Settlement & Wars
Western Pennsylvania (primarily incorporating
what is now four
Westmoreland, and Fayette) was a sparsely settled frontier area
Revolutionary years. Settlers had been living there, some
"squatting" illegally, since about the 1760s, but true settlement had
not occurred until after the Revolution in the 1780s when conflicts
Indians were less frequent, having moved further west to
Settlement of the area peaked in the 1790s.
I became interested in the history of this region when I began
researching my Marshall
line. In the midst of many of the key historical events for
was a man named James Marshel. Although virtually every book
early western Pennsylvania
politics and the Whiskey Rebellion mentions him, I have been unable to
much about him personally or his family. His life, however,
interesting, wrapped up as it is in many key historical
events. I am very
interested in learning more, in part because I believe that my Marshall
family, of Washington and Allegheny
counties, may trace their ancestry back to him or one of his
Below is some of what I have learned about him, spliced with a large
As I currently don't have access to most of the primary sources, I have
rely on secondary sources and transcriptions. These are less
than ideal, so please use any information below as a guide only
(especially if it is only referenced from one source). Unless
quoting a book
or a fact found in only one location, I do not specify my
however, a reference
list is enclosed at the bottom
of the page. If you have more
information, please contact
Settlement & Wars
The effective British settlement of western Pennsylvania
was in large part delayed by
its strategic location. Located at the juction of several
Allegheny, Monogahela, and Youghiogheny), the region was contested at
points by the French, English, Indians, and Americans.
The Indian nations occupying the area in the mid to late 1700s included
Nations Iroquois (a loose confederation of the Mohawks, Oneidas,
Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras) along the northern border
the Great Lakes mostly in what is now New York.
The Lenni Lenape (Delaware), Conestoga
(Susquehannocks), Conoys, and Shawnee were originally settled in
middle Pennsylvania, but with the increasing British settlement were
further and further west throughout the eighteenth century, mostly
along the Ohio River, straddling the border of what is now Pennsylvania
Ohio, then into the southern Ohio Valley and Missouri. The
occupied this area. The Wyandot (Huron), Ottawa,
Potawatomis, and Miami
were settled in what is
mostly in the Great
of these Indian natons had their own distinct culture and their own
certain lands. Alliances with other Indian nations, the
English shifted constantly throughout the century, according to the
interests and needs of the tribes. It is impossible to convey
of these interactions completely in a summary, so throughout this
essay, I typically
refer to "Indians" generally if more than one nation took
I use the term "Indian" instead of "Native American", as
this seems to be the preferred term among today's American Indians and
historians. Please see the reference list
for several texts
more detail on the Indian cultures, wars, and migrations.
French traders had been sparsely settled over the region for many years
to the first British movements, and forts had been set up along the
fact, the region
played a central role in the beginning of the French and Indian War. It
location of George Washington's first military experience, the
surrender of Fort
Necessity to the French in
1754. The English lost another major
battle in the area in 1755, under the command of General
was killed in the assault. The English were expelled and the
maintained control of the area until 1758, when General John Forbes
successfully drove the French from Fort
and built Fort
its former site (later to become Pittsburgh).
This did not bring an end to the conflict, however, as the French and
Indian allies continued to attack settlements in the area until the end
French and Indian War with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. With
the French agreed to cease hostilities in the area and ceded the land
British. During this time frame, much of the frontier was
Conflicts with the Indians, however, continued for many more
War broke out in 1763 with the departure of the French, and was an
bloody conflict. Indians had benefited from the battles
French and English over the area, as they were able to play one against
other, decreasing the ability of either to achieve dominance in the
increasing the markets for trade. With the defeat of the
British colonization of western Pennsylvania
increased (despite a 1763 ban on British settlement, expressly designed
decrease regional tension with the Indians). Hostilities
British settlers and Indians, especially the Lenni Lenape (Delaware),
Wyandot (Huron), continued without abatement in the vicinity for the
twenty years, with full-scale wars breaking out at several points
time . Atrocities and massacres were common on both sides and
was an extremely hazardous place to live.
Officially, Indian lands were purchased by Pennsylvania
from the Six Nations Iroquois
by treaties in 1768 and 1784. Several other treaties were
in this time period, purchasing land from the Lenni Lenape (Delaware)
and Wyandot (Huron) nations.
However, there was not general agreement regarding who initially held
lands, and Shawnee
tribes in particular were incensed by the treaty. All of the
nations had been forced to repeatedly migrate from their homelands as
French and English settlers encroached upon them. The first
treaty at Fort
(by the British) was designed to keep settlements east of the Appalachian mountains,
and was primarily unsuccessful.
In 1777, several of the chiefs of the Six Nations wrote, "To the
and Pennsylvanians now at Venango. You have feloniously taken
of a part of our country on the branches of the Ohio,
as well as the Susquehanna. To
the latter we have some time since sent you word to quit our lands, as
do to you, as we don't nkow we ever gavve you liberty nor can we be
easy in our
minds when there is an armed force at our very doors; nor do we think
anybody else would. Therefore, to use you with more lenity
than you havve
a right to expect, we now tell you in a peaceful manner, to quit our
wherever you have possessed yourselves of them, immediately, or blame
yourselves for whatever may happen." (Hildreth, 117)
As the colonies were in the midst of the Revolutionary War with England
time, national leaders tended to be as conciliatory as possible during
time frame, so as not to start war on the frontier as well.
forces, however, armed Indians in order to fight against the
While some nations took the American side, others continued to fight
British even beyond the end of the Revolutionary War.
Settlers in Pennsylvania
committed murders and massacres that tended to spark renewed conflict,
which frustrated the colonial military powers.
