Alexander Hamilton's Role in the Insurrection

The following might lead to a somewhat different interpretation of some of the facts leading up to George Washington's calling up the troops to put down the rebellion in southwestern Pennsylvania.

As indicated in the previous discussion there were many reasons that the peoples west of the mountains were upset with the treatment they were receiving from the eastern aristocratic population.

Alexander Hamilton was well aware of the unhappiness in the western lands from western New York through western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and western North Carolina. He stated that the best way to put a stop to this discontentment and draw everyone together as a single nation would be to have a large military show of force (Ewing, 1930). He also said that the best location for a rebellion to occur, to permit a show of force, would be in southwestern PA. We can assume that the reasons for this statement might have been that southwestern Pennsylvania would be comparatively easy to get troops to. George Washington and his brother Charles (really George) also owned a large amount of land in the area making it easier for Hamilton to convince the President to protect his own investment.

Hamilton also stated that the one thing preventing a unifying show of force in southwestern Pennsylvania was the lack of a popular leader of the rebellion. It is known that when David Bradford was asked to take over the leadership after James MacFarlane was killed at Bower Hill, he declined, saying that he felt his position as Deputy Attorney General of Washington County prevented him from taking any part in the rebellion. We do not really understand why David Bradford changed his mind and took over the leadership the very next day.

Questions:

1. Did Alexander Hamilton knowingly and purposefully orchestrate the insurrection to permit this show of force?

2. We know that Alexander Hamilton knew the law requiring persons to go to the federal court in Philadelphia to pay their fine was being changed, but did he have any idea what effect the illegal writs would have on the settlers in the west?

3. Was the killing of James MacFarlane the result of a purposeful trick to allow a new leader to take over?

4. Why did David Bradford change his mind and become one of the leaders of the farmers against the tax? Was it because of threats or was there more to it? Why did David not give up the protest when all others had capitulated?

5. Where did David Bradford get the money for the lavish cotton plantation, which he built in St. Francisville Louisiana?  It is known that he was fairly well to do, but was his position in Washington county really that lucrative (remember - this plantation was built before the Bradford's had sold their Pennsylvania land)?

6. What happened to Alexander Hamiltons money which he seemed to lose in the fall of 1794?

7. General Neville was an outspoken critic of the whiskey tax. He went to Philadelphia and came back as the Allegheny County tax collector. Why did he change his mind? Was it, as many of the locals believed, that he was "bought" off by Hamilton?

8. Why were none of the leaders of the "rebellion" arrested and taken to Philadelphia for trial while many of the minor players stood trial?

9. Did Hamilton's activities with the Newburgh Conspiracy indicate that he might also have been behind the starting of the Whiskey Rebellion, at least in July of 1794?

Return to the Whiskey Rebellion