Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. IV.
Reprinted under direction of Charles Warren Stone,
Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Edited by John B. Linn and Wm. H. Egle, M. D.
Harrisburg: E. K. Meyers, State Printer, 1890.

File: s2v4b


Short bios of Thomas Mifflin, Thomas Smith, Alexander James Dallas,
John Gibson, John Neville, Thomas Butler, James Wilson

[42] as unfortunate and impolitic; and regret that the attempts to execute it, have been conducted with so much impropriety as to invite contempt and resistance.

However, with respect to the probable success of the law, or what modifications would render it agreeable to the people, I can state no precise information at this period. I could have done this with much more confidence a year ago; for I then conceived that alterations moderate in themselves, and easily changed as circumstances would admit, might have quieted the Spirit of opposition, at least so far as to permit the peaceable execution of the Law. To accomplish those alterations, I even sought opportunities of giving Informations to the Secretary of the Treasury, to whom the Revision of the Law was referred, as well as to the Legislative body of which I have the honor to be a member, and I improved those opportunities with all the disinterestedness and Candour of which I was capable; but I did not succeed in making any adequate impression, those modifications which were obtained not being adapted to those who are distillers of grain in remote situations.

When I returned among my Constituents, I discovered that not only those who had been wavering in their opinion, but those also who had first thought that they could avail themselves of the Law to advantage, by running down the occupiers of small stills in disadvantageous situations, and even those who had originally advocated the law, were become unanimous against it; for the more accurately they examine the Law, with application to their own local circumstances, they are the more determined and unanimous in their wishes for its repeal. They can conceive no amendment agreeably to the Constitution, that can do Justice to Citizens in their situation. By those who are unacquainted with them, and also by some who ought to know better, the people of the Western Counties have been reproached as equally unwilling to pay any kind of tax; but the public records, both of the Treasury and the Land Office of the Commonwealth, afford a standing and incontrovertible proof that whatever may have been their distresses they were ever willing to pay their taxes, &c.

With respect to the modes which they design to pursue for attaining their wishes, I am at some loss to supply the information that you seek. Where I am best acquainted, the distillers mean to leave off the business intirely, and in fact many of them did so for some time during the last season, but taking the Country at large, there is a diversity of opinion. However, they all agree in the propriety of Petitioning Congress on the subject. The very low price of Whisky and the small Quantity that can be sold for Cash at any prices, notwithstanding the [43] encreased consumption occasioned by the army, and the injustice of being obliged to pay as much Excise out of two shillings, with difficulty procured, as other Citizens, better situated, have to pay out of, perhaps, three times that sum, much easier obtained, comes home to the understanding of those who cannot comprehend theories.

The execution of the law, even conducted with the greatest discretion, has some serious difficulties to encounter. It is well known that in some Counties, as well of Virginia as of Pennsylvania, Men have not, and cannot be induced by any consideration to accept of the Excise offices. In those counties there have been no riots nor threatening resolutions; but this arises from the perfect unanimity which subsists in the dislike to the Law.

Whatever method may be adopted to carry the law into effect, though I hope that riots will be prevented, yet the assistance of the people to support the officers, I presume, is not to be expected; and however extraordinary this opinion may appear, I can assure you, Sir, that it does not proceed from anti-federal principles, for the earliest and most zealous friends to the Government have, generally, been among those who have taken a lead, from the beginning, in expressing their disapprobation of the Excise.

It is my opinion that if those who are reputed to have the greatest influence in that country were to advocate the Law, instead of procuring a willing acquiescence, it would rather promote their determination against it.

Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured to gratify your well meant wishes for information respecting the Western Counties. But you will soon have an opportunity of more accurate Communications on that subject from the Members of the State Legislature.

Though Congress is fully vested with the Power of levying Excises, yet the necessity, the time, the subjects of Excise, and the People's prejudices respecting it, are questions of serious importance to government. For my own part, from a consideration of those things, I thought that power was about to be exercised prematurely and with an honest zeal for the sue" cess of the Government, exerted myself in my station to prevent it; but being once made, and its effects not experienced, I did not move last session for a repeal, but endeavoured to procure such alterations as I conceived would have had a tendency to give it effect. The industry and zeal with which, in all my correspondence, I have endeavoured to promote a regular line of conduct among the people, has been such as will never occasion me to blush; but that I should in the present situation of things, undertake to advise the people to go on with dis- [44] tilling and pay the Excise, would be lost Labour. Thus far, however, I freely declare, that I shall certainly continue to use what influence I have to direct the opposition into a regular and orderly channel. And this, I presume, is all that is contemplated by the mass of the People.

I am, Sir, with great respect, your Excellencies
Most obedient and very humble serv't,

Governor MIFFLIN.


PHILAD'A, December 7, 1792.
While, however, I deliver this short but just encomium upon the nature of our federal compact, and acknowledge with ardor, that the voice of the people can alone give a legitimate existence to government, permit me, gentlemen, to take this public opportunity of adding a truth equally manifest and important—that obedience to the regular exercise of constitutional authority can alone render a free government beneficial and permanent. In granting the power to legislate, the people virtually engage that acts of legislation shall be held sacred; the constitution and the laws made under it are, therefore, alike the evidence of the public will, tho' expressed by different organs;

*Thomas Mifflin was born in Philadelphia, in 1744, of Quaker parentage. On the completion of his education in the Philadelphia College, he entered a counting house. He visited Europe in 1765, and returning, entered into mercantile pursuits. In 1772 he was chosen to the Assembly, from Philadelphia, and in 1774 a delegate to the first Continental Congress. He was appointed Major of one of the first Pennsylvania battalions, accompanied Washington to Cambridge as an aid-de-camp, in August was made quarter-master General, shortly afterwards Adjutant General, brigadier General March 16th, 1776, and Major General Feb. 19, 1777. He commanded the covering party during the retreat from Long Island. After the battle of German town he resigned his position in the army. In 1782, was elected a delegate to Congress, of which body he was president in 1783. He was member and Speaker of the Legislature in 1785, a delegate to the convention to frame the Federal Constitution in 1787, President of the Supreme Executive Council from Oct., 1788, to Dec, 1790, President of the Convention which framed the Constitution of 1790, Governor of the State from 1790 to 1799, and died at Lancaster, January 21, 1800, while serving as a member of the Legislature.

[45] and every unauthorized opposition to either must be considered, in effect, as a raising of the hand in contradiction to the tongue. I am persuaded that, uniting with me in lamenting the existence of any cause which can lead to observations of this kind, you will peruse, with pain, a communication which the President of the United States has made, and the copy of the proclamation issued by him, in consequence of certain irregular and refractory preceedings that have taken place in particular parts of some of the States, contravening the operation of the acts of Congress for raising a revenue upon spirits distilled within the territory of the Union. As far as it is in my power, I have cheerfully endeavoured to promote the object of the measure which the President has pursued on this occasion; and, indeed, I shall always deem it as an honorable and pleasing part of the duties of my office, to inculcate a strict and faithful attention to our federal obligations; for I am sensible that the jurisdictions of the State and of the general government, tho' distinct, are not adverse; and that their interests, through whatever channels they may pass, must forever be the same. But in making an enquiry how far the citizens of Pennsylvania have been concerned in any riotous or violent opposition, it is just to observe that I have found the instances of outrage but few; that the offenders have generally been prosecuted, and that in every case of a prosecution legally supported conviction and punishment have ensued. The documents on which this information is founded (together with the various other papers to which I may refer) will be presented for your consideration; and while with great satisfaction I leave to the courts of justice the vindication of the laws from positive insult and infraction, I implicitly rely on the aid of your example and advice to allay the spirit of discontent, to cultivate the means of harmony, and to excite a merited confidence in the measures of the general government.

There are not wanting, gentlemen, strong and interesting motives for the suppression of domestic controversies. Since the settlement of America, so powerful and so hostile a combination of the Indian tribes has not appeared as that which now menaces the western frontiers of the United States. Whatever may have been the origin of the contest, the danger is common, and the common force of the union is necessary to the defence. It is the duty, therefore, and doubtless the desire of those who are engaged in the administration of the general government, to afford protection co-extensively with their jurisdiction; but still we are left to lament that Pennsylvania, from local circumstances, may occasionally become the seat of the war; and surely a tribute of sympathy is peculiarly due to such of our fellow [46] citizens as are constantly exposed to the ravages of a barbarous enemy. The provision which, under the influence of this sentiment, was made at the last session of the general assembly, for co-operating with the force of the Union in protecting our western frontier, was regarded as a salutary proof of legislative attention and liberality. Endeavoring, on my part, to give to the execution of the law a dispatch and effect corresponding with the design of the legislature, I appointed the officers of the three companies, and issued instructions for the proper enlistments, the very day on which the act was passed; and as a sufficient number of rifles could not immediately be procured to arm the corps, I borrowed from the Secretary of War a temporary supply of muskets, to be delivered from the magazine of the United States, in Pittsburgh, authorizing, at the same time, an allowance to be made to every man who should bring his own rifle into the service.


CARLISLE, 10th Decem'r, 1792.
SIR:—I received your letter of the 5th of October, inclosing the Proclamation of the President, respecting the proceedings contravening the Laws for raising a revenue from spirits distilled within the United States. I did not think it necessary, merely to acknowledge the receipt, till I could inform you what I had done in consequence of it.

I take it for granted that you did me the honour of writing to me, rather from your warm attention to the welfare of this State, in particular, and of the United States, than from any apprehension that I am not fully convinced of the necessity of inculcating on the minds of the people, the indispensable duty of obedience to the constitutional Laws of the Union and of this State. So firmly convinced am I that the lasting happiness of the people in every State, and the duration of our Union, de-

*Thomas Smith was a native of Scotland. An emigrant to America at an early age, and a lawyer by profession. He was appointed Deputy Surveyor, February 9, 1769, and established himself at Bedford. He was prothonotary, clerk of the sessions and recorder of Bedford county, Colonel of the militia in the Revolution, member of the Convention of 1776, member of the State Legislature, member of the Old Congress 1780-2, president judge of the judicial district of Cumberland, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Bedford and Franklin counties 1791-4, judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania 1794-1809. He died at Bedford, June, 1809,

[47] pend essentially, on a due obedience to the Laws, especially in this early period of our national existence, that I should have been guilty of a criminal inattention and disregard to both, had I not, on every proper occasion, since my appointment to my present office, inculcated this duty as indispensable, without the performance of which, our liberties cannot be preserved. Under this impression, I have hitherto acted according to the best of my judgment and abilities.

I had nearly finished writing the introduction to the technical part of my charge to the Grand Jury, for the November Term when I received your letter; although I had anticipated, in substance, your recommendation in that, and in every other charge which I have hitherto given, yet I was led by duty, and perhaps by a little vanity, to introduce an extract from that letter; because the sentiments of the President of the United States, and those of the Governor of this State, coinciding with those I had delivered, would give mine a weight which would claim much greater attention from those to whom they had been addressed, and from the good people in the circuit in general, than of themselves, they would deserve. I also esteem it not a little honourable to myself, in having anticipated the sentiments of two such distinguished characters, one of whom deservedly enjoys the confidence of the People throughout the Union, and the other, that of the citizens of Pennsylvania.

By the appointment of Dr. Armstrong to Congress, I shall lose a valuable associate in Mifflin county; possessing firmness, honour and strict integrity, invested with a sound judgment,he contributed not a little to restore and preserve peace and good order in that county. I am afraid it will be difficult for you to appoint another of equal worth to succeed him. I have heard Col. Patton mentioned; I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with the Gentleman, but from the character which I have uniformly heard of him, I could not wish a better man. I presume you know his character—he was Vendue Master for the City for several years—he is now erecting Iron-works on Spring Creek, about 35 Miles, I suppose, N. or N. W. from the County Town. I did not inquire how long he has resided there.

