Another time in American history when the people did not trust the experts

I was struck this morning by a passage from Thomas Slaughter’s The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution:

Hamilton…succeeded in getting the endorsement of the respected Philadelphia College of Physicians. These medical doctors and teachers enthusiastically supported his efforts to reform the “morals and manners” of whiskey consumers. The physicians offered their combined professional opinion that “a great proportion of the most obstinate, painful, and mortal disorders which affect the human body are produced by distilled spirits.” The doctors expressed no doubt that a plague or other pestilential disorder threatening thousands of persons would bring the most vigorous actions of government. They saw “no just cause why the more certain and extensive ravages of distilled spirits upon human life should not be guarded against with corresponding vigilance and exertions.”

Opponents of the excise in Congress were outraged at the physicians’ “interference.” They believed that these medical men had no business instructing Congress how to perform their duties, and no right telling the American people how to conduct their lives. Congressman Jackson of Georgia argued that this sort of advice, if heeded, could quickly get out of hand. Next thing they knew, House members would be told by the doctors to legislate against mushrooms; and “they might petition Congress to pass a law interdicting the use of ketchup because some ignorant persons had been poisoned by eating mushrooms.”