George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Bernard Hubley, Jr., 8 October 1794

From Bernard Hubley, Jr.

Northumbd [Pa.] October 8th 1794

Dr Sir

This part of the Country, has been in the Utmost consternation & confusion, every Appearance of Bloodshed & Murder, the Interposition of Providence only prevented, there are Characters in this County, who have industriously sown discord & dissention among the People, it was carried to such height, that on Tuesday 30th septemr last, in this little Village, it arose to a Riot, I think it was on Saturday 20th, a Pole was erected on one of the Public Squares of the Street, on the Flag of which were Letters L.E. on Thursday following it was cut down by some Gentlemen, who considered that it was erected in contempt of Government, and on Monday 29th, another was brought to Town, on Tuesday, it was erected, on the Flag, this Inscription, Liberty & Equality, a few days previous to which Brigdr Genl William Wilson, Inform’d me, that he Wrote to Major Genl William Montgomery, requesting him, to Meet us in Town, on Tuesday 30th, Genl Montgomery did not attend (though in his Conduct he appears an Advocate in support of Government) his Brothers Son, I am informed went to him to construe things in a different light, which was the reason of his not coming;1 several Gentlemen, Met, Viz. Judge McPherson, Jasper Ewing, Prothy Major Saml Scott, Captn Ball, of Philada, Doctor Young, and several others, to the Number of abt Fifteen, the Inn where we Met kept by Mr John Bradey, distance from the Pole abt Fifty Yards Eastwardly,2 near about half way, between the Pole & the Inn, Genl Wilson, & myself, spoke with Daniel Montgomery, a Magistrate, he is Brother to Genl Montgomery;3 the conversation we had with Danl Montgomery, We stated to him, the bad tendency of the Pole, & the Insurrection it would cause, as it was said, it was to be erected in contempt of Government, I also demanded the right of a Citizen, as he was a Magistrate, Inform’d him, that on Monday Night, the Town, was all Night, in an Uproar & confusion, Guns firing, hallooing &c. by disorderly drunken Men, told him also, that a Parson Hopkins,4 & Myself, were Abused on Saturday Evening, by a parcel of those Men, as we Walked the Street; all seemed to have little or no effect upon him, as we left him, Genl Wilson, who is an Assistant Judge, told me he would Ask those abt the Pole, whether it was in contempt of Government & the Laws, they were erecting the Pole, & if they declared in Affirmative, he would Read the Riot Act, to them, previous to which, it was thought most adviseable to have all the Public Arms, in my House, well secured, that they could not seize them; My Dwelling, is about one Hundred Yards, on the Westwardly side of the Pole, Accordingly I went to my House for the purpose, shortly after a scene appeared that seemed to end but in Bloodshed & Murder, Swords & Clubs brandishing in the Air, with horrid Imprecations, to Arms was the Cry; happily Night drew on fast, & they dispers’d from the Pole, every Now & then a Gun was fired untill late in the Night in different Quarters of the Town, Wednesday October 1st, Nothing Material—Thursday Octr 2d, early in the Morning, I ordered the Captn of the Militia, who lives in Town, that he should Cut or take down the Pole, that Day, as it had been the Means of so much Contention, he came to me in about an Hour, or two after, I had given him the Orders, Inform’d me he had been with his Lieut. & some of the Privates of his Compy, but that they absolutely refused, he told me also, that he really believed any Person that would Attempt to take it down, that they would loose their Lives thereby; I am of Opinion some of the Inhabitants Lives & Property is in danger, the Countenances of those Pole Men, look Wild ferocious &c.—how far this Combination may extend, is uncertain, but I believe there is a great many not well disposed in this County, & that it is high time Your Excellency, was Acquainted with every circumstance. I have a Brother, living in Reading, I Wrote to him on Tuesday Night 30th Ult. Whether or not he received it, I know not, I Wrote him with an expectation he might Acquaint Yr Excelly, as I did not know whether you were then at Philada; or on the March, We were inform’d a few days since of your Arrival at Carlisle, & my Brother, if he has received the Letter, might have supposed as Carlisle, & Reading, was no great difference in distance from this place, that you might have been informed of every circumstance sooner than his letting you know, & as I had not particularly requested him to send my Letter forward to you, might have been a reason with him.5

