would be put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof, and securing obedience thereto; and moreover, charging and requiring all courts, magistrates, and officers whom it might concern, according to the duties of their several offices, to exert the powers in them respectively vested by law, for the purposes aforesaid; thereby also enjoining and requiring all persons whomsoever, as they tendered the welfare of their country, the just and due authority of government, and the preservation of the public peace, to be aiding and assisting therein according to law”; and likewise directed that prosecutions might be instituted against the offenders in the cases in which the laws would support and the requisite evidence could be obtained.
Pursuant to these instructions, the Attorney-General, in co-operation with the attorney of the district, attended a circuit court which was holden at Yorktown, in October, 1792, for the purpose of bringing forward prosecutions in the proper cases.
Collateral measures were taken to procure for this purpose the necessary evidence.
The supervisor of the revenue was sent into the opposing survey, to ascertain the real state of that survey, to obtain evidence of the persons who were concerned in the riot in Faulkner’s case, and of those who composed the meeting at Pittsburgh, to uphold the confidence and encourage the perseverance of the officers acting under the law, and to induce, if possible, the inhabitants of that part of the survey which appeared least disinclined, to come voluntarily into the law by arguments addressed to their sense of duty, and exhibiting the eventual dangers and mischiefs of resistance.
The mission of the supervisor had no other fruit than that of obtaining evidence of the persons who composed the meeting at Pittsburgh, and of two who were understood to be concerned in the riot; and a confirmation of the enmity which certain active and designing leaders had industriously infused into a large proportion of the inhabitants, not against the particular laws in question only, but of a more ancient date, against the Government of the United States itself.
The then Attorney-General being of opinion that it was at best a doubtful point whether the proceedings of the meeting at Pittsburgh contained indictable matter, no prosecution was attempted against those who composed it, though, if the ground for proceeding against them had appeared to be firm, it is presumed that the truest policy would have dictated that course.
Indictments were preferred to the Circuit Court, and found against the two persons understood to have been concerned in the riot, and the usual measures were taken for carrying them into effect.
But it appearing afterwards from various representations, supported by satisfactory testimony, that there had been some mistake as to the persons accused, justice and policy demanded that the prosecutions should be discontinued, which was accordingly done.
This issue of the business unavoidably defeated the attempt to establish examples of the punishment of persons who engaged in a violent resistance of the laws, and left the officers to struggle against the stream of resistance without the advantage of such examples.
The following plan, which was afterwards put in execution, was about this time digested, for carrying, if possible, the laws into effect without the necessity of recurring to force.
1. To prosecute delinquents in the cases in which it could be clearly done for non-compliance with the laws. 2. To intercept the markets for the surplus produce of the distilleries of the non-complying countries, by seizing the spirits on their way to those markets in places where it could be effected without opposition. 3. By purchases through agents, for the use of the army (instead of deriving the supply through contracts as formerly), confining them to spirits, in respect to which there had been a compliance with the laws.
The motives to this plan speak for themselves. It aimed, besides the influence of penalties on delinquents, at making it the general interest of the distillers to comply with the laws, by interrupting the market for a very considerable surplus, and by at the same time confining the benefit of the large demand for public service to those who did their duty to the public, and furnishing, through the means of payment in cash, that medium for paying the duties, the want of which was alleged to be a great difficulty in the way of compliance. But two circumstances conspired to counteract the success of the plan: one, the necessity, towards incurring the penalties of non-compliance, of there being an office of inspection in each county, which was prevented in some of the countries by means of the intimidation practised for that purpose; another, the non-extension of the law to the territory northwest of the Ohio, into which a large proportion of the surplus before mentioned was sent. A cure for these defects could only come from the Legislature. Accordingly, in the session which began in November, 1792, measures were taken for procuring a further revision of the laws. A bill containing amendments of those and other defects, was brought in; but it so happened, that this object, by reason of more urgent business, was deferred till towards the close of the session, and finally went off through the usual hurry of that period.
The continuance of the embarrassment incident to this state of things, naturally tended to diminish much of the efficacy of the plan which had been devised. Yet it was resolved, as far as legal provisions would bear out the officers, to pursue it with perseverance. There was ground to entertain hopes of its good effects; and it was certainly the most likely course which could have been adopted towards attaining the objects of the laws, by means short of force; evincing unequivocally the sincere disposition to avoid this painful resort, and the steady moderation which has characterized the measures of the government.
In pursuance of this plan, prosecutions were occasionally instituted in the mildest forms, seizures were made as opportunities occurred, and purchases on public account were carried on.
It may be incidentally remarked that these purchases were extended to other places; where, though the same disorders did not exist, it appeared advisable to facilitate the payment of the duties by this species of accommodation.
Nor was this plan, notwithstanding the deficiency of legal provision, which impeded its full execution, without corresponding effects. Symptoms from time to time appeared which authorized expectations, that with the aid, at another session, of the desired supplementary provisions, it was capable of accomplishing its end, if no extraordinary events occurred.
The opponents of the laws, not insensible of the tendency of that plan, nor of the defects in the laws which interfered with it, did not fail from time to time to pursue analogous modes of counteraction. The effort to frustrate the establishment of offices of inspection, in particular, was persisted in, and even increased. Means of intimidating officers and others, continued to be exerted.
In April, 1793, a party of armed men in disguise made an attack in the night upon the house of a collector of revenue who resided in Fayette County, but he happening to be from home, they contented themselves with breaking open his house, threatening, terrifying, and abusing his family.
Warrants were issued for apprehending some of the rioters upon this occasion, by Isaac Mason and James Findlay, assistant judges of Fayette County, which were delivered to the sheriff of that county, who, it seems, refused to execute them, for which he has since been indicted.
This is at once an example of the disposition to support the laws of the Union, and of an opposite one, in the local officers of Pennsylvania, within the non-complying scene. But it is a truth too important not to be noticed, and too injurious not to be lamented, that the prevailing spirit of those officers has been either hostile or lukewarm to the execution of those laws; and that the weight of an unfriendly official influence has been one of the most serious obstacles with which they have had to struggle.
In June following, the Inspector of the Revenue was burnt in effigy in Alleghany County, at a place and on a day of some public election, with much display, in the presence of and without interruption from magistrates and other public officers.
On the night of the 22nd of November, another party of men, some of them armed, and all in disguise, went to the house of the same collector of Fayette which had been visited in April, broke and entered it, and demanded a surrender of the officer’s commission and official books. Upon his refusing to deliver them up, they presented pistols at him, and swore that if he did not comply they would instantly put him to death. At length a surrender of the commission and books was enforced. But not content with this, the rioters, before they departed, required of the officer that he should, within two weeks, publish his resignation, on pain of another such visit and a destruction of his house.
Notwithstanding these excesses, the laws appeared during the latter periods of this year to be rather gaining ground. Several principal distillers, who had formerly held out, complied, and others discovered a disposition to comply, which was only restrained by the fear of violence.
But these favorable circumstances served to beget alarm among those who were determined, at all events, to prevent the quiet establishment of the laws. It soon appeared that they meditated, by fresh and greater excesses, to aim a still more effectual blow at them, to subdue the growing spirit of compliance, and to destroy entirely the organs of the laws, within that part of the country, by compelling all the officers to renounce their offices.
The last proceeding in the case of the collector of Fayette, was in this spirit.
In January, of the present year, further violences appear to have been perpetrated. William Richmond, who had given information against some of the rioters in the affair of Wilson, had his barn burnt, with all the grain and hay which it contained; and the same thing happened to Robert Shawhan, a distiller, who had been among the first to comply with the law, and who had always spoken favorably of it. But in neither of these instances (which happened in the county of Alleghany), though the presumptions were violent, was any positive proof obtained.
The Inspector of the Revenue, in a letter of the 27th of February, writes, that he had received information that persons living near the dividing line of Alleghany and Washington had thrown out threats of tarring and feathering one William Cochran, a complying distiller, and of burning his distillery; and that it had also been given out that, in three weeks, there would not be a house standing in Alleghany County, of any person who had complied with the laws. In consequence of which, he had been induced to pay a visit to several leading individuals in that quarter, as well to ascertain the truth of the information, as to endeavor to avert the attempt to executive such threats.
It appeared afterwards, that on his return home he had been pursued by a collection of disorderly persons, threatening, as they went along, vengeance against him. On their way these men called at the house of James Kiddoe, who had recently complied with the laws, broke into his still-house, fired several balls under his still, and scattered fire over and about the house.
Letters from the Inspector, in March, announce an increased activity in promoting opposition to the laws; frequent meetings to cement and extend the combinations against it; and among other means for this purpose, a plan of collecting a force to seize him, compel him to resign his commission, and detain him prisoner probably as a hostage.
In May and June new violences were committed. James Kiddoe, the person above mentioned, and William Cochran, another complying distiller, met with repeated injury to their property. Kiddoe had parts of his grist-mill at different times carried away, and Cochran suffered more material injuries; his still was destroyed, his saw-mill was rendered useless by the taking away of the saw, and his grist-mill so injured as to require to be repaired at considerable expense.
At the last visit, a note in writing was left, requiring him to publish what he had suffered in the Pittsburgh Gazette, on pain of another visit, in which he is threatened, in figurative but intelligible terms, with the destruction of his property by fire; thus adding to the profligacy of doing wanton injuries to a fellow-citizen, the tyranny of compelling him to be the publisher of his wrongs.
June being the month for receiving annual entries of stills, endeavors were used to open offices in Westmoreland and Washington, where it had been hitherto found impracticable. With much pains and difficulty places were secured for the purpose. That in Westmoreland was repeatedly attacked in the night by armed men, who frequently fired upon it, but according to a report which has been made to this department, it was defended with so much courage and perseverance by John Wells, an auxiliary officer, and Philip Regan, the owner of the house, as to have been maintained during the remainder of the month.
That in Washington, after repeated attempts, was suppressed; the first attempt was confined to pulling down the sign of the office, and threats of future destruction; the second effected the object in the following mode: About twelve persons, armed and painted black, in the night of the 6th of June, broke into the house of John Lynn, where the office was kept, and after having treacherously seduced him to come down stairs and put himself in their power, by a promise of safety to himself and his house, they seized and tied him, threatened to hang him, took him to a retired spot in a neighboring wood, and there, after cutting off his hair, tarring and feathering him, swore him never again to allow the use of his house for an office, never to disclose their names, and never again to have any sort of agency in aid of the excise; having done which, they bound him naked to a tree, and left him in that situation till morning, when he succeeded in extricating himself. Not content with this, the malcontents some days after made him another visit, pulled down part of his house, and put him in a situation to be obliged to become an exile from his home, and to find an asylum elsewhere.
During this time several of the distillers, who had made entries and benefited by them, refused the payment of the duties, actuated, no doubt, by various motives.
Indications of a plan to proceed against the Inspector of the Revenue, in the manner which has been before mentioned, continued. In a letter from him of the 10th of July, he observed that the threatened visit had not been made, though he had still reason to expect it.
In the session of Congress which began in December, 1793, a bill for making the amendments in the laws, which had been for some time desired, was brought in, and on the 5th of June last became a law.
It is not to be doubted that the different stages of this business were regularly notified to the malcontents, and that a conviction of the tendency of the amendments contemplated to effectuate the execution of the law, had matured the resolution to bring matters to a violent crisis.
The increasing energy of the opposition rendered it indispensable to meet the evil with proportionable decision. The idea of giving time for the law to extend itself in scenes where the dissatisfaction with it was the effect not of an improper spirit, but of causes which were of a nature to yield to reason, reflection, and experience (which had constantly weighed in the estimate of the measures proper to be pursued), had had its effect in an extensive degree. The experiment, too, had been long enough tried to ascertain, that where resistance continued, the root of the evil lay deep, and required measures of greater efficacy than had been pursued.
