A gripping and provocative tale of violence, alcohol, and taxes, The Whiskey Rebellion pits President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton against angry, armed settlers across the Appalachians. Unearthing a pungent segment of early American history long ignored by historians, William Hogeland brings to startling life the rebellion that decisively contributed to the establishment of federal authority.
In 1791, at the frontier headwaters of the Ohio River, gangs with blackened faces began to attack federal officials, beating and torturing the collectors who plagued them with the first federal tax ever laid on an American product - whiskey. In only a few years, those attacks snowballed into an organized regional movement dedicated to resisting the fledgling government's power and threatening secession, even civil war.
With an unsparing look at both Hamilton and Washington - and at lesser-known, equally determined frontier leaders such as Herman Husband and Hugh Henry Brackenridge - journalist and popular historian William Hogeland offers an insightful, fast-paced account of the remarkable characters who perpetrated this forgotten revolution, and those who suppressed it. To Hamilton, the whiskey tax was key to industrial growth and could not be permitted to fail. To hard-bitten people in what was then the wild West, the tax paralyzed their economies while swelling the coffers of greedy creditors and industrialists. To President Washington, the settlers' resistance catalyzed the first-ever deployment of a huge federal army, led by the president himself, a military strike to suppress citizens who threatened American sovereignty.
Daring, finely crafted, by turns funny and darkly poignant, The Whiskey Rebellion promises a surprising trip for readers unfamiliar with this primal national drama - whose climax is not the issue of mere taxation but the very meaning and purpose of the American Revolution.
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Competing views of American history
This is an interesting and possibly exhaustive account of a lesser known episode in American history. Combining social history with the more traditional analysis of political leaders, Hogeland explores the conflict between frontier settlers and emerging national government. Western Pennsylvania in the early 1790's flirts with armed insurrection based on widespread grass roots resistance to Alexander Hamilton's whiskey tax. Hogeland explains why whiskey was much more than a drink to the frontier society, and does not take sides while detailing the uglier side of both frontier violence and the shady finance that enriched a few eastern insiders at the expense of the common soldiers and farmers.
This book will be especially fascinating for residents of southwestern PA, where most of the action occurs. Washington and Hamilton figure prominently, but Hogeland also does a nice job bringing to life many lesser known actors who are equally important.
The importance of the Whiskey Rebellion, Hogeland argues, is in its clarification of the meaning of the American Revolution. The radical, egalitarian, democratic vision of many of the westerners would not be realized. More aptly, we could call it a war for Independence. A social revolution it was not.
Well written, solid history
the whiskey rebellionv
This book would be ok for a history teacher, teaching a class. As far as entertainment it was terrible. Had to make myself finish it........