this Day Captn Bowman, Arrived with a Compy from Wyoming, Immediately upon his Arrival, he Ordered the Pole to be Cut down by his Men, which has been done,6 I enclose an Address, I Intended to had Published the Printer, could not give it place in this Weeks Paper,7 previously to my going to the Printing Office, I advised with a few Acquaintance to turn out Voluntarily to Join the Army, they were decidedly of Opinion, that the danger here was too Imminent & that there would be but very few they supposed would turn out—for more particulars I Would Wish to refer your Excelly to Mr Ewing, & Mr Gray, (Mr Ewing, is Brother in Law, to Genl Edward Hand,) who intend setting off to Morrow Morning for Head Quarters8—several Gentlemen, went to Escort Captn Bowman, to Town, We were generally of Opinion it would be best for Captn Bowman to continue here, untill the return of Mr Ewing & Mr Gray. I am Yr Excellys sincere Friend in Life & Death

Berd Hubley


1William Wilson (d. 1813) served in the Continental army from 1775 to 1783, rising from ensign to captain. After the war he became a Northumberland County storekeeper and mill owner. At various times he served as collector of excise, county lieutenant, member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, judge, and militia general, and he represented Northumberland County in the Pennsylvania convention for ratifying the U.S. Constitution. William Montgomery (1736–1816), of Danville, was commissioned a major general of militia in 1793. At this time he was also a Pennsylvania congressman. William Montgomery (c.1774–c.1847) was the only son of Gen. William’s brother Daniel Montgomery. He served as a judge in Columbia County after its formation out of Northumberland. Wilson’s letter to Gen. William Montgomery has not been identified.

2John MacPherson (d. 1827), a veteran of the Continental navy, served as a Northumberland County judge from 1791 to 1813. Originally from Lancaster County and a nephew of Jasper Yeates, Jasper Ewing (1753–1800) served from 1776 to 1778 as a lieutenant and adjutant of the 1st Continental Regiment and as brigade major for Gen. Edward Hand. He was appointed prothonotary for Northumberland County in 1789 and served until his death. Samuel Scott, probably the brother-in-law of Wilson, was first major of the Sixth Regiment of Northumberland County militia. Blackall William Ball (1761–1812) served as an ensign and lieutenant in various Pennsylvania regiments during the Revolutionary War and was assistant secretary for the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati in 1792 and 1796. Doctor Young was Benjamin F. Young (c.1769–1803) of the town of Northumberland. John Brady (1761–1808), a veteran of the Battle of Brandywine, was a candidate for sheriff in 1794 and finished second. Hubley and others petitioned the governor to appoint him anyway, alleging that his opponents had spread rumors that he had cut down liberty poles and claiming that the man who finished first sympathized with the insurrectionists while Brady was a friend to the government. As Gov. Mifflin had authority to choose from the two leading vote getters, he appointed Brady, who served until 1797 (Executive minutes, 20–29 Nov. 1794, Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 9th ser., 2:888; John Blair Linn, Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania. 1755–1855 [Harrisburg, Pa., 1877], 288–92).

3Daniel Montgomery (c.1738–c.1824) was a painter and justice of the peace. Wilson and McPherson charged him with malfeasance in office for his role in these events, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that he should stand trial (Jasper Yeates, Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania: With Some Select Cases at Nisi Prius, and in the Circuit Courts, [4 vols., Philadelphia, 1817–19], 1:419–22). He also was indicted for misdemeanor in the federal courts, but in 1796 the government decided not to prosecute further their case against Daniel Montgomery and William Montgomery (DNA: RG 21, Minutes of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1790–1844; DNA: RG 21: Criminal Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1791–1840).

4Caleb Hopkins (c.1755–1824) was an Episcopal minister credited with organizing parishes at Milton, Bloomsburg, and Jerseytown, Pennsylvania.

5Jacob Hubley (c.1757–1837) served as prosecuting attorney for Berks County from 1789 to 1817. He was a brother-in-law of Jasper Yeates. Bernard Hubley’s letter to him has not been identified.

