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Insurrection in the western counties of Pennsylvania- The marshall unable to execute
process-House of the inspector burnt by the insurgents—Judge Wilson declares that the opposition to the laws was too powerful to be suppressed by ordinary judicial proceedings-Fifteen thousand militia ordered out to suppress the insurrection --Commissioners appointed to offer terms to the insurgents-Mail robbed—Meeting at Braddock’s field— Proceedings of the meeting at Parkinson's ferry--Commissioners hold a conference with a committee of the insurgents-Question submitted to the people whether they would obey the laws-The result not satisfactory, and a military force marches into the country—The insurgents submit without resistance-General Wayne obtains a complete victory over the Indians—Congress meet in November, 1794—Speech of the president-Difference in the house conceming the answer to the speech House refuse to approve of the conduct of the executive towards foreign nations, or to censure self-created societies Plan of the secretary of the treasury for the redemption of the public debt-Adopted by congress-Secretaries of the treasury and of war resign-Negociations with Spain renewed-- These interrupted by Spain's joining the coalition against France-American commerce suffers from Spanish depredations—This produces new causes of complaint--Treaty finally concluded in October, 1795---Negociations with Algiers for the release of American captives.--Exorbitant demands of the Dey resisted--The business of procuring the release of the first captives placed in the hands of a religious order in France, but without success--
---Treaty made with the Dey in September, 1795---Prisoners not finally released until 1796.
While the president was exerting himself to prevent a foreign war, he was threatened with a civil war at home. For about three years, the inhabitants of the counties in Pennsylvania, lying west of the Allegany mountains, had opposed the execu. tion of the laws imposing duties on domestic spirits. This opposition, notwithstanding all the exertions of congress and the executive to render the operation of those laws as little burden. some as possible, was now carried to such a length, as seriously to put at hazard the peace, if not the existence of the union. The revenue officers, in attempting to do their duty, were threatened not only with the loss of their property, but their lives ; and in many instances, were personally abused and compelled to renounce their offices. In the summer of 1794, the marshal of
the district, in attempting to execute process on the delinquents, was attacked by an armed force, and fired upon, but fortunately without injury. He was soon after taken prisoner by an armed mob, his life threatened, and compelled, under the fear of immediate death, to engage, not to serve any process on the west side of the Allegany mountains. In July, the house of general Neville, the inspector, near Pittsburgh, was attacked, but defended with so much spirit, that the assailants were obliged to retire. Apprehending a second and more powerful attack, the inspector applied to the judges, civil magistrates, and military officers for protection. But he was informed that the combination against the execution of the laws, was so gen. eral in that quarter, that no protection could be given. The attack was soon after renewed, by about five hundred men. The inspector considering it impossible to resist with effect so large a force, and that his life must be the sacrifice, by the advice of his friends, retired to a place of concealment. About eleven men from the garrison at Pittsburgh, remained with a hope of saving the property.
The assailants demanded that the inspector should come out and renounce his office, but were informed, that he had retired on their approach, to some place unknown. The papers belonging to his office were then required, and after a short but indecisive parly on the subject, the house was attacked, and a firing commenced between its occupants and the insurgents ; in consequence of which, one of the assailants was killed, and a number on both sides wounded. The house was at last set on fire and consumed. The marshal and inspector made their escape down the Ohio, and by a circuitous route, reached the seat of government. The excise laws, as they were called, were unpopular in some of the other states, and strong indications were given of a more extensive and open opposition.
The insurgents were no doubt, encouraged by individuals, particularly by the democratic societies, in different parts of the union.
This created no little alarm in the mind of the president, and he entertained serious doubts, whether the militia, if called upon
10 suppress the insurrection, would obey the orders of the executive. Such, however, was the conduct of the insurgents, that no alternative was left, but either to surrender the government itself into the hands of the lawless and disobedient, or compel submission by military force.
The experiment was new but necessary, and the fate of the republic depended upon the issue. The law had wisely provided, that before resort could be had to the last alternative, an associate justice or district judge of the United States must declare and give notice, that the laws were opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or the powers vested in the marshals; and that the president should also by proclamation, command the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective homes, within a limited time.