The laws had undergone repeated revisions of the legislative representatives of the Union, and had virtually received their repeated sanction, without even an attempt, as far as is now recollected or can be traced, to effect their repeal—affording an evidence of the general sense of the community in their favor. Complaints began to be loud from complying quarters, against the impropriety and injustice of suffering the laws to remain unexecuted in others.
Under the united influence of these considerations, there was no choice but to try the efficiency of the laws in prosecuting with vigor delinquents and offenders.
Processes issued against a number of non-complying distillers in the counties of Fayette and Alleghany, and indictments having been found at a circuit court, holden at Philadelphia in July last, against Robert Smilie and John McCulloch, two of the rioters in the attack which in November preceding had been made upon the house of a collector of the revenue in Fayette County, processes issued against them also, to bring them to trial, and, if guilty, to punishment.
The marshal of the district went in person to serve these processes. He executed the trust without interruption, though under many discouraging circumstances, in Fayette County; but while he was in the execution of it in Alleghany County—being then accompanied by the Inspector of the Revenue, to wit—on the 15th of July last, he was beset on the road by a party of from thirty to forty armed men, who, after much previous irregularity of conduct, finally fired upon him, but, as it happened, without injury either to him or to the Inspector.
This attempt on the marshal was but the prelude of greater excesses.
About break of day, the 16th of July, in conformity with a plan which seems to have been for some time entertained, and which probably was only accelerated by the coming of the marshal into the survey, an attack by about one hundred persons, armed with guns and other weapons, was made upon the house of the Inspector, in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. The Inspector, though alone, vigorously defended himself against the assailants, and obliged them to retreat without accomplishing their purpose.
Apprehending that the business would not terminate here, he made application, by letter, to the judges, generals of militia, and sheriff of the country for protection. A reply to his application from John Wilkins, junior, and John Gibson, magistrates and militia officers, informed him that the laws could not be executed so as to afford him the protection to which he was entitled, owing to the too general combination of the people in that part of Pennsylvania to oppose the revenue law; adding, that they would take every step in their power to bring the rioters to justice, and would be glad to receive information of the individuals concerned in the attack upon his house, that prosecutions might be commenced against them; and expressing their sorrow that, should the posse comitatus of the county be ordered out in support of the civil authority, very few could be gotten that were not of the party of the rioters.
The day following, the insurgents reassembled with a considerable augmentation of numbers, amounting, as has been computed, to at least five hundred, and on the 17th of July renewed their attack upon the house of the Inspector, who, in the interval, had taken the precaution of calling to his aid a small detachment from the garrison of Fort Pitt, which, at the time of the attack, consisted of eleven men, who had been joined by Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, a friend and connection of the Inspector.
There being scarcely a prospect of effectual defence against so large a body as then appeared, and as the Inspector had every thing to apprehend for his person, if taken, it was judged advisable that he should withdraw from the house to a place of concealment—Major Kirkpatrick generously agreeing to remain with the eleven men, in the intention, if practicable, to make a capitulation in favor of the property; if not, to defend it as long as possible.
A parley took place, under cover of a flag which was sent by the insurgents to the house, to demand that the inspector should come forth, renounce his office, and stipulate never again to accept office under the same laws. To this it was replied, that the inspector had left the house upon their first approach, and that the place to which he had retired was unknown. They then declared that they must have whatever related to his office. They were answered, that they might send persons, not exceeding six, to search the house and take away whatever papers they could find appertaining to the office. But, not satisfied with this, they insisted, unconditionally, that the armed men who were in the house for its defence should march out and ground their arms, which Major Kirkpatrick peremptorily refused, considering it, and representing it to them, as a proof of their design to destroy the property. This refusal put an end to the parley.
A brisk firing then ensued between the insurgents and those in the house, which, it is said, lasted for nearly an hour, till the assailants, having set fire to the neighboring and adjacent buildings, eight in number, the intenseness of the heat, and the danger of an immediate communication of the fire to the house, obliged Major Kirkpatrick and his small party to come out and surrender themselves. In the course of the firing, one of the insurgents was killed and several wounded, and three of the persons in the house were also wounded. The person killed is understood to have been the leader of the party, of the name of James McFarlane, then a major in the militia, formerly a lieutenant in the Pennsylvania line. The dwelling-house, after the surrender, shared the fate of the other buildings, the whole of which were consumed to the ground. The loss of property to the inspector, upon this occasion, is estimated (and, as it is believed, with great moderation) at not less than three thousand pounds.
The marshal, Colonel Presley Neville, and several others, were taken by the insurgents going to the inspector’s house. All, except the marshal and Colonel Neville, soon made their escape; but these were carried off some distance from the place where the affray had happened, and detained till one or two o’clock the next morning. In the course of their detention, the marshal in particular suffered very severe and humiliating treatment, and was frequently in imminent danger of his life. Several of the party repeatedly presented their pieces at him, with every appearance of a design to assassinate him, from which they were with difficulty restrained by the efforts of a few, more humane and more prudent.
Nor could he obtain safety or liberty, but upon the condition of a promise, guaranteed by Colonel Neville, that he would serve no other process on the west side of the Alleghany Mountains. The alternative being immediate death, extorted from the marshal a compliance with this condition, notwithstanding the just sense of official dignity and the firmness of character which were witnessed by his conduct throughout the trying scenes he had experienced.
The insurgents, on the 18th, sent a deputation of two of their number (one a justice of the peace) to Pittsburgh, to require of the marshal a surrender of the processes in his possession, intimating that his compliance would satisfy the people and add to his safety; and also to demand of General Neville, in peremptory terms, the resignation of his office; threatening, in case of refusal, to attack the place, and take him by force—demands which both these officers did not hesitate to reject, as alike incompatible with their honor and their duty.
As it was well ascertained that no protection was to be expected from the magistrates or inhabitants of Pittsburgh, it became necessary to the safety both of the inspector and the marshal, to quit that place; and, as it was known that all the usual routes to Philadelphia were beset by the insurgents, they concluded to descend the Ohio, and proceed by a circuitous route to the seat of government, which they began to put in execution on the night of the 19th of July.
Information has also been received of a meeting of a considerable number of persons at a place called Mingo Creek Meeting-house, in the county of Washington, to consult about the further measures which it might be advisable to pursue; that at this meeting a motion was made to approve and agree to support the proceedings which had taken place, until the excise law was repealed, and an act of oblivion passed; but that, instead of this, it had been agreed that the four western counties of Pennsylvania and the neighboring counties of Virginia should be invited to meet in a convention of delegates, on the 14th of the present month, at Parkinson’s, on Mingo Creek, in the county of Washington, to take into consideration the situation of the western country, and concert such measures as should appear suited to the occasion.
It appears, moreover, that, on the 25th of July last, the mail of the United States, on the road from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was stopped by two armed men, who cut it open, and took out all the letters except those contained in one packet. These armed men, from all the circumstances which occurred, were manifestly acting on the part of the insurgents.
The declared object of the foregoing proceeding is to obstruct the execution and compel a repeal of the laws laying duties on spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills. There is just cause to believe that this is connected with an indisposition, too general in that quarter, to share in the common burdens of the community, and with a wish, among some persons of influence, to embarrass the government. It is affirmed, by well-informed persons, to be a fact of notoriety, that the revenue laws of the State itself have always been either resisted or very defectively complied with in the same quarter.
With the most perfect respect, I have the honor to be, etc.
cabinet opinion—hamilton and knox to washington
The draft of a proclamation and that of an instruction to the commissioners being both prepared, we take the liberty to suggest that we think a meeting to-morrow morning, at such hour as may be convenient to the President, may be advisable. The Secretary of State and Attorney-General being out of town, we cannot consult them, but we will engage the attendance of the Attorney-General, provisionally, by nine o’clock, and if the President concludes on the meeting at that hour, he can have the Secretary of State apprised of it.
We have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President, and sends him the statement of facts promised. The date is proposed to be two or three days before the proclamation, when it was in fact begun. There is a blank to be filled with a quotation from a former proclamation, which is not immediately at hand; but the blank will be filled before it goes to the press. If the President thinks the publication proper, and will be pleased to return the inclosed, the original draft being too much obliterated for the purpose, it shall be immediately begun in Dunlap’s paper.
By the President of the United States of America
Whereas, combinations to defeat the execution of the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills, have, from the time of the commencement of those laws, existed in some of the western parts of Pennsylvania: and whereas, the said combinations, proceeding in a manner subversive equally of the just authority of government and of the rights of individuals, have hitherto effected their dangerous and criminal purpose, by the influence of certain irregular meetings, whose proceedings have tended to encourage and uphold the spirit of opposition; by misrepresentations of the laws, calculated to render them odious; by endeavors to deter those who might be so disposed from accepting offices under them, through fear of public resentment, and of injury to person and property, and to compel those who had accepted such offices, by actual violence to surrender or forbear the execution of them; by circulating vindictive menaces against all those who should otherwise directly or indirectly aid in the execution of the said laws, or who, yielding to the dictates of conscience and to a sense of obligation, should themselves comply therewith, by actually injuring and destroying the property of persons who were understood to have so complied; by inflicting cruel and humiliating punishments upon private citizens, for no other cause than that of appearing to be the friends of the laws; by intercepting the public officers on the highways, abusing, assaulting, and otherwise ill-treating them; by going to their houses in the night, gaining admittance by force, taking away their papers, and committing other outrages; employing for these unwarrantable purposes the agency of armed banditti, disguised in such manner as for the most part to escape discovery: and whereas, the endeavors of the Legislature to obviate objections to the said laws, by lowering the duties, and by other alterations conducive to the convenience of those whom they immediately affect (though they have given satisfaction in other quarters), and the endeavors of the executive officers to conciliate a compliance with the laws, by explanations, by forbearance, and even by particular accommodations, founded on the suggestions of local considerations, have been disappointed of their effect by the machinations of persons, whose industry to excite resistance has increased with every appearance of a disposition among the people to relax in their opposition and to acquiesce in the laws, insomuch that many persons in the said western parts of Pennsylvania have at length been hardy enough to perpetrate acts which I am advised amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States; the said persons having, on the 16th and 17th of July last past, proceeded in arms (on the second day amounting to several hundreds) to the house of John Neville, inspector of the revenue for the fourth survey of the district of Pennsylvania, having repeatedly attacked the said house, with the persons therein, wounding some of them; having seized David Lenox, marshal of the district of Pennsylvania, who previous thereto had been fired upon while in the execution of his duty by a party of armed men, detaining him for some time prisoner, till, for the preservation of his life, and the obtaining of his liberty, he found it necessary to enter into stipulations to forbear the execution of certain official duties touching processes issuing out of a court of the United States; and having finally obliged the said inspector of the said revenue, and the said marshal, from considerations of personal safety, to fly from that part of the country, in order, by a circuitous route, to proceed to the seat of government; avowing, as the motives of these outrageous proceedings, an intention to prevent, by force of arms, the execution of the said laws; to oblige the said inspector of the revenue to renounce his said office; to withstand, by open violence, the lawful authority of the Government of the United States; and to compel thereby an alteration in the measures of the Legislature, and a repeal of the laws aforesaid: and whereas, by a law of the United States, entitled “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” it is enacted, “that, whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or the execution thereof obstructed, in any State, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by that act, the same being notified by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such State to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed; and if the militia of a State where such combinations may happen shall refuse, or be insufficient, to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the Legislature of the United States shall not be in session, to call forth and employ such members of the militia of any other State or States most convenient thereto, as may be necessary; and the use of the militia, so to be called forth, may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the ensuing session; provided always, that whenever it may be necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command such insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within a limited time”; and whereas, James Wilson, an associate justice, on the 4th instant, by writing under his hand, did, from evidence which had been laid before him, notify to me that, “in the counties of Washington and Alleghany, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshal of that district”: and whereas, it is in my judgment necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take measures for calling forth the militia in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to cause the laws to be duly executed, I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but withal the most solemn conviction that the essential interests of the Union demand it, that the very existence of government and the fundamental principles of social order are materially involved in the issue, and that the patriotism and firmness of all good citizens are seriously called upon, as occasions may require, to aid in the effectual suppression of so fatal a spirit.
