The Grain Farmer of 1794

Why do some of us love history?  I guess we can view it smugly… after all, by now we have all the answers. We know who won the wars and elections and who climbed out of hardship to become powerful and famous enough to survive the ages. We see every failure and victory. We can look back and know with certainty who had the good ideas and whose ideas flopped. Also, by learning history we often get a sense of déjà vu. Let’s face it, history is about the human experience and we are just that … humans having experiences. By facing history … or putting a face on history … we tend to enjoy the experience even more fully. Of course, unless you happened upon this blog by pure accident, you know that the writing of historical fiction and cross genre fiction is my particular love. And so, I’d like to bring a “what if” kind of conversation to the net. It’s amazing just how much of a parallel can be drawn from some issue or event that happened long ago to what our fellow Americans are saying and doing and thinking today.

In today’s blog, I’m going to introduce you to Everett, a Pennsylvania farmer with some thoughts and questions that might be typical if we were all living during his times instead of our own.

From Pennsylvania in 1794.

I’m Everett. I’m a grain farmer in Pennsylvania. For years, I fought the British during the Revolutionary War. I even got wounded and walk with a bit of a limp. But I don’t mind. I suffered and fought just to free myself from the taxes of King George. Now, it seems that I’m fighting all over again.

It began back in 1791 when the Federal Government forced everyone to pay a tax on whiskey. Now whiskey just happens to be a produce that provides most of the income for us grain farmers. And I’m a grain farmer. Let’s just say that I see this tax as an unfair, unjust and pointless attack on my freedom to do business as I need. This tax has caused me some harm and will eventually wipe out my financial security. So, I was one of those who got together with my neighbors and refused to pay the tax. I’ll never forget the time when Federal agents came to collect from us. Well, we tarred and feathered them and sent the lot of them running away. I didn’t enjoy going that to those men. Spite of what others may say, I took no pleasure in it. In fact, I hate the Federalist Party and Alexander Hamilton for putting me in this position.

See, I was there in the spring of 1794 when warrants were issued for the distillers who refused to pay the tax. What did they think would happen? Warrants issued? Of course, this action led to rioting. And what a riot it was. The home of the regional tax inspector was burned. A Federal officer was killed. We all hoped we’d won and it would all go away. But it didn’t really go away. Now, it’s October and I hear that President Washington is sending about 15,000 militiamen to deal with us. Can you imagine? My old militia is coming after me. I don’t know what to do… what to think anymore.

As I stand here looking out at my peaceful farm, I wonder if I should keep up with my fight against the Federal Government. I believe my cause is right, but should I really risk my life or being sent to prison? Anyway, I have a feeling that there’s no turning back now. Nation’s no longer a bunch of far off colonies that have nothing to do with each other. No sir. Nation’s grown some during the last twenty years. I sort of know that this is the beginning of a federal involvement in our lives. And I have to ask myself if our brand new nation, the home I fought to create, will become stronger or more divided because of it.

And so, we all know the answer to his questions. Don’t we? It took many decades and much bloodshed to determine state rights and federal rule. And of course, taxation is an issue that is still voted on, talked about, defined and redefined. But this is just one instant in history. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it and will visit here for future postings. In the meantine, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit  See you there.  Kathy Lonetto

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