John Fries - Encyclopedia

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JOHN FRIES (c. 1764-1825), American insurgent leader, was born in Pennsylvania of "Dutch" (German) descent about 1764. As an itinerant auctioneer he became well acquainted with the Germans in the S.E. part of Pennsylvania. In July 1798, during the troubles between the United States and France, Congress levied a direct tax (on dwelling-houses, lands and slaves) of $2,000,000, of which Pennsylvania was called upon to contribute $237,000. There were very few slaves in the state, and the tax was accordingly assessed upon dwelling-houses and land, the value of the houses being determined by the number and size of the windows. The inquisitorial nature of the proceedings aroused strong opposition among the Germans, and many of them refused to pay. Fries, assuming leadership, organized an armed band of about sixty men, who marched about the country intimidating the assessors and encouraging the people to resist. At last the governor called out the militia (March 1799) and the leaders were arrested. Fries and two others were twice tried for treason (the second time before Samuel Chase) and were sentenced to be hanged, but they were pardoned by President Adams in April 1800, and a general amnesty was issued on 21st May. The affair is variously known as the "Fries Rebellion," the "Hot-Water Rebellion" - because hot water was used to drive assessors from houses -, and the "Home Tax Rebellion." Fries died in Philadelphia in 1825.

See T. Carpenter, Two Trials of John Fries ... Taken Shorthand (Philadelphia, 1800); the second volume of McMaster's History of the United States (New York, 1883); and W. W. H. Davis, The Fries Rebellion (Doylestown, Pa., 1899).

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