THE WHISKEY REBELLION
JULY 1791 - NOVEMBER 1794
The “Whiskey Rebellion” of 1791-1794 was an exciting yet confusing period in the history of Western
Pennsylvania. It was filled with action, violence, civil disobedience, and clashes of interest. It was important
to American history as it was the first test of the power given the federal government under the new Constitution.
In our young country, it was also seen as a struggle between the rich of the East and the poor farmers of the
In 1791, our war with Great Britain was over and the federal government of the United States needed
money for unpaid debts which had been accumulated by the individual states before and during the Revolution.
Alexander Hamilton proposed the money be raised by a duty on imported liquor and liquor distilled within
the country. The excise bill aroused a storm of protest. In Pennsylvania, the State House of Representatives,
led by representatives of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Fayette counties, passed a resolution
renouncing the excise as did other states. Despite the efforts to block the bill, it passed on January 27, 1791
by a vote of 35 to 21 in the United States House of Representatives. It then passed the Senate and became
law in March, 1791.
It was not surprising that the independent farmers of Western Pennsylvania particularly resented the
excise tax on whiskey. In 1791 there were 272 licensed stills in Washington County, about one for every 20
or 30 families. Not only was there a tax on the whiskey produced but on each still. Whiskey was an
important part of the social and personal life of the area. It was used daily by the people. It was on the table
with meals and taken between meals as a strengthener. It was used for medicinal purposes at a time of very
limited medical knowledge. Whiskey could ward off the bitter cold of winter and the heat of summer. The
Westerners liked their own brew and would have had difficult importing it from the east because of distance
and the hazardous journey involved.
Whiskey was also important to the economy of
Western Pennsylvania. It was difficult to transport the
grain of area farms over the poor mountain roads to
markets in the East. A pack horse could carry four
bushels of rye or the equivalent of 24 bushels of rye
distilled into whiskey. Most families in Western
Pennsylvania were small farmers with very little cash.
Whiskey sold to the army for rations was one of the few
sources of money for the farmers. It was also a much
needed commodity for barter. It could be traded for
goods at the market or used to pay wages. Whiskey
Hugh Henry Brackenridge was also considered an important fringe benefit for hired
hands needed on the farms. The tax of seven cents a gallon on all domestic distilled spirits was about onefourth the cost of a gallon of whiskey in the West. This compared to about one-eighth the cost in the East.
The people of Western Pennsylvania felt they had an unfair share of the tax burden and they also feared other
necessities of life would soon be taxed.
The new tax was first protested under the leadership of moderate men, including Hugh Henry
Brackenridge of Pittsburgh and Albert Gallatin of Fayette County. It was later that the moderates lost control
to more radical men. The first opposition from the Monongahela country was expressed in numerous petitions
and resolutions of protest. A meeting was held at Brownsville on July 27, 1791 at which William Findley
spoke for moderation and the writing of a petition to protest the tax. The next meeting was set to be held in
Pittsburgh on September 7th. An interim meeting held in Washington County on August 23 to elect delegates
for the planned Pittsburgh meeting came under the control of radicals who drew up and adopted a violent
resolution that classified excise officers as public enemies to be treated with contempt. The people were not
to communicate with them and were not to “aid, support or comfort” them in any way.
The Pittsburgh meeting was attended by eleven delegates. Edward Cook, of Fayette County, was
elected chairman. The resolutions adopted protested the government’s financial policy and stated that the
excise was subversive to liberty and discouraging to agriculture and manufacture. It also urged the people
not to accept excise offices so the law would be ineffective.
The first violent acts were scattered and disorganized. An incident occurred on September 6, 1791,
when Robert Johnson, one of the first excise tax collectors for Washington and Allegheny counties, was
walking near Pigeon Creek in Washington County. He was attacked by a gang of sixteen men. According to
his story, they were dressed in women’s clothing, but he recognized several of them, including John, Daniel
and David Hamilton. They cut off his hair, tarred and feathered him, seized his horse and left him to find his
way as best he could. Warrants were issued by the federal courts for those responsible but the process
server was also whipped, tarred and feathered, robbed, and left in the woods.
