Directions: Read the overview on the Whiskey Rebellion and complete
the questions below.
What is an excise?
An excise is a tax on a commodity; items traded on a large scale for income.
Why were many states asked to pay taxes after the American Revolutionary War?
Many states were asked to pay taxes to help pay the debt from the cost of the war. Money was also needed to support the militias fighting the Native Americans in the west, as well as support the settlement of the Northwest Territory.
Pennsylvanians were relieved from paying many taxes to pay the cost of the war until 1791. Explain why the citizens of Pennsylvania had this tax relief?
Between 1780 and 1790 Pennsylvania raised almost all of its money by selling state land, which helped the government from being attacked by unhappy citizens.
What were two major economic activities of Western Pennsylvania?
Two major economic activities of Western Pennsylvania included the farming of grain foods and the manufacturing of whiskey.
In 1791, Congress approved a tax on what product?
Whiskey was taxed in 1791.
Was the excise tax justifiable? Compare the perspectives of the Whiskey “Rebels
and the Federal Government. Identify and list the different points of view by
completing the chart below.
Western Pennsylvanians- Whiskey “Rebels”
Federal Government and Their Supporters
1. The major economic activity was farming grains. The farmers of the West were blocked by the Appalachian Mountains. Transporting goods to the east was long and expensive. The government had failed in their negotiations with the Spanish to gain access to the Mississippi River were they could float their products to be sold in southern and foreign markets.
1. Other states were paying taxes to support the government; therefore, Pennsylvania should as well.
2. Unlike their Eastern neighbors, laborers in the West were scarce and expensive. Many farmers were poor. Farmers often paid laborers with whiskey. It was seen as unfair to pay a tax for drinking grain more than eating it.
2. President George Washington felt Western Pennsylvanians should make a contribution toward the government that was spending so much of its energy and money to secure their interests which included ridding the Ohio Valley of Native Americans and negotiations with Spain. After all, these Pennsylvanians provoked wars with the Indians and ignored treaties.
3. Cash was scarce, but commerce was not. The tax was higher than the farmers could afford.
3. Some Federalists were eager to test the power of the new federal government in their passing and enforcement of the law.
4. The federal government had not been able to defeat the Native Americans in the western frontier, such as the Ohio Valley; therefore, the farmers saw no justification in paying a tax meant for military protection.
5. Western Pennsylvanians taxed unfairly in comparison to the East. Small distillers in the West had fewer resources than the East and were charged fifty-four cents per gallon because they operated less than 400 gallons per year. Large distillers played a flat tax. They were able to undersell the small distillers.
What actions were taken by the Whiskey Rebels to show their disapproval for the tax? List at least three.
a. Destruction of property. b. Tarring and feathering of tax collectors, as well as the threat to kill tax collectors.
Threat of withdrawing from the union.
Threat of taking control of federal forts and arsenals.
Interception of federal mail.
Who were some of the leaders that were instrumental in leading the Whiskey Rebellion? Include their role.
Some of the leaders who were instrumental in leading the Whiskey Rebellion include: David Bradford-lawyer and appointed deputy attorney general of Washington
County; active political leader of the Whiskey Rebellion Albert Gallatin- Pennsylvania state representative; active political leader of the
Whiskey Rebellion who helped to bring a peaceful end to the event. Reverend John Corbley- noted Baptist minister and vocal opponent of the whiskey
How did the government respond to the Whiskey Rebellion? Why was important that President Washington respond to the rebellion?
George Washington drafted a proclamation requesting that the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia gather a force of approximately 13,000 men. President Washington led his “Watermelon Army” into Bedford County to suppress the rebellion. 150 rebels were arrested, 20 were tried, and President Washington pardoned 2 from a death sentence. George Washington felt it was important to respond to the rebellion because he wanted to prove that the laws of the new federal government were viable. He also feared that a failure by the federal government to end the rebellion would indicate that the new government was weak and might collapse. He wanted the citizens of the United States to gain faith in their new government where the rights of people are protected and justice is served.
Reflect upon our discussion of rebellion versus resistance. Do you consider the actions of the Whiskey Rebels rebellion or resistance? Explain why or why not.
Possible Responses: Rebellion-The Whiskey “Rebels” used violence in an attempt to make changes in the government, such as burning houses, destroying property, tarring and feathering tax collectors, and threatening to kill those that supported or tried to collect the tax. Resistance-They, like those who were angered by King George III, had petitioned the new government many times in an attempt to have the tax abolished. When the government refused to repeal the tax, the citizens saw a need to physically and violently express their points. These same ideas took place during the American Revolution; therefore, they might have assumed it would work again.
Do you believe that the Whiskey Rebels’ motives and actions against the federal government were justified? Why or why not?
Possible Responses: Yes, I feel that the motives and actions of the Whiskey Rebels were justifiable because the federal government had failed to defeat the Native Americans in the West, as well as negotiate the use of the Mississippi River from Spain. These problems impacted the economic growth of the farmers in the West who did not have access to the rich farmlands of the Ohio Valley, as well as trade opportunities blocked to the south. The farmers were also poor and relied on grain to support their livelihood. The manufacturing of whiskey was easier to transport than grain. It was also used as a form of cash, such as paying for needed laborers. No, I feel that the motives and actions of the Whiskey Rebels were not justifiable. Many other states were paying taxes, why should Pennsylvania be exempt. Also, the federal government had spent money during the American Revolution to support their interest; therefore, they should help repay the debt. Finally, the federal government also committed themselves to securing the West from Native Americans and supplies were needed to support the troops.
Evaluate the Whiskey Rebellion. How has it impacted our new national government?
The Whiskey Rebellion was first large-scale resistance by American citizens against the new federal government. It put to test the power of the President and the Congress to pass and enforce laws that they felt were for the benefit of the people and the country. It sent a message to the new Americans that their government would be strong and would protect the rights and interests of its people.