Stay thirsty, my framers

Stanton Peele recently posted noting the prodigious consumption of alcohol at a farewell party for George Washington, near the tail end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, 1787.  Here’s a transcription of the bill for the evening, which is estimated at a 2011 equivalent of $15,400 for “55 gentleman,” thus $280 a head.  And those heads may not have felt so good the next day: as Peele points out, it was “more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate.”  Peele’s purpose is both to knock the founders down a peg or two, and to further demonstrate that people in history drank. For Peele, the amount that the pounding fathers consumed that night “seems humanly impossible to modern Americans.”  But whether they were actually stone-cold drunk is an open question: eighteenth-century white Americans drank constantly.  I like the quote from Mt. Vernon director James C. Rees, about Washington’s production of whiskey on his forced labor camp plantation: “We could say he was first in war, first in peace, and first in smooth libations.”