Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE SPEECH OF ALBERT GALLATIN, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE COUNTY OF FAYETTE, IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA, [JANUARY 3, 1795,] ON THE IMPORTANT QUESTION TOUCHING THE VALIDITY OF THE ELECTIONS HELD IN THE FOUR WE - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 3
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THE SPEECH OF ALBERT GALLATIN, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE COUNTY OF FAYETTE, IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA, [JANUARY 3, 1795,] ON THE IMPORTANT QUESTION TOUCHING THE VALIDITY OF THE ELECTIONS HELD IN THE FOUR WE - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 3 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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THE SPEECH OF ALBERT GALLATIN,
The subject was introduced upon the motion of Mr. Kelly; the following resolution being offered by him and referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole House.
Resolved, That the elections held during the late insurrection in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, for members to represent said counties in this House, were unconstitutional, and they are hereby declared void.
Mr. Chairman:—The proposition now before us divides itself into two distinct questions. 1st. Were the inhabitants of the four western counties in a state of insurrection on the second Tuesday of October last, the day of the general election? 2d. Has the House a power to decide on the unconstitutionality of the election?
In order to answer the first question it will be necessary to enter into a detail of the most material facts of the late disturbances; though I should not have supposed it requisite or in point to go any farther back than the unfortunate events of the month of July last past; as, however, the mover of this resolution, with a view, perhaps, of inducing a belief that those events originated in some general combinations of the inhabitants of the western counties, has made a variety of observations on everything which passed in that country on the subject of the excise law from the time of its being enacted, and as the recital he gave and the observations he made, whatever his views might be, had an undoubted tendency to prejudice and inflame the minds of the House on the decision of the main question, I will claim an equal share of indulgence whilst I am obliged, in reply to those observations, to go as far back as the mover himself has gone.
In detailing the leading circumstances of the conduct of the western people, extracted from all the official documents or ascertained facts which are in the possession of the House, or which I have been enabled to procure, I mean not to stand as an advocate for any measure that is in itself reprehensible. I mean not to justify or even to palliate any criminal excesses into which the people, or any part of the people, may have fallen; but I wish to separate facts from opinions, and to divest the picture which has been given to you of those colors which have no other effect but that of obscuring truth.
It is asserted that the opposition to the excise law originated in the western counties with the law itself; that it was at first displayed in the shape of a circulation of opinions and of intemperate resolutions, adopted by meetings and combinations of influential characters; that it soon broke out in acts of violence and excesses, which are justly chargeable to those meetings; and that at last, as a natural consequence of a systematical opposition, not only to the excise law but to government, it terminated in the commission of arson, murder, treason, and an open rebellion against the government of the United States and of Pennsylvania.
That there was a general dislike to the excise law in the western counties cannot certainly be denied; but in answer to the assertion that it originated from an enmity fostered in those counties against the government of the United States itself, it will be sufficient to observe that the aversion to the excise law of the State of Pennsylvania was as strong, and produced as violent effects before the existence of the Constitution of the United States, as the aversion to the late excise law. The acts of violence committed twelve years ago, and which terminated in the expulsion of the State excise officer, cannot be justified, nor can they justify those which have been recently committed; but they show, at least, that whatever opposition existed was directed against the principle of the law itself, and not against the government that enacted it. Permit me to add that the aversion did not arise from a reluctance to pay a share of the public burdens, nor was it confined to the western country alone. The direct taxes imposed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania were lighter on the frontier counties than on the other counties of the State, in proportion to their respective population, though not in proportion to the value of property which their respective inhabitants possessed. Such as they were, they have been paid more punctually by some of the western counties, and as punctually by all of them, as by any other part of the State. This fact will not be denied; its proof is to be found in the yearly official reports made to this House from the year 1785 to the present year. To prove likewise that the aversion to an excise law was not confined to those counties, it will be enough to mention that the excise law of Pennsylvania was merely nominal, so far as related to spirits distilled within her jurisdiction from domestic materials in almost every county of the State. This assertion, if denied, may also be proved, partly from official reports and partly by the evidence of some of the collectors themselves.
We shall find the charge, that the western counties were the first engaged in the circulation of opinions inimical to the excise system, to be equally unfounded. While the excise bill was pending before Congress on the 22d January, 1791, the House of Representatives of this State, upon the motion of two members from the city, adopted, by a large majority, resolutions expressive of their sense on the subject. They not only did so, but, in order that their opinions and the motives of their conduct might be known and circulated, they entered their reasons at large on the minutes of the 2d February, 1791, and in those reasons (which were published in the newspapers) they express their opinion that an excise law was, as it had been denominated by the Congress of 1774, “the horror of all free States,” and that a very large portion of the people would be opposed to it under every possible modification.
Was it more criminal in the inhabitants of the western country than in this House to circulate their opinions? Can a circulation of opinions be called criminal? This doctrine, once adopted, would destroy the privilege, the constitutional privilege, of the citizens to assemble peaceably, to remonstrate, to discuss the measures of government, and to publish their thoughts. We must distinguish between a publication of sentiments and acting. We must distinguish between an opinion merely that this or that measure is wrong, promulgated in any manner whatever by individuals or collections of individuals, and an opinion to which is annexed a declaration that those who give that opinion mean to act in a certain manner or advise others to act. Whether the opinion be right or wrong, as long as it is only an opinion, everybody has a right to express it. To judge whether the determination or recommendation to act is justifiable or not, the nature of the conduct thus avowed, either as the intention of the men or as their advice, must be examined. Upon this principle, then, the resolutions adopted at different times by meetings of certain inhabitants of the western counties must be weighed and judged. I will not hesitate to say that upon this principle all the resolutions adopted by every one of those meetings, except that of Washington on NA 1791, and that of Pittsburg on the 24th of August, 1792, are perfectly justifiable, whether the opinions which they express be in themselves right or wrong.
The meeting at Pittsburg in September, 1791, is particularly pointed out as chargeable with all the excesses that followed. I was not a member of that meeting; when it took place I was a member of the Legislature, and attended as such at the session held at that very time in this city; nor do the sentiments expressed in the resolutions which were there adopted correspond in many points either with my private opinions or with my public conduct. Yet I find nothing reprehensible in them; nor is there anything criminal or of a dangerous tendency in the measures they proposed: to remonstrate and to correspond with other parts of the State and of the Union with a view to procure the support of concurring petitions, where a coincidence of sentiments existed, seems to have been their only object; and they cannot be blamed if any individuals, whose views might be the same, embraced unjustifiable means in order to attain them.
The meeting held at Washington in 1791, and at Pittsburg on the 24th August, 1792 , went farther. The persons assembled not only agreed to remonstrate, but they expressed a determination to hold no communication with, and to treat with contempt, such inhabitants of the western country as would accept offices under the law, and they recommended the same line of conduct to the people at large. I was one of the persons who composed the Pittsburg meeting, and I gave my assent to the resolutions. It might perhaps be said that the principle of those resolutions was not new, as it was at least partially adopted on a former period by a respectable society in this city,—a society that was established during the late war in order to obtain a change of the former constitution of Pennsylvania, and whose members, if I am accurately informed, agreed to accept no offices under the then existing government, and to dissuade others from accepting them. I might say that those resolutions did not originate at Pittsburg, as they were almost a transcript of the resolutions adopted at Washington the preceding year; and I might even add that they were not introduced by me at the meeting. But I wish not to exculpate myself where I feel I have been to blame. The sentiments thus expressed were not illegal or criminal, yet I will freely acknowledge that they were violent, intemperate, and reprehensible. For, by attempting to render the office contemptible, they tended to diminish that respect for the execution of the laws which is essential to the maintenance of a free government; but, whilst I feel regret at the remembrance though no hesitation in this open confession of that my only political sin, let me add that the blame ought to fall where it is deserved. The meeting did not call themselves delegates of the people, but individuals voluntarily assembled. For my own part, I was not sent thither; I was not desired to go by any collection or meeting of individuals whatever. If this may be called a combination, still it was not a combination of the people. Whether, however, those resolutions did produce any acts of violence, in other words, whether they were the cause or the effect of the temper of the people, may best be determined by the following observation. Many acts of violence had been committed before that meeting, and it was immediately preceded by the suppression of the office of inspection in Washington. Eight months elapsed after that meeting without any outrages being committed; nor indeed was the public tranquillity disturbed during the space of fifteen months, except by a nocturnal riot in Fayette County, in which only a few men were concerned, in which only threats were used, and which terminated without any injury to persons or property. It is even acknowledged that the law gained ground during the year 1793. With the events subsequent to that meeting I am but imperfectly acquainted. I came to Philadelphia a short time after it, and continued absent from the western country upon public business for eighteen months. Neither during that period of absence nor after my return to the western country in June last, until the riots had begun, had I the slightest conversation that I can recollect, much less any deliberate conference or correspondence, either directly or indirectly, with any of its inhabitants on the subject of the excise law. I became first acquainted with almost every act of violence committed, either before or since the meeting at Pittsburg, upon reading the report of the Secretary of the Treasury. A few observations may, however, be made tending to show that, however general the dislike to an excise law may have been, a spirit of illegal opposition was neither general nor supported by system or combination, and that the law was, as it has been acknowledged, gaining ground in 1793. It seems that the outrages committed before the month of July, 1794, which terminated in any actual violence offered to persons or property, were all committed by a few men, and were uniformly confined to that neighborhood in which the last riots likewise broke out. It also appears that offices of inspection were continued without interruption till the month of July, 1794, in Allegheny County, from the time of the law being enacted, and in Fayette County from the spring of 1792. An office was also established in Westmoreland County during last summer, and the county of Washington was the only one in which none existed. In the county of Fayette processes issued from the District Court of the United States for this State were served without interruption, in the spring of 1793, upon several distillers, who, it was alleged, had neglected to enter their stills in June, 1792, at the office of inspection, which, it was said, had then been opened in that county. The writs were obeyed, and the distillers entered their appearance at Philadelphia. The greatest obstacle, however, to the law being fully executed arose, perhaps, from the organization of the judiciary system. The distance of the Federal courts rendered prosecutions instituted there difficult and obnoxious. Complaints for private acts of violence could, it is true, be preferred before the State courts; but suits against delinquent distillers, those suits which alone could finally carry the law into effect, were not supposed to be within their cognizance; and upon one occasion, indeed, a prosecution for a cause exclusively within their jurisdiction was instituted in the Federal court; for it appears that the sheriff of Fayette County was indicted there for a supposed neglect in serving the process which had been issued against rioters by the judges of the State court for that county. The judges of the State courts were not, however, deficient in their duty. Whenever a riot or act of outrage had taken place, the charge to the grand jury pointedly urged the duty of finding bills against the offenders; but it was difficult to collect testimony, not only on account of the unwillingness of the people to attend as witnesses, but also for want of knowledge of the perpetrators. A prosecution was instituted by the man who had been abused in serving writs in the case of Johnson; he dropped it on receiving a compensation. In the case of Wilson, which has been much dwelt upon, on account of the circumstances of cruelty that accompanied it, a bill was unanimously found by the grand jury of Allegheny County against the persons supposed to be guilty; and although this prosecution was likewise dropped, as the prosecutor abruptly left the country, I am informed that the armed rioters who carried off one of the witnesses for the Commonwealth, and who were supposed to be the same persons that had committed the original outrage, were for the latter offence prosecuted, convicted, and punished.
Congress, during their last session, removed, however, the difficulties that I have mentioned, and gave to the State courts a concurrent jurisdiction in all cases relative to the excise. A wish might perhaps be innocently indulged that the policy of this measure had undergone a fair experiment; and that, consistently with the general arrangements of general government, the institution of suits could have been restricted to the State courts until it had been practically proved whether, through the medium of their jurisdiction, the law could in future be carried into operation. What would have been the effect in three of the counties I can only conjecture; but I will assert that the experiment would have produced every beneficial consequence that could be expected to flow from it in the county in which I reside, and with the disposition of whose inhabitants I am best acquainted.
But it was thought necessary that the process should issue from the District Court against distillers who had incurred any penalty before the enacting of the law to which I have just alluded, and who were not consequently regarded as objects of the new regulation. Accordingly, the marshal proceeded to the western counties with thirty-four writs of summons against inhabitants of Fayette County, and six against inhabitants of Allegheny County. He served the writs in Fayette County without interruption, and thence prosecuted his journey to Allegheny County. The distillers of Fayette County who had been thus summoned held a meeting in Uniontown upon the occasion, about three or four days after the destruction of General Neville’s house. I attended that meeting by invitation, together with several other persons who were not distillers. Although the news of the riots and of their fatal effects had reached us, and although it was known that parties of armed men were then assembled in the neighboring counties in order to intercept the inspector of the revenue and the marshal, an idea of combining with the rioters was not even suggested at the meeting; but, on the contrary, it was unanimously agreed that in future the distillers should either abandon their occupation or enter their stills, and that those who had been summoned should immediately evince their submission by entering an appearance to the respective suits; in pursuance of that agreement an express was actually sent to Philadelphia, council was retained, and instructions for a legal and conscientious defence were given; but it seems that the writs were made returnable at a time when no court was sitting; and that this error in point of law was deemed sufficient to vitiate the process, and to supersede the necessity of entering the appearance of the several defendants. Still more forcibly to convey an idea of the feeling and sentiments of the members of the Uniontown meeting, let me add that while they were together they received a letter proposing a general meeting of the four counties; but so predominant was the apprehension that such an assemblage would increase the degree of inflammation and extend its influence to greater numbers; so eager was the hope that the riots would be confined to the spot in which they had originated, and might subside or be quelled without any extraordinary interference, that this proposition, however soothing it may appear to the popular prejudice against the excise, or whatever force it was likely to acquire from the terrors of violence that had been excited, was reluctantly read, and never taken into consideration. Unfortunately, the disposition of the people in that part of the country in which the marshal had the six remaining writs of summons to serve was more inflammable, and accidental causes supplied additional fuel for the flame.
