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Pennsylvania Council



At a Council held at Philadelphia, on Saturday, 25th February, 1775: Present, the Honourable John Penn, Esquire, Governour, Benjamin Chew, James Tilghman, Edward Shippen, Junior, Esquires.

The Governour laid before the Board several Letters he had this day received by expresses from the Magistrates of Westmoreland County, complaining of further violences in breaking open the Jail of that County, and discharging the prisoners, and other outrages lately committed by the Militia and people of Virginia and enclosing sundry Depositions supporting those complaints; which were severally read, and follow in these words, viz:


MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOUR: On Tuesday, the 7th instant, came a number of armed men to this Town, who demanded entrance in the Jail of this County. — On the Jailer' s refusing to admit them, they in a violent manner broke said Jail with a sledge, which they took out of the Smithshop without leave. One William M' Geery came to me about daybreak, to inform me of the affair, on which I as soon as possible went to the Jail, and demanded of them what they were about. Benjamin Harrison (one of the company) answered, "what they had done, they did by the authority from Virginia "They had before this broke the Jail doors, and released the prisoners. I then commanded silence, and read the Riot Act, and immediately the Sheriff of this County came up, and demanded by what authority they broke the Jail. They said they had authority, which they could show if they pleased. The Sheriff replied, a civil question demanded a civil answer. Then they produced a paper which they read as their order from William Crawford, Esquire, President of our Court, which will further appear from the Sheriff' s Deposition, (and I believe the Sheriff does every thing in his power in the execution of his office.) After reading the Riot Act, they remained together upwards of one hour. They took three prisoners with them, and what they were committed for, your Honour will know by the enclosed Depositions. One Samuel Wilson presented his gun at me at the same time, which I catched hold of to prevent his shooting me; he also used very bad language. There will, it is thought, (unless your Honour does something respecting this affair,) be few Pennsylvanians here, as the chief of the people are taking out orders from Virginia. They are in so confused a situation, that they seem not to know what they are about. I have it from good authority, that David Vance, one of the above company, damned the Pennsylvania Magistrates, and also their authority.

I am your Honour' s most humble servant,


To the Honourable John Penn, Esquire, Governour-in-Chief of the Province of Pennsylvania, &c.

February 8, 1775.