George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 20 October 1794]

20th. Called the Quarter Master General, Adjutant General, Contractor, & others of the Staff departmt. before me, & the Commander in chief, at 9 Oclock this morning, in order to fix on the Routs of the two Columns & their Stages; and to know what the situation of matters were in their respective departments—and when they wd. be able to put the Army in motion. Also to obtain a correct return of the strength—and to press the commanding Officers of Corps to prepare with all the Celerity in their power for a forward movement.

Upon comparing accts., it was found that the army could be put in motion 23d.—and it was so ordered, by the Routs which will be mentioned hereafter.

Matters being thus arranged I wrote a farewell address to the Army through the Commander in Chief—Govr. Lee—to be published in orders—and having prepared his Instructions and made every arrangement that occurred, as necessary I prepared for my return to Philadelphia in order to meet Congress, and to attend to the Civil duties of my Office.

I should have mentioned before that I found (on my arrival at Bedford) the judge, and Attorney for the district of Pennsylvania attending, as they had been required to do, the Army.

I found also, which appeared to me to be an unlucky measure—that the former had issued his warrants against, and a party of light horse had actually siez’d, one Harman Husband & one Filson as Insurgents or abetters of the Insurrection. I call it unlucky because my intention was to have suspended all proceedings of a Civil Nature until the Army had united its columns in the Center of the Insurgent Counties & then to have ciezed at one & the same all the leaders and principals of the Insurrection and because it is to be feared that the proceeding above mentioned will have given the alarm and those who are most obnoxious to punishment will flee from the Country.

staff departmt.: It is uncertain in some instances to which officers GW was referring. Henry Miller was quartermaster for the militia army as a whole; Clement Biddle was quartermaster for Pennsylvania. Edward Hand was adjutant general. The contractor was probably Elie Williams who was in Bedford at this time. Ephraim Blaine of Carlisle was responsible for wagons, horses, forage, and fuel. George Gale, supervisor of the revenue for Maryland, was responsible for supplying the Maryland militia; Joel Gibbs was contractor for the artillery (RISCH description begins Erna Risch. Quartermaster Support of the Army: A History of the Corps, 1775–1939. Washington, D.C., 1962. description ends , 110; HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:150–52).

GW’s farewell to the army was contained in his letter of this day to Henry Lee expressing “the very high sense I entertain of the enlightened and patriotic zeal for the constitution and the laws which has led them chearfully to quit their families and homes and the comforts of private life to undertake and thus far to perform a long and fatiguing march and to encounter the hardships and privations of a Military life.” He warned every officer and soldier, however, that he had come to western Pennsylvania to support the laws and “that it would be peculiarly unbecoming in him to be in any way the infractor of them. . . . The dispensation of . . . justice belongs to the civil Magistrate and let it ever be our pride and our glory to leave the sacred deposit there unviolated” (DLC:GW). Lee included the letter in his General Orders of 21 Oct. 1794 (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:350–53).

GW’s instructions were submitted through Alexander Hamilton in a letter from Hamilton to Lee, 20 Oct. 1794: “I have it in special instruction from the President of the United States . . . to convey to you on his behalf, the following instructions for the general direction of your conduct in the command of the Militia army.” The instructions directed Lee to march the army in two columns in the direction of Parkinson’s Ferry and suggested that upon the army’s arrival in the insurgents’ area a proclamation should be issued exhorting all citizens to abide by the laws. Armed insurgents should be turned over to the civil authority and the rest sent home. When the insurrection was suppressed the army was to withdraw “detaching such a force as you deem adequate; to be stationed within the disaffected Country. . . . You are to exert yourself by all possible means to preserve discipline among the troops, particularly a scrupulous regard to the rights of persons and property and a respect for the authority of the civil magistrate; taking especial care to inculcate and cause to be observed this principal, that the duties of the army are confined to the attacking and subduing of armed opponents of the laws, and to the supporting and aiding of the civil officers in the execution of their functions” (HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:331–36).

judge, and attorney for the district of pennsylvania: Richard Peters (1744–1828), judge of the United States district court of Pennsylvania and a native of Philadelphia, served as secretary of the Board of War 1776–81 and as a member of the Continental Congress 1782–83. William Rawle (1759–1836) of Philadelphia studied law in London at the Middle Temple. After his return to the United States in 1783 he practiced law in Philadelphia. GW appointed him United States attorney for the district of Pennsylvania in 1791. Peters and Rawle accompanied the army on its march west from Bedford.