We are told that the first idea of resistance originated upon the serving one of the writs in a harvest-field, amidst a group of reapers who were not perfectly sober, and we learn by the official letter of the State commissioners to the governor, dated the NA, that the casual assembling of a body of militia at a board of appeals (which was held in the course of the brigade inspector’s duty for executing the Act of Congress that requires a draft of 80,000 men from the militia of the United States) gave, unhappily, the opportunity of employing an armed force in the attack upon the house of General Neville. Example and terror drew numbers into the criminal vortex; the house was attacked and finally destroyed. The view of the first aggressors , thus collected, as it were, by accident, and inflamed by a temporary gust of passion, seems to have been to suppress the office of inspection in Allegheny County, the office of inspection in Washington County having been previously suppressed; and it is not improbable that they might have returned to a sense of duty, or, at least, that they might have been prevented from committing any further outrages, had they not been supported and encouraged by a few influential characters, who, at this juncture, stept forth and publicly avowed an intention of making for themselves, and, if possible, of inducing the whole country to make a common cause with the rioters. To attempt the accomplishment of that purpose, some meetings of the people, collected from a part of the counties of Washington and Allegheny, took place on Mingo Creek; but even at those meetings, held in the centre of the discontented scene, the leaders were disappointed in their expectation of general countenance and support; and the result of their preliminary conferences appeared only in an advertisement calling a meeting of deputies from all the townships of the western counties, in order to take into consideration the situation of the country.
The advertisement was inserted in the newspapers without being signed; and, in fact, except in the neighborhood in which it originated, its authors were not generally known, although it was naturally and universally understood that the late riots would be the subject of discussion at the proposed meeting. In the mean time the leaders, whom I have alluded to, determined, it seems (though it is difficult to trace their real aim), to draw as many of the people into a criminal combination, before the general meeting, as their example or their arts could influence, caused the post to be robbed of the mail, and the discoveries purchased by this act of felony produced a secret consultation, terminating in that circular letter signed by seven persons, which has since been printed in the newspapers, and directed to the colonels of the respective regiments of the militia of Washington County, which required the attendance of the militia at Braddock’s Field, on the NA day of NA The day after the letter was circulated, one of the signers wrote a countermand, which is also printed, and in which he avows that the original intention was to attack the garrison at Pittsburg, and to seize upon the military stores. It was, however, too late to stop the people; the notice had been industriously communicated, and a considerable number met at the place of rendezvous on the day appointed. Of those who attended, some knew and meant to carry into effect the original intention; several were actuated by a disposition to prevent mischief; many had been regularly summoned as if for a tour of military duty, and were ignorant of the real cause; a great portion, consisting chiefly of those who were already criminal, entertained a general desire to encourage any kind of riot that could involve more persons in the jeopardy of their own situation; but, after all, the principal mass was composed of citizens who were either attracted by curiosity or impelled by fear. With much hesitation the original design being abandoned by the leaders, it is remarkable that this convention, summoned with the most daring intention, and composed, in part, of the most riotous characters, has left no trace of its transactions but a march to Pittsburg, for which there seemed to be no pretence except parade; no object with the contrivers except a wish to impress the country with an idea of their influence and strength. The same object, indeed, has stimulated them to spread the most exaggerated account of the numbers that were assembled. But on comparing the best information that I could procure, and on recollecting that scarcely any of the people of Westmoreland and Fayette and that very few from the south part of Washington and the east part of Allegheny attended, I estimate the whole body at fifteen hundred, and I cannot think that it exceeded two thousand men. The expulsion of the five citizens from Pittsburg, which took place at the same time, might be influenced by a fear of the body who met at Braddock’s Field, but did not originate with and should not be ascribed to them. Perhaps the measure was partly suggested by private resentment, or, possibly, it may have been proposed to the most violent party as a substitute for the original plan. Viewing the previous and subsequent conduct of the inhabitants of Pittsburg, though it would appear by the only printed paper on the subject that they carried the expulsion into effect themselves, yet there can be no doubt of their having acted under the impression and fear of immediate danger.
Although from the event of the meeting at Braddock’s Field, it may more properly be described as an attempt to form a combination or an attempt to excite an insurrection, than as an existing combination or insurrection, the effects were certainly more pernicious than those which any preceding excess had produced. The flame then, and not till then, spread at a distance. A party of armed men entered the county of Fayette, and, attended by a few inhabitants of that county, proceeded to the house of the deputy inspector for the counties of Westmoreland and Fayette. The officer fled; his house was burnt. With an uniform design, that of suppressing every office of inspection in the survey, another party made an incursion into the county of Bedford, and, assisted also by a few individuals there, seized the officer, treated him with personal abuse, and obliged him to destroy his commission. A short time afterwards, the officer of a neighboring county in Virginia fled for fear of insult, and a riot was committed at the place of his residence by some of the inhabitants of the county, who have since been arrested, although the outrage seems at first to have been ascribed by the governor of Virginia to Pennsylvanians. In another county of the same State, some of the papers of the officer were forcibly taken from him. A great many poles were raised in different places, in some as tokens of sedition, but in many for the sake of indulging what was thought a harmless frolic. Similar symptoms of disaffection broke out within a short time in the counties of Bedford, Cumberland, and Northumberland, in Pennsylvania, and in some parts of Maryland.
In this alarming state of things, under circumstances so unpropitious, the meeting of Parkinson’s Ferry, of the 14th of August, took place. The meeting was partly a true representation of the people, but it was only partly so. For, as there are not in this State any regular township meetings, a few individuals collected in any one township might appoint deputies; and the truth is, that, in almost every case, a minority of the inhabitants of the respective townships did make the appointments. In every township, likewise, in which there were any violent characters, such characters would undoubtedly attend the election, while, on the other hand, moderate men and friends to order were cautious either in attending the election or in suffering themselves to be elected. The robbery of the mail and the reports respecting the Braddock’s Field meeting had, in a great degree, destroyed private confidence, and timid characters were equally afraid of personal insult from the rioters should they thwart their designs, and of the resentment of government should they not oppose them. Such men, therefore, generally chose to stay at home. In Fayette County, likewise, we hesitated whether we would send deputies or not. The change of circumstances which had taken place since the Uniontown meeting of distillers, the expulsion of the officer, the evident symptoms of a restless temper in many of the inhabitants, the danger of the flame spreading, at all events, amongst the whole body, if it was suffered to blaze any longer in our immediate neighborhood, and a hope that we might succeed in allaying the spirit that raged in another part of the country, were considerations so cogent that, prevailing over every personal and local objection, they induced us to send deputies. The object of the meeting, as expressed in general terms in the advertisement, was only to take into consideration the situation of the western country; there was nothing criminal in going thither, though the conduct to be observed there was indeed delicate, liable to danger on the one hand, and to misconstruction on the other. That danger, however, it was the duty of good citizens to encounter and overlook, provided that under circumstances so critical they could be useful either in restoring tranquillity or in preventing the repetition of outrages. It is to be lamented that a sufficient share of this kind of courage was wanting in many: so that the number of friends to order who attended, although considerable, bore no proportion in the representation of some of the counties to the real number of their well-disposed citizens. I do not claim any greater share of political or physical courage than other men, but I did not hesitate to attend the meeting, and perhaps many circumstances concurred to give me sufficient fortitude for the task which did not apply to the situation of others. I knew I was supported by the general sentiments of my own county; as I had no public offices, I was not embarrassed by that popular suspicion against public officers which, during the tumults, was found a great obstacle to the acquisition of the public confidence; hence I conceived that I might be more useful than many more able and equally upright of my fellow-citizens. Probably, too, a reflection on what had passed at the Pittsburg meeting of 1792, accompanied with a due regard for my own character, were amongst the incitements to demonstrate, in a conspicuous manner, by my conduct that, whatever prejudices may have been engendered against me, however mistaken my theoretical opinions may be, I was not unwilling nor incapable to perform my duty as a citizen.
The place of meeting was far from being favorable to the wishes of the well disposed; it was held in the open fields, in the very neighborhood in which resistance had originated, and within a mile of the dwelling-house of McFarland, who had been killed in the second attack on General Neville’s house. The meeting itself consisted of more than two hundred deputies, and was surrounded by a greater number of spectators, most of whom, having been actually engaged in the riots, had no hope except that of being countenanced by the resolutions of the deputies. In this situation (which was so menacing that the commissioners of the United States, in their official report, avow that they thought it inconvenient and hazardous to have an immediate communication with the meeting), it is obvious that the only rational scheme was to prevent the adoption of any criminal resolution, or to obtain a dissolution of the meeting without doing any act. The views of the rioters, or rather of their leaders, may be best discovered by a consideration of their conduct. After some inflammatory speeches, the resolutions, the original of which I have ever since preserved and now hold in my hand, were proposed by Mr. —. Of these the most important runs in the following words: “Resolved, That a standing committee be appointed, to consist of NA members from each county, to be denominated ‘a committee of public safety,’ whose duty it shall be to call forth the resources of the western country, to repel any hostile attempts that may be made against the rights of the citizen or of the body of the people.” The question was, in fact, whether the western counties should raise the standard of rebellion or not, and the preamble of the next resolution clearly implied an idea that the whole country were concerned, or at least meant to make a common cause with those who had been concerned in the attack of General Neville’s house and in the meeting at Braddock’s Field. I opposed the resolution with those arguments which the moment and the occasion suggested, and which were most likely, in my judgment, to make an impression on the hearers, whether members of the meeting or merely spectators. Yet I confess that under such unfavorable circumstances my greatest hope was that the question should be waived, and, impressed with the belief that the consequence of putting it was too doubtful to be risked, I moved that the resolution should be referred to a committee. My motion was neither supported nor opposed by anybody in an open manner; but fortunately Mr. — himself, either perceiving from that moment that he would not be generally supported, or having already felt (as his subsequent conduct renders more probable) a just sense of his error, and wishing only an opportunity to abandon, without personal danger, the plans which he had before countenanced, offered to withdraw his proposition, provided a committee of sixty should be appointed and have power to call a new meeting of the people or of their deputies. This idea for a substitute was instantly agreed to; and a new resolution, being studiously so modified and worded as to insure its adoption, was accordingly approved by the meeting, and has since been printed. Another of the resolutions which were adopted, and has also been printed, expresses a determination to support the State laws, and to afford protection to the persons and property of individuals. A declaration of this kind was absolutely necessary, since it was essential that individuals should be restored to a state of peace and order, to freedom of speech and to social confidence, in order to pave the way for a general submission to the government and laws. This resolution was but faintly opposed, and even that faint opposition arose merely, I believe, from the thoughtless interruption of a bystander, for almost every man was tired of violence and anarchy. Yet it cannot be dissembled that the meeting, composed and surrounded as it was, would not have had courage sufficient, although it might be the sentiment of the majority, to include in the resolution a determination to submit to the excise law. The original proposition offered by Mr. — expressed a disposition to submit to all the laws of the State and of the United States, except the excise law. For the reasons which I have assigned, it was requisite to preserve the part that related to the State laws; but the only advantageous change that could be obtained as to the objectionable part which related to the laws thus excepted was to expunge it, and to remain entirely silent on the subject of the laws of the United States.
Whilst the meeting were assembled they received intelligence that commissioners appointed by the President to confer with the citizens of the western counties on the subject of the late disturbances had arrived. That paternal measure, by giving courage to those who were well disposed, by fixing those who were wavering, and by giving a hope of pardon for past offences to the rioters themselves, greatly facilitated the adoption of pacific measures; and it was without difficulty agreed that three persons from each county should be appointed (by the members of each county respectively) to meet the commissioners; but it was at first insisted that either the whole meeting, or at least the committee of sixty, should remain assembled, or assemble again within two or three days, in order to receive the report of the conference. The complexion of the general meeting, the place where they were convened, and all those circumstances which have already been mentioned, rendered it, on the contrary, a desirable object that they should not meet again without absolute necessity; and, at all events, that neither they nor the committee of sixty should meet very soon, or in the same place. For time was essentially requisite in order to enable the friends of government to disseminate amongst the body of the people both information and sentiments of moderation, and from time alone might it be expected that those violent passions, which still inflamed so many, would subside; indeed, during the whole course of the transactions that followed, it was, upon every occasion, equally experienced that time alone was sufficient to obtain a progressive restoration of order, and lamented that a sufficient delay could not, from the general situation of affairs, be always obtained. Some address was, however, necessary to find ostensible motives sufficiently strong to induce one body to dissolve, and the other to adjourn to a more distant day and to a well-affected part of the country. Both points were, however, carried with some management; the committee of sixty agreed to meet on the 2d of September at Red-Stone old fort, and the general meeting adjourned without fixing any day for reassembling. It was known that if circumstances rendered it necessary, the committee of sixty might be called sooner, and accordingly, after the conference with the commissioners, and at their request, it was summoned to meet four days previous to the time to which its meeting had been protracted.
