An Alternate Whiskey Rebellion

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Hnau, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
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    AN ALTERNATE WHISKEY REBELLION

    How successful could the rebels have been?

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    "Someone's barn goes up in flames on a moonless night. Ink runs down an official document soaked in alcohol. A lonely victim jogs, panting and pursued, down a dirt track. Hoisted up a pole, a homemade flag hangs over men who wander through smoke, guns pointing at nothing in particular, firing again and again."
    - William Hogeland, The Whiskey Rebellion

    The national crisis that came to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion began in the fall of 1791, when gangs on the western frontier started attacking collectors of the first federal tax on an American product, hard liquor. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America, had established the excise tax on domestic distilled spirits to provide much-needed federal revenues without resorting to the raising of tariffs. These revenues were required to pay back war debts and expand financial operations throughout the country, but to the frontier folk across the Appalachians who used whiskey as a form of hard currency the tax affected them disproportionately. The whiskey tax could very well destabilize and weaken the entire economy of the west. So, frontier Americans took to frontier methods of justice. Gang attacks on tax collectors took on frightening forms. The attackers' faces were often blackened to inspire fear among the victims of tarring-and-feathering and other torture tactics. Stripped to deerskin breeches, the gangs streaked their chests and faces with herb-dyed clay and stuck feathers in their hair, imitating native raiding parties.

    Those attacks would develop, over the course of more than two years, into something far more frightening to eastern authorities than rioting: a regional movement, centered at the headwaters of the Ohio in western Pennsylvania, dedicated to resisting federal authority west of the Alleghenies. The perpetrators were the toughest and hardest of westerners: farmers, laborers, hunters, and Indian fighters; most were disillusioned war veterans from the Revolutionary War. Expert woodsmen and marksmen, adept in rifle sharpshooting, they were organized in disciplined militias and comfortable with danger. The rebellion would bring to a climax an ongoing struggle not over taxation but over the meaning and purpose of the American Revolution itself.

    [​IMG]

    By September 1793 the federal government in Philadelphia had yet to respond to the lawlessness that continued to spread west of the Appalachian Mountains because of the unpopularity of the whiskey tax. During this interim, anti-government forces took the opportunity to organize themselves... In late 1791 a three-day conference of local leaders in Pittsburgh sent an anti-tax petition to Philadelphia. While the petition went ignored, the conference unified the community against federal injustices and motivated them to do even more. In the summer of 1792, five hundred militiamen in western Pennsylvania gathered to form the Mingo Creek Association, named after the church where they gathered. The Mingo Creek men endeavored to unite the western counties of Pennsylvania against the whiskey tax, and proceeded to do so by secretly placing their men in key positions of power in the militias of the region. They followed this by constituting their own makeshift courts of law to circumvent state-appointed judges, so that they effectively controlled the application of all laws west of the Alleghenies. When their power was questioned the Mingo Creek Association struck with force, sending their gangs to harass citizens. But for the most part, they reserved the majority of their ferocity for the tax collectors and anyone that cooperated with them. With the Mingo Creek Association dominating the political sphere in western Pennsylvania, the second Pittsburgh convention that was called in late 1792 could hardly keep from being radicalized. Demands made by the convention included the replacement of the whiskey excise with a progressive tax on wealth, the disabling of federal government hirelings, and the resignation of the most hated they wanted hirelings of the federal government disabled, and demanded the resignation of the inspector of federal revenues for the region, General John Neville.

    But while anti-government forces assembled in western Pennsylvania, Philadelphia was forced to concern itself with problems it believed were more important. The king of France had been decapitated. Algerian pirates were harassing American shipping. Britain seemed nearer and nearer to initiating a new war against the United States with every new report from London. In September 1793 Alexander Hamilton was worried about all of these developments, including the rebellion in Pennsylvania, and may have done something about it if fate hadn’t intervened.

