What You Didn’t Know About the Whiskey Rebellion

September 12, 2022

It’s 1794, and there you are, standing in a field outside of Pittsburgh with 6,000 other angry whiskey distillers. Look, you get it. You knew it was only a matter of time before an excise tax would be created and slapped on your small still. But c’mon, 18%?! How is that fair? The big distillers could simply pass that increase onto their customers. But your whiskey was mainly used as barter or maybe you could sell a couple of bottles to your friends around the holidays.

You decided this just wasn’t going to stand, and the next tax collector that came around was going to hear about it. Matter of fact, a Federal revenue office just moved in down the road. So you round up some other distiller buddies and head off, pitchforks at the ready. And as it so often turned out, things escalate and one of your friends gets killed in the subsequent shoot-out. Fine, if it’s a war they want, it’s a war they’ll get.

So now you’re standing in this field, ready to challenge the unfairness of the federal government. Over the small hill, you hear the hoofbeats of the oncoming federal troops. Boy, that’s, that’s a lot more than I thought there’d be. And as you squint through the cloud of dust kicked up by the horses, could it be? Is that really…George Washington leading the charge? And my God, there must be 13,000 soldiers behind him! You suddenly realize that an excise tax is better than death, so you throw down your musket and turn to run. You’re caught, arrested, and eventually pardoned. And so ends the Whiskey Rebellion, the only time an active president ever lead troops into battle.