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Espy House - Bedford, PennsylvaniaWhat is the significance of the Espy House?
The Espy House served as President Washington's Headquarters during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. The building is located in downtown Bedford, on Pitt Street. Although it is now used as a bakery and apartments, it was originally built by Colonel David Espy in 1766.

What exactly was the "Whiskey Rebellion"?
If you're like me ... you may remember studying about the Whiskey Rebellion in school. The general impression that I garnered was that, apparently a lot of drunks around our area didn't feel like paying an extra penny for a glass of whiskey, so they rebelled against the tax by beating up government officials. This is not accurate. Here's a concise rundown on what happened and why ...

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.

Espy House - Bedford PennsylvaniaFor 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?
In 1794, it was the nicest house in town. Where else should the President of the United States stay when he comes to visit Bedford County?

Espy House - Bedford PennsylvaniaWhy was the Whiskey Rebellion (and its final outcome) so important in our history?
The significance of the Whiskey Rebellion, in the broad sweep of history is that it proved the viability of the Federal Constitutional Government of central powers. To put it in plainer words, Washington determined that the government had the right to pass law and the right (and resolve) to enforce those laws. He demonstrated this through his actions during the Whiskey Rebellion.

Check out Washington's departing words to General Henry Lee (Commander is Chief of the militia army) by clicking here.