The second treaty with the Six Nations in 1784 (by the new American
expanded the region that was claimed for American use and appears to
encompassed most of what is now western Pennsylvania,
as well as parts of Ohio.
Although the treaties did not cease hostilities, the combination of
military action gradually pushed the conflicts further west into Ohio,
so that by the 1790s, western Pennsylvania
was a relatively safe location
for American settlement. The new American government began
western lands at this point, as well, in part to pay down the
Throughout the 1760s and '70s what is now western Pennsylvania
was in fact claimed by both Virginia
Viginia was entirely in what is now Pennsylvania.
counties also included lands
now within Pennsylvania
(to complicate matters
further, most of these former Virginia
counties are now in what is West
Settlers arrived from both states
holding titles to land, under conflicting systems. Virginia
land speculators (including George
Washington) had heavily invested in parcels of land in the area from
1750s and '60s, while the region was still in conflict and such titles
dubious legality. Virginia
lands were cheaper and easier to obtain. However, lands
purchased from Pennsylvania
office opened in 1769, closed during the Revolution, and reopened in
tended to be more legally secure, since they were based on the treaties
with the Indians. Virginia
came to an
agreement on paper in 1781, but the official surveying and final
weren't completed until mid-decade, and disputes regarding the land
even longer. In 1781, when the Pennsylvania
land office reopened after the Revolutionary War, it handled only cases
had begun before the war. Pennsylvania
owned the lands, but recognized at least 1200 landholders who held Virginia
(Harper) Nonetheless, conflicts about the subject remained
for many more
years within the territory with some settlers refusing to recognize Pennsylvania's
James Marshel appears to have arrived in western Pennsylvania
in the mid-1770s, making him
among the earlier British settlers to arrive in the vicinity.
Harper, in 1784, the population of Washington
was just under
16,000.) The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and
Washington County states that James Marshel "was born February 20, 1753
He moved to the western
country some three years before the Revolution and settled in what is
Creek township, Washington (then Westmoreland) county" (page
252). Butterfield contradicts this, saying that
came to Washington
(specifically Dauphin), he was
actually born in the north of Ireland.
Both documents, however, concur on the date though neither gives a
source. At this time, I can find no evidence that Marshel
served in the
Revolutionary War either for Pennsylvania
did, he may not have claimed a pension.
Although little to nothing can currently be said about Marshel's early
is certain that he received some form of education, as he regularly
letters in the course of his political business, many of which are
existence. Marshel may even have attended college, as he was
attorney. James Marshel is described in Hogeland as "the
lawyer David Bradford['s]... business partner" (page 138).
notes that Marshel "just misses" inclusion in the top decile of
wealth for the town of Washington,
a category dominated by professional and mercantile men.
taxable wealth, as measured in 1793, was £129 (p.
I know very little about James Marshel's family. Crumrine
"Col. Marshel's wife was his cousin, a sister of Robert and John
Marshall.", who also settled in the area, and that "Col.
Marshel and his son John always spelled their surname in this peculiar
Marshel. The cousins of Col. Marshel, though of the same family,
name in the usual way - Marshall."
The cousins mentioned in this note seem to have also settled in Cross
Creek. Butterfield notes that Marshel left five surviving
children at his
death in 1829: "John, who settled in Washington,
Robert, who settled in Ohio;
a daughter, who married Mr. McCluny;
and two other daughters, who died unmarried at an advanced age." (p.
Also according to Crumrine, " Col. James Marshel was a resident of
Creek township as early as 1778. On December 26th of that year he
Jacob Frederick 'a tract of land situated on the head-waters of Cross
the counties of Yohogania and Ohio, and State of Virginia,' said tract
containing four hundred acres with allowance, and the consideration
13s. 9d. 'Marshel Hall' was the name given to a tract of four hundred
thirty-two acres which was warranted and surveyed to Col. Marshel in
adjoining the lands of Thomas McKibbin, Robert, John, and Thomas
Samuel Johnston. The middle branch of Cross Creek runs through this
must have been Col. Marshel's next land
purchase. This tract he secured from Francis McKinne, to whom it was
Feb. 13, 1786, and afterwards surveyed as containing four hundred and
acres, located next to other lands of James Marshel and those of David
and John Campbell. 'The Point' was a tract of three hundred and
acres which Col. Marshel warranted in March, 1786, and then deeded part
to Mr. Johnston, who lived upon it."
James Marshel was definitely in Washington County by 1779, when he is
briefly in History of Washington County, PA, 1882 in
reference to the
establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Cross Creek:
"In April 1779, the Rev. Joseph Smith, from York County, Pa., visited
region and preached several sermons. These sermons greatly stirred up
people to obtain the stated ministrations of the gospel among them. In
summer of 1779... the two companies met at the house of James Marshel,
and Cross Creek, and made out a
call for the Rev. Joseph Smith, who had been their minister in York
This call was dated June 21, 1779. The salary promised was seventy-five
This call was carried
down to the Presbytery of
New Castle, then
met at Carlisle, by Mr. Edgar, and was accepted on the 27th of October
1779." (page 736)
According to Butterfield, Marshel offered 200 acres of his land in
hire someone to bring the new minister from over the
these brief mentions, we can infer that Marshel was a staunch
probably one of the Presbyterians of Scotch-Irish descent, who were
the region. Dunaway remarks that the "Scotch-Irish
of the county [Washington] became m ore noticeable about 1773 and
increased steadily; it came mainly from the Cumberland Valley and from
Scotch-Irish centers in Chester, Lancaster, York, and Dauphin Counties,
augmented by a goodly number of immigrants coming directly from
(p 82). Other histories also back this up. In his History of
County, Forrest relates of Cross Creek: "this section was settled by
Presbyterians, of that God-fearing, hard-fighting type of men and women
with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other, carried civilization
the Western wilderness. Of such stock were... Col. James
1778" (page 488). However, he notes of Marshel, "it is said that
he was not very pious in his later years." (p. 150). Dunaway
cites freedom from religious
and economic opportunities as the primary causes of Scotch-Irish
immigration to Pennsylvania
during the colonial period.
