Whiskey Rebellion

Significance of the whiskey rebellion?

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02/23/2010

The new federal government, at the urging of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, assumed the states' debt from the American Revolutionary War. In 1791 Hamilton convinced Congress to approve taxes on distilled spirits and carriages. Hamilton's reasons for the tax were several: he wanted to pay down the national debt, but justified the tax "more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue."[1] But most importantly, Hamilton "wanted the tax imposed to advance and secure the power of the new federal government."[2]

This marked the first time under the new United States Constitution that the federal government used military force to exert authority over the nation's citizens. It was also one of only two times that a sitting President personally commanded the military in the field. (The other was after President James Madison fled the British occupation of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.)

The military suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion set a precedent that American citizens who wished to change the law had to do so peacefully through constitutional means; otherwise, the government would meet any threats to disturb the peace with force>