The Whiskey Rebellion

  • by William Hogeland
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 9 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A gripping and provocative tale of violence, alcohol, and taxes, The Whiskey Rebellion pits President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton against angry, armed settlers across the Appalachians. Unearthing a pungent segment of early American history long ignored by historians, William Hogeland brings to startling life the rebellion that decisively contributed to the establishment of federal authority. In 1791, at the frontier headwaters of the Ohio River, gangs with blackened faces began to attack federal officials, beating and torturing the collectors who plagued them with the first federal tax ever laid on an American product, whiskey. In only a few years, those attacks snowballed into an organized regional movement dedicated to resisting the fledgling government's power and threatening secession, even civil war. With an unsparing look at both Hamilton and Washington, and at lesser-known, equally determined frontier leaders such as Herman Husband and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, journalist and popular historian William Hogeland offers an insightful, fast-paced account of the remarkable characters who perpetrated this forgotten revolution, and those who suppressed it. To Hamilton, the whiskey tax was key to industrial growth and could not be permitted to fail. To hard-bitten people in what was then the wild West, the tax paralyzed their economies while swelling the coffers of greedy creditors and industrialists. To President Washington, the settlers' resistance catalyzed the first-ever deployment of a huge federal army, led by the president himself, a military strike to suppress citizens who threatened American sovereignty. Daring, finely crafted, by turns funny and darkly poignant, The Whiskey Rebellion promises a surprising trip for readers unfamiliar with this primal national drama, whose climax is not the issue of mere taxation but the very meaning and purpose of the American Revolution.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great story and narration

I really enjoyed this book. Like the other reviewer, I was a bit surprised to hear a British accent from the narrator, but Simon Vance is one of the very best narrators. (He also uses the names Richard Matthews and Robert Whitfield, but they're all the same man).

This book provides rich historical detail about the very early days of the United States. The author does an excellent job providing background information. So the chapter on Herman Husband, who believed the (then) Western US (ie Western PA and VA) would be the New Jerusalem of Revelation, is really an excellent overview of all the religious currents running through American society at the time.

There's also great detail on the debate over federal taxation and Hamilton's agency in getting the whiskey excise tax implemented.

The reason for 4 stars and not 5 is that the author's explanation of the unfolding of the Rebellion is so compressed as to lack sense. This is surprising since his attention to detail everywhere else in the book is so thorough.

I would also recommend this book only to those who already have an interest in early American history. For the more general reader, I suggest 1776 and Washington's Crossing.
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- Kismet

A great story

Having only heard vague references to the Whiskey Rebellion, and thinking it sounded rather interesting, I got this book. Wow! Hogeland can really tell a story! Not only does he turn names into characters with strengths and idiosyncrasies, but he translates the words and deeds of 18th century men into terms that can be understood today. This is one of the best histories on a discreet subject I have read/heard. Simon Vance’s narration is excellent, as usual. He is able to bring the characters to life. I admit that I was surprised to hear an English accent reading American history, but it worked. Between the author and the narrator, it seems as if you are watching the events unfold. There are interesting thumbnails of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. There are intense descriptive passages – how whiskey was made – the horror of being tarred and feathered. But really, the best part was how human the people seemed to be. I very much enjoyed the book, and would recommend it for anyone who likes a good history story.
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- Jody R. Nathan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-26-2006
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio