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The Whiskey Rebellion

George Washington

The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington was the 1st American President who served in office from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. One of the important events during his presidency was the Whiskey Rebellion when the authority of the new US government was tested.

Definition and Summary of the The Whiskey Rebellion
Summary and definition:
The Whiskey Rebellion was prompted by the passing of an excise tax in March 1791 on domestically distilled spirits (liquor). The government set up a system of local tax inspectors and collection officers to collect the tax.

The new law particularly effected the farmers of western Carolina and western Pennsylvania who refused to pay the tax - this action came to be called the Whiskey Rebellion.

The Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion occurred 20 years after the War of Independence and the new Government was faced with quelling a revolution by its own citizens - caused by taxes.

Whiskey Rebellion for kids - The 1791 Excise Tax
The Whiskey Rebellion was sparked by the Excise Tax on distilled spirits that was enacted with the Act of March 3, 1791. The idea for the 1791 Excise Tax on Whiskey was led by the Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The increasing expenses of the government made new taxes necessary to provide a steady source of income.

Whiskey Rebellion for kids - Reaction to Taxes
The memories of the Patriots who had fought during the American Revolution against the tyranny of the British were still 'raw'. There were many causes of the War of Independence but the imposition of taxes, like the Stamp Tax, and the hated tax collectors, had led to violent insurrection in America.  The Whiskey Rebellion was perhaps an understandable reaction by the western farmers whose livelihood was the most seriously affected by the Excise tax on whiskey.

Whiskey Rebellion for kids - The Farmers
The Whiskey Rebellion was imitated by the farmers of western Pennsylvania and western Carolina. The farmers in these western states could not take their grain to the seaboard (coast) because of the bad roads and the sheer distance to the coast. The farmers therefore made their grain into whiskey, which could be carried to the seaboard more easily than grain, and sold at a profit. The 1791 Excise Tax on Whiskey had a profound effect on the income of the farmers and their families. The appearance of Tax Collectors did not help the situation and the Whiskey Rebellion 'kicked off'. The farmers of western Pennsylvania were particularly hostile to the situation and the local inspectors and collection officers who had been appointed by the government to insure that the tax was paid. Opposition was also fierce on the frontier lands where spirits were distilled primarily for personal consumption, not for sale. The tough, militant frontiersmen strongly objected to the presence of tax collectors.

Whiskey Rebellion for kids - The 1792 Presidential Proclamation
Protest grew, the Whiskey Rebellion was growing, and the situation had turned into a real test of the authority of the new US government. George  Washington sent commissioners to explain matters to the farmers but to no avail. The protests continued and increased in strength. In 1792 President Washington issued a presidential proclamation condemning activities that "obstruct the operation of the laws of the United States for raising a revenue upon spirits distilled within the same."

Whiskey Rebellion for kids - 1794 Violence against the Whiskey Tax
The proclamation had no effect. Petitions against the Excise tax on whiskey increased. The Whiskey Rebellion turned to violence in western Pennsylvania when armed men attacked a federal marshal as he attempted to serve papers on those who had failed to register their stills (as required by the law). The home of the local tax collector was burned. Other tax collectors were attacked. The Whiskey Rebellion had led to harassment and violence.

Whiskey Rebellion is Quelled
The Whiskey Rebellion could not be controlled. President Washington had no alternative but to call out 15,000 militia men. The militia were sent to western Pennsylvania, under the command of Henry Lee, the governor of Virginia. The rebellious farmers gave in to the strength of such a force without any fighting. Two of the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion were convicted of treason, but later pardoned by the President.

The Whiskey Rebellion for kids
The Whiskey Rebellion ended. The new US government had shown its strength, and shown its ability to ensured the people to obeyed the laws of the new nation and ensure stability in the land.

US American History
1790-1800: The New Nation

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