Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Whiskey Rebellion, French Revolution, New French-British War and Proclamation of Neutrality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 23rd, 2012

Politics 101

America’s First Tax was a 25% Excise Tax on American Whiskey made from Corn

Thomas Jefferson held a dinner party where he, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison met to resolve some issues.  Hamilton was stressed out.  He was facing strong opposition for his assumption plan.  Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton wanted to assume all the states’ debts and lump them into the federal debt.  To get the nation’s finances in order.  Establish good credit.  And raise revenue for the new nation.  The Virginians, Jefferson and Madison, offered their assistance if Hamilton would give them the nation’s capital.  Hamilton got his assumption.  And the Virginians got the nation’s new capital on the Potomac River.  Across from Virginia.  Where they could keep a close eye on the nation’s business.  And everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, not exactly.  There was already growing discontent across the land.  Hamilton understood business and commerce.  And banking.  Farmers don’t like bankers.  Or commerce.  Or business.  Many in the south and on the frontier worked the land.  As yeoman farmers.  Families working small farms that they owned.  They believed, as Jefferson believed, that the most honorable work in America was farming.  And that America’s future was the growth of farming.  Small farms.  Owned by families working the land.  Yeoman farmers.  Proud.  Pure.  And wholly American.  This despite Jefferson being a member of the slave-owning planter elite.  Who indulged in little physical labor.

So the south and the frontier were no Hamilton supporters.  They didn’t like his high finance ideas for the new nation.  And they especially didn’t like his whiskey tax.  A tax of 25% on western corn products.  Which you made whiskey from.  The new American alcoholic beverage of choice after they eschewed beer.  The beverage of choice before the rebellion.  When they were all content British citizens.  But an excise tax on corn products was little different from the excise taxes that caused the colonies to rebel against Great Britain in the first place.  Sure, there was one subtle difference this time.  The whiskey tax was taxation with representation.  And, technically speaking, legal.  But on corn?  The new tax seemed to fall unfairly on the West.  Which had a corn economy.  And used the whiskey they made from it for money.  So these frontier people were not just going to sit idly by and take this new taxation without a fight.

The Washington Administration took Decisive Action in Suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion

This first tax was to help finance Hamilton’s assumption.  But it was more important than the revenue it would raise.  The whiskey tax was a matter of principle.  It was probably poor policy.  And probably not the smartest thing to do.  Picking a fight with the toughest and most fiercely independent people in the country.  Frontier people.  Who lived off the land without any of the city comforts enjoyed back east.  But the tax was the law.  And the first test of the new nation.  If the government retreated in the face of opposition to a law passed by Congress their experiment in self-government would fail.  For as unpleasant as taxation was it was the reason they formed a new nation in 1787.  To levy taxes so they could pay their past debt.  And their current bills.  So President Washington and Hamilton hunkered down on the tax.

And the riots came.  The Whiskey Rebellion.  Around Pittsburg.  Kentucky (aka bourbon country).  The backcountry of the Carolinas.  And elsewhere.  They refused to pay the tax.  And attacked the tax collecting apparatus.  Even the courts.  It was war.  The spirit of ’76 was alive again.  Protesting a distant central power trying to impose a tax on them.  Washington offered amnesty if they just dispersed and went home.  They refused.  So Washington raised an army of some 13,000 strong.  Larger than any army he commanded during the Revolutionary War.  And led the army west with Hamilton to meet the insurrection.  The first and only time a sitting president led an army.  As the army approached resistance melted away.  So Washington handed command over to Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee (a Revolutionary War veteran and hero) and returned to the capital in Philadelphia.  Hamilton remained with the army.  As the army arrived the insurrection collapsed.  The army caught some rebels and tried them.  And two received death sentences.  Who Washington later pardoned.

