During 1790, the newly born United States government had assumed the debts incurred by the thirteen states during the Revolutionary War. The next year, Congress approved a bill that put an excise tax on “distilled spirits,” called the “Distilled Spirits Tax of 1971.” The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed the bill to help suppress the national debt. The excise tax on distilled spirits was a direct tax on Americans who produced whiskey and other alcohol spirits.
From the beginning, the Federal government had little success in collecting the whiskey tax along the frontier. While many small western distillers simply refused to pay the tax, others took a more violent stand against it President George Washington took notice of the resistance to the whiskey tax and issued a proclamation on September 15, 1792, condemning interference with the "operation of the laws of the United States for raising revenue upon spirits distilled within the same."
The Rebellion Begins
The Whiskey Rebellion took place throughout the western frontier. There was not one state south of New York whose western counties did not protest the new excise with some sort of violence. Probably the biggest concern about the excise tax was the revenues from it would support a national government the western people felt was not representing them well. Their grievances involved resolving the Indian problems and opening the Mississippi River to navigation. "They were 'convinced that a tax upon liquors which are the common drink of a nation operates in proportion to the number and not to the wealth of the people, and of course is unjust in itself, and oppressive upon the poor. '" Without solving these problems, the national g...
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.... Under the President 's authority, General Lee issued a general pardon on November 29th for all those who taken part "in the wicked and unhappy tumults and disturbances lately existing" with the exception of 33 men named in the document. While most of the militia returned home, a regiment occupied the area until the following spring, and organized opposition to the tax evaporated.
While violent opposition to the whiskey tax ended, political opposition to the tax continued. Opponents of internal taxes rallied around the candidacy of Thomas Jefferson and helped him defeat President John Adams in the election of 1800. By 1802, Congress repealed the distilled spirits excise tax and all other internal Federal taxes. Until the War of 1812, the Federal government would rely solely on import tariffs for revenue, which quickly grew with the Nation 's expanding foreign trade.
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