blended whiskey rebellion

I forgot to post about the recent LRC article on The Whiskey Rebellion.

I did a long blog post back in November, called “whiskey: the patriotic spirit”, in which I talked about the history of whisky in Scotland and the diverging historical accounts of the American “Whiskey Rebellion” at the end of 18th century.

One book I pointed to was L. Neil Smith’s Probability Broach:

The textbook version of the Whiskey Rebellion has the rebellion itself take place in a handful of counties in Pennsylvania. El Neil’s Probability Broach takes place in an alternative timeline where the rebels won, General Washington was defeated, and the original vision of the Declaration of Independence continued to be the dominant ideology for the next two centuries.

Well, according to William Hogeland, El Neil’s scenario wouldn’t have worked, even if Washington had been defeated.


Because, says Hogeland, the whiskey rebels weren’t just aggrieved property owners in the libertarian tradition, but also egalitarians in the leftist socialist tradition. (Hogeland calls them “liberals” which seems an absurd abuse of the L-word in this historical context. Jefferson was the true liberal (although not always true to his liberalism), but it’s the monstrous Hamilton whom Hogeland denounces with the word.)

Anyway, I’ve suggested before that the original Left of the French Revolution was not straight-forwardly classical liberal in the modern libertarian sense, but was in fact a mixed alliance of egalitarians and libertarians against the Ancien Regime: that the socialists didn’t simply appropriate the term “left” from the classical liberals, but rather that the two divergent goals of the equality-of-rights libertarians and the equality-of-results socialists became more apparent after the equality-of-neither conservatives had been defeated.

Hogeland suggests that the whiskey rebels were similarly blended; he even implies that the progressive revisionists are more correct than the libertarian revisionists — not in their political or economic analysis of events, but simply in their description of the ideologies and goals of the farmers in rebellion.

I look forward to reading his book on the subject:

The Whiskey Rebellion

George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty


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