Were the Founding Fathers Alcoholics?Submitted by legalizeliberty on Wed, 09/08/2010 - 16:58
A recent bestseller has taken up the cudgels of a longstanding political and religious controversy: Were our founding fathers really religious and, more specifically, Christian? On the one side, humanists point out remarkably little specific mention of Christ in the fathers' (including Lincoln's) public utterances. Rather, they refer to an all-inclusive, generic deity. But advocates for Christianity maintain this should not be taken to dispute our founders' deep, underlying faith in God and belief in the divinity of Christ.
Leaving that contentious debate aside, I want to talk about how much the founding fathers drank. The answer: quite a bit. The New York Times on Sunday published an account of how Jefferson (according to writer Ann Mah he was "a lifelong oenophile") spent a lot of his time in France while representing the United States inspecting the vineyards of Burgundy.
Was Jefferson a closet drinker? He had no reason to hide his love of wine -- no founding father thought it unusual in this pre-Temperance era to love the fruit of the vine or, for that matter, hard cider, beer, or even whiskey and rum. Take Jefferson's primary rival, John Adams. According to a descendant of his, "To the end of John Adams' life, a large tankard of hard cider was his morning draught before breakfast." Get the man to the Betty Ford Center!
How do we know the founding fathers as a group drank a lot? Well, for one thing, we have records of their imbibing. In 1787, two days before they signed off on the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention partied at a tavern. According to the bill preserved from the evening, they 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.