6Originally from Lexington, Mass., Samuel Bowman (c.1754–1818) was a Revolutionary War veteran, rising from the ranks to become a lieutenant in the Massachusetts line by the war’s end. After the war he settled at Wilkes Barre, Pa., and at this time he was commanding a company of volunteers from Luzerne County. He later served as a captain in the U.S. provisional army from January 1799 to June 1800.

7Hubley’s undated address “To the Officers Non Commissioned Officers & Privates of Northumd County Militia” reads: “At this Important crisis, I call upon you as the Protectors & Guardians of our Country, Lives, Property, Constitution, Government, & all that is near & dear to us, that you unanimously step forward to crush the Hydra that dared to lift its Head; deplorable must the situation of Americans be if they would not resent the Indignation wherewith our Government has been threatened, shall a Brackenridge, & a Bradford, overwhelm & overthrow our Country into confusion Bloodshed & Murder; forbid it Heaven; come step forward my Dear Friends, Relations, and Countrymen, I will lead you the Way through the Wilderness, I know the Route & the Country, twice have I been through that Country by the way of Clearfield & across Toby’s Creek, or I will lead you by the Route that shall be approv’d of by our Illustrious President, dont be dismayd put your trust & confidence in the Almighty, recommend your Wives your Children & the rest of your Families that stays behind under the protection of his Wings, & all our ends will be accomplished, step forward my dear Brethren, I call particularly upon you, who last War took an Active part in gaining our Victory over the British, & Indians; the present occasion demands a greater Necessity, at that time we knew our Enemies, at present we have a Bosom Enemy to contend with; they have despis’d our Laws & held in derision the Pardon offer’d by our common Father, who in his old days, with a Number of our Fellow Men, have turn’d out to bring them to a sense of conviction, shall we then, who have been favoured with the choicest blessing of Heaven, shall we, I say, set down, be Idle Spectators, see that Noble Fabrick, our Laws & Constitution trampled on, by a few worthless Citizens, shall the Majority shamefully yield & be govern’d by a Minority, and a great part of this Minority, as it is said, have never been staunch Friends to America, but artful designing Men, who have Misled a Number of the Weak & Ignorant, whereby others had to Join them that are real friends to Government & the laws of the Union, those who are really sensible of their duty are breaking off fast from the Diabolical Schemes of those deluded crafty designing Men; the blood of General Butler, & Exile of Genl Gibson, their two greatest Protectors & defenders, who upon every occasion, risk’d their lives & properties in their behalf to be treated in such Manner, the former lost his Life in protecting them & their Families, from the Cruelty of the Indians, & the latter was Banished for doing his duty in acquainting our Governor of their Riotous proceedings; Nature shudders at the Idea; Savages, whose Breasts are hardened as Iron & Steel, would have had more compassion; come My dear Brethren, hearken unto reason, if any of you were hoodwinked, pray to the Sovereign of Heaven & Earth, to give you an Understanding Heart, I call upon you, in his Name, step forward, I say I will lead you on, I am convinced you have ever consider’d me a Friend to our Country, My sentiments & Action of Life never ⟨W⟩avor’d & which you have been well acquainted with, ever since I was an Officer in the late Army, I have often publickly declar’d myself a Friend to Mankind, our Government & Constitution, could you ever trace any guile or deceit in my Private or Public Character, come I am Willing to risk my Life, & all, for your future happiness & preservation, those who are any ways daunted Infirm or Incapable, let them take care of our Wives & Children, I hope you Young Men, who are in the prime of life, you will shew yourselves as Friends to your dear Country, for your future happiness & existence as Freeborn Sons depend thereon, turn out Voluntarily, I am convinced you shall be restored again in tranquility to your Habitations, let us send forward an Express to Genl Washington acquaint him that we wait his Orders, the cause in which we embark deserves the utmost exertion, May the God of Heaven ever protect us” (DLC:GW).

8Hubley may have been referring to William Gray (1750–1804), a Sunbury, Pa., merchant and former Continental army captain who was John Brady’s brother-in-law. Jasper Ewing’s sister Catharine Ewing (1751–1805) married Hand in 1775.

Index Entries