Saturday, December 27, 2008

Civilis Stands Up

The Bativian tribe revolts against the oppressive imperial rule of Nero in 69 A.D.. They wish to return to rule by their local tribal councils rather than far distant Rome. Legends of bravery during this time inspires the Dutch people in the struggle against the Spanish Empire 1500 years later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ancient Mesopatanian Democracy?

In searching East and West for original democratic traditions, one need not retreat when confronted with monarchy, aristocracy, nobility, or slavery. In fact, the search must begin in the East, not the West, for it is in the East that early original egalitarian societies first developed hierarchies and blossomed into mature civilisations, clustered around life-giving sources of water which provided not only irrigation but also arteries of commerce and communication, stimulating urbanisation.
In fact, the earliest such civilisation, Mesopotamia, was named for its position between the two great rivers the Tigris and the Euphrates (Greek mesos, middle, and potamos, river). It is the earliest prototype for Wittfogel's "hydraulic society", which necessitates and produces Oriental despotic power - "total and not benevolent".(2) Indeed, the most common recollections of Mesopotamia are those of original imperial despotisms.
However, the story of the birth of an empire, focusing on the forces that it took to weld it out of scattered communities, may not bother to look unto the character of the original communities. It was, in fact, the search for steady irrigation that brought farming communities to the alluvial lowlands of the Tigris-Euphrates system around 4000 B.C. In apparent contradiction to the Wittfogel theory, there was no spontaneous growth of centralized despotism among them - only villages that "were relatively self-sufficient and politically autonomous".(3) 500 years later, they developed their first cities, and still 500 years later, they put together the first known system of handwriting.
At that point, Service points out, "we merge archaeology (prehistory) with documentary history. It is documentary history that tells us of life and government in the Mesopotamian cities".
A. Leo Oppenheim writes of the coexistence of two components in Mesopatamian society, in a "pattern (which) maintained its effectiveness through three millennia". First there was:
" the community of persons of equal status bound together by a consciousness of belonging, realized by directing their communal affairs by means of an assembly, in which, under a presiding officer, some measure of consensus was reached as it was the case in the rich and quasi-independent old cities of Babylonia."(4)
Side by side with this democratic configuration, there was a second "organization of persons entirely different in structure and temperament from the community just mentioned, whose center and raison d'etre was either the temple or the palace, either the household of the deity or that of the king". Here, then, we have an early instance of a kingdom, within the tight confines of its city-state where the population was within reach of the royal power, which not only tolerated but complemented an operative popular sovereignty. "The solidarity of a Mesopotamian city," observes Oppenheim, "is reflected in the absence of any status or ethnic or tribal articulation". The city's community of citizens "constituted as an assembly" not only administered the city under a presiding official, but also made legal decisions, some of them ceremonially confirmed by the king. Its coexistence with the temple-palace system created for the Mesopotamian city "an equilibrium of forces and an overall harmony that endowed the city with the longevity which the Greek Polis could not achieve"(5)
However, it is another anthropologist, Thorkild Jacobsen, who provides us with deeper, and more sanguine, insights into the democratic character of Ancient Mesopotamia. Jacobsen read a paper entitled, "Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia" at the meeting of the American Oriental Society in Chicago in April, 1941. His "primitive" is more substance than form, where "sovereignty resides in the citizens", but "the various functions of government are as yet little specialized, the power structure is loose, and the machinery for social coordination is as yet imperfectly developed". He then portrays a Mesopotamia where the classic historical confrontation between democratic and autocratic tendencies takes place. The autocratic drive was strong: "The country formed a mosaic of diminutive, self-sufficient autonomous city-states, and in each such state one individual, the ruler, united in his hands the chief political powers: legislative, judiciary and executive". This autocratic momentum "drove Mesopotamia forward relentlessly toward the more distant aim: centralization of power within one large area". Lugal-Zaggisi achieved this goal with his "activities imperial", followed by King Sargon and the highly organized bureaucratic state of the Third Dynasty of Ur.(6)
Working its way up against this autocratic downstream was the egalitarian instinct of the original society, producing seemingly anachronistic democratic institutions. In Assyria, the highest judicial authority was a general assembly of all the colonists: karum sahir rabi - "the colony young and old" - which could be called into session by a clerk only at the bidding of a majority of its senior members. If the clerk issues the call at the request of only one individual, he was fined ten shekels of silver! Besides discharging judicial functions, the general assembly had its political duties. For example, it could overrule objections of particular colonists to the coming commissaries sent by the legal authorities of the mother-city Assur.
In Babylonia, where "we are very naturally struck first of all by the degree to which royal power is there in evidence", anyone had recourse directly to the king for redress, and he could delegate each case to suitable courts for decision. But alongside the king and his judicial powers stood "the Babylonian city", whose town mayor and town elders settled minor disputes and where the whole town - Puhrum, the "assembly" - decided important cases "according to its own local ideas of right and wrong".
To prove that participation in the Puhrum and its judicial function was not limited to a favoured class but was open, perhaps with some degree of compulsion, to all citizens, Jacobsen quotes a Babylonian proverb which presages modern day counsel from stand-up comedians to potential witness summons dodgers and jury-duty evaders:Do not go stand in the assemblyDo not stray to the very place of strifeIt is precisely in strife that fate may overtake you;Besides, you may be made witness for them.So that they take you along to testify in a lawsuitNot your own.(6)
