Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Sim Lee, 18 September 1794

To Thomas Sim Lee1

War department, Septr. 18. 1794


The intelligence received from the western Counties of Pennsylvania, which comes down to the 13th: instant, and announces as far as it was then known the result of the Meetings of the people in the several townships and districts, to express their sense on the question of submission or resistance to the laws2—while it shews a great proportion of the inhabitants of those Counties disposed to pursue the path of duty, shews also that there is a large and violent party which can only be controuled by the application of Force. This being the result, it is become the more indispensable and urgent to press forward the forces destined to act against the insurgents with all possible activity and energy. The advanced season leaves no time to spare and it is extremely important to afford speedy protection to the well disposed and to prevent the preparation and accumulation of greater means of resistance and the extension of combinations to abet the insurrection. The President counts upon every exertion on your part which so serious and eventful an emergency demands.

With perfect respect, I have the honor to be   Sir,   Your obedient Servant

Alexander Hamilton

His Excellency Thomas S. Lee
Governor of Maryland.

LS, Hall of Records of Maryland, Annapolis.

2H is referring to the excise laws. See “Deposition of Francis Mentges,” August 1, 1794, note 1.

The United States commissioners appointed to confer with the representatives of the insurgents in western Pennsylvania did not formally present their views to George Washington until September 24, 1794 (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 348–59). As early as September 13, however, they realized that they had not been able to eliminate the possibility of violence. On that date, the judges in Westmoreland County concerned with the subscription to the oath submitting to the excise laws declared that “… in our opinion, as ill-disposed lawless persons could suddenly assemble and offer violence, it would not be safe in immediately establishing an office of inspection therein” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 298, 536). According to the commissioners’ report of September 24, Allegheny, Washington, and Fayette counties presented similarly discouraging results (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 356–57). In addition, the Gazette of the United States on September 22, 1794, carried the following account: “An express arrived in town this morning from the westward, and brought dispatches for the Secretary of State. They inform that Mr. [James] Ross will be in town in a few days to meet the other Commissioners; when, a particular account of the issue of their mission may be expected. Part of the returns from the different townships has been received, from which it appears that the terms required by the Commissioners have not been generally complied with. The general returns made by those who superintended the meetings, do not give the assurances required that the submission in any of the counties is such that an office of inspection may be safely opened therein; and one of them expressly states an opinion that such a measure would not be safe…” ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser, September 22, 1794). For the appointment of the United States commissioners and for their earlier activities, see H and Henry Knox to Washington, August 5, 1794; H to William Bradford, August 8, 1794; Bradford to H, August 23, 1794; H to Thomas Sim Lee, second letter of August 29, 1794. The commissioners’ reports and their correspondence with Edmund Randolph may be found in Pennsylvania Miscellany, Whiskey Rebellion, Vol. I, Library of Congress.

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