Wherefore, and in pursuance of the proviso above recited, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do hereby command all persons, being insurgents as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern, on or before the first day of September next, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes. And I do, moreover, warn all persons whomsoever, against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpetrators of the aforesaid treasonable acts; and do require all officers and other citizens, according to their respective duties, and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous proceedings.
In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.
Done at the city of Philadelphia, the seventh day of August, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, and of the independence of the United States of America, the nineteenth.
secretary of state to mifflin
Draft by Hamilton.
The President of the United States has directed me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th instant, and to communicate to you the following reply:
In requesting an interview with you on the subject of the recent disturbances in the western parts of Pennsylvania, the President, besides the desire of manifesting a respectful attention to the chief magistrate of a State immediately affected, was influenced by the hopes that a free conference, guided by a united and comprehensive view of the Constitutions of the United States and of Pennsylvania, and of the respective institutions, authorities, rights, and duties of the two governments, would have assisted him in forming more precise ideas of the nature of the cooperation which could be established between them, and a better judgment of the plan which it might be advisable for him to pursue, in the execution of his trust in so important and delicate a conjuncture. This having been his object, it is matter of some regret, that the course which has been suggested by you, as proper to be pursued, seems to have contemplated Pennsylvania in a light too separate and unconnected. The propriety of that course, in most if not in all respects, would be susceptible of little question if there were no federal government, federal laws, federal judiciary, or federal officers; if important laws of the United States, by a series of violent as well as of artful expedients, had not been frustrated in their execution for more than three years; if officers immediately charged with that execution, after suffering much and repeated insult, abuse, personal ill-treatment, and the destruction of property, had not been compelled for safety to fly the places of their residence, and the scenes of their official duties; if the service of the processes of a court of the United States had not been resisted; the marshal of the district made and detained for some time a prisoner, and compelled for safety also to abandon the performance of his duty, and return by a circuitous route to the seat of government; if, in fine, a judge of the United States had not in due form of law notified to the President, “that in the counties of Washington and Alleghany, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshal of that district.” It is true, your excellency has remarked, that in the plan suggested you have only spoken as the executive magistrate of Pennsylvania, charged with a general superintendence and care, that the laws of the commonwealth be fully executed, leaving it implicitly to the judgment of the President to choose, on such evidence as he approves, the measures for discharging the analogous trust which is confided to him in relation to the laws of the Union. But it is impossible not to think that the current of the observations in your letter, especially as to the consequences which may result from the employment of coercive measures, previous to the preliminary course which is indicated in it, may be construed to imply a virtual disapprobation of that plan of conduct, on the part of the General Government, in the actual stage of its affairs, which you acknowledge would be proper on the part of the Government of Pennsylvania, if arrived at a similar stage. Let it be assumed here (to be more particularly shown hereafter), that the Government of the United States is now at that point, where it is admitted, if the Government of Pennsylvania was, the employment of force by its authority would be justifiable; and let the following extracts be consulted for the truth of the inference which has been just expressed. “Will not the resort to force inflame and cement the existing opposition? Will it not associate in a common resistance those who have hitherto peaceably, as well as those who have riotously, expressed their abhorrence of the excise? Will it not collect and combine every latent principle of discontent, arising from the supposed oppressive operations of the federal judiciary, the obstruction of the western navigation, and a variety of other local sources? May not the magnitude of the opposition on the part of the ill-disposed, or the dissatisfaction of a premature resort to arms on the part of the well-disposed citizens of the State, eventually involve the necessity of employing the militia of other States? And the accumulation of discontent which the jealousy engendered by that movement may produce, who can calculate, or who will be able to avert?”
These important questions naturally give birth to the following serious reflections. The issues of human affairs are in the hands of Providence. Those intrusted with them in society have no other sure guide than the sincere and faithful discharge of their duty, according to the best of their judgments. In emergencies, great and difficult, not to act with an energy proportioned to their magnitude and pressure, is as dangerous as any other conceivable course. In the present case, not to exert the means which the laws prescribe for effectuating their own execution, would be to sacrifice those laws, and with them the Constitution, the Government, the principles of social order, and the bulwarks of private right and security. What worse can happen from the exertion of these means?
If, as cannot be doubted, the great body of the citizens of the United States are attached to the Constitution, which they have established for the management of their common concerns; if they are resolved to support their own authority in that of the constitutional laws, against disorderly and violent combinations of comparatively small portions of the community; if they are determined to protect each other in the enjoyment of security to person and property; if they are decided to preserve the character of republican government, by evincing that it has adequate resources for maintaining the public order; if they are persuaded that their safety and their welfare are materially connected with the preservation of the Union, and consequently of a government adequate to its exigencies; in fine, if they are disposed to continue that state of respectability and prosperity which is now deservedly the admiration of mankind—the enterprise to be accomplished, should a resort to force prove inevitable, though disagreeable and painful, cannot be arduous or alarming.
If, in addition to these dispositions in the community at large, the officers of the governments of the respective States, feeling it to be not only a patriotic but a constitutional duty (inculcated by the oath enjoined upon all the officers of a State, legislative, executive, and judicial), to support in their several stations the Constitution of the United States, shall be disposed, as occasion may require (a thing as little to be doubted as the former), with sincerity and good faith to co-operate with the Government of the United States, to second with all their influence and weight its legal and necessary measures, by a legal and substantial concert, then the enterprise to be accomplished can hardly even be deemed difficult.
But if, contrary to the anticipations which are entertained of these favorable dispositions, the great body of the people should be found indifferent to the preservation of the government of the Union, or insensible to the necessity of vigorous exertions to repel the danger which threatens their most important interests; or, if an unwillingness to encounter partial inconveniences should interfere with the discharge of what they owe to their permanent welfare; or if, either yielding to the suggestions of particular prejudices, or misled by the arts which may be employed to infuse jealousy and discontent, they should suffer their zeal for the support of public order to be relaxed by an unfavorable opinion of the merits and tendency of the measures which may be adopted; if above all it were possible that any of the State governments should, instead of prompting the exertions of the citizens, assist directly or indirectly in damping their ardor by giving a wrong bias to their judgment, or by disseminating dissatisfaction with the proceedings of the General Government, or should counteract the success of those proceedings by any sinister influence whatever, then, indeed, no one can calculate or may be able to avert the fatal evils with which such a state of things would be pregnant. Then, indeed, the foundations of our political happiness may be deeply shaken, if not altogether overturned.
The President, however, can suppose none of these things. He cherishes an unqualified confidence in the virtue and good sense of the people, in the integrity and patriotism of the officers of the State governments; and he counts absolutely on the same affectionate support, which he has experienced upon all former occasions, and which he is conscious that the goodness of his intentions now, not less than heretofore, merits.
It has been promised to show more particularly hereafter that the Government of the United States is now at that point where, it is confessed, if the State Government was, the employment of force on its part would be justifiable. This promise remains to be fulfilled.
The facts already noted establish the conclusion; but to render it palpable, it will be of use to apply them to the positions which your excellency has been pleased to lay down.
You admit that, as the offences committed respect the State, the military power of the government ought to be employed, when its judiciary authority, after a fair experiment, had proved incompetent to enforce obedience or to punish infractions of the law; that if the strength and audacity of a lawless combination shall baffle and destroy the efforts of the judiciary authority, to recover a penalty or inflict a punishment, that authority may constitutionally claim the auxiliary intervention of the military power; that in the last resort; at the requisition and as an auxiliary of the civil authority, the military force of the State would be called forth. And you declare that the circumstances of the case evidently require a firm and energetic conduct on the part both of the State and General Government.
For more than three years, as already observed, certain laws of the United States have been obstructed in their execution by disorderly combinations. Not only officers, whose immediate duty it was to carry them into effect, have suffered violent personal outrage and injury, and destruction of property, at different times, but similar persecution has been extended to private citizens, who have aided, countenanced, or only complied with the laws. The violences committed have been so frequent, and such in their degree as to have been matters of general notoriety and alarm; and it may be added that they have been abundantly within the knowledge and under the notice of the judges and magistrates of Pennsylvania, of superior as well as inferior jurisdiction. If in particular instances they have been punished by the exertions of the magistrates, it is at least certain that their efforts have been in the main ineffectual. The spirit has continued, and, with some intervals of relaxation, has been progressive, manifesting itself in reiterated excesses. The judiciary authority of the United States has also, prior to the attempt which preceded the late crisis, made some fruitless efforts. Under a former marshal, an officer sent to execute process was deterred from it by the manifest danger of proceeding. These particulars serve to explain the extent, obstinacy, and inveteracy of the evil.
But the facts which immediately decide the complexion of the existing crisis are these: Numerous delinquencies existed with regard to a compliance with the laws laying duties on spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills. An armed banditti, in disguise, had recently gone to the house of an officer of the revenue, in the night, attacked it, broken open the doors, and, by menaces of instant death, enforced by pistols presented at him, had compelled a surrender of his commission and books of office. Contemporary acts of violence had been perpetrated in other quarters. Processes were issued out of a court of the United States, to recover the penalties incident to a non-compliance with the laws, and to bring to punishment the violent infractors of them, in the above-mentioned case, against two of whom indictments had been found. The marshal of the district went in person to execute these processes. In the course of his duty he was actually fired upon, on the high-road, by a body of armed men. Shortly after, other bodies of armed men (in the last instance amounting to several hundred persons) repeatedly attacked the house of the inspector of the revenue, with the declared intention of compelling him to renounce his office, and of obstructing the execution of the laws. One of these bodies of armed men made prisoner the marshal of the district, put him in jeopardy of his life, and did not release him till, for safety and to obtain his liberty, he engaged to forbear the further execution of the processes with which he was charged. In consequence of further requisitions and menaces of the insurgents, the marshal, together with the inspector of the revenue, has been since under the necessity of flying, secretly and by a circuitous route, from the scene of these transactions, towards the seat of government. An associate justice, pursuant to the provisions of the laws for that purpose, has, in the manner already stated, officially notified the President of the existence of combinations, in two of the counties of this State, to obstruct the execution of the laws, too powerful to be suppressed by the judiciary authority, or by the powers of the marshal.
Thus, then, it is unequivocally and in due form ascertained, in reference to the Government of the United States, that the judiciary authority, after a fair and full experiment, has proved incompetent to enforce obedience to, or to punish infractions of, the laws; that the strength and audacity of certain lawless combinations have baffled and destroyed the efforts of the judiciary authority to recover penalties or inflict punishment; and that this authority, by a regular notification of this state of things, has, in the last resort, as an auxiliary of the civil authority, claimed the intervention of the military power of the United States. It results, from these facts, that the case exists when—according to the positions advanced by your excellency, in reference to the State Government—the military power may, with due regard for all the requisite cautions, be rightfully interposed; and that the interposition of this power is called for, not only by principles of a firm and energetic conduct on the part of the General Government, but by the indispensable duty which the Constitution and the laws prescribe to the Executive of the United States. In this conclusion, your excellency’s discernment, on mature reflection, cannot, it is presumed, fail to acquiesce; nor can it refuse its concurrence in the opinion which the President entertains, that he may reasonably expect, when called for, the zealous co-operation of the militia of Pennsylvania; that as citizens, and friends to law and order, they may comply with the call, without any thing that can properly be denominated “a passive obedience to the mandates of government”; and that, as freemen, judging rightly of the cause and nature of the service proposed to them, they will feel themselves under the most sacred obligations to accept and perform it with alacrity. The theory of our political institutions knows no difference between the obligations of our citizens, in such a case, whether it relate to the government of this Union or of a State; and it is hoped and confided, that a difference will be as little known to their affections or opinions.