Jacobsen believes that these democratic judicial institutions were not the vanguard of a vigorous democratic thrust, but rather "a last stronghold, a stubborn survival, of ideas rooted in earlier ages". Thus, perhaps unwittingly, he refutes those who, whilst ostensibly advocating support of democracy for all nations, insist that it can only come with growth, progress and development.
As Jacobsen looks backward in time at Mesopotamian history, "the competence and influence of the 'assembly' appears to grow and to extend from judiciary functions to other, even more vital, aspects of government". In the days of the kings of Akkad, "the assembly deemed it within its authority to choose a king". Farther back, in older tradition concerning Uruk in the time of Gilgamesh, "beyond the border line of history proper", the ruler consults the assembly in important matters of peace and war. Gilgamesh, lord of Uruk, is remembered as consulting first the senate, "the elders of Uruk", and then the assembly, "the men of the town", before he decides to arm for a fight with King Agga of Kish. His consultation is not only for advice but for consent, and, Jacobsen correctly concludes, the assembly is recognised as "the ultimate political authority".(7)
The success of the early Mesopotamian democratic thrust appears to be traceable to the fact that the egalitarian values of the primitive population were successfully translated into religious legend.
The Sumerians and the Akkadians projected their human terrestrial conditions into their world of gods and goddesses, who reflected early Mesopotamian culture by organising themselves politically along democratic lines. There was, according to the Adad myth, an assembly of gods and goddesses usually held in a large court called Ubshuukkinna.
An, the god of heaven and "father of the gods", was their presiding officer, and Enlil, god of the storm, was their executive officer and discussion leader. There were fifty "senior gods" - corresponding to the earthly seniors in the Assyrian karum - who handled the discussion, and seven deciding "gods of fates", corresponding to the group of seven members of the karum entitled to seal documents.
The assembly's functions were not only judicial. It also had the authority to grant kingship and to take it back. The period of the kingship was called a bala, the same word applied to the term of earthly Sumerian kings and - in its altered form palu - to that of the rulers of Akkad.
The elections of Mesopotamian kings of that period were dramatically confirmed as late as 1976 by the excavations which yielded the remains of the lost kingdom of Ebla, which flourished in 2500 B.C., a "large and thriving commercial, administrative, and intellectual center with economic and political institutions that sound remarkably familiar".(8)
The diggings yielded some 15,000 clay tablets or fragments written in Sumerian cuneiform. The king of Elba, according to the records discovered in the palace archives, was elected for a seven-year term and shared power with a council of elders. The King, (we would probably call him president today) who lost reelection bids retired on a government pension!
What is involved here is not a primitive, prehierarchical society or a hierarchical society of limited scope, - such as a village or even a town or city-state. Ebla, whose existence had long been inferred from Mesopotamian literature, now rises in history, through its own records, as a fairly extended kingdom of at least 250,000 inhabitants - a large population in those days - with a capital city of 30,000 residents "of whom a eleven thousand seven hundred were civil servants". It was a society of highly organized sophistication. The findings included Sumerian-Eblaite dictionaries of more than 3000 words, expense accounts of traveling diplomats, and even a list of beers, one of which was called ebla, "pronounced just like the city", write Bermant and Weitzman, venturing to add the obvious observation. "could it have been the beer that made Ebla famous?"(9)
Ebla appears to have hosted international conferences and dominated many other kingdoms and cities politically and economically. Among its principal trading partners were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose historical reality had been doubted until now.
So the thrust of Mesopotamian democracy, which even its enthusiastic commentator Jacobsen would cautiously trace as a declining tradition from "beyond the border line of history proper", now receives even stronger confirmation in recorded history than that which already had been found for it by Jacobsen and, after him, Oppenheim.
A little less than 4000 years before the maturing of British Parliamentarianism, the founding of the Swiss Confederation, and the birth of the American republic, we find in Mesopotamia a likeness of a political system which, although with much cruder and broader strokes of the brush, strikingly resembles the finer lines of the Swiss and American written constitutions and the unwritten charter of the British system.
On one fine but crucial point the Mesopotamian democracy may have been superior to at least the current Swiss system. The Puhrum, or assembly of the Babylonian gods, was open to goddesses. An old Babylonian hymn, the song of the goddess Ishtar, relates that "in their (i.e. that gods') assembly her word is highly esteemed, is surpassing; she sits among them counting as much (with them) as Anum, their king".(10) If the reality of the Babylonian system was, as we have seen above, but a reflection of the democratic legends of the Babylonian deities, the women may have participated in the earthly Puhrum. In Switzerland, women received the right to vote in the constitution only in 1971, and up to this writing they may not vote or even participate in some cantons in those open-air, popular assemblies for which Switzerland has had such a rightful claim to fame.
The Eblan discovery, as well as the Oppenheim and Jacobsen theses, may now enable us to cross the line between substance and form. As we move from the cradle of civilization to its neighbour, India, we may perhaps begin to feel entitled to suspect that, whether in form or substance, democracy may have been, indeed, the natural state of early man wherever he may have been.
This article is Chapter 3 from the late Raul S. Manglapus' book Will of the People: Original Democracy in Non-Western Societies. Manglapus' overall thesis is that democracy is not a Western concept but "a value that has been treasured and practiced in the East - in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere - as far back as at least 2500 B.C." With impressive research through eighteen case studies in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, he argues persuasively that democracy is the natural state of most of mankind. He says it was practiced naturally in the earliest tribes and villages through among other things, discussion, consensus and customary law and that it preceded despotism in all civilisations. In the chapter we have reproduced, slightly edited, below, Manglapus argues that the earliest formal democracy gradually developed in Mesopotamia, that is today's Iraq, between 2500 and 4000 B.C.

