Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Sijan

Whiskey Rebellion anniversary - August 7, 1794

This topic has been inactive for at least 365 days, and is now closed. Please feel free to start a new thread on the subject! 

Recommended Posts

Sijan

To be more accurate, today is the anniversary of George Washington signing a proclamation declaring martial law and calling out the militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. A dark day for American liberty...

More info here:

http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/whiskey/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion

A revisionist take on the Whiskey Rebellion here:

The Official View of the Whiskey Rebellion is that four counties of western Pennsylvania refused to pay an excise tax on whiskey that had been levied by proposal of the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in the Spring of 1791, as part of his excise tax proposal for federal assumption of the public debts of the several states.

Western Pennsylvanians failed to pay the tax, this view says, until protests, demonstrations, and some roughing up of tax collectors in western Pennsylvania caused President Washington to call up a 13,000-man army in the summer and fall of 1794 to suppress the insurrection. A localized but dramatic challenge to federal tax-levying authority had been met and defeated. The forces of federal law and order were safe.

This Official View turns out to be dead wrong. In the first place, we must realize the depth of hatred of Americans for what was called "internal taxation" (in contrast to an "external tax" such as a tariff). Internal taxes meant that the hated tax man would be in your face and on your property, searching, examining your records and your life, and looting and destroying.

[...]

The main distortion of the Official View of the Whiskey Rebellion was its alleged confinement to four counties of western Pennsylvania. From recent research, we now know that no one paid the tax on whiskey throughout the American "back-country": that is, the frontier areas of Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and the entire state of Kentucky.

President Washington and Secretary Hamilton chose to make a fuss about Western Pennsylvania precisely because in that region there was a cadre of wealthy officials who were willing to collect taxes. Such a cadre did not even exist in the other areas of the American frontier; there was no fuss or violence against tax collectors in Kentucky and the rest of the back-country because there was no one willing to be a tax collector.

The whiskey tax was particularly hated in the back-country because whisky production and distilling were widespread; whiskey was not only a home product for most farmers, it was often used as a money, as a medium of exchange for transactions. Furthermore, in keeping with Hamilton's program, the tax bore more heavily on the smaller distilleries. As a result, many large distilleries supported the tax as a means of crippling their smaller and more numerous competitors.

Western Pennsylvania, then, was only the tip of the iceberg. The point is that, in all the other back-country areas, the whiskey tax was never paid. Opposition to the federal excise tax program was one of the causes of the emerging Democrat-Republican Party, and of the Jeffersonian "Revolution" of 1800. Indeed, one of the accomplishments of the first Jefferson term as president was to repeal the entire Federalist excise tax program. In Kentucky, whiskey tax delinquents only paid up when it was clear that the tax itself was going to be repealed.

Rather than the whiskey tax rebellion being localized and swiftly put down, the true story turns out to be very different. The entire American back-country was gripped by a non-violent, civil disobedient refusal to pay the hated tax on whiskey. No local juries could be found to convict tax delinquents. The Whiskey Rebellion was actually widespread and successful, for it eventually forced the federal government to repeal the excise tax.

Except during the War of 1812, the federal government never again dared to impose an internal excise tax, until the North transformed the American Constitution by centralizing the nation during the War Between the States. One of the evil fruits of this war was the permanent federal "sin" tax on liquor and tobacco, to say nothing of the federal income tax, an abomination and a tyranny even more oppressive than an excise.

[...]

The Whiskey Rebellion, then, considered properly, was a victory for liberty and property rather than for federal taxation. Perhaps this lesson will inspire a later generation of American taxpayers who are so harried and downtrodden as to make the whiskey or stamp taxes of old seem like Paradise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

An excellent source about the the Whiskey Rebellion is The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty, by William Hogeland. Hint: Alexander Hamilton is the villain of the piece.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bluesbassdad
An excellent source about the the Whiskey Rebellion is The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty, by William Hogeland. Hint: Alexander Hamilton is the villain of the piece.

If only Al had been willing to inflate the currency instead of paying foreign debts in sound money, history would have treated him more kindly.

Yours truly,

Dave Morefield

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ILLfarmboy
If only Al had been willing to inflate the currency instead of paying foreign debts in sound money, history would have treated him more kindly.

Yours truly,

Dave Morefield

I wonder, if Hamilton had had the benefit of the 200+ years of hindsight we enjoy, would he have proposed the creation of The National Bank?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

Hamilton is generally regarded as very intelligent, but that doesn't necessarily mean he was forward-looking. He seems to have envisioned an America that was very much like the most successful colonial powers of the Old World. He sought the centralization of power and wealth because that's what works best for autocrats. He wasn't fully successful in most of what he tried to do and much of what he did accomplish was undone by Jackson, which I consider a good thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Alexander Hamilton was the one delegate to the Constitutional Convention that argued for a Monarchy with King George Washington. Intelligent person but not in step with the rest of the country.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mrt

I had read about The Whiskey Rebellion in Wikipedia, and I find this thread very informative. Thanks to all contributors...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.