Messrs. Brown and Bryson, (which last appears altered for the better, as you told me,) speaking to me on this subject, after the Court adjourned, and Dr. Armstrong was gone home, mentioned Mr. Gregg, now a Justice of the Peace, residing in Lewistown. Mr Patton did not then occur to me, nor, I presume to them; I am no more acquainted with Mr. Gregg than with Mr. Patton, my two associates represented him to be a man of a good character and understanding, and his deportment seems to correspond with their representations. I take it for granted that he [48] is esteemed a man of integrity also, as he is very generally chosen as a referee, in which capacity I am well satisfied with his decisions.

The associate judges above named, told me that one Mr. Bratton, (I think his name is John,) had been mentioned also, they mention him as a man of understanding, but that if Dr. Armstrong has acquired credit for his good conduct in preserving the peace of the county, Mr. Bratton would not be a proper successor to him. It seems he was a principal fomenter of the disturbances, which at one time seemed so serious, between Huntingdon and Mifflin Counties. I never saw him, to my knowledge, till the last Court, when he was Foreman of the Grand Jury, his conduct there was perfectly conformable to the character which I had heard of him before. A bill was sent up against the son of one of the Grand Jury, they sent a note to the Court desiring that a person might be sworn as a witness; the Court sent D. Watt, Esq., who prosecuted in the absence, on account of sickness, of Mr. Clark, to the jury, to inquire if it was a legal witness. Mr. Watt reported that he was not; I understood he was suspected to be an accomplice; but, without the knowledge of the Court, the Grand Jury had him sworn and examined, the Bill was returned Ignoramus. The Justice who had bound him over and was on the Grand Jury, told me, as he rode with me part of the way to Huntingdon, that he and others of the Grand Jury, argued in vain with a quorum against those proceedings. They also received extra judicial affidavits, and made presentments in consequence of them, of matters not presentable, in which, it appeared by the conduct of the Foreman, when the Jury returned them, that he had been active. That this was done to acquire popularity among the ignorant and disorderly part of the people, was evident, and I take it for granted, with a view to succeed Dr. Armstrong. I desired the Clerk of the Sessions to send me copies of the presentments and affidavits, against my return from the circuit, in order that I might have transmitted them to you, but this he has not yet done.

As I have no person to propose, and have not the least personal acquaintance with any of the Gentlemen whom I have heard mentioned, it is evident that I cannot be influenced by personal motives on this occasion.

I have the honour to be, with much respect, Sir,
your most obedient and very humble servant,

P. S.—I herewith Send an extract from my charge which will be published in our Wednesday's Paper.


PHILADELPHIA, March 21st, 1794.
SIR:—In the present state of our National affairs, relatively to the Belligerent powers of Europe, I think it my duty to call the attention of the Officers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the prospect of such events as cannot fail to interest the patriotism of every good Citizen, and which, if not happily averted, will, I anxiously hope, produce that unanimity of sentiment and conduct among the people that is obviously essential to give energy and success to the exertions of a Republican Government, created by their will and only to be supported by their confidence.

The station which you fill affords you a favorable opportunity to inculcate and promote those principles of order and harmony on which our social happiness depends, and of attachment to the Constitution and Laws on which our political prosperity must be raised. And I am persuaded, that, acting upon this intimation with becoming zeal and discretion, your Country will have occasion to rejoice in the influence which your example and advice shall obtain over our Fellow-Citizens who inhabit the County in which you reside.

You will readily perceive, Sir, that the objects of peculiar moment at this critical period are to ensure obedience to the Laws of that Government which is immediately intrusted with the National defence, and to establish the Militia of the State upon a respectable and efficient footing. Let me request, therefore, that, according to your official avocations or personal influence, you will attend to those objects, and let it be deeply impressed on the minds of our Fellow-Citizens that, on the one hand,every irregular and illegal opposition to existing laws will not only embarrass the operations of Government, but eventually undermine the only real security for the liberty and property of individuals. And that, on the other hand, to neglect the natural and safe resource of a free people for the purpose of protecting themselves and of repelling the injuries offered to their rights, is virtually to invite the use of those artificial expedients which have been fatal, and must ever be dangerous to Republican Freedom and Independence.

The disposition that has appeared in some of the Counties to resist and counteract the execution of the Excise Law of Congress will attract particular notice. Whatever diversity of opinion [50] may arise as to the policy of imposing that tax, the propriety of acquiescing in it, while sanctioned by the Legislative authority cannot be controverted by any friend to the peace and happiness of his Country. The same Constitution which gave the power to lay a tax has designated the mode in which original impolicy or oppressive operation may be represented to that tribunal which can, and in a case of real grievance, is bound to grant redress. As Freemen let us always remonstrate against actual wrongs, but as Citizens let us always obey existing Laws.

Relying upon your assistance to promote the design of this letter, and assuring you that I shall receive with pleasure any communication upon the subject to which it relates,

I am, Sir,
Your most obed. serv.,

To the Judges of the Sup. Co't, Pres't and Ass. Judges of Com. pleas, Proth's, Majors Gen'l, Brigs. Gen'l and Brigade Insp'rs of Militia of the Several Counties in the State.


WASHINGTON, 31st March, 1794.
SIR:—The circular letter of the 21st of this month, addressed by you to the officers of this State, came to my hand yesterday.

Your zeal, no less constant than laudable, to render the sovereignty of our nation respectable and respected, both by other nations and our own citizens, is one of those virtues which rise in and adorn a publick station. May I not therefore indulge a hope, from which I trust the sanction of those who best know and judge my motives, and my conduct, will never be withdrawn, that, according to my limited circle of duty, I am actuated by a portion of the same spirit.

Those events which you suggest, in prospect so alarming, in existence so cruel, there are yet times in which a nation, in whom any sense of safety, of duty or of honour remains, must view with confidence, bear with courage, and dispel with energy. Can we doubt that to us those times are arrived, when every passion that can actuate a free, a commercial and a generous nation, is impudently insulted and menaced with destruction, and when dear and gallant brethren in Europe, on whose fate our conduct may have some, however little, influence, are labouring and in danger for those principles which conducted us to independence, and must preserve us in it? Dearly as every rational man must prize peace, and the world is convinced that [51] we have prized it as we ought, we are and have been long justifiable in abandoning this delusive neutrality, which only ties our hands, that our enemy may securely bleed us to death.

However dreadful may be the prospect of war, if no other redress remains for our injuries, the people of this country are, I am persuaded, prepared for its encounter; nor will they, I take upon me to say, shrink from its burdens, and if the payment of the Excise, odious and unequal as this revenue is, be necessary for its support, this payment, thus become, the price of our independence, and the fruit of our duty, will, I trust, be made cheerfully and honestly.

Your particular notice of the resistance made to the collection of this revenue, and your concluding request of communication on the subject of your letter, induce me to say a few words on this head. With respect to my own conduct, I have nothing to add to what I have formerly stated to you. Nothing of a criminal nature and of this kind has since that time come within my cognisance, except we consider, in this view, the conviction of Samuel Wilson, and the submission of the other rioters in Allegheny county, whom I formerly mentioned to you in private conversation. I have endeavoured to inculcate that constitutional resistance, which alone is justifiable in a free people. The Constitution, however, ordaining an equal excise, renders it impossible to make this equal tax in the estimation of the people of this country. Were I to express an opinion, I would say, that if the collection of the excise were in proper hands, it might now be made. But it seems to be intrusted to men without spirit or discretion, and in whose principles the people have»no confidence. They seem tamely content with the enjoyments of their appointments, or, if they have discovered any acts of decision and vigour, it is, I conceive, in unlawful and oppressive stretches of authority, and in the commission of tress-passes.

John Bell, of whose conviction, sentence, escape and recapture, I have before acquainted you, is still in jail in irons and in so miserable a condition, that I should suppose an intimation, even of his execution, could hardly be unwelcome. I take the liberty of re-calling your attention to his case and also to the request, which I made to you through Mr. Dallas, that the hundred dollars, advertised for his re-taking, might be paid by you as part of the contingent expences of government.

I am, Sir, with much respect,
Your Most Obed't Serv't,


CHESTER COUNTY, April 10th, 1794.
SIR:—Yours of the 28th of March last gives me great satisfaction, by endeavoring to procure and promote harmony and Unanimity among the Citizens of this and the United States to excite patriotism, and induce an attachment to the Constitution and Laws thereof, in order to Establish and perpetuate our political prosperity and Happiness, under the existing republican Government at the present critical Period; and I am happy to inform you that since I have had the honour of an appointment as a Judge of the Courts of this County, there hath been but one prosecution for an Offence against the Laws of the United States, and that for opposing the collection of the revenue on home-made distilled spirituous liquors, on which a conviction took place and a heavy fine laid in order to deter and prevent any future attempts of a similar nature, either in complexion or consequence, one of whom was fined fifty pounds, who I am informed is poor with a family of small children, who perhaps may suffer more than the real offender, altho' already I apprehend, fully convinced of his malconduct and cheerfully submits to the Law, and perhaps the Executive of the United States will yet approve of a remission of his fine, as that could not have been the object of the law at its passing, were they satisfied that such Ideas of opposition and resistance were abandoned, which I hope is the case, knowing, or at least believing, they did not originate in this County, and men (perhaps in an exalted State) who matured & diffused the design have been so wary, or so fortunate, as to escape even publick censure. I fully concur in opinion with you that it is the Interest, as well as duty, of the Citizens of this and the United States to maintain, support and Carry into Execution all their Laws, however injurious, or oppressive they may be in Imagination,rather than suggest a forcible opposition,as our Existance as a Nation depends solely on our obedience to the Ordinances of the United States in Congress Assembled. I am happy to add that an approbation of the Government of this State and of the United States is abundantly evident from the established Integrity, Industry, Increase of property and general declarations of the Citizens of this County,so far as my Observations have extended.

And am, with respect & esteem,
Your Assur'd fr'd,

THOMAS MIFFLIN , Governour, Pennsylvania.


WASH'N, 12th May, 1794.
SIR:—My last letter to you was intended merely as an answer to your circular letter of 21st March, and was drawn from me by an idea that it was proper for me to notice, according to my sentiments, the different subjects of your letter. Had I supposed that it was to claim the attention of the President, to assume the solemn form of an accusation, and to be subjected to the resentment of a subordinate officer of notorious unfriendly affections, I should certainly have expressed myself with greater caution, and in terms less general. The intimation which I have lately received of this I must submit to you as my apology for troubling you with a few explanatory remarks, and as my reason for requesting, that you will lay this letter also before the President.

There are, so far as I have understood, but two Collectors of Excise in the four counties of Pennsylvania on this side of the mountains. Benjamin Wells, of Fayette county, is collector for the counties of Westmoreland and Fayette. Robert Johnston, of Allegheny county, is collector for the counties of Washington and Allegheny. I know not of any office of Inspection either in Westmoreland or Washington.

Robert Johnston, so far as I have learnt of him, is an honest man,of good character; but more remarkable for simplicity, good nature, and inoffensive manners, than for those qualities of spirit, understanding, skill and address, which are necessary for carrying into execution a law odious and opposed, where he is charged with its execution.

Benjamin Wells, so far as I have ever heard him spoken of is a contemptible and unworthy man, whom, I believe, the people of this country would never wish to see in any office or trust with an object of any importance.

So much as to my opinion of the men. I shall now add something as to my opinion of the things stated in my letter respecting the Excise.

At last March Court, in Fayette county, in a publick company at dinner, in the tavern where I lodged, some of the most respectable gentlemen of that county, and most strenuously opposed to the Excise law, proposed that a meeting of the inhabitants of that county should be called, in which it should be agreed that they would all enter their stills, provided Benjamin Wells was removed from office, and some honest and reputable man appointed in his stead. I will not say that these are the words, but I know it is the amount of the conversation.

[54] With respect to Trespasses committed by the Excise officers, I alluded to seisures of whisky in transportation from one place to another, for want of marks and certificates, when it was notorious that the whisky seised had been distilled from domestick materials in a country place; and when such whisky is not subjected to the regulation of marks and certificates, nor seisable in transportation, I therefore considered all such seisures as unwarranted by law, and of course trespasses.

You have now the grounds of my sentiments. If I erred it was an error of opinion, not a wilful misrepresentation, twill add also, that if it is an error, which I yet entertain with a confidence which I have discovered no reason to shake.