Freedom House, New York, 1987. Manglapus was a lawyer, Philippine senator, and a Foreign Secretary under President Corazon Aquino. He founded and led the Philippine Progressive Party (PPP), and under its banner unsuccessfully ran for president. In the post-Marcos era, he founded the National Union of Christian Democrats (NUCD) which supported presidents Aquino, Ramos and Arroyo. Early in his career, he became the secretary-general in 1954 of the founding conference of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and the following year vice chairman of the Philippine delegation to the famous Asian-African Conference at Bandung, Indonesia. He wrote Will of the People while in exile during the Marcos years. His hands-on research took him to every country and region of the world he discusses. Manglapus visited Melbourne in September 1966 and a luncheon in his honour was organised by our editor and a number of other people in the process of establishing the Pacific Institute, a regional organisation dedicated to the development of liberal democratic institutions of which Manglapus was to become an active member and our editor its secretary general. Mesopotamia: Earlist Formal Democracy? By Raul S. Manglapus

2 See Karl S. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1957
3 Elman R. Service, Origins of the State and Civilization, Norton, New York, 1975, p.20.
4 A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1964, p.95.
5 Oppenheim, p.114.
6 See Journal of Near Eastern Studies, July 1943, pp.159ff.
6 Jacobsen, p.25.
7 Jacobsen, p.161.
8 Chaim Bermant and Michael Weitzman, Ebla: A Revelation in Archaeology, excerpted in the New York Times, 16th January 1979, p.C-1.
9 Bermant and Weitzman, p. 159.

