Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Sim Lee, 6 September 1794

To Thomas Sim Lee

War Department
September 6th. 1794


I am directed by the President to notice to your Excellency that information has been received that some riotous proceedings have taken place, in the upper part of Baltimore County1 and in the neighbourhood of Hagers Town,2 connected with the Insurrection in the Western Counties of Pennsylvania.3

He instructs me to observe that it appears to him of the highest importance that efficacious measures should be pursued to suppress the first beginnings of this Spirit in your State and thereby to check the progress of an evil, which radically threatens the order, peace and tranquility of the Country.

Much depends in such a crisis, as the present, on an early display of energy under the guidance of due legal precaution.

It is understood that the magazine of Arms of the State is at Frederick.4 Adequate means no doubt will be used to prevent the possibility of these falling into bad hands.

With great Respect   I have the honor to be,   Your Excellencys, most obedient & Humble Servant

A Hamilton

His Excellency
Thomas S. Lee Esquire
Governor of Maryland

LS, Hall of Records of Maryland, Annapolis.

1No record has been found of “riotous proceedings” in Baltimore County.

2When the militia in Hagerstown, Maryland, was called into service early in September, the militiamen rebelled against their officers and erected a liberty pole in the courthouse square. When the officials had the liberty pole removed, the militiamen put up another and threatened reprisals against anyone who disturbed it (Thomas Sprigg to Thomas Sim Lee, September 11, 1794 [ALS, Hall of Records of Maryland, Annapolis]). See also the Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, September 8, 1794.

3The alleged connection between the Maryland riots and the insurrection in western Pennsylvania is described in the following letter from Lieutenant John Lynn to General John Davidson, September 1, 1794: “… We are Constantly threatened with an invasion from Pennsylvania, the Friends to that Party among us Not being sufficient to accomplish their infernal Designs, on Saturday Evening Last in Consequence of the Draught that Party in this Town [Fort Cumberland, Maryland] & its Vicinity took many Improper Steps in giving insult to those who are well Disposed & finally Declared they would Erect A Liberty Pole Which the Friends of Government Conceived Improper as they meant thereby to Insult Not only Government and its Officers but Every person Inclined to keep peace, and this being Considered in fact only a prelude to farther Outrage, the volunteer Company Commanded by Capt. [John C.] Beatty were Ordered to prepare to put a Stop to It” (ALS, Hall of Records of Maryland, Annapolis). See also the Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, September 20, 1794.

4On September 11, 1794, Colonel Thomas Sprigg wrote as follows to Thomas Sim Lee regarding the magazine at Frederick: “… I have been this day well informd that a Number of their recruiting Officers are beating up for Volunteers both in this city [Hagerstown] and in the adjacent Citys in Pennsylvania for the purpose of raising a pole on Fredk. Town and to plunder the Magazine, in consequence of this informtn. I set out this eveng for Fredk. to warn them of the danger and get them to increase the Guards. I met Genl. [Mountjoy] Bailey … Comg. here for information,… [who] will Set out before day and I hope do every thing necessary. I am pleased to hear they are well effected there” (ALS, Hall of Records of Maryland, Annapolis).

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