A British government in debt following an expensive war seeks to make people pay through unpopular policies - sounds familiar? This instance was in the 18th century in the aftermath of the Seven Years War, and was also a moment in the long history of the state attempting to regulate the production, distribution and consumption of alcohol.
In 1763 the Earl of Bute's government decided to impose a tax of four shillings a hogshead on cider. Since large numbers of farmers and others in the South West produced their own cider, excise officers were empowered to gain access to farms and cottages in order to collect the tax.
'The tax prompted demonstrations, mournful processions, "gatherings intent on violence" and the harrassment of excisemen. The new Bishop of Exeter found that "the people in Devonshire acted childishly and unhandsomely" towards him because "he had the misfortune to vote for the [cider tax] bill". In Exeter 1765, "the mob hissed and insulted him and one fellow had assurance to throw an apple at his head". Sir John Phillips, baronet and MP for Pembrokeshire, did not get off so lightly. A newspaper reported in 1763 that "a riotous mob did grossly affront him" while he was travelling through Monmouth. The citizens pulled him from his carriage, and after discussing whether to hang him for voting for the cider tax, decided to "extremely ill-treat him instead. They made him go down on his knees and beg their pardon'.
The government backed down in 1766. 'The West Country celebrated in 1766 with public tea parties, ox roasts, balls, bell ringing, and the decoration of orchards with gilded apples and laurels. The Gloucester Journal reported "There is nothing heard in our streets, but 'the day of the oppressor is over, the calamity of the cyder drinker is put away; the deadly excise man shall appear no more in our quarters'"
(Source of quotes: The Great Scrumpy Crisis of 1763, Independent 16 February 1992)