Whiskey Rebellion Flags

Feb 26th, 2017

The Whiskey Rebellion occurred in the late 1700s. In 1791, the U.S. government instituted an excise tax on whiskey to help pay off the war debt resulting from the Revolutionary War. Frontier farmers strongly opposed the tax and felt it was an attack on them.


Most farmers and distilleries rebelled and refused to pay the tax. At that time, the frontier was comprised of Kentucky and parts of Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Western Pennsylvania rebels took the rebellion further by engaging in intimidation and violence against federal officials that were attempting to collect the tax. Some of the tax collectors were tarred and feathered, and others had their homes burned down.


The rebels used a variety of flags to identify the reason for their rebellion. Most were simple, but some had inscriptions of, or similar to, “Equal Taxation and No Excise”.



A flag with the wording “Liberty or Death” is said to have used by Hagerstown, Maryland, militiamen when the Federals arrived to try to draft men to fight against the rebellion. The Federals were not successful in drafting those men to its cause.



One of the flags used was described as having six stripes to represent the six counties in the area that were included in that faction. Another had six stars and six bars, and another as having seven stars and seven bars.


At that time in history, it is likely that the homemade flags were created using wool bunting, cotton or linen. Silk was so expensive that it is unlikely that those on the frontier could afford to use it for flags.


The federal government sent the army into Pennsylvania and other states to try to squash the rebellion. While many were arrested, the government was not successful in collecting the taxes. Congress repealed the whiskey tax in 1802.


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