Sunday, October 25, 2015

How Alcohol Made America Great


 of the Free Beacon reviews Susan Cheever’s Drinking in America: Our Secret History.  A tasty taste:

There are crucial moments in American history Cheever attributes to our need for drink. The Mayflower landed in Cape Cod because the ship ran out of beer. The instigators of the Boston Tea Party got carried away after spending too much time at the Green Dragon tavern. Johnny Appleseed was beloved by settlers because the seeds he scattered resulted in sour apples—ideal for making hard cider. A more sober officer would not have sent his beleaguered troops back into battle the way Ulysses S. Grant did at Shiloh. “Grant had courage where none was called for,” Cheever writes. “He had confidence in the face of what a sober man might have thought of as a defeat.”
On the other hand, she points out that Gen. George Custer was not a drinker...

1 comment:

JMS said...

The kegger version of Leutze’s famous painting (Comedy Central’s Drunk History created a similar version in one of their promo ads) is amusing, but the statement that “the instigators of the Boston Tea Party got carried away after spending too much time at the Green Dragon tavern” is refuted by all of the evidence I’ve encountered. I am interested in what evidence Cheever presented.

For 50-60 (or perhaps 100) men to maneuver 342 chests of tea = 92,616 pounds = 46 tons = 18,523,200 cups of tea from three ships into Boston harbor (at a lower than usual low-tide), without damaging other cargo, the ships or the men aboard (other than one padlock, which they subsequently replaced) could not possibly have been accomplished in three hours by anyone “carried away after spending too much time at the Green Dragon tavern.”

Of course that tavern hosted meetings of the Sons of Liberty, the North End Caucus and the Masonic St. Andrew’s Lodge. But while acknowledging the prodigious amounts of alcohol consumed by colonial Americans, any good historian should refrain from presuming or imagining that a drunken mob descended on Griffin’s wharf on that cold moonlit December evening.

John Adams’ claimed that the “sublimity of it, charms me.” After the Stamp Act, Governor Hutchinson house, Hancock’s Liberty ship and the “Boston massacre” mob actions or riots, the Sons of Liberty (Joseph Warren, Josiah Quincy, Paul Revere) and Samuel Adams’ North End Caucus wanted to be perceived as “acting constitutionally” by the powers that be in London.

So they consciously placed “a new emphasis on internal restraint” according to Pauline Maier. In her book, From Resistance to Revolution (pp. 274-277) she concluded that, “with conspicuous self-discipline, making ‘very little noise,’ taking care to prevent property damage other than to tea, and keeping plunder off-limits,” the “Boston tea party” achieved its “aim of ‘orderly resistance’.” Sounds like the only thing “carried away” was the tea, once the tide began rising.