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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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obedience to resolutions of Congress, of the 3d
and 4th of June, 1776, for establishing a Fly-
ing Camp, to consist of 10,000 men, in the



middle colonies. Messrs. Bayard, Eush and
Smith were appointed a committee to draft
an address to the associators of the prov-
ince on the subject of embodying 4,500 men.
This address has been said to be a master-
piece of the kind, and as it contains the sen-
timents of our own representative, who was
one of the committee, it is given in full.*

The address of the deputies of the com-
mittees of Pennsylvania, assembled in Pro-
vincial Conference, at Philadelphia, June
25th, 1776.


Gentlemen: — The only desigu of our meeting
together was to put an end to our own power in the
province, by fixing a plan for calling a convention,
to form a government under the authority of the
people. But the sudden and unexpected separation
of the late assembly has compelled us to undertake
the execution of a resolve of Congress, for calling
forth 4,.500 of the militia of the province, to join
the militia of the neighboring colonies, to form a
camp for our immediate protection. We presume
only to recommend the plan we have formed to you,
trusting that, in a case of so much consequence,
your love of virtue and zeal for liberty will supply
the want of authority delegated to us expressly for
that purpose. We need not remind you that you
are now furnished with new motives to animate and
support your courage. You are not about to con-
tend against the power of Great Britian, in order to
displace one set of villians to make room for
another. Your arms will not be enervated in the
day |of battle with the reflection, that you are
to risli your lives or shed your blood for a
British tyrant; or that your posterity will have your
work to do over again. You are about to contend
for permanent freedom to be supported by a govern-
ment which will be derived from yourselves, and i
which will have for its object, not the emolument j
of one man or class of men only, but the safety,
liberty and happiness of every individual in the
community. We call upon you, therefore, by the
respect and obedience which are due to the author- j
ity of the United Colonies, to concur in this impor- ',
tant measure. The present campaign will probably i
decide the fate of America. It is now in your
power to immortalize your names by mingling your ;
achievements with the events of the year 1776, a
year which we hope will be famed in the annals of '.
history to the end of time, for establishing upon a
lasting foundation the liberties of one-quarter of the ,

Remember that the honor of our colony is at
stake. Should you desert the common cause at the
present juncture, the glory that you have acquired
by your former exertions of strength and virtue
will be tarnished; and our friends and brethren, who
are now acquiring laurels in the most remote parts
of America, will reproach us and blush to own
themselves natives or inhabitants of Pennsylvania.
But there are other motives before you; your
houses, }'our fields, the legacies of your ancestors,
or the dear bought fruits of your own industry, and
your liberty, now urge you to the field. These can- ,
not plead with you in vain, or we might point out j
to you further your wives, your children, your aged ;
fathers and mothers, who now look up to you for j
aid, and hope for salvation in this day of calamity,
only from the instrumentality of your swords.

* Constitution of Penna. p. 44. j

Remember the name of Pennsylvania. Think
of your ancestors and of your posterity.

Signed by an unanimous order of the confer-

TnoMAS McKean, President.

June 2.5, 1776.

It was on the 7th of June, 1776, that in
Congress independence was proposed, and
this was op))osed by some Pennsylvanians of
prominence, who still thought of reconcili-
ation. Yet we have seen that the march
toward independence, had been steady on the
part of the people, and the various manifes-
toes issued by the Congress itself, as in the
resolutions of the 15th of May, 1776, com-
municated to the several colonies recommend-
ing the formation of governments, virtually
declared separation. The military prepar-
ations and organizations went steadily for-
ward. On the very day, that is celebrated
by the nation as having given birth to our
independence, the 4th of July, 1776, there
was a meeting at Lancaster of the officers
and privates of the Fifty-third Battalion of
the Associators of Pennsylvania, to choose two
Brigadier-Generals to command the battalions
and forces of the State. The delegates from
York County, were Cols. Smith and Diehl,
Lieut-Col. Donaldson, Majs. Dinwiddle,
Jefferies, Andrew, Finley, and Craft; Capts.
Smyser and Campbell; privates, W. Scott,
Ewing, Clingham, Hamilton, Little, Schley,
Nealor and Messery. The officers and pri-
vates voted by ballot, singly. The two Brig-
adier-Generals were voted for at the same
time, and the highest in Totes was declared
the commanding officer. Daniel Roberdeau
of Philadelphia, was elected First Brigadier,
and James Ewing of York, Second Brigadier,
with power and authority to call out any
number of the associators of this province
into action, and that power to continue until
superseded by the convention, or by any
authority under the appointment. And it
was resolved to march under the direction
and command of our Brigadier-Generals, to
the assistance of all or any of the free and
independent States of America; that the
associators to be drafted out of each com-
pany by the Brigadier-Generals, shall be in
the same proportion as directed by the late
Provincial Council. *