10 Jacobsen, p.163.


APPIUS CLAUDIUS did not go to the war. He stayed in Rome, and before long roused the temper of the people beyond control.
Verginius, a brave plebeian soldier, was with the army, and in his absence he had left his beautiful young daughter Verginia in the care of her nurse.
One day as the young girl was on her way to school in the Forum, Appius Claudius saw how beautiful she was, and he determined to take her away from her father and Icilius, to whom she was betrothed.
But alth
ough he did his utmost to persuade the maiden to go home with him, Verginia refused to leave her father's house.
Then Appius Claudius grew angry, and vowed to himself that he would take her away by foul means, since fair ones had failed.
So the tyrant ordered a man, named Marcus Claudius, to declare that Verginia was not a free Roman maiden, as Verginius had pretended, but was a slave belonging to himself.
This Marcus did, and then, seeing the girl one day in the Forum, he tried to lay hold of her. But her nurse cried aloud for help, so that a crowd quickly gathered, and hearing what had happened, it vowed to protect Verginia, until her father and her betrothed returned from the camp.
Then Marcius did as Appius Claudius had secretly bidden him. He said that he did not wish to harm the maiden, indeed, he was even willing to take the matter to law.
So, followed by the crowd, he led Verginia before the judge, who was no other than Appius Claudius.
Here Marcus announced that he could prove to Verginius that the maiden was not really his child, but belonged to a slave who lived in his house. Meanwhile he demanded that the maiden should be given into his charge.
But the crowd did not believe what Marcus said, nor did they care to let the young girl leave her home in her father's absence.
"Send to the camp for Verginius," cried the people, heedless of the angry looks of the judge. "Verginia is a free maiden, and shall stay with her friends until she is proved a slave."
With an effort, Appius Claudius concealed his real feelings, and, speaking with the dignity of a judge, he said: "The maiden belongs either to Verginius or to Marcus. As Verginius is absent, Marcus shall take charge of her until her father returns, when the case shall again come before me."
But to such an unfair sentence the people refused to submit. So fierce was their temper that they would have forced Claudius to leave the city had he not reluctantly allowed Verginia to stay with her friends until the following day. If Verginius did not then appear at his tribunal Marcus should claim the maiden without delay, said Claudius.
Icilius had by this time returned to the city, and he at once sent to the camp, beseeching Verginius to let nothing keep him from at once coming to Rome.
But Claudius also sent a messenger to the camp, bidding his officers on no account to allow Verginius to leave his post.
Fortunately, the messenger sent by Icilius reached the camp first, and Verginius was already hastening to the city when his officer received the order sent by Claudius.
The next morning Claudius went to the Forum, sure that before the day was over he would have secured Verginia.
What was his surprise and anger to see that Verginius, whom he had believed to be safely detained at camp, was [82] already there by the side of his daughter, accompanied by many Roman matrons and a crowd of people.
The judge could hear the voice of Verginius as he drew near. He was speaking to the people, and Claudius knew too well how easily the passions of the mob could be roused.
"It is not only my daughter that is not safe," Verginius was saying; "who will dare henceforth to leave their children in Rome if I am robbed of my child?"
As the matrons listened they wept, thinking of the fate that might overtake their own dear daughters.
Claudius was now much too angry to try to humour the people.
Bidding Verginius be silent, he at once gave his verdict that the maiden should be given to Marcus, until her father had proved that she was free-born.
The people stood silent, stunned for the moment by the wickedness of the judge. But as Marcus drew near to lead Verginia away, her friends gathered around her, refusing to let the man come near her.
Then, in his rage, Claudius bade his lictors drive the people away, and they, raising their axes, soon scattered the crowd, for it was unarmed.
Verginius, turning quietly to Claudius, asked that he might at least speak apart for a moment to his daughter and her nurse. His request was granted. Then the poor father in his desperate sorrow knew that there was but one thing to be done. To trust his daughter to these wicked men was not to be thought of, so, drawing her into his arms, he snatched a knife from one of the stalls, and whispered in her ear: "My child, there is no other way to free thee." Swift and sure, even as he spoke, he plunged the knife into his daughter's heart.
Turning to the unjust judge, Verginius cursed him to his face; then breaking through the crowd, he sped to the city gates, and mounting a horse, rode in hot haste back to the camp.
Meanwhile, Icilius lifted the dead body of the maiden, and bade the people see what the tyrant Claudius had done.
In fierce anger, the crowd rushed upon the lictors and a band of armed patricians and drove them from the Forum. Claudius, covering his face with his toga, fled, and for the time escaped with his life.
Verginius had no sooner reached the camp than he told his piteous tale to the army. Willingly the soldiers marched to Rome, led by the miserable father, and joined by another army, at the head of which was Icilius.
Together they entered Rome, and the soldiers deposed the decemvirs, while each army elected ten tribunes. They then marched out of the city, followed by the people, and encamped, as once before, on the Sacred Mount, leaving Rome to the patricians.
The Senate saw that it was time to act, for the decemvirs, it was plain, still hoped to keep the power they had grasped. So it forced them to resign, and then sent to the Sacred Mount to ask the plebeians what sentence they wished the tyrants to suffer.
Icilius demanded that the decemvirs should be put to death, the others were content that they should be banished from Rome. But Appius Claudius was not banished with the other decemvirs. He was sent to prison, where some say that he killed himself, but others assert that his enemies put him to death.
The people were now ready to return to the city, having obtained from the Senate a promise that they should have their tribunes as of old, and that the sacred laws should be again established.
In 445 B.C., about four years later, the plebeians succeeded in gaining new privileges. A law was passed allowing them to marry patricians, and this greatly pleased the people.
For many years the plebeians had wished to be allowed [84] to stand for the Consulship. Now it was arranged that, instead of Consuls, from three to six military tribunes should be appointed, and for this office plebeians might stand.
Two of the duties however that had belonged to the Consuls were not given to the military tribunes, but kept for two new officers, called censors. The censors were to be chosen from among the patricians.


Just 55 kms form the city of Patna is the oldest known republic state of the world, Vaishali. Named after the King Vishala the small town of Vaishali was ruled by the Licchhavi rulers. It is believed to be the earliest republics of the world having an elected body of representatives and an efficient administration, as early as 6th century BC. Vaishali is an important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists and Jains as well. Lord Buddha after attaining his Nirvana, and before attaining the Mahaparinirvana, preached his last sermon here, after which he announced his Mahaprinirvana to come soon. Vaishali is also believed to be the birthplace of Lord Mahavira, the founder of the Jain religions.It is said that the famous courtesan Amrapali belonged to Vaishali, who later became a devout Buddhist. The stories about the Lord's encounter with the courtesan here in Vaishali are famous. Vaishali holds another importance of holding the second Buddhist council after 100 years after the Buddha's death. The monks from all over North India came here to discuss the 10 points of Vinaya, or 10 rules of conduct. The Chinese travelers Fa Xian and Xuan Zhang had visited this place on their journey to India and have written highly about Vaishali and its administration.

