Fans of whiskey, were you aware that the history of whiskey is intricately entwined with the birth of the United States? Alexander Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, recommended an excise tax on spirits that were distilled within the country in 1791. This sparked a mutiny among Americans who were living on the Western frontier at the time. These people believed that the tax was yet another unjust policy imposed by the eastern elite that was having a severe impact on the people living on the frontier in the United States.
Why did these farmers in the Western United States object to the tax with such ferocity? To make a profit, however, they had to rely on crops like maize, rye, and grain. Nevertheless, transporting these crops to the East was risky because the storage facilities were inadequate and the roads were hazardous. As a consequence of this, many of these farmers distilled their grain into liquor because it was simpler to transport and required less maintenance. Farmers who farmed on a smaller size were less able to withstand the financial burden of an additional tax, while those who farmed on a larger scale were able to do so without getting into serious financial trouble.
In 1794, the protests had already become violent, despite President George Washington's best efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Near Pittsburgh in the month of July of that same year, close to four hundred whiskey rebels set fire to the residence of John Neville, who was the regional tax collecting supervisor. As a result of having few options left, George Washington assembled a militia force consisting of 12,950 men and marched them towards western Pennsylvania.
The inciting of the militia produced the intended result, which was to effectively put an end to the Whiskey Rebellion. The insurgents had already dispersed by the time the militia reached Pittsburgh, so they could not be located. Over 150 men were accused of treason after being arrested by the militia and brought to trial. In spite of the fact that they had been found guilty of treason, both John Mitchell and Philip Weigel were eventually pardoned by President George Washington. In 1802, while Thomas Jefferson was still serving as President, the excise tax on whiskey was finally eliminated.
The Whiskey Rebellion is still an interesting part of American history to this day, and it exemplifies the ever-present spirit of defiance that exists among those who are passionate about whiskey. The fledgling United States prevailed and flourished in spite of serious challenges to the power of the federal government, so laying the groundwork for the thriving whiskey business that we know and love today.