Historian and author Brady Crytzer joins Tim to talk about his latest book on one of the lesser known stories of early America…the Whiskey Rebellion. Brady is the author of “The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis.” It comes along at a time when our newly formed republic was still in its infancy. Well not quite infancy. If the Civil War was America’s rebellious teen years, then the Whiskey Rebellion was our country’s Terrible Twos.
It’s probably not an overstatement to say that a good number of Americans today never heard of Alexander Hamilton until the hit Broadway musical called Hamilton hit the stage in 2015. They may not even realize that he’s the face they see on the front of the ten-dollar bills they spend. And even they do know of Alexander Hamilton, some think he was one our first presidents.
Such is life in America in 2023. But the fact that we’re still talking about the man says something of the impact he had on the shaping of the nation.
We’re going to talk about a piece of his legacy, and that of George Washington and others, in the context of a true insurrection. In March of 1791, U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton proposed a domestic tax that sent shockwaves through the Western Frontier and sparked an insurrection.
At that time, the Western frontier was western Pennsylvania, an area known in Philadelphia as the Ohio Territories. Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland.
What Hamilton proposed was an excise tax on whiskey. His goal was to balance America’s national debt in the wake of the Revolutionary War and the country’s battle for independence.
The law he sponsored was called the Whiskey Act, and it penalized famers in the backcountry, while playing favorites with large distillers.
It’s may be hard for Americans to understand today, but ultimately the controversy centered on imposing federal authority over frontier settlers.
American history author Brady Crytzer says to understand why this didn’t go over well, you need to understand more about the western frontier and the times in which they lived.
- The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis, by Brady Crytzer (Amazon)
- Brady Crytzer Website
- ‘The Whiskey Rebellion’ Review: A Young Nation, Suddenly Tested, Wall Street Journal
- Whiskey Rebellion, History Channel
About this Episode’s Guest Brady Crytzer
Brady J. Crytzer teaches history at Robert Morris University. His book The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis was listed as one of “Ten Books to Read” by the Wall Street Journal in 2023. A specialist in Frontier History Crytzer is the host of the weekly hit podcast “Dispatches: The Podcast of the Journal of the American Revolution.” Crytzer has appeared on Sirius/XM and on the hit cable series Into the Wild Frontier on NBC Peacock as a narrator and consultant. He is the host of the Telly Award winning series Battlefield Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Crytzer is the winner of the Donna J. McKee and Donald S. Kelly Awards for Outstanding Scholarship and Service in History. His work has been featured in the Journal of the American Revolution, American History Magazine, American Frontiersman Magazine, The Journal of the Early Republic, Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Game News, and Muzzleloader Magazine. His work has been reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Journal of Southern History, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and The Journal of Military History.