Whiskey Rebellion (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Demonstrates the authority of the new U.S. federal government to tax and collect taxes, even if military force becomes necessary.
Summary of Event
Two of the more pressing and difficult problems that confronted George Washington’s administration involved paying the nation’s debt and maintaining the loyalty of the West to the United States. These two issues became one during the Whiskey Rebellion crisis.
Problems in the West were largely the product of inadequate security and defense against the resident Native American nations and their European allies. Prior to Jay’s Treaty with Great Britain and Pinckney’s Treaty with Spain in the mid-1790’s, much of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys was claimed or occupied by Great Britain and Spain. Both nations apparently encouraged constant Native American attacks against American settlers in the vast region, and Washington’s government seemed incapable of containing the hostilities. Settlement was thus retarded, western dissatisfaction was aggravated, and foreign powers were encouraged to bring about the separation of the American West from the United States.
Economic conditions also played an important role in the western problems. High transportation costs compelled western farmers to ship their bulky produce down the Ohio and Mississippi river systems to the Gulf of Mexico. The overland freight rates charged for...
(The entire section is 1389 words.)
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Whiskey Rebellion (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: At issue: The power and authority of the new federal government. Result: Victory for federal government; supremacy of federal authority established.
The Whiskey Rebellion was the result of a long-standing conflict regarding taxation and the exercise of the national government’s power. The British colonies in America objected after the British parliament enacted the Stamp Act, an excise tax, in 1765. The colonists revolted and won the American Revolution after their victory at Yorktown in 1781. In the same year, the victorious colonies became states and ratified the Articles of Confederation, which provided for a weak national government.
In order to pay its American Revolution debt, Massachusetts imposed heavy taxes. Farmers in the rural, western counties of Massachusetts fell behind in their tax payments and faced tax delinquency foreclosures. An armed group of farmers interrupted the operation of county courts and unsuccessfully advanced upon an arsenal in 1787. This tax revolt, known as Shays’s Rebellion, prompted a movement that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation. The U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1788, provided a stronger national government with the ability to impose taxes.
Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton sponsored and Congress enacted a federal excise tax on whiskey. The whiskey tax went into effect...
(The entire section is 797 words.)
Whiskey Rebellion (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In 1794 thousands of farmers in western Pennsylvania took up arms in opposition to the enforcement of a federal law calling for the imposition of an excise tax on distilled spirits. Known as the "Whiskey Rebellion," this insurrection represented the largest organized resistance against federal authority between the American Revolution and the Civil War. A number of the whiskey rebels were prosecuted for TREASON in what were the first such legal proceedings in the United States.
Congress established the excise tax in 1791 to help reduce the $54 million national debt. The tax was loathed across the country. For a small group of farmers west of the Allegheny Mountains, the federal excise tax was singularly detestable. Bartering was the chief means of exchange in this frontier economy, and distilled spirits were the most commonly traded commodity. Cash was a disfavored currency in western Pennsylvania during the late eighteenth century, but whiskey, especially Monongahela Rye, was as valuable as gold. Whiskey was considered an all-purpose liquor, with locals using it for cooking and medicine, and drinking it at social occasions, among other uses.
By modern standards the excise tax of 1791 does not seem oppressive. Distillers were taxed based on the size of their stills. Stills with the capacity to annually produce at least 400 gallons of whiskey were taxed between 7 and 18 cents...
(The entire section is 820 words.)