Alexander Hamilton Papers

Continental Congress Resolutions on Measures to be Taken in Consequence of the Pennsylvania Mutiny, 21 June 1783

Continental Congress
Resolutions on Measures to be Taken in Consequence of the Pennsylvania Mutiny1

[Philadelphia] June 21. 1783

Resolved that the President and Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania be informed that the authority of the United States having been this day grossly insulted by the disorderly and menacing appearance of a body of armed soldiers about the place within which Congress were assembled, and the peace of this City being endangered by the mutinous disposition of the said troops now in the barracks, it is, in the opinion of Congress, necessary that effectual measures be immediately taken for supporting the public authority.

Resolved that the Committee,2 on a letter from Colonel Butler, be directed to confer, without loss of time, with the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, on the practicability of carrying the preceding Resolution into effect, and that in case it shall appear to the Committee that there is not a satisfactory ground for expecting adequate & prompt exertions of this State for supporting the dignity of the federal government, the president on the advice of the Committee be authorized to summon the members of Congress to meet on Thursday next at Trenton or Princeton in New Jersey, in order that further and more effectual measures may be taken for suppressing the present revolt & maintaining the dignity & authority of the United States.

Resolved that the Secretary at war be directed to communicate to the commander in chief the state & disposition of the said troops, in order that he may take immediate measures to despatch to this City, such force as he may judge expedient for suppressing any disturbances that may ensue.

JCH Transcripts description begins John C. Hamilton Transcripts. These transcripts are owned by Mr. William H. Swan, Hampton Bays, New York, and have been placed on loan in the Columbia University Libraries. description ends .

1The editor of the Journals of the Continental Congress does not name the author of this document but states only that “the entry for this day was made in the Journal by George Bond” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIV, 410, note 1). As H was the author of most of the congressional papers on the mutiny, J. C. Hamilton probably was correct in attributing this resolve to him. No copy in H’s writing, however, has been found.

On Friday, June 20, 1783, mutinous soldiers marched into Philadelphia and took possession of the barracks where other troops were quartered (see H to William Jackson, June 19, 1783, note 2). Congress had adjourned until Monday, June 23, but indications of trouble caused the President of Congress, Elias Boudinot, to call for a session of Congress on Saturday, June 21. The delegates from only six states had assembled when several hundred troops—the Lancaster soldiers having been joined by men from the Philadelphia barracks—surrounded the State House, where in separate rooms the Congress and the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania were sitting. The President of Congress wrote to George Washington on June 21:

“The mutineers sent in a paper, demanding of the President and Council to authorize them to choose their own Officers … in order to represent their grievances. That they should wait twenty minutes, and if nothing was then done, they would turn in an enraged Soldiery on the Council, who would do themselves Justice, and the Council must abide the consequences.… This was handed to the Members of the Congress by the President of the State.… Neither Congress, or the Council, would take any measures while they were so menaced, and matters continued thus till half past 3 O’Clock this afternoon, when the Mutineers were prevailed on, for the present, to march back to the Barracks.…” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington, 1921–1938). description ends , VII, 193–94.)

Boudinot called Congress together on the evening of June 21 and the resolution printed above was introduced and passed.

2The letter from Colonel Richard Butler to the president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania was referred to a committee which consisted of H, Richard Peters, and Oliver Ellsworth.

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