Stanton Peele reminds us that the founding fathers were known to drink. A lot. I mean a whole lot. Beer, wine, hard cider, whiskey. Whatever they could get their hands on, and in large amounts, a fact that was systematically covered up by temperance movement historians.
Reason TV’s Meredith Bragg informed us of George Washington’s whiskey production. He didn’t tell us, however, about Washington’s alcohol consumption, which was, at times, prodigious. That consumption by Washington and his fellow founding fathers has been whitewashed—sometimes literally—from American history by the intervening Temperance movement, whose effects still drive us. For instance, the classic picture of Washington taking his farewell from his troops at Fraunces Tavern in New York—which, of course, involved a toast—was painted with a serving flask clearly visible. This container was painted out of these same pictures later, in the nineteenth century, reminiscent of Soviet photos with purged former leaders excised.It is impossible for Americans to accept the extent to which the Colonial period—including our most sacred political events—was suffused with alcohol. Protestant churches had wine with communion, the standard beverage at meals was beer or cider, and alcohol was served even at political gatherings. Booze was served at meetings of the Virginian and other state legislatures and, most of all, at the Constitutional Convention.
Indeed, we still have available the bar tab from a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.
That’s more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate. That seems humanly impossible to modern Americans.
That’s more alcohol than the average frat party, for crying out loud!