    [​IMG]

    In the summer of 1793 in Philadelphia, some residents who lived near the wharves began to sicken and die from a disease that shook the body with chills and severe muscular pain. The red-eyed victims belched up black vomit from bleeding stomachs, their skins turned a hideous jaundiced color. The onset of the yellow-fever epidemic was later traced to an earlier influx of refugees from Santo Domingo, where a slave revolt had led to optimal conditions for the disease to spread. By late August, twenty people per day were expiring from the epidemic, which ultimately claimed nearly five thousand lives, bringing government and commerce to a standstill. Alexander Hamilton was determined to work through the epidemic in Philadelphia, and doing so caught yellow fever, most likely from one of his clerks. On September 9, 1793 news broke that the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury had succumbed to the disease. Alexander Hamilton was dead.

    There was an immediate emotional outpouring of sympathy from all Federalist strongholds. The body was returned to New York City for a grand funeral, which all the businesses in the city stopped out of respect. The funeral was held in St. Paul’s Chapel, where Gouvernour Morris, one of Hamilton’s political allies and dear friends, delivered the oration. One paper recorded: “The scene was impressive and what added unspeakably to its solemnity was the mournful group of tender boys, the sons, the once hopes and joys of the deceased, who, with tears gushing from their eyes, sat upon the state, at the feet of the orator, bewailing the loss of their parent! It was too much. The sternest powers, the bloodiest villain, could not resist the melting scene.”

    [​IMG]

    Much less widely applauded was the death of another man in Philadelphia that would have most certainly become a rival of Hamilton’s had he lived. Swiss-born Albert Gallatin, newly elected from Pennsylvania to the Senate, was in Philadelphia participating in the impeachment of a local official, which was to be his first act in government. At some point he contracted yellow fever, but this was only discovered on the September 28 when Gallatin was in New York City having stayed there following Hamilton’s funeral. In the house of his fiancée’s father, he perished from yellow fever and shared in his political rival’s fate. Unfortunately for Gallatin, for his funeral the city’s businesses did not cease.

    Replacements for these men into now-vacant positions of government were relatively quick. For Albert Gallatin, a special election by the General Assembly was held in which Federalist lawyer James Ross was chosen to be the new Pennsylvanian Senator. For Alexander Hamilton, President George Washington reluctantly chose the young Oliver Wolcott Jr., Hamilton’s deputy at the Treasury. The course of events of the Whiskey Rebellion would be decided in part by these two men, and in part by the lack of the greater men that it was their responsibility to replace.

    By May of 1794 the rebellion accelerated its pace. Liberty poles were rising. Up to a hundred feet tall, these were symbols of the trees under which the revolutionary committees of correspondence had organized to resist Great Britain. Where there were no appropriate trees, rebels of the senties had erected poles. The poles displayed symbols of resistance, the snake saying "Don't Tread on Me," striped flags showing the unity of townships. The appearance of liberty poles in the west thus had a meaning that was clear to everyone. Rebellion against tyranny was underway. The Revolution of 1776 was breaking out again.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  2. Hnau free radical

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    A Foreword from the Author

    Well, I've begun a new mini-timeline and intend to use more-or-less the same kind of casual style I used in Cortés kills Narváez at Veracruz, 1520. As you've seen in the first post, the presentation should be a bit better, but hopefully I can still write this quickly without dwelling on the details in the same way I did with that previous timeline.

    I used to be motivated by libertarian and objectivist ideas until about 2010. During that period of my life I read The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith and found it very entertaining because it mixed alternate history with a model for a libertarian utopia. In that story, Albert Gallatin becomes the leader of the Whiskey Rebellion and against all odds is able to lead an army consisting of both the rebels and soldier converts to the cause all the way to Philadelphia where President Washington is executed and the US Constitution is nullified. The Articles of Confederation are restored and modified to create a sort of night-watchman government that goes on to peacefully annex the entirety of North America. Recently, I began looking back at the story with a fresh non-libertarian perspective and saw it even more ridiculous than the first time. Nevertheless, it prompted me to read The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hogeland and other related books and I fell in love with the story of my country's first serious internal conflict.

