From History News Network by Suzy Evans author of Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children:
Not long after George Washington took office, one of the most serious threats to the authority of the federal government and stability of the new nation arose in the form of a tax resistance movement known as the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1791, Congress passed a measure that placed a small excise tax on whiskey and other distilled liquors, earmarked to offset part of the federal government’s recent assumption of state debts.
Protests against the tax were swift and severe, but no one resisted it more vigorously than poor farmers in western Pennsylvania. Why? Because whiskey, which is distilled from corn, rye and other grains, was used on the frontier as a form of cash to barter with in exchange for other goods. To poor, uneducated farmers, whiskey was as valuable as gold, and the tax interfered with their ability to buy and sell it.
Cash was also scarce on the frontier, but the tax had to be paid in cash, and anyone who didn’t pay it had to travel hundreds of miles over dangerous mountain terrain to appear in federal court, and they had to pay to travel there and back. Whiskey was also used for many purposes on the frontier. It was used for cooking and as a medicine. It was the drink of choice at home, at work, and at social gatherings. But the tax made whiskey more expensive, and most poor farmers on the frontier couldn’t afford to pay it.
Categories: United States History