Lancaster, including the detachment, can only be settled with
or paid at that place.
278 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JEn. 26.
Instructions to Major Jackson.
Information having been received that a detachment of about
eighty mutineers are on their way from Lancaster to this place,
you will please to proceed to meet them, and to endeavor, by every
prudent method, to engage them to return to the post they have
left. You will inform them of the orders that have been given,
permitting them to remain in service till their accounts shall
have, been settled, if they prefer it to being furloughed, and of the
allowance of pay which has been made to the army at large, and
in which they are to be included. You will represent to them
that their accounts cannot be settled without their officers, whom
they have left behind them at Lancaster. You will represent to
them with coolness but energy, the impropriety of such irregular
proceedings, and the danger they will run by persisting in an im
proper conduct. You will assure them of the best intentions in
Congress to do them justice, and of the absurdity of their expect
ing to procure it more effectually by intemperate proceedings.
You will point out to them the tendency which such proceedings
may have to raise the resentments of their country, and to in
dispose it to take effectual measures for their relief. In short, you
will urge every consideration in your power to induce them to
return, at the same time avoiding whatever may tend to irritate.
If they persist in coming to town, you will give the earliest no
tice to us of their progress and disposition. Should they want
provisions, you will assure them of a supply, if they will re
main where they are, which you are to endeavor to persuade
them to do, in preference to coming to town.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
In behalf of the Committee.
Philadelphia, June 19, 1783.
The Committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Ellsworth,
appointed on the 21st of June, to confer with the Supreme Exe
cutive Council of Pennsylvania, on the practicability of taking
MT. 26.] REPORTS. 27
effectual measures to support the public authority, having deli
vered in a report, ordered that it be entered in the journal.
The Committee appointed to confer with the Supreme Exe
cutive Council of Pennsylvania, on the practicability of taking
effectual measures to support the public authority, in consequence
of the disorderly and menacing appearance of a body of armed
soldiers surrounding the place where Congress were assembled on
Saturday the 21st, beg leave to report :
That they had a conference the morning following with the
Supreme Executive Council, agreeable to the intention of Con
gress, and having communicated their resolution on that subject,
informed the Council that Congress considered the proceeding on
which that resolution was founded, of so serious a nature as to
render palliatives improper, and to require that vigorous mea
sures should be taken to put a stop to the farther progress of the
evil, and to compel submission on the part of the offenders:
that, in this view, they had thought it expedient to declare to the
Executive of the State in which they reside, the necessity of
taking effectual measures for supporting the public authority:
that though they had declined a specification of the measures
which they would deem effectual, it was their sense, that a num
ber of the militia should be immediately called out, sufficient to
suppress the revolt. That Congress, unwilling to expose the
United States to a repetition of the insult, had suspended their
ordinary deliberations in this city, till proper steps could be taken
to provide against the possibility of it.
The Council, after some conversation, informed the Committee
that they would wish, previous to a determination, to ascertain
the state and disposition of the militia, and to consult the officers
for that purpose.
The day following the Committee waited upon the Council fo
their final resolution, having previously presented a letter ad
dressed to his Excellency the President, of which a copy is an
280 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [&T. 26.
nexed,* requesting the determination of the Council in writing.
The Council declined a written answer, alleging that it had been
unusual on similar occasions ; that they were unwilling to do any
thing which might appear an innovation' in the manner of con
ducting conferences between their body and committees of Con
gress : adding, however, that they were ready to give their
answer in writing, if Congress should request it. They then
proceeded to a verbal answer, in substance as follows : That the
Council had a high respect for the representative sovereignty of
the United States, and were disposed to do every thing in their
power to support its dignity. That they regretted the insult
which had happened, with this additional motive of sensibility,
that they had themselves had a principal share in it. That they
had consulted a number of well-informed officers of the militia,
and found that nothing in the present state of things was to be
expected from that quarter. That the militia of the city in gen
eral, were not only ill-provided for service, but disinclined to act
upon the present occasion. That the Council did not believe any
exertions were to be looked for from them, except in case of fur
ther outrage and actual violence to person or property. That in
such case a respectable body of citizens would arm for the secu
rity of their property and of the public peace ; but it was to be
doubted what measure of outrage would produce this effect ; and
in particular, it was not to be expected merely from a repetition
of the insult which had happened.
The Council observed that they thought it their duty to com
municate their expectations with candor, and passed from the sub
ject of the practicability of vigorous measures to the policy of
them. They stated, that General St. Clair, with the approbation
of several members of Congress and of Council, had, by a decla
ration in writing, permitted the mutineers to choose a committee
PHILADELPHIA, June 23, 1783.
