George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 8 November 1794

From Alexander Hamilton

Head Quarters Rostraver Township
[Westmoreland County, Pa.] November 8. 1794


Morgan with the whole of the light troops has crossed into Washington County. Dispositions of differents corps are making to strike at once in the most disaffected scenes.

It appears evident that to wait for preliminary investigations to apprehend the guilty upon process would defeat the object & produce delay beyond the patience of the troops or the time allowed by the season for operation—With the advice of the district Atty the Commander in Chief has concluded to take hold of all who are worth the trouble in a more summary way, that is by the military arm & then to deliver them over to the disposition of the Judiciary. In the mean time all possible means are using to obtain evidence & accomplices will be turned against the others.1

This step is directed by that principle of common law that every man may of right apprehend a Traitor.

I hope good objects will be found notwithstanding many have gone off. It is proved that Brackenridge did not subscribe ’till after the day & that he has been the worst of all scoundrels—The only question is how far the candour of the Government, owing to the use made of him by the Commissioners, might be compromitted?2

The Commander in Chief is taking measures with a good pro[s]pect of success to engage a competent corps to be stationed in the Country—a Regiment of Infantry & four troops of horse. The plan is to engage them for 9 Months, but a suit of Cloathing must be allowed.3

Being not very well I am obliged to be brief. With the truest respect & attachment I have the honor to be Sir Your obed. Ser.

A. Hamilton

ALS, NjP: deCoppet Collection.

1Gen. Henry Lee wrote Pennsylvania Gen. William Irvine on 9 Nov. that it had been “deemed advisable … to employ the military” to apprehend and bring before a judge “those who have notoriously committed treasonable acts.” Irvine was supplied with a list of offenders and also told that he should apprehend those about whom he received “satisfactory information” that they had “committed like acts”—in particular those involved in “firing upon, imprisoning, or interrupting in the course of his duty, the Marshal”; in the attacks on John Neville’s house; in “assembling, or aiding assembling of an army at Braddock’s Field” on 1 Aug.; in the meeting at Parkinson’s Ferry on 14 Aug.; in “the meeting at Mingo Creek meeting-house, termed a society, sometimes a congress”; in the “destruction of property and the expulsion of persons at and from” Pittsburgh; in the “interruption and plundering of the public mail and the injuries to the houses and violence to the persons of Benjamin Wells, John Webster and Philip Regan”; and in the “planting of May poles, impudently called liberty poles, with the intention to countenance and co-operate in the insurrection.” Irvine was warned to “use great circumspection to embrace none but real offenders, nor will you be too promiscuous or too general. The persons apprehended ought to be leading or influential characters or particularly violent.” The horse were to be sent out “at such a period as to make the surprises, however distant or near, at the same moment, or intelligence will precede them, and some of the culprits will escape” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:376–77).

2In the commissioners’ report to GW of 25 Sept. they mentioned Hugh Henry Brackenridge only briefly, as a member of the committee appointed to confer with them. Brackenridge later portrayed himself as a key member of that committee and supportive of submission (Brackenridge, Incidents description begins Hugh H. Brackenridge. Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania, In the Year 1794. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends , pt. 1, pp. 100–120; pt. 2, pp. 1–13). For Brackenridge’s explanation of his delayed signing, see Incidents, pt. 2, pp. 14–20.

3For these measures, see Lee’s general orders of 9 Nov. (Baldwin, “Orders Issued by General Lee,” 103–6).

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