Lanfang Republic

Towards the end of the 18th century, Kwangtung Hakkas established a republic in Western Kalimantan which lasted 107 years and had 10 presidents.
The first president is Low Lan Pak. He was born in Kwangtung, Mei Hsien, Shih Pik Pao on the third year of Ching dynasty Chien Long emperor. He married a girl and had a son. But Hakka's custom usually do not take wife along for overseas trip. He left for Western Kalimantan alone to join the gold rush at that time.
He travelled along Han Jiang to Shantao, along Vietnam coastline, and finally landed in Western Kalimantan.
The sultan at that time, Panembahan believing that Chinese workers are hard working, brought in 20 Chinese from Brunei. The sultan Omar in Singkawang, also heard about Chinese diligence and use the lease land system to encourage Chinese to explore in his territory.
When Low Fan Pak reached Western Kalimantan, the Holland has not yet aggressively moved to Kalimantan. Along the coastal area, a lot of Java people and oceania's Bugis people settled down. Also, the Sultan's power were confined to the coastal area, the inland power belongs to the Dayak. The territories among Sultans were not well defined as well.
In the beginning of 1740, the Chinese numbered only a few tens. By 1770, the Chinese has grown to 20,000 strong. By blood clan or by the area they are from, the Chinese established Kongsi(company) to protect themselves.
In 1776, 14 kongsi banded together to form a He Soon 14 Kongsi in order to break the bottleneck of being grouped by area or by blood.
At that time Low Lan Pak established his own Lang Fan kongsi. He then united all the Hakkas in the San-Sin lake area and build a Mem-Tau-Er township and made it the headquarter of his united company.
At that time, Kun Tian(Pontianak) which located in the lower stream of Kapuas River was an important commerce area and was controlled by Sultan Abdul Laman. The upper stream of the river is controlled by the Dayaks. Kun Tian neighboring state Mempawah's Sultan tried to build a palace in the upper stream which led to the fighting between the 2 Sultans.
The Kun Tian Sultan asked Low Lan Pak for help. Since the palace is being built near the Lan Fang company territory, Low Lan Pak decided to help Kun Tian Sultan and defeated the Mempawah's Sultan.
The defeated Mempawah's Sultan then joined forces with the Dayaks and launched a counter-attack. Low Lan Pak again defeated Mempawah Sultan and this time marched North all the way to Singkawang. Singkawang Sultan and Mempawah Sultan signed a peace treaty with Low Lan Pak and Low Lan Pak's popularity increased dramatically. He was 57 then.
After that, Chinese and locals, turned to Low Lan Pak to seek protection, and when Kun Tian Sultan realized that he can not challenged Low Lan Pak, The sultan himself seek protection from Low Lan Pak.
Thus, Low Lan Pak established a government, using his company name, changing kongsi(company) to republic, and formed Lan Fang Republic in 1777, 10 years earlier than USA(1787). At that time people wanted Low Lan Pak to be Sultan, but he declined and take the post of governorship, similar to the president post.
From Qing dynasty's sea nation annals, it recorded that it is a place where Ka Yin people (Mei Hsien area) do mining, build road, establish its own nation, every year has ships reached ng Zhou and Chao Zhou area, doing commerce. >From its own Lan Fang Company annals, it indicated that every year it pays tribute to Qing dynasty like Annan (Vietnam).
The capital was in Ceh Wan Li. The Ta Tang Chon Chang(president) is elected by election. Both the president position and the vice president position has to be of Hakka from Ka Yin or Ta Pu area. The flag is a rectangle yellow flag with the word Lan Fang Ta Tong Chi. The president flag is a triangular yellow flag with the word Chuao (General). The high ranking officials dress in Chinese style while lower ranking officials dress western style clothing.
Low Lan Pak passed away on the second year of the republic. He has been in Borneo for 20 years. he 47th year of the republic during the reign of the fifth president Liew Tai Er, Dutch began its active expansion in Indonesia and occupied the South East region of Borneo. Lan Fang lose its autonomy and became a protected state of Dutch.
Then Dutch opened a colonial office in Kun Tian and intervened republic's affair. In 1884, Singkawang refused to be ruled by Dutch, and was attacked by the Dutch. The Dutch occupied Lan Fang Kongsi. Lan Fang Kongsi fought for 4 years but eventually was defeated, and its people fled to Sumatra. Fearful of strong reaction from Ching government, Dutch never declared that it occupied Lan Fang and let one of the descendent be a figure head. It was not until the formation of Republic of China in 1912 that Dutch formally declared its formal control of the area.
Those that fled to Sumatra regrouped in Medan. From there, some moved to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. One of the descendent from these people is Lee Kuan Yew. While Hakkas are the minority in Singapore, it is the Hakkas that played an important part to establish the second Lan Fang company - Singapore.