The convention to frame the first constitu-
tion of Pennsylvania was held in Philadel-
phia, on the 15th day of July, 1776. The
delegates from this county were John Hay,
James Edgar, Francis Cragart, James Smith,

*Rupp3. Hist, of Law. Co., pp. 406-407.




William Eankir, Henry Slagle, Robert Mc-
Pherson and Joseph Donaldson. The con-
vention unanimously chose Dr. Benjamin
Franklin, President. Col. James Smith was
one of a committe of eleven, to make an essay
for a declaration of rights, and also for a
frame or system of government. Among the
constitutional provisions was one for a
Supreme Executive Council, to consist of
twelve persons to be chosen by ballot; the
freeholders of the counties of Lancaster, York,
Cumberland and Berks, to elect one person
for each county respectively, to serve as coun-
cilmen for two years. And another for a
council of censors consisting of two persons
chosen by ballot, in each county on the sec-
ond Tuesday in October, 1783, and every
seventh year thereafter. Among the duties
of this council of censors was that of inquire
ing whether the constitution has been pre-
served inviolate in every part, and whether
the legislative and executive branches of gov-
ernment had performed their full duty as
guardians of the people, or assume to them-
selves, or exercised other or greater powers
than they are entitled to by the constitution.
They were also given power to call a conven-
tion, if there appeared to them an absolute
necessity of amending any article of the con-
stitution. But their organization was not to
be effected for seven years.* The conven-
tion completed its labors on the 2Sth of Sep-
tember, 1776, and the constitution went into
immediate effect as the act of the people.
There was some dissatisfaction with the frame
of government, and the transition from the
Colonial to the State administration, was not
without its difficulties. Its acceptance, how-
ever, and the popular approval of it, man-
ifested indignantly when an attempt was
made to interfere with it, is one of the eviden-
ces of the capacity of the people for self gov-
ernment. The constitutional convention of
1776, by an ordinance passed the 3d of
September, nominated and appointed all
the then members of a newly established coun-
cil of safety, among them Michael Swope,
Justice of the Peace for the State at large,
and a number of other persons to be Justices
of the Peace for the several counties in the
State. Benjamin Franklin and Joho Dick-
enson, were among others, appointed Justices
for the city and county of Philadelphia, which
indicates the dignity of the office at that
period. For the county of York there were
appointed Eobert McPherson, Martin Eich-
elberger, Samuel Edie, David McConaughy.
Eichard McAlister, Henry Slagle, Matthew

Dill, William Eankin, William Lees, Will-
iam Bailey, William Scott, "William Smith,
William McCaskey, Josias Scott, Thomas
Latta, William McClean and John Mickle,
the younger esquires. The acts of these Jus-
tices in the acknowledgement and proof of
deeds, were subsequently validated by act of