Your excellency, it is also presumed, will as little doubt, on the like mature reflection, that in such a case the President could not, without an abdication of the undoubted rights and authorities of the United States, and of his duty, postpone the measures for which the laws of the United States provide, to a previous experiment of the plan which is delineated in your letter.
The people of the United States have established a government for the management of their general interests; they have instituted executive organs for administering that government; and their representatives have established the rules by which these organs are to act. When their authority in that of their government is attacked, by lawless combinations of the citizens of part of a State, they could never be expected to approve that the care of vindicating their authority, of enforcing their laws, should be transferred from the officers of their own government to those of a State, and this to wait the issue of a process so undeterminate in its duration as that which it is proposed to pursue; comprehending a further and full experiment of the judiciary authority of the State, a proclamation “to declare the sentiments of its government, announce a determination to prosecute and punish offenders, and to exhort the citizens at large to pursue a peaceable and patriotic conduct”; the sending of commissioners “to address those who have embarked in the present combinations upon the lawless nature and ruinous tendency of their proceedings; to inculcate the necessity of an immediate return to the duty which they owe their country; and to promise, as far as the State is concerned, forgiveness of their past transactions, upon receiving a satisfactory assurance that, in future, they will submit to the laws”; and, finally, a call of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, “that the ultimate means of subduing the spirit of insurrection, and of restoring tranquillity and order, may be prescribed by their wisdom and authority.”
If there were no other objection to a transfer of this kind, the very important difference which is supposed to exist in the nature and consequences of the offences that have been committed, in the contemplation of the laws of the United States and those of Pennsylvania, would alone be a very serious obstacle. The paramount considerations which forbid an acquiescence in this course of proceeding, render it unnecessary to discuss the probability of its success; else it might have been proper to test the considerations which have been mentioned as a ground of hope, by the inquiry, what was the precise extent of the success of past experiments, and especially whether the execution of the revenue laws of Pennsylvania within the scene in question was truly and effectually accomplished by them, or whether they did not rather terminate in a tacit compromise, by which appearances only were saved?
You are already, sir, advised that the President, yielding to the impressions which have been stated, has determined to take measures for calling forth the militia; and that these measures contemplate the assembling of a body of between twelve and thirteen thousand men, from Pennsylvania and the neighboring States of Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey. The recourse thus early to the militia of the neighboring States, prevails from a probability of the insufficiency of that of Pennsylvania alone to accomplish the object; your excellency having, in your conference with the President, confirmed the conclusion which was deducible from the known local and other circumstances of the State, by the frank and express declaration which you made of your conviction of that insufficiency in reference to the number which could be expected to be drawn forth for the purpose.
But, while the President has conceived himself to be under an indispensable obligation to prepare for that eventual resort, he has still consulted the sentiment of regret which he expressed to you, at the possible necessity of an appeal to arms; and to avert it, if practicable, as well as to manifest his attention to the principle, that “a firm and energetic conduct does not preclude the exercise of a prudent and humane policy,” he has (as you have been also advised) concluded upon the measure of sending himself commissioners to the discontented counties, to make one more experiment of a conciliatory appeal to the reason, virtue, and patriotism of their inhabitants; and has also signified to you how agreeable would be to him your co-operation in the same expedient, which you have been pleased to afford. It can scarcely be requisite to add, that there is nothing he has more at heart than that the issue of this experiment, by establishing the authority of the laws, may preclude the always calamitous necessity of an appeal to arms. It would plant a thorn in the remainder of his path through life, to have been obliged to employ force against fellow-citizens, for giving solidity and permanency to blessings which it has been his greatest happiness to co-operate with them in procuring for a much-loved country.
The President receives with much pleasure the assurance you have repeated to him, that whatever requisition he may make, whatever duty he may impose, in pursuance of his constitutional and legal powers, will, on your part, be promptly undertaken and faithfully discharged; and acknowledging, as an earnest of this, and even more, the measures of cooperation which you are pursuing, he assures you, in return, that he relies fully on the most cordial aid and support from you in every way which the Constitutions of the United States and of Pennsylvania shall authorize, and present or future exigencies may require.
And he requests that you will construe, with a reference to this assurance of his confidence, whatever remarks may have been made in the course of this reply to your letter, if it shall have happened that any of them have erred from a misconception of the sentiments and views which you may have meant to communicate.
With perfect respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, etc.,
Secretary of State.
hamilton to washington
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President, and sends him two letters which were received last night from Pittsburgh.
Would it not be advisable to put the garrison of Fort Franklin in the power of Major Butler, so that if he deems it advisable he may draw a part of it to his aid?
An attack from the Indians appears at present improbable, and an attack from the insurgents probable enough.
The bearer of the letters waits orders to return. Will the President suggest any thing?
hamilton to craig
In consequence of an arrangement of the Secretary of War, who is absent, your letter of the 3d instant has been communicated to me. It is satisfactory to receive exact intelligence of the movements of the insurgents. Your care of the interest confided to you is in every event depended upon according to circumstances. The keeping the arms and stores out of the hands of the insurgents is a matter of great importance. It is hoped that you will personally, in the worst issue of things, find safety in the fort. The friends of government may depend that it will not be wanting to its duty and interest upon this occasion. And can there be any doubt of the sufficiency of its means?
With much esteem, I am, etc.,
For the Secretary of War.
hamilton to washington
It appears probable that advantages will result from giving to the citizens at large information on the subject of the disturbances which exist in the western part of Pennsylvania.
With this view, if no objection to the measure should occur to you, I would cause a publication to be made of the report which I had the honor to address to you, dated the 5th instant.
With the most perfect respect, etc.
To the People of the United States
It has, from the first establishment of Your present constitution, been predicted, that every occasion of serious embarrassment which should occur in the affairs of the government, every misfortune which it should experience, whether produced from its own faults or mistakes, or from other causes, would be the signal of an attempt to overthrow it, or to lay the foundation of its overthrow, by defeating the exercise of constitutional and necessary authorities. The disturbances which have recently broken out in the western counties of Pennsylvania, furnish an occasion of this sort. It remains to see whether the prediction which has been quoted proceeded from an unfounded jealousy, excited by partial differences of opinion, or was a just inference from causes inherent in the structure of our political institutions. Every virtuous man, every good citizen, and especially every true republican, must fervently pray, that the issue may confound and not confirm so ill-omened a prediction.
Your firm attachment to the government you have established, cannot be doubted.
If a proof of this were wanting to animate the confidence of your public agents, it would be sufficient to remark that as often as any attempt to counteract its measures appear, it is carefully prepared by strong professions of friendship to the government and disavowals of any intention to injure it. This can only result from a conviction that the government carries with it your affections; and that an attack upon it, to be successful, must veil the stroke under the appearances of good will.
It is therefore very important that you should clearly discern, in the present instance, the shape in which a design of turning the existing insurrection to the prejudice of the government would naturally assume. Thus guarded, you will more readily discover and more easily shun the artful snares which may be laid to entangle your feelings and your judgment, and will be the less apt to be misled from the path by which alone you can give security and permanency to the blessings you enjoy, and can avoid the incalculable mischiefs incident to a subversion of the just and necessary authority of the laws.
The design alluded to, if it shall be entertained, would not appear in an open justification of the principles or conduct of the insurgents, or in a direct dissuasion from the support of the government. These methods would produce general indignation and defeat the object. It is too absurd and shocking a position to be directly maintained, that forcible resistance by a sixtieth part of the community to the representative will of the whole, and to constitutional laws expressed by that will, and acquiesced in by the people at large, is justifiable or even excusable. It is a position too untenable and disgusting to be directly advocated, that the government ought not to be supported in exertions to establish the authority of the laws against a resistance so incapable of justification or excuse.
The adversaries of good order in every country have too great a share of cunning, too exact a knowledge of the human heart, to pursue so unpromising a cause. Those among us would take upon the present occasion one far more artful, and consequently far more dangerous.
They would unite with good citizens, and perhaps be among the loudest in condemning the disorderly conduct of the insurgents. They would agree that it is utterly unjustifiable, contrary to the vital principle of republican government, and of the most dangerous tendency. But they would, at the same time, slily add, that excise laws are pernicious things, very hostile to liberty (or perhaps they might more smoothly lament that the government had been imprudent enough to pass laws so contrary to the genius of a free people), and they would still more cautiously hint that it is enough for those who disapprove of such laws to submit to them—too much to expect their aid in forcing them upon others. They would be apt to intimate further, that there is reason to believe that the Executive has been to blame, sometimes by too much forbearance, encouraging the hope that the laws would not be enforced, at other times in provoking violence by severe and irritating measures; and they would generally remark, with an affectation of moderation and prudence, that the case is to be lamented, but difficult to be remedied; that a trial of force would be delicate and dangerous; that there is no foreseeing how or where it would end; that it is perhaps better to temporize, and by mild means to allay the ferment, and afterwards to remove the cause by repealing the exceptionable laws. They would probably also propose, by anticipation of and in concert with the views of the insurgents, plans of procrastination. They would say, if force must finally be resorted to, let it not be till after Congress has been consulted, who, if they think fit to persist in continuing the laws, can make additional provision for enforcing their execution. This, too, they would argue, will afford an opportunity for the public sense to be better known, which (if ascertained to be in favor of the laws) will give the government greater assurance of success in measures of coercion.
By these means, artfully calculated to divert your attention from the true question to be decided; to combat, by prejudices against a particular system, a just sense of the criminality and danger of violent resistance to the laws; to oppose the suggestion of misconduct on the part of government to the fact of misconduct on the part of the insurgents; to foster the spirit of indolence and procrastination natural to the human mind, as an obstacle to the vigor and exertion which so alarming an attack upon the fundamental principles of public and private security demands; to distract your opinion on the course proper to be pursued, and consequently on the propriety of the measures which may be pursued. They would expect (I say) by these and similar means equally insidious and pernicious, to abate your just indignation at the daring affront which has been offered to your authority and your zeal for the maintenance and support of the laws; to prevent a competent force, if force is finally called forth, from complying with the call; and thus to leave the government of the Union in the prostrate condition of seeing the laws trampled under foot by an unprincipled combination of a small portion of the community, habitually disobedient to laws, and itself destitute of the necessary aid for vindicating their authority.
Virtuous and enlightened citizens of a new and happy country! ye could not be the dupes of artifices so detestable, of a scheme so fatal; ye cannot be insensible to the destructive consequences with which it would be pregnant; ye cannot but remember that the government is your own work, that those who administer it are but your temporary agents; that you are called upon not to support their power, but your own power. And you will not fail to do what your rights, your best interests, your character as a people, your security as members of society, conspire to demand of you.
It has been observed that the means most likely to be employed to turn the insurrection in the western country to the detriment of the government, would be artfully calculated among other things “to divert your attention from the true question to be decided.”
Let us see then what is this question. It is plainly this—Shall the majority govern or be governed? shall the nation rule or be ruled? shall the general will prevail, or the will of a faction? shall there be government or no government? It is impossible to deny that this is the true and the whole question. No art, no sophistry can involve it in the least obscurity.
The Constitution you have ordained for yourselves and your posterity contains this express clause: “The Congress Shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.” You have, then, by a solemn and deliberate act, the most important and sacred that a nation can perform, pronounced and decreed, that your representatives in Congress shall have power to lay excises. You have done nothing since to reverse or impair that decree.
