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Whiskey Rebellion Facts

Learn More About the History Explored in This Episode

Ringmaster, King George, Bryan, and Clay perform a historical reenactment of a tax collector being punished at the hands of rebel farmers.

The Diggers reenact a scene from the Whiskey Rebellion. (View larger version)

Photograph by Kate Culpepper / National Geographic Channels

  • The excise tax, a tax on alcohol, sparked the Whiskey Rebellion. Whiskey was sometimes used for trading in the early days of the United States, which helped to make this tax unpopular (to say the least) in some circles.
  • President George Washington personally led troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. He remains the only sitting president to go into battle.
  • Rebels would tar and feather tax collectors as punishment.
  • When the Whiskey Rebellion ended, only two rebels were convicted of treason. President Washington pardoned both.
  • Tom the Tinker’s signature became an emblem of the rebellion, warning people not to cooperate with the tax.
  • The Minié system, including Minié bullets and rifles, could be accurate up to 250 yards. Earlier weaponry had a much smaller range.
  • While the Liberty Cap large cent was only minted for a short time, large cents were around much longer. They were minted from 1793 all the way until 1857, when they were replaced by the penny.