    The Whiskey Rebels seem like a group of tragic characters to me. Many wanted a new American Revolution, not just for independence, but to create a society in the western frontier a like the one proposed by the English Levellers, with a progressive tax on wealth and government-distributed land solely to those that work it. Herman Husband, one of the leaders of the Rebellion, went even further and said that the Allegheny Mountains constituted the eastern wall of the biblical New Jerusalem and that it was the responsibility of the western rebels to defend it from the Satanic forces of the east. The whiskey rebels weren't the equivalent of modern-day libertarians, they were if anything anti-capitalists. Now, the rebels murdered innocent people, they burned down houses and destroyed property, yes, I'm not saying they were all good or heroic, but they shared with contemporary American progressives some basic ideas about wealth and what makes them stand out is that many were willing to die for those dreams.

    So, let's help the Whiskey Rebels out. What could we do within plausibility to help them succeed? Originally I wanted to follow L. Neil Smith's lead and have Gallatin play more of a leading role than he did in OTL, but it turns out the real Albert Gallatin wasn't what Smith made him out to be in The Probability Broach. He was actually a moderate among anti-federalists, and through speeches and statements he kept kept the whiskey rebels from going further with their plans. Maybe some of that radicalism could have persisted among the rebels if Gallatin wasn't there to take the wind out of their sails. I started looking for a Point of Divergence to remove Gallatin from the scene and stumbled onto accounts of the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, and in reading about it I realized that someone else contracted the disease and survived in OTL besides Gallatin: Alexander Hamilton, who led the federal response against western Pennsylvania's insurrection. The POD then became clear to me: there is a worse yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia that takes out both Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin. The timeline thus starts out with a little apocalyptic flavor and hopefully we can stick to that theme as we go on.

    I've already deviated from L. Neil Smith's scenario as it is, but I'll try to do my best to steer the TL towards some of his more plausible ideas so that the spirit of The Probability Broach can continue through it. Before you ask, no, the Declaration of Independence doesn't include the word unanimous before consent. But Karl Marx will be butterflied away and who knows if we can't make Jefferson free the slaves by 1820... we'll see. ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  3. Hnau free radical

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    The Battle of Bower Hill

    In April of 1794, President George Washington received a letter of protest from a group calling itself the Democratic Society of the County of Washington in Pennsylvania. With no immediate problems demanding their attention, the letter shifted the focus of the presidential cabinet back to insurrection on the Pennsylvanian frontier. The letter was reviewed and disdained by everyone in the cabinet but Thomas Jefferson, the anti-Federalist Secretary of State who always seemed to be in opposition to anything the rest of the cabinet agreed on [1]. The protestation was connected to the reports from General John Neville of attacks on tax collectors. While in fact it was the Mingo Creek Association that conducted those attacks, the April letter worked to convince President Washington that a display of overwhelming force from the federal government in western Pennsylvania would perhaps be a reasonable response to all the revolutionary fervor.

    But President George Washington was the ultimate fence sitter, the only man in government who could be trusted to negotiate the balance between federalists and anti-federalists, and he often did so through inaction. Once again, President Washington decided that he couldn’t be the one to start this fight. The new Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott began some conversations with Pennsylvania district attorney William Rawle about engaging in more direct legal action to deal with the insurrection, but they came to nothing. Wolcott was too overwhelmed by everything that his new position demanded and Rawle was too hesitant to take the lead. In the end the presidential cabinet deferred to the opinion of Congress that the best way to deal with western lawlessness was to pass a conciliatory tax reform. The new tax law did away with previous rules for trials of excise defendants that mandated they undertake a long journey to stand trial at federal courts in Philadelphia. Instead, the federal judiciary was allowed to establish court sessions in the countryside and use local courts to hear federal tax cases [2]. Many in Congress believe that this appeasement would prove satisfactory to calm the passions of the unruly frontier folk. This one reform would prove to not be enough. The whiskey tax still mandated that poor farmers pay extravagant fees for owning a still, and when threatened with total poverty, rebellion became an attractive option.