Score one for the rule of law.  Washington was pleased with the outcome.  Hamilton, too.  They took decisive action to subdue an insurrection.  The people in general were happy that they restored peace.  And that the country didn’t collapse into anarchy.  All in all a win-win for the people and the government.  Almost.  Not everyone saw it in this light.  Some saw a king leading an army against his own people.  A professional army.  Little different from British redcoats.  Or Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army a century or so earlier.  A professional standing army squashing those who disagreed with the government.  And Jefferson did not like it.  Nor did a lot of those in the south.  Or on the frontier.

President Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in the New War between Great Britain and France

Seeing Hamilton ride at the head of an army only reinforced Jefferson’s opinion of him.  A power-hungry, British-loving puppet master.  And the puppet was President Washington.  The dislike between Hamilton and Jefferson turned into outright hostility.  They had two different visions of America.  And these two visions were mutually exclusive.  Cabinet meetings became insufferable as Hamilton and Jefferson constantly fought.  And the French Revolution didn’t help matters any.  The radical Jefferson supported the radical French.  Who he knew and sat with in the Jacobin clubs while he was in France.  Jefferson was all for overthrowing monarchies.  So when the French and British declared war on each other it was a no brainer who to support for Jefferson.  Vive la France!

Of course there was only one problem with that position.  About 75% of U.S. exports went to Great Britain.  Even more of her imports (approximately 90%) came from Great Britain.  And then there was the Royal Navy (RN).  Who still ruled the high seas.  And all the international trade routes.  In addition to the RN there was the British Army.  Who still occupied forts on the American western frontier.  And who were still in contact with their Indian allies from the Revolutionary War.  Couple this with the fact that the U.S. had no comparable army or navy.  And was already having trouble on the frontier with the Indians (from the influx of settlers into the western territories).  So siding with France against Britain was not the smart move.  Yes, the French were instrumental in helping the Americans achieve their independence from Great Britain.  But America was a country emerging from 8 years of war that just had to suppress a tax rebellion over a sin tax.  She did not have the wealth to enter a European war.  Besides, the Americans were supported by the monarch (King Louis XVI) the French were overthrowing.  Which complicated matters.

Washington and Hamilton saw things differently than Jefferson.  More like realists than the idealist Jefferson.  The Revolution was over.  The British and Americans were no longer enemies.  But important trade partners.  That shared a common British past.  Of laws and traditions firmly established in what was once British America.  So Washington issued his Proclamation of Neutrality (1793).  They would support neither in this European war.  Which infuriated the French.  And Jefferson.  For though they were neutral it was clear that their neutrality would favor the British.  As well as Hamilton.  And it did.  But it also favored America’s best interests.  For another long war would have probably bankrupted the nation.  And perhaps resulted with her partitioned among the European nations.  For the French Revolution lasted for a decade.  And the Napoleonic Wars it begot lasted another 11 years.  Which let us not forget the French lost.  In large part due to the Royal Navy.  And Great Britain’s wealth generated by her international trade.  Something the Americans could not have altered had she entered the war on France’s side.  A wise foreign policy call by President Washington (and yet another time he saved his country).  But it was one that tore his administration apart.  Firmly establishing the opposition party.  With Jefferson at its head.  With but one purpose.  To destroy Hamilton.  And to lead the nation away from where Hamilton was taking it.


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Does Obama Know Who Kept the Slaves Enslaved?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 2nd, 2010

Your People Did Not Free the Slaves, Mr. President

From Mark Knoller, White House Correspondent, Radio, CBS News:

Obama says people are impatient but “now’s not the time to quit…it took time to free the slaves…ultimately we’ll make progress.”

We would have freed the slaves a whole lot sooner if it weren’t for people like him.  Democrats.

The Southern States and Slavery – A Packaged Deal

Democrats descend from the southern planter elite.  These slaveholders formed a small minority of the population.  But they held the majority of political power.  There was a north-south divide at the founding over slavery.  Franklin, Adams, Hamilton and Washington were against slavery.  Jefferson and Madison were for it.  Rather, they were for the southern states.  And that meant the planter elite (which they were part of).  Which was for slavery.

