Resistance to excise taxes levied against U.S. whiskey distilleries in the 1790s led to violence and rebellion. Tensions finally came to a head on Christmas day in 1794. Read the show notes here.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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The commission, still you missed in history, has stuck on well defined in the treaty, will have I'm here fry ass planets. earlier this year. Now we have an episode on the whisky. Rebellion is something that we touch I'm very briefly in our history of moonshine back in October, but just a little bit of they'll, but I got while recently that episode made me want to give it the full episode treatment. American opposition to taxes has come up pretty,
but we on our show, both before and after the revolutionary warm, but that sentiment didn't spontaneously arrive on the? U S: side of the Atlantic as a response to taxes implemented by the british crown on its colonies, violent opposition to taxes was widespread in Britain as well. This was particularly true when it came to excise taxes, which were the taxes on goods that are made and consumed with emanations borders rather than being imported or exported. There are lots of different words that have been used to describe those sorts of taxes, so taxes on imports and exports could be contentious too but excise taxes work. A comparatively new addition to the british economy may made their first appearance in the seventeenth century. They are met old after taxes that already existed in Continental Europe, opposition to the very first english excise tax, which was implemented in sixteen forty three to help on the English civil war,
was fierce and it happened more than a century. Before the sounds of liberty, Liberty were dumping, T into the harbour on the other side of the pond at First England's. First, excise tax, mostly applied to things like beer and ale, but in sixteen forty four, the list of goods being taxed, expanded to things like salt and beef and rabbits violent protests and riots followed, particularly in rural areas, where the items being taxed were staples that people already had trouble affording. The backlash was so huge that parliament had to scale back on the excise tax repeal some parts of it entirely and implement exceptions for the nations poorest residents. This tax broke in England had a lot in common with the whisky rebellion and the United States, which began when the United States was a newly independent nation. Both protests were in response to an excise tax put into place at because at the expense of war,
Both of them were violent and widespread, particularly in the most rural and relatively impoverished areas that were affected by the tax and both of them lead to tax collectors being attacked publicly ridiculed, robbed and killed, so in other words, as my bad likes to say when I do something that has been evidenced elsewhere in my family previously, we came by and honest just as England's first excise tax was implemented to fund the English Civil war, the United States. First excise tax was implemented to pay off debts from the revolutionary war. It wasn't just the costs of the war itself upon becoming an independent nation. The United States has also taken on all of the debts of the former colonies. Clearly, the nation needed to deal with this dead, but even in the face of an obvious need for revenue,
and leaders and its citizens were deeply divided. On the subject of taxes, one faction strongly believe that internal taxation, or that taxation on and revenue that remained inside, the United States should be kept out of federal hands entirely with the federal government able to tax only imports and exports coming into the country or leaving it This would leave internal revenue as a matter for the states to judge based on their own me, and the ability for their own citizens to pay. According to this mindset of federal government that could apply taxes unilaterally across all the states, regardless of those states. Particular economics was deeply threatening to the concept of liberty and was just to similar to the days when the british Crown contacts its american colonies without offering them representation in the government. In a slippery slope argument, this would ultimately destroy state governments. In the face
federal interference. The counter argument to this was basically no it won't. With aside I've well of the federal government is assuming state that that has to do something to pay them. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was one of the proponents of using excise taxes to settle the. U S, debts and excise bill that was brought before Congress in seventeen. Ninety was defeated when another was proposed in seventeen. Ninety one opposition was fierce and in spite of this resistance on March Third, seventy ninety one Congress instituted and excise tax on distilled liquors, the amount of this tax, very stop the size of the distilling production anywhere from six to eighty cents, a gallon? It was either based on the actual amount of production or a flat rate based on the capacity of the still large distilleries paid on average about six cents a gallon, and they
allowed to do so. As one annual payment to the government, small distilleries were charged again on average about nine cents, a gallon, and they had to make smaller payments over the course of the year. This tax affected small distilleries much differently than it affected. Large ones. Payments were to be made in cash directly to a revenue officer, and many of the smallest distillers did not have a lot of cash on hand. They were often paying for the goods and services they needed by bartering their whisky, while large distilleries that were selling their wares could just pass the cost of the tax onto customers by raising their prices. Smaller distillers who were using their wares to barter had no comparable way of coming up with extra cash, so, in addition to the smaller distilleries taxes being larger per gallon, the methods and timing of payment put a larger burden,
smaller distilleries than on larger ones. Yet a genuine and legitimate question on people's minds was: where am I supposed to get me physical money to give to you? Like I'm doing all of my life with barter? I have no money to hand to you. It's not a thing that exists really in my corner of the world, because the largest distilleries were mostly run like businesses, the federal government and specifically the second of the Treasury were lab more willing to extend them flexibility than they were too small independent fellers, which a lot of times were more like home, based individual operations. So the distillery is that had the most money and the most means to deal with the law also got the most help. In doing so over time, the government amended the tax in response to reasonable complaints, but the ones that are found to be reasonable, were mostly the one that were brought up by big, relatively prosperous, businesslike distillers.