I am, Sir, Your most obed't Serv't,


PHILADELPHIA, 18th April, 1794.
SIR:—In answer to a circular letter, which I have addressed to the officers of this Comm'th, enjoining among other things, an implicit obedience to the laws of the Union, I have received a variety of communications of a very patriotic and satisfactory nature, and the inclosed extracts from the letters of Judge Addison and Mr. Reddick, (the Prothonotary of the County of Washington,) relatively to the excise, appear to me to contain information of sufficient moment to excuse my submitting them to your consideration.

I am with perfect respect, Sir,
Your most Obed't Serv't,

To the President of the United States.


PHILAD'A, 24th May, 1794.
D'R SIR:—I have just time to acknowledge, on behalf of the Governor, the receipt of your letter of the 12th current, and to express his regret that any use should be made of the extract, which he communicated to the President, that could give you pain. The truth is, that such general dissatisfaction has been [55] expressed with respect to Wells, that for the sake of the western counties, as well as for the sake of the General Government, it was thought advisable to transmit all the information that could be collected on the subject, to the President; and the extract from your letter (the sentiments and expression of which certainly do you honor) made a part of the documents. The Governor did not expect that your name, or your opinion, would be put into the power of any person who was not entitled to a confidential trust; and he will readily comply with your request in laying the explanatory letter, likewise, before the President.

I am, &c.,
A. J. DALLAS, Sec.



SIR:—As attempts have been made to raise an armed force to disturb the peace of this County and prevent the due Execution of the Laws, and an attack has been premeditated to be made on the Town of Greensburgh, we have thought proper to address you as the Commanding Officer of the Militia on a subject so distressing to the minds of all Well disposed Citizens. If such proceedings are not checked in their first Career, it is more easy to imagine than to point out the Calamities which may be the Consequence. We would be happy to have it in our power to say that the disposition to submit to the Laws was so prevalent that any extraordinary exertion of Government for that purpose and protecting well disposed Citizens in the Enjoyment of their Rights and Liberties was unnecessary. Recent examples convince us to the Contrary. Untill that protection can be afforded, we are of opinion that besides Voluntary associations among such as are well inclined, a Small corps of Militia Volunteers, embodied by your direction, to be kept in service so long as you shall judge the exigency of the case may require, will Essentially contribute to maintain the peace, and under the Civil authority to assist in Suppressing Riots and traitorous designs. From the tenor and sentiments manifested by the Executive, we make no doubt that your Conduct in Calling such a body of men into service for a short time will meet with the most unequivocal approbation, and the Expense be Defrayed out of the publick Treasury. We add to this our personal assurance of your being [56] re-imbursed any expenses which may be incurred by you as to the pay and Rations of the officers and men whom you may think proper to call out for the Salutary purposes above mentioned.

We are, Sir, your Humble Serv'ts,


PHILADELPHIA, 27th May, 1794.
SIR:—In compliance with the request of Judge Addison, I have the honor to transmit to you a copy of his letter, dated the 12th current, in explanation of the extract communicated to you on the 18th of April last, relative to the collection of the Excise in the western Counties. As it appears that the information which he enabled me to lay before you, has been used in a way that was not intended, justice requires, that the foundation of his opinions should be clearly understood.

I have the honor to be,
With perfect respect, Sir,
Your Excellency's
Most Obed't, H'ble Serv't

To the President of the United States.


SIR:—The Governor directs me to acknowledge the receipt of the application, dated the 3d instant, on behalf of yourself and a Company of 48 persons, to be employed as volunteers in the detachment ordered to be held in readiness to march, agreeably to the President's late requisition. If the Company is formed and organized according to law, your offer will be cheerfully accepted; but it is necessary, that on that subject, a report should be made by the Brigade Inspector of Bedford County to the Adjutant General. You will, therefore, be pleased to address yourself to that officer, who has general instructions to accept such propositions, whenever it can lawfully be done.

I am Sir,
Your Most Obed't Serv't,
A. J. DALLAS, Sec'y.

To Mr. JACOB HERBOUGH, Milford township, Bedford Co.

* Alexander James Dallas was born on the Island of Jamaica, June 21, 1759. He was the son of a Scotch physician, and was educated at Edinburgh and Westminster. He emigrated to America in 1783, and settled in Philadelphia. In July, 1785, he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court. In January, 1791, he was appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth by Governor Mifflin, and served throughout that administration. He was constituted paymaster general of the expedition to western Pennsylvania 1794. In 1801 President Jefferson appointed him United States Attorney for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania. In 1814 he was made Secretary of the United States Treasury, which he resigned in 1817. He published "Features of Jay's Treaty," 1795; "Speeches on the Trial of Blount;" "Laws of Pennsylvania," with notes; Reports, 4 vols., 1806-7; "Treasury Reports;" "Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War of 1812, 1815," &c, He died at Trenton, N. J., January 16, 1817.


PITTSBURGH, July 4th, 1794.
SIR:—I have the honor of receiving your Excellency's letter of the 27th ulto., with the enclosures. Nothing material has happened since my last, in which I referred you to General Wilkins' letter for the News. We are hourly expecting to hear from Capt. Denny and Mr. Ellicot, from LeBoeuf, of which I shall give you the earliest information. Since my last letter to you, I have been at Washington, and have communicated the contents of your letters to me, to the principal Inhabitants of that and the other Counties. They most heartily approve of your Conduct and the Measures that have Been taken.

I have the honour to be, with respect, your Excellency's most obedient, humble servant,



PITTSBURGH, July 18th, 1794.
SIR:—I am sorry to have to inform your Excellency that a civil War has taken place in this County, Major Lenox, the

* John Gibson was born at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May 23, 1740. He received a classical education. At the age of eighteen he accompanied Gen. Forbes' expedition, which took Fort Duquesne. Settling at Fort Pitt as an Indian trader at the peace, he was subsequently taken prisoner by the Indians, and was saved from burning at the stake by an aged squaw, who adopted him in place of her son who had been slain in battle. He remained with the Indians a number of years. At the close of hostilities he again settled at Fort Pitt. In 1774 he assisted in negotiating the peace which followed Dunmore's expedition to the Shawnee towns. At the outset of the Revolution he was appointed to the command of a Continental regiment, where he served with the army in New York, and in the retreat through the Jerseys. During the latter years of the war he was in command of the western frontier. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1790, and subsequently a judge of the court of common pleas, of Allegheny county. He was Major General of the militia during the insurrection. In 1800 he was appointed by President Jefferson Secretary of Indiana, which office he held until it became a State, and was acting governor in 1811-13. He died at Braddock's Field, near Pittsburgh, April 10, 1822.

[59] Marshall of the Federal Court, in company with Gen'l Neville, served some processes on persons in this County on tuesday last. On the day following, at day-light, 100 men attacked Gen'l Neville's house, in which there was only the Gen'l and another man with the family; the Gen'l defended himself for an hour or Better against them, he wounded one of the party mortally, and three others badly, no person in the house received any damage. On his application to Major Butler he sent out Twenty of the federal troops of the Garrison to protect him. Yesterday another party of Five hundred men from the upper part of this County and Washington collected together, and about 6 o'clock in the afternoon made a second attack on Gen'l Neville's house; luckily the General made his Escape a few minutes Before they Surrounded the house; previous to the attack they sent in a flag to inform Gen'l Neville that if he would resign* his commission and Give up his papers they would not injure him. Major Kirkpatrick who remained in the house with his Sister-in-Law, Mrs. Neville, returned an answer informing them that General Neville was not in the house. But this they would not Believe, and after permitting Mrs. Neville and the females of the family to retire, they commenced an attack on the house which was Returned from the Soldiers in the house, When Four of the Rioters were killed and a number Wounded, and three of the Soldiers in the house were wounded. The party in the house then gave up and the rioters Burnt the dwelling house, Barn and all the out houses and everything in them. Among those killed was a Capt., James MacFarland, formerly an officer in the Pen's Line. Time will not permit me to give you a more particular detail of this Unhappy Business. Gen'l Neville has transmitted to the Executive of the United States a full account. I am sorry to find this Unhappy disposition prevails too generally in our Country, and God only knows where it will End.

This moment an Express arrived here from the Commanding officer at Fort Franklin to Major Butler at this place, inclosing a Copy of a Speech from Cornplanter to Gen'l Chapin, to be delivered by him to Gen'l Washington, the purport of which is, that unless the Lands which they had formerly pointed out on the map were given up, they would Be obliged to take them. The Commanding officer in his letter Mentions that the Corn, planter's Nephew, who had Brought the Speech, had convened the Indians at Fort Franklin in an open field; that they held a Council, the purport of which he could not learn, But he thinks from the terrible change in the Behaviour of the Indians it was hostile, as they have all withdrawn. He expects every moment when Hostilities will be commenced by them.

I shall use my utmost Exertions to protect the frontiers, and [60] hope to be able to draw out a Sufficient number of Militia if necessity requires. I still hope the country will unite against our Common Enemy.

The post is waiting, I must Beg you will Excuse this Scrawl,

Being with much respect,
Your Excellency's Most obd't humble Serv't,



In my house at Bower Hill, on Chartiers creek, which was attacked, plundered and burnt, by the rioters on Thursday evening last, were four thousand six hundred and eleven dollars and sixty cents, funded debt of the United States, in my own name, in two certificates, viz: No. 775 for 3,631 dollars 21 cents, 6 per cents., and No 603, for 980 dollars 43 cents, 3 per cents. This is to caution the public, least they may be offered for sale with forged powers of conveyance; interest is stopped at the bank and every legal measure taken to prevent imposition. If they are fallen into the hands of an honest man, he can return them to Col. Presly Neville, in Pittsburgh. I also caution the public not to receive assignments on any bonds or notes to me, as they are in the same situation.

July 20, 1794.

*John Neville was born on the head waters of the Occoquan, Virginia, July 26, 1731. He was an officer in the Virginia troops, under the ill-fated Braddock. In 1774 he was a delegate to the Provincial convention of Virginia. He was colonel of the Fourth Virginia regiment in the Revolution, serving with distinction at Trenton, Princeton, Germantown and Monmouth. After the war he settled in Pennsylvania, and was elected a member of the Supreme Executive Council. He was subsequently appointed, by the President of the United States, Inspector of Revenue for the western counties. It was his residence which was destroyed by the opponents of the Excise. He was a gallant soldier, and a dutiful citizen. He died at Montour's Island, near Pittsburgh, July 29, 1803.


PITTSBURGH, July 20, 1794.
Finding the opposition to the revenue law more violent than I expected, regretting the mischief that has been done, and may from the continuation of measures,—feeling the opposition changed from dignified rabble to a respectable party, think it my duty and do resign my commission.



I am under the necessity of requesting you to put the following in your next paper. It was found pasted on a tree, near my distillery.


July 23, 1794.


In taking a survey of the troops under my direction in the late expedition against that insolent exciseman, John Neville, I find there were a great many delinquents, even among those who carry on distilling. It will, therefore, be observed that I, Tom the Tinker, will not suffer any certain class or set of men to be excluded the service of this my district, when notified to attend on any expedition carried on in order to obstruct the execution of the excise law, and obtain a repeal thereof.

And I do declare on my solemn word, that if such delinquents do not come forth on the next alarm, with equipments, and give their assistance as much as in them lies, in opposing the execution and obtaining a repeal of the excise law, he or they will be deemed as enemies and stand opposed to virtuous principles of republican liberty, and shall receive punishment according to the nature of the offense.

And whereas, a certain John Reed, now resident in Washington, and being at his place near Pittsburgh, called Reedsburgh, and having a set of stills employed at said Reedsburgh, entered on the excise docket, contrary to the will and good pleasure of his fellow citizens, and came not forth to assist in the suppression of the execution of said law, by aiding and assisting in the late expedition, have, by delinquency, manifested his approbation

[62] to the execution of the aforesaid law, is hereby charged forthwith to cause the contents of this paper, without adding or diminishing, to be published in the Pittsburgh Gazette, the ensuing week, under the no less penalty than the consumption of his distillery.

Given under my hand, this 19th day of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four.