    While Philadelphia moved towards reconciliation, the Mingo Creek Association moved closer and closer to violence. With the militias of western Pennsylvania under their command, with law administered only by their consent, with tax collectors and tax compliers being constantly harassed, the Association believed that their power had grown strong enough that they could chop the head off the beast once and for all. The beast was General John Neville, regional excise inspector, leader of all efforts to collect the whiskey tax in western Pennsylvania. General Neville lived on a plantation he called Bower Hill. Nothing like the small subsistence holdings common to the region, Bower Hill had a central mansion with glass windows, large barns, fields near and far, livestock, transport and slaves that lived in outbuildings far from the mansion. This opulent home was regarded as the headquarters of federal tyranny in western Pennsylvania, and to the Mingo Creek Association, it had to be destroyed in order to finally rid the west of the hated whiskey tax.

    On August 17, six hundred men that were part of militia regiments overlapping with the Mingo Creek Association gathered at Couch’s Fort, an abandoned garrison of the French and Indian War only four miles from Bower’s Hill, to decide whether or not more assertive action was required [3]. In the vote that was held, the winning motion was to march on Bower Hill and demand the resignation of General Neville. If this demand was met, violence would not ensue. Otherwise it would. James McFarlane, a militia major and local hero of the Revolution, would lead the operation.

    It was eight o'clock in the evening when McFarlane’s six hundred rebels arrived on Neville’s broad hilltop plantation. Unarmed men were ordered to hold the horses at the rear. Men in arms began a formal muster in front of the house. Orders were shouted. Ranked men paraded and drilled with discipline on the lawn. James McFarlane withdrew to a high point for command. The Bower Hill mansion was barricaded, thick planks covering expensive glass windows. General Neville awoke to the beating of drums. The only other people in the house were his wife and granddaughter. Though the general had drilled his slaves for the defense of Bower Hill, summer work began in the dark, and slaves were already away on distant fields. A messenger rode up to the door with a white flag and shouted the rebel army’s demand: General John Neville must give up his commission or suffer the consequences. Rebels were already beginning to set outbuildings on fire. Unseen from outside, the general barked “Stand off!” and then fired. The messenger went down.

    Fired upon, the rebels followed orders and began pounding the house with gunfire. Neville’s granddaughter pressed herself to the floor to avoid the volleys, while Mrs. Neville rapidly reloaded guns for her husband. The general fired from various windows, passing a gun back for reloading, taking a newly loaded one to fire again. He wounded four more men who were firing in ranks on his lawn. As the gun battle went on black smoke obscured the view. The rebels were continuing to light more outbuildings on fire and were quickly surrounding the mansion. General Neville could see fire spreading quickly toward him. The house and everyone in it would burn. He had no choice. With a white flag waving, Neville came out and surrendered to the militia, who angrily placed him under arrest. [4]

    General Neville was marched to James McFarlane where he reluctantly agreed to resign his commission [5]. Behind him, his wife and granddaughter fled into the woods towards Pittsburgh. Militiamen entered the mansion and broke out the general’s whiskey between them. In the darkness the rebels made a massive bonfire of General Neville’s entire plantation. Barns, fences, grain and crops went up in high flames. The rebels shot stamping, rearing horses, a cow, a pig. Some slaves had arrived from the fields, drawn by the noise, and they pleaded with the rebels to spare the slave quarters as well as the smokehouse where their food was kept. When it was all over, the slave quarters and smokehouse were the only things left standing at Bower Hill. Neville himself was sent on horseback to Couch’s Fort for further negotiations, but he would never make it. A drunken militiamen acting out of orders fired at the general, who took the shot in the shoulder and bled to death before reaching his destination [6].

    In Pittsburgh, the Nevilles who had avoided the attack on Bower Hill gathered at the home of their relatives, the Craigs. General Neville had been warning the Washington administration for years that law in the region needed immediate, armed help of the government. Now it was Isaac Craig, his son-in-law, who worked for Henry Knox the Secretary of War, that now wrote hurriedly to his boss concerning the developing situation...

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    [1] With Alexander Hamilton dead, George Washington convinces Thomas Jefferson that he desperately needs him to stay on as Secretary of State instead of resign, otherwise there will be no talent at all in the cabinet. ITTL, Jefferson is not replaced by Attorney General Edmund Randolph until June of 1795, and William Bradford does not replace Edmund Randolph as Attorney General until the same.

