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I was in my room watching television news when suddenly, a broadcast of protesters appeared on the screen. There were rampant protests everywhere including my locality. This was on March 3, 1791, a time when the United States Congress situated in Philadelphia enacted into law a policy which allowed a seven percent of tax for every gallon of whiskey. The essence of increasing tax to this commodity was to generate revenue meant to cover revolutionary war debts.
Like any American, I was also not happy about taxations but at least not all. I felt for western Pennsylvania farmers who like me were hostile to this enactment. Already, I had witnessed the difficulty that farmers had in transporting their farm produces to other markets. Accordingly, majority of the farmers had decided to use their grain in manufacturing whisky.
In my view, although the tax was meant to increase marketability and value of whiskey, the challenge was to farmers who paid more taxes. Distillers of whiskey however, had accepted to tax increase because; they were to increase their prices making consumers pay that tax. This is my account of what happened during this period as a witness of the whiskey rebellion. (Richard Para.15-18).
Poor road transport networks had forced the western farmers to convert their grain into whiskey. Like any other American, I wondered why the tax affected only western farmers. The idea to tax whiskey drinks came from Alexander Hamilton who was the Secretary of the Treasury.
The western farmers did not like the idea of paying taxes. I have witnessed a number of times when they could have hard times with treasury policies. In my own view the inhabitants of the west were mainly Scottish, Irish or of Scots Irish origin. Many at times, western distillers refused to pay taxes due to their hard stances.
For example, I heard them say that, the taxes were nothing but an assault to westerners. In fact, the law was a pure legislation that allowed all distillers to be registered. Anybody who was found guilty of not paying whiskey taxes could be tried in federal courts far away. The fact that these courts were far and will make the victims use a lot of money as transport to hear their cases only increased unrest in the west. Whiskey rebellion was a product of unrest.
I saw many people disturbed with Indian attacks and Spain’s domination on New Orleans. In particular, inhabitants of the west were aggravated by the government which to them was a barrier to complimentary American trade since it had failed to open Mississippi River. (Hoover Para. 1-10).
Establishment of whiskey taxes led to confrontation from Western Pennsylvania to Kentucky to Virginia. It was at this point that I realized a sinister battle between the government and its citizens who accused the state in interfering with their frontier life. Most farmers refused adamantly to pay taxes and over the three year rebellion period, protesters made derision to any farmer who tried to pay whiskey taxes.
Whiskey tax collectors were beaten up and maimed while government officials received intimidations and sometimes hijacked. Soon, the mail delivery system collapsed due to distraction. The end result was a society that lived in disharmony and discord.
For example, on May 1794, United States Marshall David Lennon and John Neville served court orders to Miller family who had refused to pay taxes to appear before Federal court in Philadelphia. After the hearing of the case which I attended, I suddenly heard gun shots one mile away. Luckily, nobody was injured.
Consequently, protesters accompanied miller’s family members to Neville’s house. During the confrontation, a shoot out emerged and Neville killed Oliver Miler through a gun shot. Although the protesters fled at that time, they later returned accompanied by militia gang on17 July 1794. This time, soldiers helped Neville to escape though they burnt down his mansion in southwest Pennsylvania. (Clouse pp. 28-36).
President George Washington then issued a stern warning to the protesters and pledged for negotiations. But in vain the modality failed to yield fruits. President George Washington then sent about 13 000 troops while accompanying then to Western Pennsylvania to go and try to quell the rebels. In order to avoid further confrontations, President Washington sent three prominent leaders including the Attorney General to meet rebels and strike a deal.
However, the committee failed to reach consensus and went back to Washington. The only solution left was to apply military force together with civil authority to return normalcy. The local militia had to face the full force so that constitutional laws could be protected. (Hoover Para. 10-21).
President Washington then issued a stern warning to rebels not to dictate United States as a nation because they were a portion. Anybody found armed was to face dire justice in courts of law. About 150 rebels were arrested. Astonishingly, 20 of the rebels arrested were high-flying leaders.
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Whiskey rebellion was almost coming to an end. Under presidential pardon authority, President Washington pardoned those who had participated in the rebellion. Majority of those who were arrested were found not guilty due to lack of proper substantiation.
Even though whiskey rebellion violent acts ceased, it was evident that opposition of whiskey taxes continued. I attended successive political campaigns whereby, politicians opposed taxes on whiskey in public. It was due to the antagonism in taxation of whiskey which led to the triumph of Thomas Jefferson as the president over John Adams.
Moreover, in 1802, United States Congress removed all exercise taxes on distilled spirits and other internal Federal levies. The violent attacks from rebels ensured their victory over the government. It was a war fought through political and violent machineries to realize liberation. Nevertheless, whiskey rebellion remains one of America’s liberation histories.
Clouse, J. The Whiskey Rebellion: Southwestern Pennsylvania Frontier People test the American Constitution.
Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1994. Print.
Hoover, M. The Whiskey Rebellion: The Distilled Spirits Tax of 1791. TTB.GOV. Web.
Richard, G. The Whisky Flags. 2001. Web.