Redstone Fort - July 27, 1791, Opposition to the Whiskey Excise Tax


The Causes of that so called Whiskey Insurrection of 1794

By C. M. Ewing (1930)

A meeting was called at Redstone Old Fort (Brownsville, Fayette County, Pa.) to be held on July 27, 1791 with any person opposed to the law invited to attend.

 It was decided at this meeting that each of the four counties --Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland--should meet in their respective county seats and take measures toward a common end --successful resistance to the enforcement of the law.

 At the Washington County meeting held on August 23, 1791 resolutions were passed to the effect that:

 "any person who has accepted or might accept an office under Congress in order to carry out the Excise law should be considered inimical to the interests of the Country, and recommending that -people 'of their county to treat every person who has accepted or might thereafter accept any such office, with contempt and refuse all kind of communication or intercourse with him and to, withhold from him all aid, comfort and support".

Among those present at the Washington County meeting were:

James Marshel  - Registrar and Recorder for Washington County

David Bradford - Deputy Attorney-General of Pennsylvania

Henry Taylor -Associate Justice of Washington County

James Edgar - Associate Justice of Washington County

Thomas Crook - Justice of the Peace


William Parker - Justice of the Peace Eli Jenkins - Justice of the Peace Thomas Sedgwick - Justice of the Peace Peter Kidd - Major in the Washington County Militia

The involvement of such leading citizens is indicative of the serious attitude taken toward the Law.

 Each of the county committees delegated three of its members to meet in Pittsburgh on September 7, 1791 for the purpose of expressing the sense of the people in the four counties in an address to Congress. Several resolutions were passed at this meeting "censuring the legislation of the late Congress, especially the obnoxious excise law, which they characterized as "a base offspring of the funding system..... being attended with infringements on liberty, partial in its operation, attended with great expense in its collection and liable to much abuse".

 The meeting also adopted a remonstrance "to be presented to the Legislature of Pennsylvania" and further resolved "that the foregoing representations (the series of resolutions adopted) be presented to the Legislature of the United States".

 An address was also adopted which, to-ether with the proceeding of the day, were ordered to be printed in the Pittsburgh Gazette.

 In reference to the meeting in Pittsburgh and other similar gatherings, Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, said that "being composed of very influential individuals, and conducted without moderation or prudence, they were justly chargeable with the excesses which were afterwards committed, serving to give consistency to opposition which at length matured to a degree that threatened the foundations of the government".

On the day before the meeting in Pittsburgh, violence broke out in opposition to the law. This was on September 6, 1791.

by J. Howard Iams

 At a place near Pigeon Creek in Washington County, a party of men, armed and disguised, waylaid Robert Johnson, collector of revenues for Allegheny and Washington Counties. They cut his hair, stripped him of his clothing, tarred and feathered him and took away his horse. He was forced to travel, quite a distance in his mortifying condition. He was also forced to resign his commission as collector and publish the fact in the Pittsburgh Gazette. At least three men were later arrests for this action (but not penalized).

 This was the first act of violence in opposition to the excise laws of 1791.

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