All the conferees except one who were appointed by the four counties to meet the commissioners were, I believe, at the time of their appointment, well disposed. The result of the conference is detailed in the report of the commissioners. The conferees declared their own determination to submit to the laws; they approved of the terms offered by the commissioners, declaring that nothing more could be done by the executive; and they promised to recommend a faithful acquiescence to the people at large. To the details mentioned in the report of the commissioners I have but two observations to add: the first, that the verbal account, stated to have been given by the conferees, of the causes of discontent amongst the people were but opinions, and those only the opinions of the individuals who expressed them, and not of the body. The other relates to an account said to contain the reasons of the conferees for approving the proposals of the commissioners, and which is annexed to a printed report of the proceedings of the committee of conference, but is not signed. That account I never saw till after it was printed; which, I believe, was the case likewise with every other conferee except the one who drafted the report. The reasons given in it had not, that I know of, any influence on the determination of any of the conferees, but were, I suppose, such as in the judgment of the author would make most impression upon the people; on that head, I think, however, he was mistaken.
The committee of sixty met at Brownsville (Red-Stone old fort) on the 28th of August. I have already mentioned how that body was composed. Fifty-seven members attended, twenty-three of whom were sent by the county of Washington alone, and thirty by the three counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, and Allegheny; one came from Bedford County, and three from the county of Ohio, in Virginia. The wickedness of a few, perhaps only of one, for one only openly advocated resistance, and the timidity of a majority prevented the terms offered by the commissioners from being fully adopted. The general wish of the members, which was dictated by fear and with difficulty prevented, was to adjourn without doing anything, and to refer the whole business to the people at large. All that could be obtained was a resolve that, in the opinion of the committee, it was the interest of the people to accede to the terms; the question upon it being taken by ballot, and thirty-four voting for the resolution and twenty-three against it. We are informed by one of the official letters of the State commissioners that six of those who voted in the negative did it through a mistake, which would make the votes forty and seventeen. Whether, if the question had been publicly put, or if any question had been put, for making the declarations required by the commissioners in their full extent, either or both of them would have passed in the negative, I believe it to be impossible for any person to conjecture, as no person can calculate what might have been the effect of terror. The fact is that a majority of the committee, through fear, refused taking a question on the last proposition, or to have the other put publicly. Several of the advocates for submission spoke, however, their sentiments in an open manner, and although a few might apprehend personal danger in doing it, yet, as not one of those who spoke was insulted, either then or at any subsequent period, it is from the time of that meeting that we may date the beginning of a free circulation of sentiment throughout the whole country.
A new committee of conference was appointed by the meeting, in order to procure, if possible, some further time for the people to reflect before the question of submission was finally referred to them. The commissioners were not authorized to give a longer time, and they proposed that the declarations required of the committee of sixty should be made by the people themselves, and testified by the individual signatures of the citizens, excepting from the amnesty such persons concerned in the late offences as should not comply. However cogent might be the reasons which induced the commissioners to propose those terms (which were acceded to by the conferees), they operated unfortunately in one point of view; for the amnesty being attached to the individual signatures, the proposal became highly objectionable to a great many well-disposed citizens, as signing would seem to imply a tacit acknowledgment of a previous offence and of a personal want of pardon. It was also, perhaps, a more difficult task to induce violent persons to subscribe assurances of submission than to give a silent vote for it. The individuals who had represented the county of Fayette at Parkinson’s Ferry, having met on the 10th of September, were induced, upon these considerations, to propose to the people merely the question of submission, but at the same time they agreed themselves to the declarations which had been required of the committee of sixty, and annexed to them an address to the people (printed in the Pittsburg gazettes of the 4th and 11th of October), exhorting them to submit. The most remarkable feature of that address (which is arranged in the shape and consists of the arguments that, in the opinion of the members of the committee, were most likely to make an impression upon the people in their present temper) is that the inducements to submission are mostly drawn from a sense of duty, and the motive of fear from an army is hardly appealed to.
The sense of the people was taken on the 11th of September, and it appears, by the report of the commissioners, that in the1 county of Fayette, which contains two thousand eight hundred taxable inhabitants, eight hundred and sixty attended, five hundred and eighty of whom voted for submission, and two hundred and eighty against it; that in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, and Allegheny, which contain eleven thousand taxable inhabitants, two thousand seven hundred signed the declarations of submission; but that no return was made of the number of persons who attended in these three counties and of the yeas and nays on the question of submission; and that in the returns made to them no opinions were certified that there was so general a submission that an office of inspection would be immediately and safely established; and that, on the contrary, the return of Westmoreland County stated that, from the danger of ill-disposed and lawless persons suddenly assembling and offering violence, the measure would not be immediately safe in that county. The commissioners add that they had received information that in some townships the majority declared for resistance; in some the party for resistance was sufficiently strong to prevent the declarations being made; and in others the majority were intimidated or opposed by a violent minority. But they do not mention the number and names of the townships in which those acts of violence took place, and from the information I have received they were but few. They further say that, “notwithstanding those circumstances, they firmly believed that there was a considerable majority of the inhabitants of the fourth survey who were then disposed to submit to the execution of the laws; at the same time that they conceived it their duty explicitly to declare their opinion that such was the state of things in that survey, that there was no probability that the act for raising a revenue on distilled spirits and stills could at that time be enforced by the usual course of civil authority, and that some more competent force was necessary to cause the laws to be duly executed, and to insure to the officers and well-disposed citizens that protection which it was the duty of government to afford.” Which opinion I know to have been perfectly justifiable from the information and opinions they had received.
Upon the decision of that day (the 11th of September) it is proper to remark that, as it was the last hope of the violent persons, they all attended to a man. On the contrary, the friends to order, some being yet actuated by fear, many resting in a state of apathy, and a very large proportion wanting information or not understanding the importance of the question, did not in general attend. Not one-third part of the inhabitants of Fayette met on that day, and I had a striking proof of what I mention in the district in which I live. No act of violence had ever been committed there either before or during the insurrection. I do not know, and I do not believe, that a single inhabitant ever was concerned in any such act elsewhere, and after the army had entered the country there was not an individual belonging to the district arrested on suspicion or even summoned as a witness. Yet in that district, which contains eight hundred taxable inhabitants, two hundred and twelve only attended on the 11th of September. In the other counties two thousand and seven hundred inhabitants signed the assurances required, which is a greater proportion than the number of those who voted in favor of submission in the county of Fayette, and a great many, for the reasons already mentioned, were willing to give a vote, although they felt a reluctance to sign a formal instrument. This fully justifies the opinion given by the commissioners, that a considerable majority of the inhabitants were disposed to submit. It must also be observed that almost all the characters of any importance amongst the rioters, and who could be considered as leaders, signed the submission, and those who were guilty on that day of acts of violence, or who gave a vote against submission, were, with very few exceptions, amongst the youngest and most ignorant class of the people. This class had but one day to consider the question before them; their means of information in a country in which information can circulate but slowly were few, the channels through which they received it not pure, their prejudices were great, and although arguments had circulated freely for near two weeks, they had not yet reached this deluded description of citizens. All they heard to convince them of their error they heard for the first time on that day. But whatever might be the immediate decision of the people on the 11th of September, the consequences were favorable and decisive. The obstacles then thrown in the way of the submissions were the expiring effort of the party. Abandoned by their leaders and by a large majority of the rioters themselves, who had taken shelter under the amnesty, seeing clearly that they were reduced to an insignificant minority, conscious of their guilt, and afraid of punishment, the few perverse and obstinate at length renounced their wild and pernicious schemes. The certain news of the assembling the militia completed the work, and peace was restored. Although no certified opinions were given the commissioners that offices of inspection could be immediately and safely established, the committee of the townships of Fayette County wrote, on the 17th of September, to the governor of the State, that “they had no doubt of peace being fully reestablished and a perfect submission taking place in that county, provided it was not interrupted by some new acts of violence elsewhere.” They add that “still, however, a certain degree of heat existed as well in Fayette as in the other western counties, and that some time would still be necessary to operate a complete restoration of order and a perfect submission to the laws.” Their ideas in that respect correspond with those of the commissioners; but they differed from them in the opinion that an army was necessary to accomplish those objects, and thought that the allowance of a longer time for reflection would alone be sufficient. Many men of influence and information in the other counties, and some in Fayette, most indeed of those that conversed with the commissioner, who remained in the western country till the 16th of September, were, however, of opinion at that time that the laws could not be executed without the assistance of a military force; but in less than two weeks after the same men had adopted the sentiments of the committee of Fayette. On the same day the same committee, with a view to counteract any combinations that might be set on foot by the violent party, recommended to the people to form associations for the purpose of preserving order and of supporting the civil authority. It was not found necessary to carry even that measure into effect, every danger of violence being immediately after discovered to be at an end.
The report of the commissioners is dated the 24th of September, and is grounded on documents and information received as late as the 16th of the same month. On the 19th the Legislature of the State had passed the Act granting bounties and an additional pay to the volunteers and militia employed in suppressing the insurrection. The President, on the 25th, issued his proclamation (grounded on the report of the commissioners of the preceding day) ordering the actual march of the army. The rendezvous of the Pennsylvania and Jersey militia was at Carlisle. They left that place on their march to the westward on the NA day of October.
On the NA of September the town of Pittsburg, by resolutions printed and now before the House, annulled the former resolutions they had adopted for expelling certain citizens, declaring those resolutions to have been the effect of policy, and that they were no longer bound by them. On the 25th of September the grand jury of Washington County, in their answer to the address of Judge Addison, which is printed and has been sent to the House, declared their unanimous concurrence and approbation of the sentiments expressed in the charge, and their opinion that if printed assurances of submission were distributed through the county they would generally be signed. On the 2d of October the members who composed the first meeting at Parkinson’s Ferry, having met at the same place, unanimously agreed to resolutions by which they adopted for themselves the assurances and declarations of submission which had been required by the commissioners; declared that, in their opinion, there was a general disposition in the four counties to submit to all the laws of the United States and a determination to support the civil authority; and also that the principal reasons why the signatures of submission had not been universal were the want of time and information, and, with respect to the greatest number, a consciousness of their innocence and an idea that their signature would imply a sense of their guilt. Those proceedings, which are signed by Alexander Addison, secretary, took place twelve days before the election, and require no comment.
Messrs. Findley and Reddick were appointed by that committee to wait on the President of the United States, in order to represent to him the state of the country. They went accordingly, and I will state to the House what I understood, from a verbal report made by those two gentlemen to a subsequent meeting, to have been the result of the conference. I would wish to be cautious on that head; for I feel that, speaking from memory, and repeating what was merely verbal information, the recital is liable to mistakes. If I commit any mistake, however, it will arise from the sources I have mentioned; nor indeed do I give my statement as positive information, but only as the impression made upon my mind by the relation I heard. I would have been altogether silent on that subject were I not afraid to be accused of omitting a necessary link of the transactions I relate.
Amongst other general observations I am told that the President mentioned that there were two great objects in view in the calling out the militia: the first to show, not only to the inhabitants of the western country but to the Union at large, and, indeed, to foreign nations, both the possibility of a republican government exerting its physical strength in order to enforce the execution of the laws when opposed, and the readiness of the American citizens to make every sacrifice and to encounter every difficulty and danger for the sake of supporting that fundamental principle of government; and the second, to procure a full and complete restoration of order and submission to the laws amongst the insurgents. The first object, the President added, was fully attained, and no doubt could remain, from the success of the experiment, of the practicability of a republican government, although extending over a large territory, supporting itself, even in the case of a disobedience of any part of the body politic. On the second head it was observed, in the first place, that, although the last meeting had given it as their opinion that there was an unanimous disposition to submit to and support the laws, there was no positive, unequivocal, and explicit declaration that offices of inspection would be immediately and safely1 established; in the next place, that whatever might be the grounds of the opinion of the meeting, until the law was actually carried into operation it was only an opinion, and that the general expenses of the campaign being already incurred, and the great sacrifices of individuals being already made, there remained no motive sufficiently strong to induce the magistrate, whose duty it was to enforce the execution of the laws, to run any unnecessary risk by intrusting that care to the exertions of the country itself as long as any doubt might remain of their sincerity or power; the force embodied being fully competent to that object, and so far on their march to the intended spot. The President added, that, as the amnesty which he had once offered through the commissioners had not been universally embraced by the offenders, some atonement for past offences had become necessary. Messrs. Findley and Reddick, in order to give a test of the disposition of the country, wished that a list of the offenders intended to be brought to trial might be sent to the western country, as they knew, from the reformed temper of the people, that those culprits would surrender, or might be apprehended without difficulty. This was declined, for what reasons I have not heard; but I can easily conceive that granting the request would have been improper on a variety of grounds. Permit me to add, although it is not altogether in point, that, in the course of the conversation, the President testified his astonishment that there had been any difficulty in convincing any description of persons, however ignorant they might be, of the propriety and necessity of submitting to the laws, it being a question so simple and self-evident. Messrs. Findley and Reddick, in answer to this remark, having mentioned the same causes that I have before alluded to, and particularly that the most ignorant class had, in fact, but one day to make up their minds, the President observed that it would have been highly grateful to have indulged his wish that the proposals of the commissioners should receive a full and fair examination, so as to be perfectly understood and maturely weighed by the whole body of the people to whom they were addressed, before they were presented for an ultimate decision; but the symptoms which had appeared in other parts of the Union, the season of the year, and the imminent danger of suffering the winter to elapse without an effectual suppression of the disorders, had not permitted him to protract the period for amicable negotiation, or to suffer any further delays in embodying and marching the army.
