To George Washington1
[Philadelphia, August 12, 1794]
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President & sends him two letters which were received last night from Pittsburgh.2
Would it not be adviseable to put the Garrison of Fort Franklin3 in the power of Major Butler, so that if he deems it advisable he may draw a part of it to his aid?
An attack from the Indians appears at present improbable,4 & an attack from the Insurgents probable enough.
The bearer5 of the letters waits orders to return. Will The President suggest anything?
LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. For background to this letter, see “Deposition of Francis Mentges,” August 1, 1794; “Conference Concerning the Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania,” August 2, 1794; H to Washington, August 2, 5, 1794; H and Henry Knox to Washington, August 5, 1794.
2. On August 12, 1794, John Stagg, Jr., chief clerk in the War Department, wrote to Knox: “An express arrived here last night from Pittsburg with letters from Col [Thomas] Butler and Major [Isaac] Craig dated the 3d. instant.… Col Butler is threatened with proscription, and that if the President does not remove him and his garrison, that they [the insurgents] will burn the Fort” (ALS, Henry Knox Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). Butler’s letter to Knox has not been found. Craig’s letter, which was written at Fort Fayette, Pittsburgh, reads as follows: “On the 1st Instant a numerous body of armed men assembled on Bradock’s Fields about nine miles from this place, and Continued there til yesterday morning, their numbers increasing it is asserted, to four thousand five hundred, being Joined by a number of the Inhabitants of Pittsburg, commenced their march about nine OClock, & it was Confidently reported with a design of attacking the Fort, but some of their leaders being informed that every possible means had been adopted for its defence, they Prudently concluded to postpone the attack to some more favourable Oppertunity, & Sent a flag to inform the Commandant that they intended to march Peaceably past the Fort into Pittsburg, & then cross the monongahela & Return home. Major Butler intimated to the flag that their peaceable intentions would be evinced by their Passing the Fort at a proper distance; they therefore took another road into Town, (Having as they asserted accomplished the object of their assembling Viz forming a union with the inhabitants of Pittsburg, Banishing some Gentlemen inimical to their Cause and proscribing several Others who are also Obliged to leave this Country in a few days.) When there Committed several excesses Crossed the River, Burned a barn & a large quantity of Grain in stacks the property of Major [Abraham] Kirkpatrick, whom they have Banished. Colo [Presley] Neville and Genl [John] Gibson are under proscription and to leave Pittsburg immediately. I am told that I am allowed till the 12 of this month to settle my affairs at Pittsburg and then to disappear.
“On the 14th instant, an other Genl. meeting is to take place the result of which God only Knows.
“Every possible pains has been taken & is now pursued to protect the property & Support the Honor of the arms of the United States. I feel particularly happy that Major Butler Commands at this Crisis.
“The bearer Edwd OHara leaves this on foot to Prevent a suspicion of Conveying intelligence be pleased to direct means for his returning on horse Back. The arms and ammunition is all Safely Come to hand in good time.” (LC, Isaac Craig Papers, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)
At a town meeting held at Pittsburgh on July 31, 1794, residents of the town of Washington, Pennsylvania, had demanded that three friends of the excise (Abraham Kirkpatrick, James Brison, and Edward Day) be banished from Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 79, 80). See “Extract from the Affidavit of William Meetkirk” in Brackenridge, Insurrection description begins Henry M. Brackenridge, History of the Western Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, Commonly Called the Whiskey Insurrection, 1794 (Pittsburgh, 1859). description ends , 120–21, and Gabriel Blakeney to H. H. Brackenridge in Brackenridge, Incidents description begins Hugh H. Brackenridge, Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania, in the Year 1794 (Philadelphia, 1795). description ends , 97–99. See also “Conference Concerning the Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania,” August 2, 1794, note 8; H to Washington, August 5, 1794, note 79. The proscription of Presley Neville and John Gibson had been voted at a meeting at Braddock’s Field on August 2, 1794 (Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 158).
