Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Fries, John
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|Edition of 1900. Written by Ida Carrington Cabell. See also John Fries on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.|
FRIES, John, insurgent, b. in Bucks county, Pa., about 1764; d. in Philadelphia about 1825. He was of German descent, and was brought up on a farm, though his tastes seem to have led him to local politics or a military life. Contemporaneous writers describe him as a tall, handsome young man, who rode about the village of Lower Milford with a feather in his hat and a sword at his side. In the spring of 1799 the collection of what was known as the “house- or window-tax” was forcibly resisted in Northampton and the adjoining counties of Bucks and Montgomery. When government officers came to measure the houses, armed companies of citizens seized and imprisoned them. Fries was the captain of one of these regiments, and, pistol in hand, rode at the head of the insurrectionists, capturing officials and subjecting them to punishment whenever any attempt was made to enforce the law. In February, 1798, a public meeting was held at the house of John Kline, of the township of Lower Milford, and a paper drawn up and signed by fifty-two persons, in which each signer bound himself to resist the “window-tax” at any cost. John Fries assisted in drawing up the paper, and pledged himself to raise 700 men to support the cause. At the head of this company of armed men he went to Quakertown, arrested the assessors, and liberated several prisoners whom the sheriff had in charge. The next day he set out for Northampton, and was on his way to Bethlehem with his troop when he was met by a deputation from the U. S. marshal, urging him to return. This he refused to do till the marshal should consent to release what prisoners he had in charge, and urged his men to fire on the deputation if the marshal should refuse. The prisoners were finally given up when resistance seemed futile, and Fries's troop dispersed amid the huzzas of the insurgents and their sympathizers. After this, the militia was called out, and Fries was arrested and put on trial for high treason, in May, 1799. He was pronounced guilty, and a new trial was held in April, 1800, with the same result. Fries was resentenced to be hanged, but, against the advice of every member of his cabinet, President Adams pardoned him, and issued a general amnesty for all the offenders. Fries subsequently opened a tin-ware shop in Philadelphia, and became rich and respectable.