National Archives at Philadelphia

Raising Revenue

Finding Franklin

Raising Revenue

On the issue of taxation, Benjamin Franklin believed that in order for taxes to be fair, the people being taxed needed representation in government. He thought that only the individual states, not the national government, should pass laws relevant to taxation. Had his suggestions been observed by the framers of the constitution, events like the Whiskey Rebellion may have been avoided.

Refer to CaptionIndictment of William Bradford and John Mitchell, July 26, 1794; National Archives Identifier 702559 See transcription of this document.

In 1791, farmers in western Pennsylvania believed that the new whiskey tax was oppressive and levied unequally throughout the nation. The farmers tarred and feathered tax collectors, robbed the mail, and harassed the U.S. marshal to show their disdain for the tax. In 1794, over five-hundred men led by David Bradford marched through Pittsburgh in protest. In the same year, a Federal force led by Henry Lee, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton marched into western Pennsylvania to end the violence.

A total of 48 indictments were handed down by the Federal court at Philadelphia, 31 were for treason. Only two individuals, John Mitchell and Philip Vigol, were found guilty of treason, but were later pardoned by President Washington.

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