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The Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey was distilled money for the frontier farmers, who had little cash and almost no transportation; whiskey was the easiest and most profitable thing to do with a crop of grain. Even preachers got paid with jugs of liquor, which they could then exchange for food or supplies. The Whiskey Rebellion (1794) was a protest on the western Pennsylvania frontier against the tax Hamilton had gotten passed on liquor. At almost $4 a gallon in modern money, the tax was more than most self-respecting moonshiners could come up with in a barter economy.

Hamilton's tax may have raised money, but it really hurt small-time farmers/distillers. With local protests spreading throughout the states, Hamilton and Washington personally led an army of 13,000 armed men on a fruitless search for whiskey criminals near Pittsburgh. They didn't catch many people, but they made their point. The whiskey business paid up for a while in Pennsylvania. On a larger scale, the new federal government showed it could use force to back up laws. But in places without soldiers, the tax was difficult to collect, and it was repealed in 1803.

Forming political parties

Hamilton's ambitious big-government programs created opposition from people like Jefferson, who believed in more individualism and less government. Political parties began to form around these opinions. People who liked Hamilton's ideas were called Federalists (1795), and Jefferson's followers called themselves Democratic-Republicans (1800). The Federalists died out around 1816. After trying silly party names like Whigs (1834) and Know-Nothings (1855), American's factions divided the names of Jefferson's party. Political parties weren't an idea of the framers of the Constitution, but they've been a handy addition to democracy, always shifting just to the right or left of whoever is in power.

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