    [2] This actually happened in OTL, but Hamilton managed to have warrants issued just five days before the tax reform came into effect, which summons were delivered shortly thereafter raising tensions even further in western Pennsylvania. Here, Rawles and Wolcott don't have the ability to formulate such a plan and instead sit on their hands while Congress does what it did IOTL.

    [3] This happened in different circumstances a month earlier in OTL. Without the summons to stand trial at Philadelphia and without a federal marshal to raise suspicions, it takes slightly longer for the Mingo Creek Association to take action. At the same time they act more decisively and retain more of an element of surprise when the attack is launched.

    [4] The battle here is very different from OTL's. In OTL soldiers from nearby Fort Lafayette had been called out to defend the plantation and General Neville was able to escape capture. Here, with more surprise the militia are able to capture General Neville and avoid battling any soldiers.

    [5] James McFarlane survives the Battle of Bower Hill, where IOTL he was shot and killed.

    [6] IOTL General Neville escaped and eventually made it to Philadelphia three weeks after the battle. Later he participated in the federal military response to the Whiskey Rebellion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  4. Mumby % of people with a more rural name: 0

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    wandering
    This looks really interesting.
     
  5. Stateless Well-Known Watermelon

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    Who's asking?
    It's not a period of history I'm very knowledgeable about, but this is a very good start, so I've subscribed.
     
  6. Yelnoc Negusa Nagast

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    Where the Devil went down to
    Ah, so this is what you were working on.

    Very interesting....
     
  7. Jonathan Edelstein Rooted Cosmopolitan

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    Kew Gardens, NY
    You've definitely got my attention. The Whiskey Rebellion was part of a recurring theme in American history - the western frontier against the eastern establishment - but it also had unique elements in its ideology and took place at a very formative time for the republic.

    I wonder what the effect will be in Kentucky, which is already a state, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee) which was a couple of years from statehood and had recently had its own western secessionist movement. If the rebellion spreads, it may find sympathizers in both places.
     
  8. Hnau free radical

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    Thank you! There will be further updates soon. :)

    I have been thinking about Kentucky. In the same summer as the Whiskey Rebellion, two thousand militia were mustering in Kentucky to sail down the Mississippi and make an attempt to take Spanish New Orleans, mainly because the Spanish tariffs stood in the way of profiting from overseas trade. How could those militia turn north instead of south? Now, it looks like there's good evidence that Kentucky, Tennessee and even North Carolina weren't paying the whiskey tax either and were rebelling in their own ways... I'll be looking for a way to involve them, definitely, but with these states being so far away from Pennsylvania...
     
  9. Jonathan Edelstein Rooted Cosmopolitan

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    I'm not sure that distance really matters. They don't have to be part of the same rebellion - if a more successful Whiskey Rebellion inspires separate uprisings in Kentucky, Tennessee and maybe western North Carolina and Virginia, then the federal government will have to divide its forces or else concentrate on one of the revolts and risk the others getting out of control. Even a series of disconnected rebellions will make it much harder for Washington to get a handle on things.
     
  10. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
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    You're right, of course. I'll be looking into the history books on each of those states to see what more that I can find. It might not be until after the western Pennsylvanians show some signs of success that other anti-tax rebels start showing up, though.
     
  11. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    [​IMG]

    The Muster at Braddock's Field

    It had been a week since Bower Hill. James McFarlane--Major General McFarlane now--who had emerged from the battle against an old man and his wife as even more of a hero than before, had called a meeting of regional leaders at Mingo Creek church to decide what course of action they should now take. Despite the fact that the Mingo Creek Association had operated independently to ransack General John Neville's plantation, with his accidental death some militia commanders feared that they might no longer be seen as freedom fighters against tyranny. On August 24 the conference hosted in this tiny, dusty church in the middle of the forest was being held in order to give the Association at least a veneer of popular support.