Messrs. Findley and Reddick, on their return, communicated the circumstances of information, which I have recapitulated, to a meeting of the committee of townships, held at Parkinson’s Ferry on the 24th of October; and, in consequence of this communication, resolutions were adopted expressing the opinion of the meeting that offices of inspection could be immediately and safely established, and that the civil authority could be supported without the assistance of a military force; recommending to offenders to surrender, and declaring their readiness to surrender themselves if there were any suspected persons amongst them, and to assist in bringing others to justice if they refused to give themselves up. During the absence of those two gentlemen the election had been held on the 14th of October, and written assurances of submission had been universally signed throughout the country. In the county of Fayette the people, on the day of the election, appointed several persons for the purpose of providing accommodations and subsistence for the army then approaching. On the same day the inhabitants of the only district of the county where a majority of those who attended on the 11th day of September had declared for resistance, unanimously agreed to sign assurances of submission.
Having thus given a general narrative of the material facts connected with the unfortunate events which we all deplore, I shall not enter into a discussion whether those facts are sufficiently proved to be admitted as legal evidence upon so important a question, but confine myself to an examination how far they justify the assertions on which the resolution before us has been grounded.
The resolution supposes, in the first place, the existence of a general insurrection of the four western counties. I believe it unnecessary to say much more on the idea of the insurrection having originated in a previous general combination founded on the meetings and resolutions that had taken place or had been adopted at different times in the western country. To what I have already said I will only add that, from the meeting of Pittsburg, in August, 1792 (which, as has already been mentioned, was followed by an uninterrupted tranquillity of fifteen months’ continuance), no public meeting, no meeting that ever came to my knowledge, no meeting that ever has been mentioned, either in this House or elsewhere, was held in the western country for the space of near two years, nor, in short, until the late disturbances had actually begun.
By what fact, then, is the supposition of a general insurrection of a majority of the inhabitants of the four western counties to be supported? The attack of General Neville’s house was chiefly owing to accidental causes, and is of a local nature. The conduct of the distillers and people of Fayette County at the time of the marshal serving processes there, and at their subsequent meeting, excludes altogether the idea of previous combination, or of a wish to support the rioters. The meeting at Braddock’s Field includes a greater number of individuals; but the criminal combination seems to have existed only in its promoters; and even supposing, what is not true, that all who attended there were involved in the original crime, that combination will embrace only a part of the counties of Washington and Allegheny. It may be proper here to remark that upon that meeting, undoubtedly the most prominent feature of an insurrection or of a combination to take up arms, there is not before the House one official document, nor even a single unauthenticated paper of any sort, except the two letters which have been mentioned before, and the Pittsburg resolutions.
But it is said (I have heard for the first time the doctrine advanced on this floor, and have heard it with astonishment), it is said that the meeting held at Parkinson’s Ferry on the 14th of August is in itself a proof of a general insurrection. For my part, I never, before this day, thought myself obliged to justify those friends to order who attended the preceding elections or the meeting itself; although I have tried to apologize for the neglect of those who did not. How a meeting whose ostensible object was perfectly innocent, and whose actual conduct, notwithstanding the critical circumstances under which it was held, was in no part criminal, can be given as a proof of an illegal combination, I cannot understand. But the doctrine is not less dangerous than absurd. It goes to support an idea that whenever riots shall take place, or a mob grow dangerous, instead of trying by every means of persuasion to induce the offenders to desist, it is the duty of good citizens to keep aloof, to suffer the whole country, under the dominion of a mob, to become a prey to anarchy, and to risk the event of a general rebellion, rather than attempt to recall to a sense of duty as many of their fellow-citizens as they can.
Not only the object and the conduct of the meeting were unexceptionable, but its effect and consequences were highly favorable. It was that meeting which restored order and internal peace; it was that meeting that first stemmed the torrent, which thenceforth ran in a contrary course. From that moment, though threats were offered, no acts of violence were committed, unless we call by the name of violence the last effort made on the 11th of September, by some of the most ignorant and obdurate, to obstruct the signature of the assurances of submission. At every subsequent meeting the friends of government gradually gained ground. The conferees, with a single exception, approved and promised to recommend the proposals of the commissioners. The meeting of Brownsville, composed as it was, so far from doing anything criminal, went one step farther than the first Parkinson’s Ferry meeting, and by declaring that, in their opinion, it was the interest of the people to adopt the proposals, in fact recommended their adoption. And, in fine,—not to speak of the resolutions adopted afterwards at different times by the inhabitants of Pittsburg, the grand jury of Washington, and the committee of townships of Fayette,—the second and third meetings of Parkinson’s Ferry, composed of the same persons who attended the first, gave full and complete assurances of submission and of the general disposition of the people to support the civil authority. A bare recital of the facts evidently shows that whatever criminal combination existed was partial, local, and accidental; and that whenever the inhabitants of the four western counties combined, or acted in concert, the object and the conduct of their meetings were, at least, innocent, and the consequences highly beneficial.
But the resolution under consideration, proceeding on the same erroneous system of supposition, infers that an insurrection of the four counties existed on the 14th of October, at the time of holding the elections.
The assertion is not supported by a single document, by evidence, or by any species of proof whatever that relates to any fact which occurred subsequent to the 16th of September; and it appears by the report of the commissioners that on that day a considerable majority of the inhabitants were disposed to submit. Every posterior fact is a proof of the complete restoration of order and of that universal submission which had but partially taken place before. Must I once more, in order to prove the truth of my positions, enumerate the recall of the citizens who had been expelled, the answer of the grand jury of Washington, the several declarations and resolutions of the county of Fayette, and the resolutions of the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting of the 2d of October? To these I may add that a proof of the civil authority being fully re-established is to be drawn not only from the general tranquillity of the country, not only from the courts sitting, as customary, without interruption in the four counties, and transacting every kind of business during the month of September, but also from the incontestable evidence of the service of warrants, by which individuals were arrested and even imprisoned, previous to the election, for positive threats or upon suspicion of intention to commit new outrages after the 11th of September. But, whilst I mention this, it is proper that notice should be taken of an objection which may be, and has been, raised on this subject. Why, it is said, were none of the offenders during the insurrection arrested till the army came into the western country? It may be answered, in the first place, that, as the offences had been but local, the objection is but partial, and that if it is at all valid it applies not to the people, but only imputes an unwarrantable negligence to the judicial officers living in the parts where the offences had been committed. But it is in my power to give a more satisfactory and direct answer, and which exculpates the officers as well as the other inhabitants. As early as the first week of September, the time at which the court for Allegheny County sits, some individuals of the grand jury for that county applied to Judge Addison in order to know whether, according to their oath, they ought not to find bills against the offenders in the late riots. Mr. Addison was of opinion that, the Federal and State governments having offered an amnesty upon certain terms, it would be improper for the State courts or inferior officers to interfere until the effect of that offer was ascertained and government had decided and declared who were to be entitled to the amnesty. Not wishing, however, to rely altogether on his own opinion, Mr. Addison consulted the chief justice of the State, then at Pittsburg, on that subject. The chief justice concurred in the opinion of Judge Addison, and the grand juries of the respective counties were accordingly directed not to interfere. It will appear, by the report of the commissioners, that the signed instruments giving assurances of submission were immediately delivered to one of their number, who transmitted them to the seat of government. An ignorance of the names of the signers, and of the latitude that government would give to the amnesty, a general information that the most important characters who had been concerned in the tumults, and were supposed to be the only proper objects of punishment, had signed the list, and a knowledge that some of the first judicial officers of the government of the Union meant to investigate the subject conformable to the instructions which they might receive, concurred to render it equally difficult and improper for the State officers to interfere before the arrival of the army. Many of those who had been supposed to be innocent, or to be sheltered by their submission, are now amongst the prisoners or the proscribed.1 Some of those who, it was thought, might eventually be included amongst them, were not taken up. The general government seems to have acquiesced in the idea, for no instructions were forwarded to the State officers, and the list of offenders that was asked by Messrs. Findley and Reddick was refused. Upon the whole, the arrests that eventually took place seem satisfactorily to show that the causes which I have thus recapitulated, and not a want of strength or willingness in the civil authority, were the real causes why process was not issued against the offenders during the insurrection.
To these considerations must be added another, which, to every candid mind, must carry a conviction of the actual pacific situation of the country after the 11th of September. Not only no outrage took place after that day, but no embodying of men, no combination, no meeting, no preparations of any kind whatever were made or proposed with a view to offer a shadow of resistance to the militia of the United States. After the army was collected and on their march, the people must have known, and indeed perfectly knew, that there was no alternative but to submit to the laws or to oppose their fellow-citizens who came to enforce obedience. If no person either prepared or proposed that preparations should be made to resist the army, does it not clearly follow that the disposition to submit (no matter from what causes) was not merely general but universal?
It is said, however, that although there might not be any actual insurrection at the time of the election, it may at least be fairly supposed that a spirit of insurrection still existed at that period, and in some degree influenced the elections.
Whenever we enter the field of suppositions we abandon the solid ground of proof supported by facts, substituting our opinions, or rather our wishes, for truth and evidence. Is this the foundation upon which the supporters of the measure mean to rest the disfranchisement of fourteen thousand citizens? What inference, however, what conjecture, since the evidence of facts is either wanting or rejected, can give any shadow of probability to that supposition? From the face of the returns it appears that the elections were neither more nor less numerous than, upon an average, they have been in preceding years. No conclusion of any kind can, therefore, be drawn from the number of those who attended, except that the situation of the country was similar to what it had been upon former elections. It is not alleged that any acts were committed upon that occasion that ought, or could, invalidate the elections. On the contrary, we are able to prove, by indisputable evidence, if it is required, that they were fairly conducted, uninfluenced by fear or violence, and perfectly “free and equal.” Does the fate of the elections justify even a suspicion of the prevalence of a spirit inimical to government? The persons elected are, in a great measure, the same who had, upon former occasions, received similar testimonies of the confidence of the people; and many, both of the old and new members, were distinguished amongst the known friends of order and government. Could the people of Allegheny County give a more strong and convincing proof of their disposition than by re-electing for their representative in this House one of the citizens who had been so unjustly expelled during a moment of frenzy,—the son of the inspector of the revenue for that survey? As to another individual, who on that day was elected a member of this House by the county in which he resides, and, without his knowledge at the time, a member of Congress by another district, permit me to say that his double election also shows the sense of the people at large to have been in favor of peace and submission. For, whatever may have been, or now are, the popular clamor and the transient prejudices against him in other parts of the State, it was well known, at least in the western country, that no person had taken a more early, active, or successful part in allaying the flame and opposing the spirit of insurrection. Were the people of Fayette County actuated by a spirit of resistance to the laws when they, in the very act of electing, appointed persons for the purpose of preparing the necessary subsistence for the army?
Here I must take notice of an objection of the most extraordinary nature, made with an intention to invalidate the election of Westmoreland County. It is said that a military force was at that time at Greensburg. That assertion, of which no proof has been offered to the House, rests upon this fact. One of the persons who, as I have mentioned, was arrested after the 11th of September, had been imprisoned in Greensburg for reporting that some of those inhabitants who had refused to submit meant to burn the town, and for having refused to give the reasons he had to spread that report. At the same time, it was thought prudent to raise a few militia as a guard, in case such design did exist. The report was soon found, however, to be totally groundless; while, on the contrary, universal submission evidently prevailed. The militia were, therefore, continued in array for the sole purpose of showing that the county was able, by its own strength, to preserve order, and to suppress every kind of outrage, if outrage was attempted; and now, what was intended as a proof of a disposition and power to support the laws is perverted into a symptom of anarchy by the same gentlemen who accuse us for want of proper spirit in not arresting offenders. It is only necessary to add that such of the militia as attended the election were unarmed. But I wish to remind those gentlemen who tell us of the laws of Great Britain, by which troops are to be withdrawn at a distance from the places of election, and of the law passed last year by the Legislature of this State on the subject of the elections to be held by the enrolled militia and volunteers, that the elections of the county of Allegheny have always been held at Pittsburg, where a Continental garrison has for a number of years been stationed, and where the whole army, under the command of General Wayne, was encamped two years ago, at the time of the general election.
But, sir, I would wish to know, if a spirit of insurrection existed at the time of and influenced the elections, at what period that spirit expired. If it is said that the arrival of the army extinguished it, it must have been owing to the fear and not to any act of the army. If fear was the only cause of submission, the spirit of insurrection, although suppressed in appearance, must be supposed still to exist. Again, taking it for granted that the fear of the army alone quelled the riotous spirit, that fear operated with equal force when the army was in full march as when it had actually entered the country; for it is declared that the terror of their approach was sufficient to subdue the insurgents. If so, I cannot discover what change has taken place in the minds of the people since the election. If the late elections took place under the influence of fear of the army, let me ask, What change can be produced by new elections? Unless, indeed, it is expected they will be influenced—by the presence of the army.1
From the various lights in which I have now considered the subject, I think myself authorized to conclude that the assertions contained in the resolution offered for the adoption of the House are unsupported by proofs, are contradicted by facts, and cannot even claim the feeble and delusive aid of hypothetical conjecture and doubtful inferences. I confidently repeat that, after the 11th of September, every positive fact and every presumptive proof are in favor of the representatives of the western counties, or, rather, in favor of their constituents.
