What is the significance of the Espy House?
What exactly was the "Whiskey Rebellion"?
On March 3rd, 1791, the Congress in Philadelphia passed the federal excise tax on whiskey. However, farmers on the western frontier (Bedford to Pittsburgh area), didn't have currency to pay a tax. They would boil their grains down to whiskey because it was easier to transport this "cash crop" than the grains themselves. To these farmers, whiskey was their money. They could trade for furs, salt, meat, etc.
So, when tax collectors came around, these farmers refused to pay. The farmers didn't believe that the government had a right to "steal" money that they themselves had earned. They beat the tar out of tax collectors and threatened those who represented the government.
For President Washington, the question was this ... "Does the government have the right to pass and enforce law ... including the imposition of a tax?" President Washington concluded that the Government had passed a legal tax and believed that if the Whiskey Rebellion rebels succeeded in opposing the tax by force, they would show the US Government to be weak and unable to enforce its own laws. And from there, it was a short step to the collapse of the United States.
On September 19th, 1794, the first Presient of the United States became the only President to ever lead troops into battle. He led over 12,000 men, "The Constitutional Army" to quell this rebellion. It was decided that President Washington would lead the troops as far west as Bedford.
Why was the Espy House chosen as Washington's Headquarters?
Why was the Whiskey Rebellion (and its final outcome) so important in our history?