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John Fries' Rebellion, also called the House Tax Rebellion, the Home Tax Rebellion or the Hot-Water Rebellion because hot water was used to drive tax assessors from houses, is traditionally considered to have been an armed tax revolt led by a Pennsylvania farmer between 1799 and 1800.


John Fries

John Fries (1750-1818) was born in Pennsylvania of German descent in about 1750; he was locally famous for having defeated a foraging raid by the British during the American Revolution. (This may not have actually happened, but it was a local story by 1799.)[1] Ironically Fries had been among those called out to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.

As an itinerant auctioneer, he became well acquainted with the Germans in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. In July 1798, during the troubles between the United States and France now known as the Quasi-War, the US Congress levied a direct tax (on dwelling-houses, lands and slaves; sometimes called the Direct House Tax of 1798) of $2 million, of which Pennsylvania was called upon to contribute $237,000. There were very few slaves in the state, and the tax was accordingly assessed upon dwelling-houses and land, the value of the houses being determined by the number and size of the windows. The inquisitorial nature of the proceedings aroused strong opposition among the Germans, and many of them refused to pay, making the constitutional argument that this tax was not being levied in proportion to population. Fries, assuming leadership, organized an armed band of about 60 men, a force that grew to about 400 by mid-day, which included his son Ben Fries, who marched about the country intimidating the assessors and encouraging the people to resist. In March 1799, the governor called out the militia, and the leaders were arrested.

Fries and two others were twice tried for treason (the second time before Samuel Chase) and were sentenced to be hanged, but they were pardoned by President John Adams in April 1800, and a general amnesty was issued on May 21, 1800. Fries died at his home south of Trumbauersville, Pennsylvania in 1818. A segment of PA Route 663 near Trumbauersville is named in his honor.[2]

See also


External links


Further reading

  • T. Carpenter, Two Trials of John Fries...Taken in Shorthand (Philadelphia, 1800)
  • W. W. H. Davis, The Fries Rebellion (Doylestown, Pa., 1899).
  • Adams, Charles, Those Dirty Rotten Taxes: The Tax Revolts That Built America (Free Press, March 1998) ISBN 0-684-84394-3
  • Paul Douglas Newman, Fries's Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution (University of Pennsylvania Press, April 2005) ISBN 0-8122-1920-1

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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