Adams Papers
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Proclamation on Insurrection in Pennsylvania, 12 March 1799

12 March, 1799.

Proclamation concerning the Insurrection in Pennsylvania

Whereas, combinations to defeat the execution of the law for the valuation of lands and dwelling-houses within the United States, have existed in the counties of Northampton, Montgomery, and Bucks, in the State of Pennsylvania, and have proceeded in a manner subversive of the just authority of the government, by misrepresentations to render the laws odious, be deterring the officers of the United States to forbear the execution of their functions, and by openly threatening their lives: And whereas, the endeavors of the well-affected citizens, as well as of the executive officers, to conciliate a compliance with those laws, have failed of success, and certain persons in the county of Northampton, aforesaid, have been hardy enough to perpetrate certain acts, which, I am advised, amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States, the said persons, exceeding one hundred in number, and, armed and arrayed in a warlike manner, having, on the seventh day of the present month of March, proceeded to the house of Abraham Lovering, in the town of Bethlehem, and there compelled William Nicholas, Marshal of the United States, and for the district of Pennsylvania, to desist from the execution of certain legal processes in his hands to be executed, and having compelled him to discharge and set at liberty certain persons whom he had arrested by virtue of a criminal process, duly issued for offences against the United States, and having impeded and prevented the commissioners and assessors, in conformity with the laws aforesaid, in the county of Northampton aforesaid, by threats of personal injury, from executing the said laws, avowing as the motive of these illegal and treasonable proceedings an intention to prevent, by force of arms, the execution of the said laws, and to withstand by open violence the lawful authority of the government of the United States. And whereas, by the Constitution and laws of the United States, I am authorized, whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or the execution thereof obstructed, in any State, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by powers vested in the marshal, to call forth military force to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed; and I have accordingly determined so to do, under the solemn conviction that the essential interests of the United States demand it. Wherefore I, John Adams, President of the United States, do hereby command all persons being insurgents as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern, on or before Monday next, being the eighteenth day of this present month, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes. And I do, moreover, warn all persons whomsoever, against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpetrators of the aforesaid treasonable acts, and I do require all officers and others, good and faithful citizens, according to their respective duties and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous and unlawful proceedings.

In testimony whereof, &c.

John Adams

Printed Source--The Works of John Adams. ed. Charles Francis Adams. 10 vols. (Boston, 1850–1856)..

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