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by the famous whiff of grape-shot. There is some excuse for the error of our Scotch-Irish borderers in their past experience, more excuse still in the drift of other events that touched all men just then with the madness of France, and gave birth to certain democratic societies which applauded any resistance to law, even if the cause was no nobler than a whiskey still.
Perhaps, too, the Pennsylvanians were encouraged by the moderation and deliberate movement of the government. A lull came after the proclamation of 1792. Then every effort was made to settle the troubles by civil processes and by personal negotiation, but all proved vain. The disturbances went on increasing for two years, until law was at an end in the insurgent counties. The mails were stopped and robbed, there were violence, bloodshed, rioting, attacks on the officers of the United States, and meetings threatening still worse things.
Meanwhile Washington had waited and watched, and bided his time. He felt now that the moment had come when, if ever, public opinion must be with him, and that the hour had arrived when he must put his fortune to the touch, and “try if it were current gold indeed.” On August 7th he issued a second proclamation, setting forth the outrages committed, and announcing his power to call out the militia, and his intention to do so if unconditional submission did not follow at once. As he wrote to a friend three days later : “ Actual rebellion exists
against the laws of the United States.” On the crucial point, however, he felt safe. He was confident that all the public opinion worth having was now on his side, and that the people were ready to stand by the government. The quick and unconditional submission did not come, and on September 25th he issued a third proclamation, reciting the facts and calling out the militia of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
Washington had judged rightly. The States responded, and the troops came to the number of fifteen thousand, for he was in the habit of doing things thoroughly, and meant to have an overwhelming force. To Governor Lee of Virginia the command of the combined forces was entrusted. “I am perfectly in sentiment with you, that the business we are drawn out upon should be effectually executed, and that the daring and factious spirit which threatens to overturn the laws and to subvert the Constitution ought to be subdued.” Thus he wrote to Morgan, while the commissioners from the insurgents were politely received, and told that the march of the troops could not be countermanded. Washington would fain have gone himself, in command of the army, but he felt that he could not leave the seat of government for so long a time with propriety. He went as far as Bedford with the troops, and then parted from them. When he took leave, he wrote a letter to Lee, to be read to the army, in which he said : “No citizen of the United States can ever be engaged in a service
more important to their country. It is nothing less than to consolidate and to preserve the blessings of that revolution which at much expense of blood and treasure constituted us a free and independent nation.” Thus admonished, the army marched, Hamilton going with them in characteristic fashion to the end. They did their work thoroughly. The insurrection disappeared, and resistance dropped suddenly out of sight. The ScotchIrish of the border, with all their love of fighting, found too late that they were dealing with a power very different from that of their own State. The ringleaders of the insurrection were arrested and tried by civil process, the disorders ceased, law reigned once more, and the “hateful tax” was duly paid and collected.
The “ Whiskey Rebellion ” has never received due weight in the history of the United States. Its story has been told in the utmost detail, but its details are unimportant. As a fact, however, it is full of meaning, and this meaning has been too much overlooked. That this should be so, is not to be wondered at, for everything has conspired to make it seem, after a century has gone. by, both mean and trivial. Its very name suggests ridicule and contempt, and it collapsed so utterly that people laughed at it and despised it. Its leaders, with the exception of Gallatin, were cheap and talkative persons of little worth, and the cause itself was neither noble, romantic, nor inspiriting. Nevertheless, it was a dangerous and formidable business,
for it was the first direct challenge to the new gov-
' work DIS from that of the confederation. No mistake was made, and people regarded the whole thing as an insignificant incident, and historians treat it as an episode. There could be no greater tribute to the strong and silent man who did the work and bore the stress of waiting for nearly five years. He did his duty so well and so completely that it seems nothing now, and yet the crushing of that insurrection in the western counties of Pennsylvania was one of the turning points in a nation's life.