It appears that we can finally see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and that America is getting somewhat back into its normal self, despite pleas from federal and state officials for more people to get vaccinated. And since the July 4th holiday has emerged as the date President Joe Biden has set to “reopen” the nation, while West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has chosen the state’s birthdate of June 20 as the time frame for us hillbillies to discard our masks in public places, next month’s celebration should be one of special observation — indeed, a true celebration of freedom.
Therefore, maybe it is time to look at history in a way that certainly is not being taught in our school system, perhaps rightfully so. That is to say — just what really was behind the American Revolution that caused such men as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others to seek to break away from their mother country and form a new nation?
Although “taxation without representation” has always been one reason given for early American colonists’ decision to break away from Great Britain, it was a special tax called the Sugar Tax that pretty much put a movement in action that resulted in America’s independence. There were other taxes imposed by the British that angered the colonists, but enforcing an earlier tax for the importation of molasses that was used for the making of rum may have been what tipped the scales to the American Revolution.
The so called “Tea Act” of 1773 is credited for what led to the Boston Tea Party, but it really was the Molasses, Act, Sugar Act and the Stamp Act — all of which targeted the production, importation, and sale of “booze” in the colonies — that caused early Americans to toss King George’s tea supply into the Boston Harbor.
Perhaps, you’ve heard of the popular Sam Adams beers that can be found in many restaurants and grocery stores? Well, the Boston Tea Party was led by none other than the Samuel Adams for whom the beers are named.
Despite rum being the preferred drink in early America, beer, cider and wine were considered everyday commodities for the colonists. And although domestic rum actually was the backbone of the American economy before the Revolution, when the price of rum skyrocketed because of the tax increase the patriots were enraged.
One must understand that taverns were quite popular in the colonial era, and not just as a place where a person might find a drink of some alcohol concoction. Some taverns served as post offices, courthouses, wedding places and for other civic functions. As a matter of fact, “The Green Dragon,” which still operates in Boston, is known as the headquarters of the American Revolution.
It was at this tavern that the very founders of this country planned the American Revolution. I can just imagine John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and even a fellow named Hugh Williamson, who later signed the parchment that became the Declaration of Independence, sitting in the tavern nightly planning their revolution. Hancock, who was the first person to sign the document, had been accurately accused of smuggling 100,000 gallons of wine into Boston and had his ship, The Liberty, seized by British customs. He was sued by the British government for $7 million dollars in today’s currency for unpaid taxes on the liquor.
The early settlers loved their beer, but because hops and barley did not fare well in the New England climate, the people resorted to planting apple orchards from which was produced vast quantities of hard cider. Cider became so much a part of the daily life of the colonials that it has been documented that an average man of the time period would consume a quart of it before breakfast.
Although it was more difficult to produce than in England, beer remained a daily staple of most colonial Americans’ lives for over two centuries because it actually was safer than drinking water. The beer, which was boiled first, was even available for children in lower alcohol versions called “small beer.” It is said that even the Quakers and Puritans, who railed against alcohol consumption, were not opposed to beer or cider.
I can just imagine Sam Adams, who was a master malt producer at his father’s brewery; Thomas Jefferson, who as president imported more than 20,000 bottles of wine for his personal consumption; John Adams, who is said to be the biggest drinker of all of the Sons of Liberty and died at the age of 90, drinking a quart of cider before breakfast and three glasses of Madeira (a wine fortified with rum) every night before bedtime, as well as Benjamin Franklin, who was a brewer and distiller, all making plans to — pardon the pun — “make America great” while sitting at some dimly lit tavern.
Franklin, who was a scholar, author and inventor, has been quoted as saying: “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.”
Of course, we can’t forget about our first president, who also was the military general in the Revolution, George Washington. Ol’ George actually was known for dancing the night away while consuming about four bottles of wine. In fact, after his presidency, he opened one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the country at Mount Vernon, producing 11,000 gallons in 1799, the year he died.
It’s a good bet that when all of the founders of the American Revolution met in Philadelphia at Freedom Hall to pound out wordings of the Declaration of Independence, it is likely that in that hot, humid, and un-airconditioned room, there was more than just tea consumed during arguments between the mix.
There are even those historians who say that during the “Midnight Ride” of Paul Revere to warn his fellow patriots of the planned march by the British, he alerted folks by stopping at the various taverns, consuming a few drinks, according to his own written journal.
So, it is today almost 245 years later that we plan to celebrate our country’s Declaration of Independence in a few weeks.
Oh, by the way, since West Virginia and Ohio are giving away tons of money for those who get COVID-19 vaccinations, I find it interesting that July 4th is the deadline set by President Joe Biden in which he hopes to have 70% of all Americans vaccinated.
Interestingly, I think our forefathers would approve of the fact that Anheuser-Busch is offering to buy all Americans 21 years of age and older a round of beer if they can prove they got vaccinated.
In regard to the promotion by the country’s largest beer producer, President Biden said, “Get a shot and have a beer.”
Well, Mr. President, I know some guys who have been doing that for years.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.