Stills from an Old Docudrama about the Whiskey Rebellion

The Prelinger Archive recently released on-line an old silent film docudrama short called The Whiskey Rebellion.

It gives the impression of having run out of budget or of having been spliced together from the surviving film fragments of what was meant to be a larger project. There’s a lot of shots of George Washington entertaining guests in Philadelphia, and then the whole of the government’s response to the rebels consists of them riding into a village and chopping down one of their “liberty poles.”

To the extent that the film develops a message, it is that the whiskey rebels were wild-eyed, uncouth, alcohol-crazed savages, while the government forces were well-dressed patriots in awe of their hero Washington.

Torch-waving Rebels Advance on the Excise House

The Exise House in Flames, the Rebels Celebrate

“My God, Gentlemen! Western Pennsylvania is in open rebellion!” says Washington

Washington confers with his aides

One (Hamilton?) Advises: “If this new Government dare not show the mailed fist, it must go under.”

The Whiskey Rebels Hang Banners Reading “Liberty And No Excise” from a Liberty Pole

Federal Troops Chop Down the Liberty Pole