From William Bradford1
Pittsburgh, August 23. 1794
My dear Sir,
Yesterday I wrote to you pretty fully2—to day I have little to add beyond what is contained in the official communication.
Whatever may be the declarations of a determination to submit, or exertions on the part of those whose indemnity depends upon a general acquiescence in the execution of the acts of Congress—there seems to be a necessity for some force being stationed here, to overawe the disaffected individuals & protect the officers in the execution of their duty. This idea was perfectly agreeable to most of the Committee of Conference;3 but they were apprehensive that any public declarations of it, might give rise to an idea that they were stipulating for their own protection. We therefore declared it in the letter which inclosed the articles.4 But it deserves consideration, whether such protecting force would not be more advantageously furnished by the States, at least untill Congress can make some permanent provision for it.
I am not sorry for the opportunity we have had of terrifying the Ohio-men by discovering a disposition to leave them out.5 They were individually the principal leaders of the opposition: & it is said have been the authors of some outrages on the Collector there.6 I hope the State of Virginia will take some measures with them that may tend to suppress this spirit. If we have a conference with them, the first preliminary of our recommendation shall be that they will not interfere in any future consultations respecting our propositions to the Pennsylvanians. We shall also take measures to secure the restoration of bonds taken from the Collector, by some of these people in Ohio County.
We have evidently gained much ground in the three last days & if we can but inspire the moderate men with firmness & decision I hope all will be well. The more I see of this country and of the tempers of the people the more sollicitous I am that any contest with them should be avoided unless there were troops who could be kept in the field longer and act with more energy than the militia.
I forgot to enclose in my letter of yesterday the handbill I mentioned, & send it to you now.
I regret the death of poor Higgonson7—but am exceeding pleased with the prospects that Mr Jay seems to have. The opinion, that we are likely to be at peace with the British will aid us in our endeavors to restore order.
I am my dear Sir very truly yours
ALS, Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress.
1. Bradford wrote this letter in his capacity as one of the three commissioners (along with James Ross and Jasper Yeates) appointed by George Washington to confer with representatives from western Pennsylvania. See H and Henry Knox to Washington, August 5, 1794, note 3.
2. Letter not found.
3. On August 14, 1794, there was a meeting attended by “delegates duly elected by the respective counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, Allegheny, Washington and that part of Bedford county lying west of the Allegheny mountain, in Pennsylvania, and by the county of Ohio in Virginia, convened at Parkinson’s Ferry on Monongahela river, in order to take into consideration the situation of the Western Country” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 159). This meeting appointed a “committee of conference,” consisting of three members from each county, “to meet any commissioners that have been, or may be appointed by the government” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 160–61). In addition to the Federal commissioners, there were two commissioners from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appointed by Thomas Mifflin: Thomas McKean, who was chief justice of Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1799, and William Irvine, who had been a brigadier general of the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment during the American Revolution and was a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania from 1793 to 1795. The committee of conference was composed of the following delegates from western Pennsylvania: David Bradford, James Marshall, and James Edgar from Washington County; Thomas Morton, John Lucas, and Hugh Henry Brackenridge from Allegheny County; John Kirkpatrick, George Smith, and John Powers from Westmoreland County; Edward Cook. Albert Gallatin, and James Lang from Fayette County. Ohio County in Virginia sent William McKinley, William Sutherland, and Robert Stephenson.
The committee of conference, the United States commissioners, and the Pennsylvania commissioners met on August 21–23 at Pittsburgh, with most of the negotiations being conducted in writing. The upshot of these negotiations was that the committee finally agreed to advise the people to submit to the laws and accept an amnesty. Copies of the records of these negotiations may be found in Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress, and the records are printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 182–206. For a report of these negotiations by a member of the committee of conference, see H. H. Brackenridge, Incidents description begins Hugh H. Brackenridge, Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania, in the Year 1794 (Philadelphia, 1795). description ends , 100–07.
4. United States commissioners to the committee of conference. August 22, 1794 (copy, Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress). This letter is printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 190–93.
5. This is a reference to a dispute between the members of the committee from Ohio County in Virginia and the members of the United States commission as to whether the amnesty proposed for western Pennsylvania should include Virginia. Despite the protests of the delegates from Ohio County, the commissioners refused to have the amnesty include those who had interfered with the collection of the excise tax in Virginia. Copies of the correspondence between the Ohio County delegates and the commissioners may be found in Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress. The letters are printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 201–03.
6. On August 23, 1794, the commissioners wrote to the delegates of Ohio County: “But as certain Bonds have been lately taken by Force from Zacheus Biggs the Collector of the said Revenue in Ohio County, it is to be clearly understood, that said Pardon shall not extend to prevent any civil Remedy against those who have destroyed the said Bonds, or are Parties to them” (copy, Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress). This letter is printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 202.
8. David Lenox.
9. Isaac Craig.