Fayette County Cultural Trust - Explore Fayette County Pennsylvania
Whiskey Rebellion
 
 
 
 
 
 
Southwestern Pennsylvania
 
 
 
 
The Whiskey Rebellion, less commonly known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in Pennsylvania in the 1790s, during the presidency of George Washington. The conflict was rooted in western dissatisfaction with a 1791 excise tax on whiskey. The tax was a part of treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton's program to centralize and fund the national debt. From the national perspective the issue was how laws passed by the Congress would be enforced.
The whiskey excise was unpopular among small farmers on the western frontier who could get their corn to market only by distilling it into whiskey, which was easy to ship by water. They used violence and intimidation to stop federal officials from collecting the tax. Resistance came to a climax in July 1794, when a U.S. marshal arrived in western Pennsylvania to serve writs to distillers who had not paid the excise. The alarm was raised, and more than 500 armed men attacked the fortified home of tax inspector General John Neville. The Washington administration responded by sending peace commissioners to negotiate with the rebels, while at the same time calling on state governors to provide militia forces if needed. President Washington himself led the army but the protest collapsed before it arrived. About 20 men were arrested, but all were later acquitted or pardoned.
The Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated that the new national government had the willingness and ability to suppress violent resistance to its laws. The whiskey excise remained difficult to collect, however. The whiskey tax was repealed after Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party, which opposed Hamilton's Federalist Party, came to power in 1800.
 
George Washington
George Washington
Whiskey Rebellion