Domestic Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Act of 1791

Despite negative public response to the 1789 import tax act, congressional lawmakers decided to establish taxes on domestic spirits.

It’s 1792 and the newly formed U.S. Congress needs revenue to pay debts accumulated by the colonies during the Revolutionary War. In response, taxes are imposed on both imported and domestic distilled spirits as well as other goods. Fourteen revenue districts are established in each of the states; each district contains a Supervisor, an Inspector of the Survey, Collectors, Deputy Collectors and Auxiliary Officers. General George Washington, himself a whiskey distiller, is authorized to set the salaries of supervisors and inspectors. During the Whiskey Rebellion, protests ignite angry mobs who tar and feather federal revenue officials. In response, the government issues arrest warrants for noncompliant distillers. During the riots that follow, a Federal officer is killed and a regional inspector’s home is burned. President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton send federalized militia to Pennsylvania to quell the rebellion. David Bradford, leader of the rebellion, escapes capture and flees to New Orleans, Louisiana, then a Spanish Territory.

Last Reviewed September 28, 2016