Anyone who had to appear in court on excise tax matters had to do so in federal court, not state or local court. For many people living in remote western counties, the nearest federal court House was hundreds of miles away. So, if you were, for example, one person running your own still in western Pennsylvania and you were arrested as a consequence of this excise tax, you would have to appear in federal court in Philadelphia approximately three hundred miles away, in addition to affecting small distilleries much more strongly than an affected big ones. The whisky tax also disproportionately affected specific regions of the United States, and we are going to talk about how, after a word from a sponsor.
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had on big ones? It had a much bigger impact on some states than on others. Unsurprisingly, the representatives from the states that were the most effective were also the ones who most strenuously opposed the tax in the first place, to get into how the tax disproportionately affected particular states. We need to talk for a moment about the Appalachian mountains. This mountain range runs down most of the eastern side of the United States and also into Canada. Many of the colonists who had settled in and around this range, where Scotch Irish and as we discussed in our moonshine episode distilling one for many of these people a culturally important tradition, the mountains themselves also did a great job of encouraging distilling, both legally and otherwise. The terrain itself was full of values and hollers that were great, providing still then, but the ability and need to hide. Contraband was only one piece of this puddle, the mountains themselves,
distilling a much more feasible way for people living in them and west of them to make a living than simply farming for most of the state south of New York. The Appalachian mountains formed either a western border or a physical barrier through the state itself. People living in the mountains or, on their western side had the hall, their goods east to market using pack animals to go over and through the mountains. It was safer and even more reliable to distil grains into alcohol and transport that that it was to try to move large loads of heavy perishable product that was easily damaged by the elements. So not only was out the hall less perishable than green. It wait a whole lot less than the grain used to me. It also, frankly, more people wanted by alcohol than wanted to buy green Pennsylvania with state where these factors, combined in the most dramatic and obvious way alarm
area of Pennsylvania late to the west of the portion of the Appalache and re known as the alleghanies, and a lot of that territory had been scrapped settled by Scotch irish emigrants together. This meant that, for counties in western Pennsylvania where the heart of distilling country at the time of the whisking the whisky rebellion. It was home to about a quarter of the Railleries emanation according to the alcohol and tobacco tax and Trade Bureau. So when the government passed and excise tax on the still liquors, it disproportionately affected the people living in western rural parts of several states, many of which were also comparatively rate very poor. Many of these same people were already frustrated with the federal government feeling is, though it wasn't doing enough to protect the residence of its western frontier from native Americans. Western residents also thought the federal government wasn't doing enough to give the nation total control of them.
