03 November 2016

Differences of an Economic Vision

The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hodgeland, 2006, Excerpts

The whiskey rebels weren't against paying taxes. They were against what they called unequal taxation, which redistributed wealth to a few holders of federal bonds and kept small farms and businesses commercially paralyzed. Farmers and artisans, facing daily anxiety over debt foreclosure and tax imprisonment, feared becoming landless laborers, their businesses bought cheaply by the very men in whose mills and factories they would then be forced to toil. They saw resisting the whiskey tax as a last, desperate hope for justice in a decades-long fight over economic inequality.

Some of the whiskey rebels envisioned stranding the seaboard cities, vile pits of unrestrained greed, on the far side of the Appalachian ridge and leaving the coast a vestige. Some imagined a new west, spiritually redeemed, with perfect democratic and economic justice: small farmers, artisans, and laborers would thrive, while bankers, big landowners, and lawyers would be closely regulated, even suppressed. Believing they could wrest their country back from frontier merchants and creditors, the rebels wanted to banish big businessmen as traitors to the region even while fending off the distant federal government in all its growing might.

Alexander Hamilton and his allies saw enforcing the whiskey tax as a way of resolving that fight in favor of a moneyed class with the power to spur industrial progress. 

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