(summary from the book Hakka people - Jews of the Orient by Kao Chung Xi. Summary digest compiled by Jonathan Teoh. Some spelling were revised according to Josef Widjaja, Oct 26, 1996)

The Whiskey Rebellion

from Wikipedia:

The Whiskey Rebellion (less commonly known as the Whiskey Insurrection) was a popular uprising that had its beginnings in 1791 and culminated in an insurrection in 1794 in the locality of Washington, Pennsylvania, in the Monongahela Valley. The rebellion was the result of tax imposed on whiskey. The rebellion occurred shortly after the Articles of Confederation had been replaced by a stronger federal government under the American Constitution in 1789.

The 1791 tax
The new federal government, at the urging of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, assumed the states' debt from the American Revolutionary War. In 1791 Hamilton convinced Congress to approve taxes on distilled spirits and carriages. Hamilton's principal reason for the tax was that he wanted to pay down the national debt, but he justified the tax "more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue." But most importantly, Hamilton "wanted the tax imposed to advance and secure the power of the new federal government."
Congress designed the tax so smaller distillers would pay by the gallon, while larger distillers (who could produce in volume) could take advantage of a flat fee. The net result was to affect smaller producers more than larger ones. George Washington, the president at the time, was one such large producer of whiskey. Large producers were assessed a tax of 6 cents per gallon, while small producers were taxed at 9 cents per gallon. But Western settlers were short of cash to begin with and, being far from their markets and lacking good roads, lacked any practical means to get their grain to market other than fermenting and distilling it into relatively portable distilled spirits. Additionally, whiskey was often used among western farmers as a medium of exchange or as a barter good.
The tax on whiskey was bitterly and fiercely opposed among the Cohee on the frontier from the day it was passed. Western farmers considered it to be both unfair and discriminatory, since they had traditionally converted their excess grain into liquor. Since the nature of the tax affected those who sold the whiskey, it directly affected many farmers. Many protest meetings were held, and a situation arose which was reminiscent of the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 before the American Revolution.
From Pennsylvania to Georgia, the western counties engaged in a campaign of harassment of the federal tax collectors. "Whiskey Boys" also made violent protests in Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina.

The insurrection
By the summer of 1795, tensions reached a fevered pitch all along the western frontier as the settlers' primary marketable commodity was threatened by the federal taxation measures. Finally, the civil protests became an armed rebellion. The first shots were fired at the Oliver Miller Homestead in present day South Park Township, Pennsylvania, about ten miles south of Pittsburgh. As word of the rebellion spread across the frontier, a whole series of loosely organized resistance measures were taken, including robbing the mail, stopping court proceedings, and the threat of an assault on Pittsburgh. One group, disguised as women, assaulted a tax collector, cropped his hair, coated him with tar and feathers, and stole his horse.
George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, remembering Shays' Rebellion from just eight years before, decided to make Pennsylvania a testing ground for federal authority. Washington ordered federal marshals to serve court orders requiring the tax protesters to appear in federal district court. On August 7, 1794, Washington invoked martial law to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia and several states. The rebel force they fought was likewise composed of Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and possibly men from other states.
The militia force of 12,950 men was organized, roughly the size of the entire army in the Revolutionary War. Under the personal command of Washington, Hamilton and Revolutionary War hero General Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, the army assembled in Harrisburg and marched into western Pennsylvania (to what is now Monongahela) in October of 1794. The rebels "could never be found," according to Jefferson, but the militia expended considerable effort rounding up 20 prisoners, clearly demonstrating Federalist authority in the national government. The men were imprisoned, where one died, while two, including Philip Vigol (later spelled Philip Wigal), were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Washington, however, pardoned them on the grounds that one was a "simpleton," and the other, "insane."
Only two were actually arrested and jailed: judge Robert Philson and devout Quaker Herman Husband. Philson was released by Washington, but Husband died in jail before he could be released.
By November, some individuals were fined and charged with "assisting and abetting in setting up a seditious pole in opposition to the laws of the United States," and in January 1796 the following were fined five to fifteen shillings each: Nicholas Kobe, Adam Bower, Abraham Cable Jr, Dr. John Kimmell, Henry Foist, Jacob Holy, Adam Holy, Michael Chintz, George Swart, and Adam Stahl of Brothers Valley township; John Heminger, John Armstrong, George Weimer, George Tedrow, Abraham Miller, John Miller Jr, Benjamin Brown and Peter Bower of Milford township; Emanuel Brallier, and George Ankeny, of Quemahoning township; Peter Augustine, James Conner, Henry Everly, Daniel McCartey, William Pinkerton, and Jonathan Woodsides of Turkeyfoot township.