    Many did not attend, fearing that they would be held accountable for the ensuing insurrection if their name was involved with such a radical meeting. This included Hugh Henry Brackenridge, a prominent lawyer of Pittsburgh who had before shown support for the anti-tax demonstrations [1]. Other rich men did appear for the sole reason that they feared the rebels seizing their property more than an army marching from Philadelphia. This was the case for David Bradford, the lawyer from Washington township, as well as his business partner James Marshall, and wealthy distiller and veteran officer Alexander Fulton. Bradford and Marshall had tried to discourage the others from attacking Bower Hill at the meeting of the militias at Couch's Fort, now they pretended to have always been in favor of it. As for Fulton, he'd been bullied into making an appearance at the battle because of his military rank, and once there McFarlane had thrust him in the command of a horse guard. Now involved, he could not withdraw. [2]

    "You know what has been done! We wish to know whether what has been done is right or wrong!" And so the meeting began with the anguished plea from Benjamin Parkinson, a tall, red-haired former justice of the peace. The crowd looked toward McFarlane. McFarlane looked towards David Bradford. Bradford stammered. Morally, at the very least morally, the attack on Bower Hill had been right. The lawyer did not have the courage to tell the mass gathering that there was nothing legal about what the militiamen had done, and their actions could probably be considered treason. Some of the men became nervous.

    Major General McFarlane, dressed in a gaudy military uniform, with a plumed hat and a flashing sword, now addressed the mass gathering. The attack on General Neville was a great victory, and no one had to feel that they had gone too far when he was killed. Wasn't Neville the representative of the reviled, oppressive government of the United States? Didn't his death mean that they had succeeded in resisting tyranny? He praised the French terrorist Robespierre and the armies of liberté, égalité, fraternité that were now poised to wipe the earth clean of the old conservative order. To consolidate their gains, they needed to begin an organized regional defense. Who among them truly supported that they go forward and do so? Who would rally behind the new American Revolution? The crowd responded avidly. People were forced to stand up and be counted, their names written down. Many who had wavered before Bower Hill, by having their presence now recorded, became fully enlisted in the cause for better or for worse.

    Bradford called out to McFarlane. Where were the armies that they needed? How could they defend themselves from the whole might of the United States of America? General McFarlane considered. Perhaps broad regional support was lacking. What they needed now was a grand western congress, a gathering of all four western Pennsylvanian counties, plus Bedford, and as many Virginia counties as would join in the defense of the region. They would send messengers to western Maryland, and to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and even North Carolina. The western country would join together as one, they'd finally take the Mississippi River from the Spanish and everything from there to the Appalachians would be made into a new republic that could forever after protect the people from the malicious intentions of bankers, lawyers and tax-men.

    Someone opened up a saddlebag full of letters and showed them to the crowd. A day earlier, on the post road twenty miles from Pittsburgh, a group of rebels had waylaid the carrier of the U.S. mail. Letters were opened and read [3]. Presley Neville, General Neville's son, was alive in Pittsburgh and had written to Philadelphia about the burning of Bower Hill. Isaac Craig had written Henry Knox asking for federal troops to come to take revenge against Neville's killers. John Gibson, James Brison, and Edward Day had also written letters critical of the rebels. In response, James McFarlane suggested that what they needed wasn't a congress, what they needed was for all the militias of the region to muster near Pittsburgh. They had to arrest the letter writers and their sympathizers, throw them in jail and attack the garrison at Fort Fayette. Like the Green Mountain Boys at Fort Ticonderoga, the people would seize the oppressor's arms and use them for the defense against Philadelphia. The west had to be purified before they could hold a congress. People asked where the muster would take place. After some discussion, the leaders of the Mingo Creek Association decided on Braddock's Field, just eight miles from Pittsburgh, where the British general had been defeated in the 1750s. It would again take its place in glory. As the crowd disbanded from Mingo Creek, a small committee including Bradford, Fulton, Marshall, Parkinson, along with McFarlane put their signatures on a circular letter to all militia commanders in the region. Volunteer riders were given letters to be delivered to trusted militia commanders afar. No one wanted to ride out to Tennessee, let alone North Carolina, but a man agreed to go to Maryland, and another would take the journey to Kentucky, however long. [4]

