What were the causes and effects of the Whiskey Rebellion?


Quick Answer

The Whiskey Rebellion was triggered by a tax imposed on distilled liquors in 1791, which farmers in western Pennsylvania believed was unfair. It resulted in a strengthening of the recently established United States because the federal government demonstrated its ability to keep the union together.

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What were the causes and effects of the Whiskey Rebellion?
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Full Answer

The tax was established in 1791 as a way to help pay back debts the new government had incurred during the Revolutionary War. Farmers on the western frontier felt it placed undue hardship on them because they usually distilled their grains into alcohol, which was easier to ship than whole grains. Although the protests against the tax were initially peaceful, they became violent in 1794 when the protesters burned the home of the local tax collector.

Although President Washington was initially unsure if he should send troops to stop the violence, eventually he listened to Alexander Hamilton's advice and sent a militia. The militia stopped the rebellion and arrested 150 men for treason. Only two men were convicted and they both received presidential pardons. This showed that the federal government was capable of enforcing peace, and the pardons helped calm things down and prevent more violence. However, many in the government felt that using military force had been a mistake. Thomas Jefferson particularly began to consider Hamilton a dangerous influence at this time.

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