A article about the Wall Street Protest reminded me of long ago learning moment

It was a William Hoegland article that the Wall Street protest is, in a way, the contemporary version of the Whiskey Rebellion, and as such, has its roots in the American tradition of throwing down on the elites.

1960 -- I was a freshman at Penn State and Jack Kennedy had just been elected.

Thanksgiving -- too far, too much time to go home, so I went with a friend to Thanksgiving Dinner at his family's home in upstate Pennsylvania.

His grandfather was sitting on the porch when we got there.
Made introductions and then brought up the big news, that after years of a retired general in the oval office, a young man was going to be president.
And I asked his grandfather what he thought about that, about John Kennedy's election.
And his reply:

"The sonsofbitches put a tax on our whiskey and I ain't had no use for them since."

And I thought.. what's he talking about?
The Whiskey Rebellion?
That was, like what? -- 1791?
And he's still pissed off?

That was what I thought at the time, all enthused as us liberals' kids were.
And it fascinated me. And still does.

(We're not talking about the original Tea Party --yeah, I know, we celebrate it as one of the sacred  patriotic landmarks of American history, but in actuality the Boston Tea Party was more like one of the Hangover movies -- a bunch of drunken rowdies dressed up in costumes who went out and dumped English tea in the harbor and rolled off laughing about how "We really showed 'em," and disappeared into the night.
Of course, that left the people of Boston to deal with the seriously pissed off Brits coming down on them -- blockaded harbor with no supplies coming in, no access to the ocean to fish, all trees cut down for fuel for the influx of additional troops.
A bunch of drunken frat boys who had a party and left everyone else to pay the bill -- those people now canonized by a present-day bunch of yahoos who dress up in costumes and clamor to trash stuff and yell "We'll show 'em," and leave everyone else to deal with the damage.)

Back to my friend’s grandfather’s forefathers:
Those were people whose income depended on turning corn into whiskey.
They did not want to change the country.
They just wanted to continue living as they had.
They "had no use for them sonsofbitches."

But Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, decided that they had to pay off the national debt, that they had the power to tax and that going after the sinful distillers, the country bumpkins out west, would be a good way to start.

The cost of 5 years and more of insurrection, notwithstanding.

There were those who said that Hamilton wanted to deliberately provoke the rebellion, as a way to establish greater government authority and power. And he even personally led militia in 1794 to put down the insurrection (which ended without fighting when the rebels knew the troops were coming and went home before they got there, to make whiskey.)

The law was unenforceable, and Thomas Jefferson repealed it in 1801.

There were those, years later, who held that
Aaron Burr (who killed Hamilton in 1804, in a duel) was a true patriot and an American hero. Some rural folk still do. 
(Some of them, hearing the radio reports of Dugout Doug Macarthur riding down to scatter the Bonus Army – and actually kill a few of those WWI homeless Hoovervilles veterans, remarked: “Who’s he think he is? Alexander Hamilton?”)

But the point of the article (and the rebellion) was to tell them sonsofbitches – now our own homegrown American sonsofbitches -- to back off.

And the people who were telling them to back off -- the people
Hamilton thought it OK to fuck over -- were the ones who had fought alongside him in getting a new government in the first place.

The American principle, held throughout our history from Minutemen to the IWW, is that you don't go whining to some government, you take direct action against those who stole from you.

And the people spending day after day in sight of Wall Street know who the thieves are.

Mr Hoegland is the author of The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty (Scribner, 2006)


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