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Jonathan Mifflin turns down York County post

Jonathan Mifflin’s 1804 petition

While researching my recent York Sunday News column on the Hybla mansion near Wrightsville and the Mifflins who lived there, who were instrumental in York County Underground Railroad activity, I came across an original letter written by Jonathan Mifflin (1743-1850).

The letter (memorial/petition)was addressed to York County judges, and in it Mifflin declined the post of Constable of Hellam Township, to which he had been elected. The letter reads:

York County   5 Mo [May] 22d 1804

To John Joseph Henry, and the associate Judges of the Court of Quarter Sessions for the County of York—

The Memorial of Jonathan Mifflin Respectfully sheweth

That your Memorialist has been elected Constable of Hellam Township in the said County for the present year.—

That he has been very ill with the intermittent feaver, and still continues unwell, or he would have appeared at the Court, and that not knowing the Court would be in Session at this time, he had not prepared his memorial to be presented to the Judges on the first day of their sitting.—

That as the law obliges the Constables to collect the Militia fines, he would be subjected thereby to very great hardships, as he could not force others to pay fines, against which they are conscienciously scrupulous; and which the principles of his religious profession forbid him from the like conscientious scruples to pay himself.—

That having but lately moved into the County, and his private affairs as Executor to his Father’s estate, and Administrator to his brothers, as well as being Guardian to several minor children, obliges him to be very often absent from home, and thereby makes his almost a stranger to the Township, and its inhabitants.

That he was not at the election, and that if he had been there he thinks his having stated the above circumstances to the electors, would have operated upon their judgments, so as to have induced them not to have run his name in their tickets.—

That he requests the Court to take his Memorial into their consideration; and prays them not to confirm his election to an Office, the duties of which he is conscienciously scrupulous against performing.—

Jonathan Mifflin

It sounds as though Mifflin did not know his name had been put on the ticket for the constable post. He asks to be excused because of family duties, which take him out of the area from time to time; he also professes to not know the Hellam Township inhabitants very well yet. (He had probably come to Hybla shortly after his married to Susannah Wright in 1800. The Mifflins were well known in the Wrightsville-Columbia area, however, and they probably knew that Jonathan was a Revolutionary War veteran.)

His strongest protest against serving was that, as a Quaker, he could not conscientiously collect Militia fines. This seems curious, since he served as Deputy Quartermaster General during the Revolutionary War with the rank of Colonel. Other Quakers, however, including his one-time father-in-law, General Thomas Mifflin, had also served in the Revolution, seemingly because they believed in the cause of freedom. Quartermaster General was an administrative position charged with supplying essentials to an army.

I have not heard anything lately, but many of you know that Hybla has been in the news recently, as there is concern that it might be demolished. Here is a link to Scott Mingus’s recent posts on the significant role Hybla and the Mifflins played in the Underground Railroad.

Nineteenth century view of Hybla