The resolution itself, in its present shape, is liable to several other objections. Why are the four counties blended in the same resolution? The proclamation of the President did not include the four counties; and if it was necessary to embrace in this question Fayette and Westmoreland, I cannot conceive why Bedford, Cumberland, and Northumberland are excepted. Similar symptoms of disaffection took place in the three last-mentioned counties; and there was not a single act committed in Fayette County that has been called a sign of insurrection that did not likewise occur in Bedford. In both counties, poles were erected; in both counties, the office of inspection was suppressed; in both counties, supposed offenders were arrested only after the arrival of the army and after the election. To this I may add that in Fayette County, where no person was sheltered by an amnesty, as no person had signed the written assurances of submission, only four individuals have been either arrested or proscribed; and two of them have been admitted to bail. But I will repeat the question: Why are the four counties blended in the same resolution? The supposed spirit of insurrection might have an effect upon some of the elections and not upon the others. I cannot see any sufficient reason, but I may perceive the motive. Upon the principle that members cannot vote on the question of the validity of their own elections, it has been publicly avowed that the eleven western members must be deprived altogether of a vote on the present resolution. This principle applied to several counties thus combined in one resolution is unjust and absurd; for, upon that principle, it would be in the power of any number of members, greater than one-fourth of the whole, who should cabal for that purpose, to expel, on any pretext, any number of members less than one-half of the body.1 Supposing, therefore, that the House has any jurisdiction in the case before us, and that the interested members ought not to vote in their own case, the question must be put separately on each county, if any regard is to be paid to the principles of justice and common sense. But, have the House any jurisdiction? This fundamental question remains to be examined.
As the power of deciding the present question is not, in any part of the constitution, expressly vested in this House, it must either be supposed to be inherent, from its nature, in each branch of the Legislature, or it must be derived, indirectly and by implication, from some of the provisions of our social compact.
The power is not inherent in the House, or, in other words, it is not one of those powers which, from our form of government, must necessarily reside in either branch of the Legislature; for the principle of our government is that the judiciary and legislative powers should be kept distinct; that legislative powers alone should be exercised by this House, except where, from reasons of convenience, powers of a different description are expressly delegated. The power claimed with respect to elections is not that of establishing general rules, that is to say, of legislating; but of applying such rules to a special case, that is to say, of judging. I apprehend that the idea of an inherent power in the House arises from the habit of seeing a similar one uniformly exercised by the House of Commons in England, and, indeed, by every legislative branch of every government in the United States. In the latter case, the authority is derived from the express powers that are given by the respective constitutions; in the former, it arises from the nature of the government of Great Britain. In that country, the House of Commons being the only popular branch, the only body by which the people were, either directly or indirectly, represented, it was highly necessary and essential to the preservation of the freedom of choice that no authority not derived from the people, whether effected by the hereditary nobility, the hereditary executive, or the judiciary (who owe their existence to the executive), should be suffered to interfere in the decision of elections. Hence the Commons, supported by the uniform voice of the people, have with success repelled every attempt of the Crown, of the House of Peers, or of the courts of justice, to claim a jurisdiction on that subject; establishing, with inflexible spirit, an exclusive privilege to try every case relative to their own elections. Yet that privilege, necessary to preserve the right of the people to elect from the attacks of those orders which, in that country, form a distinct class from the people, has in some instances been so perverted and abused by corrupt and despotic Houses as to be rendered an engine to destroy or restrain that liberty and purity of elections which it was meant to protect. The case of Wilkes, on the Middlesex election, is too well known to require any comment. And the improper exercise of that species of judiciary power in common instances became so flagrant and so disgraceful that the House of Commons consented to relinquish it, and accordingly, by an Act of Parliament, known by the name of the Grenville Act, the jurisdiction was vested in a committee of the House, the members to be selected by lot and to be bound by a special oath for each specific occasion. Here it is not improper to observe that the supreme will of the Parliament being paramount to any charter or constitution which may be supposed to exist in England, it had the right to vest that jurisdiction wherever it pleased. Such, however, is not the case in the United States; for the Legislatures, having certain and defined powers, regulated by the supreme will of the people as expressed in the respective constitutions, cannot part with or vest elsewhere any authority which the people have thought it best, for their own advantage, to lodge with them. On this principle, the attempts that were made in Pennsylvania under the former constitution, and which have been made in the House of Representatives of the United States under the present constitution, to refer questions of that kind to a select committee, have been constantly rejected; for, by both those constitutions, the power of trying the respective elections was expressly vested in each branch of the Legislature. If the representatives of the people cannot part with any power vested in them by the constitution from which they draw their being, much less can they enlarge their own powers, or assume a jurisdiction which the people have not given to them, or have intrusted to other hands.
Leaving, therefore, the theoretical doctrine of inherent power, let us turn to the constitution itself, and read whether the people have not precluded us from any decision on the question now under discussion by expressly referring it to another tribunal. “Each House” (says the constitution of Pennsylvania, Art. 1, Sect. 12th), “Each House shall judge of the qualifications of its members. Contested elections shall be determined by a committee, to be selected, formed, and regulated in such manner as shall be directed by law.” The Constitution of the United States, the former constitution of Pennsylvania, all the existing constitutions, I believe, of our sister States, have expressly vested in each branch of the Legislature the power of judging of the qualifications, returns, and elections of their respective members. The present constitution of Pennsylvania alone stands an exception to the generality of the theory. The people of Pennsylvania, taught by their own and by the experience of other nations, have not deemed it expedient to intrust to either House the power of judging of the returns and elections of their own members. In order to preserve the freedom and equality of elections; in order to protect the only efficient political right which they have reserved, the right of electing, from the attacks of a corrupt or despotic House (the only ones that could, by our form of government, become dangerous), they have, in the same instrument from which alone the Legislature derives any right to deliberate and act on any subject whatever, declared that the validity of elections shall be tried by a committee, and not by the respective Houses.
In order to evade a positive clause of the constitution, for the sake of carrying a favorite object, it is alleged that the case now under consideration was not foreseen, and is not included in the section I have read. Was that assertion true, it would not follow that it is to be tried by this House, since there is no power inherent in them to judge of elections. But the assertion is warranted neither by the letter nor by the spirit of the constitution. The clause says that contested elections shall be tried by a committee; does a resolution, which declares certain elections to have been unconstitutional and void, contest the validity of those elections, or not? The answer is obvious to the most uninformed and narrow understanding; the question, stated by the resolution, is literally included in the clause of the constitution. If we turn to the minutes of the convention which framed that constitution, we find that the clause, as it stood in the first draft presented for consideration by a committee, was, verbatim, the same with the corresponding clause of the Constitution of the United States. “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members.”1 The convention not inadvertently, but taking that clause under consideration, adopt, in lieu of it, the present one; expressly take from the House the whole power of judging returns and elections, and give it to a committee. Had they meant to take only part of the power, and to vest in a committee a jurisdiction confined to certain cases, they would have defined those cases, and expressed in some manner the authority which they meant upon other occasions to give to the House; but the power by the original clause extended to elections in general, under every possible circumstance and in every possible case, and the present clause, being the only substitute to the one first proposed, includes, therefore, every case comprehended in the original one. Nay, the convention substitute the present section for the provisions relative both to elections and returns as they were first projected. The convention wished not to leave with the House even an opportunity of interfering, in the least degree, on that head, and for fear that, under pretence of judging of returns, there should be an attempt to claim a jurisdiction on the validity of the elections themselves, so that by setting aside a return as informal or false the election itself would, in fact, be set aside, they altogether take from either branch of the Legislature the power of judging of the returns.
Here it may be asked upon what principle the convention left to the House the power of judging of the qualifications of their own members. The answer is obvious: those qualifications were expressly defined by the constitution, and the House in that instance have nothing to do but to examine whether the members returned have those qualifications. The inquiry must depend upon a few facts, and the rules upon which the decision is to be grounded being, therefore, few in number, simple in themselves, and exactly defined by the constitution, the House were competent judges, and there was little danger of the power being abused. But the validity of elections depending upon a variety of facts, the grounds upon which they might be attacked being numerous and unforeseen, and, of course, the rules by which they were to be judged being various, complicated, uncertain, and liable to different constructions, the jurisdiction is taken away on account of the latitude it would have given to the exercise of opinions uncontrolled by special ties or by positive and specific laws, and often biassed by interest, party spirit, and prejudice.
So doubtful were the movers of the resolution as to the jurisdiction of the House, and to the grounds on which the subject was to be treated, that they first presented a proposition declaring that the House, being the judges of the qualifications of its own members (which could not be denied), it should declare the western members to be disqualified. Why?—not because those members were, in fact or in law, personally disqualified or incapable of taking their seats; but, by a new kind of logic, because the country being, according to their general assertion, in a state of insurrection, the electors were thereby disqualified and rendered incapable of electing. As they soon, however, discovered the fallacy of such a position and withdrew their first motion, substituting the resolution now under consideration, it will be sufficient to observe on that head, 1st, that a citizen’s qualifications, being by their nature personal, cannot depend upon the qualifications of others, whether electors or not; 2dly, that the qualifications of members being exactly defined by the constitution, no authority derived from that constitution can either add to or diminish them; and, lastly, that if that construction was given to the constitution, the House might upon the same principle judge every possible case of contested elections, since they might, upon every possible ground of contest, decide that the invalidity of the election disqualified the member elected.
But it is said that the law enacted in conformity to the clause of the constitution has provided only for cases where the election is contested by petitions, signed by a certain number of qualified electors; that, of course, the law does not include a case similar to this, a case of insurrection or invasion, since in neither case petitions would or could be transmitted; and arguing from the supposed absurdity that no remedy should exist for such cases, when the bill of rights has emphatically declared “that elections shall be free and equal,” it is contended that the House must, as guardians of the constitution, adopt the mode proposed by the resolution.
As to any arguments drawn from the clause of the bill of rights, it must be observed, in the first place, that the clause is only a declaratory and general one, which does not give any power, but is, on the contrary, in the nature of a reservation of power; and, in the second place, that the manner in which the people meant that that declaratory clause should be carried into effect is provided for by several clauses of the constitution (such as those which regulate the qualifications of the electors and of the elected, which preclude arrests on the days of elections, &c.), and amongst others by the very clause already dwelt upon, which, as one of the strongest barriers of that sacred principle “that elections shall be free and equal,” expressly forbids the House any interference in deciding questions on their validity, by vesting that power exclusively in a committee.
But it cannot rationally and fairly be said that the present question, similar to the case of an invasion by an enemy or of an actual insurrection, could not have been tried according to the provisions of the law. A clear proof that the regular petitions could be presented is, that a petition, signed by thirty citizens of one of the counties, was actually presented and now lies on the table; and that it was not made the foundation of a trial according to law by a select committee is obviously owing to the neglect of the petitioners, who did not send the certificate required by law that they were qualified electors. After the mistake was discovered, the ingenuity of some gentlemen suggested the idea of a direct interference of the House, without any regard to petitions or select committee, to the provisions of the law or of the constitution.
It is, however, true that the law enacted in conformity to the clause of the constitution has not provided for the trial of elections in cases where they may be contested by individuals who are not qualified electors of the proper county, and that there may be cases in some measure similar to the present, such as actual invasion or insurrection, for which there is no existing remedy by the present law. But it does not thence follow that because there is no existing remedy the House may assume a jurisdiction. This, indeed, would take place in the House of Commons in England, who, having had a right prior and paramount to the Grenville Act, would of course take cognizance of any cases not provided by that Act. But in Pennsylvania it is necessary to distinguish between a case not provided for by the constitution and a case not provided for by law. In the first instance, although it may not be an absolute consequence that the House should claim the power, yet there may be nothing absurd in it. But, whenever there is an express remedy by the constitution, it is as absurd as dangerous to suppose that the Legislature, by neglecting to enact the law which was to modify and effectuate that remedy, or by providing only for certain special cases, should thereupon have a right to assume a jurisdiction over every subject for which they refuse or neglect to provide. Admit this doctrine, and in order to amplify the jurisdiction of each House beyond the portion of delegated authority, it was only requisite to forbear from passing any law on the subject, for then, no remedy being provided for the trial of contested elections, each House might have judged of every case in direct violation of the constitution. The case of an actual invasion, or any other case not yet provided for by law, is similar to that of an unforeseen crime, to the commission of which no punishment has been annexed, and which must remain unpunished until the law shall have enabled the judge to act.
But the principle of the House having jurisdiction in this case, or in any other case not provided for by the law, will bring us to the same predicament as if no law whatever had been enacted for the trial of contested elections in pursuance to the provisions of the constitution. For, whenever petitions shall not be presented against an election, or, to put the case more strongly but not less truly, whenever the decision of a select committee, on a petition tried according to law, shall be disagreeable to the wishes of a majority of the House, they may, as guardians of the constitution, and in order to preserve the elections free and equal, take up the business, and for any cause, real or supposed, which they shall please to suggest, whether a riot, bribery, the disqualification of electors, or fraud of any kind, they may set aside any election whose fate is obnoxious to party, or whose merits have been prejudged by passion.
To conclude, if this be a question of elections, I may perhaps perceive on this floor prosecutors, but I see no judges. If it is not a question of elections, what is it? It then can be nothing else than a disfranchising, retrospective act. If there exists anywhere a power to disfranchise the citizens of one-sixth part of the State, that power is, undoubtedly, of a legislative nature, and must be exercised by the Legislature and not by a single branch. It is supposed that the clause of the constitution which forbids the passing any ex-post-facto law may be evaded by carrying the measure through the means of a resolution of each House separately, instead of making it the Act of the Legislature. When Shays’ rebellion occurred in Massachusetts, the Legislature of that State passed a law to prevent those concerned from voting at the ensuing election. When the Legislature of this State was in session in last September, and, within less than a month before the election, passed an Act to suppress the western insurrection, why did they not at the same time, as guardians of the constitution, and to preserve the elections free and equal, pass also a law similar to that of Massachusetts, disfranchising the insurgents, and prohibiting an election in the western country? When we see the gentlemen who brought forward those measures, that were thought necessary to quell the insurrection, silent, at the same time, on the doctrine which they originate at present, may it not be conjectured that, in fact, they object to the event of the elections, and not to the elections themselves?