The reasons for the proscription of Kirkpatrick, Neville, and Gibson are explained as follows in the “Resolves of the Committee of Pitsburg respecting Genl. Gibson and Colo. P Neville”: “At a meeting of the Committee (of twenty one) of the Town of Pittsburg on Monday morning 4th. Augt. 1794 Report was made to them by the Committee of four who were a part of the Committee of Battallions on Braddocks fields on 2d. Inst. Vizt. That in Committee on Braddocks fields it was stated on the part of the Committee of four that the three prescribed persons of the Town of Pittsburg Vizt. Abraham Kirkpatrick, James Brisson and Edward Day were expelled the Town and had Disappeared.
“It was then taken into view what other persons were obnoxious as being suspected of being friendly to the Excise Law as might appear from Letters by them written or otherwise, and on Certain letters being read which had been intercepted in the Mail from Pittsburg to Philadelphia Vizt. One from Colo. Presley Neville to his Father containing in a certain paragraph words unfavourable to the opposers of the Excise Law tho’ no persons in particular were mentioned, but this being considered a sufficient Evidence of his enmity to the cause it was resolved that he should be expelled the Country within ten days.
“Also one letter from Genl. John Gibson to the Governor of Pennsylvania which in a certain paragraph evinced a like disposition by a mistatement made by him in information which information was thought not to be exact and which he had too hastily credited, it was resolved that he should be subject to the like sentence and that the Committee of Pittsburg should carry into effect these measures necessary for the public safety.
“Resolved therefore that notice of their respective sentences be forthwith given to these persons and they depart accordingly and that a Guard be ordered for each of them to conduct them to a proper distance.
“Resolved also that a Copy of this minute be given to each of those present as a passport from the Country.” (Copy, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives; copy, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.) This document is printed in Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV description begins Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd ser., IV (n.p., 1876). description ends , 158–59.
Gibson enclosed the resolves in a letter to Edmund Randolph, dated August 14, 1794, which reads: “At the request of Judge [Jasper] Yates and Mr. [William] Bradford I do myself the honour of informing you, that I met them on Tuesday Morning ten Miles East of Bedford. They desired me to inclose the written papers which I recd. from the Committee of Pitsburg, and to give you every other Information respecting the Western Country which I might possess.
“I left Pitsburg on Friday last, and had a guard of three of the Committee to the Border of Westmoreland County. They then returned, and on my arrival at Greensburg, I found a number of people collected there, in order to Choose delegates to attend the Genl. Meeting this day at Parkinsons on the Monangohela River. They Surrounded the house, and told me that they would allow me half an hour to refresh myself and that I must quit the town or abide the Consequences. I then left them and came a short distance on this side the town.
“I had some hopes of Being able to remain there a day or two in order to Wait for Colo. P. Neville who was to have overtaken me there, and to have learned the disposition of the people of that County, But was prevented as Before mentioned. I am sorry to have to add, that from the Choice the people have made to represent them at the General Meeting, little good is to be Expected, the men that have Been chosen are generally the most violent of any in the Country. I wish they may Even treat the Commissioners with Common decency. The[y] say Nothing less than a repeal of the Excise Law will Satisfy them, and that unless they can obtain that they will join the British or the Savages. I shall remain here until I know the Result of the Genl. Meeting, as I have left my family and everything Dear to me at Pitsburg. Should anything offer in which I can render any Service to my Country at the Risque of my Life and Fortune you may Command me. [David] Bradford, who headed the Column that Marched thro the town of Pitsburg, harangued the people, and informed them that he woud Write to Washington to remove Butler, and that if he did not Comply with his request he would remove him and take the Fort.…” (LS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives.)
3. Fort Franklin was located at the confluence of the Allegheny River and French Creek and was approximately thirty-five miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
4. Additional forces had been ordered to Fort Franklin in June, 1794, because of the threat of an Indian attack, which, however, had not materialized (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 508–16).
5. Edward O’Hara. See note 2.