The city River, which would be a trading opportunity they could reach without crossing mountain ranges essentially and most of the United States from the Appalachian Mountains West. The situation was primed for an angry backlash to this tax, which is exactly what happened at first. Most of the resistance to the excise tax was non. Violent people simply refuse to pay it. They organise meetings demonstrations in campaigns to try to have the law repealed. The nations westernmost residents tried to figure out how to get the people in eastern cities, the ones whose representatives had been in four of the bill to understand why this mattered. There is a lot of not listening and believing they knew better on the part of the people, making a decision. What in politics, you sure so strange just a few months after the tax was enacted. Residents of south western Pennsylvania met at Redstone Old Fort to try to figure out a plan and
Plan was ultimately to form their own body of elected representatives to pull the people living in Pennsylvania western counties and send that elected delegation to Congress, because they felt like their own elected it is in representatives, were not actually representing them very well. However, at the same time, others in western Pennsylvania were taking a far less reasonable tack. On September, eleventh of seventeen ninety one, a group of men disguise themselves as women and attacked in exile. Collector named Robert Johnson, cutting off his hair, tarring and feathering him and stealing his horse was that there was a lot of cutting off people's here and there
ring and bettering them. That was the ammo for a lot of this protest and over the next two years. Although a lot of talk about the whisky rebellion happens and have Lavinia, every states out of New York saw protests and violence and unrest directed at the excise tax. In addition to targeting the government and its tax collectors, these protests also targeted other people in the community by harassing an Oscar sizing. People who were in favour of the tax Kentucky became a state on June. First of seventy
I need to have the entire state just refused to pay it well, virtually all of the nation's western frontier counties were refusing to pay taxes, including very heavy resistance in Western North Carolina. Much of the focus of the whisky rebellion is on western Pennsylvania. This is in part, because that's where the federal government put that focus, it was close to the then capital of Philadelphia, so it be less expensive and less hazardous to try to enforce the law there than it was in any of the other places that were rebelling in September. Of seventeen. Ninety two Hamilton drafted a proclamation content condemning the rebellion and denouncing the meetings that had been held in Pennsylvania. Try to address it. This proclamation went to George Washington, the president for his signature, and it was issued on the fifteenth it called. The rebellion quote subversive of good order, contrary to the duty that every citizen owes its country and to the laws
of a nature, dangerous to the very being of a government. Tensions continued to grow through seventeen. Ninety three about one hundred people burned exiles, Inspector John level in effigy in Washington, County Pennsylvania after a militia meeting and in fact, county a mob broke into the home of collector Benjamin Wells and harassed his family. A few days later returned armed and demanded his account books at gunpoint. There was a lot of harassment and threatening behaviour against, basically, all of the tax officials, but excise inspector John never was particularly disliked. He was a member of the pencil a family, and even though he had voted on a resolution condemning the taxi then accepted the post of excise inspector. So people thought he was an unethical hypocrite.
He then went on a tour of western Pennsylvania counties to try to enforce the tax and spring of seventeen. Ninety four, and when he did this a mob of citizens, followed after him talking to everyone, he talked to you to make sure nobody had actually paid the tax and if they did, they would destroy that person still in the summer and fall of seventeen. Ninety four, the whisky rebellion, really hit its peak. Although tensions had been ongoing for years. What happened next is what a lot of people think of when they think of the words whisky rebellion and we're gonna talk about that in more detail after we have another brief sponsor break texture, dot com, we have talked about several times before so fantastic way to weed out only the best content. being published right now and get yourself to the good stuff quickly and not waste your time and get a really really good experience. It may be like the under the holidays. Christmas has just passed us, but it is not too late to get in on some good gift. Given
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using up you're your data when you're out and about or if you just know, you're gonna, be somewhere we're not gonna, have access to wifi. You go ahead and pre load your stuff with great content very again, all over the interest map. So if you like Architectural Digest recovered, if you, because upon it in your car cooking light, is also in their entertainment. Weekly is a magazine. I read all but time and it's right there handy digitally. I love it. So you can get into all of these great rate magazines at a really good discount, and you will be using content that you know is the best possible. Then you don't have to dig through mystery links on line so get into texture, dotcom, slash, history,. The United States have a lot of other things on its mind during the seventeen nineties. Besides this whole tax situation there were on, going battles with the nations native american population which were incredibly destructive to the army and the militia. We cut
A lot of that recently and our podcast on Saint glares defeat, a huge yellow fever, EP epidemic, struck Philadelphia in seventeen. Ninety three, both of these the combined to mean that increasing pressures from Britain, France and Spain seemed particularly threatening to the United States, especially as word reached the federal government that discontented citizens who were unhappy with excise tax had met with delegates from Britain and Spain. There were some fear that these meetings about repealing the tax were really meetings about overthrowing the government from the federal government's view. Things were becoming much to precarious to have a bunch of rabble in the West refusing to pay taxes.