If any precedent were necessary to evince how wantonly a jurisdiction is claimed and meant to be exercised on this question, I might adduce the case of Luzerne County. The contest which, at a former period, gave rise to disturbances in that part of the State is well known. I find, by the minutes of the Assembly of the 27th of October and of the 8th of November, 1787, that messages were received from the supreme executive council mentioning “that since the last session (which had terminated in September) there had been a renewal of the disturbances at Wyoming, some restless spirits having formed a project of forming a new State, to be carried into effect by an armed force; . . . and, as the danger of the State appeared to be pressing, . . . the council recommended it to the General Assembly to adopt effectual measures for enforcing the laws of the State in the county of Luzerne, which they were of opinion could not be done without a permanent force.” Council add that “the expulsion of the commissioners from Wyoming would occasion a delay in the execution of their duty under the late law, &c.” Yet, in that case, where the officers of government had been expelled, where the law was thereby prevented from being executed, where there was a project of forming a new State through the means of an armed force, and where a permanent force was thought necessary to enforce the laws; in that case, where the disturbances had begun before the election and were not composed three weeks after the election, the member elected by that county at the very moment of tumult and insurrection had taken his seat, held it when the message of the executive council was delivered, and no attempt was even made to dispute his election. At that time, too, the Legislature, acting under the former constitution of the State, had full power to decide every case of the kind.
Shall it be said that this is one of those questions on which imperious necessity must oblige the representatives of the people to throw a veil over the constitution, on which the salvation of the country impels them to overleap the constitutional boundaries of their power! Permit me to repel so groundless an idea by a few observations on the policy and probable consequences of adopting the proposed resolution.
I know that at a period when it was necessary to rouse the militia of the United States, and especially of Pennsylvania, who were naturally averse, without evident necessity, to take up arms against their fellow-citizens, it became an indispensable duty to convince them of the importance of the occasion and of the necessity there was of their marching. As a means of diffusing the spirit of indignation and exertion, it was not, perhaps, thought impolitic to suffer, if not to promote, the circulation of every rumor that could operate to the prejudice of the western country. The inhabitants of that country were represented as enemies to any kind of restraint and to every description of government, “as a banditti forgetful of all obligations, human and divine, and intent only on rapine and anarchy,”—in short, as monsters of cruelty. And the prejudices and misrepresentations thus disseminated seem to be the basis of the present proceedings. It is said that harsh measures alone can bring to a sense of their duty the savage inhabitants of the frontier. I have not attempted to conceal or extenuate the excesses committed during the unfortunate disturbance; but I think that, at present at least, it is unnecessary to encourage a belief that the people there are worse than they really are. Without entering into a defence of their character, it will be sufficient to repel the charges of rapine and cruelty. As to the first, it has not the smallest foundation; during the riots, and the whole period when the restraints of law were so much relaxed, not one instance can be produced of plunder or peculation, either by mobs or individuals. The second is supported by the solitary case of Wilson, in the year 1791, which has already been mentioned. It is extremely unjust to draw an inference against the general character of a people from the wickedness of half a dozen individuals, whose conduct was execrated by all, against whom indictments were found by the unanimous opinion of a grand jury, and whose final punishment for the original outrage was only prevented by those adventitious circumstances which I have related. But a direct and convincing proof of the charge of cruelty being groundless can be produced. It is drawn from the conduct of the mobs and of the greatest criminals themselves whilst in the very act of committing their most flagrant outrages. The people who attacked and destroyed General Neville’s house, after having seen their leader and several of their associates killed or wounded, on the very day on which they finally succeeded, treated with humanity and dismissed without injury the soldiers who had defended the house, and even the very man whom they might suppose to have been the cause of McFarland’s death. The same night they had in their possession the marshal himself, and however offensive their behavior towards him might be in other respects, they released him also without any personal injury. I well know that a negative act, if it may be so called, cannot be adduced as a proof of virtue; I do not give it as such, but only to show that, criminal as those people were, they cannot be said, even in their excesses, to have been cruel. Can it be supposed that a mob in England, France, Holland, or in any other part of Europe, would, under similar circumstances, have behaved in the same manner? And why is an attempt made to throw a blemish on that amiable and striking trait of the American character (for those people are Americans),—the horror of shedding human blood? Treat, then, the inhabitants of the western country as Americans and fellow-citizens; and now that their tumults have been suppressed, and their minds restored to reason and a sense of duty, do not, by an indiscriminate punishment, unmerited with respect to the majority, and, with respect to them all, arbitrary and unconstitutional,—do not inflame and disgust where it is your duty to allay and conciliate. Let despotic governments eagerly seize every opportunity which the faults and the temporary folly of any part of the nation may afford them, in order to add new energy to their powers and to justify the arbitrary exercise of a jurisdiction extended to new objects. Such mean and wicked policy is beneath the free governments of America. To amend rather than to punish, to conciliate rather than to exasperate, to strengthen the bonds of union rather than to throw seeds of division, must be the sole design of a government that wishes not its authority to rest upon force and oppression, but knows the confidence and the love of the people to be the only foundation of their existence, the only security for their duration. But if, carried away by the torrent of a popular clamor grounded on temporary prejudices, you attempt to justify by the specious plea of necessity and public good the assumption of extraordinary and illegal powers; if you suffer yourselves to admit common fame and public opinion as legal proofs, beware of the consequences of the doctrine you introduce,—beware how you overset those barriers which alone can protect us and our posterity from the baneful effects of power that deems nothing unlawful which it is able to accomplish, and of passion that deems nothing sacred which it wishes to destroy. Our security depends not more on the independence of our judges than on the impartiality of the popular branch of our courts of justice,—of the juries. At this moment, within the walls of the prison of this city, on a suspicion of having had a share in the insurrection, are confined many unfortunate persons, already prejudged perhaps by prejudice, but only accused, and not condemned. They are to be tried, not in their own county, but at a distance of three hundred miles from their homes, and their fate depends on the verdict, not of a jury of their own vicinage, acquainted with their private character and the whole tenor of their lives, but on men selected from amongst strangers already biassed against them; on men who hear and see your proceedings, whom this discussion must tend to inflame, and whom, should you fatally adopt the measure that is proposed, you will teach the propriety of substituting the dictates of their own passions for the evidence of proved and ascertained facts. It is by the introduction of similar maxims that in that country which for some years has given us so many useful but terrible lessons of the effects of power abused and passions unrestrained; it is by adopting as truth reports grounded only upon the wishes or the fears of the people; it is by making public opinion, common fame, and popular prejudices the test by which they tried the conduct of individuals, that in France ambitious men, covering their views and justifying their means under the specious names of necessity, public good, salvation of the country, have, for the sake of destroying their political enemies and of increasing their own power, shed upon scaffolds and under the cruel mockery of trials the blood of so many thousands of innocent victims.
I mean not to ascribe improper motives to any member of this House; I believe they all think themselves to be actuated by the most disinterested views; but permit me to doubt whether the minds of some of them are not, unknown to themselves, biassed in some measure by current prejudices and party spirit. Party spirit may appear under more than one shape. If sometimes, assuming the garb of patriotism, it leads individuals into unjustifiable excesses, may it not also, disguised under the cloak of stern justice, hide from its followers those constitutional and legal boundaries which they must pass in order to obey its dictates? However pure the motives of the supporters of this measure, I confidently assert that beyond these walls it will be solely ascribed to the effort of a party meaning to crush their political opponents; that it will be attended with no other consequence than that of inflaming the public mind and reviving those party feuds whose baneful effects have been so sensibly felt by this State at a former period, and which the change of our constitution, mutual concessions, and the general diffusion of more liberal and enlarged views have, within these last years, so happily extinguished. Every well-wisher to the prosperity of Pennsylvania and to the preservation of the Union must be forcibly struck with the danger of former internal dissensions being again revived.
When we consider the various and jarring interests of different parts of the United States, and the necessity of an accommodating spirit in order to conciliate them, we cannot but acknowledge how great an influence the conduct of this State will have on the attainment of that object. The Middle States, but especially Pennsylvania, by her central situation, her commerce, and the manners of her inhabitants, may be looked upon as the bond of union between the Eastern and Southern States. Pennsylvania, too, embraces within her bounds those communications which unite the shores of the Atlantic with the extensive regions watered by the branches of the Ohio and of the Mississippi, and those which border on the Northern lakes. Those communications lie within the limits of those western counties which are the subject of this discussion. These counties have a common interest equally with the citizens of the seaports and with the inhabitants of the remotest parts of the western country; they are the link which unites all the distant members of the community together. I will freely acknowledge that those counties have been uniformly treated with liberality by the government of Pennsylvania. The taxes laid upon them have been apportioned with a due regard to their situation and poverty. Unworthy jealousies have of late subsided, and they have shared, in common with their fellow-citizens, the prosperity of the State, so far as it was in the power of the Legislature to make them participate in the advantages which other parts enjoyed. By still pursuing a similar conduct you will still more endear the government of Pennsylvania to that sequestered country, and make them forget the difference of interests which in many instances does exist, and the barriers which nature has placed between them and the remaining parts of the State. By pursuing a liberal policy towards them you will secure their attachment and preserve the unity of the State. We shall then be enabled, from our weight and moderation, to reconcile the variances of opinion and interests which divide the Union, and to strengthen those bonds of amity and benevolence that can alone insure the existence of the Americans as an united nation. I will not attempt to trace what might be the consequences of an opposite conduct, for there are things which may be felt but which perhaps should not be described. Every reflecting mind will easily foresee what may, after a term of years, be the probable effect of irritating the minds of a people whose direct communication with the sea will lead to a distance of two thousand miles from the seaport of Pennsylvania, who are separated from you by a chain of mountains of more than one hundred miles in breadth, and whose population daily increases beyond every possible calculation.
Whilst I am speaking of the propriety of conciliatory measures, I do not forget that the object of the resolution proposed may perhaps be rather of a personal than of a general nature. If so, if it be the wish to punish not the people but some of their representatives, you may, by virtue of the 13th Section of the first Article of the constitution, expel such as may be disagreeable to you; and although I conceive from the spirit of the constitution that power is to be exercised only in case of the misbehavior of the members as members, yet, since the letter itself does not preclude the idea, I would not, on the present occasion, contest the authority of the House to expel such members as they may suppose to have had a share in the late disturbances. But if such be the object of the House, we will put it in their power to attain their ends without attempting a jurisdiction at best doubtful, at all events arbitrary. Before I explain myself any farther, it is necessary to take notice of another question immediately connected with the present one.
We see by the minutes of the Senate that they have refused to adjourn until new elections should take place in the western counties, although they have since declared the former ones to be void. What may be the intention of this House I know not. Arguments on that head would be unnecessary; and if it be really the object of the Legislature first to get rid of the representation of one-sixth part of the State and then to legislate in that dismembered situation; if it be their intention, in order to strike the western inhabitants with a greater respect for the laws and to induce their future submission, to pass laws that shall bind them, without their having any share in the representative body, I have nothing more to say. But if, for the sake of peace and conciliation, private sacrifices are necessary, I cheerfully will make any that depend upon me; indeed, I need not call them sacrifices,—they will be most agreeable to my own wishes,—for a contested seat in this House, under the present circumstances, cannot be supposed to confer any satisfaction to the possessor. My only motive in taking it or defending it is the duty I owe to my constituents,—to a people who have repeatedly placed their confidence in me, and whom I wished not to desert in their present situation: but if any mode can be devised which will not be hurtful to their interests, it will be eagerly embraced.
If, therefore, this House will waive the principle of the main question, and agree to adjourn until a new election shall take place, I am ready to resign not only my seat in this House, but also the seat in Congress, for which I was chosen at the last election, and which does not depend on any determination of the Legislature of Pennsylvania. If an explicit answer is not given on this subject, it will still be in our power to bring it to a test by a motion of adjournment. Should it be adopted, every patriotic object which the House can have in view may be attained, at the same time that the necessity of establishing an unconstitutional precedent, and of exercising an arbitrary jurisdiction, will be avoided, and the dangerous consequences of the measure now under consideration will be averted.1
Extract of a Letter of Thomas McKean, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and General William Irvine, appointed Commissioners by the Governor of Pennsylvania to confer with the Inhabitants of the Western Counties, dated Pittsburg, 22d August, 1794.
“On Monday we endeavored to ascertain the facts that led immediately to the riots in this county on the 16th and 17th of last month, at General Neville’s estate, and the result is as follows. The marshal for the district of Pennsylvania had process to serve upon divers persons residing in the counties of Fayette and Allegheny, and had executed them all (above thirty) without molestation or difficulty, excepting one, which was against a Mr. Shaw; he, or some other person, went to the place where Dr. Beard, the brigade inspector for Washington County, was hearing appeals made by some of the militia of a battalion, who had been called upon for a proportion of the quota of this State of the eighty thousand men, to be in readiness agreeably to an Act of Congress. There were upwards of fifty there with their fire-arms, to whom it was related that the Federal sheriff, as they styled the marshal, had been serving writs in Allegheny County and carrying the people to Philadelphia for not complying with the excise laws, and that he was at General Neville’s house. It was then in the night of the 15th of last month; between thirty and forty flew instantly to their arms and marched towards Mr. Neville’s, about twelve miles distance, where they appeared early next morning. Your excellency has already heard the tragical event.
“It should be added that the delinquents, against whom the marshal had process, told him they would enter their stills and pay him the excise, together with the costs of suit. Major Lennox applauded their prudent conduct, and told them that though he had not authority to comply with their wishes, yet if they would enter their stills with the inspector, and procure his certificate, and send it to Philadelphia, upon payment of the money due with the costs, he was persuaded all further prosecutions would be stayed.
