According to Library of Congress researchers, the successful handling of the Whiskey Rebellion enforced several constitutional ideas the rebellion challenged, such as the right of the federal government to pass and enforce laws, and the right to collect taxes from the citizens of all states. The use of force ended the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.Continue Reading
In 1791 the federal government was in debt, having assumed all Revolutionary War debt for the states. To help pay this debt, Congress approved an excise tax on distilled spirits. The tax was assessed based on the capacity of the still. It varied from six to 18 cents per gallon and had to be paid in cash. This was the first nationwide internal revenue tax, according to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
West of the Appalachian and Allegheny mountains, whiskey was often used as currency. Many farmers converted their crops to whiskey because it was easier to transport than grain and had a better market value as well. Partially due to longstanding unrest about Indian attacks, the farmers opposed the tax. Many simply refused to pay it, and the tax collectors were often harassed; some were even tarred and feathered.
Violence escalated until President Washington marched with militia collected from the states to quell the rebellion. By mid-November 1794, 150 rebels had been arrested. Most were released without evidence, a few were tried, and only two were convicted of treason, both of which were later pardoned by President Washington. A portion of the militia remained until the following spring, by which time the rebellion had been successfully suppressed.Learn more about US History