Other excise officers or suspected tax sympathizers were attacked in late 1791. They were abducted,
beaten, tarred and feathered, branded with hot irons and robbed. There were no further overt acts until the
summer of 1792. During this lull, associations against the whiskey tax were being organized.
During August of 1792, events again began to turn to violence. William Faulkner of Washington was
threatened with harm if he allowed his home to be used as an excise office. He agreed but when there was a
delay in his compliance his house was attacked, shots were fired and he was again threatened.
Because of increasing hostilities, another conference was called at Pittsburgh on August 21, 1792 In
addition to David Bradford, James Marshall, and Edward Cook, three of the leaders of the first Pittsburgh
conference, a number of other prominent men appeared. Among them were John Canon, Benjamin Parkinson
and John Hamilton, all of Washington County, and Albert Gallatin and John Smilie of Fayette County. The
townspeople of Pittsburgh did not want to take any part in the meeting. At this meeting a committee of
correspondence was appointed and sent to Congress. This resolution caused a great protest in the East.
President George Washington issued a counter statement warning the malcontents to “desist from all unlawful
combinations and proceedings whatsoever, having for object or tending to obstruct the operation of the
As a result of the second Pittsburgh meeting and the Faulkner “riot”, the
Secretary of the Treasury sent George Clymer to Western Pennsylvania to assess
the situation. He returned with an unfavorable report on the Monongahela country.
He stated that Washington was the worst county in opposing the excise tax. He
found Fayette County more moderate, Westmoreland County was not generally
against the excise and Allegheny County had taken no decisive part in the protest.
Although Fayette County received a favorable report from Clymer, it became
the scene of more violence in 1793. Benjamin Wells, the tax collector for Fayette
and Westmoreland counties, was attacked and threatened in his home. President
Washington offered a reward for the capture of each assailant, but they were not
identified or arrested.
A meeting was held in Fayette County in March of 1794 to try to make some changes in the situation
and make the excise more acceptable. The aim of the meeting was to remove all excise officers in the area
and substitute “reputable men”. This meeting was a turning point in the development of the resistance to the
tax. Thereafter, the people were split into two groups; the “influential” and “respectable” citizens were at
least secretly for the law, while the poorer farmers felt abandoned to the mercies of the federal government.
The latter group began to rely more heavily on violence.
Any farmer who did not oppose the tax was in great danger. Events reached such a fevered pitch that
a virtual reign of terror existed in Washington County during the summer of 1794. The insurrectionists would
shoot holes in the stills and damage them. This was humorously referred to by John Holcroft, leader of the
rioters, as “mending the stills”. From this he coined the expression of “Tom the tinker’s” men, which he
applied to the rioters. Within a few days it became the popular name of the opponents of the excise tax who
resorted to violent action against their neighbors’ stills.
Besides having several joint conferences, the farmers formed societies of their own. One of these
was the Mingo Creek Society established on February 28, 1794. Brackenridge, the Pittsburgh attorney, has
left the only surviving account of this society’s organization, and he states that “it was the cradle of the
insurrection inasmuch as it fostered the contempt for law and the exaggerated ideas of liberty that brought on
the trouble”. Their meetings were held in the Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church located between what is
now Monongahela and Finleyville on the beautiful valley through which ran Mingo Creek.
The worst part of the insurrection was brought on by the opposition in the
Monongahela country to trials in Philadelphia for breaking the federal excise law.
The farmers were incensed with the prospect of attending a court three hundred
miles from home for an unpredictable number of weeks during the busy season.
They also had the burden of paying lawyers and obtaining witnesses. A bill was
finally passed in Congress in June of 1794 to change the place of venue to closer
state courts. However, the processes had already been issued under the original
law and were returnable to Philadelphia. William Findley had the view that
Alexander Hamilton was deliberately trying to create a situation that would excuse
the use of an army to strengthen the federal position.
United States Marshall David Lenox left Philadelphia on June 22, 1794 to serve processes against
the people who had not paid their excise tax. Lenox experienced no difficulty in Cumberland, Bedford and
Fayette counties and served his writs without any trouble. After he arrived in Monongahela country, Lenox
rode out with John Neville to serve four or five remaining writs.
