Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution
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on 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. Slaughter describes the federal government and its supporters as having "generally shared a Hobbesian-type fear of anarchy as the starting point for their consideration," while he says that the Whiskey Rebels and their friends "took a more Lockeian-type stance," believing "that protection of liberty, not the maintenance of order, was the principal task of government." The federal government emphasized the power of the Constitution, while the Whiskey Rebels emphasized the much more radical Declaration of Independence.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a turning point in America's history. It showed the central government's willingness and ability to enforce its laws even at great distance from it center of power. It was a midwife to the birth of true political parties that emerged in the following years. And it set the parameters of the great political debate of just what the meaning of the American Revolution and what it means to be an American really is, a debate that continues along remarkably similar lines to this day.
This book will be of particular interest to those interested in the early Republic and the Washington Administration, the career of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist - Anti-Federalist question, or the early American frontier. It is well written, well reasoned, and highly recommended.

Theo Logos
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on 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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on July 24, 2010
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.

Just looking over the above list, that kinda/sorta sounds like the Taxed Enough Already (TEA) party movement of today, doesn't it ?

Anyway, y'all might want to look at this slim volume (less than 250 pages) for a fascinating story (dare I say "footnote") in American history that is now glossed over if not outright ignored. The same causes of protest that existed in pre-1776, 1791-94 (Whiskey Rebellion), the South Carolina Nullification Crisis of 1832, all of which led to the War Between The States (1860-65), have a tendency to re-surface throughout American history, as it has once again today.

And if you want to read an entertaining fictionalization of the Whiskey Rebellion, which also incorporates the creation and establishment of the first Bank of the United States, then read "The Whiskey Rebels" by David Liss.

UP THE REBELS !!!!!!!
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on August 19, 2007
"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. In fact, future Secretary of the US Treasury (for Thomas Jefferson) Albert Gallatin was one of the leaders of the rebellion.

In summary, this is a very fine book that covers a critical period in US history from a refreshingly different perspective. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in early US history, though I would also be reluctant to recommend it to those just beginning to read on this topic. I would also highly recommend the book on Shays's (spelling is correct, three "s"'s) Rebellion by Leonard Richards.
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on July 8, 2012
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. Professor Thomas P. Slaughter does far more than describe the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794; he digs into and presents the full depth of the motivations, prejudices, class-differences, and mistrusts of 18th century American society that underly the the event. Rarely does an historian venture into the amorphous realm of human motivations, intentions, and desires without creating a breach in believability; this author succeeds with fact, anecdote, example and often period documentation.

Excise tax and western American settler's reaction to it is the focus of the Rebellion. But first we learn the societal reactions to "internal taxation". Professor Slaughter illustrates this through a review of the earlier visceral reaction of the western settlers' British ancestors: first to Sir Robert Walpole's salt tax (1733) then to the revolts in reaction to Lord Butes's cider tax (1763). The Rebellion itself is understood only through its precursor events.

The style and structure of the book are consistently entertaining. Each chapter is led off by a 1-2 page vignette from the recorded history of the time that highlights the theme of the chapter. These vignettes are drawn from historical records, or earlier writings of historians and always set off in italics to let the reader know that another author is speaking. Chapter Three, "Sectional Strife", for example, begins with the harrowing tale of Massy White and her encounter with frontier savagery, Chapter Four "Lice, Labor and Landscape" illustrates the deplorable frontier living conditions of the time, Chapter Five tells of the settlers back-lash and massacre of innocent "Moravian" indians. Professor Slaughter's book shows painstaking research and is admirably styled; it will be appreciated by those with a keen interest in the topic and the patience for a very detailed read. It is a serious publication, well cited with notes and impressively indexed to names, topics, geography, etc. In fact, Professor Slaughter notes in the Afterward that, "The Whiskey Rebellion: Past and Present Perspectives"...was the dissertation prospectus from which this book grew..."

The book has no overbearing lectures on modern political opinion and yet... the attitudes and prejudices of the time, on BOTH sides of the issues can be seen reflected in the extremes of contemporary political opinions. The language and style make the book an easy read, in fact often gripping - even so, this is not a book "for the beach". Be sure that you are interested this period of early American history and that you have patience for a dig to the depths of this event. If you do, you will find: fascinating analysis, smartly inter-woven threads of American and British history, and a thorough analysis of the roots of the Whiskey Rebellion.

-----kindle edition-----

Perfect! The way an e-book SHOULD be published when extracting paper book price for a digital product. The table of contents works from the kindel's "Go To" menu, hardcopy "page numbers" are available from the menu & toolbar tap (page top) end note superscripts link you to the citation - and return to text via the end-note number, and there is a proper working index, linked to all of the text locations. Bravo, Oxford Univ. Press. e-Book publication quality, ★★★★★. (Will you have a word with other publishers, please?)
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on April 14, 2012
Not only well-written and fascinating, it should be a must for all US History classes because of the extensive background which places this rebellion in its English context concerning the distinctions with and among taxes because after all one of the important issues in the 1776-1781 Revolution concerned taxation.
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on May 22, 2012
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 open the Mississippi and Ohio rivers up for trade with New Orleans and St. Louis. Well written and easy to read.
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on January 27, 2010
I was curious about this little known event and thought that the book would be a good primer. To my pleasure the book is in great depth, well annotated, and from what crosschecking I have done quite accurate. This offers a picture window sized view of both the events and culture in the late 18th C particularly at the western edge of the new United States. The author offers insight into the the motives and thinking of both the "more primative frontier settlers" and their sophisticated Eastern countrymen. The politics of access to the Mississippi River, the Indian conflicts, the advent of the C & O canal and the sense that the west felt poorly represented in Philadelphia are all well addressed. The politics and history offered here are very relevant today, and serve as a primer on taxation and representation. This should be included in any early American history course particularly at the High school level. This is not a quick read, but is very well worth an arm chair and several cups of tea.
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on May 16, 2006
Slaughter's book is the definitive treatment of the Whiskey Rebellion. The Whiskey Rebellion arose in 1794 along the frontier and especially in western Pennsylvania in reaction to a federal excise tax on whiskey. Western farmers relied on whiskey as a crucial cash crop and even as a medium of exchange. An internal tax on this item was greatly resented as an imposition by a distant Eastern government that could not even protect the farmers from Indian attacks. A rebellion of sorts began when federal tax collectors attempted to enforce the law. The west saw the entire episode as a challenge to the liberty so recently won while the east saw it as a challenge to the very notion of ordered liberty.

Slaughter relates that the unrest reflected a strong and potentially significant rift between the eastern and western US. Westerners considered that the eastern leaders simply did not care about western problems. In the midst of the debate over the excise tax, St. Clair's Indian expedition met with disaster in the Ohio country - the most complete defeat of the US Army ever. As Slaughter tells it this defeat confirmed for westerners the inability of the central government to protect their interests.

By the time Washington marched his troops (derisively called the Watermelon Army) west, the rebellion had already moved from violence to a political phase but Washington wanted to make a point about central authority. Washington, a major absentee landowner, put down what was left of the rebellion with few casualties. Only a handful of rebels were taken into custody, fewer still were charged. The few that were convicted of treason were pardoned by Washington. Washington did not need to be punitive as he had already made his point with his army.

Highly recommended.
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on November 7, 2014
Living in western Pa. as I do, I loved this book.
Many places mentioned as where a particular Indian attack happened I know personally.
And Gen. Washington isn't as squeaky clean as portrayed in school.
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