To Thomas FitzSimons1
[Philadelphia, November 27, 1794)
Seeing the Debates on the subject of Democratic Societies I called at your house to state some facts.2
It is true that the opposition to the Excise laws began from causes foreign to Democratic societies, but it is well ascertained by proof in the course of Judiciary investigations that the insurrection immediately is to be essentially attributed to one of those Societies sometimes called the Mingo Creek Society3—sometimes the Democratic Society. An early & active member of it commanded the first attack on Neville’s House.4 Another active member of that society, McFarlane,5 the second attack. Benjamin Parkinson, the President, & several other members of it seem to have directed the second attack as a Committee.6
This may be asserted as founded upon good proof and information recently received, though it would not be consistent with decorum to name me. Make what use you please of this, & communicate it to other friends.
November 27. 1794.
Thos. Fitzsimmons Esq.
JCH Transcripts description begins John C. Hamilton Transcripts, Columbia University Libraries. description ends ; ALS, sold by Charles F. Heartman, January 12, 1929, Lot 200, Item 68.
1. FitzSimons, a merchant of Philadelphia, was a Federalist member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1795.
2. In his sixth annual address to Congress on November 19, 1794, George Washington described the disturbances in western Pennsylvania and the measures that had been taken to suppress the insurrection there. In speaking of the opposition to the excise law in Pennsylvania, he said: “… The very forbearance to press prosecutions was misinterpreted into a fear of urging the execution of the laws; and associations of men began to denounce threats against the officers employed. From a belief, that by a more formal concert, their operation might be defeated, certain self-created societies assumed the tone of condemnation” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944) description ends , XXXIV, 29). The President’s reference to the Democratic societies provoked a partisan debate in the House, which was set off by FitzSimons’s motion that “we cannot withhold our reprobation of the self-created societies, which have risen up in some parts of the Union … and which, by deceiving and inflaming the ignorant and the weak, may naturally be supposed to have stimulated and urged the insurrection” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings of the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 899).
3. The Mingo Creek Society in Washington County, Pennsylvania, was established on February 28, 1794.
4. John Neville, inspector of the revenue for Survey No. 4 in Pennsylvania. See “Deposition of Francis Mentges,” August 1, 1794, note 2.
5. James McFarlane. See “Deposition of Francis Mentges,” August 1, 1794, note 3.