From Publishers Weekly
Soon after Americans ousted inequitable British taxation, Secretary of Finance Alexander Hamilton, hatched a plan to put the new nation on steady financial footing by imposing the first American excise tax, on whiskey makers. The tax favored large distillers over small farmers with stills in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and the farmers fomented their own new revolution—a challenge to the sovereignty of the new government and the power of the wealthy eastern seaboard. In a fast-paced, blow-by-blow account of this "primal national drama," journalist Hogeland energetically chronicles the skirmishes that made the Whiskey Rebellion from 1791 to 1795 a symbol of the conflict between republican ideals and capitalist values. The rebels engaged in civil disobedience, violence against the tax collectors and threatened to secede from the new republic. Eventually Washington led federal troops to quell the rebellion, arresting leaders such as Herman Husband, a hollow-eyed evangelist who believed that the rebellion would usher in the New Jerusalem. Hogeland's judicious, spirited study offers a lucid window into a mostly forgotten episode in American history and a perceptive parable about the pursuit of political plans no matter what the cost to the nation's unity. (Apr.)
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Most general U.S. history texts gloss over the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 as a minor, spasmodic outburst of violence by disgruntled farmers in western Pennsylvania. Not so, says Hogeland. In this uneven but provocative and interesting chronicle, he weaves in themes of class conflict, easterner versus westerner, and local control versus the newly strengthened federal government. This is not a scholarly tome. Hogeland is not a professional historian, and he takes unwarranted liberties by imagining the mental states of characters, including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. He views the rebellion as the culmination of a "people's movement" in which debtors struggled against creditors and poor farmers struggled against a merchant elite and their allies--land speculators. Of course, this is the economic determinism of Charles Beard in the form of a nonfiction novel. Although Hogeland's analysis is short on verifiable data, he knows how to tell an exciting story, and some of his assertions are worthy of consideration by serious historians. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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