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The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution [Paperback]

by Thomas P. Slaughter
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 14, 1988 0195051912 978-0195051919 Reprint
When President George Washington ordered an army of 13,000 men to march west in 1794 to crush a tax rebellion among frontier farmers, he established a range of precedents that continues to define federal authority over localities today. The "Whiskey Rebellion" marked the first large-scale resistance to a law of the U.S. government under the Constitution. This classic confrontation between champions of liberty and defenders of order was long considered the most significant event in the first quarter-century of the new nation. Thomas P. Slaughter recaptures the historical drama and significance of this violent episode in which frontier West and cosmopolitan East battled over the meaning of the American Revolution.

The book not only offers the broadest and most comprehensive account of the Whiskey Rebellion ever written, taking into account the political, social and intellectual contexts of the time, but also challenges conventional understandings of the Revolutionary era.

Frequently Bought Together

The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution + The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty (Simon & Schuster America Collection) + Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle
Price for all three: $41.45

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Slaughter restores the Whiskey Rebellion (1794) to its rightful place as a major event in our national history. He contends that it parallels the conflicts over taxation and representation of the Revolution. Slaughter ably reconstructs the rebellion's social, ideological, political, and personal concerns, and delineates its national and international dimensions. Most importantly, he shows that the frontier is truly central to understanding the period, and that the excise tax protest was frontier-wide, not limited to western Pennsylvania, as is so often believed. Slaughter's provocative treatment of nationalist leaders and his reliance on an "interregional interpretation" and a "liberty-order construct" are bound to stir lively discussion. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries. Roy H. Tryon, Delaware State Archives, Dover
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A vivid account of how 7,000 rioting settlers in western Pennsylvania and beyond opposed a Federal tax on liquor."--The New York Times

"In this year when Americans will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, [this] highly readable volume should provide much food for thought."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Slaughter restores the Whiskey Rebellion to its rightful place in our national history....Highly recommended."--Library Journal

"[Slaughter] succeeds admirably in his goal of bringing this episode in frontier history to center stage in American history."--William and Mary Quarterly

"A vivid picture of the squalor of life west of the mountains and the insensitivity of speculators, including Washington himself."--History Book Review

"Slaughter's book will be the standard for the next generation....[It] will certainly stand in the forefront as the standard complete interpretation for years to come."--West Virginia History

"An intelligent and thorough study which links the back country to broader...issues....Well-done."--M. Bellesiles, Emory University

"Insightful and well-written...excellent."--Delmer G. Ross, Loma Linda University

"An unusual combination of meticulous scholarship and engaging narrative. [Slaughter's] highly readable volume should provide much food for thought."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"An important reexamintation of the meaning of the American Revolution. The text is written to engage as well as inform ensuring that students will actually learn from it."--Barbara M. Kelly, Hofstra University

Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Reprint edition (January 14, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195051912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195051919
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent portrayal of the events of the rebellion. August 10, 1998
This book was well documented and portrayed wonderfully the life of the frontiersmen and how they viewed the "oppression" of the Easterners. However, it equally balances the view of the Easterners toward their perceptions and interpretations of the actions of the frontiersmen. It offers the student of history a very balanced view of what took place two hundred years ago on the western Pennsylvania frontier in a very readable form. Slaughter always manages to give both sides to each issue and interprets the events thusly. Unfortunately, the one issue the author failed to cover was the impact of the frontier church in the shaping of events. Surely with the 2nd Great Awakening on the frontier's horizon this would have implications. The final compliment to the author is that I truly appreciated his stories that started each chapter. These real-life events vividly portray life as it was on the frontier; a hard and sometimes terrifying life. It is this strug! gle of life that we owe our forefathers respect that is deserving of applause. Slaughter did this for these people.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Battle for the Meaning of the American Revolution February 2, 2005
In October of 1794, President Washington sent an army nearly 13,000 strong across the Allegheny Mountains into the frontier regions of Western Pennsylvania to suppress a popular uprising against the federal government. This event marked the greatest internal crisis of Washington's administration, and the most significant crisis of disunion to the United States prior to the Civil War. This significance of this event, both at the time, and to the continuing debate about the meaning of America, has often been overlooked or forgotten in popular histories. Thomas Slaughter's book goes a long way toward correcting that oversight.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a reaction against an excise tax place on spirits, and shared much in common with the similar tax revolt against the Stamp Act that ignited the flames of the American Revolution. Indeed, the Whiskey rebels saw themselves as upholding the spirit of the Revolution, and believed that the leaders of the federal government had abandoned those principles in favor of personal gain.
Slaughter does an outstanding job of telling each side of the story without a strong bias toward either side. He paints the rebellion as a massive failure to communicate between the parties involved. The conflict illustrated a deep divide between the East and the West of the country, setting urban against rural interests, localist ideologies against nationalist, and of course, all the familiar divisions that are inherent in class and economic differences.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Whiskey Rebellion" by Thomas Slaughter is an excellent book about a truly seminal event in early US history otherwise not well explained in numerous other books I have read covering the same time period. Chernow's book on Alexander Hamilton and Peterson's book on Thomas Jefferson, both absolutely first rate gold standard books, have barely a single page each on the topic.

