George Washington Papers

From the Commissioners Sent to Western Pennsylvania, 24 September 1794

From the Commissioners Sent to Western Pennsylvania

Philada Septr 24. 1794.

The Commissioners, appointed to confer with the Citizens in the Western Counties of Pennsylvania, in order to induce them to submit peaceably to the laws, and to prevent the necessity of using coercion to inforce their execution, respectfully report to the President of the United States:

That, in pursuance of their instructions, they repaired to the Western Counties; and, on their arrival there, found, that the spirit of disaffection had pervaded other parts of the fourth survey of Pennsylvania, besides those counties, declared to be in a state of insurrection:1 that all the offices of inspection established therein had lately been violently suppressed: and that a meeting of persons, chosen by most of the townships, was assembled at Parkinson’s ferry, for the purpose of taking into consideration the situation of the Western Country. This Assembly, composed of citizens coming from every part of the fourth survey, would have furnished a favourable opportunity, for a conference and mutual explanation: but as they met in the open fields, and were exposed to the impressions of a number of rash and violent men (some of them armed) who surrounded them, an immediate communication with the whole body would have been inconvenient and hazardous. The meeting was probably of that opinion also; for soon after the appointment of Commissioners was announced to them, they resolved, that, a committee to consist of three persons from each county should be appointed to meet any commissioners, that might have been, or might be, appointed by the Government, and that they should report the result of their conference to the standing committee, which was to be composed of one person from each township. As soon as this Committee of conference were nominated, they agreed to meet at Pittsburgh on the 20th of the same month.2

The underwritten accordingly repaired to that place, and were soon after joined by the Honorable Thomas McKean and William Irvine Esquires, who had been appointed Commissioners on the part of the Executive of Pennsylvania. A full and free communication was immediately had with those Gentlemen as to the powers delegated, and the measures proper to be pursued at the expected conference.3

On the day appointed, a sub-committee of the Conferees waited on the Commissioners, and arranged with them the time, place, and manner of conference. It was agreed, that it should be had the next morning, at the house of John McMasters, in Pittsburgh, and should be private.4

On the 21st, all the Commissioners met the Conferees, at the place appointed. Of the latter there were present; John Kirkpatrick, George Smith, and John Powers, from Westmoreland County; David Bradford, James Marshall, and James Edgar from Washington County; Edward Cook, Albert Gallatin, and James Lang from Fayette County; Thomas Morton, John Lucas, H. H. Brackenridge from Alleghany county; together with William McKinley, William Sutherland and Robert Stephenson, who were inhabitants of Ohio county, in Virginia.5

The conference was begun by the underwritten, who expressed the concern they felt at the events, which had occasioned that meeting; but declared their intention to avoid any unnecessary observations upon them, since it was their business to endeavour to compose the disturbances, which prevailed, and to restore the authority of the laws, by measures wholly of a conciliatory nature.

It was then stated, that the formal resistance, which had lately been given to the laws of the United States, violated the great principle, on which republican government is founded; that every such government must, at all hazards, enforce obedience to the general will; and that so long as they admitted themselves to be a part of the nation, it was manifestly absurd to oppose the national authority.

The underwritten then proceeded to state the obligations, which lay on the President of the United States to cause the laws to be executed; the measures he had taken for that purpose; his desire to avoid the necessity of coercion; and the general nature of the powers he had vested in them; and finally, requested to know; whether the conferees could give any assurances of a disposition in the people to submit to the laws, or would recommend such submission to them?

The Commissioners, on the part of the State of Pennsylvania, then addressed the Conferees, on the subject of the late disturbances, in that country; forcibly represented the mischevous consequences of such conduct; explained the nature of their mission; and declared, they were ready to promise in behalf of the Executive authority of the state a full pardon and indemnity, for all that was past, on condition of an entire submission to the laws.6

