Whiskey 220 ~ Part 1 of 3
The Whiskey Rebellion 1791-94: Western Pennsylvania
Fifteen Stars and Stripes tell of a nation in transition. The new Republic’s first president, former general George Washington, signed a new flag law in January 1794. Basically, with the addition of Kentucky and Vermont into the Union, a new flag was needed. The Star Spangled Banner we all know, created by Congress in 1818, kept the 13 Stripes to honor the founding and added Stars for new States.
The flag wasn’t the only thing in transition, it’s just a good symbol for what was happening; the Revolutionary War won, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were over in eight years (1781-88), and the new US Constitution made the former colonies the world’s leading Republic ~ oh yeah, the French.
The French Republic (1792-1804) foretold itself in 1789 with the Storming of the Bastille; a young Napoleon Bonaparte watched in horror (he disliked the masses). There’s also the French Republic’s Reign of Terror, running its guillotine through September 1793 to July 1794. The terror stopped for a bit, then in 1799 Napoleon took over ~ and that ended in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo.
The US Republic had a much milder situation involving citizens in 1794: the trouble was a federal whiskey tax on hooch. The citizens (many former revolutionaries) in the hills of four western Pennsylvania counties resisted; first with not paying the tax, then they accosted a Federal tax collector, then they took up arms …
That was enough for President Washington; as commander-in-chief he called on the State Militias to quell the rebellion. Four states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia began calling up their militias in support of the government.
It’s not all politics in President Washington’s Diaries; here we read of our president driving his carriage, feeding and tending horses, and socializing quite often. You also see a different side of Washington: his 18th century Rick Steves fellow traveller side. An example – Washington’s 13 October 1794 commentary on the Pennsylvania landscape:
“From Carlisle along the left Road, which I pursued, to be out of the March of the Army, and to avoid the inconvenience of passing the Waggons belonging to it; the Lands are but indifferent until we came within a few miles of Shippensburgh – The first part of a thin and dry Soil, succeeded by piney flats (not far from the South Mountain). For a few miles before we arrived in Shippensbg. the Lands were good, but uncultivated.”
Our president was also political in his diaries; on the 2nd of October President Washington met with two citizens, US Representative William Findley and lawyer David Reddick, who provided current word on the state of the insurrection. Representative Findley spoke for the sentiments of the rebellion; Reddick supported Findley and added a comment Washington made note of ~ one on citizen communication:
“He [Reddick] added, that for a long time after the riots commenced, and until lately, the distrust of one another was such, that even friends were afraid to communicate their sentiments to each other; That by whispers this was brought about; and growing bolder as they became more communicative they found their strength, and that there was a general disposition not only to acquiesce under, but to support the Laws – and he gave some instances also of Magistrates enforcing them.”
Yes ~ citizens communicating (first by whisper) in order to find their strength ~ let’s pickup there next time, and we’ll have President Washington sharing a coach with Virginia’s Governor Henry Lee III.
Next: Whiskey220 ~ Sunday 19 October.
Video: The Whiskey Rebellion
Posted by Bryan W. Brickner