One of the local families involved in the Whiskey conflict was the Neville family. Brigadier General
John Neville was well known and influential at this time. He had amassed a considerable fortune and his
home at Bower Hill in the Chartiers Valley was one of the finest in the Western Counties. His son, Presley
Neville, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War. His country home, which he called “Woodville”, was
situated on a slope across Chartiers Creek from Bower Hill. General Neville had openly opposed the state
excise tax only a few days before his appointment as inspector for the government. This infuriated many
people and they began to call him a “turncoat”. His son also sympathized with the federal tax. Neville had
reason to fear for his life because now he had become an “excise inspector”.
John Neville played an important role throughout the
Revolution, climaxing his career in September 1783 when
he was appointed brigadier general. His postwar career
was less spectacular. As revenue inspector, he had the
unenviable job of collecting the excise tax on
whiskey in western Pennsylvania. In 1794 participants in
the Whiskey Rebellion, protesting the tax, burned the
home he was living in at the time. Woodville, a frame
house that Neville had built in 1785, survives as the
property most closely associated with him.
As Lenox and Neville rode about the countryside, four processes were served. The recipients,
according to Lenox, showed their contempt for the law. They came to William Miller’s farm in Peter’s
Creek. Miller refused the writ and lenox told him not to oppose the law. Just then Neville called to Lenox to
hurry because a party of men was running across the field as though to head off the marshall. A shot was fired
and Lenox stopped and upbraided the men. The farmers allowed the two men to ride away. Rumors of this
incident spread quickly.
Dr. Absolom Baird of Washington, the brigade inspector of the county militia, was at the Mingo
Church to hear appeals from some members of the Mingo Creek regiment for exemption from service.
When a man appeared crying that “the Federal Sheriff was taking people away to Philadelphia”, word was
immediately sent around to the people to assemble at the Mingo Church. Many came and some were armed.
After some heated discussion, it was decided to capture the marshall, David Lenox, and then decide what
was to be done with him. At this time they thought Lenox was at Bower Hill with Neville. John Holcroft was
chosen to command the expedition and the men were ordered to meet opposition with opposition.
When the insurrectionists arrived at John Neville’s home, words were exchanged, then shots were
fired and several people were wounded. One of this number, Oliver Miller was fatally wounded. The
bloodshed aroused the community and the following day a body of 500 men, under the leadership of Major
James McFarland, rode out the same route. In passing the Bethel Presbyterian Church, which is near Couch
Fort (Fort Couch), Reverend John Clark hailed the insurgents and tried to dissuade them from their purpose.
He pleaded in vain.
General Neville had at this time ordered about ten soldiers out from Fort Pitt to guard his home.
Major James McFarland tried to reason, but it was refused and firing began. During a show of White Flag
surrender, Major McFarland was shot and killed. This infuriated the farmers and they burned General
Neville’s barn and other buildings. From these fires the mansion caught fire and was destroyed. General
Neville dressed as a woman and escaped with his family.
Major McFarland was one of the most popular men in the community. The next day he was buried in
the Mingo Church yard. (Also buried in this cemetery are other notable men of the Whiskey Rebellion - John
Holcroft and David Hamilton.) When this confrontation was over, the protestors had to have a meeting to
discuss what to do next. They decided to have their meeting at the Mingo Meeting House.
On Monday afternoon, July 21st, a young man from Mingo settlement led his horse off the Monongahela
Ferry, and then rode down Water Street and out Market Street to the house of Hugh Henry Brakenridge.
Here he dismounted and entered the front room that served as an office and handed the lawyer a folded note
from David Hamilton. It was an invitation to attend a meeting of the committee at the Mingo Meeting House
the next Wednesday. Brackenridge went to that meeting along with a number of other prominent Pittsburghers.
The meeting was opened with the election of Edward Cook as chairman. Benjamin Parkinson put the
main problem before the gathering. He said, “You know what has been done. We wish to know whether
what has been done is right or wrong and whether we are to be supported in it or left to ourselves.” Marshall
said it was not necessary to judge what had been done. Bradford then rose and argued in favor of supporting
those who had attacked and destroyed Bower Hill.
