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William Findley's long political career began after the Revolutionary War. He believed in limiting the power of government in order to protect people's rights.
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Western farmers, who had little cash on hand, had objected to a 1791 federal tax on distilled spirits. A small farmer himself, Findley initially sympathized with the cause. However, he tried to quiet the rebellion when it grew stronger in western Pennsylvania. Neither Findley's talks with the rebels nor with President George Washington led to a peaceful solution. The rebels only dispersed, without violence, when Washington sent 13,
000 militia troops to the area. In 1796, Findley published a book about the uprising, History of the Insurrection in the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania in the Year 1794.
At the end of his congressional career, William Findley, as the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was designated "Father of the House." After retiring from Congress in 1817, Findley returned to his western Pennsylvania farm. He died on April 5, 1821, at the approximate age of 80, in Unity Township, Pennsylvania.
Although not as well known today as some of the politicians he worked and interacted with, Findley was an important leader whose staunch belief in democratic principles helped to shape a new nation.
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They are American icons—they're on our dollars and coins, they are the subject of our monuments, and we live our daily lives in the world their ideas helped create. America's Founding Fathers include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and, of course, Benjamin Franklin. These men, together with several other key players of their time, structured the American democracy and left a legacy that has shaped the world. But beyond their legends, these men were human beings who led complex and fascinating lives. Learning their stories helps us better understand what made them tick, as well as their influence on our world today.
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