No Libation without
taxation: Why Alexander Hamilton isn’t the Rockstar forefather portrayed on Broadway.
Pre-Rebellion Economic Environment:
In its bid for independence the new
nation formed under the Articles of Confederation, that would later become The United
States of America, had to incur significant debts (Congress
Initially it was boycotting of English goods to cripple profitable trade. As a result,
certain taxes were reduced to select goods. This was the precursor to the Boston
Tea Party. Under the initial doctrine of the Articles of Confederation the
government lacked the ability to impose taxes or regulate trade within the
As a result, several diplomats were
sent to France to negotiate loans to be used to fight the war for independence.
Financially the French were heavily invested in American Revolution. One of the
critical aspects of this logistically, was the French navy that was used to circumvent
English naval blockades aimed at crippling trade routes to the new world. In
response the English opened a new front in the French Caribbean. Eventually without
the financial support of other countries the English were unable to sustain an
effective presence in the colonies and a new nation was born under the Articles
of Confederation. The repercussions were felt more so by France than the
Colonies. At wars end the French has spent 1.3 billion livres between the Seven
years’ war and the American revolution. It was the inability to repay these
debts that contributed to a fiscal crisis and a revolution in France in 1789. This
revolution played a critical role in loan repayments by the colonies in a debt
that arguably would go unanswered until World War II.
Spain was also a financial party to
the war but fared much better than the French in part because it centralized its
debts and instituted a national bank to manage its repayment. This tactic would
later spur an idea by Alexander Hamilton on how to manage American debts in the
wake of newfound independence.
March 3rd 1791
passes the Whiskey Excise Tax that placed a federal excise tax on imported and
domestic production of whiskey. Approved by a 35 to 21 vote (The 1791 Excise Whiskey Tax n.d.). This was to pay off
debts that were recently consolidated from the state to the federal level.
In September of 1792 Washington had
decided to add onto this law completely prohibiting consumption of self-made
distilled spirits (Congress 1791). At this time in
American History the main way to make money was to transport goods to the
eastern area of the United States. Western states had to transport and sell
goods over to the eastern states which did take time due to the unideal
traveling technology in the 1790’s. The western states would have to transport
goods that could last a long bumpy ride across the states, and the most ideal
good for this situation was distilled spirits (whiskey). So, consuming your own
distilled spirits was equal to drinking your money away.
In July of 1794 citizens had tried to
peacefully lift the excise tax with petitions without any violence. After this
attempt at peace failed the people started attacking government officials by
tarring and feathering them (Faulkner 1972). Along with that the
people had even started attacking government official’s homes. In attempts to
fix this George Washington met with a group of his officials to come up with a
resolution. The result of this meeting was making the decision to have military
On August 7th of 1794
Washington decides to arrange a militia of 13,00 men gathered from
Pennsylvania, new Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia just in case this rebellion
got to out of hand (Gross 2008). George Washington
also publicly shares that all insurgents have the chance to peacefully
discontinue this rebellion by September 1st.
The final attempt to a peaceful resolution by George
Washington was on August 21st of 1794 (Hamilton 1794). Washington at this time had sent three
federal commissioners into the heart of the rebellion located in western
On September 1794 after this last attempt at a
peaceful ending Washington has decided to proclaim the gathered militia of
13000 men to march against the insurgents. This action had only scared away
some insurgent rebellions.
On the date of November 17, 1794 Alexander
Hamilton had informed George Washington through a letter about the concern of
increasing number of insurgents being imprisoned. The number of arrested
insurgents was around 150 people. Hamilton also included that the increasing
amount of arrests placed upon insurgents urged the return of troops (Kemmelmeyer
On November 19, 1794 Hamilton quickly realizes
and then notifies George Washington that the assembled militia of men are
“generally in motion homeward,” which had left behind regiment to maintain
On July 10, 1795 Washington pardons all of the
insurgents that at the moment were not yet sentenced or indicted. One of the
lasting impacts of this event was the republican party.
The whiskey tax was repealed after
Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party came to power in 1801, which opposed the
Federalist Party of Hamilton and Washington. In 1802 president Thomas Jefferson
had repealed the tax.
Congress, US. 1791. “”An Act repealing…
the duties heretofore laid upon distilled spirits…”.” March 3.
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“From it’s first settlement to present time.” In History of
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Faulkner, Attack on William.
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Woolley. 2013. The Presidency A to Z (fifth edition). London: SAGE
Gross, David M. 2008. We
Won’t Pay! A Tax Resistance Reader. Createspace.com.
Hamilton, Alexander. 1794.
“Hamilton, Alexander To: Thomas Mifflin.” September 20.
Hogeland, William. 2006. The
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Who Challenged Americas Newfound Soverignty. New York, NY: Simon and
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Whiskey Rebellion. Accessed Dec 16th, 2017.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art. George Washington Reviews the Troops near
Krom, Cynthia L. 2013.
“THE WHISKEY TAX OF 1791 AND THE CONSEQUENT INSURRECTION: “A WICKED AND
HAPPY TUMULT”.” Accounting Historians Journal , Dec.: 91-113.
Lord, Edward Oliver. 1895. History
of the Ninth Regiment of new Hampshire Volunteers. Concord, NH:
Republican Press Association.
Neville, Gen. John. 1794.
“Broadside by John Neville.” May 31.
Orwell, George. 1965. 1894.
Columbus, GA: Hook Row Publishing.
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Chapter XXVIII. 1972. “Militia Act of 1792.” Militia Act of
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Slaughter, Thomas P. 186. The
Wiskey Rebellion: A Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution. Oxford,
NY: Oxford University Press.
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of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: A new era of modern warfare. Santa
Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Weber, Paul. 1794.
“Braddock’s Battlefield.” Library of Congress Prints and
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Welfley, Blackburn and.
1906. The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties. Chicago: The Lewis
2015. Whiskey Rebellion.
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