George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Daniel Morgan, 19 January 1795

From Daniel Morgan

Camp McFarlins Ferry [Pa.] January 19th 1795


Amongst the obnoxious Charecters who have surrenderd themselves to me, is one who acknowledges himself accessary in robbing the Pittsburgh mail1—His name is Jno. Mitchell—a man who appears to me rather an object of pitty than of censure: He is like most others who have been led astray, weak—ignorant and unthinking—His want of proper information, together with his high opinion of those, who under the specious pretext of patriotism wished to plunge their Country into anarchy, easily renderd him the dupe of the designing—He is now fully sensible of the illegality of the step he has taken—and that his life may now fall a sacrifice to the violated laws of his Country. Considering therefore the man, and that he was merely the agent of others in this odious transaction I feel myself constrained to recommend him as an object of mercy. Were those who first fomented these disturbances brought to condign punishment I should rejoice; but when the poor and illiterate are brought forward as perpetrators of crimes, pland by the dark designing incendiary, my regard to strict justice gives way to compassion. Should Mitchell loose his life upon this occasion the consequences to his disconsolate family would be distressing. A Wife and several children depend for subsistance upon his labor alone. Deprived of his aid they must be reduced to poverty—perhaps to misery.

This letter may possibly intrude upon your attention to subjects of greater importance. I would therefore appologise for troubling you at this time by observing that I felt interested for Mitchell safety.2 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Sir your obedient servant

Danl Morgan

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1The robbery of the mail took place near Greensburg, Pa., on 26 July 1794 (Abraham Kirkpatrick to GW, 28 July 1794, and n.1 to that document).

2John Mitchell resided in Nottingham Township, Washington County. In addition to the mail robbery, he was alleged to have participated in the burning of John Neville’s house, and to have attempted to dissuade people from signing the statement of submission required by the U.S. commissioners in September.

Morgan also wrote U.S. district attorney William Rawle on this date. After advising that “The bearer John Mitchel” was being sent to Philadelphia “in order that he may undergo that process which the law prescribes,” Morgan added: “This man from various considerations appears to me to be more an object of mercy than of punishment. I have wrote to the President respecting him, and mentioned my reasons for thinking so. I wish not to appologize for Insurgents, but in this case there appears so many palliating circumstances, that compassion for him & his family induces me to intercede for the poor man. If any thing consistent with your duty can be done for him, I would feel myself gratified by your interposition in his favor” (DNA: RG 21, Criminal Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1791–1840).

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