Whiskey Rebellion: Farmers Protested Against George Washington
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Approximately two decades after the start of the Revolutionary War, the government of the United States faced a minor revolution by some of its own people. Just like the conflict beforehand, taxation was a major factor. Alexander Hamilton—yes, the same person from the popular Lin Manuel Miranda musical—saw that putting an end to this revolt was essential for the survival of the nation. To build a reliable and functional government, the Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton, had to look for an ongoing source of revenue. Booze, he thought, would be it! He put forward an excise duty on whiskey made in the US, which Congress approved in 1791. In general, the citizens—especially farmers—of that period had an unfavorable view of the taxation concept.

The imposition of new taxes on whiskey had a majorly detrimental effect on people's daily lives, especially in the recently settled backcountry, where poverty was rampant. To make a living, farmers had to use their corn and grain to produce whiskey, and the new taxes made this a much more difficult task. This blow to their main economic resource was felt by settlers from New York to Georgia.  

In addition to the direct economic repercussions of the tax, those in the west were also frustrated with the lack of control they had over their own lives. They were required to travel to Philadelphia to be tried in federal court, and they felt the east coast was carelessly disregarding the dangers associated with living on the frontier due to the Indian wars occurring in the early 1790s. This combination of grievances led to a great deal of animosity between the east and west. History does not repeat itself, but it does tend to rhyme. This animosity that middle-Americans feel towards the coastal elites is still very much a reality.

In line with the American Revolution, local farmers began holding gatherings to voice their disagreement with the tax starting in 1792. A big assembly in Pittsburgh declared that the people would prevent the tax from being collected, and one tax gatherer was even tarred and feathered in protest. President George Washington soon declared these meetings illegal, yet among common settlers in western Pennsylvania, he was often depicted as just another huge landowner from the east who didn't comprehend local conditions. Many men would not bow to what they thought of as a harsh and unjust tax. Matters came to a head when an irate crowd that declined to pay the tax pestered a federal marshal, a tax gatherer, and a bunch of federal troops. The troops yielded, and the marshal's home was set on fire. Other minor protests soon spread across western Pennsylvania, and there were bits of gossip about holding a convention to talk about secession from the United States.

In the month of July in 1794, a group of disgruntled whiskey rebels attacked and ruined the house of a tax collector. The revolt augmented in size, although not in deeds, and started to loom in other states. Hamilton knew that the existence of a powerful and potentially antagonistic force in Pennsylvania could not be accepted. If the government wanted to maintain its legitimacy, it had to prove that it was able to maintain authority.

Hamilton suggested the utilization of military power; on the other hand, President George Washington arranged for state militias to be on alert and dispatched negotiators. When negotiations proved futile, Washington agreed with Hamilton's opinion. A set of 13,000 militia soldiers, led by Hamilton and Virginia governor Henry Lee, moved into western Pennsylvania. By the time the federal army showed up, the insurgency had crumbled and most of the dissidents had escaped. Two people were found guilty of high treason and were pardoned by Washington. Alexander Hamilton was overjoyed. The young federal government had demonstrated that it could maintain order—an absolute necessity if the U.S. was to stay away from instability. Nevertheless, many people, particularly Thomas Jefferson, thought that such a use of military might was a grave misstep. It affirmed to them that Hamilton was a dangerous man to take on.

The Whiskey Rebellion was the initial trial of federal power in the United States. This uprising confirmed the notion that the administration had the authority to apply a particular tax that would affect people in all states. It also demonstrated that this new government had the right to pass and uphold laws that would affect everyone. It highlighted the differences between urban dwellers living along the coast and rural farmers attempting to make a living in the American wilderness. The happenings of the Whiskey Rebellion eventually led to the formation of political parties in the United States and foretold the problems in American politics that we see even today.