The Whiskey Rebellion was the public embodiment of the political opposition to Federalism as exercised by Washington and Hamilton. Hamilton's political opponents claimed his policies singled out individual groups unfairly for reward. The rebellion arose partly because western Pennsylvania farmers saw themselves singled out and exploited for revenue. Political opponents to Federalism further claimed that the Federalists wished to concentrate power in the hands of the central government at the expense of the state governments, which they claimed would be less responsive to the needs of the citizenry. The Whiskey Rebellion arose partly because the farmers felt that the tax had been imposed, and was enforced, by men who knew nothing of their situation and needs. These elements of the Whiskey rebellion lent the weight of easy comparison to the American Revolution by the opponents of Hamilton's fiscal policies. The claims of arbitrary taxation and an uncompassionate central government, matched with the threat of secession, allowed Thomas Jefferson and his followers to recall the events of the past that had forced the British government out of the colonies' favor.

The one positive result of the Whiskey Rebellion for the Washington administration was the effectiveness of Washington's response. The Whiskey Rebellion was the first major test of the national government's ability to enforce its laws within the states. This it did, and in inspiring fashion. George Washington led the troops himself, symbolizing the broad reach of the national government, and its commitment to dealing with the states on a close, rather than remote, basis.

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