George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 8 August 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia August 8. 1794.


The enclosed letter from Mr Bradford appears to deserve to be sent by express.1 The separate powers, which he asks, tho’ they cannot with propriety be demanded by insurgents, will be forwarded by a special messenger, to gratify him; if the two other Secretaries approve of them.2 I shall carry Neville’s and Lenox’s account of the matters with me in the evening to German Town; as I shall watch for their arrival, and immediately confer with them.

The Governor’s two proclamations are inclosed; one in the newspaper; the other in a handbill.3 I have the honor, sir, to be with the highest respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters. The closing and signature of the LS are in Randolph’s writing.

1Randolph enclosed William Bradford’s letter written from Downingtown on "Thursday Evening," 7 Aug., and sent, according to the commissioners’ minutes, by express on the morning of 8 August. Although that letter is accompanied by a misleading docket reading, in part, "August 8. 94 recd Aug: 9. 11 o’clock," it is clearly the enclosure here. Bradford informed Randolph that he had met with John Nevill and David Lenox, who expected to be at Philadelphia about two o’clock the next day and wished to meet with GW. After expressing pessimism about the prospects for his mission, based on his information from Nevill and Lenox, Bradford continued, "On examining the papers delivered to me I find that the powers are not distinct from the instructions. This may lead to embarrassments." If the insurgents demanded to see the commissioners’ authority, they could not show it without exposing their instructions. "I therefore apprehend that a separate & general power to confer with any bodies of men or individuals for the purpose of allaying discontents and restoring order & the authority of the laws &c & will be proper" (DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection).

2Randolph altered the preceding sentence, which initially said that the powers "are yet forwarded," the secretaries "having approved" of them. A draft of the powers approved by Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox is in DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection, and the DS is in PHi: Gratz Collection (see also ASP, Miscellaneous description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:87). Dated 8 Aug., the document authorized the commissioners "to confer with such Bodies or Individuals, as you may approve concerning the Commotions, which are referred to in the Proclamation of the President . . . and whatsoever promise or engagement you shall make in behalf of the Executive of the United States, the same will be ratified in the most ample manner." The commissioners received the powers by express on 10 Aug. (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection).

3Gov. Thomas Mifflin issued two proclamations on 7 August. The first, which was printed in the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) and Dunlap and Claypool’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) of 8 Aug., briefly summarized events in western Pennsylvania and GW’s proclamation of 7 Aug; reminded "every good and enlightened citizen . . . how unworthy it is thus riotously to oppose the Constitution and Laws of our country"; and announced his "determination, by all lawful means, to cause to be prosecuted and punished, all persons whomsoever, that have engaged or shall engage in any of the unlawful combinations or proceedings aforesaid: And further declaring, that whatever requisition the President of the United States shall make, or whatever duty he shall impose in pursuance of his constitutional and legal powers, for the purpose of maintaining the authority, and executing the laws of the United States—will, on my part, be promptly undertaken and faithfully discharged." Mifflin ordered all officers of the Commonwealth "to employ all lawful means for discovering, apprehending, securing, trying and bringing to justice, each and every person concerned in the said riots and unlawful proceedings." The second, taking note of GW’s proclamation of 7 Aug. and Judge James Wilson’s certificate of 4 Aug., directed "on this extraordinary occasion" that the General Assembly should convene on 1 Sept. "for the purpose of taking the premises into their serious consideration of devising the necessary means to maintain the peace and dignity of the commonwealth and of providing more effectually than the existing laws provide for organizing, arming and equipping the Militia, in order to insure a prompt and faithful compliance with the orders of government, and of such requisitions as the President shall make in pursuance of his constitutional and legal powers" (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:114).

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