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Whiskey Rebellion – Know about a Less Bloody Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion – an article on a rebellion against the whiskey tax. It may sound weird and unreal but it did happen and today we are going to present you the fact on whiskey rebellion. 

Hold on! This rebellion didn’t place before independence. It took after independence! It is generally considered as the test for federal authority. 

The end result was the government had to bow down and scrape off the whiskey tax altogether. Without further ado, let us take you through the journey of the whiskey rebellion. 

The individual states had to endure a lot of financial debt during the American Revolution. 

In 1790, Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury Secretary, asked the federal governments to take up this debt. 

He then suggested an excise tax on whiskey so that they can prevent any further financial debt and problems.

George Washington, the President of the United States of America, didn’t take this suggestion positively. 

He went on tour to Virginia and Pennsylvania to take the public opinion. The officials of the local government looked pleased.

whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania
Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania | By Illustrator unknown to uploader – New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Public Domain, Link

After the enthusiasm of the local government officials, congress eventually passed the bill. 

The actual story begins here. Small brewers and producers of whiskey started the protest and went against the government. 

They claimed that big players of whiskey brewery enjoyed the benefits as larger the produce, lesser the tax. 

Another problem with the whiskey tax was only cash was accepted for the payment of the whiskey tax. 

The small producers even threatened the officials who came to collect the tax money. Some of the producers refused to pay taxes. 

On 11 September 1791, Robert Johnson, an excise officer, was surrounded by 11 men disguised as women, when he was in the route to collect tax in western Pennsylvania. 

Those 11 men stripped, tarred and feathered him and stole his horse, and finally left him in the forest. 

Robert recognized two of the 11 men and warrants were issued against them. 

A man named John Connor, a cattle drover, suffered the same way as Robert did. He was tied to a tree for five hours before he was found out. 

Robert resigned from the post fearing a repeat of such violence. 

Similar incidents kept on happening. The house of a Pennyslvania’s excise officer, Benjamin Wells, was broken into twice. 

The mobs which attacked Benjamin demanded his resignation. 

Pennsylvania’s citizens chose their own representatives (3-5 representatives from each county).

flag used by protesters during whiskey rebellion
Flag used by some protesters during the Whiskey Rebellion | By BlinxTheKitty[1] [2] [3], CC0, Link

Some of the representatives were radical and others were moderates. 

Even after the protests, the government went on with the whiskey tax.

In 1794, David Lenox, a field marshal, served writs to 60 distillers of western Pennslyvania for not paying taxes. 

On 14 July 1794, he accepted the role of tax collector and John Neville, a wealthy landowner served as his guide through Allegheny county. 

Lenox and Neville went for collecting taxes and they faced an angry mob. Some of them were drunk and most of them carried muskets and pitchforks. 

Not much of violence happened except for shooting a single bullet in the air.

The very next, when Neville was fast asleep in his home, Bover Hill, he was awakened by a mob who were served the summons. 

An argument started and eventually led to Neville shooting and killing one man, Oliver Miller, from the mob. 

The mob attacked his house. Once he was inside the house, he signaled his slaves to attack the mob with firearms.

Six of the mob members were injured and they finally left taking Oliver’s body.

On 17 July 1794, 700 men marched with drums and reached Nevile’s home. 

However, one of the ten soldiers, Major James Kirkpatrick, who came to defend Nevile’s home, informed about Nevile’s absence to those men. 

In fact, Kirkpatrick help Nevile to escape and hide in the ravine. 

Mob asked the soldiers to surrender. Hen they refused to surrender, they set fire to slave dwellings and barn. 

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After allowing women of Neville’s family to escape, they attacked Nevile’s home. 

Shooting ensued and the soldier succeeded in killing James McFarlane, the leader of the mob. 

Enraged mob members set the whole Bower Hill on fire and eventually the soldiers had to give in. 

After this incident, local dignitaries warned that George Washington would send militia in response to the Bower Hill incident. 

They suggested that they should attack before Washington decides to attack. 

A mob attacked a mail carrier and found 3 letters that expressed their disapproval on Nevile’s attack. The letters came from Pittsburgh. 

David Bradford (one of the men from the mob), a wealthy landowner, took advantage of the situation and incited and nearly 7,000 people showed up at Braddock’s Field. 

Pittsburgh city feared violence and offered barrels of whiskey. The crowd happily drunk and didn’t create havoc in Pittsburgh and marched through this place silently.

Fearing further violence and the spreading of this violence to other states, Hamilton wanted to send militia to Pennsylvania. 

However, Washington wanted to send a peace envoy. The peace envoy was sent and it failed. 

Cabinet officials met with Washington. Washington showed proofs of violence to James Wilson, a Supreme Court Justice. 

Wilson accepted the use of militia under the Militia Acts of 1792.

Washington amassed over 12,000 men from surrounding states including eastern Pennsylvania. 

Washington met with rebels first. He wanted to use the military as the final and last resort. 

The militia marched in western Pennsylvania but the angry mob didn’t show up. 

When the angry mob didn’t show up, the military started rounding the potential suspects. 

The actual rebels left the place and the ones that the military caught were not actually responsible for the rebellion. 

Only two men (out of the many who were caught by the military) were charged against treason. However, they were pardoned by George Washington. 

The whiskey tax remained active until 1802. Many of the people didn’t like the fact that a rebellion was suppressed by using force including the Republican party. 

The tax was repealed under the Republicans when Thomas Jefferson was the president of the United States of America. 

We gave a gist of what actually happened in the Whiskey Rebellion. If you want us to cover other historical events or if you have anything to share in relation to the Whiskey Rebellion, just drop a comment below.

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