On the part of the Conferees, a narrative was given of those causes of discontent and uneasiness, which very generally prevailed in the minds of the people, in the western counties, and which had discovered themselves in the late transactions. Many of these, they said, had long existed and some of them from the settlement of that country. Among other causes of discontent, they complained of the decisions of the State Courts, which discountenanced improvement titles, and gave the preference to paper titles; of the war which had so long vexed the frontiers—& of the manner in which that war had been conducted.7 They complained, that they had been continually harrassed by militia duty, in being called out by the State Government, to repel incursions &c.; that the general government had been inattentive to the execution of the treaty of peace, respecting the western posts, and remiss in asserting the claim to the navigation of the Missisippi; that the acts for raising a revenue on distilled spirits were unequal and oppressive, in consequence of their local circumstances; that Congress had neglected their remonstrances and petitions; and that there was great hardship in being summoned to answer for penalties in the courts of the United States at a distance from the vicinage. They also mentioned the suspension of the settlement at Presqu’ isle; the engrossing of large quantities of land in the State by individuals; the killing of certain persons at General Neville’s house; and the sending of Soldiers from the Garrison at Pittsburgh, to defend his house—as causes of irritation among the people. To these they added the appointment of General Neville, as inspector of the survey, whose former popularity had made his acceptance of that office particularly offensive.

They said, they were perswaded, that the persons, who were the actors in the late disturbances, had not originally intended to have gone so far, as they had gone; but were led to it from the obstinacy of those, who refused to do what was demanded of them; that the forcible opposition, which had been made to the law, was owing to the pressure of the grievance; but, if, there was any prospect of redress, no people would be more ready to show themselves good citizens.

The Commissioners expressed their surprize at the extent of these complaints, and intimated, that if all these matters were really causes of uneasiness and dissatisfaction, in the minds of the people, it would be impossible for any government to satisfy them. But as some of these complaints were of a nature more serious than others, though they could not speak officially, they stated what was generally understood as to the conduct, measures, and expectations of government, respecting the Missisippi Navigation—the treaty of peace—the suspension of the settlement at Presqu’ isle & that as to the acts of Congress which had been forcibly opposed, if it were proper they should be repealed, Congress alone could do it; but that while they were laws, they must be carried into execution; that the petitions of the Western counties had not been neglected; nor their interests overlooked; that in fact the local interests of those counties were better represented than those of any other part of the State; they having no less than three gentlemen in the house of Representatives, when it appeared by the Census, that their numbers would not entitle them to two; that the acts in question had been often under the consideration of Congress; that they had always been supported by a considerable majority, in which they would find the names of several gentlemen, considered, in those counties, as the firmest friends of their country; that although the general interests of the Union did not admit of a repeal, modifications had been made in the law, and some favourable alterations, in consequence of their representations; and, that, at the last session, the State Courts had been vested with a jurisdiction over offences against those acts, which would enable the President to remove one of their principal complaints;8 that the convenience of the people had been and would always be consulted by the government; and the conferees were desired to say, if there was any thing in the power of the executive, that yet remained to be done to make the execution of the acts convenient and agreeable to the people.

One of the conferrees then enquired, whether the President could not suspend the execution of the excise acts, until the meeting of Congress; but he was interrupted by others, who declared, that they considered such a measure as impracticable. The Commissioners expressed the same opinion; and the conversation then became more particular, respecting the powers the Commissioners possessed; the propriety and necessity of the Conferees expressing their sense, upon the proposals to be made, and of their calling the standing committee together, before the 1st September. But as it was agreed, that the propositions and answers should be reduced to writing, the result is contained in the documents annexed, and it appears unnecessary to detail the conference further.

The underwritten accordingly presented to the conferees a letter, of which a copy, marked No. 1. is annexed:9 and the following day they received an answer from them, in which they declare; that, "they are satisfied, that the Executive had in its proposals gone as far, as could be expected; that in their opinion, it was the interest of the Country to accede to the law; and that they would endeavour to conciliate not only the Committee, to whom they were to report, but the public mind in general, to their sense of the subject." A copy of this letter also is annexed No. 2.10

The underwritten then proceeded to state in writing what assurances of submission would be deemed full and satisfactory, and to detail more particularly the engagements they had power to make. This detail was submitted to the inspection of a sub-committee of the conferees, who candidly suggested such alterations as appeared to them necessary to render the proposals acceptable. From a desire to accommodate, most of the alterations, suggested by those gentlemen, were adopted; and though some of them were rejected, the reasons given appeared to be satisfactory, and no further objections remained. A copy of this detail is marked No. 3.11

The Conferees, on the following day, explicitly approved of the detail thus settled, engaged to recommend the proposals to the people, and added, that however it might be received, they were perswaded nothing more could be done by the Commissioners, or them, to bring the business to an accomodation. No. 4. is a copy of their letter.12

So far as this letter respects the gentlemen from Ohio county, in Virginia, a reply was made and some arrangements entered into with them, the nature and extent of which appear, by the correspondence, copies of which are annexed, Numbered 5. 6. 7. & 8.13