    In the days after McFarlane's rousing speech, as country people started surging into Pittsburgh to buy provisions for the muster and messengers began their trips to rally the west, moderates became extremely anxious concerning the events that had begun to develop. Hugh Henry Brackenridge was growing nervous that he hadn't made an appearance at the revolutionary meeting, worrying that rebels would march into Pittsburgh and burn his home. Senator James Ross, a resident of Washington County at the center of all the treasonous activity, tried to negotiate with McFarlane. As the hours counted down to the muster, he made more and more visits with the self-titled General Major. Senator Ross was desperate... he feared that if the rebels marched on Fort Fayette surely they would burn down Pittsburgh in the process. He had to save the small village from destruction. In the end McFarlane made on offer. Pittsburgh must officially banish Presley Neville, Major Butler in command at Fort Fayette, the fort's commissary Major Kirkpatrick, as well as letter-writers Gibson, Brison and Day. The men of Pittsburgh must also march enthusiastically out in militia order, to join with the people at Braddock's Field, to show unity of the west. In return, McFarlane would do his best to keep the people from burning Pittsburgh [5].

    [​IMG]
    Hugh Henry Brackenridge

    Pittsburgh's moderates could see no course other than compliance. Shortly after James McFarlane's offer to spare the town, a meeting was held and the inhabitants appointed a committee of twenty-one to take over civic operations during the emergency. The committee went on to send word to the banishees that they must leave, and to appease the rebels even further they drew up a resolution to find and expel anyone who opposed them. They resolved to appear in force at Braddock's Field and play a supporting role when the militiamen entered town, namely to be on site if the rebels did begin razing their homes to the ground.

    At mid-afternoon on September 7, there were seven thousand men at Braddock's Field. Women were there too; ready to aid the militias in looting houses at Pittsburgh, whose destruction many believed was imminent. Young men on horseback wielding tomahawks, some wearing clothes meant to mimic those of indians, rode amongst the crowd preaching a strange mixture of revolutionary rhetoric and religious prophecy. "It is not the excise law only that will go down. Your district and associate judges too will fall, their high offices and salaries will be no more. Much is yet to be done, this is but the beginning!" So went young recruits who were passing out yellowed pamphlets that had come from a box long kept underneath the bed of Herman Husband, the Philosopher of the Allegheny. Besides being one of the first settlers in the region and at one point being elected to the Pennsylvania assembly during the revolution, Herman Husband was a draftsman who produced some of the first maps of western Pennsylvania. During his time surveying in the mountains he had mixed Christian millennialism with the ideas of the English Levellers and political writers such as Richard Price. He believed that details of his surveys of the Alleghenies matched with descriptions in the Book of Ezekiel, and as such constituted the very eastern wall of the New Jerusalem, and that because the holy city was here, America was destined to become a new Kingdom of Heaven. The Christian America that he envisioned would also be radically progressive, being ruled by an elected council of elders, distributing land to anyone who could toil it, and would use a whole series of other policies that Husband believed would introduce to society true Christian equality. In the 1780s he had managed to print numerous pamphlets for the purpose of converting others to his cause, but failing to find interest for them, he retained the majority in his ownership. Now he had his sons and grandsons passing them out at the muster, and at seventy years old, his ideas were finally being circulated among a receptive audience [6].

    The militiamen began spontaneously practicing their marksmanship. Targets were placed and challenges made to who could still them after downing a few mouthfuls of whiskey. Black smoke rose from the field and floated over the river. The rebels were mostly dressed in buckskin hunting gear and wore handkerchiefs around their necks--the outfits they wore to battle Indians. Parades started up. When traitors were spoken of the men suggested not tar and feathers but putting people to the guillotine. Perhaps because of Husband's young missionaries, Pittsburgh was now called Sodom, and many militiamen argued that this time it would be burnt down not with heavenly flames but fire of the earth. Others wanted the town taken over, to become a city by the people and for the people, whatever that meant, a Sodom redeemed. This did much to increase the angst of the Pittsburghers at the muster, who kept their promise to ride out in the style of militia. After much deliberation, Hugh Henry Brackenridge decided to lead the group to Braddock's Field. The Pittsburghers were ridiculed, challenged, and threatened frequently while they were there. It took all of Brackenridge's tact to extricate himself from a violent group that jokingly cornered him and threatened to hang him from a nearby tree. James McFarlane would appear time to time to remind the men that the Pittsburghers were under his official protection, thereby keeping them from danger. Multiple times, Brackenridge approached McFarlane and tried to dissuade him from taking Fort Fayette. All they needed was to march to the fort to show they could take it, they didn't actually need to fight a battle. McFarlane only smiled and said nothing in response.

