Tarring and Feathering

Picture by Iams

The following is taken from The Whiskey Rebellion by Thomas P. Slaughter, 1986, by Oxford University Press:

John Neville actually succeeded in establishing an office of excise inspection in June 1794. John Lynn agreed to sublease part of his house to the excise inspector. Neville's joy at this breakthrough was tempered by fear that the office would not last and, indeed, not long after the arrangement became known, Lynn was visited by a group of about twelve armed men with blackened faces. Lynn barricaded himself up stairs and refused to come down to face the intruders. They promised Lynn that his person and house would be spared injury if he surrendered peacefully. When Lynn complied, the men seized him, threatened to hang him, and finally, after abusing him further, carted Lynn off to a remote section of the forest where they cut off his hair, stripped him naked, and tarred and feathered him. They made him swear never again to suffer an excise Office to operate in his home and never to reveal their names to any person associated with the national government. When Lynn had submitted to all their demands, the crowd tied him to a tree and left him there, alone, over night. The next morning someone "found" Lynn still naked and lashed to the tree, and released him.

Battered and humiliated, Lynn kept his word, but was personally ruined, nonetheless. According to Neville, "he was an innkeeper and lived in a rented house. His custom has left him, his landlord ordered him off, and the people of the town are for immediately banishing him." It was a sure lesson to Lynn and any other men who might consider succoring the excise law within their premises. It was another defeat for Neville's efforts to enforce the law in Pennsylvania's four western counties.

Benjamin Wells was no more successful with the excise office he temporarily established in the Westmoreland County home of Philip Regan. The house and its occupant were besieged by armed assailants several times during June. The attackers were repulsed, but the office never functioned as an agency of excise collection. During the same month, incendiaries burned the barns of people who had volunteered as witnesses against perpetrators of anti-excise violence; the vandals were never identified.

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