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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
(1976)

B. The Carlisle Riot and its aftermath, 26 December 1787-20 March 1788,   pp. 670-708


Page 671

B. CARLISLE RIOT/2 JAN. 1788
About five o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, public notice being
given by ringing the bell and beating the drum, a number of persons
met at the public square, to testify their approbation of the proceed-
ings of the late Convention, in the most decent and orderly manner.
A piece of artillery having been brought to the ground, and materials
collected for a bonfire; a number of men armed with bludgeons came
in regular order from one quarter of the town, while others sallied
forth from different streets armed in the same manner. Major James
A. Wilson (having been appointed with two other gentlemen, to
make the necessary arrangements for the occasion), was preparing to
have the gun loaded, when he was ordered by many of the armed
party to desist, and many threats thrown out against any person who
would attempt to kindle the bonfire; to which the Major replied, that
those who were not disposed to rejoice might withdraw; and that he
hoped people so pregnant with liberty as they appeared to be would
not wish to hinder their neighbors to show marks of joy, when they
were pleased. Immediately after a number of barrels and staves were
thrown at him, one of which struck him on the breast. He then sprung
forward to the persons who threw at him, and struck one of them
with a small pine stick, to which a piece of match rope was fixed;
he was then beat down by a number of blows from six or seven per-
sons with bludgeons, who continued beating him after he fell. They
would have taken his life had not a trusty old soldier thrown himself
on the Major and received the blows aimed at him; a general con-
fusion took place.3 Mr. Robert Miller, Jr. was attacked by a person,
who with both hands wielded a massy bludgeon, and while he was
engaged with the first, received several blows from one who stood
behind him. The persons met for the purpose of the celebration,
altogether unprepared for such an assault (being even without walking
canes), were forced to return. The armed party having accomplished
their premeditated designs of preventing the public rejoicing, pro-
ceeded to spike the cannon, and having made a large fire, committed
to the flames the cannon and its carriage, together with a sledge on
which it had been drawn to the ground. They then sent for an
almanac, containing the Federal Constitution, which was formally
burned. Loud huzzas were repeated, with damnation to the 46 mem-
bers, and long live the virtuous 23.
On Thursday at 12 o'clock, I understood that the friends to govern-
ment intended to carry into execution their resolution of the celebra-
tion of the event from which the evening before they had been so
violently prevented. I went to the place, found them at the courthouse
armed chiefly with muskets and bayonets; they discovered every
pacific disposition, but at the same time the most determined resolu-
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