Wine – the Spirit of the Revolution

Hey, how was your Fourth of July?  Were you a true patriot and honored it by drinking wine, beer, cider, whiskey or rum just like the Patriots of the 18th century?

First, let me acknowledge the televisions series, “How Booze Built America,” as the genesis for this column. 

Did you know that many of our revered Revolutionary leaders were brewers, distillers, wine importers, and otherwise attached to the booze industry?

For instance, John Hancock is reputed to have been a major wine smuggler.  Hancock ignited one of the initial incidents of resistance to the British Crown rule in 1768.  His sloop, Liberty, sailed into Boston harbor, carrying about 25 barrels of declared (and therefore taxed) Madeira wine.  That may sound like a lot of Madeira but the British custom officials were skeptical since the Liberty could easily transport up to 100,000 gallons of wine.  Where was the rest of the wine?  The British firmly believed that there had to be more wine.  After all, Hancock was a very wealthy, successful importer.  Why would he go to the expense of sending his ship to Europe to only bring back a quarter of what he could?

Over a month-long investigation, the British uncovered differing accounts about whether Hancock had brought in more wine or not.  They decided to seize the Liberty and tow it to the Romney, a British war ship with 60 guns, to finish the investigation.  However, when British port officials began trying to impound the Liberty a massive crowd of Bostonians swarmed the wharf and threatened vengeance if the boat was moved.  The Brits ignored the threats and seized the vessel.  The following is a quote from Lossing’s Our Country.

“This act excited the hot indignation of the people.  A mob followed the custom-house officers, pelted them with stones and other missiles, and broke the windows of their offices.  The mob seized a pleasure-boat belonging to the collector, and after dragging it through the town, burned it on the Common.”

The violence so terrified the Commonwealth Governor that he petitioned London to post troops in Boston, which London.  Less than two years later, those same troops shot and killed five Americans in the Boston Massacre, which fed the fires of rebellion.

So, you see?  Without wine, we would still be British subjects.

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