Chapter 5: The Committee of Prison Stormers"My opinion on the Committee of Anti-Federals? All I can do is laugh, because all they do is storm prisons across the nation for the most 'light and transient causes'!"
-Excerpt from an interview with John Jay
After Rhode Island's succession, many radical anti-centralists across the country came to live in Rhode Island. They were welcomed with open arms, but that doesn't help that the state was rather small. Inns and taverns were starting to charge exorbitant prices to stay, and many people who were used to farming moved. Some even ended up in Connecticut: on accident, of course, but they still considered themselves under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile in the United States, many people were calling for federalization in order to hold remaining states together and give them a stronger bond. Many politicians signed a call for a convention in Dover to create a plan for a central government. More politicians came to the signing than delegates at the Philadelphia Convention, but only one was from south of the Potomac. Southern states were increasingly concerned that the central government would place heavy tariffs on slave trade or ban it entirely. Feelings of animosity were pretty bad in the south also because of some wealthy landowners who did not want to Rhode Island because they would lose their plantations and all their comfortable lifestyle to get away from the confederal government.
Finally, on April 3, 1790, the Dover Convention began. There were delegates representing the states of. Many delegates were pleased to see George Washington step out of retirement. He cited concerns that everything he fought for was about to fall apart. Under the leadership of Washington, the convention rallied to find a solution to the United State's woes. Most delegates rose in support for federalization. Before the month was out, the committees had finalized the Federal Constitution.
However, there were some people in Connecticut that had wanted to hold onto estates. Connecticut was in a near 50/50 division over the Philadelphia Amendment. These people who did not support the amendment generally gathered in the city of New London in the eastern portion of Connecticut. They called themselves the Committee of Anti-Federals in response to the proposed federal constitution, and regularly published propaganda that was distributed across the country. In August 1790, they decided they were going to refuse to pay taxes to the confederal government. When this happened, some people across the country followed the mandate, but it was extremely popular in east Connecticut. At one neighborhood near New London, everybody refused to open their doors. Tensions came to a point where the police were brought in to threaten with arrest if taxes are not paid. An overwhelming majority did not crack under the pressure, and were brought to prison as a result. CAF members not imprisoned said that the imprisonment was a "blatant violation of civil liberties by federalist pawns". By August 27, 1790, the group protested in front of the New London prison. A speaker inspired followers to storm the building and release the prisoners. They did this, but it wasn't without blood. 3 anti-federalists and 2 police officers died. The CAF members quickly fled the scene and went off into unknown locations. The city was in confused turmoil with officers and government militias repairing, searching and trying to figure out exactly what just happened.
CAF members, in the chaos, were able to cross the border into Rhode Island. The government welcomed them into a secret safe house in order to regroup. From this vantage point, the committee published a new piece about their protest and the government's "government's federalist pawns in the law keeping forces outlandish and barbarous crimes against civil liberties." This pamphlet was printed in the newspapers in Rhode Island and was distributed across the country. This made many angry, and the situation became even more dire between the states.
The wrath of the Committee of Anti-Federals came to a head in the humid streets of Richmond in June. As Washington was out campaigning for ratification, angry protesters began to shout and boo as he said federalization is the only thing that can stop the country from tearing itself apart. A Virginian screamed "Washington is a traitor to Virginia and liberty!" He replied by trying to tell the crowd that if America splits, then liberty dies. Unfortunately for him, that opinion was not popular with the crowd. One protester stood up on top of the podium, and wrapped his arm around Washington's neck with knife in hand. Many people in the crowd panicked and screamed as the militia swiftly took the man far away from Washington as he was kicking and screaming. Onlookers went home incredibly shocked and shaken up.
The local CAF branch was rather surprised that the man went so far rouge, but they were quick to turn the tables against Washington. They gathered at the nearest militia barracks to inquire where the man was. One replied that he was slowly rotting away in prison, which resulted in a chorus of laughter from the surrounding men. However the committee, in what was becoming the usual fashion for them, responded angrily by storming the Richmond Jail. They got the man out by knocking at least 10 guards unconscious. The militia quickly mobilized to search for the man, who was now officially considered an enemy of the state.
By five o’clock in the afternoon, he was found hiding with other committee members in the backroom of a tavern. The tavern’s owner and the committee members were promptly taken custody, but the committee members were quick to fight. One broke free, and with a call of sic semper tyrannis, he knocked a militiaman unconscious with a chair. Soon, it broke out into a bloody brawl with fists, pots, pans and bayonets flying. In the end, the survivors fled or were quietly taken into prison The militia commander stationed in Richmond who answered to the confederal general pronounced that all Committee of Anti-Federal members in Virginia were hereby declared enemies of the state. Weary of more violence, Patrick Henry said he disagreed with the decree and would use any veto power he had to get rid of the oppressive verdict. Now government officials and the military in Virginia were completely at odds with each other, and tension was at an all time high. Unfortunately, the commander’s blood was about boiled, and he decided something drastic needed to be done. Patrick Henry needed to be removed from office- by force.I know I haven't updated this in a while, but I hope you guys like this update