Fries Rebellion or Fries's Rebellion (1798-1799) was an American revolt by German Americans in Pennsylvania protesting the new John Adams administration's House Tax, which increased taxes on houses, slaves, and land. The tax, which was enacted to pay for a significant buildup in the United States Navy in the face of possible war with France, angered the frugal farmers.
John Fries, a well respected Pennsylvanian trader, who had previously served as a captain in the Whiskey Rebellion, was known as the leader of the insurrection. In 1798, he led a band of sixty armed men around the Pennsylvania countryside making it impossible for the tax assessors to complete their task. Through acts of intimidation, Fries and his men were successful in keeping the assessors out of their town of Milford, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas. Encouraged by Fries success in Milford, other Pennsylvania citizens also began to revolt against the federal tax.
Pennsylvania's Governor Thomas Mifflin, embarrassed by his state's actions, sent the militia into Northampton, Pennsylvania, to arrest members of the renegade bands, as well as those who refused to pay the House Tax. The next morning, Fries and his men captured three assessors and took them to a tavern where they held them for a short time before released them.
After a series of kidnappings and the raiding of a local jail with housed four hundred prisoners, President John Adams sent federal troops to arrest the rebels. The rebels were captured and tried for treason. Fries was also arrested and was sentenced to be hanged, but Adams pardoned them all in 1800.
- Paul Douglas Newman. Fries's Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution (2005) excerpt and text search