“If this detail is true, it is evident the outrages committed at Mr. Neville’s were not owing to deliberate preconcerted measures, but originated in an unbridled gust of passion, artfully raised among young men who may have been at the time too much heated with strong drink.”—
“We met accordingly, and conversed together (with the twelve conferees appointed by the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting of the 14th of August) freely for several hours. The supposed grievances were numerous; but they dwelt principally on their being sued in the courts of the United States and compelled to attend trial at the distance of three hundred miles from their places of abode, before judges and jurors who are strangers to them, and by whom the credit due to witnesses entirely unknown could not be properly estimated, and the inability to pay the excise owing to the restrained state of their trade and commerce.”—“Impressed with the idea that the spirit of the people in these counties may be diffused in other counties and States, we have urged the necessity of a speedy termination of this business, and to that end the calling the committee of sixty together at an earlier day than the one fixed upon; though the gentlemen press us to allow time to the people to cool, yet we believe they will gratify us in this request. We are acquainted personally with the committee of twelve, and think them well disposed.”
Resolutions proposed by Mr. — at the Parkinson’s Ferry Meeting of the 14th of August.
1. The same with the first resolution adopted.
2. That a standing committee be appointed to consist of NA members from each county, to be denominated a committee of public safety, whose duty it shall be to call forth the resources of the western country to repel any hostile attempts that may be made against the rights of the citizen or of the body of the people.
3. That a committee of members be appointed to draft a remonstrance to Congress praying a repeal of the excise law, and that a more equal and less odious tax may be laid, and at the same time giving assurance to the representatives of the people that such tax will be cheerfully paid by the people of these counties, and that the said remonstrance be signed by the chairman of this meeting in behalf of the people whom we represent.
4. Whereas, the motives by which the people of the western country have been actuated in the late unhappy disturbances at Neville’s house, and in the great and general rendezvous of the people at Braddock’s Field, &c., are liable to be misconstrued as well by our fellow-citizens throughout the United States as by their and our public servants, to whom is consigned the administration of the Federal government, therefore, Resolved, that a committee of NA be appointed to make a fair and candid statement of the whole transaction to the President of the United States, and to the Governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and, if it should become necessary, that the said committee do publish to the world a manifesto or declaration, whereby the true motives and principles of the people in this country shall be fairly and fully stated.
5. That we will, with the rest of our fellow-citizens, support the laws and government of the respective States in which we live, and the laws and government of the United States, the excise law, and the taking citizens out of their respective counties only excepted, and therefore we will aid and assist all civil officers in the execution of their respective functions, and endeavor, by every proper means in our power, to bring to justice all offenders in the premises.
Resolutions adopted by the Parkinson’s Ferry Meeting of the 14th of August.
1. Resolved, That taking citizens of the United States from their respective abodes or vicinage, to be tried for real or supposed offences, is a violation of the right of the citizens, is a forced and dangerous construction of the constitution, and ought not under any pretence whatever to be exercised by the judicial authority.
2. That a standing committee, to consist of one member from each township, be appointed for the purposes hereinafter mentioned, viz.:
To draft a remonstrance to Congress praying a repeal of the excise law, at the same time requesting that a more equal and less odious tax may be laid, and giving assurances to the representatives of the people that such tax will be cheerfully paid by the people of these counties.
To make and publish a statement of the transactions which have lately taken place in this country relative to the excise law, and of the causes which gave rise thereto, and to make a representation to the President on the subject.
To have power to call together a meeting either of a new representation of the people or of the deputies here convened, for the purpose of taking such further measures as the future situation of affairs may require, and, in case of any sudden emergency, to take such temporary measures as they may think necessary.
3. That we will exert ourselves, and that it be earnestly recommended to our fellow-citizens to exert themselves, in support of the municipal laws of the respective States, and especially in preventing any violence or outrage against the property and person of any individual.
4. That a committee, to consist of three members of each county, be appointed to meet any commissioners that have or may be appointed by the government, and to report the result of this conference to the standing committee.
At a meeting of the standing committee of the western counties, held at Brownsville (Redstone, Old Fort), on the 28th and 29th August, 1794,
The report of the committee appointed to confer with the commissioners of government being taken into consideration—Resolved, That, in the opinion of this committee, it is the interest of the people of this country to accede to the proposals made by the commissioners on the part of the United States.
Extract of the declaration unanimously adopted by a meeting of committees from the several townships of the county of Fayette, held at Uniontown, the 10th of September, 1794.
For these reasons and upon these principles, wishing, however, to have it fully understood that from the following declaration no implication is to be drawn of an acknowledgment that we ever have failed, either directly or indirectly, in that duty which every citizen owes to his country, to wit, submission to its laws: We, the committee of townships for the county of Fayette, do not hesitate explicitly to declare “our determination to submit to the laws of the United States and of the State of Pennsylvania, not to oppose either directly or indirectly the execution of the Acts for raising a revenue on distilled spirits and stills, and to support (as far as the laws require) the civil authority in affording the protection due to all officers and citizens; and we do further recommend to our fellow-citizens a perfect and entire acquiescence under the execution of the said Acts, and also that no violence, injuries, or threats be offered to the person or against the property of any officer of the United States, or of the State of Pennsylvania, or citizens complying with the laws.” At the same time we make those explicit and sincere declarations and recommendations, we also candidly and openly declare our intention to persist in every legal and constitutional measure that may tend to obtain a repeal of the excise law, nor shall we think ourselves bound to give it any further support and countenance than what is required by the laws.
N.B.—The words between “ ” are verbatim the transcript of the assurances required by the commissioners of the United States from the committee of Brownsville, and afterwards from the people at large.
Pittsburg, September 20.
At a meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Pittsburg, for the purpose of considering the proscriptions of certain citizens during the late disturbances, in which necessity and policy led to a temporary acquiescence on the part of the town—
It was unanimously resolved, That the said citizens were unjustly exiled, and the said proscriptions are no longer regarded by the inhabitants of the town of Pittsburg, and that this resolution be published for the purpose of communicating these sentiments to those who were the subjects of the proscriptions.
A. Tannehill, Chairman.
Answer of the grand jury of Washington County, on September 25, to Judge Addison’s charge, in which they express their unanimous concurrence in and approbation of the sentiments contained in said charge, is printed in the Pittsburg Gazette of the 4th of October, but no copy could be procured for insertion here.
Resolutions of the delegates of townships of the 14th of August, assembled at Parkinson’s Ferry on the 2d of October, agreeable to the notice in the Pittsburg Gazette.
Resolved, That it is the unanimous opinion of this meeting that if the signature of the submission be not universal, it is not so much owing to any existing disposition to oppose the laws, as to a want of time and information to operate a correspondent sentiment; and with respect to the greatest number, a prevailing consciousness of their having had no concern in any outrage, and an idea that their signature would imply a sense of guilt.
Resolved, unanimously, That we will submit to the laws of the United States; that we will not, directly or indirectly, oppose the execution of the Acts for raising a revenue on distilled spirits and stills; that we will support, so far as the law requires, the civil authority in affording the protection to all officers and to the citizens, reserving at the same time our constitutional right of petition and remonstrance.
Resolved, unanimously, That William Findley, of Westmoreland County, and David Redick, of Washington County, be appointed commissioners to wait on the President of the United States and the Governor of Pennsylvania, and to explain to government the present state of this country, and detail such circumstances as may enable the President to judge whether an armed force be now necessary to support the civil authority in these counties.
Resolved, unanimously, That the secretary transmit a copy of these resolutions by post to the President of the United States and to the Governor of Pennsylvania, and have them printed in the Pittsburg Gazette.
Alexander Addison, Sec.
At a meeting of the committees of townships of the four western counties of Pennsylvania, and of sundry other citizens, held at Parkinson’s Ferry the 24th of October, 1794—
The following resolutions were unanimously adopted, viz.:
1st. Resolved, That in our opinion the civil authority is now fully competent to enforce the laws and to punish both past and future offences, inasmuch as the people at large are determined to support every description of civil officers in the legal discharge of their duty.
2d. Resolved, That in our opinion all persons who may be charged or suspected with having committed any offence against the United States or the State during the late disturbances (and who have not entitled themselves to the benefits of the Act of oblivion) ought immediately to surrender themselves to the civil authority, in order to stand their trial; that if there be any such persons amongst us, they are ready to surrender themselves accordingly; and that we will unite in giving our assistance to bring to justice such offenders as shall not surrender.
3d. Resolved, That in our opinion offices of inspection may be immediately opened in the respective counties of this survey without any danger of violence being offered to any of the officers, and that the distillers are willing and ready to enter their stills.
Messrs. William Findley, David Redick, Ephraim Douglass, and Thomas Morton were then appointed to wait on the President of the United States with the foregoing resolutions.
Extracts of the minutes of the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania.
December 16, 1794. A motion was made by Mr. Kelly, seconded by Mr. Barton, and read, as follows, viz.:
Whereas, It is declared, by the fifth Section of the ninth Article of the constitution of this Commonwealth, as one of the great and essential principles of liberty and free government, that elections shall be free and equal. And whereas, A majority of the inhabitants of the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny were in a state of insurrection and opposition to the government and laws of this Commonwealth on the second Tuesday in October last, the time appointed by the constitution for choosing Representatives in the General Assembly of this State, to the terror of those who were friends to government and good order residing in the counties aforesaid. And whereas, It is directed by the constitution that each House shall judge of the qualifications of its members; therefore,
Resolved, That the persons chosen at the last general election, held for the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, to represent the said counties in the House of Representatives of this State, are not duly qualified for said office.
December 20, 1794. Agreeably to the order of the day, the motion made by Mr. Kelly, seconded by Mr. Barton, December 16, relative to the ineligibility of the persons elected to represent the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny in the House of Representatives, was read the second time.
And the resolution contained therein being under consideration, viz.:
Resolved, That the persons chosen at the last general election, held for the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, to represent the aforesaid counties in the House of Representatives of this State, are not duly qualified for said office.
A motion was made by Mr. Kelly, seconded by Mr. Barton,
To postpone the consideration of the said resolution, in order to introduce the following in lieu thereof, viz.:
Resolved, That the elections held during the late insurrection in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, for members to represent said counties in this House, were unconstitutional, and they are hereby declared void.
On the question, “Will the House agree to postpone for the purpose aforesaid?” it was determined in the affirmative.
January 9, 1795. On the question, “Will the House agree to the following resolution? viz.:”
Resolved, That the Legislature of this Commonwealth will adjourn on Thursday next, to meet again on the first Tuesday of February next.
It was determined in the negative. Yeas 37, nays 38.
The House proceeded to consider the resolution on the subject of the elections held during the late insurrection in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, reported by the committee of the whole yesterday.
A motion was made by Mr. Gallatin, seconded by Mr. Nagle,
To postpone the consideration of the said resolution, in order to introduce the following in lieu thereof, viz.:
Whereas, It appears to this House that during the month of July last past the laws of the United States were opposed in the counties of Washington and Allegheny, in this State, and the execution of said laws obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of law proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshal of that district; inasmuch as several lawless bodies of armed men did at sundry times assemble in the county of Allegheny aforesaid and commit various acts of riot and arson, and more particularly attacked the house of John Neville, Esq., inspector of the revenue for the fourth survey of the district of Pennsylvania, and after firing upon and wounding sundry persons employed in protecting and defending the said house, set fire to and totally destroyed the same.
That the spirit of opposition to the revenue law of the United States soon after pervaded other parts of the fourth survey of Pennsylvania (which consists of the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, Allegheny, and Bedford), inasmuch as all the offices of inspection established therein were violently suppressed.
That commissioners having been appointed, respectively, by the President of the United States and by the Governor of this State, in order to induce the inhabitants of the fourth survey aforesaid to submit peaceably to the laws, the assurances of submission required of the inhabitants aforesaid by said commissioners were not so general as to justify an opinion that offices of inspection could have been safely established there on the 11th day of September last past. And the said commissioners of the United States did give it as their opinion, that on the 16th day of September last past there was a considerable majority of the inhabitants of the fourth survey aforesaid who were disposed to submit to the execution of the laws, but that such was the state of things in the survey that there was no probability that the revenue law of Congress could at that time be enforced by the usual course of law; so that a more competent force was necessary to cause the laws to be duly executed, and to insure protection to the officers and well-disposed citizens.
And that, in consequence of that information, it became necessary for the President of the United States to cause to be embodied a large number of the militia of the United States, and to order the same to march into the fourth survey aforesaid, in order to aid the civil authority in causing the laws to be duly executed, in re-establishing order and peace, and in affording protection to the officers and citizens.
And whereas, It also appears to this House that a majority of the inhabitants of the fourth survey aforesaid did not at any time enter into a general combination against the execution of the laws of the United States.
That the meetings composed of delegates of the respective townships of the said survey never entered into any criminal resolution or combination; but, on the contrary, contributed by degrees to restore peace and order.
That no acts of violence were committed in the said survey after the 11th day of September last past, nor did any combinations, meetings, or preparations take place tending to oppose future resistance to the laws of the United States and to the militia then on their march to the said survey.
That from and after the 14th day of August last there was a gradual restoration of order and submission to the laws, as appears by the assurances of submission expressed by individual signatures or otherwise previous to the 16th of September aforesaid; by the answer of the grand jury of the county of Washington to the charge of the judge of the court for said county, delivered at the September court; and by resolutions adopted by the committee of townships for the county of Fayette on the 10th and 17th days of September; and by the resolutions adopted by the committees of townships for the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, on the 2d of October last past; which resolutions expressed their disposition to submit to the laws of the United States and to support the civil authority, and their opinion that the people at large were disposed to do the same; as also by resolutions adopted by the people of the county of Fayette on the day of the late general election, the object of which was to provide for the accommodation of the militia of the United States, then on their march to the fourth survey aforesaid.
