Historical Highlights

The 1791 Excise Whiskey Tax

January 27, 1791
The 1791 Excise Whiskey Tax Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object 
President George Washington served as a Member of the First and Second Continental Congress before accepting the commission as Commander of the Continental Army.
After a spirited debate, the House passed, by a 35 to 21 majority, the Excise Whiskey Tax—legislation that proved wildly unpopular with farmers and eventually precipitated the “Whisky Rebellion.” The measure levied a federal tax on domestic and imported alcohol, earmarked to offset a portion of the federal government’s recent assumption of state debts. Southern and western farmers, whose grain crop was a chief ingredient in whiskey, loudly protested the tax. In 1794, farmers in western Pennsylvania attacked federal officials seeking to collect tax on the grain they had distilled into whiskey. The administration of President George Washington dispatched a force of nearly 13,000 militia to put down a feared revolt. Resistance, however, dissipated when the troops arrived.

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