The hopes, excited by the favourable issue of this conference, were not realized by a correspondent conduct in the Citizens, who composed, what was called, "The standing Committee.["] They assembled at Brownsville (Redstone-Old Fort) on the 28th Augt and broke up, on the 29th; and, on the following day, a letter was received from Edward Cook, their Chairman, announcing, that difficulties had arisen, and that a new committee of conference was appointed: and, although the resolve which is annexed was passed, it did not appear, that the assurances of submission, which had been demanded, had been given. Copies of this letter and resolve are marked No. 9. & 10.14

The underwritten were informed by several of the members of that meeting, as well as other citizens who were present, at it, that the report of the Committee of Conference, and the proposals of the Commissioners were unfavourably received; that rebellion and hostile resistance against the United States were publickly recommended by some of the members; and that so excessive a spirit prevailed, that it was not thought prudent or safe to urge a compliance with the terms and preliminaries, prescribed by the underwritten, or the Commissioners from the Governor of Pennsylvania. All that could be obtained was the resolve already mentioned, the question upon it being decided by ballot; by which means each member had an opportunity of concealing his opinion and of sheltering himself from the resentment of those, from whom violence was apprehended. But notwithstanding this caution, the opinion was so far from being unanimous, that out of fifty seven votes, there were 23 nays, leaving a majority of only eleven: and the underwritten have been repeatedly assured, by different members of that meeting, that if the question had been publicly put, it would have been carried in the negative, by a considerable majority.

With a view of counteracting the arts and influence of the violent, the underwritten, on the 27th Augt, addressed a letter to the late conferees, authorizing them to assure the friends of order, who might be disposed to exert themselves to restore the authority of the laws, that they might rely on the protection of government, and that measures would be taken to suppress and punish the violence of those individuals, who might dissent from the general sentiment. This letter (a copy of which is marked No. 11) was delivered to one of the Conferees going to Brownsville;15 but he afterwards informed the underwritten that the Gentlemen, to whom it was addressed, did not "think it prudent to make any use of it, as the temper, which prevailed, was such, that it would probably have done more harm than good.["]16

The conduct of the Meeting at Brownsville, notwithstanding the thin veil thrown over it by the resolve already mentioned, was said to be considered by many & especially by the violent party as a rejection of the terms. It was certainly a partial rejection of those proposed by the underwritten & a total one of the preliminaries prescribed by the State Commissioners who had required assurances from the Members of that Meeting only & not from the people themselves.17

Having therefore, no longer any hopes of an universal or even general submission, it was deemed necessary by a solemn appeal to the people to ascertain as clearly as possible the determination of every individual—to encourage & oblige the friends of order to declare themselves—to recal as many of the disaffected as possible to their duty by assurances of pardon dependant on their individual conduct—& to learn with certainty what opposition government might expect if military coercion should be finally unavoidable.

To secure these advantages, the underwritten were of opinion, that the assurances of submission required of the people ought not only to be publicly given, but ought also to be reduced to writing: & that the state of each County should be certified by those who were to superintend the meetings at which the disposition of the people was to be ascertained.

On the first instant, nine of the gentlemen appointed by the meeting at Brownsville assembled at Pittsburgh & in the afternoon requested a Conference with the Commissioners which was agreed to.18 They produced the resolves by which they were appointed & entered into some explanation of the nature of their visit: but being desired to communicate it in writing they withdrew; & soon after sent a letter addressed to the Commissioners of the United States & of the State of Pennsylvania, to which an answer was immediately written.

Copies of these letters are annexed No. 12. & 13.19

As no part of their letter, altho’ addressed to the Commissioners from Pennsylvania, related to the preliminaries prescribed by them, they made no answer in writing: but in a conference held the next morning with those nine gentlemen they verbally declared to them their intire concurrence in the sentiments contained in the letter from the underwritten; and they expressed at some length their surprize & regret at the conduct of the meeting at Brownsville.20 The conferees declared themselves satisfied with the answer they had received—avowed an intire conviction of the necessity & propriety of an early submission in the manner proposed—& offered immediately to enter into the detail for settling the time, place & manner of taking the sense of the people. A copy of their letter which also expresses these sentiments is annexed. No. 14.21