So they started cracking down, particularly in Pennsylvania. District attorney, William Raoul, ordered more than sixty distillers to appear in federal court, John level. And U S. Marshall David Lennox began serving the processes to all the distillers in person on July fifteenth. The response to this from distillers was furious and immediate there to men it only serve for five people went a mob of thirty or forty armed men, many of whom had heard They were literally dragging people back to Philadelphia with them, surrounded them after learning that Linux and were just serving not actually abducting people they let the two men go, although as they departed, somebody fired a shot. Exactly who and for what reason remains a little unclear.
Next day around on a mob, surrounded nibbles, whom he had previously garrison his home and arranged a signal with the enslaved Africans that he own should such an event arise. The mob claimed that they were there to guard him, which he simply did not believe he signalled to the slaves and he, along with them, opened fire. Several in the mob were injured, one of them Oliver Miller mortally. So people then started to call for revenge for Miller's death, never wrote to judges and sheriff the nearby militia for help, but they are refused and only eight
he got whisper major James Perk, who brought ten soldiers from port pit to novels home. The rebels, on the other hand, showed up with between three hundred and five hundred men and laid siege to levels Home Kirkpatrick manage to smuggle, never went his family away after a tenth stand off. A battle began that lasted for about an hour and in the midst of it James Macfarlane, an officer of the militia who were on the side of the rebels, was killed. Outraged, unbelieving Kirkpatrick had deceived Macfarlane into holding his fire to kill him on purpose. The rebels set fire to the home and many of the buildings around it, and the soldiers inside ultimately surrendered the rebels took major Kirkpatrick Captive and found their way to Marshal Lennox, who they humiliated and injured, with the death of Macfarlane, who had been a local hero during the revolutionary war. A number of prominent Pennsylvania citizens who had previously their stayed out of all this, or at least stayed out of them,
or rabble rousing side of the rebellion got involved. In some cases it was because they perceive this is the last straw, and sometimes it was has the furore had grown so large that they felt pressured into doing so Were you Henry Breckinridge retaliation, remember legal advice: David Bradford, another lawyer offered advice on how to undermine more moderate voice, you started offering member legal advice, David Brow,
bird. Another lawyer offered advice on how to undermine more moderate voices in the Pennsylvania government. The rural citizens of the western counties started talking about making an assault on the town of Pittsburgh. By August, first, the number of rebels in western Pennsylvania had grown to about seven thousand, including recruits from neighbouring Virginia counties. They had a flag with six bar symbolizing before Pennsylvania, counties and two from Virginia, but they didn't have any defined goals other than just get rid of the tax, but they also had no clear plan on how to do that. At this point, the federal government simultaneously dispatch negotiators to try to bring a peaceful
and two things with some of the negotiations actually happening it Redstone Old Fort, which has been involved in the very start of his whole thing. At this point, the federal government did two things basically simultaneously. One was that dispatched negotiators to try to bring a peaceful end to things with some of those negotiations happening it Redstone Old Fort, which had been one of the meeting sites at the very start of this whole thing At the same time, it prepared a military strategy to bring a less peaceful end to things under the author of the Militia ACT of seventeen. Ninety two, the government could respond to quote imminent danger with the militia, provided it got a certification from a Supreme Court justice. This the government got from Justice James Wilson, said with simultaneously
negotiating and planning an assault the same time and the result was a twelve thousand nine hundred man force made up of militia from New Jersey, Maryland Virginia and Eastern Pennsylvania under the command of Governor Henry Leah Virginia. This force was large, but also made primarily of young inexperienced men who worked particularly well provisioned. There was a huge division between affluent volunteers who had joined the force for various political and personal reasons, and the men who had been drafted in and were generally poor and uneducated the rebels. Consequently, nickname did the Watermelon army, in spite of the derision that it got from the rebels. This huge forest moved to the western frontier counties, rounding rebels, making examples of them through flogging and humiliation and sending them back east to stand trial. The militia forest, rounded people out through act,
