George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 6 June 1781

Philadelphia June 6. 1781


I am requested by the Delegates from Pennsylvania to transmit your Excellency the Papers inclosed, containing Petitions, Complaints &c. against Colonel Broadhead—I have the Honor to be with the highest Respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble Servant

Sam. Huntington

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


c.9 May 1781

To his Excellency The President and Supreme executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania.

The representation and Memorial of the Inhabitants of the Town of Pittsburgh, humbly Sheweth

That we are greatly alarmed with the Claim of Colo. Brodhead Commanding officer at the Garrison of Fort Pitt, assuming authority to Exercise Military power over this Town, which he conceives he has a Right to do within the round of his Patrols, In many cases he has actually exercised this authority taking away the property, confining the Persons of the Citizens, and ordering them to be tryed by a Court Martial. We know well that the laws and Constitutions of our Country have fixed a procise boundary to the Military power. It is limited to those who are enlisted for the Service and under the Articles of War; it Cannot extend in the least degree to a Citizen. Whether he happens to be within the walls of a Garrison, Within the Cover of the Cannon, Within the round of the Patrols, or at a Thousand Miles distance. The commanding Officer at this place derive no authority from Congress to extend Military Law over the Inhabitants, the Congress are circumscribed by the articles of the Confederation and cannot interfere With the Laws and Internal police of a State; it is not in their Power by any Resolve to take away from one Citizen the right of being protected in his life, liberty and property by the law of his Country; The Congress Not being Possessed of this power cannot communicate it, and therefore no officer acting under them can exercise it. The assembly of the State could not Surrender the people of this Spot to the authority of Military law but by a manifest Violation of the Constitution and bill of rights which have established that no Freeman shall lose his liberty, but by the law of the land and the Judgement of his peers. The commanding Officer therefore Could not derive any authority from the assembly, and we have not heard of any act by which he can pretend to derive any authority to Exercise Military law over the People of this Country. It cannot be pleaded that by Custom or usage Where a Garrison is placed in a Town, the Inhabitants of that town fall under the Power of the Military, because no Such usage or custom is known to our law and We Will Venture to affirm, to no Municipal law of any Country in Europe, It cannot be Warran[ted] by any law or Custom of Nations, because the laws or Customs of Nations have Nothing to do in the Case.

It cannot be intended, that because a British commanding Officer before the Year 1768 possessing in Behalf of the Crown, by a Cession from the Natives, an Exclusive Right to the Soil within Cannon Shot, Exerted Military law over his own troops and the Retainers in the Garrison, that therefore now when the Soil is within the State of Pennsylvania, and civil authority is Established, Military law Should extend itself, and take place over Citizens.

It cannot be Said that because the Jurisdiction of the Spot is contended by the State of Pennsylvania and that of Virginia, that therefore Citizens shall be Subject to Military law. Writs from the Courts of Both Commonwealth Run into this Town and Every Individual is amenable to Two Jurisdictions to Answer in cases of Debt, Trespass, &c. or Criminal Offences. It Would be hard therefore, & at the Same time absurd, that this Should be a Reason Why they Should be made liable to a law issuing from a third Source. The Will of a Commanding Officer.

Some of us who make this Representation have been Inhabitants of the Town of Pittsburgh many Years, have enjoyed the liberties and immunities of Citizens, have Suffered in our persons, and fortunes for the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania and all of us have continued for the cause of America, and are Willing to lay down our lives in the field but not to have our Liberty, our property, our lives Suspended on the Will of a Commanding Officer and a Court Martial.

Some of us have left our habitations to avoid the Scalping Knife, and Tom hack of the Merciless Savage, and have gaind a Temporary Residence in this Town; We feel it pecularly hard that we Should be Supposed to have lost our Rights to the laws of our Country at the same Time With our Possessions and in removing to a different part of the County of Westmor[lan]d to hold our lives at the diseration of Military Power.

