This is a very compelling book by a very talented writer who is able to explain complicated issues and historically distant attitudes with grace and concision. It is also at times riddled with errors; tendentious beyond belief; and written more for the sake of "story" than for historical understanding. But I'll get to that later.
William Hogeland chose to focus his undeniably keen eye on the Whiskey Rebellion, which as he observes is a much discussed but little understood event in early American history, at least so far as a popular audience is concerned. In all the door-stop biographies of Founding Fathers that have come out of late, the Whiskey Rebellion features as an episode of a few pages, more or less; and since those biographies deal with the men who put down the rebellion, Hogeland observes, they tend to give the Pennsylvania rebels the short end of the stick, if indeed they give them any stick at all. For biographers of Hamilton or Washington or chroniclers of the rise of American government, the rebels are speed bumps on the highway from Confederation to Union.
Hogeland sees them as much more than that. For him, the Whiskey rebels are Americans worthy of respect and understanding. Thus, as he draws the strands of the story together, he introduces such a long list of players that I wish he'd included a dramatis personae just after the Table of Contents. Some of these personae, like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, need little introduction. But there are a host of others who are undoubtedly new to the reader and indeed to the scholar, and just about all of them are unique personalities in American history.
Tremendously important to Hogeland's story, not least because of the detailed memoirs he left to posterity, ...1
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It Wasn't Really About Whiskey
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