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Flag - Whiskey Rebellion
War is a costly affair, and the new American government had to pay it's bill after the Revolution. Congress settled on a tax on distilled spirits, and the most widely distilled spirit at the time was whiskey since farmers could use their surplus crops of rye, barley, wheat and corn to make it. In many areas whiskey was used as payment since it could be stored and traded.

In 1791 Congress passed the Whiskey Tax and many farmers, who were war veterans, felt the tax was unfair and constituted a taxation without any local representation. The resentment was highest in western Pennsylvania where violence was used against federal tax collectors, much as it had been used against royal tax collectors before the Revolution.

The violence finally came to a head in 1794 when a US Marshall was sent to the area to serve writs to distillers who had failed to pay up. In true Revolutionary spirit the men still refused to pay and a group of around 600 men surrounded the fortified home of the local tax inspector, General John Neville. During the siege of the home two rebels were killed, including their leader General McFarlane and possibly one US soldier, though exact numbers are unknown. McFarlane was given a heroes funeral and area residents were further angered at his murder, whether they owned stills or not.

Over 7,000 people gathered at Braddocks Field in Pittsburgh and there was talk of secession from the newly formed United States, possibly even joining Spain or England. Washington himself rode at the head of 13,000 militia and troops heading to Pennsylvania to put down the uprising, while also sending negotiators ahead to try to prevent another war in the newly formed Republic.

As the federal force approached the rebels ran to safety in the mountains, over 150 were captured and while most were pardoned, 24 were hand picked by the federals to be used as examples on charges of High Treason. Only 10 men would stand trial in a federal court and only two men were sentenced to death by hanging, one for beating a tax collector and burning his house down and the other for robbing the US mail. Even the two were later pardoned by Washington who said The mislead have abandoned their errors.

There were deaths, beatings, homes and businesses destroyed and many rebels fled westward before the Whiskey Rebellion came to an end. While Washington considered the result a success collecting the tax from rural farms, especially in the west, still proved nearly impossible. Political opposition to the Whiskey Tax persisted and in 1802 all federal internal taxes were repealed.


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