It was accordingly agreed between the Commissioners on the one part & these gentlemen on the other that the people should assemble for the purpose of expressing their determination & giving the assurances required on the 11th inst: and the mode of ascertaining the public sentiments of the citizens resident in the fourth survey of Pennsylvania was clearly & definitely prescribed by the unanimous consent of all who were present at the conference.22 It was evident, that circumstances might arise to prevent the real disposition of the citizens from being fully ascertained at these meetings & that even arts might be used to procure such an expression of the public mind, that while it held up an appearance of submission might be in reality a false and delusive representation of it. It was therefore necessary that persons of character from every township or District, (who might be able from their own knowledge or the comparison of all circumstances justly to appreciate the public opinion) should assemble & jointly certify their opinion whether there was such a general submission in their respective Counties or not, that the laws could be peaceably carried into Execution. For the same purpose it was agreed to be proper that the number of those who openly refused as well as of those who promised to submit in their respective townships or Districts should be reported to the Commissioners. A Copy of this agreement marked No. 15. is annexed.23

It appears that meetings were held in the several counties in pursuance of this agreement: but The underwritten with extreme regret, find themselves obliged to report, that in the returns made to them no opinions are certified that there is so general a submission in any one of the Counties, that an Office of inspection can be immediately & safely established therein: on the contrary, the report of those who superintended the meeting in Westmoreland, states their opinion to be that such a measure would not be safe.

From Alleghany County no report whatever has been received—and altho’ it is understood that a very great majority of those assembled in the Pittsburgh District actually subscribed the declarations required, yet there is no reason to believe that there was a favorable issue in any other district. Information has been received that great violence prevailed in one of them, and that in another the majority declared, their determination not to submit to the laws of the United States.24

From Washington County a general return was duly transmitted to one of the Commissioners at Union Town signed by 28 of the Superintendants of the meeting. They do not however state the number of the yeas & nays on the question for submission—they decline giving any opinion whether there is such a general submission that an Office of inspection may be established therein—but certify their opinion & belief "that a large majority of the inhabitants will acquiesce & submit to the said law, under a hope & firm belief that the Congress of the United States will repeal the law."

The report from the Superintendants, in Westmoreland County, is equally defective, in not stating the numbers as required; but it certifies their opinion that as ill disposed lawless persons could suddenly assemble & offer violence it would not be safe immediately to establish an office of inspection in that County.25

The County of Fayette rejected the mode of ascertaining the sense of the people which had been settled between the Underwritten & the last Committee of Conference at Pittsburgh—The standing committee of that County directed those qualified by the laws of the State for Voting at Elections, to assemble in their election Districts & vote by ballot whether they would accede to the proposals made by the Commissioners of the U.S. on the 22d of August or not. the superintendants of these election districts report that 560 of the people thus convened had voted for submission & that 161. had voted against it; that no Judge or Member of their Committee had attended from the fourth district of the County to report the state of the Votes there, & that they are of opinion that a great majority of the Citizens who did not attend are disposed to behave peaceably & with due submission to the laws. But it is proper to mention that credible & certain information has been received, that in the fourth district of that County (composed of the townships of Tyrone & Bullskin) of which the standing Committee have given no account Six Sevenths of those who voted, were for resistance.

Copies of the reports stated, are annexed and numbered 16. 17. 18.26

From that part of Bedford County which is comprehended within the fourth survey of Pennsylvania, no report or returns have been sent forward, nor has any information been received that the citizens assembled there for the purpose of declaring their opinions upon questions proposed.

The written assurances of Submission which have been received by the Commissioners are not numerous, nor were they given by all those who expressed a Willingness to obey the Laws. In Fayette County a different Plan being pursued, no written assurances were given in the manner required. In the three other Counties, which, from the Census taken under the Laws of the State, appear to contain above Eleven thousand taxable Inhabitants (in which none under the age of 21. are included) the names subscribed to the Papers received, barely exceed 2,700 and of these a very considerable part have not been subscribed in the mode agreed on; being either signed at a different Day, unattested by any person, or wilfully varied from the settled Form.

From credible information received, it appears to the underwritten that in some Townships the majority & in one of them, the whole of the Persons assembled publicly declared themselves for Resistance: In some, altho’ the sense of the majority was not known, yet the party for Resistance was sufficiently strong, to prevent any Declarations of Submission being openly made; and in others the majority were intimidated or opposed by a violent minority: But notwithstanding these circumstances, the underwritten firmly believe that there is a considerable majority of the Inhabitants of the fourth survey, who are now disposed to submit to the Execution of the Laws: At the same time, they conceive it their Duty explicitly to declare their Opinion, that such is the state of things in that Survey, that there is no probability that the Act for raising a Revenue on distilled Spirits & Stills can at present be inforced by the usual Course of civil authority, and that some more competent Force is necessary to cause the Laws to be duly executed, & to insure to the Officers & well disposed Citizens that Protection which it is the Duty of Government to afford.

