OK, the state of current American politics might have biased us, but believe it or not, things didn’t used to be so incredibly dignified. (Kidding! They never were/never will be/this is a nightmare circus, etc.) In fact it’s probably easy to look at modern American political players and think “Man, I miss the days when everyone was wearing breeches and acted with breeches-clad dignity.” Except it turns out, they didn’t.
And some of those indiscretions were committed by the most serious politics guy of all serious politics guys, George Washington (seriously, is there a picture out there where he’s actually grinning? Is it wooden teeth shame?) Washington apparently loved him some hooch, especially whiskey – Washington actually operated “the most successful whiskey distillery in the late 18th Century,” producing 11,000-plus gallons of whiskey in the year Washington died. (From now on we’ll assume his Farewell Speech warning against foreign entanglements had to do with a one night stand with a French diplomat’s wife.)
To be fair, Washington was encouraged to start up the distillery by a Scotsman, more a business venture than a supply of free-flowing alcohol. But there’s still hard, so to speak, evidence that Washington actually loved to drink. On Friday, September 14, 1787, Washington was at a farewell dinner, partying with the First Troop of Philadelphia City Calvary. The dinner was clearly a success, since it racked up what would be a $15K tab by our standards. And most of it, by the way, was booze.
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Yes, the Father of our Country et alia ate some food—“Rellishes, Olives, etc.”—but we’re almost inclined to think those were garnishes for the enormous amount of booze they consumed That would include 60 bottles of claret, 54 bottles of Madeira, 8 bottles of cider, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of porter, and 7 “large bowels” of punch (not the Hawaiian kind, also that’s an older spelling of “bowls,” not some weird old timey preparation). Bear in mind, there were 55 people at the gathering. Madeira alone would be almost one bottle per person.
We can, should we so choose, assume Washington sat back thoughtfully and sipped on some claret while the other 54 party goers drank themselves into a revolutionary tizzy. (“We should wear pants that go all the way to our feet!” “Hey, maybe that Second Amendment thing should have an asterisk? I mean, we won’t always be at war with the English…” “Seriously guys, eagles are kind of dicks.”). But we like to hope Washington was digging into the night as heartily and thirstily as his hosts. With the signing of the Constitution just a few days away, and sort of a whole nation to build, Washington probably needed to let off some steam.
In case you’re wondering, a gentleman by the name of Samuel Miles paid the bill. He was “a Quaker of Welsh descent who served in the Revolutionary War and, in 1787, was a member of the Council of Censors. The Council was an official body responsible for monitoring violations of the separation of powers in Pennsylvania,” and, presumably less officially, picking up insane bar tabs when the actual recipient fails to. That dudes name was Edward Moynston, “a member of the 3rd Company, Second Battalion of the Philadelphia Militia in 1787.” So, presumably, he knew how to run.