Your representatives in Congress, pursuant to the commission derived from you, and with a full knowledge of the public exigencies, have laid an excise. At three succeeding sessions they have revised that act, and have as often, with a degree of unanimity not common, and after the best opportunities of knowing your sense, renewed their sanction to it, you have acquiesced in it, it has gone into general operation, and you have actually paid more than a million of dollars on account of it.
But the four western counties of Pennsylvania undertake to rejudge and reverse your decrees. You have said, “The Congress shall have power to lay excises.“ They say, “The Congress shall not have this power.” Or, what is equivalent—they shall not exercise it: for a power that may not be exercised is a nullity. Your representatives have said, and four times repeated it, “An excise on distilled spirits shall be collected.” They say it shall not be collected. We will punish, expel, and banish the officers who shall attempt the collection. We will do the same by every other person who shall dare to comply with your decree expressed in the constitutional charter; and with that of your representatives expressed in the laws. The sovereignty shall not reside with you, but with us. If you presume to dispute the point by force, we are ready to measure swords with you, and if unequal ourselves to the contest, we will call in the aid of a foreign nation. We will league ourselves with a foreign power.
If there is a man among us who shall affirm that the question is not what it has been stated to be, who shall endeavor to perplex it by ill-timed declamations against excise laws, who shall strive to paralyze the efforts of the community by invectives or insinuations against the government, who shall inculcate, directly or indirectly, that force ought not to be employed to compel the insurgents to a submission to the laws, if the pending experiment to bring them to reason (an experiment which will immortalize the moderation of the government) shall fail,—such a man is not a good citizen; such a man, however he may prate and babble republicanism, is not a republican; he attempts to set up the will of a part against the will of the whole, the will of a faction against the will of the nation, the pleasure of a few against your pleasure, the violence of a lawless combination against the sacred authority of laws pronounced under your indisputable commission.
Mark such a man, if such there be. The occasion may enable you to discriminate the true from pretended republicans; your friends from the friends of faction. “T is in vain that the latter shall attempt to conceal their pernicious principles under a crowd of odious invectives against the laws. Your answer is this: “We have already in the constitutional act decided the point against you, and against those for whom you apologize. We have pronounced that excises may be laid, and consequently that they are not, as you say, inconsistent with liberty. Let our will be first obeyed, and then we shall be ready to consider the reasons which can be afforded to prove our judgment has been erroneous; and if they convince us, to cause them to be observed. We have not neglected the means of amending in a regular course the constitutional act. And we shall know how to make our sense be respected whenever we shall discover that any part of it needs correction. But as an earnest of this, it is our intention to begin by securing obedience to our authority, from those who have been bold enough to set it at defiance. In a full respect for the laws, we discern the reality of our power and the means of providing for our welfare as occasion may require; in the contempt of the laws we see the annihilation of our power, the possibility and the danger of its being usurped by others, and of the despotism of individuals succeeding to the regular authority of the nation.” That a fate like this may never await you, let it be deeply imprinted in your minds, and handed down to your latest posterity, that there is no road to despotism more sure or more to be dreaded than that which begins at anarchy.
Threats of joining the British are actually thrown out—how far the idea may go is not known.
If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty, and the greatest source of security in a republic? the answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and laws—the first growing out of the last. It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and the powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment. It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.
Were it not that it might require too long a discussion, it would not be difficult to demonstrate that a large and well-organized republic can scarcely lose its liberty from any other cause than that of anarchy, to which a contempt of the laws is the high-road.
But without entering into so wide a field, it is sufficient to present to your view a more simple and a more obvious truth, which is this: that a sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy, of a free government.
Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions—a government of force, and a government of laws; the first is the definition of despotism—the last, of liberty. But how can a government of laws exist when the laws are disrespected and disobeyed? Government supposes control. It is that power by which individuals in society are kept from doing injury to each other, and are brought to co-operate to a common end. The instruments by which it must act are either the authority of the laws or force. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government, there is an end to liberty!
Those, therefore, who preach doctrines, or set examples which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws, lead us from freedom to slavery; they incapacitate us for a government of laws, and consequently prepare the way for one of force, for mankind must have government of one sort or another. There are, indeed, great and urgent cases where the bounds of the Constitution are manifestly transgressed, or its constitutional authorities so exercised as to produce unequivocal oppression on the community, and to render resistance justifiable. But such cases can give no color to the resistance by a comparatively inconsiderable part of a community, of constitutional laws distinguished by no extraordinary features of rigor or oppression, and acquiesced in by the body of the community.
Such a resistance is treason against society, against liberty, against every thing that ought to be dear to a free, enlightened, and prudent people. To tolerate it, were to abandon your most precious interests. Not to subdue it, were to tolerate it. Those who openly or covertly dissuade you from exertions adequate to the occasion, are your worst enemies. They treat you either as fools or cowards, too weak to perceive your interest or your duty, or too dastardly to pursue them. They therefore merit and will, no doubt, meet your contempt. To the plausible but hollow harangue of such conspirators you cannot fail to reply, How long, ye Catilines, will ye abuse our patience?
To urge the execution of that system would manifest, it is said, an intemperate spirit; and to excite your disapprobation of that course, you are threatened with the danger of a civil war, which is called the consummation of human evil.
To crown the outrage upon your understandings, the insurgents are represented as men who understand the principles of freedom, and know the horrors and distresses of anarchy, and who, therefore, must have been tempted to hostility against the laws by a radical defect, either in the government or in those intrusted with its administration. How thin the partition which divides the insinuation from the assertion, that the government is in fault, and the insurgents in the right!
Fellow-citizens: A name, a sound, has too often had influence on the affairs of nations; an excise has too long been the successful watchword of party. It has even sometimes led astray well-meaning men. The experiment is now to be tried whether there be any spell in it of sufficient force to unnerve the arm which may be found necessary to be raised in defence of law and order.
The jugglers who endeavor to cheat us with the sound, have never dared to venture into the fair fields of argument. They are conscious that it is easier to declaim than to reason on the subject. They know it to be better to play a game with the passions and prejudices, than to engage seriously with the understanding of the auditory. You have already seen that the merits of excise laws are immaterial to the question to be decided, that you have prejudged the point by a solemn constitutional act, and that until you shall have revoked or modified that act, resistance to its operation is a criminal infraction of the social compact, an inversion of the fundamental principles of republican government, and a daring attack upon your sovereignty, which you are bound, by every motive of duty and self-preservation, to withstand and defeat. The matter might safely be suffered to rest here; but I shall take a future opportunity to examine the reasonableness of the prejudice which is inculcated against excise laws, and which has become the pretext for excesses tending to dissolve the bands of society.
Fellow-citizens: You are told that it will be intemperate to urge the execution of the laws which are resisted. What? Will it be indeed intemperate in your Chief Magistrate, sworn to maintain the Constitution, charged faithfully to execute the laws, and authorized to employ for that purpose force, when the ordinary means fail—will it be intemperate in him to exert that force, when the Constitution and the laws are opposed by force? Can he answer it to his conscience, to you, not to exert it?
Yes, it is said; because the execution of it will produce civil war—the consummation of human evil.
Fellow-citizens: Civil war is, undoubtedly, a great evil. It is one that every good man would wish to avoid, and will deplore if inevitable. But it is incomparably a less evil than the destruction of government. The first brings with it serious but temporary and partial ills; the last undermines the foundations of our security and happiness. And where should we be if it were once to grow into a maxim, that force is not to be used against the seditious combinations of parts of the community to resist the laws? This would be to give a carte blanche to ambition, to licentiousness, to foreign intrigue, to make you the prey of the gold of other nations—the sport of the passions and vices of individuals among yourselves. The hydra Anarchy would rear its head in every quarter. The goodly fabric you have established would be rent asunder, and precipitated into the dust. You knew how to encounter civil war rather than surrender your liberty to foreign domination; you will not hesitate now to brave it rather than to surrender your sovereignty to the tyranny of a faction; you will be as deaf to the apostles of anarchy now as you were to the emissaries of despotism then. Your love of liberty will guide you now as it did then; you know that the power of the majority and liberty are inseparable. Destroy that, and this perishes. But, in truth, that which properly can be called civil war is not to be apprehended—unless from the act of those who endeavor to fan the flame, by rendering the government odious. A civil war is a contest between two great parts of the same empire. The exertion of the strength of the nation to suppress resistance to its laws, by a sixtieth part of itself, is not of that description.
After endeavoring to alarm you with the horrors of civil war, an attempt is made to excite your sympathy in favor of the armed faction, by telling you that those who compose it are men who understand the principles of freedom, and know the horrors and distresses of anarchy, and must therefore have been prompted to hostility against the laws by a radical defect either in the government or in its administration. Fellow-citizens, for an answer to this you have only to consult your senses. The natural consequences of radical defect in a government, or in its administration, are national distress and suffering. Look around you—where is it? Do you feel it? Do you see it?
Go in quest of it beyond the Alleghany, and instead of it you will find that there also a scene of unparalleled prosperity upbraids the ingratitude and madness of those who are endeavoring to cloud the bright face of our political horizon, and to mar the happiest lot that beneficent Heaven ever indulged to undeserving mortals.
When you have turned your eyes towards that scene, examine well the men whose knowledge of the principles of freedom is so emphatically vaunted—where did they get their better knowledge of those principles than that which you possess? How is it that you have been so blind or tame as to remain quiet, while they have been goaded into hostility against the laws by a radical defect in the government or its administration? Are you willing to yield them the palm of discernment, of patriotism, or of courage?
The prediction mentioned in my first letter begins to be fulfilled. Fresh symptoms every moment appear of a dark conspiracy, hostile to your government, to your peace abroad, to your tranquillity at home. One of its orators dares to prostitute the name of Franklin by annexing it to a publication as insidious as it is incendiary. Aware of the folly and the danger of a direct advocacy of the cause of the insurgents, he makes the impudent attempt to enlist your passions in their favor by false and virulent railings against those who have heretofore represented you in Congress. The foreground of the piece presented you with a bitter invective against that wise, moderate, and pacific policy, which in all probability will rescue you from the calamities of a foreign war, with an increase of new dignity and with additional lustre to the American name and character. Your representatives are delineated as corrupt, pusillanimous, and unworthy of your confidence; because they did not plunge headlong into measures which might have rendered war inevitable; because they contented themselves with preparing for it, instead of making it, leaving the path open to the Executive for one last and solemn effort of negotiation; because they did not dispay either the promptness of gladiators, or the blustering of bullies, but assumed that firm yet temperate attitude which alone is suited to the representatives of a brave but rational people; who deprecated war, though they did not fear it; and who have a great and solid interest in peace, which ought only to be abandoned when it is unequivocally ascertained that the sacrifice is absolutely due to the vindication of their honor and the preservation of their essential rights; because, in fine, your representatives wished to give an example to the world, that the boasted moderation of republican governments was not (like the patriotism of our political barkers) an empty declaration, but a precious reality.
The sallies of a momentary sensibility, roused and stung by injury, were excusable. It was not wonderful that the events of war were under the first impressions heard from good and prudent men. But to revive them at this late hour, when fact and reflection unite to condemn them; to arraign a conduct which has elevated the national character to the highest point of true glory; to hope to embark you in the condemnation of that conduct, and to make your indignation against it useful to the cause of insurrection and treason, are indications of a wrong-headedness, perverseness, or profligacy, for which it is not easy to find terms of adequate reprobation.
Happily the plotters of mischief knew ye not. They derive what they mistake for your image from an original in their own heated and crooked imaginations, and they hope to mould a wise, reflecting, and dispassionate people to purposes which presuppose an ignorant, unthinking, and turbulent herd.
