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An Early Test of Americas National Security: The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794

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[Technical Report, Research Paper]

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The first major test to American national security took root in 1791 when an association of violent rebels in western Pennsylvania refused to pay a federally mandated tax on the domestic production of distilled spirits. This rebellion in western Pennsylvania became an overwhelming national security crisis that challenged the authority of the Constitution, disrupted national progress, and created a breach in national stability that invited foreign attacks on American sovereignty. Recognizing that the Whiskey Rebellion was a grave threat to national security, and cognizant of the turbulent foreign security environment, President Washington harnessed the collective strength of all elements of national power to overwhelm the threat in November 1794. The Whiskey Rebellion marked the most perilous challenge to American security until the outbreak of civil war sixty-seven years later. The astute federal suppression of the rebellion set a precedent for the use of all instruments of national power, emphasized the significance of domestic stability in national security affairs, and ultimately became the springboard that propelled the nascent American republic to future prosperity.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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[A, Approved For Public Release]