Having Represented these things, it is our prayer that his Excellency the President, and the Honourable the Council Will lay this Matter Before Congress and induce them to direct his Excellency Genl Washington to Remove Colo. Broadhead, from this Command, and give such Orders to the Succeeding officer at this Post, whoever he may be, as Will Restrain him from Such invasions of the rights [of] the Citizens. If it Should be Said that this Will be unnecessary as the laws of the Country and the Courts of Justice Will Support every Individual against the Encrochments of Military power. We beg leave to Observe that it is not easy, but gives infinite trouble, [it] is almost impossible to obtain Redress by law against a Commanding Officer Who can Confine in his Guardhouse from which even the [pope commitatus] cannot Set at liberty and who if he pleases to avoid an arrest Can be Secure Within the Cannon of the Fort and Surrounded by his Guards. We are Gentlemen your most obedient and Very humble Servants

John Tewind James Robinson John Hamilton Wm Batt
James Fleming John Handlyn Tho. Nichols Peter Roliter
Wm Amberson James McLelland Andw Robertson D. Moor Edwd Ward
Tho. Smallman Daverux Smith Robert Campbell John Irwin A. Fowler Robert McKinley signed by 7 others

c.9 May 1781

To His Excellency Joseph Reed Esq’r. and the Honorable the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania.

The Remonstrance and Petition of the Principal Inhabitants of the County of Westmorland and Town of Pittsburgh; Sheweth

That the uncommon Stretches of power uniformly pursued and now adopted, by Colonel Brodhead Commanding in this Department, added to a connection formed with Mr David Duncan the Assistant to the Deputy quarter Master of this State; is so truly alarming, that we trust a bare recital of them will Justify your Petitioners and mark the purity of their motives for this address.

1st That the Constitution and Laws; by which all ought to be governed, seems to become inadequate to the governing of one.

2d The rights of free Citizens are invaded and property thereby rendered uncertain and precarious.

3d That a monopoly in Trade is Created.

4th That a Jobbing quarter master is favoured and indulged; and we have great reason to suspect that publick Money is not appropriated to the purposes intended.

5th That publick delinquints have been sheltered from punishment; while Innocence and Industry have been oppressed and injured.

6th That discipline is neglected and relaxed and no attention whatever paid to the accommodation of the Officers and Soldiers, nor to puting the Garrison into a State of defence; and tho a number of Artificers have been long employed by the assistant Deputy quarter Master at high wages, and a large allowance of provisions, nothing appears to have been done, and the Fort still Continues as well as the Barracks in a ruinous untenable, and unmilitary State.

7th That a great number of the Soldiers have been employed in the Quarter Masters Department and still more at Head Quarters, while the protection of the frontiers have been totally neglected.

Hence, under the specious pretext of publick good private pursuits are accomplished, some of which we have been informed, your Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council, are not altogether unacquainted with. Indeed so obvious have these transactions appeared here, not only to the Citizen but the Soldier, that the latter in Conformity to a Resolution formed and Unanimously adopted, when a Committee in 1779 treated Colonel Brodhead’s invitation to dine; with marks of Contempt, while the former was reprobating him in terms of reproach. Thus with arms in our hands, defending our natural rights, your Petitioners unhappily find themselves under a Tyranny far more unsupportable, than that which they have successfully resisted, as the annexed despotick Mandates and Authentick documents will fully verify. But while many of your Petitioners feel the effects of Colonel Brodheads oppressions, and more are alarmed at the terrors suspended over them, we all with Concern anticipate the Consequences; They excite emotions in our Breasts, which tho we cannot describe, it would ill become us to conceal. For Corrupt and depraved as the Country may be, from whence we and our ancesters emigrated, military Tyranny there, is not yet Countinanced; and while such a line of Conduct cannot but distress and alarm your Excellency and Council; We are convinced that it must be reprobated and meet with a hearty, and determined opposition from every virtuous Citizen of the United States, whose Custom it has been, and we hope will be; to make those tremble who dare to attempt to make them miserable. Feeling and thinking like Free Men in the Manner we do, silence would become a Crime; For History as well as observation evinces the truth of this simple position that to live by the will of One entails misery on all. Therefore by giving you this faithfull information we humbly apprehend we are doing barely our duty as good Citizens, by rendering you Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council all the Assistence in our power, to promote the great objects of your Trust, the Tranquility of Government and the welfare of the Governed.