WASHINGTON, 24th July, 1794.
D'R SIR:—I would recommend that the most pressing instructions be forwarded to the Attornies for the state in the Western Counties, to procure testimony by subpoenaing & recognising witnesses, &c., & to prefer indictments against those who may be discovered as engaged in the riots. All good men will certainly assist the publick authority on so pressing occasion, and this appears to me to be the best method of exerting the publick force.


Circular letters also to all magistrates, &c.


July 25, 1794.
SIR:—I have the honor of transmitting for your information, extracts from letters written by Major Thomas Butler and Major Isaac Craig, dated at Pittsburgh the 18th instant, containing some information of an alarming outrage committed near that place by a large body of Men in Arms.

It may be proper at this time, not to make public the names of the writers or the circumstances by which they may be known.

I have the honor to be,
with great respect,
Your obed't Servant,
H. KNOX, Sec'y of War.

His Excellency Governor MIFFLIN.


PITTSBURGH, 18 July, 1794.
SIR:—About day-break, in the morning of the 16th instant, a number of armed men attacked General Nevill's house, he himself only defending it; he, however, dispersed the party having wounded six or seven, one of whom it is said mortally. And yesterday a large number of armed men amounting, it is said, to seven hundred, assembled & attacked his house, defended only by himself. Major Kirkpatrick and ten soldiers. During the attack General Nevil seeing it impossible to defend the house against such numbers, took an opportunity of escaping and concealing himself in a Thicket. Major Kirkpatrick continued to defend the house till one of his men was killed & four wounded, having killed two & wounded several of the insurgents. As soon the Major surrendered, the enemy set fire to the house which is consumed to ashes, with all the property it contained, not a single article saved, only the clothing the family had on when escaped during the attack; previous to burning the house they had set fire to the barn, stable, kitchen & Granary which were also consumed with their contents, amongst which were several valuable horses & a large quantity of grain.

Major Lenox, Colo., Nevil, myself & two others in attempting to get into the house, with a supply of ammunition, were made prisoners, disarmed and confined till the action was over & then carried several miles to their rendezvous; treated Major Lenox with the utmost indignity and all of us with insult; the night I was happy enough to make my escape and to find General Nevil and to escort him to my house where he now is. I have not yet slept since my return & feel very unwell. I have the honor to remain,

Your Obed't serv't,


FORT FAYETTE, July 18, 1794.
SIR:—I feel extreme pain in communicating to you the lawless and disorderly state of this western country at this period.

The deluded inhabitants are stimulated by designing men to oppose the law of the United States with respect to the excise, and have so far succeeded as to assemble numbers with arms [64] to intimidate the officers. On the morning of the 15th instant, one hundred and fifty of these deluded people assembled round the dwelling house of General John Neville, the Excise officer for the western district. On his asking what they wanted by surrounding his house, they answered to take him a prisoner to Washington, and fired sundry shots through the windows where himself and family were. The general returned the fire and wounded five before the mob dispersed, after which the General wrote me a note requesting that I would send him a small guard for the protection of himself and family, which I complied with and sent a sergeant and twelve for that purpose until such time as the storm would blow over.

On the 17th, the deluded and rebellious people assembled from the counties of Allegheny and Washington to the number of seven or eight hundred men, armed, who surrounded General Neville's house a second time and commenced a fire on the General's friends and the guard, who defended themselves until the house was in flames, which obliged them to surrender. General Neville fortunately escaped before the insurgents had got quite round the house. They burned all his buildings of every description and all his fences.

The chief who commanded the banditti was killed and sundries wounded. I am sorry to add that the man killed was once an officer in the American army. McFarlane was his name which should be crazed from that list.

Three of the guards was wounded, none dangerous, and two missing, supposed to have gone off with the insurgents as they were not men of good characters.

I am, Sir, your obed't serv't,

* Thomas Butler was born in Pennsylvanian 1754. In 1776, while studying law with Judge Wilson, in Philadelphia, he joined the army as a subaltern, soon obtaining a company, was in almost every action in the Middle States during the Revolution, and was wounded. At Brandywine, September 11, 1777, he received the thanks of General Washington on the field of battle for his intrepidity in rallying his men, and at Monmouth the thanks of Wayne for defending a defile in the face of a heavy fire. In 1791 he was made a major commanding a battalion in Gibson's regiment, under St. Clair, at who defeat he was twice wounded. April 11, 1792, he was appointed major fourth sub-legion, Lieut. Col. commanding, July 1, 1794, and Col. of the Second infantry, April, 1802. During the insurrection he was in command at Port Fayette, Pittsburgh, and prevented the insurgents from taking it, more by his name than by his forces, for he had but few troops. He died at New Orleans, September 7, 1805.


PHILA., 25th July, 1794.
DEAR SIR:—Inclosed I transmit a copy of a letter from General Gibson, dated the 18th instant, containing information of an alarming riot committed in the County of Allegheny in opposition to the laws of the United States. Permit me, in the absence of the Governor, to suggest to you the propriety of pursuing some measures to ascertain, with legal formality, the circumstances of the offence and the names of the offenders. I know the Governor will be anxious to enforce every instrument that can be employed effectually to subdue the lawless spirit of the Rioters and to bring them to punishment. Perhaps you will think it expedient to request your Representatives in Allegheny and Washington Counties to attend to the subject; and, I am persuaded, they will find the Magistrates in that quarter, ready to co-operate with them in so important a business.

I am, sincerely y'rs,
A. J. DALLAS, Secretary.

To JARED INGERSOLL, esq'r, Attorney General of Pennsylvania.


PHILA, 25th July, 1794.
GENTLEMEN:—The Governor having received information that a daring and cruel, outrage has been committed in the County of Allegheny by a lawless body of armed men, who, among other enormities, attacked and destroyed the house of Gen'l Neville on the 17th instant, requests, in the most earnest manner, that you will exert all your influence and authority to suppress, within your jurisdiction, so pernicious and unwarrantable a spirit; that you will ascertain, with all possible dispatch, the circumstances of the offence; and that you will pursue, with the utmost vigilance, the lawful steps for bringing the offenders to justice. Every honest citizen must feel himself personally mortified at the conduct of the Rioters, which, particularly if it passes with impunity, is calculated to fix an indelible stigma on the honor and reputation of the State. To you, Gentlemen, the Governor resorts with confidence, and he [66] assures you of his warmest support and approbation, in the prosecution of every lawful measure, which your better knowledge of the facts and of other local circumstances may suggest on the occasion.

I am with sincere esteem, Gentlemen,
Your most obed. H'ble Serv't,
A. J. DALLAS, Secretary.

To the President & Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, To Every Justice of the peace, To the several Sheriffs and To the respective Brigade Inspectors of the Four Western Counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Allegheny.


PHILA., 25th July, 1794.
SIR:—Your letter of the 18th instant has been received, and on behalf of the Governor (who will be absent a few days) I beg leave to express the most serious regret at the unfortunate events which it describes. Relying upon the aid of every friend to peace and order for the suppression of so disgraceful and so unwarrantable a spirit of opposition to the laws, he will, I am confident, employ all the energy of our government to bring the offenders to an early and exemplary punishment. With that view, the Attorney General has already been requested to institute an enquiry into the circumstances of the outrage, and the names of the perpetrators; and you will excuse my intimating, that if the civil authority can be supported by the assistance of the militia, the exercise of your discretion for that purpose, upon the request of the Magistrates, must be highly agreeable to the Governor. It would, therefore, perhaps, be useful to confer with the Judges of your county on the subject.

I am, with sincere esteem,
Sir, Your most Obed. Serv.,
A. J. DALLAS, Secretary.

To GEN'L GIBSON, at Pittsburgh.


PHILA., 26th July, 1794.
SIR:—In consequence of the very disagreeable intelligence, which has been received, of the daring outrage lately committed [67] in Allegheny county, by a considerable body of armed men, measures have been taken, on behalf of the Executive of Pennsylvania, to suppress the lawless spirit of the Rioters, to ascertain the circumstances of the offence and to bring the offenders to justice; and, in the absence of the Governor, I think it my duty to communicate, for the information of the General Government, the official documents relating to those measures.

I am, Sir,
Your most obed. Serv.
A. J. DALLAS, Secretary.

To HENRY KNOX, Esqr., Secretary at War.


July 28th, 1794.
SIR:—Having had suspicions that the Pittsburgh post would carry with him the sentiments of some of the people in the country, respecting our present situation, and the letters by the post being now in our possession by which certain secrets are discovered hostile to our interest, it is therefore now come to that crisis, that every citizen must express his sentiments, not by his words, but by his actions. You are then called upon as a citizen of the western country to render your personal service, with as many volunteers as you can raise to rendezvous at your usual place of meeting on Wednesday next, and thence you will march to the usual place of rendezvous at Braddock's Field,* on the Monongahela, on Friday the first day of August next, to be there at two o'clock in the afternoon with arms and accoutrements in good order. If any volunteers shall want arms and ammunition bring them forward and they shall be supplied as well as possible. Here, Sir, is an expedition proposed in which you will have an opportunity of displaying your military talents and of rendering service to your country. Four days provisions will be wanted; let the men be thus supplied.

We are, (signed,)

To Col. ____.

* Braddock's Field was the place of the annual brigade muster or review. Each regiment previously assembled at its own rendezvous.

JULY 31, 1794.

At a meeting of the inhabitants of Pittsburgh, on Thursday evening, July 31st, 1794, to take into consideration the present situation of affairs, and declare their sentiments on this delicate crisis.

A great majority, almost the whole of the inhabitants of the town, assembled. It being announced to the meeting that certain gentlemen from the town of Washington had arrived, and had signified that they were intrusted with a message to the inhabitants of the town relative to present affairs, a committee of three persons were appointed to confer with them, and report the message to the meeting. The persons appointed were, George Wallace, H. H. Brackenridge and John Wilkins, Jr. These gentlemen made a report to the meeting, to wit: that in consequence of certain letters sent by the last mail, certain persons were discovered as advocates of the excise law, and enemies to the interests of the country, and that a certain Edward Day, James Brison and Abraham Kirkpatrick, were particularly obnoxious, and that it was expected by the country that they should be dismissed without delay; whereupon, it was resolved it should be so done, and a committee of twenty-one were appointed to see this resolution carried into effect.

Also, that, whereas it is a part of the message from the gentlemen of Washington, that a great body of the people of the country will meet to-morrow at Braddock's Field, in order to carry into effect measures that may seem to them advisable with respect to the excise law, and the advocates of it.

Resolved, That the above committee shall, at an early hour, wait upon the people on the ground, and assure the people that the above resolution, with respect to the proscribed persons, has been carried into effect.

Resolved, also, That the inhabitants of the town shall march out and join the people on Braddock's Field, as brethren, to carry into effect with them any measure that may seem to them advisable for the common cause.

Resolved, also, That we shall be watchful among ourselves of all characters that, by word or act, may be unfriendly to the common cause; and, when discovered, will not suffer them to live amongst us, but they shall instantly depart the town.

Resolved, That the town committee shall exist as a committee of information and correspondence, as an organ of our sentiments until our next town meeting. And that, whereas, a [69] general meeting of delegates from the townships of the country, on the west of the mountains, will beheld at Parkinson's Ferry, on the Monongahela, on the 14th of August next.

Resolved, That delegates shall be appointed to that meeting, and that the 9th August next be appointed for a town meeting to elect such delegates.

Resolved, also, That a number of handbills be struck off at the expense of the committee, and distributed among the inhabitants of the town, that they may conduct themselves accordingly.


PITTSBURGH, August 1, 1794.
D'R SIR:—The enclosed are two letters which were in the interrupted mail, & were returned into the post office. I have received no information as to Lebœuf, more than I have mentioned in these letters.

Our country is still in considerable confusion. The people are generally combined in their opposition to the excise law, & some of the most respectable people in the country are engaged in it. I hope government will adopt moderate measures to quiet the country. I cannot foresee the evil that will ensue if they do not. For God's sake, represent it to every person the bad effect that will result from violent measures on the part of government. I think if government would appoint commissioners to come out, enquire into the State of the country, & make arrangement for settling it in a peaceable manner, the happiest consequences would follow to this country. I cannot give you a detail of what has happened, nor the situation the country is in; but I still keep exerting myself, notwithstanding, to support the establishment at Leboeuf About two weeks ago I sent up a drove of 30 head of beef cattle, & I this day am about sending as many more.

