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 Kensington's Jay's Treaty Protest - Riot - Morrel's Defeat 4 July 1785 Minimize

The Republic of Labor; Philadelphia Artisans and the Politics of Class,
1720-1830.
By Ronald Schultz.
New York, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Pages 138:

The impact of Jay’s Treaty was especially profound in Philadelphia
where the Independent Gazetteer described the year’s Independence
Day celebration in the darkest terms: “the birthday of American liberty
was celebrated in this City with a funeral solemnity,” the editor
reported: “it appeared more like the internment of freedom than the
anniversary of its birth. The counternances of the citizens generally
appeared dejected, and the joy and festivity which usually
characterize the day seemed to be superseded by sadness.” (125)

The depth of popular feeling against the Jay Treaty, and the
capitulation to aristocratic government that it signified, can be seen
most powerfuly in the crowd action that closed the Independence Day
celebrations that year. Toward evening a crowd of “Citizens” gathered
in the laboring-class district of Kensington, hoisted a transparency of
Jay onto their shoulders, and began to march toward the city. The
transparency expressed their feelings graphically and unmistakably.
Jay was represented in his judicial robes holding a scale, one
side “containing American Liberty and Independence, kicking the
beam,” the other holding “British gold in extreme preponderance.”
(126) The visual message was underlined by a projection emanating
from Jay’s mouth which read, “Come up to my Price and I will sell you
my Country.” (127)

The procession moved peacefully through the city after which it turned
and marched back to Kensington; there the crowd burned Jay’s effigy
in a bonfire that could be seen from Southwark, at the southern edge
of the city. By midnight, Federalist magistrates had seen enough and
called our Captain Dunlap’s Light Horse to put an end to the
demonstration. (128) When too few of its elite members could be
found, the task fell to Captain Morrell’s cavalry detachment. Faced with
an “invasion” by Morrell’s Federalist troops, the Kensington crowd
chose to stand ground and fight. In the ensuing battle Morrell’s
cavalry was overpowered and forced to retreat into the city. At that
point, city officials apparently decided that, lacking sufficient force to
disperse it, the crowd would be left to continue its revels. To
commemorate their victory, some men from the crowd erected a
signpost on the site of the encounter; it read: “Morrel’s Defeat –Jay
Burned---July 4, 1795. (129)

Pages 139:

The events of July 4 were emblematic of popular dissatisfaction not
only with the Jay Treaty but with aristocratic rule in general. In their
demonstrations the people of Philadelphia did not seek to make fine
distinctions between the aristocratic government of England and that
of their own city, state, and nation. The intention of Philadelphia
Federalists to tolerate neither plebeian insubordination nor popular
criticism of their policies was manifest in the marshaling of Morrel’s
Light Horse against a peaceful and orderly crowd. The same arrogance
and concern for power would surface again in 1798, when President
John Adams celebrated Bastille Day by signing the Alien and Sedition
acts into law.


(125) Independent Gazetteer, July 8, 1795
(126) ibid.
(127) ibid.
(128) Jacob Cox Parson, ed., Extracts from the Diary of Jacob
Hiltzheimer of Philadelphia, 1765-1798 (Philadelphia, 1893), p. 215
(129) The events of July 4 are taken from Independent Gazetteer,
July 8, 1795; Aurora (Philadelphia), July 9, 1795; and Douglas S.
Freeman, George Washington, 7 vols. (New York, 1957), VII, page
259.


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