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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 4 July 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia July 4. 1795.

E. Randolph has the honor of informing the President, that he is prevented from waiting on him this morning by a tenesmus in his bowels,1 which has been very painful to him for four hours, and keeps him constantly on his legs. He is afraid, that it will deprive him of waiting on the President in any other part of the day.

It is pretty certain, that the intended outrage in Kensington is suppressed; and that the leading men have been reasoned into a submission to order.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Tenesmus involves painful spasms of the bladder or rectum, accompanied by a desire, usually unsuccessful, to empty the bowel or bladder.

2The Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia) of 8 July 1795 reported the episode at Kensington in that city. “The birth day of American liberty was celebrated in this City with a funeral solemnity … It appeared more like a day of mourning than that of rejoicing. The day was closed by the exhibition of a transparent painting with the figure of John Jay upon it. The figure was in full stature, dressed in a robe, holding in his right hand a pair of scales, containing in one scale ‘American liberty and independance,’ kicking the beam, in the other ‘British gold’ in extreme preponderance; in his left hand a Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation which he extended to a group of senators, who were grinning with pleasure and grasping at the Treaty. From the mouth of the figure issued these words contained in a label ‘Come up to my price and I will sell you my Country.’ The procession began in Kensington and moved with great solemnity down Front street to Callowhill Street, and down Second to Market Street from thence to Front street; and back again to Kensington[.] A great concourse of people attended the procession, and scarcely a whisper was heard until its return, when the shouts of repeated huzzas interrupted the solemnity of the scene. The figure was burned at Kensington amid the acclamation of hundreds of citizens. Never was a procession more peaceably conducted, no noise, no riot. … Thus ended the procession, and thus terminated the anniversary of American independance.”

Other newspaper reports published during that month contained additional, sometimes conflicting details. The Courier (Boston) of 15 July printed a description of the episode by an eyewitness. At 11:00 p.m. on 4 July, “the ship-carpenters of Kensington, and a number of other citizens, about 500, armed with clubs, paraded the streets with a transparent painting of Mr Jay.” The group returned to Kensington and set the painting on fire. “A small party of the Light-Horse attempted to disperse them, but without effect; they were driven from the field admidst a shower of stones, by which some were severely hurt, but no lives lost.”

The Phenix; Or, Windham Herald (Windham, Conn.) on 18 July printed a letter from Philadelphia dated 6 July. The writer stated that some members of the Democratic Society of the city had joined with the ship carpenters and “intended to burn Mr Jay’s effigy opposite the President’s house. They were warned not to attempt it, and the militia officers, light horse, artillery, &c. waited for them in Market Street, till ten o’clock, but detered from their design, they came down Second to Market, from thence Front about one o’clock Sunday morning, as silent as a funeral procession, till they got above Vine-street, and supposing themselves out of danger, when they gave three cheers … Not ten persons in all the streets they passed knew any thing of it.”

The Weekly Register (Norwich, Conn.) of 22 July printed a letter dated 5 July by a Philadelphia citizen who said that the parade had “met with no opposition till they had almost got back to Kensington, where they were overtaken by a party of light horse, which were ordered out to quell the disturbance. As soon as they came up with the image [of Jay], they demanded it; but finding it would not be given up peaceably, they endeavoured to take it by force; which so irritated the mob, that, determined to complete what they had begun, they attacked the horse with clubs and stones, beat them off, and then proceeded to the place of execution—and which took place a little while after.”

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