From the letters of John Adams, the fol-
lowing extract is made of the date of Octo-
ber 4, 1776: "The 1st of October, the day
appointed by the charter of Pennsyl-
vania, for the annual election of representa-
tives, has passed away, and two counties
only have chosen members, Bucks and Ches-
ter. The assembly is therefore dead, and
the convention is dissolved. A new conven-
tion is to be chosen the beginning of Novem-
ber, The proceedings of the late convention
are not well liked by the best of Whigs.
Their constitution is reprobated, and the
oath with which they have endeavored to
prop it, by obliging every man to swear that
he will not add to, or diminish from, or any
way alter that constitution, before he can
vote, is execrated. We live in the age of
political experiments. Among many that
will fail, some I hope, will succeed. But
Pennsylvania will be divided and weakened,
and rendered much less vigorous in the cause
by the wretched ideas of government which
prevail in the minds of many people in it."*
The charter of privileges granted by William
Penn to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania,
provided for an assembly to be chosen yearly
by the freemen upon the 1st day of October,
forever. The constitution just adopted pro-
vided for the choice of representatives annu-
ally by ballot, on the first Tuesday of Novem-
ber for the first year and on the second
Tuesday in October forever. This latter the
people accepted and hence members of as-
sembly were not chosen on the 1st of Octo-
ber, which John Adams supposed to be a
lapse. The oath prescribed in the constitu-
tion, to which he refers in his letter just
quoted, to be taken by every officer, was ' 'to
be true and faithful to the commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, and not directly or indirectly
do any act or thing prejudicial or injurious
to the constitution or government thereof,
as established by the convention," At the
first meeting of the Legislature members ex-
pressed some scraples with respect to taking
this oath of allegiance, apprehending they
would thereby be precluded from taking
measures to obtain the sense of the people
with respect to calling a convention, and
they were allowed to take the oath with a

* Letters of John Adams, p. 168.


reservation. This was afterwards condemned
by the council of censors.* Throughout the
State for a few years there was a clamor on
the part of some for a convention to remodel
the government. The first assembly was,
however, regularly elected. The members
from York County were Archibald McClean,
Michael Schwaabe, David Dumvoodie, James
Dickson, Michael Hahn, -John Bead. The
first session of the first General Assembly of
the commonwealth under the constitution of
1776, began at Philadelphia, November 2S,

Under the militia laws there was ap-
pointed and commissioned one repTitable
freeholder to serve as lieuterrant of the mili-
tia of each county, and a number of citizens,
not exceeding the number of battalions, to
serve as sub-lieutenants. Richard Mc.4.1ister
was made the First Lieutenant of York

There was dissatisfaction to the frame of
the new government here, and also some con-
fusion of the courts and records; but the
troubles of putting in force the new laws ex-
isted throughout the commonwealth, and is
evidence of the independent spirit of the
people and jealously of any thing they con-
sidered oppression. The difficulties of enforc-
ing the militia laws, viewed in the light of the
experience of our own day arose from the
necessity of drafting troops. The reasons
given for opposition were in many instances
weak, and were an attempt at an excuse for
not wanting to go to war against one's will.
The reasons, however, given by the Germans
as appears in the correspondence of the period
has more force than appeared to their British
fellow-citizens, English or Irish, who had not
been obliged to swear an oath of allegiance
to the King of Great Britain, an abjuration
of which was required by the new test; and
then, perhaps, have to swear again to the


The first meeting of the Council of Safety
constituted by the Convention of 1776, con-
sisting of twenty five persons, was held in
Philadelphia on the 24th of July, 1776.
David Rittenhouse was the first Chairman,
and on the 6th of August, 1776, the board
elected Thomas Wharton, Jr., President, and
David Ptittenhouse, Vice-President. This
Council of Safety continued until the Su-
preme Executive Council under the Constitu-
tion was inauo-urated. This took place on
the 4th of March, 1777. On the 5th of

«Constitutionsof Penna., 04.

tSee Correspondence, V Archives, .512-752.

March, the Supreme Executive Council and
[ the Assembly met and elected Thomas Whar-
1 ton, Jr., President, and George Bryan, Vice-
President. This was proclaimed with great
ceremony at the court house, at noon, on the
6th of March; and there was a celebration
and procession, and rejoicings, which are de-
tailed in the Gazette of the period. The
style and title by which the President was
proclaimed was: His Excellency, Thomas
Wharton, Jr., Esq., President of the
Supreme Executive Council of the Common
I wealth of Pennsylvania, Captain-General
and Commander-in-Chief in and over the


The Assembly, on the 30th of June, 1775,
"Resoh-ed, That this house approves the Asso-
ciation entered into by the good people of
this colony, for the defense of their lives,
liberty and property. That it any invasion
or lauding of British troops, or others, shall
be made in this or the adjacent colonies dur-
ing the present controversy, or aay armed
ships or vessels shall sail up the river Dela-
ware, in an hostile manner, and such circum-
stances shall render'it expedient, in the judg-
ment of the committee hereafter to be ap-
pointed, for any number of the officers and
private men of the Association within this
colony, to enter into actual service for repel-