When Bradford finished, Brackenridge spoke. He said “What has been done might be morally right
but it was legally wrong”. In construction of law it was high treason. He went on to say, instead of a local
offense, it was a case within the power of the President to call out the militia. This shocked the audience. At
the end, Brackenridge proposed that representatives from each county meet with the President in Philadelphia
to ask for amnesty. He offered to be one of the party.
This Mingo meeting marked the emergence of David Bradford as an advocate of the policy of sustaining
violence by violence. Brackenridge had intended the next conference to be one of pacification. Bradford saw
it as an opportunity to stir up further trouble. On August 6th, he sent an inflammatory letter to the inhabitants of
Monongalia County, Virginia, urging them to send delegates to the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting. “We have fully
deliberated with heart, head, hand and voice that we will support the opposition to
the excise law.”
David Bradford’s rashness led him to plan to rob the mail from Washington
to Pittsburgh in order to learn what the people’s opinion was of the opposition to
the excise tax. The plan was changed to a robbery of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia
post. David Bradford sent his cousin, William Bradford. The post rider was
stopped on July 26th near Greensburg and the packets containing the mail were
taken. Benjamin Parkinson delivered the packet to David Bradford in Washington
and, along with James Marshall and three other men they took it to Canonsburg.
There they stopped at the Black Horse Tavern, kept by Henry Westby, and retired
to an arbor behind the tavern. According to tradition, they sent for several local
leaders including John Canon and Thomas Spear. The mail was then opened and found to contain no letters
from Washington bearing on the disturbances. There were, however, several from Pittsburgh, denouncing
the action of the malcontents.
The leaders decided the time had come for action. They were to call up the local militia and they
were to meet at their usual place of rendezvous on Wednesday, July 30th, and were to march on Friday to
Braddock’s Field (Braddocks Field is about eight miles from Pittsburgh, the site of the present boroughs of
Braddock and North Braddock). Rumors spread rapidly and the people of Pittsburgh were in a state of
panic. It was rumored that the insurrectionists were going to set Pittsburgh afire.
When the militia had settled at Braddock’s Field, negotiations began between the officials of Pittsburgh
and Bradford. Bradford wanted them to get rid of certain individuals (excise collector’s) within the city. One
of these, Abraham Kirkpatrick, was blamed for the resistance that had led to James McFarland’s death.
When the mob reached the city, they were wined and dined so hospitably by the citizens of Pittsburgh that the
attack never took place. Within two short weeks, the insurrection had sprung up and now on this day and
night at Braddock’s Field it had reached full power. Within two more days it was to disappear completely.
After they dispersed at Braddock’s Field, attention was passed to the forthcoming meeting at
Parkinson’s Ferry meeting from the radicals by packing it with delegates known to favor a moderate policy.
Parkinson’s Ferry (now known as Monongahela City) was situated on the West Bank of the
Monongahela River at the mouth of Pigeon Creek. Its name was taken from that of a brother of the fiery
Benjamin Parkinson, who operated there a ferry and a combination tavern and store and who could be easily
persuaded to sell lots in the town that he believed was about to spring up on the site. Parkinson’s Ferry was
chosen for the meeting because of its central location; roads from most of the adjacent population centers
intersected there. The place where the conference met on that
day was a wooded bench on the shoulder of a hill overlooking
the river, a spot still know as Whiskey Point. The delegates sat
on stumps and fallen trees, or on the grass. There were two
hundred twenty-six delegates; forty-three from Allegheny county,
ninety-three from Washington, forty-nine from Westmoreland,
thirty-three from Fayette, two from Bedford and six from Ohio
County, Virginia. The conference selected Edward Cook as
chairman and Albert Gallatin as secretary. Several resolutions
were discussed and no decisions were made.
Gallatin gave this opinion: “What reason have we to suppose that hostile attempts will be made
against our rights? And why, therefore, prepare to resist them? Riots have taken place which may be the
subject of judiciary cognizance, but we are not to suppose a military force on the part of the government.”