But the declamation against your representatives for their love of peace is but the preface to the main design. That design is to alienate you from the support of the laws, by the spectre of an odious excise system, baneful to liberty, engendered by corruption, and nurtured by the instrumentality (favored word, fruitful source of mountebank wit) of the enemies of freedom.
hamilton to craig
Your letter of the 17th instant to the Secretary of War has been received and duly attended to.
The suggestions respecting additional measures of defence have been considered; but the danger of the means falling into the hands of the insurgents appears at present an objection.
It is hoped that every thing at Pittsburgh, or which shall come there, not necessary to the post itself, has been forwarded down the river, and will continue to be so, as long and as fast as it can be done with safety. The friends of government at Pittsburgh ought to rally their confidence, and, if necessary, manifest it by acts. They cannot surely doubt the power of the United States to uphold the authority of the laws; and they may be assured, that the necessity of doing it, towards preserving the very existence of government, so directly attacked, will dictate and produce a most vigorous and persevering effort, in which the known good sense and love of order of the quiet body of the people, and all the information hitherto received of their sentiments and feelings with regard to the present emergency, authorize a full expectation of their hearty co-operation.
secretary of state to mifflin
Draft by Hamilton.
I am directed by the President to acknowledge the receipt on the 17th of your excellency’s letter, dated on the 12th instant.
The President feels with you the force of the motives which render undesirable an extension of correspondence on the subject in question. But the case being truly one of great importance and delicacy, these motives must yield in a degree to the propriety and utility of giving precision to every part of the transaction, and guarding effectually against ultimate misapprehension.
To this end it is deemed advisable, in the first place, to state some facts, which either do not appear, or are conceived not to have assumed an accurate shape in your excellency’s letter. They are these:
- 1. You were informed at the conference that all the information which had been received had been laid before an associate justice, in order that he might consider and determine whether such a case as is contemplated by the second section of the act, which provides for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions, had occurred; that is, whether combinations existed too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshal by that act; in which case the President is authorized to call forth the militia to suppress the combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.
- 2. The idea of a preliminary proceeding by you was pointed to an eventual co-operation with the Executive of the United States, in such plan as, upon mature deliberation, should be deemed advisable, in conformity with the laws of the Union. The inquiry was particularly directed towards the possibility of some previous accessory step in relation to the militia, to expedite the calling them forth if an acceleration should be judged expedient and proper, and if any delay on the score of evidence should attend the notification from a judge, which the laws make the condition of the power of the President to require the aid of the militia, and turned more especially upon the point whether the law of Pennsylvania, of the 22d September, 1783, was or was not still in force. The question emphatically was: Has the executive of Pennsylvania power to put the militia in motion, previous to a requisition from the President, under the laws of the Union, if it shall be thought advisable so to do? Indeed it seems to be admitted by one part of your letter, that the preliminary measure contemplated did turn on this question, and with a particular eye to the authority and existence of the act just mentioned.
- 3. The information contained in the papers read at the conference, besides the violence offered to the marshal while in company with the inspector of the revenue, established that the marshal had been afterwards made prisoner by the insurgents, put in jeopardy of his life, had been obliged to obtain safety and liberty by a promise, guaranteed by Colonel Presley Neville, that he would serve no other process on the west side of the Alleghany Mountains; that, in addition to this, a deputation of the insurgents had gone to Pittsburgh, to demand of the marshal a surrender of the processes in his possession, under the intimation that it would satisfy the people and add to his safety, which necessarily implied that he would be in danger of further violence without such a surrender; that under the influence of this menace, he had found it necessary to seek security by taking, secretly, and in the night, a circuitous route.
This recapitulation is not made to invalidate the explanation offered in your last letter, of the view of the subject which you assert to have led to the suggestions contained in your first, and of the sense which you wish to be received as that of the observations accompanying those suggestions. It is intended solely to manifest that it was natural for the President to regard your communication of the 5th instant in the light under which it is presented in the reply to it.
For having informed you that the matter was before an associate justice, with a view to the law of the United States, which has been mentioned, and having pointed out what was said respecting a preliminary proceeding on your part to a call of the militia under the authority of a State law, by anticipation of a requisition from the General Government, and in co-operation with an eventual plan to be founded on the laws of the Union, it was not natural to expect that it would have presented a plan of conduct entirely on the basis of the State government, even to the extent of resorting to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, after its judiciary had proved incompetent “to prescribe by their wisdom and authority the means of subduing the spirit of insurrection and of restoring tranquillity and order,” a plan which, being incompatible with the course marked out in the laws of the United States, evidently could not have been acceded to without a suspension, for a long and indefinite period, of the movements of the federal Executive pursuant to those laws. The repugnancy and incompatibility of the two modes of proceeding at the same time cannot, it is presumed, be made a question.
Was it extraordinary, then, that the plan suggested should have been unexpected, and that it should even have been thought liable to the observation of having contemplated Pennsylvania in a light too separate and unconnected?
The propriety of the remark, “that it was impossible not to think the current of the observations in your letter might be construed to imply a virtual disapprobation of that plan of conduct on the part of the Government of Pennsylvania, if arrived at a similar stage,” must be referred to the general tenor and complexion of those observations, and to the inference they were naturally calculated to inculcate. If this inference was, that under the known circumstances of the case, the employment of force to suppress the insurrection was improper, without a long train of preparatory expedients; and if, in fact, the Government of the United States (which has not been controverted) was at that point where it was admitted that the Government of Pennsylvania being arrived the resort to force on its part would be proper, the impression which was made could not have been effaced by the consideration that the forms of referring what concerned the government of the Union to the judgment of its own Executive, were carefully observed. There was no difficulty in reconciling the intimation of an opinion unfavorable to a particular course of proceeding, with an explicit reference of the subject (officially speaking) to the judgment of the officer charged by the Constitution to decide, and with a sincere recognition of the subjection of the individual authority of the State to the national jurisdiction of the Union.
The disavowal by your excellency of an intention to sanction the inference which was drawn, renders what has been said a mere explanation of the cause of that inference, and of the impressions which it at first made.
It would be foreign to the object of this letter to discuss the various observations, which have been adduced to obviate a misapprehension of your views, and to maintain the propriety of the course pursued in your first communication. It is far more pleasing to the President to understand you in the sense you desire, and to conclude that no opinion has been indicated by you inconsistent with that which he has entertained of the state of things and of his duty in relation to it. And he remarks, with satisfaction, the effect which subsequent information is supposed to be calculated to produce favoring an approximation of sentiments.
But there are a few miscellaneous points which, more effectually to prevent misconceptions anywhere, seem to demand a cursory notice.
You observe that the President had already determined to exercise his legal powers in drafting a competent force of the militia. At the point of time to which you are understood to refer—namely, that of the conference, the President had no legal power to call forth the militia. No judge had yet pronounced that a case justifying the exercise of that power existed. You must be sensible, sir, that all idea of your calling out the militia by your authority, was referred to a state of things antecedent to the lawful capacity of the President to do it by his own authority; and when he had once determined upon the call, pursuant to his legal powers, it were absurd to have proposed to you a separate and unconnected call. How, too, it might be asked, could such a determination, if it had been made, and was known to you, have comported with the plan suggested in your letter, which pre-supposes that the employment of force had not already been determined upon?
This passage of your letter is, therefore, considered to mean only that the President had manifested an opinion predicated upon the event of such a notification from a judge as the law prescribes, that the nature of the case was such as would probably require the employment of force. You will also, it is believed, recollect that he had not at the time finally determined upon any thing, and that the conference ended with referring the whole subject to further consideration.
You say, that if you had undertaken not only to comply promptly with the President’s requisition, but to embody a distinct corps for the same service, a useless expense would have been incurred by the State, an unnecessary burden would have been imposed on the citizens, and embarrassment and confusion would probably have been introduced instead of system and co-operation. But they were never expected. Your embodying the militia independent of a requisition from the President, was never thought of, except as a preliminary and auxiliary step. Had it taken place when the requisition came, the corps embodied would have been ready toward a compliance with it, and no one of the inconveniences suggested could possibly have risen.
You say, in another place, that you “were called upon to act, not in conformity to a positive law, but in compliance with the duty which is supposed to result from the nature and constitution of the executive office.” It is conceived that it would have been more correct to have said, “you were called upon to be consulted whether you had power in the given case to call forth the militia without a previous requisition from the General Government.” The supposition that you might possess this power was referred to a law of Pennsylvania, which appeared, on examination, to have been repealed. A gentleman who accompanied you thought that the power, after a due notification of the incompetency of the judiciary, might be deduced from the nature and constitution of the executive office.
It has appeared to your excellency fit and expedient to animadvert upon the nature of the evidence produced at the conference, and to express some doubts which had occurred to your mind concerning it.
As the laws of the United States have referred the evidence in such cases to the judgment of a district judge, or associate justice, and, foreseeing that circumstances so peculiar might arise as to render rules relating to the ordinary and peaceable state of society inapplicable, have forborne to prescribe any, leaving it to the understanding and conscience of the judge, upon his responsibility, to pronounce what kind and degree of evidence should suffice, the President would not sanction a discussion of the standard or measure by which evidence in those cases ought to be governed. He would restrain himself by the reflection that this appertains to the province of another, and that he might rely as a guide upon the decision which should be made by the proper organ of the laws for that purpose.
But it may be no deviation from this rule to notice to you that the facts stated in the beginning of this letter, under the third head, appear to have been overlooked in your survey of the evidence, while they seem to be far from immaterial to a just estimate of it.
You remark that “when you found that the marshal had, without molestation, executed his office in the county of Fayette, that he never was insulted or opposed till he acted in company with General Neville, and that the virulence of the rioters was directly manifested against the person and property of the latter gentleman, and only incidentally against the person of the former, you thought there was ground yet to suppose that a spirit of opposition to the officers employed under the excise law, and not a spirit of opposition to the officers employed in the administration of justice, was the immediate source of the outrages which are deprecated.”
It is natural to inquire how this supposition could consist with the additional facts which appeared by the same evidence, namely, that the marshal, having been afterward made prisoner by the rioters, had been compelled, for obtaining safety and liberty, to promise to execute no more processes within the discontented scene; and that subsequently again to this, in consequence of a deputation of the rioters deliberately sent to demand a surrender of the processes in his possession, enforced by a threat, he had found it necessary to seek security in withdrawing by a secret and circuitous route; did not these circumstances unequivocally denote that officers employed in the administration of justice were as much objects of opposition as those employed in the execution of the particular laws, and that the rioters were at least consistent in their plan?
It must needs be, that these facts escaped your excellency’s attention, else they are too material to have been omitted in your review of the evidence, and too conclusive not to have set aside the supposition which you entertained, and which seemed to have had so great a share in your general view of the subject.
There remains only one point on which your excellency will be longer detained—a point, indeed, of great importance, and which consequently demands serious and careful reflection. It is the opinion you so emphatically express, that the mere dispersion of the insurgents is the sole object for which the militia can be called out, or kept in service after they may have been called out.
The President reserves to the last moment the consideration and decision of this point.
But there are arguments weighing heavily against the opinion you have expressed, which, in the meantime, are offered to your candid consideration.
The Constitution of the United States (article 1, section 8) empowers Congress “to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” evidently, from the wording and distribution of the sentence, contemplating the execution of the laws of the Union as a thing distinct from the suppression of insurrections.
The act of May 2, 1792, for carrying the provision of the Constitution into effect, adopts for its title the very words of the Constitution, being “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” continuing the constitutional distinction.
The first section of the act provides for the cases of invasion and of insurrection, confining the latter to the case of insurrection against the government of a State. The second section provides for the case of the execution of the laws being obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals.
The words are these: “Whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or the execution thereof obstructed, in any State, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, the same being notified to the President of the United States by an associate judge, or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such State to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.” Then follows a provision for calling forth the militia of other States.