This opinion is founded on the facts already stated; & it is confirmed by that which is entertained by many intelligent & influential persons, officers of justice & others, resident in the Western Counties, who have lately informed one of the Commissioners, that whatever assurances might be given, it was in their Judgment absolutely necessary that the Civil authority should be aided by a military force in order to secure a due execution of the Laws.

James Ross

J: Yeates

Wm Bradford.

DS, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection; DfS (fragment), PHi: John William Wallace Collection. This document and its enclosures were printed as Report of the Commissioners, Appointed by the President of the United States of America, to Confer with the Insurgents in the Western Counties of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1794). The last three paragraphs and most of the corrections on the draft are in the writing of Jasper Yeates.

1For the commissioners’ instructions, see Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox to GW, 5 Aug., n.1. GW’s proclamation of 7 Aug. referred to Washington and Allegheny counties, but the disaffection had spread to Westmoreland, Bedford, and Fayette counties as well.

2William Bradford left Philadelphia on 7 Aug. and met Yeates at Lancaster, Pa., the next day. Bradford and Yeates found it impossible to reach Parkinson’s Ferry in time for the meeting of 14 August. They sent a letter to James Ross in Washington County, dated 11 Aug., and urged him to attend the gathering and use his "Presence & Influence" and "if necessary" announce the U.S. commissioners’ appointment "to prevent any hasty, intemperate or improper Resolves, which may . . . frustrate the Hopes we have of restoring Order" (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection).

The commissioners sent details of the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting to Edmund Randolph on 17 Aug. (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection; for resolutions approved at that gathering, see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:135-36).

3At the conference held between the U.S. commissioners and those from Pennsylvania on 19 Aug., the two groups agreed to meet separately with the committee of twelve appointed at Parkinson’s Ferry, but with their fellow commissioners as witnesses. The Pennsylvania commissioners reaffirmed the conference procedure as determined by Bradford, Yeates, and Ross on 17 August. First, "the Conference between them & the Deputies of the People . . . should be free, and . . . merely verbal, of which no public official Communications should be made." Second, proposals made by the commissioners and answers given by the committee should be written down to ensure "that the Intentions & Wishes of either Party should be fully & certainly expressed and all mistakes obviated." All the commissioners agreed to reserve the option to "apply . . . to the People at large in Order to prevent the impending Calamaties" (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection).

4The subcommittee consisted of James Edgar, Thomas Morton, and Robert Stephenson. The commissioners agreed to delay the conference for one day to permit the arrival of the Fayette County deputies.

John McMasters (1751-1805) owned a tavern known as "The Bear," located on Liberty Street in Pittsburgh. He served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the sessions of 1801-2 and 1802-3.

5For a report of the proceedings of this meeting, see Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection (see also Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:155-58).

Maj. John Kirkpatrick (1758-1833), a Greensburg merchant and a county commissioner, was a son-in-law of judge and state senator John Moore.

George Smith was a county commissioner and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1794-96 and 1799.

The 1790 census lists John Powers as a resident of Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County. He served as a lieutenant colonel of the Westmoreland County militia in 1798. Powers is portrayed by William Findley as a conciliator unjustly arrested for refusal to testify against others (Findley, History of the Insurrection, 228-29).

James Lang was a Brownsville auctioneer.

John Baptiste Charles Lucas (1758-1842) emigrated to the United States from France in 1784 and settled near Pittsburgh. He represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress from 1803 to 1805, when he moved to St. Louis, where he had been appointed a district judge.

William McKinley represented Ohio County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1798-1804, 1806-7, 1820-21, and 1824-26. He also represented Virginia in the U.S. Congress, 1810-11.

William Sutherland was a justice of the peace. For his explanation of his role, see Sutherland to Mathew Ruher [?], 30 Oct., PHi: Rawle Family Papers.

6For the propositions of the Pennsylvania commissioners, see Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:158-59.

7The draft specified one example of "mismanagement that pack saddles had been sent by the Secy of War into that country so large that they were fitter for Elephants than horses."