* " SIR, We have the honor to inclose for your Excellency and the Council, a
copy of the resolutions communicated in our conference yesterday. Having then
fully entered into all the explanations which were necessary on the subject, we
shall not trouble your Excellency with a recapitulation, but as the object is of a
delicate and important nature, we think it our duty to request the determination
of the Council in writing.
^ET. 26.] REPORTS. 281
of commissioned officers to represent their grievances to Council,
and had authorized them to expect that a conference would be
allowed for that purpose. That it was said the mutineers began
to be convinced of their error, and were preparing submissions.
That from the steps which had been taken, the business seemed
to be in a train of negotiation, and that it merited consideration,
how far it would be prudent to terminate the matter in that way
rather than employ coercive means.
The Committee remarked, with respect to the scruple about
giving an answer in writing, that they could not forbear differing
in opinion as to its propriety. That nothing was more common
than written communications between the Executives of the dif
ferent States and the civil and military officers acting under the
authority of the United States ; that for a much stronger reason
there was a propriety in this mode of transacting business be
tween the Council and a Committee of the body of Congress.
That indeed it would be conformable to the most obvious and
customary rules of proceeding, and that the importance of the
present occasion made it desirable to give every transaction the
greatest precision. With respect to the practicability of employ
ing the militia, the Committee observed, that this was a point of
which the Council was alone competent to judge. That the duty
of the Committee was performed in explicitly signifying the ex
pectations of Congress.
And with respect to the policy of coercion, the Committee re
marked, that the measures taken by Congress clearly indicated
their opinion, that the excesses of the mutineers had passed the
bounds within which a spirit of compromise might consist with
the dignity and even safety of government. That impunity for
what had happened might encourage to more flagrant proceed
ings, invite others to follow the example, and extend the mis
chief. That the passiveness of conduct observed towards the
detachment which had mutinied at Lancaster, and came to the
city in defiance of their officers, had, no doubt, led to the sub
sequent violences. That these considerations had determined
Congress to adopt decisive measures. That besides the applica
tion to the State in which they reside, for its immediate support,
282 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [J&T. 26.
they had not neglected other means of ultimately executing their
purposes, but had directed the Commander-in-Chief to march a
detachment of troops towards the city. That whatever modera
tion it might be prudent to exercise towards the mutineers, when
they were once in the power of the government, it was neces
sary, in the first instance, to place them in that situation. That
Congress would probably continue to pursue this object, unless
it should be superseded by unequivocal demonstrations of sub
mission on the part of the mutineers. That they had hitherto
given no satisfactory evidence of this disposition, having lately
presented the officers they had chosen to represent their griev
ances, with a formal commission in writing, enjoining them, if
necessary, to use compulsory means for redress, and menacing
them with death, in case of their failing to execute their views.
Under this state of things, the Committee could not forbear sug
gesting to the Council, that it would be expedient for them so to
qualify the reception which they should think proper to give to
any propositions made by the mutineers, as not to create embar
rassment, should Congress continue to act on the principle of
The Committee finding that there was no satisfactory ground
to expect prompt and adequate exertions on the part of the Ex
ecutive of this State, for supporting the public authority, were
bound by the resolution under which they acted, to advise the
President to summon Congress to assemble at Princeton or Tren
ton on Thursday the 26th inst.
Willing, however, to protract the departure of Congress as
long as they could be justified in doing it, still hoping that fur
ther information would produce more decisive measures on the
part of the Council, ond desirous of seeing what complexion the
intimated submissions would assume, they ventured to defer ad
vising the removal till the afternoon of the day following that on
which the answer of Council was given. Bet having then re
ceived no farther communication from the Council, and having
learnt from General St. Clair that the submissions proposed to be
offered by the mutineers, through the officers they had chosen to
represent them, were not of a nature sufficiently explicit to be
jET.26.] VINDICATION OF CONGRESS. 283
accepted or relied on, that they would be accompanied by new
demands, to which it would be improper to listen ; that the offi
cers themselves composing the committee had shown a mysteri-
' ous reluctance to inform General St. Clair of their proceedings ;
had refused, in the first instance, to do it, and had afterwards
only yielded to a peremptory demand on his part. The Commit
tee could no longer think themselves at liberty to delay their
advice for an adjournment, which they this day accordingly
gave ; persuaded, at the same time, that it was necessary to im
press the mutineers with a conviction, that extremities would be
used against them before they would be induced to resolve on a
final and unreserved submission.
I PHILADELPHIA, June 24th, 1783.
July 2d, 1783.
Whereas, by the Confederation, the assent of nine States is
.requisite to the determination of matters of principal importance
to the United States, and the representation in Congress has, for
some time past, generally consisted of less than the number of
States: in consequence whereof, the public business, at an in
teresting juncture, has suffered, and continues to suffer, great de
lay and embarrassment,
Resolved, That the States which are not present in Congress,
be informed that it is indispensable they should, without loss OJL
time, send forward a delegation to Congress.
