Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Why Pittsburgh Used to Hate Alexander Hamilton

The musical “Hamilton” made its subject a hero again, but Alexander Hamilton wasn’t always beloved in western Pennsylvania.




photo shutterstock

 

Thanks to Broadway composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, many Americans know a lot about Alexander Hamilton — “the ten-dollar founding father without a father.” As the center of the musical “Hamilton,” his stature as an early American hero has been restored. There was a time, however, when he was a hated and feared man, representing the worst aspects of the new federal government, in western Pennsylvania.

In his 2006 book, “The Whiskey Rebellion,” historian William Hogeland details Hamilton’s role in that often brutal uprising. Not only did the founding father create and champion the tax on distilled liquor that gave rise to the rebellion, he named the insurgency, first describing the insurrection as the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1794, Hamilton came to Pittsburgh to punish as many rebellious farmers and frontiersmen as he could.

Hamilton served as the first American Secretary of the Treasury, a member of President George Washington’s cabinet. He envisioned the 1791 excise tax on distilled liquor, the first tax on a product made in the United States, as a way to help pay off debts incurred during the American Revolution. Folks on the western frontier of Pennsylvania, however, produced a lot of whiskey. They found the tax unfair, got angry and began to protest — often with deadly results. The rebels tarred and feathered tax collectors, a horrible and painful way of discouraging men from government work.

There were incidents near Mingo Creek in Washington County, near the Miller Homestead in South Park and (most importantly) at the stately mansion called Bower Hill, owned by Gen. John Neville. Rebels burned his house to the ground on July 17, 1794.

The federal government had to respond. Hamilton convinced Washington rally federal troops — some 13,000 men from the states of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — which the ailing, 62-year-old president would personally lead toward Pittsburgh. With Hamilton at his side, Washington got as far as Bedford; there, he received word that negotiators and the western Pennsylvania rebels had signed oaths of support for the federal government in exchange for amnesty from prosecution. Washington decided to travel no farther; on Oct. 21, he headed back east. He allowed Hamilton to continue on to the land around the forks of the Ohio.

When Hamilton and the troops arrived, Hogeland says their presence “made the forks a kind of battlefield, even if no shots were fired.” They staged what came to be known as the “Dreadful Night” on Nov. 13, 1794; hundreds of men throughout western Pennsylvania were arrested and dragged from their homes. Hogeland writes, “Footsoldiers prodded the startled prisoners, close to naked and some barefoot, out of cabins into new-fallen snow while mounted officers barked commands and told furious wives and crying children that the men were being taken to be hanged.”  

The prisoners were held without evidence — without formal charges, often without food and water — as traitors. Hamilton interrogated some, but most were eventually released; 20 of the defeated rebels were required to go to Philadelphia to stand trial. They marched on foot across the state, under mounted guards, for an entire month, arriving on Christmas morning. President Washington would eventually pardon them all.

Hamilton felt that all of his work to establish and reinforce the power of the national government was essential — and successful. In the biography that inspired the musical, Ron Chernow writes, “Enough rancor toward Hamilton remained in western Pennsylvania that he required a special escort of six soldiers on horseback when he left Pittsburgh in late November.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Pittsburgh Might Mow Your Lawn for Free

The city is launching a free grass cutting service for the elderly, disabled and veterans.

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Influx of Red, White and Blue Coming to City of Black and Gold

The National Flag Foundation is bringing the Star Spangled Banner’s history and colors to the Koppers Building –– and on some nights, it will be visible for miles.

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Renting in Pittsburgh? You're Getting a Great Deal

The Steel City ranks first in Zillow’s 10 Most Affordable Markets for Renters list.

Iconic Pittsburgh Meteorologist Joe DeNardo Dies at 87

DeNardo was well known in Pittsburgh long before a series of promotional TV spots cemented his place among the city's broadcasting icons.

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Best of the 'Burgh 2018: Readers' Choice Poll Results

Diners, food trucks, dive bars and more. Here's the most popular stuff in town.

Conor Lamb Doesn't Want to Know How You Voted for President

The new congressman discusses his upset victory –– and his thoughts on the state of the Democratic Party in 2018.

Restaurant Review: The Twisted Frenchman is an Ambitious Endeavor

Andrew Garbarino moved his fine-dining restaurant into a multimillion-dollar new home. Does it live up to its new digs?

Vietnam Vets – The Warriors No One Wanted to Thank

When veterans returned from Vietnam, they didn't often hear the phrase “Thank you for your service.” But now, Pittsburgh veterans think people are learning to separate the war from the warrior.

Web Exclusive: Pittsburgh Vets Recount Their Time in Vietnam

From a medic who fainted when his blood was drawn during his physical to an Army nurse, area Vietnam veterans share stories about their time in country.

Sadie's Tree: A Plea for Kindness in Memory of a Bullied Teen

In an obituary read round the world, the family of Bedford, Pa., teen Sadie Riggs called out those who had bullied her and pleaded for people to be kind to one another. A year after Sadie’s death, lessons remain to be learned from her suicide.

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Pittsburgh Might Mow Your Lawn for Free

Pittsburgh Might Mow Your Lawn for Free

The city is launching a free grass cutting service for the elderly, disabled and veterans.

Comments

Influx of Red, White and Blue Coming to City of Black and Gold

Influx of Red, White and Blue Coming to City of Black and Gold

The National Flag Foundation is bringing the Star Spangled Banner’s history and colors to the Koppers Building –– and on some nights, it will be visible for miles.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments

The Inspiring Power of Shazier’s Hope

The Inspiring Power of Shazier’s Hope

Ryan Shazier appeared at the Steelers’ South Side facility today to confirm that he has no intention of leaving the game behind.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Ocean's 8

The 400-Word Review: Ocean's 8

The spinoff to the early-2000s heist series is nothing if not mediocre.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

This Pittsburgh couple is using their engagement photos to raise awareness about one of their most passionate causes.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments