Joe Biden will for me be one of the funniest people in the new administration. He is well known for spouting some random stuff. I fully expect that one day he will say “Ladies and gentlemen, from now on my name will be Elizabeth.” Mark my words on that. He did say something during the campaign that I found interesting, and probably more truthful than many things he has said. He said, and I am paraphrasing here, that the President Elect Obama would face a Crisis within 6 months of taking office. So I pulled the Internet out of my bookcase, along with my books of U.S. History and decided to do some research. My quest was to determine if there were any historical reason that he might say that Obama would face a crisis.
What I found is very interesting, some of it even funny. Allow me to share with you some of these stories. If history isn’t your thing I would suggest you return to watching cartoons. What I hope to show is how our government works. Specifically how one administration can effect administrations years in advance. All of the information provided is taken from the historical record. Conjecture, or guesswork is left out…if I don’t know why…I will say so.
Washington, Booze, and Taxes.
It can easily be said that George Washington had one heck of a problem when he first took office. The Federal Government only existed on paper. We had a constitution, and it told all about what we needed to form a government, but we were missing all the parts. The Senate, and House of Representatives filled up pretty quick. Washington not only appointed his cabinet, but he also picked the entire Supreme Court. President’s today would kill to be able to do that. In comparison to the issues he would shortly face, this was all busy work.
The United States started out with a huge budget deficit. To repay this debt the new Federal Government imposed a 25% tax on the sale of whiskey. Like most taxes it affects some people more than others. There is no such thing as a fair tax. Unless you actually own a fair…in which case you may be taxed.
18th century America was a fruitful place. Farmers were the backbone of the economy, and their crops fed the new nation, and much of it was shipped to other countries. In those days there were no refrigerated ships, or vacuum-sealed containers. Perishables foods were sold locally. Where possible things were dried for shipping. Grains on the other hand offered a great method of shipping. Liquefied grain could be shipped around the world and spoilage was unheard of. Liquefied grain, more commonly known, as booze was a huge cash crop. An obvious choice for a tax if ever there was one.
The people of Western Pennsylvania didn’t see a tax as a good thing. They were making good money on whiskey, and the tax took most of the profit out of the equation. So, the people did what every good American did back then, they protested. Today someone might fire off a nasty letter to the editor, or waste their time contacting their senator or congressman. Keep in mind, most American’s couldn’t read or write, so a letter to the editor might look like this.
“deer editer, tackes suk”
Now we could talk about the Main Stream Media of the 18th century, but why bother, they didn’t listen any better then than they do today.
The people of Western Pennsylvania did what all good red blooded Americans of that time did…they tarred and feathered people…beat them up…smacked them around…and became bootleggers. God Bless America and Quakers.
Here is Washington’s crisis…He has nearly half of the country (by the time he got to this problem most of the western portions of the states were angry) thumbing their nose at Federal Authority. He also has the cranky people of Congress wanting to know what he is going to do about it. Washington did what all great military leaders do…he called out the militia. Washington made “Light Horse” Harry Lee the commander of 13,000 troops. This is more than the total strength of the Continental Army used to defeat the British. Washington even rode at the head of the Army to show his strength. This was the first and last time a U.S. President actually led his Army to a fight.*
The result of all of this was that the Federal Government proved that it could and would intervene in the enforcement of Federal Law. It also created suspicion in the people that the Federal Government could violate State’s Rights whenever they wanted to. This was an issue not fully answered until after the Civil War. The Federal Government arrested a few of the leaders, and some were even tried for treason. Washington pardoned those involved, and the tax was repealed in 1803.
The Whiskey Revolution had other significant impacts on the nation. Thomas Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State in part due to the Revolution. He went on to found the Democratic-Republican Party. Another interesting person was involved in the Whiskey Rebellion, a Quaker by the name of Herman Husband. Husband died in jail before Washington could release him. This is a link to another article I wrote about Husband’s involvement in another revolt. CLICK HERE
How does this compare to the Biden prediction? Well the Whiskey Rebellion became a crisis in the Second Year of Washington’s Second Term. This is well outside the 6-month period. The rebellion was a real threat to the nation and the Constitution. If Washington had not made a significant response to the violence, our nation would be much different. Violence would be considered the proper way to show displeasure for a federal law. Washington’s response demonstrated to the states that an act of violence toward Federal Authority would be met with force.
Stay tuned for “How a treaty that averted war actually started one”.
*James Madison had directed Federal forces during the War of 1812, but did not actually participate in leading the troops into battle.