VINDICATION OF CONGRESS.
However men actuated by private pique or party views
may take pleasure in stigmatizing the conduct of Congress, with
or without reason, considerate and good men, who are solicitous
for the honor of their country, will act upon very different prin
ciples. They will view with regret those instances in which the
284 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JT. 26.
measures of that body may be really entitled to blame will be
cautious how they bestow it where it is not merited and will
always examine with candor before they condemn. Though it
is certainly true that the infallibility of that or any other body is
a doctrine to be reprobated in a free country, and a servile com
plaisance to its errors would be as dangerous as despicable, yet
it must be allowed, that an opposite extreme may be little less
A captious disposition to arraign without examination to
accumulate undistinguishing censure to excite jealousies against
the phantom, without the substance of power to blame for de
fects in the Constitution itself, not in the administration of it
is a vice of nearly as mischievous a tendency in the public mind,
as a blind and superstitious reverence.
In the present circumstances of this country, most evil is to be
apprehended from the prevalency of the former spirit ; for new
governments emerging out of a revolution, are naturally deficient
in authority, and require that every effort should be made to
strengthen, not to undermine, the public confidence. This ob
servation applies with peculiar force to the government of the
Union the constitutional imbecility of which must be apparent
to every man of reflection.
It is therefore painful to hear, as is too fashionable a practice,
indiscriminate censure heaped upon Congress for every public
failure and misfortune, without considering the entire dispropor
tion between the means which that body have it in their power
to employ, and their responsibility.
It is equally exceptionable to see all the errors of their prede
cessors concentred in a mass of accusation against the subsisting
body. If there have been meritorious acts performed by Con
gress at any period of the revolution, all the praise of it is con
fined to the immediate actors ; if there have been faults com
mitted, they descend with increasing odium upon all who come
after. The good deeds of Congress die, or go off the stage with
the individuals who are the authors of them, but their mistakes
are the inheritance of all those who succeed.
It is true, Congress in a political capacity are perpetual ; but
jET.26.] VINDICATION OF CONGRESS. 285
the individuals who compose it in fact undergo frequent changes.
It is not more reasonable to charge any present set of members
for the mismanagement of a former set allowing it to be real
than it would be to impute to George the Third the crimes of
Henry the Eighth. It is a principle of the English law that the
king never dies, and yet no man in his senses, on account of this
fiction of the law, will transfer to the reigning monarch the in
famy of his predecessor's misconduct. It is not less unjust or
absurd to blame a subsisting Congress, the greater part of whose
members have had no agency in the measures which are the
objects of crimination, for the ill consequences of those measures.
It is not much to be wondered at that this error should exist
among the uninformed parts of the community, who can only be
expected to have general notions of Congress, without any pre
cise ideas of their constitution, and who, therefore, will be dis
posed to view them always under the same form, without attend
ing to the changes which the body is continually undergoing.
But when men more enlightened fall into the same fallacy, it is
an argument of disingenuous intentions, and proves them to be
under the influence of passion, of prejudice, or of something
The chief topics of clamor against Congress are, either posi
tive breaches of faith, by avowed departures from express stipu
lations, as in the reduction of the Continental money from forty
to one, or negative, as the general non-performance of the public
As to those of the first kind, without entering into a discus
sion of particular instances without examining whether those
which may have happened, may have been produced by inexpe
rience, necessity, levity, or design it will be sufficient, in justi-
i fication of the present Congress to say, that a large majority of
\ them had no share whatever in those acts which are the subject
of complaint. And to those of the last kind, there always has
been, and is, a conclusive and satisfactory answer to be given for
Congress. The power of raising money is not vested in them.
All they can do, is to assign their quota to the several States,
and to make requisitions from them. This they have not failed
286 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [-ffli. 26.
to do in the most ample manner ; and if the States do not com
ply, to enable them to execute their engagements, the delin
quency is not to be charged upon Congress.
Should it be said, that Congress ought not to have made en
gagements without the power of fulfilling them, this is to say,
that they ought to have given up the contest, and to have be
trayed the liberty of America. It was necessary to incur debts
to support the revolution ; and no man who is a sincere friend to
it, can be serious in advancing the position, that this essential
resource ought not to have been employed, from a scruple of that
If Congress, indeed, after a definitive conclusion of the peace,
consent to be the instruments of future engagements, without
more effectual provision at their disposal, they will then merit
the indignation of every honest man.