The people engaged in the present opposition to government must not be considered as an inconsiderable mob; they are a respectable & powerful combination—this I remark to you, to show you how dreadful violent measures, on the part of the government, must appear, & what horrors every lover of peace in this country must feel, & to what danger they will be reduced, should an armed force be sent to enforce the law. I still am not without hope that moderate measures will bring about good effects, & the sending commissioners would be the best mode.

Am, D'r Sir, your Hum'e Serv't,


1. It is agreed that, if the President issues a Proclamation, and drafts the Militia, under the act of Congress, declaring a part of the State in rebellion or a state of insurrection, the Governor will be under the necessity of convening the Legislature.

2. It is agreed, that a Proclamation declaratory of the sentiments of the government, relative to the riots, should be published.

3. It is agreed, that the Chief Justice & Gen'l Wm. Irvine shall be requested to act as commissioners in addressing the inhabitants of the western counties on the subject of the late Riots.


PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 4th, 1794.
SIR:—From the evidence which has been laid before me, I hereby notify to you that in the counties of Washington and Allegheny, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the Marshall of that district.

I have the honor to be with the highest consideration and respect,
Your most obedient
And Humble Servant,

The President of the United States.

* James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born near St. Andrew's, Scotland, September 14, 1742. He was educated at Glasgow, St. Andrew's and Edinburgh. Emigrated to Philadelphia in 1766, where he was employed as tutor in the College. He studied law with John Dickinson, and was admitted in 1768. Practiced successively at Reading, Carlisle and Annapolis, returning to Philadelphia in 1778. He was a member of the Conventions of 1774 and 1775. He took his seat in Congress, May 10, 1775, and voted in favor of the Declaration of 1776. In 1782-3 and 1785-7 he was again a delegate; member of the United States Constitutional Convention and of the Pennsylvania Convention of 1790. In September, 1789, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving until his death, which occurred at Edenton, N. C., August 28, 1798. He published "Address to the citizens of Philadelphia," 1784, and with Chief Justice McKean, "Commentaries on the United States Constitution," 1792.


SIR:—The disagreeable crisis at which matters have lately arrived in some of the western counties of Pennsylvania, with regard to the laws laying duties on spirits distilled within the United States and on stills, seems to render proper a review of the circumstances which have attended those laws in that scene, from their commencement to the present time, and of the conduct which has hitherto been observed on the part of the Government, its motives and effect, in order to a better judgment of the measures necessary to be pursued in the existing emergency.

The opposition to those laws in the four most western counties of Pennsylvania, (Allegheny, Washington, Fayette and Westmoreland,) commenced as early as they were known to have been passed. It has continued, with different degrees of violence, in the different counties and different periods; but Washington, has uniformly distinguished its resistance by a more excessive spirit than has appeared in the other counties, and seems to have been chiefly instrumental in kindling and keeping alive the flame.

The opposition first manifested itself in the milder shape of the circulation of opinions unfavorable to the law, and calculated, by the influence of public dis-esteem, to discourage the accepting or holding of offices under it, or the complying with it by those who might be so disposed; to which was added a show of the discontinuance of the business of distilling.

These expedients were shortly after succeeded by private associations to forbear compliance with the law. But it was not long before these mere negative modes of opposition were perceived to be likely to prove ineffectual. And in proportion as this was the case, and as the means of introducing the laws into operation were put into execution, the disposition to resistance became more turbulent, and more inclined to adopt and practice violent expedients; the officers now began to experience marks of contempt and insult; threats against them became more frequent and loud, and after some time these threats were ripened into acts of ill-treatment and outrage.

These acts of violence were preceded by certain meetings of malcontent persons, who entered into resolutions calculated at once to confirm, inflame, and systematize the spirit of opposition.

[72] The first of these meetings was holden at a place called Redstone, (Old Fort,) on the 27th of July, 1791, where it was concerted that county committees should be convened in the four counties, at the respective seats of justice therein. On the 23d of August, following, one of these committees assembled in the county of Washington.

This meeting passed some intemperate resolutions, which were afterwards printed in the Pittsburgh Gazette, containing a strong censure on the law, declaring that any person who had accepted or might accept an office under Congress, in order to carry it into effect should be considered as inimical to the interests of the country; and recommending to the citizens of Washington county to treat every person who had accepted, or might thereafter accept, any such office, with contempt, and absolutely to refuse all kind of communication or intercourse with the officers, and to withhold from them all aid, support or comfort.

Not content with this vindictive proscription of those who might esteem it their duty, in the capacity of officers, to aid in the execution of the constitutional laws of the land, the meeting proceeded to accumulate topics of crimination of the Government, though foreign to each other; authorizing by this zeal for censure a suspicion that they were actuated not merely by the dislike of a particular law, but by a disposition to render the Government itself unpopular and odious.

This meeting, in further prosecution of their plan, deputed three of their members to meet delegates from the counties of Westmoreland, Fayette and Allegheny on the first Tuesday of September following, for the purpose of expressing the sense of the people of those counties in an address to the Legislature of the United States upon the subject of the excise law and other grievances.

Another meeting accordingly took place on the 7th of September, 1791, at Pittsburgh, in the county of Allegheny, at which there appeared persons in the character of delegates from the four western counties.

This meeting entered into resolutions more comprehensive in their objects, and not less inflammatory in their tendency than those which had before passed the meeting in Washington. Their resolutions contained severe censures, not only on the law which was the immediate subject of objection, but upon what they termed the exorbitant salaries of officers, the unreasonable interest of the public debt, the want of discrimination between original holders and transferees and the institution of a national bank. The same unfriendly temper towards the Government of the United States, which seemed to have led [73] out of their way the meeting at Washington, appears to have produced a similar wandering in that at Pittsburgh.

A representation to Congress, and a remonstrance to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, against the law more particularly complained of, were prepared by this meeting, published together with their other proceedings in the Pittsburgh Gazette, and afterwards presented to the respective bodies to whom they were addressed.

These meetings, composed of very influential individuals, and conducted without moderation or prudence are justly chargeable with the excesses which have been from time to time committed, serving to give consistency to an opposition which has at length matured to a point that threatens the foundations of the Government and of the Union, unless speedily and effectually subdued.

On the 6th of the same month of September, the opposition broke out in an act of violence upon the person and property of Robert Johnson, collector of the revenue for the counties of Allegheny and Washington.

A party of men, armed and disguised, way-laid him at a place on Pigeon creek, in Washington county, seized, tarred and feathered him, cut off his hair and deprived him of his horse, obliging him to travel on foot a considerable distance in that mortifying and painful situation.

The case was brought before the district court of Pennsylvania, out of which processes issued against John Robertson, John Hamilton and Thomas McComb, three of the persons concerned in the outrage.

The serving of these processes was confided by the then marshal, Clement Biddle, to his deputy, Joseph Fox, who, in the month of October, went into Allegheny county for the purpose of serving them.

The appearances and circumstances which Mr. Fox observed himself in the course of his journey, and learned afterwards upon his arrival at Pittsburgh, had the effect of deterring him from the service of the processes, and unfortunately led to adopt the injudicious and fruitless expedient of sending them to the parties by a private messenger, under cover.

The deputy's report to the marshal states a number of particulars, evincing a considerable fermentation in the part of the country to which he was sent, and inducing a belief, on his part, that he could not with safety have executed the processes. The marshal, transmitting this report to the district attorney, makes the following observations upon it: "I am sorry to add that he (the deputy) found the people, in general, in the western part of the State, particularly beyond the Allegheny moun- [74] tains, in such a ferment on account of the act of Congress, for laying a duty on distilled spirits, and so much opposed to the execution of the said act, and from a variety of threats to himself personally, (although he took the utmost precaution to conceal his errand,) that he was not only convinced of the impossibility of serving the process, but that any attempt to effect it would have occasioned the most violent opposition from the greater part of the inhabitants; and he declares that, if he had attempted it, he believes he should not have returned alive.

"I spared no expense or pains to have the process of the court executed, and have not the least doubt that my deputy would have accomplished it, if it could have been done."

The reality of the danger to the deputy was countenanced by the opinion of General Neville, the inspector of the revenue, a man who before had given, and since has given numerous proofs of a steady and firm temper; and what followed is a further confirmation of it.

The person who had been sent with the processes was seized, whipped, tarred and feathered; and, after having his money and horse taken from him was blindfolded and tied in the woods, in which condition he remained for five hours.

Very serious reflections naturally occurred upon this occasion. It seemed highly probable, from the issue of the experiment which had been made, that the ordinary course of civil process would be ineffectual for enforcing the execution of the law in the scene in question, and that a perseverance in this course might lead to a serious concussion. The law itself was still in the infancy of its operation, and far from established in other important portions of the Union. Prejudices against it had been industriously disseminated, misrepresentations diffused, misconceptions fostered. The Legislature of the United States had not yet organized the means by which the Executive could come in aid of the Judiciary, when found incompetent to the execution of the laws. If neither of these impediments to a decisive exertion had existed, it was desirable, especially in a republican government, to avoid what is in such cases the ultimate resort, till all the milder means had been tried without success.

Under the united influence of these considerations, it appeared advisable to forbear urging coercive measures until the laws had gone into more extensive operation, till further time for reflection and experience of its operation had served to correct false impressions and inspire greater moderation, and till the Legislature had had an opportunity, by a revision of the law, to remove as far as possible objections and to reinforce the provisions for securing its execution.

Other incidents occurred, from time to time, which are further [75] proofs of the very improper temper that prevailed among the inhabitants of the refractory counties.

Mr. Johnson was not the only officer who about the same period experienced outrage. Mr. Wells, collector of the revenue for Westmoreland and Fayette, was also ill-treated at Greensburg and Uniontown. Nor were the outrages perpetrated confined to the officers; they extended to private citizens who only dared to show their respect for the laws of their country.

Sometime in October, 1791, an unhappy man, of the name of Wilson, a stranger in the county and manifestly disordered in his intellects, imagining himself to be a collector of the revenue, or invested with some trust in relation to it, was so unlucky as to make inquiries concerning distillers who had entered their stills, giving out that he was to travel through the United States to ascertain and report to Congress the number of stills, &c. This man was pursued by a party in disguise, taken out of his bed, carried about five miles back to a smith's shop, stripped of his clothes, which were afterwards burnt, and having been himself inhumanly burnt in several places with a heated iron, was tarred and feathered and about day-light dismissed naked, wounded and otherwise in a very suffering condition. These particulars are communicated in a letter from the inspector of the revenue of the 17th of November, who declares that he had then himself seen the unfortunate maniac, the abuse of whom, as he expresses it, exceeded description and was sufficient to make human nature shudder. The affair is the more extraordinary, as persons of weight and considerations in that county are understood to have been actors in it, and as the symptoms of insanity were, during the whole time of inflicting the punishment, apparent; the unhappy sufferer displaying the heroic fortitude of a man who conceived himself to be a martyr to the discharge of some important duty. Not long after a person of the name of Roseberry underwent the humiliating punishment of tarring and feathering with some aggravations, for having in conversation hazarded the very natural and just, but unpalatable remark that the inhabitants of that county could not reasonably expect protection from a Government whose laws they so strenuously opposed.

The audacity of the perpetrators of these excesses was so great that an armed banditti ventured to seize and carry off two persons who were witnesses against the rioters in the case of Wilson in order to prevent their giving testimony of the riot to a court then sitting or about to sit.

Designs of personal violence against the inspector of the revenue himself, to force him to a resignation, were repeatedly at- [76] tempted to be put in execution by armed parties, but, by different circumstances, were frustrated.

In the session of Congress, which commenced in October, 1791, the law laying a duty on distilled spirits and stills came under the revision of Congress, as had been anticipated. By an act passed May 8, 1792, during that session, material alterations were made in it, among these, the duty was reduced to a rate so moderate, as to have silenced complaint on that head; and a new and very favorable alternative was given to the distiller—that of paying a monthly instead of a yearly rate, according to the capacity of his still, with liberty to take a license for the precise term which he should intend to work it, and to renew that license for a further term or terms.

