Tag: Alexander Hamilton

How The Whiskey Rebellion Changed America

By Jack Parkos | United States

In my previous article, I talked about the Gadsden flag. I have the Gadsden Flag and the First Navy Jack Flag. Since then, I decided to start a collection of Early American Flags. The most recent addition to my collection is the Flag of The Whiskey Rebellion.

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It got me thinking, how many people actually know about the Whiskey Rebellion? I asked a sampling of random people, and only 20% knew what the flag was. Some people remember hearing the name in high school but knew nothing about it. The majority of people don’t know the historical event the flag seeks to immortalize. Some may argue this is the most important event in early America, as several things came out of it.

The Whiskey Rebellion was a tax protest by farmers and distillers from 1791-1794. The tax was introduced by Alexander Hamilton. After the revolution, many states were in major debt Hamilton had the Federal Government take on all the debt and to pay off the debt, he proposed a tax on whiskey. Thomas Jefferson and the anti-federalists opposed the tax. However, Congress still passed this tax, making it the first tax imposed on a domestic product.

However, this tax was very unfair to small farmers and distillers, for the large producers got taxed less per gallon. So the government gave bigger producers the advantage over the smaller guy (sound familiar?). This angered both farmers and whiskey distillers.  With the spirit of the American Revolution and this anger, the defiance began.

Some congressmen tried to appeal to protestors by enacting a very minor reduction on the tax. But the protesters were not satisfied; people refused to pay these taxes and often intimidated tax collectors. The angry mob would feather the tax collectors, often forcing them to resign out of fear of further violence. Robert Johnson, who was tarred and feathered, reported them, but the man who later delivered the court warrants was also tarred and feathered.

The violence against tax collectors continued. With some having there homes burned down by the mob. The protesters believed they were fighting for the principles of the American Revolution, No taxation without (local) Representation. On the other side, the Federalists argued it was a fair and legal tax by congress. Whoever is right, is up to your own opinion.

But President Washington, who was originally opposed to the tax,  faced a bigger problem than politics: the mob had been burned down houses and participated in violent protest and property destruction. A rebel army had been raised. Washington wanted peace, while Hamilton wanted to send men into Pennsylvania. When peace failed, Washington gathered and led 12,000 men in a state militia into Western Pennsylvania. There was no rebel army, so suspected rebels were gathered and tried for treason. Two men were found guilty of treason, but both were pardoned by Washington. While the law remained, the tax was still evaded, but most violence stopped. The tax remained law until Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson, who opposed Hamilton’s taxes, repealed it in 1802.

This is a big event in American history. It showed that the United States Federal Government was legitimate in it’s authority to pass and enforce laws. This event contributed to the formation of the first two political parties in America. People who had been Anti-Federalist started voting for Democratic-Republicans and accepted the Constitution. The Federalists also started to be more accepting in First Amendment rights.

This event raised the question. “Was the violent rebellion a legitament form of resistance under the new constitution?” The Whiskey Rebels believed they were fighting under the same principles as the revolution and that people had the right to challenge the government, even if in extreme ways . The Federalists believed that because the new government was by the people that such methods were no longer needed. This question, raised by the Whiskey Rebellion is a very important one to understand.

The Whiskey Rebellion changed America. It was more than a bunch of riots. It caused a lot of people to think, it caused political tension, and lots of change to American Politics.


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Revising the Foundations: The Founding Fathers Are Out of Date in a Few Ways

By Michael Kay | [USA]

It’s a question that’s been asked in almost every post-revolutionary state, sometime in their histories. Why should the founding fathers dictate the way in which we run our nation? In this article, I seek to examine this question in the context of the United States, and then discuss how this applies to our current administration.

The first major point to identify is the time difference. In 1776, upon the Declaration of Independence, the “American” colonies were highly wary of powerful governments and thought of their own state governments as mere means of protection against British imperial power. Keep in mind, for example, that Alexander Hamilton did not establish a national bank until years later, which suggests that the states were highly divided. Taxation merely existed in the form of light tariffs, and neither states nor the national government had the means to infringe upon the rights of its citizens. In fact, the governments had a vested interest in a laissez-faire approach to the market. But this time difference has other implications as well, including some very pressing pieces of the Bill of Rights. For example, the Second Amendment was written for two main purposes. First, in the circumstance that the National Guard (which was merely an idea at the time) was unable to properly hold off the British Army, the Congress wanted the populace to bolster the army with civilian reinforcements. The amendment was further written as a means of providing a defense for the citizens, provided that an elected US government did not abide by the Constitution or infringed upon the inalienable rights of its citizens. So I think, given that the US has one of the most powerful standing militias in the entire world, the first clause is somewhat redundant. However, as a libertarian, I am still fundamentally opposed to anything besides some heavy firearms registration laws.

The second point to consider is that the founding fathers were not in agreement. For example, Alexander Hamilton opposed the entire idea of the Bill of Rights (more on that later), while Madison and Jefferson were strongly opposed to the establishment of a Treasury and a national bank. And of course, Hamilton and Washington were opposed to slavery (so was Jefferson, privately), yet they did not write it into the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

First, why did these disagreements come about? Many of them were based on the traditional North-South divide. Jefferson and Madison didn’t like the idea of the National bank because the economies of Virginia and (in general) the South were mostly agrarian in nature. A stronger national government would have more difficulty implementing economic policies that did not either unfairly disadvantage the agrarian economy or the industrial economy of the Northern states. The slavery argument is obvious, as many of the founding fathers saw slavery as directly hypocritical to the words of the Declaration of Independence, as one would then have to assume that not ALL men were created equal. However, according to Jefferson (in his journal), he knew it was wrong, but be simply couldn’t imagine a life without slavery, as he believed that without it, the Southern economy would die (as it did, after the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment). Finally, the most interesting and complex disagreement came from Alexander Hamilton, when he opposed the existence of the Bill of Rights. Hamilton argued that if we bind the government with negative clauses, that restrict the government, we allow the government to do anything that isn’t explicitly written. This is how we ended up with gun control, as it isn’t explicitly written. Hamilton preferred a system in which common sense ideas and positively restrictive laws existed and instructed the government to carry out specific legislation. Something not explicitly written would not mean it is or is not legally permissible.

These disagreements on the fundamental ideas of our nation would suggest that the founding fathers were not necessarily correct in every respect. Instead, consider the idea of a rewritten Constitution, where we can still consider the ideas of our founding fathers by reading documents such as the Federalist Papers, which were written defending each clause of the Constitution, and written by both Northerners and Southerners. I think that if the founding documents are outdated and controversial, it makes sense to rewrite them based on the current atmosphere of our nation.