Rum Punch & Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Rum Punch & Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Rum Punch & Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Rum Punch & Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Synopsis

In Rum Punch and Revolution, Thompson shows how the public houses provided a setting in which Philadelphians from all walks of life revealed their characters and ideas as nowhere else. He takes the reader into the cramped confines of the colonial bar room, describing the friendships, misunderstandings, and conflicts which were generated among the city's drinkers, and investigates the profitability of running a tavern in a city which, until independence, set maximum prices on the cost of drinks and services in its public houses.Taverngoing, Thompson writes, fostered a sense of citizenship that influenced political debate in colonial Philadelphia and became an issue in the city's revolution. Opinionated and profoundly undeferential taverngoers did more than drink; they forced their political leaders to consider whether and how public opinion could be represented in the counsels of a newly independent nation.

Excerpt

Colonial Philadelphians, like other Americans of the time, regarded habitual drinking as sinful but the moderate consumption of beer, cider, rum, and wine as healthful and unremarkable. Of course, definitions of “moderate” consumption varied. Ministers, magistrates, and moralists regarded some forms of drinking, and some varieties of drink, as pernicious. Nevertheless, among the population at large, alcohol was held in great affection and attitudes toward drunkenness were indulgent. “Top’d,” “tann’d,” and “tipium grove,” “buskey,” “bowz’d,” and “burdock’d”: these are a sample of some one hundred fifty synonyms for inebriation employed in colonial Philadelphia. As a song had it:

There’s but one good reason I can think
Why people ever cease to drink
Sobriety the cause is Not,
Nor fear of being deem’d a Sot,
But if liquor can’t be got.

Both William Penn and Benjamin Franklin, colonial Philadelphia’s most celebrated residents, shared their neighbors’ affection for alcohol. Penn made considerable efforts to ensure that his household was well supplied with drink. He engaged, for example, in a lengthy and ultimately fruitless effort to establish vineyards on his Pennsbury estate. Franklin, despite his penchant for drinking water while at work, enjoyed wine when in company. In fact he wrote a drinking song, circa 1745, in which he averred:

Virtue and Safety in Wine-bibbing’s found
While all that drink Water deserve to be drown’d …

…. …. …. …..

So for Safety and Honesty put the Glass round.

Convinced that there could be no “good living where there is not good drinking,” Franklin, like Penn, hoped that Pennsylvania’s soil and climate . . .

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