The United State had just come together under a new Constitution. The Federal government had just assumed huge wartime debts of the states, and in order to pay these debts, the government enacted an excise tax on whiskey, which the entire western section of the country refused to pay. It wasn't just western Pennsylvania, as Slaughter points out, it was the entire rural western US at the time. Slaughter points out and explains how the tax wasn't fair to the westerners and how the struggle over the tax, more than anything else, caused a division in government leading to the formation of the Federalist and Republican political parties....Big stuff!

The book itself started out as Slaughter's PhD thesis at Princeton (my alma mater, too!) and was condensed (!) into this book. The book reads on the slower side, but I had a hard time putting it down because it contained so much fascinating insight. Slaughter does a great job of using primary source quotes to show the westerner's perspective, thankfully picking out the most juicy quotes and facts instead of asking the reader to wade through paragraphs of antiquated language.

Slaughter also shows that by time Hamilton convinced Washington to send in the troops, the "Rebellion" was a lot more civil than many in the East had been lead to believe.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up The Rebels !!!!! July 24, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been reading "Whiskey Rebellion: The Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution" by Thomas Slaughter, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in a little known event in American History.

Too often, when the Whiskey Rebellion is even mention in history books, it is relegated to nothing more than a bunch of back-country moonshiners taking pot-shots at the Revenuers sent by Alexander Hamilton to enforce the excise tax on distilled spirits. But it is MUCH MORE than just that.

In this book, an expansion on his doctoral History dissertation, Slaughter looks at the many different aspects of the Whiskey Rebellion: the historical connotations of taxation protest; the actual events that led up to it; and the consequences from it.

Slaughter details:
The historical back story of British and American resistance to taxation;
The confusing differences in terminology between "external" (i.e. importation duties) and "internal" (or "excise"--i.e. Stamp Act) taxes;
The unresponsiveness of a faraway legislative body (comparison between the British Parliament prior to 1776, and the newly established Federal Congress, post-1789) to various internal problems;
The ignoring of the frontiersmen's petitions and listed grievances to Congress;
The regional factionalism that affected political outlooks by all those involved;
The on-going invasion and violence along the frontier border areas;
The maligning of whiskey tax protesters as uneducated, uncouth, anti-government individuals looking to destroy the American Union;
The Eastern moneyed influencers (land speculators, bankers, merchants, etc.) who had a strong grip on the infant American federal government.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars good book for people interested in political history
I'm a historian and I enjoyed Prof. Slaughter's analysis, but I think the general reader will find this work slow going.
Published 2 months ago by Kenneth E. Kolk
5.0 out of 5 stars History you never knew
Don't read this if you can't handle some gory scenarios. This books reveals little known facts about that period of time before the American Revolution. Read more
Published 8 months ago by T.
5.0 out of 5 stars Being an Eckles from Beaver County--whats not to love???
If you love 'niche' history you'll love this excursion down little known American history's waypath. Read more
Published 8 months ago by linda eckles
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and well written
This may sound like a boring subject but Slaughter has done a great job in breathing life into it and demonstrating how the underlying causes and effects influenced our Revolution,... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Ed Boyle
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good overview of early challenge to the new Constitution
The Whiskey Rebellion was the first serious challenge to the powers of the U.S. government under the new Constitution. It also saw the first and, so far, only time a U.S. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bill Bruno
3.0 out of 5 stars Great history
This is a tremendously well researched book. It gives an account of all sides and causes of the rebellion. However it is a dry read. It feels like a textbook. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Patrick Shafto
5.0 out of 5 stars The History we Forgot
Great book for someone who is trying to find out more about where and how this country came from. If your a close minded right wing conservative afraid to hear the truth and... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Rick L. Roller
4.0 out of 5 stars Order or Liberty?
This is a book that elicits either very positive, or very negative reaction, as earlier reviewers have proven. It is a bit of early American history viewed under a microscope. Read more
Published 21 months ago by VA Duck
4.0 out of 5 stars Tax someone else
No one wants their product taxed. It is easier for the government to tax products not being produced by those passing the laws. As I was reading this book the T.V. Read more
Published 22 months ago by JLB
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history
So much I didn't know. I had heard of this tax, but not much had ever been written about the events and reasons for the delay in executing it and why the government didn't want to... Read more
Published 23 months ago by DG1939
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