The terms of this section appear to contemplate and describe something that may be less than insurrection. “The combinations” mentioned may indeed amount to insurrections, but it is conceivable that they may stop at associations not to comply with the law, supported by riots, assassinations, and murders, and by a general spirit in a part of the community, which may baffle the ordinary judiciary means, with no other aid than the posse comitatus, magistrates, and officers in the execution of their duty. And the objects for which the militia are to be called are expressly not only to suppress these combinations (whether amounting to insurrections or not), but to cause the laws to be duly executed.
It is therefore plainly contrary to the manifest general intent of the Constitution and of this act, and to the positive and express terms of the second section of the act, to say that the militia called forth are not to be continued in service for the purpose of causing the laws to be duly executed, and, of course, till they are so executed.
What is the main and ultimate object of calling forth the militia? “To cause the laws to be executed.” Which are the laws to be executed? Those which are opposed and obstructed in their execution by the combinations described in the present case—the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills; and incidentally those which uphold the judiciary functions. When are the laws executed? Clearly, when the opposition is subdued; when penalties for disobedience can be enforced; when a compliance is effectuated.
Would the mere dispersion of insurgents, and their retiring to their respective homes, do this? Would it satisfy either member of the provision—the suppression of the combinations or the execution of the laws? Might not the former, notwithstanding the dispersion, continue in full vigor, ready at any moment to break out into new acts of resistance to the laws? Are the militia to be kept perpetually marching and counter-marching towards the insurgents while they are embodied, and from them when they have separated and retired? Suppose the insurgents, hardy enough to wait the experiment of a battle, are vanquished, and then disperse and retire home, are the militia immediately to retire also? to give them an opportunity to reassemble, recruit, and prepare for another battle? And is this to go on, and be repeated without limit?
Such construction of the law, if true, were certainly a very unfortunate one, rendering its provisions essentially nugatory, and leading to endless expense, and as endless disappointment. It could hardly be advisable to vex the militia, by marching them to a distant point, where they might scarcely be arrived before it would be legally necessary for them to return, not in consequence of having effected their object—of having “caused the laws to be executed,”—but in consequence of the mere stratagem of a deceitful dispersion and retiring.
Thus far the spirit as well as the positive letter of the law combats the construction which you have adopted. It remains to see if there be any other part of it which compels to a renunciation both of the letter and spirit of the antecedent provisions.
The part which seems to be relied upon for this effect, is the third section, which by way of proviso enjoins, “That whenever it may be necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force by that act directed to be called forth, he shall, forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within a limited time.” But does this affirm, does it necessarily even imply, that they, after the dispersion and retiring, are not to be used for the purpose for which they are authorized to be called forth, that is, “to cause the laws to be duly executed,” to countenance by their presence, and, in case of further resistance, to protect and support by their strength, the respective civil officers in the execution of their several duties, whether for bringing delinquents to punishment, or otherwise for giving effect to the laws? May not the injunction of this section be regarded as a merely humane and prudent precaution, to distinguish, previous to the actual application of force, a hasty tumult from a deliberate insurrection? to give an opportunity for those who may be accidentally or inadvertently mingled in a tumult or disorderly rising, to separate and withdraw from those who are designedly and deliberately actors? to prevent, if possible, bloodshed in a conflict of arms, and, if this cannot be done, to render the necessity of it palpable, by a premonition to the insurgents to disperse and go home? And are not all these objects compatible with the further employment of the militia for the ulterior purpose of causing the laws to be executed in the way which has been mentioned? If they present a rational end for the proviso, without defeating the main design of the antecedent provision, it is clear they ought to limit the sense of the former, and exclude a construction which must make the principal provision nugatory.
Do not the rules of law and reason unite in declaring that the different parts of a statute shall be so construed, as, if possible, to consist with each other; that a proviso ought not to be understood or allowed to operate in a sense tending to defeat the principal clause; and that an implication (if, indeed, there be any such implication as is supposed in the present case) ought not to overrule an express provision, especially at the sacrifice of the manifest general intent of a law, which, in the present case, undoubtedly is, that the militia shall be called forth “to cause the laws to be duly executed”?
Though not very material to the merit of the argument, it may be remarked, that the proviso which forms the third section, contemplates merely the case of insurrection. If the combinations described in the second section may be less than insurrection, then the proviso is not commensurate with the whole case contained in the second section, which would be an additional circumstance to prove that it cannot work an effect which shall be a substitute for the main purpose of the first section.
I have the honor to be, with perfect respect, sir, your excellency’s most obedient servant.
hamilton to washington
Sir:—Upon full reflection I entertain an opinion that it is advisable for me, on public grounds, considering the connection between the immediate ostensible cause of the insurrection in the western country and my department, to go out upon the expedition against the insurgents.
In a government like ours it cannot but have a good effect for the person who is understood to be the adviser or proposer of a measure, which involves danger to his fellow-citizens, to partake in that danger; while not to do it might have a bad effect. I therefore request your permission for the purpose.
My intention would be not to leave this till about the close of the month, so as to reach one of the columns at its ultimate point of rendezvous. In the meantime, I take it for granted General Knox will arrive, and the arrangements which will be made will leave the Treasury Department in a situation to suffer no embarrassment by my absence; which, if it be thought necessary, may terminate about or shortly after the meeting of Congress.
With perfect respect and the truest attachment, I have, etc.
By the President of the United States of America
Whereas, from a hope that the combinations against the Constitution and the laws of the United States, in certain of the western counties of Pennsylvania, would yield to time and reflection, I thought it sufficient, in the first instance, rather to take measures for calling forth the militia than immediately to embody them; but the moment is now come when the overtures of forgiveness, with no other condition than a submission to law, have been only partially accepted; when every form of conciliation, not inconsistent with the being of government, has been adopted without effect; when the well-disposed in those counties are unable by their influence and example to reclaim the wicked from their fury, and are compelled to associate in their own defence; when the proffered lenity has been perversely misinterpreted into an apprehension that the citizens will march with reluctance; when the opportunity of examining the serious consequences of a treasonable opposition has been employed in propagating principles of anarchy, endeavoring, through emissaries, to alienate the friends of order from its support, and inviting its enemies to perpetrate similar acts of insurrection; when it is manifest that violence would continue to be exercised upon every attempt to enforce the laws; when, therefore, government is set at defiance, the contest being whether a small portion of the United States shall dictate to the whole Union, and at the expense of those who desire peace indulge a desperate ambition. Now, therefore, I, George Washington, President of the United States, in obedience to that high and irresistible duty consigned to me by the Constitution, “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” deploring that the American name should be sullied by the outrages of citizens on their own government; commiserating such as remain obstinate from delusion; but resolved, in perfect reliance on that gracious Providence which so signally displays its goodness towards this country, to reduce the refractory to a due subordination to the law, do hereby declare and make known that, with a satisfaction which can be equalled only by the merits of the militia summoned into service from the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, I have received intelligence of their patriotic alacrity in obeying the call of the present, though painful, yet commanding necessity; that a force, which according to every reasonable expectation is adequate to the exigency, is already in motion to the scene of disaffection; that those who have confided, or shall confide in the protection of government, shall meet full succor under the standard and from the arms of the United States; that those who, having offended against the law, have since entitled themselves to indemnity, will be treated with the most liberal good faith, if they shall not have forfeited their claim by any subsequent conduct, and that instructions are given accordingly. And I do, moreover, exhort all individuals, officers, and bodies of men, to contemplate with abhorrence the measures leading directly or indirectly to those crimes which produce this resort to military coercion; to check, in their respective spheres, the efforts of misguided or designing men to substitute their misrepresentations in the place of truth, and their discontents in the place of stable government; and to call to mind that, as the people of the United States have been permitted, under the Divine favor, in perfect freedom, after solemn deliberation and in an enlightened age, to elect their own government, so will their gratitude for this inestimable blessing be best distinguished by firm exertions to maintain the Constitution and the laws. And, lastly, I again warn all persons whomsoever and wheresoever, not to abet, aid, or comfort the insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril; and I do also require all officers and other citizens, according to their several duties, as far as may be in their power, to bring under the cognizance of the law all offenders in the premises.
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia, the twenty-fifth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, of the independence of the United States of America the nineteenth
hamilton to lee
I have it in special instruction from the President of the United States, now at this place, to convey to you the following instructions for the general direction of your conduct in the command of the militia army, with which you are charged.
The objects for which the militia have been called forth are:
1st. To suppress the combinations which exist in some of the western counties in Pennsylvania, in opposition to the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills.
2d. To cause the laws to be executed.
These objects are to be effected in two ways:
- 1. By military force.
- 2. By judiciary process and other civil proceedings.
The objects of the military force are twofold:
- 1. To overcome any armed opposition which may exist.
- 2. To countenance and support the civil officers in the means of executing the laws.
With a view to the first of these two objects, you will proceed, as speedily as may be, with the army under your command, into the insurgent counties, to attack and, as far as shall be in your power, subdue all persons whom you may find in arms in opposition to the laws above mentioned. You will march your army in two columns, from the places where they are now assembled, by the most convenient routes, having regard to the nature of the roads, the convenience of supply, and the facility of co-operation and union; and bearing in mind that you ought to act, till the contrary shall be fully developed, on the general principle of having to contend with the whole force of the counties of Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington, and Alleghany, and of that part of Bedford which lies west of the town of Bedford; and that you are to put as little as possible to hazard. The approximation, therefore, of your columns is to be sought, and the subdivision of them, so as to place the parts out of mutual supporting distance, to be avoided as far as local circumstances will permit. Parkinson’s Ferry appears to be a proper point towards which to direct the march of the columns for the purpose of ulterior measures.
When arrived within the insurgent country, if an armed opposition appear, it may be proper to publish a proclamation, inviting all good citizens, friends of the Constitution and laws, to join the standard of the United States. If no armed opposition exist, it may still be proper to publish a proclamation, exhorting to a peaceable and dutiful demeanor, and giving assurances of performing, with good faith and liberality, whatsoever may have been promised by the commissioners to those who have complied with the conditions prescribed by them, and who have not forfeited their title by subsequent misconduct.
Of those persons in arms, if any, whom you may make prisoners, leaders, including all persons in command, are to be delivered up to the civil magistrate; the rest to be disarmed, admonished, and sent home (except such as may have been particularly violent, and also influential), causing their own recognizance for their good behavior to be taken, in the cases in which it may be deemed expedient.
With a view to the second point, namely, “the countenance and support of the civil officers in the means of executing the laws,” you will make such dispositions as shall appear proper to countenance and protect, and, if necessary, and required by them, to support and aid the civil officers in the execution of their respective duties; for bringing offenders and delinquents to justice; for seizing the stills of delinquent distillers, as far as the same shall be deemed eligible by the supervisor of the revenue, or chief officer of inspection; and also for conveying to places of safe custody such persons as may be apprehended and not admitted to bail.
The objects of judiciary process, and other civil proceedings, will be:
- 1. To bring offenders to justice.
- 2. To enforce penalties on delinquent distillers by suit.
- 3. To enforce the penalty of forfeiture on the same persons, by the seizure of their stills and spirits.
The better to effect these purposes, the judge of the district, Richard Peters, Esquire, and the attorney of the district, William Rawle, Esquire, accompany the army.
You are aware that the judge cannot be controlled in his functions; but I count on his disposition to co-operate in such a general plan as shall appear to you consistent with the policy of the case. But your method of giving a direction to legal proceedings, according to your general plan, will be by instruction to the district attorney.