This amending act, in its progress through the Legislature, engaged the particular attention of members, who themselves were interested in distilleries, and of others who represented parts of the country in which the business of distilling was extensively carried on.

Objections were well considered, and great pains taken to obviate all such as had the semblance of reasonableness.

The effect has, in a great measure, corresponded with the views of the Legislature. Opposition has subsided in several districts where it before prevailed, and it was natural to entertain, and not easy to abandon a hope, that the same thing would, by degrees have taken place in the four western counties of this State.

But notwithstanding some flattering appearance at particular junctures, and infinite pains, by various expedients, to produce the desirable issue, the hope entertained has never been realized, and is now at an end, as far as the ordinary means of executing laws are concerned.

The first law had left the number and positions of the officers of inspection, which were to be established in each district for receiving entries of stills, to the discretion of the supervisor. The second, to secure a due accommodation to distillers, provides, peremptorily, that there shall be ne in each county.

The idea was immediately embraced that it was a very important point in the scheme of opposition to the law, to prevent the establishment of offices in the respective counties.

For this purpose, the intimidation of well-disposed inhabitants was added to the plan of molesting and obstructing the officers, by force or otherwise, as might be necessary. So effectually was the first point carried, (the certain destruction of property and the peril of life being involved,) that it became almost impracticable to obtain suitable places for offices in some [77] of the counties, and when obtained, it was found a matter of necessity, in almost every instance, to abandon them.

After much effort, the inspectors of revenue succeeded in procuring the house of William Faulkner, a captain in the army, for an office of inspection in the county of Washington. This took place in August, 1792. The office was attended by the inspector of the revenue in person, till prevented by the following incidents:

Captain Faulkner, being in pursuit of some deserters from the troops, was encountered by a number of people in the same neighborhood where Mr. Johnson had been ill-treated the preceding year, who reproached him with letting his house for an office of inspection, drew a knife upon him, threatened to scalp him, tar and feather him and reduce his house and property to ashes if he did not solemnly promise to prevent the further use of his house for an office. Captain Faulkner was induced to make the promise exacted, and in consequence of the circumstance, wrote a letter to the inspector, dated the 20th of August, countermanding the permission for using his house, and the day following gave a public notice in the Pittsburgh Gazette that the office of inspector should be no longer kept there.

At the same time another engine of opposition was in operation. Agreeable to a previous notification, there met at Pittsburgh, on the 21st of August, a number of persons styling themselves: "A meeting of sundry inhabitants of the western counties of Pennsylvania."

This meeting entered into resolutions not less exceptionable than those of its predecessors. The preamble suggests that a tax on spirituous liquors is unjust in itself and oppressive upon the poor; that internal taxes upon consumption must, in the end, destroy the liberties of every country in which they are introduced; that the law in question, from certain local circumstances, which are specified, would bring immediate distress and ruin upon the western country, and concludes with the sentiment that they think it their duty to persist in remonstrances to Congress, and in every other legal measure that may obstruct the operation of the law.

The resolutions then proceed: first, to appoint a committee to prepare and cause to be presented to Congress an address stating objections to the law and praying for its repeal; secondly, to appoint committees of correspondence for Washington, Fayette and Allegheny, charged to correspond together and with such committees as should be appointed for the same purpose in the county of Westmoreland, or with any committees of a similar nature that might be appointed in other parts of the United States; and, also, if found necessary, to call together [78] either general meetings of the people in their respective counties or conferences of the several committees; and lastly, to declare that they will in future consider those who hold offices for the collection of the duty as unworthy of their friendship, that they will have no intercourse nor dealings with them, will withdraw from them every assistance, withhold all the comforts of life, which depend upon those duties that as men and fellow-citizens we owe to each other, and will upon all occasions treat them with contempt, earnestly recommending it to the people at large to follow the name line of conduct towards them.

The idea of pursuing legal measures to obstruct the operation of a law needs little comment. Legal measures may be pursued to procure the repeal of a law, but to obstruct its operation presents a contradiction in terms. The operation (or what is the same thing, the execution) of a law cannot be obstructed after it has been constitutionally enacted without illegality and crime. The expression quoted is one of those phrases which can only be used to conceal a disorderly and culpable intention under forms that may escape the hold of the law.

Neither was it difficult to perceive that the anathema pronounced against the officers of the revenue placed them in a state of virtual outlawry, and operated as a signal to all those who were bold enough to encounter the guilt, and the danger to violate both their lives and their properties.

The foregoing proceedings, as soon as known, were reported by the Secretary of the Treasury to the President. The President on the 15th of September, 1792, issued a proclamation "earnestly admonishing and exhorting all persons whom it might concern, to refrain and desist from all unlawful combinations and proceedings whatsoever, having for object, or tending to obstruct the operation of the laws aforesaid, inasmuch as all lawful ways and means would be put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof, and securing obedience thereto; and, moreover, charging and requiring all courts, magistrates, and officers, whom it might concern according to the duties of their several offices, to exert the powers in them respectively vested by law for the purposes aforesaid; thereby, also, enjoining and requiring all persons whomsoever, as they tendered the welfare of their country, the just and due authority of government, and the preservation of the public peace, to be aiding and assisting therein, according to law; and likewise directed that prosecutions might be instituted against offenders, in the cases in which the laws would support, and the requisite evidence could be obtained.

Pursuant to these instructions, the attorney general, in cooperation with the attorney of the district, attended a circuit [79] court, which was holden at Yorktown, in October, 1792, for the purpose of bringing forward prosecutions in the proper cases.

Collateral measures were taken to procure for this purpose the necessary evidence.

The supervisor of the revenue was sent into the opposing survey, to ascertain the real state of that survey, to obtain evidence of the persons who were concerned in the riot in Faulkner's case, and of those who composed the, meeting at Pittsburgh, to uphold the confidence and encourage the perseverance of the officers acting under the law; and to induce, if possible, the inhabitants of that part of the survey, which appeared least disinclined to come voluntarily into the law by arguments addressed to their sense of duty, and exhibiting the eventual dangers and mischiefs of resistance.

The mission of the supervisor had no other fruit than that of obtaining evidence of the persons who composed the meeting at Pittsburgh, and of two who were understood to be concerned in the riot; and a confirmation of the enmity which certain active and designing leaders had industriously infused into a large proportion of the inhabitants, not against the particular laws in question only, but of a more ancient date, against the government of the United States itself.

The then attorney general being of opinion that it was at best a doubtful point, whether the proceedings of the meeting at Pittsburgh contained indictable matter; no prosecution was attempted against those who composed it, though if the ground for proceeding against them had appeared to be firm, it is presumed that the truest policy would have dictated that course.

Indictments were preferred to the circuit court and found against the two persons understood to have been concerned in the riot, and the usual measures were taken for carrying them into effect.

But it appearing afterwards, from various representations supported by satisfactory testimony, that there had been some mistake as to the persons accused, justice and policy demanded that the prosecution should be discontinued which was accordingly done.

This issue of the business unavoidably defeated the attempt to establish examples of the punishment of persons who engaged in a violent resistance to the laws, and left the officers to struggle against the stream of resistance without the advantage of such examples.

The following plan, afterward successively put in execution, was about this time digested, for carrying, if possible, the laws into effect without the necessity of recurring to force:

[80] 1st. To prosecute delinquents in the cases in which it could be clearly done for non-compliance with the laws.

3d. To intercept the markets for the surplus produce of the distilleries of the non-complying counties, by seizing the spirits on their way to those markets in places where it could be effected without opposition.

3d. By purchases, through agents, for the use of the army, (instead of deriving the supply through contractors, as formerly,) confining them to spirits in respect to which there had been a compliance with the laws.

The motives to this plan speak for themselves. It aimed, besides the influence of penalties on delinquents, at making it the general interest of the distillers to comply with the laws, by interrupting the market for a very considerable surplus, and by at the same time confining the benefit of the large demand for public service to those who did their duty to the public, and furnishing, through the means of payments in cash, that medium for paying the duties the want of which was alleged to be a great difficulty in the way of compliance.

But two circumstances conspired to counteract the success of the plan: one, the necessity towards incurring the penalties of non-compliance of there being an office of inspection in each county, which was prevented in some of the counties by means of the intimidation practiced for that purpose; another, the non-extension of the law to the territory northwest of the Ohio, into which a large proportion of the surplus before mentioned was sent.

A cure for these defects could only come from the Legislature; accordingly in the session which began in November, 1792, measures were taken for procuring a further revision of the laws. A bill containing amendments of those and other defects was brought in, but it so happened that this object, by reason of more urgent business, was deferred till towards the close of the session and finally went off through the usual hurry of that period.

The continuance of the embarrassment incident to this state of things naturally tended to diminish much of the efficacy of the plan which had been devised, yet it was resolved, as far as legal provisions would bear out the officers, to pursue it with perseverance. There was ground to entertain hopes of its good effect, and it was certainly the most likely course which could have been adopted towards attaining the object of the laws by means short of force, evincing, unequivocally, the sincere disposition to avoid this painful resort and the steady moderation which has characterized the measures of the Government.

In pursuance of this plan, prosecutions were occasionally in- [81] stuted in the mildest forms; seizures were made as opportunities occurred; and purchases on public account were carried on.

It may be incidentally remarked, that these purchases were extended to other places, where, though the same disorders did not exist, it appeared advisable to facilitate the payment of the duties by this species of accommodation.

Nor was this plan, notwithstanding the deficiency of legal provision, which impeded its full execution, with corresponding effects.

Symptoms from time to time appeared, which authorized expectation that, with the aid at another session, of the desired supplementary provisions, it was capable of accomplishing its end, if no extraordinary events occurred.

The opponents of the laws, not insensible of the tendency of that plan, nor of the defects in the laws which interfered with it, did not fail, from time to time, to pursue analogous modes of counteraction. The effort to frustrate the establishment of officers of inspection, in particular, was persisted in, and even, increased; means of intimidating officers and others continued to be exerted.

In April, 1793, a party of armed men, in disguise, made an attack in the night upon the house of a collector of the revenue, who resided in Fayette county; but he happened to be from home, they contented themselves with breaking open his house, threatening, terrifying and abusing his family.

Warrants were issued for apprehending some of the rioters upon this occasion, by Isaac Mason and James Findley, assistant judges of Fayette county, which were delivered to the sheriff of that county, who, it seems, refused to execute them; for which he has since been indicted.

This is at once an example of a disposition to support the laws of the Union, and of an opposite one in the local officers of Pennsylvania within the non-complying scene.

But it is a truth too important not to be noticed, and too injurious not to be lamented, that the prevailing spirit of those officers has been either hostile or lukewarm to the execution of those laws; and that the weight of an unfriendly official influence has been one of the most serious obstacles with which they have had to struggle.

In June following, the inspector of the revenue was burnt in effigy in Allegheny county, at a place and on a day of some public election, with much display, in the presence of and without interruption from magistrates and other public officers.

On the night of the 22d of November another party of men, some of them armed and all in disguise, went to the house of the [82] same collector of Fayette, which had been visited in April, broke and entered it and demand a surrender of the officer's commission and official books; upon his refusing to deliver them up, they presented pistols at him and swore that if he did not comply they would instantly put him to death. At length a surrender of the commission and books was enforced, but not content with this the rioters, before they departed, required of the officer that he should, within two weeks, publish his resignation on pain of another visit and the destruction of his house.

Notwithstanding these excesses, the laws appeared, during the bitter periods of this year (1793) to be rather gaining ground. Several principal distillers, who had formerly held out, complied, and others discovered a disposition to comply which was only restrained by the fear of violence.

But these favorable circumstances served to beget alarm among those who were determined, at all events, to prevent the quiet establishment of the laws. It soon appeared that they meditated by fresh and greater excesses, to aim a still more effectual blow at them to subdue the growing spirit of compliance and to destroy entirely the organs of the laws within that part of the country, by compelling all the officers to renounce their offices.