Little did your Petitioners ever imagine that in the Course of a War undertaken in defence of their Common rights, the Character of the Citizen should so soon become sunk in that of the Soldier. The language of Complaint is painfull to us, but as an Illustrious Author observes, "Military Men belong to a profession which may be usefull, but is often dangerous." The truth of this observation is evident. The annals of every nation in Europe afford melancholy examples. Even the American Revolution—Glorious and beneficial to Mankind as it is—Has not terminated without being Shamefully tarnished with such proofs that we cannot even mention without indignation and Horror.

Therefore the real and disinterested Friends of Freedom cannot be too tenacious of their rights, too watchful of their privileges, or too Jealous of the Ambitious and Interested who attempts to invade them.

Your Petitioners humbly apprehend that their happiness and the security of thier invaluable rights depends in a great measure on thier own exertions and Spirit protect and defend them. For the Political liberty of the Subject says Montisquie, is a Tranquility of mind arrising from the opinion each person has of his safety. And it is with heart felt concern, that we find ourselves bound by the strongest of Obligations to inform your Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council, that instead of that Tranquility of mind: That safety mentioned by this ornament of mankind, the Author of the Spirit of Laws, There has been unfortunately implanted in our Breasts, doubts, fears, Suspicions and Jealousies, the Natural production of Tyranny and Dispotism. Your Petitioners are well aware of the disadvantagous light in which they may appear, to your Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council, From the partial Clamour raised here against the Generals, Hand, and McIntosh, and in which Colonel Brodhead himself (respecting the latter) bore a principal Share. But we cannot command success, and there is a vast difference between doing our best to serve our Country and doing all in our power to serve ourselves. And indeed it is generally admitted, that these General Officers had the public Interest warmly at heart, while it is allowed by all that Colonel Brodhead is actuated by motives, selfish and interested, and that his views are totally Confined to Land, Manors, and Millseats. Duty to our Country our Constitution and our Rulers and a regard for our rights Franchises and Immunities has Induced us to address your Excellency and Council in Language which cannot we hope be displeasing, to which we beg leave to implore your attention. And Humbly Pray. That Colonel Brodhead may be removed from the Command of this Department, and Mr David Duncan from the employment of assistant Quarter Master—as well as every other employment wherein he may be intrusted with the Publick Money and that for the benefit of the Publick his accounts may be settled in this Department. That an Officer may be appointed to Command here, who is more active and less Arbitary, and whose ambition and Study would be to afford as protection, promote the Good of this Country, and act in Unison with its Inhabitants. And that a Quarter Master may be appointed—if one may be found absolutely necessary—that has more pride and more principal than to descend to the mean and unwarrantable Task of becoming a Tool in Depeculation by sacrificing his time to create private Jobbs and promote advantagous bargains. It is therefore with a pleasing Confidence that we Anticipate a ready attention to the Prayer of this Petition, and we beg leave to declare that it is not the man, but his Conduct that we arraign. And that had we an oppertunity, Compliment would be more agreeable to your Petitioners than Complaint. And while we thus expose and are determined to oppose the dispotick and designing, we are determined at the same time, to support the virtuous and disinterested by every means in our power. Patriotism will here find Friends and publick Good may depend on being Supported with our lives and fortunes.

N.B. The Inclosed List Contains the Names of the Subscribers.

Names of the Petitioners

Edwd Ward Tho. Smallman Devirux Smith Andrew Robertson John Gibson James McLalland Wm Reddick John Ferry James Fleming Geo. Wallace James Robertson Hugh Gardner David Kenneday William Evans John Reed James Agnew William Reed plus 403 more names

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