Revenuers and Moonshiners
Enforcing Federal Liquor Law in the Mountain South, 1865-1900
Wilbur R. Miller
The extension of federal taxing power to cover homemade whiskey was fiercely resisted by mountain people, who had long relied on distilling to produce an easily transported and readily salable product made from their corn. As a result, the collection of the tax required the creation of the most extensive civilian law enforcement agency in the nation's history, the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The bureau both regulated taxpaying distilleries and combated illicit production. This battle against moonshiners, Miller argues, implemented by the Republican party's vision of a federal authority capable of reaching into the most remote parts of the nation.
Miller concentrates his analysis on the revenuers, but he nevertheless draws a clear picture of the mountain people who resisted them. He dispels traditional views of moonshiners as folk heroes imbued with a stubborn individualism or simple country folk victimized by outside forces beyond their control or understanding. Rather, Miller shows that the men (and sometimes women) who made moonshine were members of a complex and changing society that was a product of both traditional aspects of mountain culture and the forces of industrialization that were reshaping their society after the Civil War.
Originally published in 1991.
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