\ ling such hostile attempts, this house will
provide for the pay and necessary expenses

I of such officers and soldiers performing such
military duty while in such actual service.
That the pay of the officers and privates

j while in such actual service shall not exceed

; that of the army raised by the Congress of

i the United Colonies for the defense of the
liberties of America. That this House do

t earnestly recommend to the Board of Com-
missioners and Assessors of each county in

! this province that have not already made the
provision hereinafter mentioned; and they
are hereby enjoined, as they regard the free-

j dom, welfare and safety of their country, im-
mediately to provide a proper number of
good, new firelocks, with bayonets fitted to
them; cartridge boxes with twenty-three

j rounds of cartridge in every box; and knap-
sacks, not less than (enumerating the city
and counties) 300 for the County of York ; to
be under the care of the commanding officers
of the battalions of the said counties, for
the immediate use of such .officers and

! soldiers as shall be drafted from the battalions
from time to time for actual service. And
the said Commissioners and Assessors shall


produce their accounts for furnishing the
arms and accoutreroents aforesaid to the com-
mittee hereinafter appointed, which being
approved by the said committee, they shall
draw orders on the Treasurer for the pay-
ment thereof; and he is hereby enjoined to
pay the same out of the Bills of Credit to be
emitted by the resolation of this House. That
this House do earnestly recommend to, and
enjoin the officers and committee of each
count}' in this province, to select a number
of minute mea, equal to the arms, etc., pro-
vided for the same, to be in readiness upon
the shortest notice, to march to any quarter
in case of an emergency.*

" The Assembly then by resolution appoint
ed a committee of safety, consisting of twenty-
live gentlemen, among whom were Anthony
Wayne and Benjamin Franklin, and from
York County, Michael Swope, for calling
forth such and so many of the associators in-
to actual service when necessity requires, as
the said committee shall judge proper; for
paying them and supplying them with
necessaries while in actual service; for pro-
viding for the defense of this Province
against insurrection and invasion, and for
encouraging and promoting the manufacture
of saltpetre; which said committee are hereby
authorized and empowered to draw orders on
the Treasurer, for the several purposes above

The first meeting of the Committee of
Safety was held at Philadelphia, on the 3d
of July, 1775, and Benjamin Franklin was
chosen its President."}"

In Congress, on the iSthof July, 1775, it
was ''^Resolved : That it be recommended to the
inhabitants of all the United English colonies
in North America that all able-bodied effective
men, between sixteen and sixty years of age
in each colony, immediately form themselves
into regular coaipanies of militia, to consist
of one Captain, two Lieutenants, one Ensign,
four Sergeants, four Corporals, one Clerk,
one Drummer, one Fifer and about sixty-
eight privates. That the officers of each
company be chosen by the respective com-
panies. That each soldier be furnished with
a good musket that will carry an ounce ball,
with a bayonet, steel ramrod, worm priming
wire and brush fitted thereto, a cutting sword
or tomahawk, a cartridge box that will con-
tain twenty- three rounds of cartridges, twelve
flints and a knapsack. That all the militia
take care to acquire military skill, and be
well prepared for defense by being each man
provided with one pound of gunpowder, and

four pounds of ball fitted to his gun.
That as there are some people who from re-
ligious principles cannot bear arms in any
case, this Congress intend no violence to
their. consciences, but earnestly recommend it
to them to contribute liberally, in this time
of universal calamity, to the relief of their
distressed brethren in the several colonies,
and to do all other services to their oppressed
country, which they can consistently, with
their religious principles."* The Friends
claimed complete exemption, but it appears
that the Mennonites and German Baptists
were willing to contribute pecuniary aid.
Many persons rich and able to perform mili-
tary duty, claimed exemption under pretense
of conscientous scruples, and the associators
of Pennsylvania claimed that the liberty of
all was at stake and that the burdens of
maintaining it should be borne equally bv


At a meeting of the committee and the
officers of the militia companies of York
County, at York, the 2Sth and 29th of
July, 1775, there were present forty-five
County Committee men, besides the said
officers. James Smith, Esq., was in the

