Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jared Ingersoll, 10 October 1794

To Jared Ingersoll

Carlisle [Pennsylvania] October 10th. 1794


The President directs me in reply to your letter of this day1 to observe that nothing can be more proper than that the party by whom the homicide2 was done should be placed under the disposition of the civil Magistrate. It is only desireable that this course may be so conducted as to satisfy reasonably all the considerations which are connected with the case. It is understood that Judge Yates of the Supreme Court of Pensylvania is now on the spot,3 and it is not doubted that he will treat the subject according to its true merits and the real nature of the circumstances.4

The proper step will be taken to cause the party to be surrendered to that Magistrate.

With great consideration & esteem   I am Sir   Your obed servant

Alex Hamilton

Jared Ingersoll Esquire
Atty. General of Pensylvania

ALS, Charles Robert Autograph Collection of the Haverford College Library, Haverford, Pennsylvania.

1No letter from Ingersoll to either George Washington or H has been found.

2This is a reference to one of two homicides by members of the forces marching against the insurgents in western Pennsylvania. William Findley describes these homicides as follows: “Two men had been killed, one on the great road near Lebanon, and the other at a house in the neighborhood of Carlisle. The one in the road was killed by the Jersey troops. He provoked an officer by foolish and insulting language, and on laying hold on one of the bayonets of the guard, who were ordered to arrest him, he was run through the body. He was evidently drunk or deranged. Surely so many men in arms could easily have secured one unarmed fool, without killing him. The other was killed by a light horseman from Philadelphia, who went into the country to seize some persons who had asisted at erecting liberty poles in Carlisle. The young man, who was killed, was not only innocent, but very unwell. The party left him under guard of one of their number, until they would search the barn for others. The sick boy declaring his innocence, and that he was not able to stand, attempted to go into the house without leave; the light horseman ordered him to stop, on the peril of being shot, and if he could not stand to sit or lay down, and in the mean time cocked his pistol. When the boy was in the posture of laying himself down, and the light horseman about to uncock his pistol, it went off and shot the boy mortally. I state this case, as I had it from the best authority, and as taken from the examination of the light horseman” (Findley, History of the Insurrection description begins William Findley, History of the Insurrection, In the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania: In the Year M.DCC.XCIV. With a Recital of the Circumstances Specially Connected Therewith: And an Historical Review of the Previous Situation of the Country (Philadelphia, 1796). description ends , 143–44).

The first of these homicides was described somewhat differently by a volunteer in the New Jersey militia, who wrote as follows from Carlisle on October 4, 1794; “… One man at a little Dutch village, called Myer’s-Town, between Lebanon and Reading, behaved so imprudently, in a tavern where some of our officers had stopped, as to huzza for the Whiskey Boys, and utter many other indecent and seditious expressions. Our officers desired him to go about his business; but he still persisted, till he was ordered to be taken under guard—he swore that he would not leave the room till he had drank his liquor—the guard insisted; and one of them seized him and attempted to bring him forward, but the fellow instantly caught hold of the soldier’s bayonet and used every effort to wrest it from him. A contest ensued, in which our soldier stabbed him in such a manner that he expired in the course of half an hour…” ([Philadelphia] Dunlap and Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, October 17, 1794).

Depositions of several witnesses to this homicide, sworn to before Judge Jasper Yeates of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, may be found in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The second of these homicides is described as follows by a soldier, writing from the “Camp, near Carlisle” on September 30, 1794: “… Nothing material has occurred, except that yesterday a detachment of twenty horse (of which I was one) under adjutant Jacob Cox, was dispatched with a constable at their head, to take several of those who are here called Whiskey Boys—Two were, but some others, having notice of our approach, escaped. One of the dragoons’ pistols went off by accident, and shot a man in the groin, of which he since died: he was brother to one of the persons we were in pursuit of, and during a parley at a farmhouse the accident happened…” ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser, October 4, 1794)

3Yeates was in Carlisle “… for the purpose of enquiring into the two homicides which have lately happened. This was done at the desire of the President, who it is said, expressed his determined resolution, that the army, while called out to support the laws should not, with impunity, do any injury to individuals” ([Philadelphia] General Advertiser, October 27, 1794).

4The results fell somewhat short of H’s anticipation, for an unnamed correspondent wrote: “I understand that on a strict and full investigation one of the cases appears to be the result of mere accident and that the other homicide was perfectly justifiable, being occasioned in a struggle between the deceased and one of the Jersey militia, who was opposed and assaulted by him in the regular execution of his duty. Judge Yeates, however, thought proper to take recognizances in small sums for the appearance of both persons at court, where they will, no doubt, be regularly discharged…” ([Philadelphia] General Advertiser, October 27, 1794).

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