Marshel is listed in the 1790 U.S. Census in Washington
(town not specified). It is possible that he was in Cross Creek
at this time, although he is also sometimes listed in Washington,
Buffalo, and Hopewell townships. His name is spelled Marshall,
instead of Marshel on this
document. The return is loosely alphabatized, so it is
unclear who his
neighbors were. In the household were two males over the age
of 16, three
under the age of 16, and three females. No slaves or free
blacks lived in
the house. This is the only census in which I am relatively
James Marshel's identity. In other census reports, it is
unclear which of
several James Marshels he might be. It is also possible that
he was not
the head of household after 1800, and so is not enumerated.
In 1800, he
had likely moved to Virginia,
where the census has been lost.
James Marshel was involved in the civic life of Washington
as well. In the records of the
first school, Crumrine notes that Col. James Marshel was one of the
trustees. This school, Washington
would later become Washington
and finally merge with Jefferson
to become Washington
& Jefferson College,
still in existence today. James Marshel also apparently
loaned a fire
engine to the town of Washington
first fire which occurred in the town of Washington
of which any account is obtained was the burning of the log court-house
winter of 1790-91. The accounts of the commissioners of 1791 contain
following: "To pay James Marshel for the use of his engine, $25."
What kind of an engine was owned by Col. Marshel, or for what purpose
obtained it, is not known, as no further reference to it is found."
Like other men of the era, James Marshel served in a variety of
offices. In Westmoreland
he was the
captain of the militia and was appointed a justice of the peace on June
1777. On April 2, 1781, days after the establishment of Washington County,
commissioned as its county lieutenant and one of the presiding justices
the constitution of the United States,
Marshel held the office of register
and recorder from April 4, 1781 to November 19, 1784.
reappointed him register and recorder August 17, 1791 continuing in
March 6, 1795 (throughout the Whiskey Rebellion). In the mean
filled the position of sheriff, from November 3, 1784 to November 21,
According to Harper and Crumrine, although Marshel owned 1200 acres of
Cross Creek, he spent most of his time residing in Washington,
carrying out his political
offices. He is mentioned in Crumrine several times in the borough of Washington.
He was the
purchaser of the second lot sold in the town: "Col. James Marshel, a
in Cross Creek township, purchased lot No. 90 of David Hoge on a
receiving his deed from Mr. Hoge in February, 1785. This lot was where
& Hargreave’s store now stands. He sold it the next
year to Hugh Wilson. He
lived in the town during the terms of the various offices he held of
lieutenant, register, recorder, and sheriff. In 1794 the military
were upon the lot he then lived on, and the United States
forces were encamped
on the college grounds. " (Crumrine).
As mentioned above, James Marshel served as county lieutenant and
militia, beginning in 1781.
In this office, he held the highest local position of the
militia. Raymond Bell notes that in 1781, "Five battalions
were formed, each with 8 companies -- a total of nearly
3000 men were enrolled. All able-bodied men between 18 and 53 were in
this draft. The battalions were headed by Lieutenant Colonels: Thomas
Crooke, Henry Enoch, John Marshall, George Vallandigham, David
Williamson. Captains were elected."
overlapped in boundaries with Yohogania
This caused some difficulties when the militia was to be called out to
the war against the Indians, as some men would not report to a Virginia
Marshel held allegiance to Pennsylvania in this dispute, and may have
exploited the boundary dispute to avoid sending men on a military
from home, when they were needed for defense more locally:
a greater necessity for the service of the Militia of this frontier
against the Immediate Enemies of the Country, and it would have a
tendency to promote our own safety, than their best services with
at Kaintucky possibly Could do." (Downes, 267-8)
In fact, Crumrine quotes Col. Pentecost of Yohogania County, Virginia
of Col. Marshel: "And he accordingly did all he could to perplex the
People, and advised them to pay no obedience to Draughts that I had
Gen’l Clark’s assistance, & has actually
offered Protection to some of ‘em,
though he before, on a Request of Gen’l Clark’s,
declared he could do nothing
as an officer, wish’d well the Expedition, & as a
Private Person would give
every assistance to promote it.” In response, Col. Marshel
wrote to the Council
8th August, 1781.
“Sr, – When I began to organize the Militia of this
County, I expected the line
between the States would have been run (at least by the Commissioners
State) in May last; but Finding they did not arrive at neither of the
given us to expect them, I thought it my duty to take the most
Opportunity that would Offer to form the Militia. About the fifteenth
last, I apprehended Appearances favourable and accordingly advertised
Battalion Elections, but soon found that General Clark’s
preparations for his
Expedition and the Extraordinary Freedom with which he and his party of
Virginia Officers used with the people of this County stood greatly in
they were Indefatigable in propagating reports of the General being a
Continental Officer, having extraordinary Countenance and Authority
State of Pennsylvania, in pulling down my Advertisements, dissuading
from attending the Elections, crying out that I was everything that was
and was doing all this to hurt the Expedition, &c.; all which,
false, produced a Visible Indisposition in the people towards attending
Elections; and altho’ I was not attempting anything with
design to Injure his
Expedition, I could not do anything to fill up the General’s
troops out of the
Militia of this frontier County, not having Council’s orders
for that purpose.
