The Whiskey RebellionSep 4th, 2008 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: Featured Articles, Inlaws & Outlaws
Ever heard of the Whiskey Rebellion? Is there any possibility at all that the Leonards could stay OUT of something like that?
I think yer gonna like this one… courtesy of Cousin Polly.
If you’re familiar with the history of George Washington and/or The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, bear with me just a minute while I bring everyone else up to speed….
Back in the day, before there were taxes and teetotallers and telephones and such, our brand-new Congress of the United States of America was trying, as been the case almost ever since, to erase some national debt. The Revolutionary War had put quite a dent in the colonial budget.
Unaware of the growing crisis, Washington County farmers, among others, had simultaneously figured out that it was easier and cheaper to ship whiskey over the Cumberland Pass to the east coast than it was to ship the grain used to make it. The practice became so widespread in Western Pennsylvania that whiskey actually became the preferred currency over government-printed money. You see where this is going, doncha?
Ol’ Uncle Sam decided to impose the country’s first “sin tax” on western Pennsylvania distillers. It only amounted to a few shillings per gallon, but there were a couple of problems with that. 1) No one had any actual cash… just whiskey and 2) the farmers couldn’t see where the federal government had done them any recent favors.
Long story shortened wa-a-a-a-y down, the farmers refused to pay, went so far as to tar and feather some tax collectors and generally thumb their noses at President George Milhouse Washington. He got miffed, donned his General’s outfit again and led 13,000 US troops into western Washington. The rebels eventually backed down or escaped down the Ohio River, but not before a bunch of farmers were rounded up as suspects and/or witnesses.
President George not only became the first and only US President to lead troops against his own people, he also became the first president to grant amnesty to some insurgent evil-doers. (They really did call them “insurgents.”)
And HERE’S the point of this story… Caleb Leonard, Jr., Isaac Leonard, and one of the William Leonards were among the farmers who signed an Amnesty Pledge… according to the Washington County Historical Society. They appeared in court before Caleb’s neighbor Sheshbazzar Bentley, namesake of Bentleyville.
It’s not real clear whether the Leonards were witnesses or participants, but it’s a great story, doncha think? My g-g-grandfather used to speak of his grandfather’s “log book” and now I have to wonder if “the log book” was the equivalent of today’s checkbook? And wouldn’t THAT be a great find?
There’s lots more good reading out there on the Whiskey Rebellion, and you may find out George Washington’s middle name was NOT “Milhouse,” but the best reference for names, according to the WCHS, is Elizabeth J. Wall’s book, Men of the Whiskey Insurrection in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1988, Library of Congress # 88-90121.
And many huzzahs to Polly for digging up the Leonard Connection.