Brady Crytzer is one of our tribe. He’s a historian who specializes in frontier history, particularly backcountry Pennsylvania. He’s a fellow commentator on Into The Wild Frontier on INSP. He’s the host of the Journal of the American Revolution’s podcast, Dispatches.
He first came to my attention with his book Guyasuta and the Fall of Indian America. Guyasuta was a militant Seneca who was as much of a factor in what came to be known as Pontiac’s War as Pontiac himself.
Crytzer’s most recent book is The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis (I see what you did there Brady…) This is an important episode in the history of the early Republic, and perhaps more resonant now than ever, given the unease and unrest the Republic is facing right now. Here’s the caper:
In March 1791 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton shocked the western frontier when he proposed a domestic excise tax on whiskey to balance America’s national debt. The law, known colloquially as the “Whiskey Act,” disproportionately penalized farmers in the backcountry, while offering favorable tax incentives designed to protect larger distillers. Although Hamilton viewed the law as a means of both collecting revenue andforcefully imposing federal authority over the notoriously defiant frontier, settlers in Western Pennsylvania bristled at its passage. They demanded that the law be revoked or rewritten to correct its perceived the injustices, and begged their representatives to lobby Congress on their behalf.
As the months passed however the people of Western Pennsylvania grew restless with the inadequacy of the government’s response and they soon turned to more violent means of political expression. Treasury officers across the west were targeted for their involvement in the tax collection, and they were brutally attacked by armed bands of disgruntled locals. They were tarred and feathered, burned with hot irons, and whipped; their homes were ransacked and burned. Extralegal courts were established in a direct challenge to federal authority, and the frontier slowly drifted toward a state of rebellion.
In response President George Washington raised an army of 13,000 men, one of the largest forces he ever commanded, to suppress the rebellion. No major battle ever occurred, but weeks of arrests, illegal detentions, and civil rights violations rocked the west. The event polarized the nation, and highlighted the dramatic differences between Washington’s Federalist perspective and Jefferson’s emerging Democratic-Republican Party. Two centuries later the Whiskey Rebellion stands as the second largest domestic rebellion in American History, only outdone by the Confederate States of America in 1861.
Here’s a couple of cool Crytzer pieces on the Pennsylvania frontier:
Gotta get the spooky stuff in there…
Crytzer, it seems, is also a collector of the material culture of the golden age of the American sportsman of the early 20th century. Y’know… Montana Peak hats, Strathcona Boots, plaid jackets — the style depicted by Philip Goodwin.
That ties in with an interest in the history of the early American conservation movement. Crytzer has launched a new Youtube channel exploring that stuff. First episode below.