Night came and the men stayed at nearby farms and slept wherever they could.
The next morning a liberty pole was raised bearing a flag which had been made to represent the six
counties who had sent delegates to the meeting. Benjamin Parkinson appeared with a board which he fixed
upon the pole. Boldly lettered upon it were the words, “Equal Taxation and No Excise. No Asylum for
Traitors and Cowards.”
A proclamation had been issued (see pages 9 & 10) by George Washington on August 7 that summarized
the troubles in Western Pennsylvania and announced that he would call out the militia to combat the treasonable
activities in that region. The reading of this proclamation at the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting had a bad effect on
the men and they became very angry. James Marshall, suggested it was best to disperse and go home. This
met with stout opposition. It was between Albert Gallatin and Brackenridge to make speeches to calm and
convince the men to await the commissioners’ propositions. The standing committe met and set the time and
place of the next meeting - September 2nd at Brownsville.
Developments in the Monongahela country had been watched with ever increasing anxiety in the
East. The term “White Indians” was then in common use by the government party to designate the insurgents.
The meeting was held at Brownsville on August 28th and the conference committee had its report
printed and copies were distributed among the members. It became apparent that the report was recommending
submission. This caused an undertone of protest. It took more time and persuasion to pass the proper
resolutions and send delegates to the President. Even Bradford’s recommendation of submission had resulted
in a decline of his popularity.
The second Parkinson’s Ferry meeting was brief. David Bradford was there. Resolutions were
adopted promising submission to the law and stating it was the opinion of the delegates that there was a
general disposition “to submit to all laws”. William Findley and David Redick were appointed as a committee
to carry resolutions to President Washington and to present to him the true state of mind in the Monongahela
country toward the enforcement of Federal authority.
President Washington’s patience came to an end. He ordered the militia and Federal troops from
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, in all 12,950 troops, into Western Pennsylvania under
General Henry Lee, Governor of Virginia.
While Washington was in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on military matters, Redick and Findley appeared as
commissioners on behalf of the Parkinson’s Ferry group. Their meeting, probably on October 9, was brief.
They handed him the papers they had brought and tried to arrange for a longer conference. Washington and
Hamilton replied with firmness that the evidences of submission were not convincing and that the Army must
After suffering many hazards in traveling the mountains in torturous rainy weather, flooded streams and
lack of food, the Army finally arrived at different locations. By the time the troops reached Uniontown, the
Surgeon General found it necessary to establish a hospital for the 116 men who could not go on. One camp was
at the mouth of Mingo and another was at Perry’s Ferry on the West bank of the Monongahela River above
Elizabeth. A detachment was stationed in Washington - tradition says on the Washington College campus.
The third Parkinson’s Ferry meeting, which convened on October 24th to
hear the report of Findley and Redick, was completely controlled by moderates.
The radicals had either fled the country or had been silenced by the approach of
the Army. The meeting put forth new assertions that civil authority had been reestablished and they sent Findley, Redick, Douglas and Thomas Morton to see the
President. Washington was already on his way back to Philadelphia but the
Commissioners did see Alexander Hamilton at Bonnet’s Camp. After listening to
them, he suggested that “for the sake of decorum” they interview Henry Lee. The
four then set off for Uniontown where Lee was quartered. Lee listened to their
General Henry Lee
assurances politely, waited until the next day and then handed them a written address
to the people. The address stated that the inhabitants of the region had, in general, been involved in treason
ad had changed their sentiment only because the Army was coming. The Commissioners heard this accusation
with dismay and unsuccessfully tried to set the matter straight.
After the Army moved in, the Mingo Creek settlement suffered the most. The soldiers dragged about
forty suspects from their beds and imprisoned them in the cellar of the Buck Tavern owned by Benjamin
Parkinson and operated by a man named Stockdale, eight and one-half miles west of Parkinson’s Ferry.
They were kept in the cellar from one to two days and were then driven twelve miles to Washington.
David Hamilton of the Mingo Creek settlement had his still seized by collectors on November 14th.
