- Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, less commonly known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a popular uprising that had its beginnings in 1791 and culminated in an insurrection in 1794 in the locality of
Washington, Pennsylvania, in the Monongahela Valley. The rebellion occurred shortly after the Articles of Confederationhad been replaced by a stronger federal government under the American Constitutionin 1789.
The 1791 tax
The new federal government, at the urging of the first
Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, assumed the states' debt from the American Revolutionary War. In 1791 Hamilton convinced Congress to approve taxes on distilled spirits and carriages. Hamilton's principal reason for the tax was that he wanted to pay down the national debt, but he justified the tax "more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue." [cite book |last= Morrison|first= Samuel E.|title= Oxford History of the United States 1778-1917|year= 1927|pages= 182] But most importantly, Hamilton "wanted the tax imposed to advance and secure the power of the new federal government." [cite book |last= Graetz|first= Michael J.|coauthors= Schenk, Deborah H.|title= Federal Income Taxation: Principles and Policies|year= 2005|publisher= Foundation Press|location= New York|isbn= 1-58778-907-8|page= 4]
Congress designed the tax so smaller distillers would pay by the gallon, while larger distillers (who could produce in volume) could take advantage of a flat fee. The net result was to affect smaller producers more than larger ones.
George Washington, the president at the time, was one such large producer of whiskey. Large producers were assessed a taxranging from 7 to 18 cents per gallon. But Western settlers were short of cash to begin with and lacked any practical means to get their grain to market other than fermenting and distilling it into relatively portable distilled spirits, due to their distance from markets and the lack of good roads. Additionally, whiskey was often used among western farmers as a medium of exchange or as a bartergood.
The tax on whiskey was bitterly and fiercely opposed among the Cohee on the frontier from the day it was passed. Western farmers considered it to be both unfair and discriminatory, since they had traditionally converted their excess grain into liquor. Since the nature of the tax affected those who sold the whiskey, it directly affected many farmers. Many protest meetings were held, and a situation arose which was reminiscent of the opposition to the
Stamp Act of 1765before the American Revolution.
Pennsylvaniato Georgia, the western counties engaged in a campaign of harassment of the federal tax collectors. "Whiskey Boys" also made violent protests in Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. [ [http://okok.essortment.com/whiskeyrebellio_pea.htm What is the Whiskey rebellion of 1794? ] ]
By the summer of 1794, tensions reached a fevered pitch all along the western frontier as the settlers' primary marketable commodity was threatened by the federal taxation measures. Finally, the civil protests became an armed rebellion. The first shots were fired at the Oliver Miller Homestead in present day
South Park Township, Pennsylvania, about ten miles south of Pittsburgh. As word of the rebellion spread across the frontier, a whole series of loosely organized resistance measures were taken, including robbing the mail, stopping court proceedings, and the threat of an assault on Pittsburgh. One group, disguised as women, assaulted a tax collector, cropped his hair, coated him with tar and feathers, and stole his horse. George Washingtonand Alexander Hamilton, remembering Shays' Rebellionfrom just eight years before, decided to make Pennsylvania a testing ground for federal authority. Washington ordered federal marshals to serve court orders requiring the tax protesters to appear in federal district court. On August 7, 1794, Washington invoked martial law to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia and several states. The rebel force they sought was likewise composed of Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and possibly men from other states. [ [http://www.vahistorical.org/publications/abstract_barksdale.htm Virginia Border Counties During Pennsylvania's Whiskey Rebellion ] ]
The militia force of 12,950 men was organized, roughly the size of the entire army in the Revolutionary War. Under the personal command of Washington, Hamilton and Revolutionary War hero General Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, the army assembled in Harrisburg and marched into
western Pennsylvania(to what is now Monongahela) in October of 1794. The rebels "could never be found," according to Jefferson, but the militia expended considerable effort rounding up 20 prisoners, clearly demonstrating Federalist authority in the national government. The men were imprisoned, where one died, while two, including Philip Vigol (later spelled Philip Wigal), were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Washington, however, pardoned them on the grounds that one was a "simpleton," and the other, "insane." [United States v. Vigol, 29 Fed. Cas. 376 (No. 16621) (C.C.D. Pa. 1795)]
Only two were actually arrested and jailed: judge
Robert Philsonand devout Quaker Herman Husband. Philson was released by Washington, but Husband died in jail before he could be released.