The committee and officers divided the
county into five districts or divisions and
formed five battalions, the committee then,
with the officers of the militia companies of
the respective districts and battalions, ap-
pointed judges and proceeded to vote by
ballot for field officers to be commissioned,
when James Smith, Esq., was chosen Colonel;
Thomas Hartley, Esq., Lieutenant-Colonel,
and Joseph Donaldson and Michael Swope,
Esqs. , were chosen Major.? of the first battal-
ion. Robert McPherson, Esq., Colonel;
David Kennedy, Lieutenant-Colonel, and
Moses McClean and Hugh Dunwoodie were
chosen Majors of the second battalion.
Pilchard McCallister, Esq., Colonel; Henry
Slazel, Esq., Lieutenant-Colonel, and John
Andrews and Joseph JefFeries were chosen
Majors of the third battalion. William
Smith, Esq., Colonel; Francis Holton,
Lieutenant-Colonel, and Jacob Gibson and
John Finley were chosen Majors of the fourth
battalion; and William Rankin, Esq., Col-
onel; Matthew Dill, Esq., Lieutenant-
Colonel, and Robert Stephenson and Gerhard
Graeff, Majors of the fifth battalion.

The committee and the officers of the said



"militia companies thereupon proceeded to
vote for the field officers of the battalion of
minute-men for York County proper, to he
commissioned, when Eichard McCallister,
Esq. , was chosen Colonel ; Thomas Hartley,
Esq., was chosen Lieutenant-Colonel, and
David Grier, Esq., was chosen Major of the
said battalion. The committee then proceeded
as follows :

Renolved, That in conformity , to the direction
of the Assembl}' of this province, and vpith a regard
to the regulations of the Continental Congress, we
do dirert that five companies of Minute Men, formed
out of the several districts of this county, that is to
say, one company in each division, by draughts or
volunteers from the several militia companies, each
company to consist of a Captain, two Lieutenants
and an Ensign, four Sergeants, four Corporals, a
Drummer and Fifer and sixty-eight or more
privates ; and it is expected that if there be a
defect of arms for these men, when there is a
necessity of going into service, that the respective
Battalions, to which they belong will furnisli them
with the necessary arras. That if the County
Committee men and Assistant Committee men,
or a majority of them in any district, are at
any time of opinion that an additional company
or companies of Minute Men can he raised in
their district, they may order the same to be done,
which company or companies are under the same
Eield Officers or rules and regulations with the said
other companies of Minute Men. The whole Battal-
ion of each division or district are directed to meet
sometime in the next week following,;and draught
the volunteers or proper persons as minute men for
the respective companies, who are to sign an Attest-
ation similar to that mentioned in the proceedings
of this Committee. The subscribers are to proceed
to choose the Officers of the respective companies,
and make return of their names to the Field Officers
of the said Battalion of Minute Men, in order that
they may be commissioned.

Resolved, That in order to prevent confusion and
disorder that no new companies of militia be formed'
in any township without the consent of the Com-
mittee men of the township and three or more of
the County Committee men.

N. B.— The companies ofYorktown, Manchester,
Windsor, •Codorus, York and Hellam Townships
form the first Battalion ; the companies of Cumber-
land, Hamilton's Bann, Strabene, Menallen, Mount
Joy and Tyrone Townships form the second Battal-
ion ; the companies of Heidelberg, Berwick, Parad-
ise, Mount Pleasant, Manheim and Germany Town-
ships, the third Battalion : Chanceford, Shrews-
bury, Pawn and Hopewell Townships, the fourth
Battalion ; and the companies of Dover, Newberry,
Monnonghan, Warrington, Huntington and Reading
Townships the tifth Battalion.

Geo. Lewis Lefler,*
Glerlc for the Gommtttee.

•James Smith (Chairman) to Delegates in
Congress, 1775:

YoKKTOWN, August 1, 1775.
Gentlemen: Our County Committee met the 38th
ult., and after going through the other business
they were called for (which will be the subject of
another letter herewith sent), they proceeded to
consider in what manner the recommendation of the
Assembly and the Continental Congress, touching
those people (in this county) who conscientiously

scruple bearing arms, should be carried into execu-
tion. It was expected that some offer would have
been made by those people, but as no such offer
was made on their part, it was recommended, that
they should be applied to in every township in this
county, to see if they would voluntarily propose any
mode of contribution agreeable to the recommenda-

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 26 of 218)