The first par­don

The Week (US) - - News 11 -

Pres­i­den­tial par­dons be­gan with whiskey— more pre­cisely, a hefty tax on spir­its en­acted in 1791 to pay down Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War debt. The levy (as much as 30 per­cent) was a bur­den to poor farmer-dis­tillers and sparked vi­o­lent protests. While Pres­i­dent Wash­ing­ton coun­seled “for­bear­ance,” Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Alexan­der Hamil­ton urged a more vig­or­ous re­sponse. The so-called Whiskey Re­bel­lion cli­maxed on July 17, 1794, when 500 in­sur­gents burned the home of tax su­per­vi­sor John Neville out­side Pitts­burgh. Re­luc­tantly, Wash­ing­ton him­self led a mili­tia force of 13,000 to the area and eas­ily put down the re­volt. Two rebels—John Mitchell and Philip Weigel—were con­victed of trea­son and sen­tenced to death. But on July 10, 1795, Wash­ing­ton granted them the first pres­i­den­tial par­don, ex­press­ing his be­lief that the new Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment ought to ex­er­cise “every de­gree of mod­er­a­tion and ten­der­ness which the na­tional jus­tice, dig­nity, and safety may per­mit.”

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