Jonathan Forman Papers
Forman, Jonathan, 1755-1809
September 21, 1794 - October 25, 1794
0.21 linear feet (1 box)
Jonathan Forman was a soldier, farmer, storekeeper, and public official, originally from New Jersey. The seven-page journal documents the 1794 march of Forman's New Jersey troops through Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. This personal account of the march, though brief, includes major incidents encountered, and a dinner party with President George Washington. Typed transcripts of the journal are also available. Digital reproductions of this collection are available online.
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Finding aid prepared by Angela Manella.
Controlled access terms revised (dar)
Beginning in 1791, there was unrest in western Pennsylvania over the excise tax on whiskey. Whiskey was a product made from locally grown grain, and the tax hurt the livelihood of farmers. Western Pennsylvanians were geographically and politically isolated from the federal government in Philadelphia that often failed to protect them from Indian attacks. In 1794, these sentiments built into violence and President Washington called militias from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to quell insurrection. The Whiskey Rebellion was especially significant because it marked the first test of federal and constitutional powers. In all, about 13,000 men marched to western Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Forman led the Third Regiment Infantry of New Jersey, one of the four New Jersey militia regiments.
Jonathan Forman, a soldier, farmer, storekeeper, and public official, was born at Middleton Point, New Jersey, on October 16, 1755. He attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, leaving in his senior year to become a lieutenant in the Monmouth County militia in 1775. The following year he was promoted to captain in the Brigade of State Troops and then transferred to the Continental army commanding the Fourth Battalion of the New Jersey Line. He accompanied General Sullivan on the expedition against the Six Nations in Pennsylvania and New York in the summer of 1779. By 1780, Forman joined the First Regiment of New Jersey Continentals and served in Virginia under Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown. He was then promoted to major in the Third New Jersey Regiment. Forman spent the next few years stationed in New York State and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Second New Jersey Regiment in 1783, and was retained in the New Jersey Battalion.
During demobilization the Society of the Cincinnati was created in May of 1783 when a number of officers in the Continental army organized to express their discontent at not having been paid. Major General Henry Knox played a significant role in this national organization of officers exerting political pressure to protect their interests. State societies were established and have had the major role in the society where membership is passed down through families. Jonathan Forman was an original member of the New Jersey Society of the Cincinnati when it was formed at Elizabethtown on June 11, 1783.
Forman married Mary Ledyard of Groton, Connecticut. The couple settled on a farm in Middle Point, New Jersey, where they opened a general store. Forman was recalled to service to command the Third Infantry Regiment of New Jersey troops against the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. The entirety of the collection, described below, recounts his 1794 journey to subdue this conflict. Forman returned to New Jersey after several months' service and decided to relocate to New York State where he had spent much of his military service. The Formans, and their daughter, settled in Cazenovia, New York, opening a general store. In 1800, the governor of New York, John Jay, organized a militia brigade in an adjacent county, appointing Forman brigadier general. That same year Forman was elected to represent the county in the state assembly, but was not reelected. In 1802, Republican Governor George Clinton reported that Forman had illegally appointed officers to his brigade. The New York Council of Appointments agreed with this assessment and relieved Forman of his post. Clinton overturned the conviction of an officer court-martialed by Forman and appointed him brigadier general. Officers within this command were outraged and many tendered resignations. All such officers were declared unfit by the governor and New York Council of Appointments and were dismissed from the militia.
Forman and his wife spent the remainder of their lives in Cazenovia, New York. Their daughter, Mary Forman Seymour, had six children, some of whom were involved in New York state politics, most prominently Governor Horatio Seymour. Mary Forman died in 1806 and Jonathan Forman died in 1809.
Collection Scope and Content Notes
Jonathan Forman's papers consist of a seven-page journal he kept during the march of the New Jersey militia to western Pennsylvania in 1794. Forman mentions various officers, mostly Revolutionary veterans, and describes the countryside and towns along the route. He remarks on Norristown, Reading, Harrisburg, Carlisle and Bedford, among others. The journal recounts an incident in Myers Town where an "itinerant man" insulted an officer and then fought the soldier attempting to put him "under guard." In the struggle, the man was bayoneted and killed by the soldier. Forman mentions the tensions this caused with 500 Irishmen digging a local canal; this incident was ultimately referred by local authorities to the governor of Pennsylvania. Otherwise, Forman reports a positive reception by local communities. The diary also mentions a dinner with President George Washington held in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for the militia officers. Transcription drafts were created by staff at the Darlington Memorial Library in 1982 and 1985 and are maintained with the papers.
- Whiskey Rebellion, Pa., 1794 -- Personal narratives
- Forman, Jonathan, 1755-1809 -- Diaries
- Bedford (Pa.) -- Description and travel
- Carlisle (Pa.) -- Description and travel
- Harrisburg (Pa.) -- Description and travel
- Norristown (Pa.) -- Description and travel
- Pennsylvania -- Description and travel
- Reading (Pa.) -- Description and travel
Access and Use
Purchased by the Darlington Memorial Library from Joseph Rubinfine of Pleasantville, New Jersey, in 1982.
Digital reproductions of this collection are available online.
This collection was located in the Darlington Memorial Library in the University’s Cathedral of Learning until 2007 when it was moved to the ULS Archives Service Center for processing, storage, preservation and service. However, it remains in the custodianship of the ULS Special Collections Department.
Jonathan Forman Papers, September 21, 1794 - October 25, 1794, DAR.1982.01, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh
This collection was processed by Angela Manella in November 2006.
No copyright restrictions.
- Baldwin, Leland D.
Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1939.
- Harrison, Richard A.
Princetonians, 1769-1775: A Biographical Dictionary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
- Hume, Edgar Erskine (Compiler).
Society of the Cincinnati Rules of the State Societies of Admission to Membership. Washington, D.C.: Society of the Cincinnati, 1934.
- Myers, Jr., Minor.
Liberty without Anarchy: A History of The Society of the Cincinnati. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. 1983.