8The commissioners were referring to section 9 of "An Act making further provision for securing and collecting the Duties on foreign and domestic distilled Spirits, Stills, Wines and Teas," 5 June 1794 (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:378-81).

9In this letter dated 21 Aug., the commissioners reviewed the duty of the president to execute the laws and informed the committee of conference that he "perceives with the deepest Regret" the need to call out militia troops to enforce the excise laws. Washington, however, desired "to address . . . the Patriotism & Reason of" the western Pennsylvania residents and extend the moderate arm of the government to avoid unleashing "it’s Strength." The commissioners cautioned that GW remained determined to use "the whole Force, of the Union" if necessary, should his "Hopes . . . be disappointed." Lest any misunderstanding occur about the offer of reconciliation, the president desired the citizens of the western counties as well as the world to know, "if military Coercion must be employed, it is their choice & not his."

The commissioners then explained their authority to arrange collection of the excise tax with as "little Inconvenience" upon the residents as possible. They could move the location of trials closer to where accused individuals resided, suspend earlier prosecutions, and "engage for a general Pardon and Oblivion of them. But . . . the Exercise of these Powers must be preceded by full & satisfactory Assurances of a sincere Determination in the People, to obey the Laws." The commissioners reminded the committee of conference that they possessed no authority to suspend the excise laws or to offer any hope of repeal, and they insisted that the president’s offer did not extend to any future offence against the excise laws. (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:90-91).

10While the material within quotation marks incorporates language from the reply of 22 Aug. signed by committee chairman Edward Cook, it is more a summary than a quotation (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:91).

11In this document of 22 Aug., Bradford, Yeates, and Ross stipulated that the standing committee selected at Parkinson’s Ferry should "declare their Determination to submit to the Laws" by September 1st and promise not to oppose the collection of the excise in any manner. Next, the committee must submit a resolution to the people in which they "explicitly recommend . . . a perfect & intire Acquiescence" to the execution of the excise laws and prohibit additional "Violence injuries or Threats" to excise officers, property used as federal offices, or law-abiding citizens. In addition, the committee was to "declare their Determination, to support . . . the civil Authority" in its effort to protect excise officers and citizens. The commissioners then stated "that measures be taken to ascertain by Meetings in Election Districts, or otherwise, the Determination of the People to submit to the said Laws or resist them; and that satisfactory Assurances be given" by the 14th of September.

Should the above requirements be met, the commissioners promised to halt prosecutions for treason or offenses against the United States committed in the fourth survey until 10 July 1795. If citizens of those counties continued to obey the excise laws after that date, "a general Pardon & Oblivion of all such Offences shall be granted" except to individuals who sought to obstruct the laws during that time. The president had "determined" to direct those suits to the Pennsylvania courts "if . . . local Prejudices do not obstruct the faithful Administration of Justice." Only the president could make that decision, and in doing so, "he has no Authority to part with any Power vested in the Executive" (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion Collection). The newspapers printed a slightly different version of the commissioners’ requirements (see Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 5 Sept.).

12This letter, signed by Cook on 23 Aug., also pointed out that the conference included members from Ohio County, Va., and asked why the commissioners’ propositions were confined "to the Survey within Pennsylvania" (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:92).

13On the draft this reads "Numbered 5. 6. 7. 8. & 9." Subsequent numbers on the draft are raised in accordance with the extra number here.

In these four letters exchanged on 23 Aug., the commissioners stated that they could not "extend our Propositions" because they were sent specifically to deal with unrest in Pennsylvania and because "we are well assured, that the People of Ohio County have not generally authorised these Gentlemen to represent them." However, upon evidence of an "intire Submission" to the laws of the country, they would recommend, and GW would no doubt agree to, a pardon for previous Ohio County offenses. The Ohio County delegates asked for assurances that "you will not require different Conditions from; or propose different Terms to" their county. The commissioners gave assurance that they would recommend "the same Terms offered to the Inhabitants of the fourth Survey of Pennsylvania" except in the case of "certain Bonds . . . lately taken by Force from Zaccheus Biggs the Collector of the said Revenue in Ohio County." The delegates declined further discussion until they consulted their constituents and the committee of safety (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:92-93).

14Cook’s letter was dated 29 August. He announced that the new committee would meet with the commissioners "to procure if possible some further Time in Order that the People may have leasure to reflect upon their true Situation." The resolution stated "that in the Opinion of this Committee, it is the Interest of the People of this Country, to accede to the Proposals" of the commissioners.