in November and then began of March back to Philadelphia with lots of captives on November nineteenth, they arrived on Christmas day when the militia flag their hats, with white paper to set them apart from the men, guarding them and marched through Philadelphia to the jail in shame. That is actually the thing that made me go. I am, I do all passed on this, how we got to the point of taking taking people through a shame march to the jail,
on Christmas day and all but two of the man who were captured were either acquitted or had their charges dropped and the two who were convicted were John, more John Mitchell and Philip Waigel, and they were both later pardoned. This government responds to the rebellion changed very little. Its militia round up didn't make it possible to enforce the tax. Many of the people who had been angry, as did the government about the tax, simply moved farther Wes trying to get out from under the thumb of the tax man. Having had a provision, such a large force in a relatively remote area did add measure
oh but temporary, boost to local economies, though there is probably a valid arguments we made that like it definitely did boring some cash into places that had been cash strapped thanks, believing to buy a lot of crops and things did to feed soldiers. But I read a couple of things that were like. Was that really worth all this trouble? We're going? Well, then, in eighteen, oh to Thomas Jefferson, River repealed, all of the nation's interior taxes, including the whisky tax, and, as we spoke about in an hour episode on monitoring the governments that have left the tat, the tax subject regarding distilling alone for a while, but the whisky rebellion. It's it's. I always invasion and when I have heard about it in the past,
is involving more, I am embarrassed to admit, wacky high jinx, you don't already direct violence, kind of situation, it's not so much lake yeah. The closest thing to wacky high Jenks is some of the events in which a mob of people would gang up on a tax collector like some of them. You read the accounts of it and they went into the ties, collectors, home and forced him to tear up his papers and jump up and down on them and like there's an element that comes off as kind of comedic like that. A mob was literally worse than him to tear up his tax papers and then jump up and down on them like that, that is a lousy. There were wacky hygiene like FAO is the closest thing wacky headings, but at the same time, a lot of times like that was just the person trying to do his job. There were definitely people who were task electors who were jokes about it, but you know a lot of a more just folks tryin to get their lives.
Together to sell yeah yeah and then all the towering and feathering that's a lot. That's not nearly as wacky is now you have to tear up your papers. Now you have to up and down on them. That was a wide with one of the ones that I read and then I was I was had seriously out loud. You seriously made him tear up his papers, men jump on them like yeah, well, in any time we get deterring and feathering in any sort of historical event. There's just this part of me, that's like how do you get that divorced from your humanity were you're like this is a thing we should absolutely do gaseous so cruel and horrifying better and that that came up again and again, as I said earlier, this like they ve been, then they would cut off their hair and tar and better that feather them. Yeah do you have a less humanity stripping listener mail for
eventually to listener, based but comments in response to our listener. Male, following our Gallipoli episode, in which we talked about segregation in Nevada and the letter writer had written and say that the the mass got of of the of you and I'll be, is a rebel, and so we had two to four people on Facebook, First person was tony and Tony said hello. You, wonderful ladys at the incredible Steffy missed in history, glasses. The great pie cast during your listener mail, a listener from Nevada said that you and I'll these mass got is a confederate symbol as a proud, LAS Vegas. I am happy to say that isn't true. Thank you once again for the expansive knowledge. Every week empty pasted end to link to an article that was called you and I'll, be diversity hey Red Mascot Rebel, nickname, not tied to could then Chelsea replied on the same threat and said. Thank you for sharing same article. I was gonna post. I was shocked to hear.
