George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 24 September 1794

From Tobias Lear

George Town [Md.] September 24th 1794

My dear Sir,

At a meeting of the Potomac Company yesterday, they did me the honor to elect me a director, by an unanimous vote, in place of Colo. Deakins who had resigned. As I have accepted this appointment, I thought it my duty to inform you thereof, lest, if you should first hear it from any other quarter, you might think my conduct inconsistent & unjustifiable in accepting this place when I had so lately declined the honor of an appointment which you had the goodness to offer me.1 But to you, my dear Sir, it is well known that to have discharged my duty with fidelity in one place would have required a pretty constant attention which my other indispensible engagements could not permit me to pay, and that occasional duties only are required in the other. And as I conceive it to be incumbent upon me to devote the little time I can spare and what talents I may possess in endeavouring to promote some of the great objects which are carrying on in this quarter, I could see none in which I could engage with less inconvenience to my private affairs than in this, and on that consideration it is that I accept the place to which the Company have been pleased to elect me, and I shall feel myself amply rewarded for any time or labour I may bestow on the business if they can be in the smallest degree useful in opening a channel through which wealth beyond calculation will flow to our ports in this quarter.

Most of the militia that were ordered to Frederick & Hager’stown from this place have returned, and it is pleasing to learn that they found the people in that quarter much more disposed to quiet & good order than from repeated accounts we had been led to suppose them:2 and not having heard lately of any further outrages being committed by the people in the Western parts of Pennsylvania, we are not without hope of that business being settled without bloodshed.

I pray, my dear Sir, that Mrs Washington may be assured of the continuance of my respect & gratitude & that you will beleive me to be, with truth & the most respectful & sincere attachment Your grateful & Affectionate friend

Tobias Lear.


2In late August and early September, the draft of Maryland’s quota of militia for dealing with the insurrection in western Pennsylvania sparked unrest. At Hagerstown a party opposed to the draft "beat their officers from the field, and at night put up, what they called, a Liberty-pole, which was cut down next morning by the magistrates and some of the better disposed part of the inhabitants. Exasperated at which, the mob gave the alarm in the country adjacent and were joined by a number of the country people, who assisted in putting up a second pole, and swore they would kill any person who should attempt to take it down; they also formed in ranks to the amount of three or four hundred, beat some who refused to join them, and threatened to march to Middle-Town & Funks-Town, and put up Liberty-poles at those places" (Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 8 Sept.).

By 13 Sept., Maryland governor Thomas Sim Lee, concerned about the intelligence "relative to the spirit of Disorder now existing in Washington and Allegany. . . . that Combinations inimical to the Measures of Government are every day gaining Accessions of Strength—that the Declarations the Conduct and Views of these turbulent men are of the most licentious and daring Nature—that they have established a correspondence and connected themselves with the Insurgents of Pennsylvania—that they have refused to submit to the Draft prescribed by the orders of the Commander in Chief, or in any manner to aid the object of the President—that they have supported this refusal by a show of Force, and in some Instances by the actual use of it—that they have erected Liberty Poles at various places and guarded them by armed Bodies of Men—that they are endeavouring to collect a sufficient force for the purpose of attacking and plundering the public Armoury and Magazine at Frederick Town," wrote a series of letters directing expedited movements of troops to Frederick (Lee to Uriah Forest, to Samuel Smith, to Jeremiah Craft, to William Marbury, and to Thomas Sprigg, 13 Sept., MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council, 1787-1820). The troops responding included about 100 volunteers from Georgetown (Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 20 Sept.).

On 15 Sept. the Maryland Council decided that Lee himself "should command in person the Detachment ordered to march to Frederick Town for the purpose of counteracting the effects of the said spirit and disorders, and of restoring tranquility and obedience" (MdAA: Proceedings of the Governor and Council, 1791-1807). By 21 Sept. about twenty of the insurgents had been arrested, and Lee at Hagerstown, concluding that the "resistance to the Laws . . . is now so far Checked and subdued as to require no further controul than that which the friends to government within the county will be able to oppose to it," gave orders "for the return of all the Volunteers now in this place under my requisition of the 13th," leaving orders for the local militia to disarm the "disaffected" and to apprehend and bring to trial "all persons . . . who are either known or suspected on strong Grounds to be concerned in Combinations against the Government and Laws of the United States" (Lee circular to Sprigg, Rezin Davis and William Vanleer, 21 Sept., MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council, 1787-1820; Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 22 Sept.; Daily Advertiser [New York], 30 Sept.). See also Lee to Alexander Hamilton, 13 and 23 Sept., and William Pinkney to Hamilton, 18 Sept. (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:231-33, 249-50, 262-63).

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