Monday, April 2, 2018
George Washington -- President and Whiskey Distiller
By Paisley Kirkpatrick Washington himself rode at the head of an army to suppress the insurgency, with 13,000 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The rebels all went home before the arrival of the army, and there was no confrontation. About 20 men were arrested, but all were later acquitted or pardoned. Most distillers in nearby Kentucky were found to be all-but-impossible to tax—in the next six years, over 175 distillers from Kentucky were convicted of violating the tax law. Numerous examples of resistance are recorded in court documents and newspaper accounts. The Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated that the new national government had the will and ability to suppress violent resistance to its laws, though the whiskey excise remained difficult to collect. The events contributed to the formation of political parties in the United States, a process already underway. The whiskey tax was repealed in the early 1800s during the Jefferson administration. President Washington wanted to resolve this dispute peacefully. In 1792, he issued a national proclamation admonishing westerners for their resistance to the operation of the laws of the United States for raising revenue upon spirits distilled within the same. However, by 1794 the protests became violent. In July, nearly 400 whiskey rebels near Pittsburg set fire to the home of John Neville, the regional tax collection supervisor. Left with little recourse and at the urgings of Secretary Hamilton, Washington organized a militia force of 12,950 men and led them towards Western Pennsylvania, warning locals "not to abet, air, or comfort the Insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril." The calling of the militia had the desired effect of essentially ending the Whiskey Rebellion. By the time the militia reached Pittsburgh, the rebels had dispersed and could not be found. The militia apprehended approximately 150 men and tried them for treason. A lack of evidence and inability to obtain witnesses hampered the trials. Two men, John Mitchell and Philip Weigel, were found guilty of treason, though both were pardoned by President Washington. By 1802, then President Thomas Jefferson repealed the excise tax on whiskey. Under the eye of President Washington, the emerging United States survived the first true challenge to federal authority. George Washington’s Rye Whiskey is distilled at George Washington’s reconstructed distillery at Mount Vernon from a recipe discovered by scholars examining the distillery ledgers for 1798 and 1799. It is distilled in limited quantities and only available for purchase in person. In 1797, urged on by his farm manager, James Anderson, Washington ramped up production and it produced 600 gallons in 1799. The year Washington died, the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it the largest whiskey distillery in America at that time.