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The Whiskey Rebellion and the Precedent of Federal Authority

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Oliver Brown

on 24 October 2013

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Transcript of The Whiskey Rebellion and the Precedent of Federal Authority

Drunk with Power?
The Precedent of The Whiskey Rebellion

FONTS
Shays' Rebellion
The Constitution
*A Constitutional Convention had been called in 1786 to discuss ways of ameliorating the ineffective Articles of Confederation.
*Shays' Rebellion had struck fears of revolution and anarchy amongst many State delegates, and highlighted the limitations of the Confederation Congress.
*Proponents of drafting a new constitution that created a stronger central government, the Federalists, used Shays as an argument for the need to increase federal power.

The Whiskey Rebellion
1794: The new Constitution gets a major test
* Pennsylvania farmers refuse to pay a newly created tax on whiskey.
*Tax collectors are terrorized and tarred-and-feathered -- much like the British tax collectors had been a couple decades prior.
*George Washington, at Hamilton's urging, raised a militia of 13,500 men (more than he had commanded during the Revolution) to confront the farmers. This brings a quick end to the conflict.
The Precedent and its Legacy
Washington's response to the Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated that the United States government was willing to mobilize troops against any citizens deemed an insurrection threat. This was just the first of many such actions...
Death was the only certainty for many Americans living in Franklin's lifetime. Some even considered it preferable to paying unfair taxes.
The Civil War and Reconstruction
Following the Civil War the North used troops to enforce national laws, and to ensure Southern compliance .
Labor Unions vs. Federal Troops

From the latter half of the 19th century into the first quarter of the 20th century the Federal troops routinely used violence to break-up large Union Strikes.
*1877 during The Great Railroad Strike Fed. troops kill over 30 laborers in Chicago.
*1894 Pullman Railroad Strike. Federal forces kill 34 demonstrators.
*1914: The Ludlow Massacre. The National Guard fires on striking miners, killing 25.
Civil Rights and the National Guard
1957: President Eisenhower employs the National Guard to oversee and protect the de-segregation of high school in Arkansas.
* LBJ would also enlist the National Guard to enforce Southern adherence to Civil Rights laws.
Anti-War Demonstrations and the National Guard

1970: National Guard fires on students at Kent State University during a Vietnam War protest. Four students were killed.
Taxes, however, were not always seen as a "certainty."
*1786- 1787: A Farmer's Rebellion in Massachusetts. The Farmers, led by Daniel Shays, demanded tax relief, debt relief, and an end to imprisonment for debt.
*Shays and many of his followers were veterans of the the Revolutionary War and had fought the British over issues of taxation
Feb., 1787: Massachusetts is left to their own to deal with the the Rebellion. The Rebellion is eventually put down by a militia financed by local wealthy merchants fearing social upheaval.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 15:
Congress is to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.
local
Not everyone agreed, however...
*The Federalists, led by Hamilton, Washington and Madison believed that it was vital for the federal government to quickly respond with force to any threatening uprisings.
*The Anti-Federalists, most notably led by Thomas Jefferson, distrusted a strong central government. Jefferson believed that Shays' Rebellion represented little threat, and perhaps such behavior is even "healthy" for a society.
The Federalists won....
Full transcript