George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic Societies
The Causes of that so called Whiskey Insurrection of 1794
By C. M. Ewing (1930)
Resorting to the excesses of the French Revolution and the rise of the French Jacobin Clubs as a bogey to send the shivers through society, and, incidentally, to stop the progress of this developing political force, Hamilton saw his chance; and Washington's annual message to Congress at the end of 1794 contained a scathing denunciation of the Democratic Societies as dangerous to the public welfare.
In a letter to Madison, Jefferson says in part: "the denunciation of the democratic societies is one of the extraordinary acts of boldness of which we have soon so many from the faction of monocrats. It is Wonderful indeed, that the President should have permitted himself to be the organ of such an attack on the freedom of discussion, the freedom of writing, printing & publishing." In the same letter he continues, asking why there should be such a different attitude shown toward Democratic Clubs: "whose avowed object is the nourishment of the republican principles of our constitution, and the society of the Cincinnati -- carving out for itself hereditary distinctions, loitering over our Constitution eternally, meeting together in all parts of the Union, periodically, with closed doors, accumulating a capital in their separate treasury, corresponding secretly and regularly, and of which society the very persons denouncing the democrats are themselves the fathers, founders and high officers."
It was as Jefferson puts it, wonderful that the great Washington would succumb to the unsavory Hamiltonian tactics and thus denounce his follow countrymen. Its effect was far reaching and resulted in the complete collapse of the President's popularity. Much has been written in relation to Washington and the third term issue. However, the cold facts of the matter are that he could not have been elected to a third term.
Return to the Whiskey Rebellion