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Whiskey Rebellion

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Elizabeth Buckley

Mr. Reuker

Honors US History

16 October 2014

Shay’s Rebellion vs. Whiskey Rebellion:

Which Was More Influential on American History?

 Shay’s Rebellion was an armed uprising in Massachusetts during 1786 and 1787 surrounding the foreclosure of farms owned by farmers who were no longer able to pay for their debts. Then, a few years after in 1791, the Whiskey Rebellion, was a tax protest in the United States provoked by the imposition of an excise tax on distilled spirits, whiskey being the by far the most popular. Each of the aforementioned have been mentioned in US History textbooks across the nation as two of the “most influential pre-standardized government revolts in the history of this nation”, though usually said in different ways. Though there has been some debate about whether Shay’s or the Whiskey Rebellion are equals in that statement, which one had further of an influence? Though both have made an impact on American history, Shay’s Rebellion had a larger impact, or influence, on the economic, social, and political spectrum of the times.

Shay’s Rebellion had a large influence on the economic structure of our government that had yet to be formed. With this revolt, people (farmers especially), began to see that taxation with representation held more of an importance then their previous beliefs. They saw that without “representation with taxation” that violence was bound to happen, large and forceful violence, and this could no longer happen. Shay’s Rebellion became a large key into think of the two bodies, the House of Representatives in particular, of the new legislative branch. This was a significant change in how the economic system was to be handled, no more taxation without representation. On the other hand, we have the Whiskey Rebellion, which had small changes which were only specific to their cause, being the alcohol tax. The Whiskey Rebellion brought forth small, petty changes to the brand new economic system. For example, the protestors called out the cry of: “No taxation without representation!” which indirectly challenged tax policy.  Nevertheless, these protestors were wrong in their saying so, as they did have representation for their taxing, in fact, many had voted for their representatives. Even so, many still refused to pay their tax and because the alcohol tax was proving difficult to collect, it was repealed in 1801. Shay’s Rebellion compared to the Whiskey Rebellion for changes to the financial systems in place, prove Shay’s Rebellion more influential. In addition, the social influence of Shay’s Rebellion proves very similar.  

Much like as stated before, Shay’s Rebellion had a larger influence on the social ideals of the people than the Whiskey Rebellion.



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