. . . I can only say at present I have acted such a part as I thought a
faithful Officer ought to do in similar cases; and that I Ever
Conceived I had
no right so much as to say any of the people of this County had a right
with general Clark without your Excellency’s Orders for that
purpose; much less
that I should ly still on purpose that the Virginia Officers should
Militia of this County for that service. If any complaint of what kind
should be lodged against me, I hope your Excellency will favour me with
thereof, that I may have an Opportunity of doing myself Justice; and as
Manner in which the Genl and his Underlings have treated the people of
Westmoreland Counties has been so arbitrary and unprecedented, I think
duty to inform your Excellency the particulars of a few facts. The
instance was with one John Harden, in Westmoreland, who, with a number
others, refused to be drafted under the government of Virginia,
alleging they were undoubtedly in Pennsylvania,
and declared if that government ordered a draft they would obey
accordingly elected their officers and made returns thereof to Col.
this the general, with a party of forty or fifty horsemen, came to
quest of him to hang him, as the general himself declared; but not
old gentleman took and tied his son, broke open his mill, fed away and
destroyed upwards of one hundred and fifty bushels of wheat, rye, and
killed his sheep and hogs, and lived away at Mr. Harden’s
expense in that
manner for two or three days; declared his estate forfeited, but
gave it to his wife; formed an article in which he bound all the
could lay hands on or by any means prevail upon to come in to him;
penalty of ten months in the regular army, not to oppose the draft.
in Westmoreland, being in Company with Clark’s
troops, happened to say the draft was Illegal, upon which he was
Confined, and Ordered to be hanged by the General. Col. Penticost,
willing to assist the General, issued Orders to the Commanding officers
old Militia Companys, to Raise an armed force and Collect the Delinqts;
altho these orders were Chiefly disobeyed, yet there has been several
Banditties in the County under command of a certain Col. Cox and
have acted nearly in the same manner as the general himself has done.
“They being in Quest of John Douglas (a Gent.
Elected one of our Justices for this County) and not finding him the
attempt, broke open his house in the night time, Fed away and destroyed
part of Rye and Corn (his property) as they thought proper; Drew their
upon his wife and Children in order to make them Discover where he was;
Cox and his party have taken and confined a Considerable number of the
Inhabitants of this County, amongst which were Hugh Scott (one of the
trustees of the County), altho’ he was not drafted; in a word
the Instances of
high treason against the State are too many to be Enumerated, therefore
not trouble your Excellency any more on the subject at
President Reed replied that he was well aware of the draft, that it was
and that it was intended to
include Westmoreland and Washington
He added that
although he disapproved of the methods used by General Clark, yet he
the draft would be successful. He felt that perhaps some of the
"avail[ing] themselves of a pretense" in order to avoid the draft.
In March 1782, a collection of men from western Pennsylvania
entered a peaceful Indian village at Gnadhutten on the Muskigum,
took prisoners, and killed approximately 90-96 Indians, including women
children, all of whom had surrendered. It is unclear whether
believed that the Moravian Indians were in league with others who had
attacked and killed western Pennsylvania
settlers. Certainly, in accounts given later, the settlers claimed that
found evidence of collaboration in the hostilities. In The Men from
Pennsylvania who Murdered 96 Moravian Indians, Williston offers
Marshel, as a ranking officer, must have known in advance about the
massacre and that this was an official militia
attributes the calling out of the militia to Col. Marshel, authority he
an emergency. Crumrine also notes that there would have been enough
to go without a draft, but that Marshel wrote to General Irvine that he
"heartily tired out with volunteer plans." There is
evidence of his further participation in the massacre, which was led by
Williamson, another colonel.
Later that same month and into April, Marshel apparently tried to raise
militia to go with General Crawford and fight Indians who were raiding
and attacking the western
counties (probably partially in retaliation for the Gnadhutten
massacre). Crawford was defeated in a particularly brutal battle
at Sandusky, and he was tortured to death. Dr. Knight, a witness
and prisoner, wrote of
participation: "In consequence of these predatory invasions,
principal officers of the above mentioned counties, namely Colonels
and Marshall, tried everything in their power to set on foot an
against the Wyandot which they could effect no other way than by giving
possible encouragement to volunteers." (PA Archives, Sixth
Marshel was apparently having difficulty raising enough men to fight in
ongoing battles, as he had to offer considerable inducement to
including the opportunity to keep plunder found in the Indian villages.
however, also did not go on this expedition. Forrest notes,
"although [Marshel was] not a member of Crawford's
expedition, took a prominent part in its organization, and in the
Indian wars. His reason for not participating in the campaign was
he would not accept a position lower than third in command. He
candidate for first major at the election of field officers at Mingo
Bottom, but was defeated by Thomas Gaddis of Westmoreland County.
Marshel then refused to go and returned home." (212).