The last proceeding, in the case of the collector of Fayette, was in this spirit: In January of the present year further violences appear to have been perpetrated. William Richmond, who had given information against some of the rioters, in the affair of Wilson, had his barn burnt with all the grain and hay which it contained, and the same thing happened to Robert Shawhan, a distiller, who had been among the first to comply with the law and who had always spoken favorably of it; but in neither of these instances, (which happened in the county of Allegheny) though the presumptions were violent, was any positive proof obtained.

The inspector of the revenue, in a letter of the 27th February, writes that he had received information that persons living near the dividing line of Allegheny and Washington, had thrown out threats of tarring and feathering one William Cochran, complying distiller, and of burning his distillery, and that it had also been given out that in three weeks there would not be a house standing in Allegheny county of any person who had complied with the laws, in consequence of which he had been induced to pay a visit to several leading individuals in that quarter as well as to ascertain the truth of the information as to endeavor to avert the attempt to execute such threats.

It appeared afterwards that, on his return home, he had been pursued by a collection of disorderly persons threatening, as they went along, vengeance against him. On their way, these men called at the house of James Kiddoe, who had recently com- [83] plied with the laws, broke into his still house, fired several balls under his still and scattered fire over and about the house.

Letters from the inspector, in March, announce an increased activity in promoting opposition to the laws; frequent meetings to cement and extend the combinations against it, and among other means for this purpose, a plan of collecting a force to seize him, compel him to resign his commission and detain him prisoner—probably as a hostage.

In May and June new violences were committed. James Kiddoe the person above mentioned, and William Cochran, another complying distiller, met with repeated injury to their property. Kiddoe had parts of his gristmill, at different times, carried away; and Cochran suffered more material injuries. His still was destroyed; his sawmill was rendered useless, by the taking away of the saw; and his gristmill so injured as to require to be repaired, at considerable expense.

At the last visit a note in writing was left, requiring him to publish what he had suffered in the Pittsburgh Gazette, on pain of another visit, in which he is threatened, in figurative but intelligible terms, with the destruction of his property by fire. Thus adding to the profligacy, of doing wanton injuries to a fellow citizen, the tyranny of compelling him to be the publisher of his wrongs.

June being the month for receiving annual entries of stills, endeavors were used to open offices in Westmoreland and Washington, where it had been hitherto found impracticable. With much pains and difficulty, places were procured for the purpose. That in Westmoreland was repeatedly attacked in the night by armed men, who frequently fired upon it; but, according to a report which has been made to this Department, it was defended with so much courage and perseverance by John Wells, an auxiliary officer, and Philip Ragan, the owner of the house, as to have been maintained during the remainder of the month.

That in Washington, after repeated attempts, was suppressed. The first attempt was confined to pulling down the sign of the office, and threats of future destruction; the second effected the object in the following mode: About twelve persons, armed and painted black, in the night of the 6th of June, broke into the house of John Lynn, where the office was kept, and after having treacherously seduced him to come down stairs and put himself in their power, by a promise of safety, to himself and his house, they seized and tied him; threatened to hang him; took him to a retired spot in the neighboring wood, and there, after cutting off his hair, tarring and feathering him, swore him never again to allow the use of his house for an office, never to disclose their names, and never again to have any sort of agency in aid of the [84] excise, having done which, they bound him naked to a tree, and left him in that situation till morning, when he succeeded in extricating himself. Not content with this, the malcontents, some days after, made him another visit, pulled down part of his house, and put him in a situation to be obliged to become an exile from his own home, and to find an asylum elsewhere.

During this time several of the distillers, who had made entries and benefited by them, refused the payment of the duties; actuated, no doubt, by various motives.

Indications of a plan to proceed against the inspector of the revenue, in the manner which has been before mentioned, continued. In a letter from him, of the 10th of July, he observed that the threatened visit had not yet been made, though he had still reason to expect it.

In the session of Congress which began in December, 1793, a bill for making the amendments in the laws, which had been for some time desired, was brought in, and on the fifth of June last, became a law.

It is not to be doubted that the different stages of this business were regularly notified to the malcontents, and that a conviction of the tendency of the amendments contemplated to effectuate the execution of the law had matured the resolution to bring matters to a violent crisis.

The increasing energy of the opposition rendered it indispensable to meet the evil with proportionable decision. The idea of giving time for the law to extend itself, in scenes where the dissatisfaction with it was the effect, not of an improper spirit, but of causes which were of a nature to yield to reason, reflection and experience, (which had constantly weighed in the estimate of the measures proper to be pursued.) had had its effect in an extensive degree. The experiment, too, had been long enough tried to ascertain that, where resistance continued, the root of the evil lay deep and required measures of greater efficacy than had been pursued. The laws had undergone repeated revisions of the legislative representatives of the Union, and had virtually received their repeated sanction, without even an attempt, as far as is now recollected or can be traced, to effect their repeal; affording an evidence of the general sense of the community in their favor. Complaints began to be loud, from complying quarters, against the impropriety and injustice of suffering the laws to remain unexecuted in others.

Under the united influence of these considerations, there was no choice but to try the efficiency of the laws in prosecuting with vigor, delinquents and offenders.

Process issued against a number of non-complying distillers in the counties of Fayette and Allegheny, and indictments hav- [85] ing been found at a circuit court holden at Philadelphia in July last, against Robert Smilie and John McCulloch, two of the rioters in the attack which, in November preceding, had been made upon the house of a collector of the revenue in Fayette county, processes issued against them also to bring them to trial, and if guilty, to punishment.

The marshal of the district went in person to serve these processes. He executed his trust without interruption, though under many discouraging circumstances, in Fayette county, but while he was in the execution of it in Allegheny county, being then accompanied by the inspector of the revenue, to wit, on the 15th of July last, he was beset on the road by a party of from thirty to forty armed men, who after much previous irregularity of conduct finally fired upon him, but, as it happened, without injury either to him or to the inspector.

This attempt on the marshal was but the prelude of greater excesses.

About break of day, the 16th of July, in conformity with a plan which seems to have been for sometime entertained, and which probably was only accelerated by the coming of the marshal into the survey, an attack by about one hundred persons armed with guns and other weapons was made upon the house of the inspector in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. The inspector, though alone, vigorously defended himself against the assailants and obliged them to retreat without accomplishing their purpose.

Apprehending that the business would not terminate here, he made application by letter to the judges, generals of militia, and sheriff of the county for protection. A reply to his application from John Wilkins, Jun., and John Gibson, magistrates and militia officers, informed him that the laws could not be executed so as to afford him the protection to which he was entitled, owing to the too general combination of the people in that part of Pennsylvania to oppose the revenue law; adding that they would take every step in their power to bring the rioters to justice and would be glad to receive information of the individuals concerned in the attack upon his house, that prosecutions might be commenced against them; and expressing their sorrow that should the posse comitatus of the county be ordered out in support of the civil authority, very few could be gotten that were not of the party of the rioters.

The day following the insurgents re-assembled with a considerable augmentation of numbers, amounting, as has been computed, to at least five hundred, and on the 17th of July renewed their attack upon the house of the inspector, who, in the interval, had taken the precaution of calling to his aid a small [86] detachment from the garrison of Fort Pitt, which, at the time of the attack, consisted of eleven men who had been joined by Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, a friend and connexion of the inspector.

There being scarcely a prospect of effectual defence against so large a body as then appeared, and as the inspector had everything to apprehend for his person, if taken, it was judged advisable that he should withdraw from the house to a place of concealment; Major Kirkpatrick generously agreeing to remain with the eleven men in the intention, if practicable, to make a capitulation in favor of the property, if not to defend it as long as possible.

A parley took place under cover of a flag, which was sent by the insurgents to the house to demand that the inspector should come forth, renounce his office, and stipulate never again to accept an office under the same laws. To this it was replied that the inspector had left the house upon their first approach, and that the place to which he had retired was unknown. They then declared that they must have whatever related to his office. They were answered that they might send persons, not exceeding six, to search the house, and take away whatever papers they could find appertaining to the office. But not satisfied with this, they insisted unconditionally that the armed men who were in the house for its defense should march out and ground their arms, which Major Kirkpatrick peremptorily refused; considering it and representing it to them as a proof of a design to destroy the property. This refusal put an end to the parley.

A brisk firing then ensued between the insurgents and those in the house, which, it is said, lasted for near an hour, till the assailants, having set fire to the neighboring and adjacent buildings, eight in number, the intenseness of the heat, and the danger of an immediate communication of the fire to the house, obliged Major Kirkpatrick and his small party to come out and surrender themselves. In the course of the firing one of the insurgents was killed and several wounded, and three of the persons in the house were also wounded. The person killed is understood to have been the leader of the party, of the name of James McFarlane, then a major in the militia, formerly a Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania line. The dwelling house, after the surrender, shared the fate of the other buildings, the whole of which were consumed to the ground. The loss of property to the inspector, upon this occasion, is estimated, and it is believed with great moderation, at not less than three thousand pounds.

The marshal, Colonel Presley Neville, and several others, were taken by the insurgents going to the inspector's house. All, except the marshal and Colonel Neville, soon made their escape; [87] but these were carried off some distance from the place where the affray had happened, and detained till one or two o'clock the next morning. In the course of their detention the marshal, in particular, suffered very severe and humiliating treatment, and was frequently in imminent danger of his life. Several of the party repeatedly presented their pieces at him with every appearance of a design to assassinate, from which they were with difficulty restrained by the efforts of a few more humane and more prudent.

Nor could he obtain safety or liberty, but upon the condition of a promise, guaranteed by Colonel Neville, that he would serve no other process on the west side of the Allegheny mountain. The alternative being immediate death, extorted from the marshal a compliance with this condition, notwithstanding the just sense of official dignity, and the firmness of character which were witnessed by his conduct throughout the trying scenes he had experienced.

The insurgents, on the 18th, sent a deputation of two of their number (one a justice of the peace) to Pittsburgh, to require of the marshal a surrender of the processes in his possession, intimating that his compliance would satisfy the people, and add to his safety; and also, to demand of General Neville, in peremptory terms, the resignation of his office, threatening, in case of refusal, to attack the place and take him by force, demands which both these officers did not hesitate to reject, as alike incompatible with their honor and their duty.

As it was well ascertained that no protection was to be expected from the magistrates or inhabitants of Pittsburgh, it became necessary to the safety, both of the inspector and the marshal, to quit that place, and as it was known that all the usual routes to Philadelphia were beset by the insurgents, they concluded to descend the Ohio, and proceed, by a circuitous route, to the seat of Government, which they began to put in execution on the night of the 19th of July.

Information has also been received of a meeting of a considerable number of persons at a place called Mingo Creek meetinghouse, in the county of Washington, to consult about the further measures which it might be advisable to pursue; that at this meeting, a motion was made to approve and agree to support the proceedings which had taken place, until the excise law was repealed, and an act of oblivion passed. But that, instead of this, it had been agreed that the four western counties of Pennsylvania and the neighboring counties of Virginia, should be invited to meet in a convention of delegates, on the 14th of the present month, at Parkinson's, on Mingo Creek, in the county of Washington, to take into consideration the situation of the [88] western country, and concert such measures as should appear suited to the occasion.

It appears, moreover, that on the 25th of July last, the mail of the United States, on the road from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was stopped by two armed men, who cut it open and took out all the letters, except those contained in one packet; these armed men, from all the circumstances which occurred, were manifestly acting on the part of the insurgents.

The declared object of the foregoing proceedings is to obstruct the execution and compel a repeal of the laws laying duties on spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills. There is just cause to believe that this is connected with an indisposition, too general in that quarter, to share in the common burdens of the community, and with a wish among some persons of influence to embarrass the Government. It is affirmed, by well informed persons, to be a fact of notoriety, that the revenue laws of the State itself have always been either resisted or very defectively complied with in the same quarter.

With the most perfect respect, I have the honor to be,
Sir, your most obedient and humble servant,

The President of the United States.


