From Bartholomew Dandridge
[Philadelphia] April 19, 1794. “The President directs me to send the letters herewith enclosed, from Governor Mifflin1 and John Wanton …2 and desires, if any measures are necessary to be taken relative to them, that you will report the same to him.”
LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. The letter to George Washington from Governor Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania, dated April 18, 1794, reads as follows: “In answer to a circular letter, which I have addressed to the Officers of this Commonwealth, 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 [Alexander] Addison and Mr. [David] 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” (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives). A letter book copy of Mifflin’s circular, dated March 25, 1794, may be found in the Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.
The following extracts were enclosed in Mifflin’s letter:
“Extract of a Letter from Alexander Addison, Esquire, President of the Courts of Common Pleas composing the Fifth District, dated at Washington the 31st March 1794.
“Your particular notice of the resistance made to the collection of this revenue, (the Excise) and your concluding request of communications 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 cognizance: 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 an equal tax, in the estimation of the people of this County. 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 enjoyment of their appointments; or if they have discovered any acts of decision and vigor, it is, I conceive, in unlawful and oppressive stretches of authority and in the commission of trespasses.” (Extract, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives.) Addison’s letter to Mifflin is printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 59–61.
“Extract of a letter from David Redick Esquire Prothonotary of the County of Washington, to Governor Mifflin dated the 8th of April 1794.
“On my way to and from the Woods, I had conversations with many of the People on the subject matter of your letter. Generally I found a disposition to comply; but I found one very considerable obstacle in their way—they fear a vindictive spirit in the Collector, which may prompt a rigorous hand, in order to retaliate for past disappointments and affronts—however they may be mistaken in the Man, I have no doubt but a change would have very happy effects. Indeed, I have reason to believe, at least, to fear, that altho’ a general compliance should take place, that as the minds of many being heated, ungovernable spirits would now and then boil over and scald the head of the present Officer. Whereas if another should be appointed to supercede him, one who would not only have spirit, but dignity of manners, all might be well.” (Extract, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives; LS, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.)
2. Wanton, a merchant of Newport, Rhode Island, had served as collector of imposts for the Newport district until the expiration of his appointment in 1790, when Rhode Island joined the Union. In April, 1794, Wanton was captain of Fort Washington at Newport. Wanton’s letter to Washington, dated April 7, 1794, reads as follows: “Much has been said concerning the detention of the Schooner Bayonne, Thomas Greene Master, from St. Johns, Nova Scotia. I wish to give your Excellency as just account of the transaction as I can nearly recollect, at 10 oClock A. M. the 1st day of April, arrived here the Schooner Bayonne as above mentioned and the Custom house boat went onboard her & brought her Register on Shore, & deliver’d to the Collector; at 4 oClock P. M. I was informed by the Pilot the said Schooner Intended to sail Immediately back to St. Johns, I thought it my duty to acquaint the Collector (Wm. Ellery Esqr.) with the Circumstance, accordingly I waited upon him & informed him what I had heard respecting her, & wished to know if he wanted my assistance to stop her, he answered that he wanted none of my assistance, she might go when & where she pleased, for he shou’d not stop her. I then inform’d him I must, as I thought it my duty, accordingly I got a Boat & Manned her with some Gentlemen of the Town who offered their Service to assist me & went onboard & weighed her Anchor & brought her into the wharf, & the next Morning unbent her Sails, which I now have in Custody. I acquainted the Governor & Company of this state & they approvd of my Conduct; I shou’d be glad of your Excellencys advice in the matter. I must inform you there has Saild from this Port Since the Embargo tooke place, One Brig bound to Turtola, & a Schooner to Hispaniola, I informed the Collector of their Intention, that I had it from good Authority, they informed me they were going to Providence not to Sea, altho’. they had their papers onboard & Shipt a new hand & paid him his Months advance, which might have informd them they intended for Sea as they have since Saild.
“I offered my Service in the same way last Summer, when the Ship from Jamaica run away that had Robbed one of our Vessels, but I was informed it was none of my business, they wanted none of my assistance, but about 8 oClock in the Evening the Marshall waited on me to know if I commanded the Fort. I inform’d him I did, he acquainted me he had a Warrant against the Capt. of the Ship for Piracy, & wished my assistance to take him or stop her which I Afforded with chearfulness but the Wind soon sprung up to the Northward & she cut her Cable & got out after my firing two Shot at her, as I have ever Served my Country with Fidelity I still wish to serve it but it hurts my feelings to see things go on in this manner.” (LS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives.) For background to Wanton’s letter, see William Ellery to H, April 8, 14, 1794.