He ought particularly to be instructed (with due regard to time and circumstances): 1st. To procure to be arrested all influential actors in riots and unlawful assemblies relating to the insurrection, and combinations to resist the laws, or having for object to abet that insurrection and those combinations, and who shall not have complied with the terms offered by the commissioners, or manifested their repentance in some other way which you may deem satisfactory. 2d. To cause process to issue for enforcing penalties on delinquent distillers. 3d. To cause offenders who may be arrested, to be conveyed to jails where there will be no danger of rescue: those for misdemeanors, to the jails of York and Lancaster; those for capital offences, to the jail of Philadelphia, as more secure than the others. 4th. To prosecute indictable offences in the courts of the United States; those for penalties on delinquents, under the laws before mentioned, in the courts of Pennsylvania.
As a guide in the case, the district attorney has with him a list of the persons who have availed themselves of the offers of the commissioners on the day appointed.
The seizure of stills is the province of the supervisor and other officers of inspection. It is difficult to chalk out the precise line concerning it. There are opposite considerations which will require to be nicely balanced, and which must be judged of by those officers on the spot. It may be found useful to confine the seizures to stills of the most leading and refractory distillers. It may be advisable to extend them far in the most refractory county.
When the insurrection is subdued, and the requisite means have been put in execution to secure obedience to the laws, so as to render it proper for the army to retire (an event which you will accelerate as much as shall be consistent with the object), you will endeavor to make an arrangement for detaching such a force as you deem adequate, to be stationed within the disaffected country, in such a manner as best to afford protection to well-disposed citizens and to the officers of the revenue, and to repress, by their presence, the spirit of riot and opposition to the laws.
But before you withdraw the army, you will promise, on behalf of the President, a general pardon to all such as shall not have been arrested, with such exceptions as you shall deem proper. The promise must be so guarded as not to affect pecuniary claims under the revenue laws. In this measure, it is advisable there should be a co-operation with the Governor of Pennsylvania.
On the return of the army you will adopt some convenient and certain arrangement for restoring to the public magazines, the arms, accoutrements, military stores, tents, and other articles of camp equipage and intrenching tools, which have been furnished, and shall not have been consumed or lost.
You are to exert yourselves by all possible means to preserve discipline among the troops, particularly a scrupulous regard to the rights of persons and property, and to a respect for the authority of the civil magistrate; taking especial care to inculcate and cause to be observed this principle: that the duties of the army are confined to the attacking and subduing of armed opponents of the laws, and to the supporting and aiding of the civil officers in the execution of their functions.
It has been settled that the Governor of Pennsylvania will be second, the Governor of New Jersey third in command, and that the troops of the several States in line, on the march and upon detachment, are to be posted according to the rule which prevailed in the army during the late war—namely, in moving towards the sea-board, the most southern troops will take the right; in moving westward, the most northern will take the right.
These general instructions, however, are to be considered as liable to such alterations and deviations in the detail, as from local and other causes may be found necessary, the better to effect the main object upon the general principles which have been indicated.
With great respect, I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servant,
To Major-General Lee.
hamilton to washington
We arrived here this afternoon. A very heavy rain has rendered the march extremely arduous and distressing; but we find here much better shelter than was foreseen. Our baggage and stores are just beginning to arrive. The Jersey line and brigade of cavalry took the right-hand road, about five miles back.
To-morrow we shall continue our march, and I hope that we shall conform to the general arrangement, though we must shorten to-morrow’s march, and lengthen that of the day following.
The troops have shown all the patience that could have been expected. In short, I perceive nothing amiss.
Bradford and Fulton, it is said, are gone off. By tracing time, it is not probable they were at all influenced by the arrests of Husbands and Phelson.
With the highest respect, and truest attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
The very late arrival of the wagons, the injury to a number of them, and the dispersed situation of the troops, render it impracticable to leave this place to-day, as was intended; but the baggage and stores go forward, and to-morrow the troops must move. I apprehend no material derangement of the general plan. An express has been despatched to Governor Lee, advising him of the state of things here.
Nothing from the western country.
With the greatest respect and attachment, etc.
hamilton to washington
The light corps, with the Jersey infantry and brigade of cavalry, are at Indian Creek, in Legnoier Valley, where they continue till this division gets up, which will be this evening, as the march will commence in an hour. This division had, I believe, the worst road, and was, besides, encumbered with all the spare stores, which has thrown it a day’s march behind the other. But by a letter received yesterday from Governor Lee, it appears that the right wing is fully in measure with the left. All is essentially well with both wings, and the troops continue to show as much good humor as could possibly have been expected.
The meeting at Parkinson’s Ferry ended, we are told, in a new appointment of commissioners to deprecate the advance of the army, and in new expressions of pacific intentions. But there is nothing which can occasion a question about the propriety of the army’s proceeding to its ultimate destination. No appearances whatever of opposition occur.
You desired that a table of the routes of the left wing might be sent you. None was left with any officer of this wing.
With the truest respect and attachment,
I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obd’t serv’t, etc.
P. S.—It is hoped that the original papers have been forwarded, as the list furnished from the Secretary of State’s office would be a deceptive guide. Memoranda of the Attorney-General, brought by this express, will greatly aid, perhaps sufficiently; but the originals would be best.
hamilton to washington
The New Jersey infantry and brigade of cavalry are at this place. The Pennsylvania infantry will be here this evening. The light corps is advanced about two miles. No official account since that heretofore communicated has come from the left wing. But a person who came from Uniontown, yesterday, informs that Morgan, with the advance, was there; the main body about twenty miles behind. I propose in about an hour to set out for Uniontown.
All announces trepidation and submission. The new commissioners have been with Governor Mifflin, charged with new declarations by townships, battalions of militia, etc., of a disposition to obey the laws. The impression is certainly for the present strong, but it will be stronger and more permanent by what is to follow. It does not appear that any great number have fled.
With the truest respect and attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
I have returned to this place, from Uniontown. A letter from Governor Lee, which goes with this, probably informs you of the plan of future operations; but, lest it should not, I will briefly state it. The right wing is to take a position with its left towards Budd’s Ferry, and its right towards Greensburgh. The left wing is to be posted between the Youghiogheny and Monongahela, with its left towards the latter, and its right towards the former. Morgan, with his command, including the whole of the light corps, and perhaps a part of the brigade of cavalry, will go into Washington County. It is not unlikely that, in the course of the business, a part of the troops will take a circuit by Pittsburgh; for the more places they can appear in, without loss of time, the better.
In adopting this plan, the circumstance of much delay in crossing and recrossing waters has weighed powerfully; and the quiescent state of the country renders the plan entirely safe. Boats, however, will be collected on both waters, to facilitate mutual communication and support.
I received the letter you were so good as to write me, on the road, with those that accompanied it.
The rainy weather continues, with short intervals of clear. The left wing has suffered from sickness, but the right has been and continues remarkably healthy. The troops also continue to behave well. A court-martial sits to-day, to try one or two riotous fellows, and one or two marauders. The appointment of it has checked the licentious corps.
With the truest respect and attachment,
I have the honor to be, etc.
P. S.—Not many fugitives from justice as yet.
hamilton to washington
Morgan, with the whole of the light troops, has crossed into Washington County. Dispositions of different corps are making to strike at once into the most disaffected scenes.
It appears evident, that to wait for preliminary investigations to apprehend the guilty upon process, would defeat the object, and produce delay beyond the patience of the troops, or the time allowed by the season for operation. With the advice of the district attorney, the Commander-in-Chief has concluded to take hold of all who are worth the trouble in a more summary way—that is, by the military arm, and then to deliver them over to the disposition of the judiciary. In the meantime, all possible means are using to obtain evidence, and accomplices will be turned against the others.
This step is directed by that principle of common law that every man may of right apprehend a traitor.
I hope good objects will be found notwithstanding many have gone off. It is proved that Breckenridge did not subscribe till after the day, and that he has been the worst of all scoundrels. The only question is how far the candor of the government, owing to the use made of him by the commissioners, might be compromised.
The Commander-in-Chief is taking measures, with a good prospect of success, to engage a competent corps to be stationed in the country—a regiment of infantry and four troops of horse. The plan is to engage them for nine months, but a suit of clothes must be allowed.
Being not very well, I am obliged to be brief.
With the truest respect and attachment, I have the honor to be, sir, etc.
hamilton to washington
I have the honor of your note of the 5th instant.
To-morrow the measures for apprehending persons and seizing stills will be carried into effect. I hope there will be found characters fit for examples, and who can be made so. Colonel Hamilton, sheriff, is now at our quarters—come to make a voluntary surrender of himself. It is not yet certain how much can be proved against him; but otherwise he is a very fit subject.
I observe what Mr. Bache is about. But I am the more indifferent to it, as experience has proved to me (however it may be in ways which I could not allege in my justification), that my presence in this quarter was in several respects not useless. And it is long since I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value. I hope to derive from the esteem of the discerning, and an internal consciousness of zealous endeavors for the public good, the reward of those endeavors.
I propose, if no urgent reason to the contrary occurs, to leave this country for Philadelphia about the 15th instant, and I shall lose no time in reaching it. Meanwhile I trust the business of my department will suffer no injury from my absence.
Before I go I will try to see that a good arrangement is made with regard to arms, stores, etc.
With true respect and affectionate attachment, etc.
P. S.—Poor Lenox has been on the torture so long, and has lately received such unpleasant accounts, that we have all advised him to return to Philadelphia. The substitutes devised will guard against injury to the service. Intelligence having been received of some of the insurgents having embodied about Beaver Creek, a plan is laid provisionally for giving them a stroke, the execution of which will be speedily attempted, if nothing to the contrary occurs.
hamilton to washington
I had the honor of writing to you three days since by Mr. Vaughan. Nothing material has since occurred, except that a number of persons have been apprehended. Twenty of them are in confinement at this place; others have not yet arrived. Several of those in confinement are fit subjects for examples, and it is probable from the evidence already collected, and what is expected, that enough for that purpose will be proved. The most conspicuous of these for character or crime, are understood to be the Rev. John Corbly, Colonel Crawford, Colonel John Hamilton, Thomas Sedgwick, David Lock, John Munn, John Laughery.
The evidence has not yet fixed the situation of Colonel Hamilton.
A warrant has been sent after Colonel Gaddis, of Fayette, another very fit subject; but, from the lapse of time, I fear he has escaped.
The bad spirit is evidently not subdued. Information is just received that within the last three days a pole has been erected about sixteen and a half miles from this place, on the road to Muddy Creek; measures are taken on the subject.
But it is more and more apparent, that for some considerable time to come a military force in this country is indispensable. I presume the temporary one meditated will be accomplished.
To-morrow I leave this place for Pittsburgh. If nothing extraordinary happens, I shall leave that place for Philadelphia on the 19th. By that time every thing will have taken its shape.
With true respect and affectionate attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
Sir:—I wrote to you two days since by express from Washington. The judiciary with myself arrived here last evening. The list of prisoners has been very considerably increased, probably to the amount of one hundred and fifty, but it is not yet so digested as to be forwarded. Governor Lee just informs me, that he has received a letter from Marietta, advising him of the apprehending of John Holcroff, the reputed Tom the Tinker, and one Wright, a notorious offender.
Subsequent intelligence shows that there is no regular assemblage of the fugitives where it is supposed. There are only small vagrant parties in that quarter, affording no point of attack.
Every thing is urging on for the return of the troops. The engagement of a corps to remain here goes on, it is said, well.
With perfect respect and true attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
hamilton to washington
I wrote you the day before yesterday, by express. Nothing material remains to be said. The army is, generally, in motion homeward—the Virginia line, by way of Morgantown, to Winchester, etc.; the Maryland line, by way of Uniontown, to Williamsport, etc.; the Pennsylvania and New Jersey, by the old Pennsylvania route, to Bedford. The judiciary is industrious in prosecuting the examination of prisoners—among whom there is a sufficient number of proper ones for examples, and with sufficient evidence. Col. Gaddis has been brought in.
With perfect respect and true attachment, I have the honor, etc.
P. S.—In five minutes I set out for Philadelphia.