Front Page Titles (by Subject) hamilton to washington 1 - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6
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hamilton to washington 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 6.
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hamilton to washington1
I have the honor to inclose sundry papers which have been handed to me by the Commissioners of the Revenue, respecting the state of the excise law in the Western Survey of the District of Pennsylvania.
Such persevering and violent opposition to the law gives the business a still more serious aspect than it has hitherto worn, and seems to call for vigorous and decisive measures on the part of the government.
I have directed that the supervisor of the district shall repair forthwith to the survey in question, to ascertain in person the true state of the survey; to collect evidences respecting the violences that have been committed, in order to a prosecution of the offenders; to ascertain particulars as to the meeting which appears to have been held at Pittsburgh; to encourage the perseverance of the officers; giving expectations, as far as it can be done with propriety, of indemnification from the government for any losses which they may sustain in consequence of their offices; to endeavor to prevail upon the inhabitants of the country of Alleghany, who appear at present the least refractory, to come into an acquiescence of the law; representing to discreet persons the impropriety of government’s remaining a passive spectator of the contempt of its laws.
I shall also immediately submit to the Attorney-General, for his opinion, whether an indictable offence has not been committed by the persons who were assembled at Pittsburgh, and of what nature is the paper which contains their proceedings; with a view, if judged expedient by you, that it may be brought under the notice of the Circuit Court, which, I understand, is to be held in October at Yorktown.
My present clear conviction is, that it is indispensable, if competent evidence can be obtained, to exert the full force of the law against the offenders, with every circumstances that can manifest the determination of government to enforce its execution; and if the processes of the courts are resisted, as is rather to be expected, to employ those means which in the last resort are put in the power of the Executive. If this is not done, the spirit of disobedience will naturally extend, and the authority of the government will be prostrated. Moderation enough has been shown; it is time to assume a different tone. The well-disposed part of the community will begin to think the Executive wanting in decision and vigor. I submit these impressions to your consideration, previous to any step which will involve the necessity of ulterior proceedings; and shall hope as speedily as possible to receive your instructions.
With the highest respect and the truest attachment, I have the honor to be, etc.
[1.]This letter, and those which follow, give the history of the whiskey rebellion from the point of view of the Secretary of the Treasury. That first insurrection against the government is an important chapter in the life of Hamilton. It was his system narrowly victorious at the last point which caused the assumption of the State debts as a part of the general financial policy. It was the assumption of the State debts which made an increase of taxation necessary, and for this purpose the excise on spirits was laid. The new tax produced an outburst of resistance in the Alleghany region—that is, in Western Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. By the efforts of Washington, and by modifying the law almost to the verge of imprudent concession, the disturbances in Virginia and North Carolina were allayed. But in Pennsylvania matters went from bad to worse, until resistance culminated in open rebellion. Judging in accordance with the best principles of taxation, no one would now question the propriety of the excise. But when the opposition to it became revolt, the affair rose in Hamilton’s eyes to something far graver than the successful collection of a certain amount of money. He felt that it was the first sharp test of the value and strength of the government formed under the Constitution, and he knew that if the government prevailed, it would be greatly invigorated. When Washington was satisfied that conciliation had been tried to the last point consistent with safety, he adopted Hamilton’s measures, ordered out an overwhelming force, and sent it against the insurgents. Before this display of energy and vigor the insurrection faded away without bloodshed into ignominy and ridicule. The result was most valuable. There had been a struggle of principles and parties, and the Federal Government had conquered. In the following pages, containing all that Hamilton wrote on the subject, the story of this incident, so important and so full of meaning to our early development as a nation, is told by the principal actor on the side of the Administration.