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Only a few years after Shays’ Rebellion was suppressed, a new revolt broke out in western Pennsylvania. Anti-government resentment had been growing on the frontier for years. Then in 1791, the U.S. government handed down a tax on domestic spirits. It became known as the Whiskey Tax. Many western farmers and distillers, already struggling under harsh conditions, refused to pay the tax and rose up in defiance. Armed gangs ambushed tax collectors—and anyone who supported them.

As resistance spread, authorities struggled to suppress the violence. Then, in the summer of 1794, hundreds of rebels went to battle against U.S. Army troops at Bower Hill, the mountaintop mansion of a wealthy tax collector. The rebels burned the manor to the ground and a popular rebel leader was shot dead, inflaming tensions.

The federal government had an unprecedented crisis on its hands.

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