In 1791, at the frontier headwaters of the Ohio River, gangs with blackened faces began to attack federal officials, beating and torturing the collectors who plagued them with the first federal tax ever laid on an American product -- whiskey. In only a few years, those attacks snowballed into an organized regional movement dedicated to resisting the fledgling government's power and threatening secession, even civil war.
With an unsparing look at both Hamilton and Washington -- and at lesser-known, equally determined frontier leaders such as Herman Husband and Hugh Henry Brackenridge -- journalist and popular historian William Hogeland offers an insightful, fast-paced account of the remarkable characters who perpetrated this forgotten revolution, and those who suppressed it. To Hamilton, the whiskey tax was key to industrial growth and could not be permitted to fail. To hard-bitten people in what was then the wild West, the tax paralyzed their economies while swelling the coffers of greedy creditors and industrialists. To President Washington, the settlers' resistance catalyzed the first-ever deployment of a huge federal army, led by the president himself, a military strike to suppress citizens who threatened American sovereignty.
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George Washington fought in both the French and Indian and the Revolutionary wars, and was his country's first President. Alexander Hamilton was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, the first Secretary of the Treasury and died in a duel with Aaron Burr. The Ohio River, the largest contributor of water to the Mississippi, flows generally east to west and represents the boundary between several states. The Whiskey Rebellion was a protest by western Pennsylvanians against a federal tax on whiskey. Secessionis the reverse of union, and involves the separation of a part of a unified country into political independence.