Slavery was a taboo subject.  You won’t find it in our founding documents.  The North wanted to abolish slavery.  But any discussion of the taboo subject and the South would walk.  So they tabled the subject.  To get the South to join the Union.  And they didn’t speak about it to keep the South in the Union.  (When I say the ‘South’, think the planter elite, the ruling minority power in the South.  This elite few had the majority of slaves.  Most southerners couldn’t afford slaves and worked their own small farms.  The yeoman farmers Jefferson would wax philosophical about.)

The majority of slaves were in the south.  They also were the majority of the southern population.  This was a sticking point at the Constitutional Convention.  The South wanted to count slaves in determining congressional representation.  But you count citizens to determine your number of representatives.  Not property.  The northerners did not get to count their cattle in determining their number of representatives.  So the South shouldn’t count their slaves.  The South, of course, disagreed.  For if they were to be a part of the Union, not simply a region ruled by the North, it was necessary to count their slaves.  And if they couldn’t?  No union.  So they compromised.  With the Three-Fifths Compromise.  They would count a slave as 3/5 a citizen.  It gave the South a greater representation in Congress than their citizenry allowed.  But it ‘balanced’ the political power between the North and the South.  And brought the southern states into the Union.

When the Democrats Did Not Like Immigration

After winning our independence, we got the Northwest Territories (the land north of the Ohio River) from the British.  The northerners got their way with this northern land.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in this territory.

Then came the Louisiana Purchase.  The North wanted to exclude slavery from all of this land.  The South didn’t.  That would tip the balance of power in favor of the North.  So they compromised.  With the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  There would be some slavery in the new territory.  But not above the bottom border of Missouri (the 36th parallel).  Except in Missouri (a slave-state).  Which they added at the same time with Maine (a free-state).  To maintained the balance of power.

But the population continued to grow in the North.  Those in the South could see the writing on the wall.  The immigration into the northern states would tip the balance of power in the House to the North.  So they focused on controlling the judiciary.  The president (who nominated).  And the Senate (which confirmed).  What they couldn’t win by popular vote they’d simply legislate from the bench.  And dirty, filthy party politics was born.  The party machine.  And the Democratic Party.

It Takes a Republican

Martin Van Buren created it.  And, at the time, he had but one goal.  To keep the issue of slavery from ever being an issue again.  Which the Democrats did until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  The North wanted to abolish slavery from the founding.  But the planter elite, then the Democrats, fought them every step of the way.  So they could maintain their power. 

But it was more than just power.  It was that elite status.  That they were superior.  It had gone beyond King Cotton.  The south had manufacturing.  Some of which was even more profitable than cotton.  But manufacturing couldn’t give you what cotton could.  An aristocratic planter elite that was so elite that it could own human life.  This was Old World aristocracy alive and well in the New World.

Anyway, all the legislation and court cases that led up to the Civil War had one thing in common.  All people trying to maintain the institution of slavery were Democrats.  The big ones, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraskan Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott ruling of 1854 were all pushed/won by Democrats.  The new Republican Party finally denied the Democrats.  A Republican president (Abraham Lincoln) made slavery a moral issue in the Civil War with his Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t free a single slave but it made it politically impossible for France or Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy or enter the war on her behalf).  Four years of war and some 600,000 dead later, the North prevailed and the Union sounded the death knell for slavery in America.  Then the Republican Congress passed and the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.  The Republicans had, finally, abolished slavery.

Ignorance or Arrogance?

The Democrats can talk about Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Well, a little.  More Democrats voted against it than did Republicans.  And a Democrat, segregationist and KKK Exalted Cyclops, Robert Byrd, filibustered for 14 hours during an 83-day Democrat filibuster.  But a lot of Democrats did vote for the Civil Rights Act.  So, yeah, they can talk about that.  But they had absolutely nothing to do with the freeing of the slaves.  They call slavery America’s original sin.  But that’s not fair.  It was only the planter elite and then the Democrat Party that practiced that sin.  And they fought hard to keep their sinful ways.

A Democrat should not invoke the struggle to end slavery to help his cause.  Especially a black Democrat.  For to do so marks the height of ignorance.  Or arrogance.


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