PHILADELPHIA, 5th August, 1794.
SIR:—The important subject, which led to our conference on Saturday last, and the interesting discussion that then took place, having since engaged my whole attention, I am prepared, in compliance with your request, to state with candor the measures which, in my opinion, ought to be pursued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The circumstances of the case evidently require a firm and energetic conduct on our part, as well as on the part of the General Government; but as they do not preclude the exercise of a prudent and humane policy, I enjoy a sincere gratification in recollecting the sentiment of regret, with which you contemplated the possible necessity of an appeal to arms. For, I confess, that in manifesting a zealous disposition to secure obedience to the Constitution and laws of our country, I, too, shall ever prefer the instruments of conciliation to those of coercion, and never, but in the last resort, countenance a dereliction of judiciary authority, for the exertion of military force.

[89] Under the influence of this general sentiment, I shall proceed, Sir, to deliver my opinion relatively to the recent riots in the county of Allegheny; recapitulating, in the first place, the actual state of the information which I have received.

It appears, then, that the Marshal of the District having, without molestation, served certain process that issued from a Federal court on various citizens who reside in the county of Fayette, thought it proper to prosecute a similar duty in the county of Allegheny, with the assistance and in the company of General Neville, the Inspector of the Excise for the Western District of Pennsylvania; that while thus accompanied, he suffered some insults and encountered some opposition; that considerable bodies of armed men, having at several times demanded the surrender of Gen'l Neville's commission and papers, attacked and ultimately destroyed his house; that these Rioters (of whom a few were killed and many wounded) having taken the marshal and others prisoners, released that officer, in consideration of a promise, that he would serve no more process on the western side of the Allegheny mountain; that under the apprehension of violence, Gen'l Neville, before his house was destroyed, applied to the Judges of Allegheny county for the protection of his property, but the Judges on the 17th day of July, the day on which his house was destroyed, declared that they could not, in the present circumstances, afford the protection that was requested, though they offered to institute prosecutions against the offenders, and that Gen'l Neville, and the Marshal, menaced with further outrage by the Rioters, had been under the necessity of withdrawing from the county. To this outline of the actual information respecting the Riots, the stoppage of the mail may be added as matters of aggravation, and the proposed convention of the inhabitants of the neighboring counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia, as matters of alarm.

Whatever construction may be given, on the part of the United States, to the facts that have been recited, I cannot hesitate to declare, on the part of Pennsylvania, that the in-competency of the judiciary department of her Government to vindicate the violated laws, has not at this period been made sufficiently apparent, and that the military power of the Government ought not to be employed, until its Judiciary authority, after a fair experiment, has proved incompetent to enforce obedience, or to punish infractions of the law. The law, having established a Tribunal, and proscribed the mode for investigating every charge, has, likewise, attached to every offence its proper punishment. If an opponent of the Excise system refuses or omits to perform the duty which that system prescribes to him, in common with his fellow citizens, his refusal or omission ex- [90] poses him to the penalty of the law; but this payment of the penalty expiates the legal offence. If a Riot is committed in the course of a resistance to the execution of any law, the Rioters expose themselves to prosecution and punishment; but the sufferance of their sentence extinguishes their crime. In either instance, however, if the strength and audacity of a lawless combination shall baffle and destroy the effects of the Judiciary authority to recover a penalty or to inflict a punishment, that authority may constitutionally claim the auxiliary intervention of a military power; but still the intervention cannot commence till the impotency of the judicial authority has been proved, by experiment, nor continue a moment longer than the occasion for which it was expressly required.

That the laws of the Union are the laws of the State, is a constitutional axiom that will never be controverted; that the authority of the State ought to be exerted in maintaining the authority of the Union, is a patriotic position, which I have uniformly inculcated; but, in executing the laws or maintaining the authority of the Union, the Government of Pennsylvania can only employ the same menus by which the more peculiarly municipal laws and authority of the State are executed and maintained. Till the Riot was committed, no offence had occurred which required the aid of the State Government; when it was committed, it became the duty of the State Government to prosecute the offenders, as for a breach of this public peace and the laws of the Commonwealth, and if the measures shall be precisely what would have been pursued, had the Riot been unconnected with the system of Federal policy, all, I presume, will be done, which good faith and justice can require. Had the Riot been unconnected with the system of federal policy, the vindication of our laws would be left to the ordinary course of justice, and, only in the last resort, at the requisition, and as an auxiliary of the civil authority, would the military force of the State be called forth.

Experience furnishes the strongest inducements to my mind for persevering in this lenient course. Riots have heretofore been committed in opposition to the laws of Pennsylvania, but the Rioters have invariably been punished by our courts of Justice. In opposition to the laws of the United States, in opposition to the very laws now opposed, and in the very counties supposed to be combined in the present opposition, riots have likewise formerly occurred; but in every instance supported by legal proof, the offenders have been indicted, convicted and punished before the tribunals of the State. This result does not announce a defect of jurisdiction—a want of Judicial power or [91] disposition to punish infractions of the law—a necessity for an appeal from the political to the physical strength of the nation.

But another principle of policy deserves some consideration. In a Free country it must ever be expedient to convince the citizens of the necessity that shall at any time induce the Government to employ the coercive authority with which it is invested. To convince them that it is necessary to call forth the Military power for the purpose of executing the laws, it must be shewn that the Judicial power has in vain attempted to punish those who violate them; and, therefore, thinking as I do, that the incompetency of the Judicial power of Pennsylvania has not yet been sufficiently ascertained, I remarked, in the course of our late conference, that I did not think it would be an easy task to embody the Militia on the present occasion. The citizens of Pennsylvania (however a part of them may, for a while, be deluded) are the friends of law and order, but when the inhabitants of one district shall be required to take arms against the inhabitants of another, their general character does not authorize me to promise a passive obedience to the mandates of Government. I believe that, as Freemen, they would enquire into the cause and nature of the service proposed to them, and I believe that their alacrity in performing, as well as in accepting it, would essentially depend on their opinion of its justice and necessity.

Upon great political emergencies the effect of every measure should be deliberately weighed. If it shall be doubted whether saying that the Judiciary power is yet untried, is enough to deter us from the immediate use of military force, an anticipation of the probable consequences of that awful appeal will perhaps enable us satisfactorily to remove or overlook the doubt. Will not the resort to force, inflame and cement the existing opposition? Will it not associate in a common resistance, those who have hitherto peaceably, as well as those who have riotously, expressed their abhorrence of the Excise? Will it not collect and combine every latent principle of discontent arising from the supposed oppressive operations of the Federal Judiciary, the obstruction of the Western Navigation, and a variety of other local sources? May not the magnitude of the opposition on the part of the ill-disposed, or the dissatisfaction at a premature resort to arms on the part of the well-disposed citizens of this State, eventually involve the necessity of employing the militia of other States? And the accumulation of discontent which the jealousy engendered by that movement may produce, who can calculate or who will be able to avert? Nor, in this view of the subject, ought we to omit paying some regard to the ground for suspecting that the British Government has already insid- [92] iously and unjustly attempted to seduce the citizens on our Western frontier from their duty, and we know that in a moment of desperation, or disgust, men may be led to accept that as an asylum, which, under different impressions, they would shun as a snare.

It will not, I am persuaded, Sir, be presumed, from the expression of these sentiments, that I am insensible to the indignation which the late outrages ought to excite in the mind of a Magistrate entrusted with the execution of the laws. My object at present is to demonstrate that on the principles of policy as well as of law, it would be improper in me to employ the military power of the State while its Judiciary authority is competent to punish the offenders. But should the Judiciary authority prove inefficient, be assured of the most vigorous co-operation with the whole force which the Constitution and laws of the State entrust to me, for the purpose of compelling a due obedience to the Government; and in that unfortunate event, convinced that every other expedient has been resorted to in vain, the public opinion will sanctify our measures, and every honest citizen will willingly lend his aid to strengthen and promote them. The steps which, under my instructions were taken, as soon as the intelligence respecting the Riots was received, will clearly, indeed, manifest the sense which I entertain upon the subject. To every Judge, Justice, Sheriff, Brigade Inspector, in short to every public officer, residing in the western counties, a letter was addressed expressing indignation and regret, and requiring an exertion of their influence and authority, to suppress the tumults, and punish the offenders. The Attorney General of the State was likewise desired to investigate the circumstances of the Riot, to ascertain the names of the Rioters, to institute the regular process of the law for bringing the leaders to justice. In addition to these preliminary measures, I propose issuing a Proclamation, in order to declare (as far as I can declare them) the sentiments of the Government; to announce its determination to prosecute and punish the offenders, and to exhort the citizens at large to pursue a peaceable and patriotic conduct. I propose engaging three respectable citizens to act as commissioners, for addressing those who have embarked in the present combination, upon the lawless nature and ruinous tendency of their proceedings; for inculcating the necessity of an immediate return to the duty which they owe their country, and for promising, as far as the State of Pennsylvania is concerned, a forgiveness of their past transgressions upon receiving a satisfactory assurance that in future they will submit to the laws; and I propose, if all these expedients should be abortive, to convene the Legislature, that the ultimate means of subduing the spirit of insur- [93] rection, and of restoring tranquility and order, may be prescribed by their wisdom and authority.

You will perceive, Sir, that throughout my observations, I have cautiously avoided any reference to the nature of the evidence from which the facts that relate to the Riots are collected or to the conduct which the Government of the United States may pursue on this important occasion. I have hitherto, indeed, only spoken as the Executive Magistrate of Pennsylvania, charged with a general superintendence and care that the laws of the Commonwealth be faithfully executed, leaving it, as I ought, implicitly to your judgment, to choose, on such evidence as you approve, the measures for discharging the analogous trust which is confided to you, in relation to the laws of the Union. But before I conclude, it is proper, under the impression of my Federal obligations, to add a full and unequivocal assurance that whatever requisition you may make, whatever duty you may impose in pursuance of your constitutional and legal powers, will, on my part, be promptly undertaken and faithfully discharged.

I have the honor to be, with perfect respect,
Sir, Your Excellency's Most Obed't H'ble Serv.,

To the President of the United States.


PHILADELPHIA, 6th August, 1794.
GENTLEMEN:—The late Riots in the county of Allegheny, requiring the particular attention of the Government, my confidence in your wisdom, patriotism and integrity, has induced me to request that you will undertake to act in the character of commissioners for the purpose of addressing the inhabitants of the western counties in general, and especially those who have been engaged in the Riots, upon the lawless nature and dangerous tendency of such proceedings. Your acceptance of this important trust, I shall consider as a personal obligation, and, I am persuaded, that, whatever may be the result, the candor of the Legislature, and of all of our Fellow Citizens, will do justice to the motives by which we are actuated on the occasion.

The conduct which it may be necessary to pursue, and the topics which it will be proper to discuss, are generally submitted to your discretion; but, permit me to express a wish, that you [91] will be pleased to exert yourselves, in developing the folly of a riotous opposition to those Governments and laws, which were made by the spontaneous authority of the people, and which by the same legitimate authority may, in a peaceable and orderly course, be amended or repealed. In explaining how incompatible it is with the principles of a Republican Government, how dangerous it is in point of precedent, that a minority should attempt to control the majority, or a part undertake to prescribe to the whole; in demonstrating the painful but indispensable obligation imposed upon the officers of the Government, to employ the public force for this purpose of subduing and punishing such proceedings; and in exhorting the deluded Rioters to return to that duty, a longer deviation from which must be destructive of their own happiness, as well as injurious to the reputation and prosperity of their country. Should these exertions produce, in your opinion, a satisfactory assurance of future submission to the laws, you have my authority as far as the State of Pennsylvania is concerned, to promise an Act of pardon and oblivion for the past.

While performing the trust which is assigned to you, I am persuaded, Gentlemen, that you will receive the aid of every enlightened and meritorious citizen; and that, on your part, you will cheerfully promote the views of the General Government, by which, I am informed, a similar commission has been issued. I have only, therefore, to add a request, that you will proceed with as much expedition as you conveniently can, and that you will report, at large, all the information, which your enquiries shall enable you to collect, relatively to the interesting object of your appointment.

I am, Gentlemen,
Your Most Obedient,
Humble servant,

To THOMAS MCKEAN, Esq'r., LL. D., Chief Justice of the State of Pennsylvania, and Maj. Gen'l WILLIAM IRVINE.


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