Hamilton, noting the inclemency of the weather, persuaded the men to remain overnight and plied them with
Jamaica ginger and whiskey. They finally dropped into a drunken stupor and Hamilton’s friends carried the
still to a safe hiding place. After this episode, the section where Hamilton lived was called “Ginger Hill.”
The Army did not stay long in the Monongahela country. By November 19th, less than three weeks
after its arrival, the Army had begun its return.
Twenty prisoners were marched to Philadelphia for trial. Two were convicted and the rest were
pardoned by the President. David Bradford, the man who had wanted to be the Washington of the West,
was one of the insurgents who had fled. He rode out of Washington a few days before the entrance of the
troops. A flat boat had been waiting for him at the mouth of Grave Creek, but as
he was pursued, he started down the river in a canoe. Near the mouth of Sandy
Creek, he took refuge on a coal boat belonging to some army contractors. Two
hours later a party of four soldiers from Gallipolis overtook him. The soldiers
boarded the boat and actually laid hands on Bradford, when a young man, himself
a fugitive, seized a rifle and forced them to withdraw without their victim. Bradford
was pursued as far as Redbanks by Captain Jolly, but he succeeded in escaping to
Spanish territory. He settled in Louisiana where he spent the rest of his life as a
wealthy planter. Bradford himself was pardoned by President John Adams on
March 9th, 1799.
In addition to the individual, personal and financial losses, the three year rebellion had cost the United
States Government $669,992.34. It had however, played an important part in strengthening the grip of the
Federalists on the national administration. The Whiskey Insurrection failed in fulfilling the diverse economic
and political purposes that had rekindled the fire of revolution. The Federal Excise Tax was repealed in 1802
after Thomas Jefferson took office as President.
The Whiskey Rebellion reveals a great deal about conflicting ideas, economics, and cultures during
the 1780’s and the 1790’s. Its nature, as a precedent-setting event, offers unique perspectives on the
establishment of constitutional, military, and political precedents in the young republic. Many of these contexts,
which contribute to making events comprehensible, remain unexplored today.
(Researched and compiled by Diane E. Smith Widmer and Annabelle Caldwell, 1990)
The Whiskey Rebellion Flag, 1794
You can purchase a copy of “Whiskey Rebellion 1791--1794” (text version)
The Monongahela Area Historical Society’s Museum Gift Shop.
It has come to our attention that an error was made in the article consisting of the burial place
of Benjamin Parkinson. Below is the correct information.
Benjamin lies in Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church cemetery, Somerset Twp., alongside his daughter
Mary and the family of his daughter Nancy Parkinson Hootman. Benjamin’s gravestone reads: “In
Memory of Benjamin Parkison Who departed this life Oct. 26th AD 1834”.
There is no doubt that the Benjamin Parkinson of the Whiskey Rebellion was a farmer in Nottingham Twp
(a still on his farm was seized in November 1794). In his will, proved in Washington County in November
1834, Benjamin declares he is a resident of Washington County and names among his heirs his daughters
Nancy and Polly (Mary) and a Hootman grandson.
The Benjamin Parkinson buried at Mingo Creek is a younger man, thought to be a nephew of the Benjamin Parkinson of the Whiskey Rebellion. This Benjamin lived in Allegheny County and made his living as
(4th great-grandaughter of Benjamin Parkinson)
By the president of the United States of America
Whereas, combinations to defeat the execution of the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the
United States and upon stills have from the time of the commencement of those laws existed in some of the
western parts of Pennsylvania.