Tom the Tinker
"Tom the Tinker" assumed the leadership of the Whiskey Rebellion in the early 1790s. He came about after it was decided that to merely attack tax collectors or those who rented offices and lodging to tax collectors wasn't enough; pressure needed to be applied to those who had registered their stills and were paying the tax. In essence, Tom the Tinker illuminated the point that compliance with the law was as contemptible an action as collecting the whiskey tax. William Hogeland has described the situation thus:
You might find a note posted on a tree outside your house, requiring you to publish in the Gazette your hatred of the whiskey tax and your commitment to the cause; otherwise, the note promised, your still would be mended. Tom had a wicked sense of humor and a literary bent: "mended" meant shot full of holes or burned. Tom published on his own too, rousing his followers to action, telling the Gazette's editor in cover notes to run the messages or suffer the consequences.
Groups formed calling themselves Tom the Tinker's Men. They assured Tom the Tinker's threats were carried out. Some believe John Holcroft, a leading member of the Mingo Creek Association and veteran of Shays' Rebellion, was Tom the Tinker, or perhaps the author of the letters attributed to Tom, but this has never been proven. It is not known whether Tom was an actual individual or a character created by the leading members of the Whiskey Rebellion to serve as their leader, much like Ned Ludd's role as leader of the Luddites. Hogeland takes issue with the notion that "Tom the Tinker" was a pseudonym or nom de guerre for one of the other participants in the rebellion, saying, "Tom wasn't an alias for a person. He was the stark fact that loyal opposition to the resistance was disallowed. Tom was Mingo Creek personified."

This marked the first time under the new United States Constitution that the federal government used military force to exert authority over the nation's citizens. It was also one of only two times that a sitting President personally commanded the military in the field; the other was after President James Madison fled the British occupation of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.
The military suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion set a precedent that U.S. citizens who wished to change the law had to do so peacefully through constitutional means; otherwise, the government would meet any threats to disturb the status quo with force.
The suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion also had the unintended consequences of encouraging small whiskey producers in Kentucky and Tennessee, which remained outside the sphere of Federal control for many more years. In these frontier areas, they also found good corn-growing country as well as limestone-filtered water and therefore began making whiskey from corn; this corn whiskey developed into Bourbon. Additionally, the rebellion and its suppression helped turn people away from the Federalist Party and toward the Democratic-Republican Party. This is shown in the 1794 Philadelphia congressional election, in which upstart Democratic Republican John Swanwick won a stunning victory over incumbent Federalist Thomas Fitzsimons, carrying 7 of 12 districts and 57% of the vote. The farmers were severely angered.
The hated whiskey tax was repealed in 1803, having been largely unenforceable outside of Western Pennsylvania, and even there never having been collected with much success.

References in popular culture
Susanna Rowson used the Whiskey Rebellion as inspiration for a musical farce for the stage called The Volunteers. The lyrics were set to music by Alexander Reinagle of the New Company, which performed the play in Philadelphia in 1795.
In L. Neil Smith's alternate history novel The Probability Broach, Albert Gallatin convinces the militia not to put down the rebellion, but instead to march on the nation's capital, execute George Washington for treason, and replace the Constitution with a revised Articles of Confederation. As a result, the United States becomes a libertarian utopia called the North American Confederation. Gallatin's decision comes as a result of an additional word in the Declaration of Independence, which in the parallel universe contains the phrase "deriving its just powers from the unanimous consent of the governed."
The rebellion is referenced in Albert Frank Beddoe's song "Copper Kettle" (1953), which has been recorded by Joan Baez, and by Bob Dylan on his 1970 album Self Portrait. The song contains the line "We ain't paid no whiskey tax since 1792".
The rebellion plays a central role in David Liss' novel, The Whiskey Rebels (2008), in which settlers and distillers seek revenge against Hamilton and the Bank of the United States.

The Battle of the Golden Spurs

This battle was fought between the French crown and the guilds and city-states of Flanders on July 11, 1302 in Kortrijk.

from Wikipedia:

The reason for the battle was a French attempt to subdue the county of Flanders, which was formally part of the French kingdom and added to the crown lands in 1297, but resisted centralist French policies. In 1300, the French king Philip IV appointed Jacques de Châtillon as governor of Flanders and took the Count of Flanders, Guy of Dampierre, hostage. This instigated considerable unrest among the influential Flemish urban guilds.
After being exiled from their homes by French troops, the citizens of Bruges went back to their own city and murdered every Frenchman they could find there on May 18, 1302, known as the Brugse Metten. According to legend, they identified the French by asking them to pronounce a Dutch phrase, scilt ende vriend (shield and friend), and everyone who had a problem pronouncing this shibboleth was killed.