Herman Husband (1724–1795) was living at Coffee Springs Farm in Somerset County, Pa., in 1794. Born probably in Cecil County, Md., he moved to North Carolina around 1755. About 1759 he returned to Maryland but moved back to North Carolina in 1761. He soon became a spokesman for frontier rights and was a leader of the Regulators in North Carolina in the backwoods attack on Gov. William Tryon’s taxation policies. He was forced to flee to Pennsylvania in 1771. Settling in Somerset County, he served in the Pennsylvania legislature 1777, 1778, and 1790, where he was particularly interested in the development of the iron industry in Pennsylvania (MULKEARN AND PUGH description begins Lois Mulkearn and Edwin V. Pugh. A Traveler’s Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, 1954. description ends , 290). Johann David Schoepf encountered this frontier eccentric. “barefoot and dressed in dirty clothes,” on his journey west in 1783–84. After his flight from North Carolina, Schoepf observed, Husband “betook himself hither into the mountains, where under a changed name and wearing strange clothing, he contrived to avoid further persecution. . . . Instead of matters of state he concerns himself now with prophecies of which several have appeared in Goddard’s Maryland Calendar under the name of Hutrim Hutrim, or the Philosopher of the Alleghany. In one of these he had calculated the time of his death, but has already lived some years beyond the term” (SCHOEPF description begins Johann David Schoepf. Travels in the Confederation [1783–1784]. Translated and edited by Alfred J. Morrison. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1911. description ends , 1:292–97). When the revolt against the excise erupted, Husband not suprisingly assumed a leading role.

Robert Philson was a storekeeper in Berlin, Bedford County, Pa. Husband, Philson, and two other prisoners taken at approximately the same time were sent to Philadelphia for trial, and GW wrote Hamilton 31 Oct. that they “were safely lodged in this City on Wednesday afternoon” (DLC: Hamilton Papers).

On his return to Philadelphia, GW apparently followed a route from Bedford to Chambersburg, from Chambersburg to York, and then to Lancaster, from which place he proceeded to Philadelphia. On Tuesday evening 21 Oct. he wrote Hamilton from “Hartley’s” (DLC:GW). This was William Hartley’s stone house, some four miles east of Bedford (MULKEARN AND PUGH description begins Lois Mulkearn and Edwin V. Pugh. A Traveler’s Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, 1954. description ends , 141). By 26 Oct. he had reached Wright’s ferry on the Susquehanna. From there he wrote Hamilton that “thus far I have proceeded without accident to man, horse or Carriage, altho’ the latter has had wherewith to try its goodness; especially in ascending the North Mountain from Skinners by a wrong road. . . . I rode yesterday afternoon thro’ the rain from York Town to this place, and got twice in the height of it hung, (and delayed by that means) on the rocks in the middle of the Susquehanna, but I did not feel half as much for my own situation as I did on acct. of the Troops on the Mountains, and of the effect the rain might have on the Roads through the glades” (DLC: Hamilton Papers). On 31 Oct. he wrote Hamilton from Philadelphia that “by pushing through the rain (which fell more or less on Saturday, Sunday and Monday) I arrived in this City before noon on Tuesday [28 Oct.]; without encountering any thing so unpleasant than the badness of the ways, after the rains had softened the earth and made them susceptible of deep impression of the Wheels” (DLC: Hamilton Papers).

After GW’s departure from Bedford, the army, unruly and poorly disciplined, continued on the march to the Pittsburgh area and to Washington County, reaching the disaffected counties early in November, and by 17 Nov. Hamilton, who had accompanied the army, wrote GW that “the list of prisoners has been very considerably increased, probably to the amount of 150. . . . Subsequent intelligence shews that there is no regular assemblage of the fugitives where it is supposed—there are only small vagrant parties in that quarter affording no point of Attack. Every thing is urging on for the return of the troops” (DLC:GW). On 19 Nov., Hamilton wrote that “the army is generally in motion homeward” (DLC:GW). A regiment of infantry, with nine months’ enlistment, was raised by Lee to maintain order in the counties involved in the insurrection (Hamilton to GW, 8 Nov. 1794, NjP:De Coppet Collection). The insurgents’ trials dragged on through much of 1795 and most of the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence, GW issuing a proclamation 10 July pardoning most of those who were not sentenced or under indictment (PHi: Wallace Papers).

In his Sixth Annual Address to Congress, 19 Nov. 1794, GW recapitulated the course the government had taken to suppress the insurrection and gave his own views as to its cause: “During the session of the year 1790, it was expedient to exercise the legislature power, granted by the constitution of the United States, ‘to lay and collect excises.’ In a majority of the States, scarcely an objection was heard to this mode of taxation. In some indeed, alarms were at first conceived; until they were banished by reason and patriotism. In the four western counties of Pennsylvania, a prejudice, fostered and embittered by the artifice of men who labored for an ascendency over the will of others by the guidance of their passions, produced symptoms of riot and violence. It is well known, that Congress did not hesitate to examine the complaints which were presented; and to relieve them, as far as justice dictated, or general convenience would permit, But the impression, which this moderation made on the discontented, did not correspond, with what it deserved. The arts of delusion were no longer confined to the efforts of designing individuals. The very forbearance to press prosecutions was misinterpreted into a fear of urging the execution of the laws; and associations of men began to denounce threats against the officers employed. From a belief, that, by a more formal concert, their operation might be defeated; certain self-created societies assumed the tone of condemnation. Hence, while the greater part of Pennsylvania itself were conforming themselves to the acts of excise; a few counties were resolved to frustrate them. It was now perceived, that every expectation from the tenderness which had been hitherto pursued, was unavailing, and that further delay could only create an opinion of impotency or irresolution in the government. Legal process was, therefore, delivered to the Marshal, against rioters and delinquent distillers” (Gaz. of the U.S. [Philadelphia], 19 Nov. 1794).

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