Alcohol and the American Colonists
American history shows that our ancestors were heavy drinkers. Why did the colonists drink so much? To understand the logic of our ancestors heavy drinking, we think about colonial life. What drinking resources were available to them? What kind of life did they live? New England water was polluted and cow’s milk caused “sickness” (tuberculosis). New England had cold winters. What did they have to keep warm? Whatever dangers heavy drinking may have presented to the early American colonists, the dangers were minimal compared to the useful benefits alcohol provided them.
Drinking resources were limited in colonial times. As Brown states, “Two typical New England facts brought about polluted water: Indians and the weather.” The Indians had a reputation of stealing, and when the colonists weren’t worried about the Indians the threat of winter brought snow and cold temperatures. Many colonists had wells available for water. Brown describes the water quality in Wines and Beers of New England: “Wells were either next to the house, usually in and attached shed, or right inside. Sanitary requirements were unknown. The customary way of dealing with human wastes was to use a “chamber pot,” which was emptied onto the animal dung heap, often very close to the water supply. Yet the farmers needed to quench their thirst, and although secondarily the alcohol in beer wine, and cider must have helped make the rugged unpleasantness of their lives more endurable, primarily the alcohol was a preservative for their drinks.” Alcohol was accessible and didn’t pose a threat to the colonists. “It was more than a luxury,” “it was a necessity.” (Lender and Martin 2)
The main concern of American colonists was farming. War was also going on. Farmers turning into soldiers being sent to fight. These were depressing times especially during winter months. How were these soldiers to keep warm?...
Cited: Brown, John H. Early American Beverages. New York: Bonanza, 1966. Print.
Brown, Sanborn. Wines& Beers of Old New England A How-To-Do-It History . Hanover, NH: The UP of England, 1978. Print.
Lender, Mark E., and James K. Martin. Drinking in America: A History. 2nd ed. New York: Free Press, 1987. Print.
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