By November, some individuals were fined and charged with "assisting and abetting in setting up a seditious pole in opposition to the laws of the United States," and in January 1796 the following were fined five to fifteen shillings each: Nicholas Kobe, Adam Bower, Abraham Cable Jr, Dr. John Kimmell, Henry Foist, Jacob Holy, Adam Holy, Michael Chintz, George Swart, and Adam Stahl of Brothers Valley township; John Heminger, John Armstrong, George Weimer, George Tedrow, Abraham Miller, John Miller Jr, Benjamin Brown and Peter Bower of Milford township; Emanuel Brallier, and George Ankeny, of Quemahoning township; Peter Augustine, James Conner, Henry Everly, Daniel McCartey, William Pinkerton, and Jonathan Woodsides of Turkeyfoot township. [ [http://www.rootsweb.com/~pasomers/hbs/chapter10.htm Somerset County, PAGW - History of Bedford and Somerset, Chapter X ] ]
Tom the Tinker
"Tom the Tinker" assumed the leadership of the Whiskey Rebellion in the early 1790s. He came about after it was decided that to merely attack
tax collectorsor those who rented offices and lodging to tax collectors wasn't enough; pressure needed to be applied to those who had registered their stills and were paying the tax. In essence, Tom the Tinker illuminated the point that compliance with the law was as contemptible an action as collecting the whiskey tax. William Hogeland has described the situation thus:
You might find a note posted on a tree outside your house, requiring you to publish in the "Gazette" your hatred of the whiskey tax and your commitment to the cause; otherwise, the note promised, your still would be mended. Tom had a wicked sense of humor and a literary bent: "mended" meant shot full of holes or burned. Tom published on his own too, rousing his followers to action, telling the "Gazette"
's editor in cover notes to run the messages or suffer the consequences. [cite book | last = Hogeland | first = William | authorlink = William Hogeland (writer) | title = The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty | publisher = Scribner| date = 2006 | pages = p. 130 | isbn = 978-0-7432-5490-8 ]
Groups formed calling themselves Tom the Tinker's Men. They assured Tom the Tinker's threats were carried out. Some believe
John Holcroft, a leading member of the Mingo Creek Associationand veteran of Shays' RebellionHogeland, p. 131.] , was Tom the Tinker, or perhaps the author of the letters attributed to Tom, but this has never been proven. It is not known whether Tom was an actual individual or a character created by the leading members of the Whiskey Rebellion to serve as their leader, much like Ned Ludd's role as leader of the Luddites. Hogeland takes issue with the notion that "Tom the Tinker" was a pseudonym or "nom de guerre" for one of the other participants in the rebellion, saying, "Tom wasn't an alias for a person. He was the stark fact that loyal opposition to the resistance was disallowed. Tom was Mingo Creek personified."
This marked the first time under the new United States Constitution that the federal government used military force to exert authority over the nation's citizens. It was also one of only two times that a sitting President personally commanded the military in the field. (The other was after President
James Madisonfled the British occupation of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.)
The military suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion set a precedent that U.S. citizens who wished to change the law had to do so peacefully through constitutional means; otherwise, the government would meet any threats to disturb the status quo with force.
The suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion also had the
unintended consequences of encouraging small whiskey producers in Kentuckyand Tennessee, which remained outside the sphere of Federal control for many more years. In these frontier areas, they also found good corn-growing country as well as limestone-filtered water and therefore began making whiskey from corn; this corn whiskey developed into Bourbon. [http://www.tastings.com/spirits/american_whiskey.html] Additionally, the rebellion and its suppression helped turn people away from the Federalist Party and toward the Democratic-Republican Party. This is shown in the 1794 Philadelphia congressional election, in which upstart Democratic Republican John Swanwickwon a stunning victory over incumbent Federalist Thomas Fitzsimons, carrying 7 of 12 districts and 57% of the vote. The farmers were severely angered.
The hated whiskey tax was repealed in 1803, having been largely unenforceable outside of Western Pennsylvania, and even there never having been collected with much success. [ [http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control=206&sortorder=articledate The Free Market ] ]
References in popular culture
Susanna Rowsonused the Whiskey Rebellion as inspiration for a musical farce for the stage called "The Volunteers". The lyrics were set to music by Alexander Reinagleof the New Company, which performed the play in Philadelphiain 1795.