November 1787, Marshel wrote to President Benjamin Franklin (then
president of the Supreme Executive Council for Pennsylvania) of various
had recently been killed by the Indians. He stated: "we are
present in a very bad situation for Defence, and our Circumstances in
more Especially that of the frontier Inhabitants, is such that very few
able purchase even a Small Quantity of Ammunition..." Marshel
recommended that at least one hundred troops be sent to defend the
it would take at least that many simply to stand guard at one per
He continues, "I well know the circumstances of the people on the
and that however well disposed they may be to support the Government as
preserve their property, yet I am assured that without the special aid
Government, a very Considerable part of Washington County will be
should the Indians make incursions on our, or the neighboring frontiers
spring" (PA Archives, Vol. XI)
As late as February 1791, Col. Marshel wrote to Governor Mifflin for
in defending the western Pennsylvania frontier from the Shawnee:
"From the fullest evidence of the hostile intentions of the Indians, I
have no doubt but that the service of our Militia will be necessary the
Summer; our situation on the frontier at this time is truly alarming;
Expedition under the command of Gen'l Harmar has had a very different
from what was expected; the Indians appear elated with their success on
occasion, and are roused by a Spirit of Resentment. It is
nothing prevents their crossing the Ohio River,
but the inclemency of the Season, and the danger attending their
Retreat by the
Running of the Ice. They have, subsequent to the Excursion in
of Winter, committed frequent murders on the west side of the River,
the Insolence, after killing a family a few days ago on the bank of the
to call to the people to, 'come over and bury their dead, that it would
their turn next, and that they would not leave a Smoking Chimney on
the Alliganey Mountains..." (PA Archives Second Series)
James Marshel served as representative from Washington
in the state convention that ratified the Constitution. Hugh
Brackenridge, one of the participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, later
history of the rebellion in which he describes his relationship with
Marshel, including Marshel's early history in Washington County and his
opinions of the Constitution at the time of its ratification:
"James Marshall was a man for whom I had all along entertained
respect. When I came to this country in the year 1781, a
existed in favor of the establishment of a new state comprehending the
was county lieutenant in Washington
and had exerted himself greatly in opposition to this
measure. I was with
him in all endeavors to compose the country and establish the Pennsylvania
jurisdiction. This produced
an intimacy. After his lieutenancy he was sheriff of the
discharged this office with general approbation from the court, the bar
country. During my political debates with Findley and others,
in my favor to a certain extent, I had believed from personal
engagements. When a member of the convention for the purpose
the Federal Constitution, he was the most moderate of all the
and refused to sign the Protest, as reasons were alledged in it which
weigh with him. I had flattered myself with thinking that my
representations in favor of the Constitution had contributed to make
moderate; for he is naturally a democrat, perhaps in the extreme."
68 in Boyd)
Like most of the delegates from the western counties of Pennsylvania,
Marshel voted against the
ratification of the Constitution. The votes for the western
seven to two against ratification; nonetheless, the vote passed
contends that this vote ratio was probably an accurate sentiment of the
backcountry feelings toward the Constitution. Most of the
population was anti-federalist at the time, although Washington
(the two seats of larger manufacturing) were
Despite James Marshel's vote against the Constitution, however, he did
the Protest letter that Brackenridge mentions, and which was signed by
the other western delegates. In this letter, the delegates
Constitution for giving the federal government too many powers at the
of the state and claimed that only a "despotic power" could govern a
country as large as the United States
91). These feelings would come to a head several years later
Whiskey Rebellion. Marshel also opposed a petition initiated
Nicholson, state comptroller general, in which Nicholson tried to
ratification. Marshel wrote to Nicholson that he doubted
petition would be very generally signed," and that "I feel inclined
to wait... for it may be that I shall be obliged to live under it [the
Constitution]" (page 75 in Boyd).
Marshel did, however, participate in a follow-up meeting in Harrisburg
in 1788 with other
anti-federalists after the ratification of the Constitution.
The organizers were "inviting to a conference such of the citizens of
this state who
conceive that a revision of the federal system, lately proposed for the
government of these United States, is necessary"
(Elliot). In this
meeting, a number of concerns were raised, although the participants
agreed that "it be recommended to the people of this state to acquiesce
organization of the said government; but, although we thus accord in
its organization, we by no means lose sight of the grand object of
obtaining very considerable amendments and alterations, which we
consider essential to preserve the peace and harmony of the Union, and
those invaluable privileges for which so much blood and treasure have
been recently expended" (Elliot). Accordingly, a petition
with amendments to the
was proposed. Some of these amendments were similar to those
later adopted in
the Bill of Rights, although no direct line of origin can be drawn
99). The recommended amendments were as follows:
I. That Congress shall not exercise any powers whatever, but such as
are expressly given to that body by the Constitution of the United
States; nor shall any authority, power, or jurisdiction, be assumed or
exercised by the executive or judiciary departments of the Union, under
color or pretence of construction or fiction; but all the rights of
sovereignty, which are not by the said Constitution expressly and
plainly vested in the Congress, shall be deemed to remain with, and
shall be exercised by, the several states in the Union, according to
their respective Constitutions; and that every reserve of the rights of
individuals, made by the several constitutions of the states in the
Union, to the citizens and inhabitants of each state respectively,
shall remain inviolate, except so far as they are expressly and
manifestly yielded or narrowed by the national Constitution.
1, section 2, paragraph 3.
II. That the number of representatives be, for the present one for
every twenty thousand inhabitants, according to the present estimated
numbers in the several states, and continue in that proportion until
the whole number of representatives shall amount to two hundred; and
then to be so proportioned and modified as not to exceed that number,
until the proportion of one representative for every thirty thousand
inhabitants shall amount to the said number of two hundred.
3. III. That senators, though chosen for six years, shall be liable to
be recalled, or superseded by other appointments, by the respective
legislatures of the states, at any time.
4. IV. That Congress shall not have power to make or alter regulations
concerning the time, place, and manner of electing senators and
representatives, except in case of neglect or refusal by the state to
make regulations for the purpose; and then only for such time as such
neglect or refusal shall continue.
8. V. That when Congress shall require supplies, which are to be raised
by direct taxes, they shall demand from the several states their
respective quotas thereof, giving a reasonable time to each state to
procure and pay the same; and if any state shall refuse, neglect, or
omit to raise and pay the same within such limited time, then Congress
shall have power to assess, levy, and collect the quota of such state,
together with interest for the same, from the time of such delinquency,
upon the inhabitants and estates therein, in such manner as they shall
by law direct; provided that no poll tax be imposed.
8. VI. That no standing army of regular troops shall be raised or kept
up in time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of both houses
8. VII. That the clause respecting the exclusive legislation over a
district not exceeding ten miles square be qualified by a proviso that
such right of legislation extend only to such regulations as respect
the police and good order thereof.