The French king could not let this go unpunished, so he sent a powerful force, led by Count Robert II of Artois. The Flemish response consisted of two groups; one group which consisted of 3,000 men from the city militia of Bruges, was led by William of Jülich, grandson of Count Guy, and Pieter de Coninck, one of the leaders of the uprising in Bruges. The other group, which consisted of about 2,500 men from the suburbs of Bruges and the coastal areas, was headed by Guy of Namur, son of Count Guy, with the two sons of Guy of Dampierre; the two groups met near Courtrai. From the East came another 2,500 men, led by Jan Borluut from Ghent, and yet another 1,000 men from Ypres, led by Jan van Renesse from Zeeland.
The Flemish were primarily town militia who were well equipped, with such weapons as the Goedendag and a long spear known as the Geldon. They were also well organized; the urban militias of the time prided themselves on their regular training and preparation, which allowed them to use the Geldon effectively. They numbered about 9,000, including 400 nobles. The biggest difference from the French and other feudal armies was that the Flemish force consisted solely of infantry.
The French were by contrast a classic feudal army made up of a core of 2,500 noble cavalry, including knights and squires. They were supported by 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen and up to 3,500 other light infantry, totaling around 8,000.[2] Contemporary military theory valued each knight as equal to roughly ten infantry.

After the Flemish unsuccessfully tried to take Kortrijk on July 9 and July 10, the two forces clashed on 11 July in an open field near the city.
The layout of the field, crossed by numerous ditches and streams, made it difficult for the French cavalry to charge the Flemish lines. They sent servants to place wood in the streams but did not wait for this to be done. The large French infantry force led the initial attack, which went well, but French commander Count Robert II of Artois recalled them so that the noble cavalry could claim the victory. Hindered by their own infantry and the tactically sound position of the Flemish militia, the French cavalry were an easy target for the heavily-armed Flemish. When they realized the battle was lost, the surviving French fled, only to be pursued over 10 km (6.2 mi) by the Flemish.
Prior to the battle, the Flemish militia had either been ordered to take no prisoners or did not understand (or care for) the military custom of asking for a ransom for captured knights or nobles;[1] modern theory is that there was a clear order that forbade them to take prisoners as long as the battle was as yet undecided (this was to avoid the possibility of their ranks being broken when the Flemish infantry brought their hostages behind the Flemish lines).[4] Robert of Artois was surrounded and killed on the field.

The large numbers of golden spurs that were collected from the French knights gave the battle its name[5]; at least a thousand noble cavaliers were killed, some contemporary accounts placing the total casualties at over ten thousand dead and wounded. The French spurs were hung in the Church of Our Lady in Kortrijk to commemorate the victory, and were taken back by the French eighty years later after the Battle of Westrozebeke.
Some of the notable casualties:
Robert II, Count of Artois, the French commander
Raoul II of Clermont, Lord of Nesle, Constable of France
Guy I of Clermont, Lord of Breteuil, Marshal of France
Simon de Melun, Lord of La Loupe and Marcheville, Marshal of France
John I of Ponthieu, Count of Aumale
John of Trie, Count of Dammartin
John II of Brienne, Count of Eu
John d'Avesnes, Count of Ostrevant
Godfrey of Brabant, Lord of Aarschot
Jacques de Châtillon, Lord of Leuze
Pierre de Flotte, Chief Advisor to Philip IV the Fair.

The battle was one in a string during the 14th century that showed that knights could be defeated by disciplined and well-equipped infantry (one example is the Battle of Sempach in 1386). The Scots then applied this idea of attacking infantry and brought it to the battlefield at Bannockburn, where the Scottish Schiltron charged English Cavalry and routed them. It is also a landmark in the development of Flemish political independence and the day is remembered every year in Flanders as the Flemish Community's official holiday.
The battle was romanticised in 1838 by Flemish writer Hendrik Conscience in his book The Lion of Flanders (Dutch: "De leeuw van Vlaanderen"). Another unusual feature of this battle is that it is often cited as one of the few successful uprisings of peasants and townsmen, given that at the time most peasant uprisings in Europe were quelled.

The uprising originated from the people themselves, without being provoked by a lord (the Flemish count and his most important lords were in French captivity). Only when the uprising became widespread, the count's relatives who still were free rushed in to aid. But in the first place this was a struggle of people against a lord (the French king), not the struggle between two lords.”
Barbara Tuchman describes this as a peasant uprising in A Distant Mirror. Though the winning army was well armed, the initial uprising was nonetheless a folk uprising. Eventually, however, the Flemish nobles did take their part in the battle—each of the Flemish leaders were of the nobility or descended from nobility, and some 400 of noble blood did fight on the Flemish side.
The outcome of the battle, the fact that a large cavalry force, thought invincible, had been annihilated by - relatively - modest but well-armed and tactically intelligent infantry was a shock to all military leaders in Europe. It resulted in the end of the perceived supremacy of cavalry and led to a deep re-thinking of military strategies.
The slaughter of about 40% of French noblemen led to a deep crisis in French nobility but strengthened the king's position.