But the present Congress have more than this general argu
ment to offer in their vindication. They can say, with truth,
that so far from having committed any positive violations of
faith, they have manifested a uniform and anxious solicitude
for the restoration of public credit, and for doing complete justice
to every class of public creditors. Having found, by repeated
and daily experience, that the provisions of the Confederation
were unequal to the purpose, they have had recourse to extra
ordinary expedients. The plan of the (April 18, 1782,)
for funding the public debt, is now depending before the several
legislatures ; nor is it possible for them to give a more decisive
proof of their disposition to justice than is contained in that
Congress stand in a very delicate and embarrassing situation.
On the one hand, they are blamed for not doing what they have i
no means of doing ; on the other, their attempts are branded
with the imputations of a spirit of encroachment, and a lust of
In these circumstances, it is the duty of all those who have
the welfare of the community at heart, to unite their efforts to !
direct the attention of the people to the true source of the publi<
disorders the want of an EFFICIENT GENERAL GOVERNMENT
^ET. 27.] PHOCION. 287
and to impress upon them this conviction, that these States, to be
happy, must have a stronger bond of UNION, and a CONFEDERA
TION capable of drawing forth the resources of the country. This
will be a more laudable occupation than that of cavilling against
measures, the imperfection of which is the necessary result of the
The residue is not preserved.
LETTEES FEOM PHOCION
To the considerate Citizens of New- York, on the Politics of the Times,
in consequence of the Peace.
While not only every personal artifice is employed by a few
heated and inconsiderate spirits, to practise upon the passions of
the people, but the public papers are made the channel of the
most inflammatory and pernicious doctrines, tending to the sub
version of all private security and genuine liberty ; it would be
culpable in those who understand and value the true interests
of the community to be silent spectators. It is, however, a com
mon observation, that men, bent upon mischief, are more active
in the pursuit of their object than those who aim at doing good.
Hence it is, in the present moment, we see the most industrious
efforts made to violate the Constitution of this State, to trample
upon the rights of the subject, and to chicane or infringe the
most solemn obligations of treaty ; while dispassionate and up
right men almost totally neglect the means of counteracting
these dangerous attempts. A sense of duty alone calls forth the
observations, which will be submitted to the good sense of the
people, in this paper, from one who has more inclination than
leisure to serve them ; and who has had too deep a share in the
288 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [&T. 27.
common exertions in this Eevolution, to be willing to see its
fruits blasted by the violence of rash or unprincipled men, with
out, at least, protesting against their designs.
The persons alluded to, pretend to appeal to the spirit of
whigism ; while they endeavor to put in motion all the furious
and dark passions of the human mind. The spirit of whigism
is generous, humane, beneficent, and just. These men inculcate
revenge, cruelty, persecution, and perfidy. The spirit of whig
ism cherishes legal liberty, holds the rights of every individual
sacred, condemns or punishes no man without regular trial and
conviction of some crime declared by antecedent laws ; repro
bates equally the punishment of the citizen by arbitrary acts of
legislation as by the lawless combinations of unauthorized indi
viduals ; while these men are advocates for expelling a large
number of their fellow-citizens unheard, untried ; or, if they can
not effect this, are for disfranchising them, in the face of the
Constitution, without the judgment of their peers, and contrary
to the law of the land.
The thirteenth article of the Constitution declares, "that no
member of the State shall be disfranchised, or defrauded of any of
the rights or privileges sacred to the subjects of this State by the
Constitution, unless by the law of the land or the judgment of his
peers" If we inquire what is meant by the law of the land, the
best commentators will tell us, that it means due process of law;
that is, by indictment or presentment of good and lawful men* and
trial and conviction in consequence.
It is true, that in England, on extraordinary occasions, at
tainders for high treason, by Act of Parliament, have been
practised; but many of the ablest advocates for civil liberty
have condemned this practice ; and it has commonly been exer- j
cised with great caution upon individuals only by name, never
against general descriptions of men. The sense of our Constitu
tion on this practice, we may gather from the forty -first article,
where all attainders, other than for crimes committed during the
late war, are fordidden.
* Coke upon Magna Charta, chap. 29, page 60.
jE T . 27.] PHOCION. 289
If there had been no Treaty in the way, the Legislature might,
by name, have attainted particular persons of high treason for
crimes committed during the war; but, independent of the
Treaty, it could not, and cannot, without tyranny, disfranchise
or punish whole classes of citizens by general descriptions, with
out trial and conviction of offences known by laws previously
established, declaring the offence and prescribing the penalty.
This is a dictate of natural justice, and a fundamental prin
ciple of law and liberty.
Nothing is more common than for a free people, in times of
heat and violence, to gratify momentary passions, by letting into
the government, principles and precedents which afterwards
prove fatal to themselves. Of this kind is the doctrine of dis
qualification, disfranchisement, and banishment, by Acts of Leg
islature. The dangerous consequences of this power are mani
fest. If the Legislature can disfranchise any number of citizens
at pleasure, by general descriptions, it may soon confine all the
votes to a small number of partisans, and establish an aristocracy