8. VIII. That each state, respectively, shall have power to provide for
organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia thereof, whensoever
Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the
militia shall not be subject to material law, but when in actual
service, in the time of war, invasion, or rebellion; and when not in
the actual service of the United states, shall be subject to such
fines, penalties, and punishments, only, as shall be directed or
inflicted by the laws of its own state: nor shall the militia of any
state be continued in actual service longer than two months, under any
call of Congress, without the consent of the legislature of such state,
or, in their recess, the executive authority thereof.
9. IX. That the clause respecting vessels bound to or from any one of
the states be explained.
3, section 1. X. That Congress establish no other court than the
Supreme Court, except such as shall be necessary for determining causes
of admiralty jurisdiction.
2, paragraph 2. XI. That a proviso be added at the end of the second
clause of the second section of the third article, to the following
effect, viz.: Provided, that such appellate jurisdiction, in all cases
of common-law cognizance, be by a writ of error, and confined to
matters of law only; and that no such writ of error shall be admitted,
except in revenue cases, unless the matter in controversy exceed the
value of three thousand dollars.
6, paragraph 2. XII. That to article 6, clause 2, be added the
following proviso, viz.: Provided always that no treaty, which shall
hereafter be made, shall be deemed or construed to alter or affect any
law of the United States, or of any particular state, until such treaty
shall have been laid before and assented to by the House of
Representatives in Congress." (Elliot)
likewise opposed the revision of the state constitution of Pennsylvania.
Originally, this document had been very democratically written, but
conservatives wanted revisions. A convention was called in
some rather dubious political methods, which westerners were quick to
denounce. To a letter from Albert Gallatin urging Washington
county to boycott the convention,
Marshel replied: "am happy to find that the good people of your County
not disposed to Elect members for the proposed Convention. I
agree with you that the Measure is Unconstitutional, Unnecessary, and
Improper and that the most prudent step for us at present is the
proposed by the people of your County" (Ferguson, 102).
The Whiskey Rebellion took place in western Pennsylvania,
beginning in the fall of 1791
and coming to a climax and end in 1794. (Although other
participated in protesting the tax, I consider only Pennsylvania
in this discussion.
was a center for the rebellion, and was the focus of the military
quell the insurgency.)
against the whiskey excise tax that had been passed by the new American
The rebellion was then, and remains, extremely controversial.
incorporates elements of many of the debates of the age, including how
what kinds of powers were held by the new federal government and how
authority could be used and enforced. The Whiskey Rebellion
was one of
the first instances in which the federal government had to exert itself
enforce a law, in this case calling out the militias to put down the
The whiskey excise tax was passed by Congress in March 1791.
The tax was
levied primarily to help the federal government recover from the debts
by the American Revolution and the recession that occurred in its
As inflation went up and the government's currency was devalued, people
everywhere were struggling to make ends meet. This was
for former soldiers who had been paid primarily in the form of
paper. Many of these soldiers sold their devalued bonds to
who began to petition for an absorbtion of debts by Congress.
Congress, led by Alexander Hamilton's proposals, agreed to try to
of the debts. However, once absorbed, a form of
income had to be
created to pay off the debt. Thus came the whiskey tax.
Whiskey was a popular beverage at a time when much of what was drunk by
children and adults alike was alcoholic. It is made by
such as corn or rye, and gradually distilling the alcohol into purer
forms. This was done in a pot still over a fire, running the
product into barrels. When the process is complete, whiskey
practically clear and very strong, similar to vodka. At that
may be drunk immediately or aged in casks, a process which darkens it.
Western Pennsylvania farmers, especially those living in the forks of
River (near present-day Pittsburgh),
were among the most prodigious producers of whiskey in the
part, this is because of simple economics and geography.
blocked from using the Mississippi
ship crops to market, as it was still controlled by the
meant that they had to get their crops over the Allegheny
in order to find a market for them in the east.
The cost and the time involved in getting crops to market was
order to make a profit, it was in the best interests of western farmers
grains, then distill them into whiskey. The leftover
could be fed to animals that would help to feed a family, and the
whiskey could be taken to market in eastern Pennsylvania.
Since whiskey does not
spoil as the grains would, and since a large quantity of grains could
into a relatively small amount of whiskey, the distillation process was
the economy of western markets.
While much whiskey was exported from the region, certainly it served a
purpose as well. In 1786, a surveyor from Massachusetts
visited western Pennsylvania
and wrote: "I found a number of the neighbors seated in
around a heap of corn. The inspiring juice of rye had
imaginations, and given their tongue such an exact balance, that they
with the greatest alacrity, while relating scenes of boxing, wrestling,
hunting, &c. At dusk of evening the corn was finished, and the
retired to the house, where many of them took such hearty draughts of
generous liquor as quite deprived them of the use of their
quarreled, some sang, and others laughed; while the whole displayed a
diverting than edifying. At ten o'clock all who could walk
went home, but
left three or four round the fire, hugging the whisky bottle, and
obstinately on religion;
at which I left them and went to
bed." Apparently, the neighbors returned the next day to
In western Pennsylvania,
there were some larger distillers who would distill whiskey for smaller
in exchange for a portion of the product. However, many small
were able to operate their own stills, some only seasonally and some
for their own use. Given the devaluation of paper currency
relative rarity of coin in the western frontier, whiskey could often be
a form of currency, since it always had value somewhere. It
was a cornerstone
of the economy.
