Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Arthur St. Clair, 14 November 1794

From Arthur St. Clair1

Pittsburgh Novr.14th. 1794


The Post which has been established at Le bœuf2 by the State of Pennsylvania seems to be at present a place of some importance, and is in a critical situation. The time for which the Garrison is engaged is on the point of expiring, but the Governor has power by a late Law to continue them, and I suppose will continue them.3 The present commanding Officer is a prudent Man, and a good Officer. He, however, as I am informed, will not remain,4 and the command will devolve upon a Person of the name of Miller,5 from Washington County, who is strongly in the Interest of the Insurgents; and a part of the Garrison, from that County also, have been exceedingly disorderly and disposed to Mutiny.6 Pardon me for taking the Liberty to suggest that it might be well [if] a Party of the standing Troops7 were sent there, for there is a considerable quantity of Military Stores of every kind, and some Pieces of artillery deposited in that Place. The concurrence of Governor Mifflin will no doubt be necessary, and that, I suppose, would not be withheld.

With every sentiment of Respect and Regard   I have the honor to be   Sir   Your very humble Servant

A. St. Clair

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1St. Clair was governor of the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio.

2The French had built Fort Le Boeuf in Allegheny County on French Creek in the spring of 1753. It stood on the present site of Waterford, Erie County, Pennsylvania.

3St. Clair is referring to “An Act to authorize the Governor to suspend the laying out a town at Presqu’ Isle, and for other purposes therein mentioned,” passed on September 23, 1794 (Pennsylvania Laws, September, 1794, Sess., Ch. CCLXVII). Section II of this act reads: “And whereas the Governor, agreeably to the power vested in him, by the third Section of the act, entituled ‘An Act for more effectually securing the trade, peace and safety of the port of Philadelphia, and defending the Western Frontiers of the commonwealth,’ passed the twenty-eighth day of February, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, did draft from the companies raised by virtue of the aforesaid act, a certain number of men for the protection of the Commissioners appointed to lay out a town at Presqu’ Isle; and as the laying out said town has been hitherto suspended, and by this act the Governor is authorized to continue the suspension: And whereas the party so drafted as aforesaid, have made considerable fortifications at Le Bœuf, and that place being now considered as a post of great importance to this state, and may, perhaps, facilitate the operations of the general government; and as the time for which the troops were enlisted will expire before the meeting of the next legislature [December 2, 1794]: Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Governor may, and he is hereby authorized, to enlist any number of men, not exceeding one hundred and thirty, to serve six months after the expiration of the present enlistment, unless sooner discharged.…”

For the settling of Presque Isle, see “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on Drafting of Militia by Governor Thomas Mifflin,” May 24, 1794.

On November 17, 1794, Mifflin wrote from Pittsburgh to Ebenezer Denny, captain of the Presque Isle detachment of the Pennsylvania militia, as follows: “I have made the … arrangement for the formation of the said Corps, which I have continued under your command.… I have employed Richard Clement of the militia, to recruit at this place where he may procure men from the militia now on service” (LC, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg).

4On November 17, 1794, Mifflin gave permission to Denny to visit Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (LC, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg).

5Captain William Miller. For Miller’s activities during the Whiskey Insurrection, see H to George Washington, August 5, 1794, note 76. On November 17, 1794, Mifflin informed Denny that Captain Thomas Buchanan had been appointed to succeed Miller because of doubts concerning Miller’s political principles (LC, Division of Public Records, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg).

6Denny described the disorderly activities of the garrison at Le Boeuf in a letter to Josiah Harmar, September 3, 1794: “… There are several of the artillery men the most ungovernable villians that ever crossed the mountains. Five fellows, a few nights ago, broke open a small store house, which the contractor occupied outside the fort, & stole a quantity of Brandy. Early next morning the thing was detected, & some men who appeared to be drunk I ordered in confinement. An artillery man, who was not then suspected of being concerned, spoke out & said it was damned wrong the men should be confined, close in my hearing. I ordered him to be secured. The fellow sprung to his gun, and swore he would shoot the first man that would attempt to lay hands on him, & called to his comrades to turn out. As I advanced, the rascal took aim & snapped his piece. Fortunately, in the hurry, he had not taken up his own musket, for we found afterwards that she was charged …” (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., VI, 771).

7See “An Act to authorize the President to call out and station a corps of Militia, in the four western Counties of Pennsylvania, for a limited time” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 403 [November 29, 1794]).

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