L. Neil Smith's alternate historynovel " The Probability Broach", Albert Gallatinconvinces the militia not to put down the rebellion, but instead to march on the nation's capital, execute George Washingtonfor treason, and replace the Constitution with a revised Articles of Confederation. As a result, the United States becomes a libertarianutopia called the North American Confederation. Gallatin's decision comes as a result of an additional word in the Declaration of Independence, which in the parallel universe contains the phrase "deriving its just powers from the "unanimous" consent of the governed."
The rebellion is referenced in
Albert Frank Beddoe's song " Copper Kettle" (1953), which has been recorded by Joan Baez, and by Bob Dylanon his 1970 album "Self Portrait". The song contains the line "We ain't paid no whiskey tax since 1792".
American Whiskey Trail
* Baldwin, Leland. "Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising". Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1939.
* Cooke, Jacob E. "The Whiskey Insurrection: A Re-Evaluation." "Pennsylvania History", 30, July 1963, pp. 316-364.
* Gross, David (ed.) "We Won’t Pay!: A Tax Resistance Reader" ISBN 1434898253 pp. 119-137
* Hogeland, William. "The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty". Scribner, 2006.
* Kohn, Richard H. "The Washington Administration's Decision to Crush the Whiskey Rebellion." "Journal of American History", 59, December 1972, pp. 567-584.
* Slaughter, Thomas P. "The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution". Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-19-505191-2
* Mainwaring, W. Thomas, ed. "The Whiskey Rebellion and the Trans-Appalachian Frontier." "Topic: A Journal of the Liberal Arts", 45, Fall 1994 (special 93-page compilation of five papers presented at the April 1994 Whiskey Rebellion Bicentennial Conference,
Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, Pa.)
* Rothbard, Murray N. "The Whiskey Rebellion: A Model For Our Time?". "Free Market", Volume 12, Number 9, September 1994. [ [http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control=206&sortorder=articledate Full text at mises.org] ]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Whiskey-Rebellion — Washington führt seine Truppen nach Pennsylvania (ca. 1795) Als Whiskey Rebellion bezeichnet man den Aufstand der Siedler im Tal des Monongahela River im Westen Pennsylvanias von 1794, die gegen eine Steuer auf Alkohol und alkoholische Getränke… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Whiskey Rebellion — Révolte du Whisky Washington mène ses troupes dans l ouest de la Pennsylvanie (Metropolitan Museum of Art) La Révolte du whisky (en anglais Whiskey Rebellion) est un soulèvement populaire qui débuta en 1791 et connut son apogée en 1794 dans la… … Wikipédia en Français
Whiskey Rebellion — U.S. Hist. a revolt of settlers in western Pennsylvania in 1794 against a federal excise tax on whiskey: suppressed by militia called out by President George Washington to establish the authority of the federal government. * * * (1794) American… … Universalium
Whiskey Rebellion — U.S. Hist. a revolt of settlers in western Pennsylvania in 1794 against a federal excise tax on whiskey: suppressed by militia called out by President George Washington to establish the authority of the federal government … Useful english dictionary
Whiskey Rebellion — uprising in 1794 by farmers in western Pennsylvania to protest the federal excise tax on liquor that was established in 1791 (U.S. History) … English contemporary dictionary
Whiskey — Single Malt Whisky mit Nosing Glas Blended Scotch Whisky mit Tumbler Whisky ( … Deutsch Wikipedia
Whiskey Act — The Whiskey Act was a U.S. federal law passed by the 1st Congress on March 3, 1791, upon the recommendations of Alexander Hamilton, then treasury secretary. It was enacted in accordance with the four economic initiatives embarked by Hamilton at… … Wikipedia
rebellion — /ri bel yeuhn/, n. 1. open, organized, and armed resistance to one s government or ruler. 2. resistance to or defiance of any authority, control, or tradition. 3. the act of rebelling. [1300 50; ME rebellioun < OF < L rebellion (s. of rebellio),… … Universalium
Fries's Rebellion — John Fries s Rebellion, also called the House Tax Rebellion and the Home Tax Rebellion, was an armed tax revolt among Pennsylvania Dutch farmers between 1799 and 1800. Fries s Rebellion was the third of three tax related rebellions in the 18th… … Wikipedia
Bourbon Whiskey — Single Malt Whisky mit Nosing Glas Blended Scotch Whisky mit Tumbler Whisky (in … Deutsch Wikipedia