Therefore, when Congress passed the whiskey excise tax, western farmers
particularly incensed. Many of the western farmers were
veterans of the
Revolutionary War, some of the French and Indian War. They
by their new government. Protests and meetings began almost
excise tax was passed. When the tax was passed and as the
government tried harder and harder to enforce the law, the tax officers
of them local citizens) were physically attacked, tarred and feathered,
had their houses and other property burned.
Attacks continued and became more violent climaxing in the summer of
the federal government continued to try to enforce the law and make
register their stills. The turning point came when a federal
marshal began delivering processes to those who had failed to register
their stills. Farmers would be expected to attend a court hearing
in eastern Pennsylvania -- at a cost that none could afford. In
some began to discuss secession. Those who registered their
stills or who
tried to remain neutral on the subject were harassed and
militias were organized to attack the federal officials enforcing the
collection. Several of these men holed up in Pittsburgh,
and were forced out when the
country militias threatened to burn the town. The Pittsburgh
militia joined the others,
possibly under duress.
In 1794, the federal government finally sent negotiators to discuss a
reconciliation. Even as the negotiations were underway,
being called out in several states to put down the rebellion.
government had a lot to lose in the face of western
rebellion. It was so
new that this threat to its power had to be taken extremely seriously.
Although the negotiations were somewhat successful (mostly because
quickly saw that they had no hope of defending themselves against a
army), the federal militias were marched through the area in
1794. No shots were fired at the militias.
Negotiations had required that all men sign a loyalty oath to the new
government and promise to obey the laws. In return, they
amnesty for their actions. Most men appear to have signed the
pledge. In the end, only a few men were taken to Philadelphia
for trial; only two were found
In the beginning of the Whiskey Rebellion, Marshel appears to have
supported the rebellion, through writing and action. In the
1791, shortly after the excise law was passed, James Marshel was
representative of Washington
to a larger meeting of delegates from western Pennsylvania.
committee passed several resolutions against the whiskey tax which were
published in the Pittsburgh Gazette that fall. Marshel was
also a member
and officer of the Democratic Society of the County
a political and social group
which gathered and wrote a protest letter to President George
Brackenridge concludes that James Marshel's opposition to the whiskey
tax was a political move to beat out Thomas Ryerson in a House
an earlier election, Ryerson had been opposed to a state tax and had
beat Marshel. Brackenridge thus concludes that Marshel's
the whiskey excise was an electioneering move. Certainly, Marshall
does appear to
have used the opposition to network with others. Here is
"James Marshall... who doubtless had the same general impressions with
others, had been at Pittsburgh occasionally, having at that time a
with the public for the purchase of horses for the wagons of the army;
conversed with me on the subject of the excise law; and finding my
in unison with his, not only with regard to the excise law, but the
system in general, expressed a wish that I would come forward and get
elected a member from Allegheny County. I declined it... Marshall
excused me, but thought I could have
no objections to assist in drawing up the addresses proposed to the
to the representatives in Congress. I had no objections to that." (page
Despite Marshel's opposition to the excise law, he seems to have had
about the use of violence, at least initially. Hogeland
"James Marshall... declined to join in the attack" (page 151) on
General Neville's home at Bower Hill. General John Neville
was a local
citizen who was registering stills and collecting taxes. The
occurred on the evening after General Neville had ridden out with the
marshal to deliver processes against those who had not registered their
stills. In the notes, Hogeland suggests that rather than a
declaration against the violence at Bower Hill, Marshel may have simply
shown up. Given the escalating attacks and intimidation of
those who were
seen to be in league with the tax collectors, trying to register their
or remain neutral, Marshel's decision not to participate would probably
been safest if made privately.
In Slaughter's review of the Whiskey Rebellion, he likewise concludes
"'leaders' were recruited against their will, although some quickly
developed a passion for the role of demagogue. James Marshall
Bradford, later two of the most incendiary favorites of the crowd, were
told that 'if you do not come forward now and support us, you shall be
in the same or a worse way with the excise officer'" (page
Certainly other prominent men (notably Brackenridge) who later wrote
rebellion indicated that they sometimes felt coerced or intimidated
actions. It is difficult, however, to determine how much of
writing was an attempt by the men to exculpate themselves from a
which they seemed to be guilty of treason.
Marshel's business partner, made a speech at Mingo
of the attack on Neville's house at Bower Hill within a few
appears that James Marshel may have tacitly agreed with Bradford, for
rate, he went on with the next step Bradford took, intercepting and
mail from Pittsburgh
Ostensibly, the goal of
this was to see who was writing to the federal government and what was
said. At any rate, what was found was disagreeable (at best)
to those who
Bradford, Marshel, and several other men next signed a letter to
commanders which commanded them to muster in Braddock's Field, near
"the post now being in our possession by which certain secrets are
discovered hostile to our interests, it is therefore come to that
every citizen must express his sentiments, not by his words, but by his
actions. You are then called upon as a citizen of the western
render your personal service, with as many volunteers as you can raise
rendezvous at your usual place of meeting..." (Penn Archives, 67).
This was clearly an act of rebellion. It is unclear why
Bradford) might have had this change of heart related to violent
Perhaps calling out the militia was not seen as the radical act that it
became. Perhaps the contents of the read letters was so
incendiary as to
change their minds. Perhaps, too, Bradford and Marshel were
external pressures to act. Both Marshel and Bradford
suggested later that
week that mustering the militias might not be the right decision,
changed his mind yet again, urging the militias
on. James Marshel (says Hogeland, page 169) found his door
feathered that night, indicating that he would have to participate in
muster as well. There would be no backing down.
