30 October 2012

Whiskey Rebellion Defeated – Rebels Paraded

The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hodgeland, 2006, Excerpts

On Christmas morning, 1794, twenty thousand Philadelphians mobbed the broad, cobbled streets of their city to see the defeated whiskey rebels brought in from the west. If the people were expecting a big show, they had reason to be disappointed. There were twenty prisoners, and General Blackbeard White himself had been given the job of escorting them from the Forks. Already skinny, pale, and exhausted by questioning and imprisonment when leaving Fort Fayette on November 25, they’d spent a month crossing mountains forbidding enough in summer, locked now in winter. Each prisoner had walked. General White ordered the beheading of anyone attempting escape: heads, he’s announced hopefully, would be displayed in the city. Only twelve cases went to trial, and in the end only two rebels were convicted. With the crisis over, Washington pardoned the condemned men.

In Washington’s stated opinion, suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion had drawn from the American people the support for law and government that marked their highest character. Washington also noted that the operation worked out well for him personally. With commercial distilling newly profitable, he added whiskey making to his endeavors at Mount Vernon.

Yet the whiskey tax remained hard to collect. There were occasional disruptions of court proceedings and occasional threats, but mainly there was sneakiness and recalcitrance, smuggling and moonshining. The authority that established itself at last in the western country was not challenged. It was eluded.

In the election of 1800, the Jeffersonians came to power and the whiskey tax was repealed.

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