Friday, February 7, 2014

Our Famous Cousin, David Bradford of the Whiskey Rebellion - Part Two

George Washington reviews the troops near Fort Cumberland, Maryland, before their
march to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
As a follow-up to the last post introducing Rebecca's cousin, the famous (or infamous!) David Bradford, here is a little more detailed history about the Whiskey Rebellion. To put this in perspective as far as our ancestors are concerned, by this time William, Rebecca and their family were already living in Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania for some 12 years. Rebecca's paternal uncle, James Bradford, and his family (including David) had also left Cecil County, Maryland and moved to next-door Washington County near Canonsburg. These relatives lived only about 40 miles from each other. David grew up to become a highly educated and influential citizen and played one of the major roles in the Whiskey Rebellion. No doubt these two cousins and their families stayed in contact. In fact, in our next post we will review the part Rebecca's brother played in this affair!  For now, here is more information about how David Bradford, our cousin from just a few generations back, was involved:

“On July 18 or 19th at a meeting at Mingo Creek Meeting house, David Bradford, a successful attorney, businessman and Deputy Attorney General assumed leadership of the rebels (some claim he did so because he was blackmailed and "forced" to take an active role). Shortly there after occurred series of meetings at Bradford's home to consider the problem of the easterners knowing what was happening almost before it happened. As a result of these meetings, the mail from Pittsburg to Philadelphia was robbed on July 26th and taken to the Blackhorse Tavern in Canonsburg to be examined.

“Because of the knowledge gained from the mail, Bradford and his group sent a letter to the local militias requesting a gathering on Aug 1, 1794 on Braddock's field to begin a possible four day military excursion. Five to seven thousand troops gathered at Braddock's field, eight miles from Pittsburg, on the first. Brackenridge convinced leaders to warn Pittsburg to banish all obnoxious characters within eight days or face destruction The farmers and militia marched through Pittsburg in protest with no problems or damage done. The lack of problems during the march was influenced by the 379 residents of Pittsburg supplied the "invading army" with food and whiskey. The "army", as many of the easterners termed it, crossed the Monongahela and torched Kirkpatrick's barn near Mt. Washington as they were leaving the city.

“By August 7, 1794, George Washington began mobilizing 12,950 troops from eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey under Gen. Harry Lee, the Governor of Virginia and father of Robert E. Lee.

“Amnesty was offered to those involved in the various acts of defiance by a presidential commission on August 21, 1794. The required number of signatures was not obtained, in part, because that many felt that by signing they would be admitting guilt. The terms required that the leaders openly declare their submission to the laws in general, and the excise law in particular. A member of the President's commission, by the name of General William Irvine, sent a note to Washington after examining the facts in western Pennsylvania in which he stated "I do not mean now either to condemn of justify the proceedings here, but I may safely venture to say, that people on the west of the mountains labor under hardships, if not grievances that are not known, or at least not understood, in other parts of the United States, in more instances than the excise; but in this particular it can be demonstrated that they labor under particular hardships, for instance, carrying a man to Philadelphia or York to be tried for crimes, real or supposed, or on litigations respecting property, perhaps under the value or forty shillings: THIS IS INTOLERABLE."

At the urging of Hamilton, George Washington determined that troops would be needed to put down the, so called, insurrection. The troops, largely from New Jerseyarrived in Carlisle Pennsylvaniain late September 1794. Washington and his troops arrived in Bedford, Pennsylvania on October 19th. By early and mid November the "Watermelon Army" began rounding up suspects in western Pennsylvania. These people, suspects and witnesses together, many of the barefoot and lacking winter clothing, were then marched to Philadelphia to stand trial. David Bradford, one of the leaders of the insurrection, escaped and fled to a location near what is today called St. Francisville, LA (about one hundred miles from New Orleans) where he built [his] second home and moved his family. Most of the army began the trek home on November 19th with the suspects and their guards following six days later. It is often rumored that the remaining troops spent the winter on the campus of Washington Academy, now known as Washington and Jefferson College. The school closed down during this short time, in part, because a number of the students and the trustees of the college were known sympathizers with the rebels.

“Secretary of State Edmund Randolph asked by President Washington to defend himself in relation to a letter from the French Minister to the French Government which analyzed the causes of the Whiskey Rebellion. The dispatch apparently implied that Randolph was the source of the information. Because the letter refereed to the repressive means that the U.S. Government was using to put down the rebellion and the referral to Washington as a puppet of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington was noticeable upset. Randolph was offended by the accusations and immediately resigned from his position (the letter may have been fairly truthful). These factors were reasons enough for the people of Western Pennsylvania to be unhappy with the new United States government.

“Because of their unwillingness to submit to the federalist principles of a strong central government, we may thank the independent people west of the mountains for our present day democratic society. Thomas Jefferson resigned his post of Secretary of State in 1793, in part, in protest because George Washington was agreeing too much with Hamilton and the Federalists. He [Jefferson] may have been a fellow member of the Virginia House of Burgess with David Bradford of Washington and it is thought that this insurrection may have been strongly influenced by Jefferson and his friends.”

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