Introduction – 10 September 1791

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Hello to everyone who is reading this blog! I’m not quite sure how you’re doing this, as it’s the late eighteenth century, but nevertheless, hello. My name is Jᴏʜɴ Tʜᴏᴍᴘsᴏɴ and I am a farmer in Western Pennsylvania. I decided to start this blog to chronicle the events that occurred in this part of Pennsylvania after the passing of the “Whiskey Tax,” in January of 1791.



The first item I’d like to discuss is why this tax was instituted in the first place. After the Revolutionary War, the federal government was left with a lot of debt. In order to combat that, they chose to institute a tax on the production of distilled spirits. This tax applies to everyone who makes them, but it has especially put us poor western farmers in a lot of trouble. We grow wheat out here, but we can’t easily sell our surplus to markets in the east. The grain would rot over such a long overland crossing and there aren’t any navigable rivers over which it could be shipped. So we turn it into whiskey instead, which doesn’t spoil and is much less bulky. This tax thus hurts because it taxes our main source of income. Furthermore, it taxes those with smaller stills, like most of us, at a higher rate than those with more capacity. Worst of all, it has to be payed in banknotes! See, there aren’t very many banknotes in circulation out on the frontier, so we actually often pay for things using whiskey as money.

All together, this has led to the tax being very unpopular and there is a lot of resentment towards it around here.

In the next post (coming in a few days), I’ll talk about the event which specifically compelled me to start this blog.

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