Whiskey Rebellion Essay, Research Paper
WHISKEY REBELLION: Conflict & Government
Towards the end of the 16th century, the United States government experienced continuous changes in laws(taxes) and several problems(battling and removal of Indians) associated with westward expansion. Conflict was created in response to the rising taxes issued by the government on goods such as whiskey. Most affected by the heavy taxation were the creators and distributors of whiskey – the average poor white farmer. An incident that occurred in 1794 involving enraged farmers in western Pennsylvania, threatened the tax collectors lives as well as the authority of the government. This incident came to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
In chapter 7 in Deverell and Hyde, historical accounts illustrated by Alexander Hamilton’s orders to Governor Lee of Pennsylvania, and Henry Brackenridge’s “Dreadful Night” show different perspectives of the outbreak of the Whiskey Rebellion. Hamilton’s orders to Governor Lee involved the suppression of opposition to the laws and causing the laws to be executed through military force or/and by judiciary (p.146). Also, objects of the military force were to overcome any armed opposition which may exist and to countenance and support the civil officers in the means of executing the laws (p.147). Alexander Hamilton was extremely concerned with this uprising because he wanted to mainly suppress the revolt and the set an example of government authority. Permitting the rebellious farmers to display that behavior would be like an act of anarchy and consequently, an attack on the federal government.
The issues that involved and caused the Whiskey Rebellion was due primarily to major economic and political concerns – westward expansion and a developing government. At the time, many of people were in search of land, and property they could settle on that the recently dismissed British and French could no longer occupy. Available land in the east was diminishing and so in turn, the population begin moving westward. Also, after the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and consequently the end of the American Revolution, created many changes. Lack of authority and resources to affirm authority (Ex. no more mass British army to fight off Indians), had its consequences. Nearly 80 percent of the federal budget was spent battling and removing Indians from the lands along the Ohio River, the most recently settled land by Americans (p.146). In order to compensate for this, Congress passed the tax on whiskey stills which affected mainly poor white farmers. Therefore, westward expansion and the riddance of the Indians, brought forth the infamous Whiskey Rebellion.
Henry Brackenridge was one of the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion also revealed his perspective of the event. Brackenridge recorded the reaction of the government to the rebellion as “shocking”. As he stated, the military troops dragged farmers from their beds in the middle of the night and kept them in open pens for days, and only two ended up being convicted (p.149). This type of behavior from the military raised considerable interests about the power of government and the rights of citizens. They knew in fact the articles of confederation, at the time was a weak approach to centralized government, and questioned the right of the approach of the government in handling such issues, as stated by Brackenridge: “With few exceptions these arrests were made with total disregard of amnesty…contrary to the express command of Washington in the general orders signed by Hamilton…” (p. 151).
Nations in the West, Deverell & Hyde