"This is the most compelling and dramatically rendered story of the Whiskey Rebellion ever written. It is so riveting that one almost imagines being on the Pennsylvania frontier when the benighted farmers resisted the federal government and tried to cope with the huge army sent west to bludgeon them into submission. Hogeland unravels complex economic issues, shifting political ideologies, and legal maneuverings with uncommon skill, and he has brought to life in beautifully polished prose a cast of characters: insurgent farmers wearing blackface, religious mystics, radical intellectuals, stiff-necked financiers, land speculators, and of course Hamilton, Washington, and other iconic figures of the revolutionary era who heaped wrath on the hardscrabble inheritors of revolutionary radicalism. Every American who values the history of how liberty and authority have stood in dynamic tension throughout the last three centuries should read this luminous book."
Gary B. Nash, Professor of History and Director of the National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA
"A great read and an intelligent, insightful, and bold look at an overlooked but vital incident in American history."
Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row
"Hogeland's judicious, spirited study offers a lucid window into a mostly forgotten episode in American history and a perceptive parable about the pursuit of political plans no matter what the cost to the nation's unity."
"A vigorous, revealing look at a forgotten...chapter in American history, one that invites critical reconsideration of a founding father or two."
Soon after Americans ousted inequitable British taxation, Secretary of Finance Alexander Hamilton, hatched a plan to put the new nation on steady financial footing by imposing the first American excise tax, on whiskey makers. The tax favored large distillers over small farmers with stills in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and the farmers fomented their own new revolution-a challenge to the sovereignty of the new government and the power of the wealthy eastern seaboard. In a fast-paced, blow-by-blow account of this "primal national drama," journalist Hogeland energetically chronicles the skirmishes that made the Whiskey Rebellion from 1791 to 1795 a symbol of the conflict between republican ideals and capitalist values. The rebels engaged in civil disobedience, violence against the tax collectors and threatened to secede from the new republic. Eventually Washington led federal troops to quell the rebellion, arresting leaders such as Herman Husband, a hollow-eyed evangelist who believed that the rebellion would usher in the New Jerusalem. Hogeland's judicious, spirited study offers a lucid window into a mostly forgotten episode in American history and a perceptive parable about the pursuit of political plans no matter what the cost to the nation's unity. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Contrarian account of a contrarian struggle, in some senses America's first civil war. If it's mentioned at all in survey texts, the Whiskey Rebellion is usually seen as an effort on the part of simpleminded frontiersmen to keep Washington revenuers from taxing their corn mash, a sort of postcolonial Snuffy Smith. The rebellion was more complicated, as freelance journalist Hogeland shows; though plenty of roughshod and untutored frontier figures took up arms against the federal government, the movement to resist excise taxes that favored wealthy and large producers of booze over mom-and-pop operations was widely perceived as justifiable opposition to tyranny. Blame it on Alexander Hamilton; the first treasury secretary found it expedient to retire war debts owed to wealthy domestic creditors by levying charges of many kinds on states, communities and consumers. His financier ally, Robert Morris, benefited greatly from the repayment (plus interest, and lots of it) of the war debt; he also "controlled all real power in Congress, as well as the Continental Army" and was, by Hogeland's account, a scammer and a scoundrel. After the revolution, Hamilton labored to bring the independent-minded western frontier-then extending not much further west than Pittsburgh-under the control of tax agents such as John Neville, who lived on a splendid estate staffed by slaves in the abolition-minded, poor Appalachians; a key moment in the rebellion of 1791 was the incineration of that fine estate by a grim army dressed in blackface, Indian garb and even women's clothing. Led by an offbeat evangelist who experienced visions and believed in such strange ideas as profit-sharing and a progressive income tax, therebellion was quickly suppressed by federal troops at George Washington's order-though, as Hogeland notes, Washington himself took to making whiskey soon afterward, even as his successor, Thomas Jefferson, repealed the hated whiskey tax. A vigorous, revealing look at a forgotten-and confusing-chapter in American history, one that invites critical reconsideration of a founding father or two.