And whereas, the said combinations, proceeding in a manner subversive equally of the just authority of
government and of the rights of individuals, have hitherto effected their dangerous and criminal purpose by
the influence of certain irregular meetings whose proceedings have tended to encourage and uphold the spirit
of opposition by misrepresentations of the laws calculated to render them odious; by endeavors to deter
those who might be so disposed from accepting offices under them through fear of public resentment and of
injury to person and property, and to compel those who had accepted such offices by actual violence to
surrender or forbear the execution of them; by circulation vindictive menaces against all those who should
otherwise, directly or indirectly, aid in the execution of the said laws, or who, yielding to the dictates of
conscience and to a sense of obligation, should themselves comply therewith; by actually injuring and destroying
the property of persons who were understood to have so complied; by inflicting cruel and humiliating
punishments upon private citizens for no other cause than that of appearing to be the friends of the laws; by
intercepting the public officers on the highways, abusing, assaulting, and otherwise ill treating them; by going
into their houses in the night, gaining admittance by force, taking away their papers, and committing other
outrages, employing for these unwarrantable purposes the agency of armed bandits disguised in such manner
as for the most part to escape discovery;
And whereas, the endeavors of the legislature to obviate objections to the said laws by lowering the duties
and by other alterations conducive to the convenience of those whom they immediately affect (though they
have given satisfaction in other quarters), and the endeavors of the executive officers to conciliate a compliance
with the laws by explanations, by forbearance, and even by particular accommodations founded on the
suggestion of local considerations, have been disappointed of their effect by the machinations of persons
whose industry to excite resistance has increased with every appearance of a disposition among the people
to relax in their opposition and to acquiesce in the laws, insomuch that many persons in the said western parts
of Pennsylvania have at length been hardy enough to perpetrate acts, which I am advised amount to treason,
being overt acts of levying war against the United States, the said persons having on the 16th and 17th of July
last past proceeded in arms (on the second day amounting to several hundreds) to the house of John Neville,
inspector of the revenue for the fourth survey of the district of Pennsylvania; having repeatedly attacked the
said house with the persons therein, wounding some of them; having seized David Lenox, marshal of the
district of Pennsylvania, who previous thereto had been fired upon while in the execution of his duty by a
party of armed men, detaining him for some time prisoner, till, for the preservation of his life and the obtaining
of his liberty, he found it necessary to enter into stipulations to forbear the execution of certain official duties
touching processes issuing out of a court of the United States; and having finally obliged the said inspector of
the revenue and the said marshal from considerations of personal safety to fly from that part of the country, in
order, by a circuitous route, to proceed to the seat of government, avowing as the motives of these outrageous
proceedings an intention to prevent by force of arms the execution of the said laws, to oblige the said
inspector of the revenue to renounce his said office, to withstand by open violence the lawful authority of the
government of the United States, and to compel thereby an alteration in the measures of the legislature and a
repeal of the laws aforesaid;
And whereas, by a law of the United States entitled “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute
the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” it is enacted that whenever the laws of the
United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed in any state by combinations too powerful
to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by
that act, the same being notified by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President
of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations and to cause the laws
to be duly executed. And if the militia of a state, when such combinations may happen, shall refuse or be
insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the legislature of the United States shall
not be in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other state or states most
convenient thereto as may be necessary; and the use of the militia so to be called forth may be continued, if
necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the of the ensuing session; Provided
always, that, whenever it may be necessary in the judgment of the President to use the military force hereby
directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command
such insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within a limited time;
And whereas, James Wilson, an associate justice, on the 4th instant, by writing under his hand, did from
evidence which had been laid before him notify to me that “in the counties of Washington and Allegany, in
Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations
too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the
marshal of that district”;
And whereas, it is in my judgment necessary under the circumstances of the case to take measures for calling
forth the militia in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to cause the laws to be duly executed;
and I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but withal the most
solemn conviction that the essential interests of the Union demand it, that the very existence of government
and the fundamental principles of social order are materially involved in the issue, and that the patriotism and
firmness of all good citizens are seriously called upon, as occasions may require, to aid in the effectual
suppression of so fatal a spirit;
Therefore, and in pursuance of the proviso above recited, I. George Washington, President of the United
States, do hereby command all persons, being insurgents, as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern,
on or before the 1st day of September next to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes. And
I do moreover warn all persons whomsoever against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpetrators of the
aforesaid treasonable acts; and do require all officers and other citizens, according to their respective duties
and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous proceedings.
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents,
and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia the seventh day of August, one thousand
seven hundred and ninety-four, and of the independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.
By the President,
Source: Claypoole’s Daily Advertiser, August 11, 1794