And whereas, There are no proofs whatever before the House either that the people of the fourth survey, or any of them, were in a state of insurrection on the day of the late general election, nor that any undue influence was used or acts of violence committed on the said day in any of the counties composing the said survey, nor that the late insurrection, riots, and opposition to the laws of the United States had any effect upon the said late general election.
And whereas, It is represented to this House by the representatives of the counties composing the fourth survey aforesaid that they are able to prove by evidence that the late general elections held in the said counties were fairly conducted, uninfluenced by fear or violence, and perfectly free and equal.
And whereas, The House wish to have full information upon those facts, in order that they may thereupon take such constitutional measures as to them will appear best.
Resolved, That in the opinion of this House it is proper for them to institute an inquiry on the subject of the late general elections held in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, in order to ascertain whether the inhabitants of the said counties, or any of them, were in a state of insurrection at the time of holding the said elections; and whether the late insurrection in the fourth survey of Pennsylvania had any effect on the said elections in the said counties.
Resolved, That a committee be appointed to devise and report to this House a plan of the manner in which the said inquiry should be conducted, with power to summon evidences on the said subject.
On the question, “Will the House agree to postpone for the purpose aforesaid?”
It was determined in the negative.
The original question recurring, the previous question thereon was called for. And on the previous question being put, viz., “Shall the main question be now put?” it was determined in the affirmative. Yeas 44, nays 29.
Whereupon the eleven members of the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny withdrew.
And then the main question, viz., “Resolved, That the elections held during the late insurrection in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, to represent said counties in this House, were unconstitutional, and they are hereby declared void,” being put,
It was determined in the affirmative. Yeas 43, nays 20.
Extract of the minutes of the Senate of Pennsylvania.
January 2, 1795. Moved that the consideration of the following resolution, which is the order of the day, viz., “Resolved, That the Senate will proceed to consider and determine whether the elections held in the districts composed of the counties of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette during the insurrection in those counties ought to be admitted as constitutional and valid,” be postponed, in order to take into consideration the following resolution, to wit:
Resolved, That it is necessary for the Senate to inquire,
First. Whether the Senate have any jurisdiction in the case of elections, and in what manner it can be exercised?
Second. Whether the inhabitants of the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny, or a majority of them, were in a state of insurrection at the time of holding the late general election (and if so) what was the nature of the same, and its effects upon the said election?
And that NA be assigned to hear evidence on the subject of said insurrection.
The question on postponing for the said purpose was put, and carried in the negative.
January 3. The following resolution, as reported by the committee of the whole, viz.,
“Resolved, That the elections of Senators held in the counties of Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, and Fayette during the late insurrection were not constitutional, and therefore not valid,” being under consideration,
It was moved that the further consideration of the resolution be postponed, in order to take the evidence of the State commissioners and to bring forward testimony of persons who were present at the election in Westmoreland County. And the question on postponing for said purpose, being put, was carried in the negative.
It was then moved that,
Whereas, A resolution is now before the Senate which, if carried, will deprive the counties of Washington, Allegheny, Fayette, and Westmoreland of any representation in the Senate of this Commonwealth. And whereas, It would be highly improper that a partial representation should legislate for the whole State; therefore,
Resolved, That the Senate will, so soon as the said resolution is carried, adjourn to such time as will give the said four western counties an opportunity of holding elections and returning members in the stead of those now deprived of their seats, if the House of Representatives shall concur in such adjournment.
The question being put, it passed in the negative.
The question being afterwards put on the following motion, viz.:
Resolved, That, in taking the votes of the Senate on the resolution relative to the validity of the elections from the four western counties, the clerk be directed not to call the names of the members of those counties, as their representative characters are involved in the said resolution.
It passed in the affirmative.
And the original question, viz.:
“Resolved, That the elections of Senators held in the counties of Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, and Fayette during the late insurrection were not constitutional, and therefore not valid,” again recurring,
It passed in the affirmative.
Reasons of the vote of the subscribers on the question of the validity of the elections held in the counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny.
We are of opinion that the resolution adopted by the Senate is unjust, unconstitutional, and impolitic.
Because the documents upon which the decision is grounded were not legal evidence; inasmuch as they consisted only of written, vague, hearsay, and newspaper information, and it was in the power of the Senate to procure oral, direct, and positive evidence.
Because the documents produced to support the resolutions do not contain any facts subsequent to the fifteenth day of September, which was near one month previous to the election; nor does it appear by the said documents, or by any of the alleged facts therein contained, either that all the four western counties ever were declared to be in a state of insurrection, or that the majority of the inhabitants thereof ever were concerned in any insurrection, criminal combination, or illegal opposition against the laws of the Union.
Because every act of the people, or of any part of the people, of the western counties subsequent to the fifteenth day of September evinces a restoration of order and an universal determination to submit to the laws and to support the civil authority.
Because no testimony was adduced to prove that the spirit of the late insurrection had any effect on the elections; but, on the contrary, the Senators representing those counties offered to prove by evidence that the said elections were fairly conducted, and perfectly free and equal.
Because the Senate, by a positive vote, refused to hear the evidence of the commissioners appointed by the State to confer with the citizens of the western country, and also the evidence of persons (known friends to order and good government) who were present at the election of one of the said counties. And
Because there was not a single act (that might be construed as a sign of insurrection, opposition, or combination) committed in two of the western counties which did not also take place in other counties of this State; and yet the counties of Westmoreland and Fayette are included in the decision of the Senate, while those others were not even hinted at.
Because the constitution expressly declares that contested elections shall be tried by a select committee, and not by the Senate, and expressly restrains the jurisdiction of either branch of the Legislature to judging the qualifications of their members. And
Because, if this was not to be considered as a case of contested elections, it could only be a retrospective disfranchising act,—an act which was expressly forbidden by that clause of the constitution which declares that no ex-post-facto law shall be made, and which, if it could be enacted by any authority whatever, should have been the act of the Legislature, and not of a single branch.
Because there was no apparent necessity for, or advantage resulting from, the measure; but, on the contrary, at a time when the inhabitants of the western country, who might have been deluded into criminal excesses, were brought to a sense of their duty, and when the whole body of the people of Pennsylvania had manifested their determination to support the laws and Constitution of the United States, we conceived it the duty of the Legislature to conciliate, and not inflame, the minds of the citizens.
Because, by ordering special elections, in the middle of winter and at a short notice, in a country the population of which is widely scattered, any change that may take place in the representation can only be the effect of a particular party ever watchful to their own interest; and there is, therefore, a danger that the good citizens of the western counties may, for the term of four years, be unfairly and partially represented. And
Because, the Senate having refused to adjourn until new elections shall have taken place, laws passed whilst one-sixth part of the State is unrepresented may not be thought binding by those citizens who had no share in the enacting of the same; and the measure will, at least, tend to diminish that respect and obedience to the laws and government which it is so essentially necessary, under the present circumstances, to encourage and inculcate.
These, with many other reasons, have influenced our vote.
And we trust we have discharged that duty which we owe to our country and our consciences by voting and protesting against a measure which we think may be of the most pernicious and destructive consequences.
(Signed) William Hepburne,
The preceding reasons of dissent were not suffered by the majority of the Senate to appear on the minutes.
Philadelphia, February 16, 1795.
The eleven members of the House and the four Senators who were deprived of their seats by virtue of the preceding resolutions have all been re-elected, except one Senator (Mr. Moore), who declined serving.
[1 ]The official returns of three districts of the county of Fayette, as made to the commissioners, state the number of those who attended to have been 721, of whom 560 voted for submission, and 161 against it. In the fourth district 20 voted for submission, and 119 against it.
[1 ]It having been observed in reply to this part of Mr. Gallatin’s speech that it had been reported, and was at the time generally understood throughout the army, that Messrs. Findley and Reddick, upon being asked whether offices of inspection could be immediately and safely established, had answered that they could not be opened with safety except in a garrison; Mr. Findley gave to Mr. Gallatin a written statement of the fact which had given rise to that report. The substance of that statement Mr. Gallatin laid before the House in a subsequent reply, and is as followeth. Mr. Andrew McFarland, brother to the McFarland who was killed at the attack of General Neville’s house, but who, so far from being concerned in the same business, had been personally insulted by the rioters, requested Messrs. Findley and Reddick to mention to the President that so certain was he of the disposition of the people of his neighborhood (along Monongahela River on the borders of Washington and Allegheny Counties) to submit to the laws, that he would have no objection to an office being kept in his own house. Messrs. Findley and Reddick asked him whether he would consent to it, whoever the officer might be; to which Mr. McFarland answered that he would not, as it was possible that a man might be appointed against whom the popular prejudices were yet too violent; but that in such a case it would be best to open the office for the county of Allegheny in the garrison of Pittsburg, which could be done without any inconvenience. When Messrs. Findley and Reddick were giving to the President their opinion that in future there would be a general submission throughout the country, they mentioned that they were not fully informed of the disposition of the people in that part of the country where Mr. McFarland resides, but stated the conversation they had with him. But they gave it as the opinion of Mr. McFarland, and not as their own opinion or advice, and as relating not to the whole country, but to a particular district.
[1 ]Not to speak of several others, David Bradford had signed the assurances of submission on the day required. Would it have been proper to arrest him until government had declared that his conduct previous to that day, but subsequent to the 22d of August, must deprive him of the benefit of the amnesty?
[1 ]There is now a body of militia or volunteers enlisted for six and nine months, said to amount to about 1000 men, stationed in the western country by virtue of the law passed by Congress during this session.
[1 ]Thus, in a body consisting of 80 members, 21 combining together might expel 39; for, by first preventing the 39 interested members voting, there would remain 41 who would form a quorum, and the 21 combined members would be a majority of that quorum.
[1 ]See minutes of convention, page 40, and page 32 of minutes of committee of the whole of same body.
[1 ]It appearing that all the western members concurred in the sentiments expressed in the last part of the speech, a motion was made that the Legislature should adjourn on the 15th day of January, to meet again on the first Tuesday of February. The question on that motion was taken on the 9th day of January, after the committee of the whole had adopted the resolution declaring the western elections unconstitutional and void, but before it was taken up in the House for a final decision. It passed in the negative by a majority of one,—37 voting for the adjournment, and 38 against it.
[Page 6. Meeting held at Pittsburg on the 24th of August, 1792.]Some of the persons who composed that meeting assembled again at the same place, together with several other inhabitants of the western country, about one month after the first meeting. They adopted no resolutions, and only adopted a petition to Congress, which had been drawn in conformity to a resolution of the preceding meeting. This is mentioned as an exception to the general assertion made in a subsequent part of the speech, that no public meeting took place in the western country after the 24th of August, 1792, till after the late disturbances broke out in July, 1794.
[Page 11. The view of the first aggressors, &c.]Although no apology can be offered for men of information and understanding deliberately planning schemes of resistance, it is to be hoped that the acts of violence committed by ignorant individuals, under the sudden impulse of a gust of passion, may be forgiven by their fellow-citizens. The inhabitants of Pennsylvania enjoyed, by their constitution, the privilege of being tried in their vicinage; a word whose technical meaning, both by the laws of England and the custom of this State, is well known to be the county where the party resides, or where the offence has been committed. The exercise of the power (given by the laws of the United States) to drag individuals at a distance of three hundred miles, in order to be tried for neglects or infractions of a law obnoxious in itself, was, therefore, considered as an invasion of one of their most sacred rights by men who had heard that that grievance was redressed by Congress, and who were not probably sufficiently well informed to perceive that the cases for which writs had issued were not within the last law. It is not meant by this observation to throw any reflection on the officers of government, under whose directions the process was issued; for it was their duty to enforce the execution of the laws; and the fault, if any, was with the Legislature, and not with them. But a hope may be indulged that in future (provided the people shall persist in that disposition, of which they have lately given unequivocal proofs, by finding bills against those offenders whose trial has been intrusted to the county courts) the accommodation of all the citizens will be consulted, the privileges they had always enjoyed will be respected, and the important right of a trial by jury in all its purity will be preserved inviolate.
[Page 28. Whether those facts are sufficiently proved to be admitted as legal evidence.]The only proofs offered to the House of any of the facts alleged were, the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, the proclamations of the President, the report of the commissioners appointed to confer with the citizens of the western country, the proclamations and letters of Governor Lee, and the charges of Judge Addison. Some of those documents were official, and sufficiently proved the facts therein contained to enable the President to act according to the provisions of the law; but, although they were official for him, most of them would have been inadmissible as legal and sufficient evidence before a court of justice, and therefore should not have been admitted by the House when they undertook to sit as judges. As to the opinions that may be contained therein, they are only entitled to respect on account of the personal and official character of those who gave them; but still they were only opinions, and not evidence. No mention is made in any of them of the meeting at Braddock’s Field, nor any proof given of any outrage committed in the counties of Washington, Fayette, or Westmoreland, nor do they give any account of the proceedings of the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting of the 14th of August, and, of course, no inference could legally be drawn from any of those transactions. The only facts stated in any of those documents that have any connection with the insurrection, are the attack and final destruction of General Neville’s house, his and the marshal’s expulsion, the robbing of the mail (not asserted positively to have been committed by any of the insurgents), the suppression of the offices of inspection in the survey, the result of the several conferences of the commissioners with citizens of the western country, the event of the Brownsville meeting, and the decision of the people, on the 11th of September, on the question of submission. No proof was adduced of any fact tending to prove the existence or continuance of the insurrection subsequent to the 11th of September. The election took place on the 14th of October.