The minutes of the Commissioners contain additional resolutions of the Brownsville meeting regarding procedures for the submission of the question (DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:93).

15For the letter delivered to Hugh Henry Brackenridge, see Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:93).

16At this point the scribe (one of Bradford’s clerks) wrote "(see page 9 for the rest)"; the document resumes on page 9 in a different writing.

17When the Pennsylvania commissioners met with the committee of conference on 21 Aug., they had insisted that "as a preliminary . . . the gentlemen Conferees for the four Counties, each for himself, will sign an instrument in writing engaging, that they will at all times be obedient & submit to the laws of the State" and those of the United States "and that they will jointly and severally recommend the like obedience & submission to our fellow citizens within the said Counties, & moreover, engage to use their utmost exertions & influence to ensure the same" (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d. ser., 4:158).

18Only eight committee members appear in the documents: Robert Dickey, John Probst, John Nesbitt, John Marshall, David Philips, John McClelland, George Wallace, and Samuel Wilson. The ninth committee member was Herman Husband.

19The committee’s letter of 1 Sept., signed by McClelland, requested from the commissioners "an Assurance on the Part of the general Government to an Indemnity to all Persons as to the Arrearage of Excise that have not entered their Stills to this Date" and that they be given until 11 Oct. "to take the Sense of the People" on the resolution. The commissioners’ reply of the same date expressed their great disappointment at the results of the Brownsville meeting and denied both requests, arguing that the first demanded "peculiar Favors for the Opposers of the Acts" while abandoning those who had complied with the law and that delay "only tends to produce an Indisposition to decide." Militia had been ordered to assemble, and the commissioners would not promise that their march against the recalcitrant counties would be "long suspended" (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:94-95).

20The Pennsylvania commissioners described their meeting with the committee of conference in a letter to Thomas Mifflin, dated 5 Sept. (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 4:220-21).

21This document is dated 2 Sept. and signed by McClelland (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:95).

22On the draft, this paragraph initially continued with the following sentence: "A copy of this aggree[men]t signed by all the Commissioners & the Conferees individually is annexed & marked No. 16." However, that sentence was struck out. A new paragraph was then begun: "It was evident &c. (as in paper marked A." The paper marked A has not been identified. The remaining draft text is in the writing of Jasper Yeates and consists of the last three paragraphs of the report.

23This document, dated 2 Sept., reviewed the steps necessary to obtain a sense of the people. Citizens of the fourth survey 18 years old and above could participate. At the appointed time between noon and 7:00 P.M., two or more residents who attended the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting, or a local justice of that town, would ask the required questions. The individuals who officiated the process were to gather at the county courthouses on 13 Oct. and compile reports concerning number of positive and negative votes to verify if an inspection office could "be immediately and safely established" in their areas. All reports must reach the U.S. commissioners stationed at Union Town by 16 Sept. (Minutes of the Commissioners, DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:95-96.

24A newspaper article described the variety of results in Allegheny County. Citizens in the Pittsburgh district conducted the business "in harmony." The town had only twelve to fifteen dissenters, and "the people from the country were open and firm in their determination to support the laws, although they declared that they signed the paper at the risk of their property." But "in the district of the Forks of the Yough . . . the majority was for war." The opposing sides "separated, with mutual threats, but without any signing the declaration, or doing any thing further." The meeting in Reed’s district began peacefully, "but towards evening a tumult arose—the paper, which had been signed by some, was demanded; and the event was not fully known. In the lower district it was expected there would be no voting, as a party had surrounded the house of Samuel Wilson, one of the last committee, and had taken from him all the papers" (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 22 Sept.).

25In one Westmoreland County township "great violence" occurred, in which "the papers were torn after the fighting began." The majority of voters in Greensburg township declared that they desired peace, but "only 80 out of 300 ventured to put their names to the paper—and after night there was some disturbance and symptoms of a design to punish those who had signed" (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 22 Sept.).

26The reports from Washington and Westmoreland counties are dated 13 Sept., that from Fayette County is dated 16 September. The person who docketed the letter wrote next to the signatures on the last page, "for No. 16. 17. & 18 referred to herein see file of votes," presumably referring to the large number of documents reporting the results of the 11 Sept. meetings that are filed with the DS (DLC: Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion 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 , 1:96-97).

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