low Nevadas, perpetuate an untruth. You unhealthy began as a satellite campus of you and our and later became a separate institution. There was a rivalry between the north and South universities. Hence the idea. Being a rebel there is still a rivalry and many other arenas between the north and south of Nevada, politically, culturally et cetera. Twenty eight thousand six hundred students call you and I'll be home for the spouse. When fifteen semester, the two hundred plus students demonstrating constitute less than one percent of the student population, there was a survey conducted campus wide in which folks could indicate their perception of our mascot so I read this article and then I also looked into some things about you and I'll. Be mass got so gather, definitely an article from the view, and I ll be diversity, thief, saying that that hey red mask and the rebel nickname are not tied the confederacy. But but if you go and look at the- u, I'll be website the mass got you and I'll be was originally a wolf name Beauregard who was wearing a confederate, uniform
There's a little cause and effect like there's some arguments to be made that maybe they were calling themselves the rebels before they applied confederate image three to the idea of rebels, but then there was definitely a whole period of years in which that the rebel mascots was definitely a confederate soldier. There was literally a confederate battle flag on the mast head of the school newspaper when people reasonably in this like late sixties, early. Seventy six Graham said hey. This is my cool. This specifically, there were several black athletes who were like. I don't think I'm comfortable having this mass got, that is the confederate soldier and so the school reevaluated the mass Skype sort of way
it's a Bee Nevada like a pathfinder, not tied to confederate imagery, and that, unlike took the paddle flag off of the school newspaper mast head, and the actual wording on you and I'll be websites as well. It was a decision based in rivalry and fun. The choice of a confederate themed mask was nonetheless an unfortunate one and then later on The same paid was paid throughout the history of the mass got says we would all be now acknowledges that its first generation of students opted for a great name and rebels, but chose to surround it with imagery and symbols that fell. sort of getting the name of God name the honour it deserved. So yes, definitely
the Hay Reb Character, that sort of the mass got of you and I'll be is specifically designed to not be tied to confederate imagery, but there's a multiple decade, tradition and which is specifically was confederate imagery. I so, I don't think it is and valid at all. For people to point that out, a kind of reminds me, the conversations you and I had in our recent episodes about about the holiday characters from other cultures and the attempts to kind of walk back, his barked repeat so there, so that he's not so tides like racist black face and slavery
I think it personally. I think it often for you and I'll be to have reevaluated their mass got and not have it be specifically a confederate soldier, especially since a black student athletes found it offensive to be on a team whose mass got was somebody who bought on behalf of slavery, but that, like that, doesn't then erase all of those decades of time when the mass got was literally a confederate soldier, the South, a you know, it's one of those things that of all of its history is evolving liquor. We talk about all the time have use evolve and they change things and still have to acknowledge what came before. Even when you have a volley of fur yeah. Well, I'm that what were the article that was that was linked on her face but cannot put a link to it and our shown it includes this sixty page analysis of their history and like the diversity oftener officer, has come to the conclusion that in its current iteration it is not a confederate image,
but at the same light, but at the same time it called out specifically all of these other aspects from previous years, and not even that long ago, previous years, when it definitely was better, imagery felt declare file that. If you would like to write to us where history like ass, it has two weeks now, com or else on Facebook, Facebook, dotcom, Flash, Miss Van history and on twitter at Mister, history or tumblr is missed in history, tumblr, com, on Pinterest offenders, dot, com, Flash missed in history. If you want to learn more about what we talked about the day, come to our parent companies website, which has caused a forced by common, but the word moonshine in the search bar. You will find about how moonshine work you can also come to our website, which is miss than history, dot, com or we have shown over. We have an archive of everything that we ve got to talk about the past and we have put our should. I have something to this article about you and I'll, be in other stuff from the view and I ll be wet.
That I referred to you, so you can see that for yourself, you can do all that and a whole lot more at Helstone works that Burma's been has begun. Work on this and thousands of other topics, because it has to work stuck in the future, is closer than you think, and it all starts in the palm of your hand. You may have heard the news five g is coming in this new. I hot series this time tomorrow, presented by team above a business join me. As one often am. I cursed car price as we walk you through the true revolution in mobility that will change. everyone and Katy courage. Here to let you know that my podcast next question with me, Katy Correct, is back for
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