James Marshel did muster at Braddock's Field. When the
militia leaders debated
burning all of Pittsburgh
to ferret out the remaining 'traitors to the cause', he apparently
idea, along with others, and they prevailed. A group of soldiers
did burn a house and barn, however, for which Marshel and others
drafted an apology. The tax
collectors and their
supporters were peacefully exiled from the town.
the muster at Braddock's Field and the end of the crisis near
Pittsburgh, a meeting was called to be held August 14th at Parkinson's
Ferry. Delegates were sent from western Pennsylvania, as well as
neighboring counties of Virginia. James Marshel was among the 226
other men chosen to represent the area (Baldwin). At the meeting,
Marshel spoke out in favor of the principles of the whiskey rebellion,
proposing a series of resolutions, which were adopted pending
resolutions are summarized in Baldwin: "The first resolution,
adopting the western view that the county was the vicinage,
characterized the taking of citizens from their vicinages for trial as
a violation of their rights... his [second] resolution called for a
committee of public safety to guard against any invasions of the rights
of the people... The third resolution, which called for yet one more
remonstrance to Congress, was carried. The fourth called for the
formulation of a statement and explanation of the motives that had
actuated the people of the western country in the late unhappy
disturbances... The fifth pledged the West to the support of the laws
save for the excise and the removal of citizens for trial outside their
vicinage." (176-7) From the list, it appears that Marshel
may still have been walking a relatively moderate line, trying to avoid
armed conflict and violence, while supporting the cause of the
as the meeting at Parkinson's Ferry was occuring, negotiators from the
federal government were travelling west to meet with the rebels. When
negotiations commenced with federal representatives, James Marshel
among the committee of men who participated, as was David
Although the western committee and the federal representatives did
agreement among themselves, it was rejected by the larger group of
delegates. This suggests that although Bradford and Marshel may
radical in appearance to the federal government, they were actually
radical than other neighbors may have been.
Among the men who took the oath of allegiance in Cross Creek on
1794, appears the name James Marshel. Thomas, John, John, and
Marshall also are listed as having taken the oath in Cross Creek in the
presence of Commissioners William Rea, Aaron Lyle, and Thomas Patterson.
In March 1794, at the commencement of the Whiskey Rebellion, James
the president of the Democratic Society of Washington County, which had
apparently been newly established that month.
Societies, popular political-social clubs of the time, were intended to
the Constitution and promote democracy. Specifically, they
tended to be
anti-federalist in nature and to defend the rights of the people above
all. The first action taken by the Democratic
Society of Washington
County, one signed by Marshel as president, was to send a remonstrance
President Washington and to Congress regarding the Mississippi,
demanding that navigation be opened through negotiations with Spain.
noted above, this would have provided additional markets for the
farmers, and was addressed in response to a request from a Kentucky
Democratic-Rupublican Society. It was, however, narrowly
theWashington Society, passing by a margin of only two votes.
Probably Marshel was no longer president of the Democratic Society of
Washington County by mid-April of that year (1794), when the
the group was published in the Pittsburgh Gazette and specifically
holding "any office of trust or profit" in the state or federal
governments. In June, an anonymous letter from "Democratus"
published in the Pittsburgh Gazette decrying this article of the
"They think thereby militia officers are excluded, and if so they will
encourage the business at all, but will strive to hinder its
progress." (Foner, 139) Democratus also regrets the clause
demands that every court case be brought to the society prior to being
the county courts. He does, however, generally support the
political agenda. It would be interesting to know if Marshel
officer and an attorney) was the one who penned this letter or if it
fact related to his involvement with the society.
It would likewise be interesting to know who an anonymous letter
referred to in
its scathing commentary regarding the society. In a letter to
Pittsburgh Gazette, the letter comments: "that the members of those
different societies, wherever they have appeared, have had in view
interest and popularity and not the public's welfare, that in times of
danger few of them were seen in the field ready to encounter it; that
breathing war and confusion, at the same time they have
neither bravery nor patience to support themselves under its trials and
hardships." While this commentary could refer to any number
people, it fits Marshel well; his motives for supporting the Whiskey
were questioned by Brackenridge as a political ploy for winning the
and he does seem to have avoided violent confrontations remarkably,
position as a colonel of the militia and leader in the rebellion.
At the conclusion of the Whiskey Rebellion, the Democratic Society
publicly attacked as one of the primary sources of rebellion.
In a letter
of defense penned by A. Baird, Vice President, the society
"It has been asserted, on the floor of Congress, in order to prove that
have been instrumental in fomenting the late insurrection, that some of
members were leaders in it; we admit that a few of them (not more than
in their individual capacity, were too deeply involved, but, suppose
been twenty, is that any reason that the society should be stigmatized
fomenters of the rebellion..." (Foner, 139)
According to Ferguson,
at the end of the Whiskey Rebellion, "James Marshall was put in an
unpleasant situation that curtailed his political career."
Still, he fared better than his law partner, David
Bradford, who was
flee down the Mississippi,
and who lived out the rest of his life in Louisiana.
Crumrine adds the following: "Soon after the close of the
insurrection (in September, 1795) he [Marshel] advertised thirteen
acres of patented and improved lands on Cross Creek for sale. This must
been preparatory to his removing from Cross Creek township to Brooke
Va., which he did at about that time... Col. James Marshel
died at his
home in Brooke County, Va., in 1829. "Marshel Hall." his home in this
township, is now owned by Thomas and Thomas B. McCorkle".
In The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (by the
Society of Pennsylvania; published 1887 by The Historical Society of
Pennsylvania) page 252, the following epilogue is
"Captain Marshel died March 17, 1829, at Wellsburg, West Virginia,
he removed toward the close of the century. He left
descendants in Western
One of these
descendants was his son, John: "Their son, John Marshel, was
sheriff of Washington
in 1835, served one year, and then resigned to
accept the position of cashier of the Franklin Bank, in Washington,
where he remained several years." (Crumrine).
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