    After a few hours and with an army more drunk than sober, Major General James McFarlane made a call to form ranks. The time for practice shooting and drunken parades was over. There were shouts of looting, plunder and burning. This wasn't reassuring to the Pittsburghers, who rushed ahead with McFarlane's approval to ask Major Butler of Fort Fayette to not engage the rebels. Drums were beating. The rebel militiamen were marching on Sodom.

    -----​

    [1] In our timeline, Brackenridge, a personal hero of mine, would have reluctantly led a group of Pittsburghers at this meeting and would have counseled moderation. His role as the skeptic is taken on by David Bradford, but not to the same degree, leaving the rebels much more optimistic about their chances of success.

    [2] In our timeline, Bradford, Fulton and Marshall were at the equivalent of this meeting. With McFarlane alive, though, Bradford doesn't need to step up as the insurrection's leader. Here, it is James McFarlane that becomes the Robespierre of the West, not David Bradford. I'm using a little creative license here, but I imagine that McFarlane as an army veteran is much more decisive and commanding of a leader than the lawyer Bradford. As such, this part of the Whiskey Rebellion begins to move a little more quickly.

    [3] This happens a little earlier than OTL, and so they are able to keep Philadelphia in the dark about what was happening in western Pennsylvania for a little longer.

    [4] This is me implementing ideas from recent discussion on this thread. In our timeline, the calls to muster didn't go so far out as Kentucky. But, if McFarlane is a more decisive leader, why not send out messengers a little farther? To send envoys as far out as Tennessee or North Carolina is in my opinion implausible at this point, but this is doable. We'll explore the butterflies from this later on.

    [5] James Ross convinced Bradford to accept a similar deal in OTL.

    [6] The philosophy is Husband's, but the pamphlets are my own invention and may be considered a POD before even the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia. Herman Husband was highly literate and also had connections that would have made this printing possible. He also had a large family that could have formed the nucleus of a religious movement if Husband had been so inclined. I'm hoping to popularize these rather unusual ideas among the Whiskey Rebels to provide many with a spiritual motivation to go to war with the east, and to distinguish them further from their eastern counterparts. In our timeline they were already calling Pittsburgh Sodom, maybe they could have gone farther than that. We'll see more on this later.

     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013
  12. Stateless Well-Known Watermelon

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Location:
    Who's asking?
    Another intriguing update. Whatever their short-term successes, I do not see this going well for the rebels in the long term. Though I wonder whether we are headed toward the first American president to die in battle? I look forward to more, especially as we get into the wider implications of the rebellion...
     
  13. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2007
    Location:
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    I find it interesting that there were two revolts, in many ways parallel.

    Backwoods, rural unsophisticates rising up against a distant governing authority, not wanting to pay taxes for a war recently fought. But the American Revolution is glorious freedom fighters and the Whiskey Rebellion is ingrates try to shirk responsibility....
     
  14. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2007
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    I disagree. I think the whiskey tax was really an oppressive measure, designed to hurt the small distillers and enrich the wealthier classes. Hamilton believed that America could only be industrialized by giving capital to a small group of people that would later do all of the investing and this was his way of stealing from the poor to give to the rich. In comparison, a flat tax on income would have been hugely more progressive.

    That being said, were the rebels prone to unnecessary violence and inflicting their own oppressive measures? A lot of them did so. There's no excuse for razing farms and tarring and feathering. The only good guys in this conflict were really the moderates who joined the rebels in order to sabotage the insurrection from the inside, who thought the whiskey tax was a terrible policy but didn't want to secede in order to get away from it. They were the true heroes and they don't get a lot of credit for what they did in the history books. Too bad I'm killing off most of them in this TL. ;)