The New International Encyclopædia/Fries, John

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FRIES, John (c.1764-1825). The leader of the so-called ‘Fries Rebellion’ in Pennsylvania in 1799. He was the son of a Pennsylvania farmer, and was successively a cooper's apprentice, a soldier (during the Whisky Insurrection), and an auctioneer. In July, 1798, Congress voted a direct tax of $2,000,000, $237,000 of which was fixed upon, in January, 1799, as Pennsylvania's quota. Soon afterwards Federal officers began to make the assessments. In Pennsylvania the tax fell chiefly on houses and lands, the value of the former being determined by the number and size of the windows. Among the Germans in the counties of Montgomery, Lehigh, Bucks, and Berks, a regular opposition, under the leadership of Fries, was organized to the assessment of this ‘window tax.’ This led to open conflict with the Federal officers, and at Bethlehem, on March 7th, a considerable force of disaffected farmers under Fries compelled the United States marshal to liberate thirty prisoners who had been arrested for opposing the law. Finally the militia was called out by President Adams, and many of the rioters, including Fries, were captured and taken to Philadelphia. Here Fries was twice tried for treason, and was each time found guilty and sentenced to death, but was eventually (April, 1800) pardoned by President Adams, who, at about the same time, issued a general amnesty to all who had been concerned in the uprising. Afterwards Fries settled in Philadelphia, and acquired a considerable fortune in the tinware trade. Consult Davis, The Fries Rebellion (Doylestown, Pa., 1899); and, for an account of the trial, Das erste und zweite Verhör von John Fries (Allentown, Pa., 1839).