Such a declaration or notice was given by James Wilson, an associate justice ; and on the 7th of August, a proclamation was issued, in which, after stating the various acts and combinations of the insurgents, the president declared—" and whereas it is, in my judgment, necessary under the circumstances of the case, to take measures for calling forth the militia, in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to cause the laws to be duly executed ; and I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but with the most solemn conviction, that the essential interests of the union demand it—that the very existence of the government, and the fundamental principles of social order, are materially involved in the issue ; and that the patriotism and firmness of all good citizens are seriously called upon, as occasion may require, to aid in the effectual suppression of so fatal a spirit.” The insurgents were required to disperse and retire to their respective homes, by the first of the following September. At the time of issuing the proclamation, requisitions were made on the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, for their quotas of about twelve thousand men, to be organized to march at a minutes warning. The number of troops was afterwards augmented to fifteen thousand,
Unwilling however, to resort to military coercion, until every Other expedient had failed, the president, with a truly paternal care, made one more peaceable effort to bring the disaffected to a sense of their duty. He appointed James Ross, Jasper Yates, and William Bradford, gentlemen distinguished for their talents and integrity, commissioners to repair to the scene of the insurrection, for the purpose of conferring with the insurgents, to represent to them how painful to the president was ihe idea of exercising military power, and that it was his earnest wish to render it unnecessary, by those endeavors which humanity, a love of peace and tranquility, and the happiness of his fellow citizens, dictated. The commissioners were empowered to promise an amnesty, and perpetual oblivion of the past, on condition of future submission to the laws. Two commissioners were appointed by the state of Pennsylvania, to join with those on the part of the United States.
Previous to this, by the orders of Bradford, one of the principal leaders of the opposition, the mail was stopped by force, and sundry letters from gentlemen at Pittsburgh, giving an account of the proceedings of the insurgents, were taken out and opened.
The authors of these letters became extremely obnoxious to Bradford and his associates; and soon after, a circular letter, signed by him and six others, was addressed to the militia officers, stating, their suspicions that the Pittsburgh post would carry the sentiments of some of the people, relative to the situation of affairs in that country, and that letters by that post were in their possession, by which “ certain secrets were discovered hostile to their interest;" and that a crisis had arrived, in which every citizen must express his sentiments, “not by his words, but his actions." The officers were, therefore, called upon to render their personal services, with as many volunteers as they could raise, to rendezvous at the celebrated Braddock's field, with arms and accoutrements in good order. The real object of this meeting, as previously arranged by the signers of the circular letter, though disclosed to a few only, was to attack the garrison at Pittsburgh, and seize the arms and ammunition there, for their
own defense. In justification of this bold measure, they referred to the former conduct of the colonists, at the commencement of the revolution, in seizing British posts and arms, until their grievances were redressed, as applicable to their situation. This project, however, when disclosed to some who were less rash and impetuous, was considered too daring to be carried into execution; and before the time of the meeting, was relinquished. Several thousands, however, met at the place of rendezvous, many with arms, and were harangued and reviewed by Bradford, who assumed the command. Little was actually done at this meeting, except ordering general Gibson and colonel Nevil, the authors of the letters robbed from the mail, to be expelled from Pittsburgh
A meeting of delegates from four of the western counties, and from the county of Ohio, in Virginia, was held at Parkinson's ferry, on the 14th of August. This meeting, consisting of about two hundred delegates, was composed of some of the more moderate, as well as the most daring and turbulent. Edward Cooke was elected chairman, and Albert Gallatin secretary. The meeting, which was held in the field, was opened by Bradford, in an inflammatory harangue, and comments on the letters taken from the mail. Mr. Marshall, one of those who called the meeting at Braddock's field, then introduced sundry resolutions, one of which was, " that a standing committee be appointed, to consist of members from each county, to be denominated a committee of public safety ; whose duty it shall be to call forth the resources of the western country to repel any hostile attempts that might be made against the citizens, or the body of the people.” The latter part of this resolution, which was an open and avowed act of rebellion, was opposed by Mr. Gallatin, and after some delay, the mover proposed to withdraw it, provided a committee of sixty should be appointed, with power to call another meeting.
The resolutions offerred by Mr. Marshall, were referred to a committee, and after being amended and modified, were passed.*
ngs of the executive respecting the insurgents, and Findley's History of the insurrection. Vol. II.