Ten Dollar Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is portrayed as an American hero in the Broadway smash hit "Hamilton" that showcases his life full of triumphs and failures. But don't be fooled. There was a time that Hamilton was the most hated man in the Laurel Highlands. Here's the tea:
Let's start with the biggie, the Whiskey Rebellion. It was Hamilton's brilliant idea to tax whiskey to help pay off the debts that accrued during the American Revolution, and he made it happen. The Laurel Highlands was booming with distilleries at the time, so a few producers weren't too happy about the tax, understandably, which triggered the Rebellion. The Hamilton song "Cabinet Battle #1" warns what follows: "Just wait 'til you tax our whiskey."
Hamilton went too far when he obtained warrants and made inspectors visit distilleries' warehouses TWICE A DAY for bootlegged booze. He probably regretted his decision when whiskey producers started capturing inspectors and torturing them. Hamilton wasn't cool with that, so he traveled to Western Pennsylvania to punish the assailants. I know, so much drama.
Let's not forget how we got here in the first place! The Laurel Highlands had already lost a lot for our freedom. During the Revolutionary War, Historic Hanna's Town, the first county seat, sent their able-bodied men to fight for Washington in the northeast.
Left undefended, this allowed an opportunity for the Indians and British allies to raid and burn the entire village to the ground. Which is exactly what they did. Hanna's Town never recovered, and the county seat changed to Greensburg, changing the course of history forever for our region.
And who was Washington's chief aide and dealing with matters of military intelligence throughout much of this conflict? Alexander Hamilton! So much for him keeping the Laurel Highlands safe.
As a result of the rebellion, Hamilton decided on a financial plan that resulted in a crisis for Americans, and especially those in Westmoreland County. The only positive is that his plan consolidated all of the debt at a federal level. But negatively, it increased federal taxes and the government took money from the people and said "that's an IOU, we will pay you back later." So pretty much, the people rebelled in order to avoid heaping taxes just to be taxed twice over.
People ended up selling their IOUs for pennies in order to survive. Forty-three percent of families in Westmoreland County between 1782 and 1792 foreclosed. And the blood was is on Hamilton's hands. Not literally, but his plan wasn't the best and destroyed people's lives.
But this wasn't the Laurel Highlands' first rodeo with financial despair, so they recovered eventually. But the struggle was real.
Although the Laurel Highlands had some beef with Hamilton at one point, we forgive him. Alright, we may still be a bit salty #FeelTheBurr. Nowadays, the Laurel Highlands is having its second Whiskey Rebellion, with spirits brewed at multiple distilleries including Tall Pines Distillery, Ridge Runner Distillery and, coming soon, West Overton Distilling Company.