In Part 1, we looked back through history at the origins of sweet tea in colonial America during the buildup to the Revolutionary War.
The Whiskey Rebellion
Fast forward twenty years, and a new kind of tax began to plague the young country. Alexander Hamilton wanted to impose a “sin tax” on whiskey and other distilled spirits. This excise tax did not sit well, especially with those living in the western frontier. The rebels’ primary issue with the tax was that it was levied on people who would not benefit from it, which they argued was the exact reason they’d just fought the Revolutionary War. Many of those who would be subjected to the tax were veterans in that same war.
In the western frontier of Appalachia, they were still attempting to secure their autonomy by resisting centralized government. Some states had repaid their war debt, and they did not understand why they should be burdened with the unpaid debts of other states.
Although there are accounts that portray the Whiskey Rebellion as being confined to western Pennsylvania, there was opposition to the whiskey tax in the mountainous counties of every other Appalachian state. The whiskey tax went uncollected throughout the frontier state of Kentucky, where no one could be convinced to enforce the law or prosecute evaders.
In 1792, Alexander Hamilton advocated military action to suppress violent resistance in western North Carolina, but Attorney General Edmund Randolph argued there was insufficient evidence to legally justify such a reaction. At Braddock’s Field, there was talk of declaring independence from the United States and of joining with Spain or Great Britain. The agitators modeled their actions to mirror the tea tax protests of the American Revolution.
The uncanny parallels between tea’s controversial early history in this country and the lore surrounding home-brewed whiskey reveal an underlying sense of justice that has proven to be such a universal facet of the American identity. In the South, this spirit lives on, not only in beverages, but also in strict adherence to tradition. Whether you’ve got a tooth that begs for some sweet tea or you’ve got a hankering for some ‘shine, just remember you may be yearning for something more than just a nostalgic thirst-quencher. And, if you really want to celebrate Southern heritage, mix the two for a delight that just might get your own rebellious spirit moving.
Sources for Parts 1 and 2
Stradley, Linda. “Iced Tea History-Sweet Tea History” What’s Cooking America.
“History of Tea: USA” Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. 25 February 2004.
“American Tea Culture.” Wikipedia.
Wees, Beth Carver. “Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate in Early Colonial America.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. October 2003.
Smith, George A. “Americans with Attitudes: Smuggling in Colonial America. Libertarianism.org. 06 December 2011.
“Whiskey Rebellion.” Wikipedia.