Video: 1794

The Whiskey Rebellion and Sovereignty in the Early American Republic

National Association of Scholars

In the wake of the Revolutionary War, the fledgling federal government imposed a tax on domestic distilled spirits, the most common of which was whiskey. This “whiskey tax” was intended to help pay down the war debt incurred during the Revolutionary War. However, farmers and planters in western regions resisted, believing that the tax was unjust. Many of these farmers were veterans of the revolutionary war and considered that they were fighting for the same principles in opposing the whiskey tax. Violence and protests broke out, and in response, George Washington sent a militia out to enforce the tax and suppress the rebellion.

George Washington arguably believed that the Whiskey Rebellion was the single most significant event in the history of the early United States. In his Proclamation authorizing the use of the militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington said that "the very existence of government, and the fundamental principles of social order were involved in the issue." To what extent has this been borne out by history? What does the rebellion tell us about popular American attitudes at the time on taxation and centralized federal authority? How did Washington's response, by sending in the militia, accord or depart from the principles and ideals fought for during the American Revolution?

This event featured William Hogeland,  author of the narrative-history trilogy, Wild Early Republic  — The Whiskey RebellionDeclaration, and Autumn of the Black Snake; Terry Bouton, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland–Baltimore County; and Paul Douglas Newman, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.


Photo by Unknown, attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer - Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain

  • Share

Most Commented

November 24, 2021

1.

1619 Again: Revisiting the Project's Troubled Past

New York Times editor Jake Silverstein's new essay on the 1619 Project attempts to glide past the awkwardness that accompanied the project’s early days. Let's set the reco......

December 14, 2021

2.

Confronting Woke Groupthink in Art Education

The dubious notion that the U.S. is a “systemically racist” nation has taken hold in art education, as in virtually every sphere of American life....

January 18, 2022

3.

The White House Is Undermining Science, Not Defending It

Government support of scientific research is not designed to support science, but to harness science to political ends....

Most Read

January 18, 2022

1.

The White House Is Undermining Science, Not Defending It

Government support of scientific research is not designed to support science, but to harness science to political ends....

September 21, 2010

2.

Ask a Scholar: What Does YHWH Elohim Mean?

A reader asks, "If Elohim refers to multiple 'gods,' then Yhwh Elohim really means Lord of Gods...the one of many, right?" A Hebrew expert answers....

January 12, 2022

3.

Press Release: NAS Appoints Dr. J. Scott Turner as Director of the Diversity in the Sciences Project

As project director, Dr. Turner will be conducting research on the scope and deleterious effects of DEI initiatives in STEM programs across the country....