George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

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George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

Postby Butch50 » Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:38 pm

George Washington owned a major distillery after he served as president. In the final year of his life, 1799, his distillery made 11,000 gallons of rye whisky which sold for 50 cents per gallon. He had a top shelf whisky that sold for 1 dollar per gallon, it was run thru the still four times.

Washington's farm manager, Scotsman James Anderson, began distilling whiskey in February 1797, in the final months of Washington's presidency. Anderson convinced a reluctant Washington to build a large-scale distillery a few months later, and the distillery was completed in March 1798.

Oddly though, just three years earlier Washington led troops to put down the "Whisky Rebellion":

The Whisky Rebellion of 1794 brought us to the brink of civil war.
Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, was a Federalist advocating a strong central government under a monarch. The states, especially the western frontier states, considered themselves self-governing members of a coalition. Hamilton believed a military confrontation was required to establish the supremacy of the federal government over the states.

Hamilton crafted the excise tax of 1791 to incite resistance. The act mandated the registration of all stills, appointed tax collectors with powers of search and seizure and taxed all whisky at a flat rate of 7¢ per gallon at the still. The professed goal of the tax was to raise 21 million dollars for defense. At 7¢ per gallon, this equates to 300,000,000 gallons of whisky, which tells us there must have been one hell of a thriving moonshine industry.

The law was so unpopular that no one would accept the position of tax collector. The tax was unfair. Whisky sold for 25¢ a gallon on the frontier, 50¢ in the more settled eastern regions. Thus, the struggling farmer on the frontier was taxed at 28% on his moonshine, whereas the bigger distilleries snug and safe in the eastern regions only paid 14%.

Things went from bad to worse. In August 1794, about 7,000 frontier militiamen marched on Pittsburgh, threatening to destroy the city unless the "obnoxious characters" were banished. George Washington, at Hamilton's urging, mobilized 13,000 troops under Robert E. Lee's father. This number of troops was more than Washington usually had under his command during the Revolution.

Washington appointed commissioners to travel in advance of the army, to meet with rebel leaders to negotiate peace and offer amnesty. A few citizens were killed; more were arrested and carted off to Philadelphia for trial. Ultimately, all the prisoners were released, acquitted or pardoned and officially the federal government won. Washington's popularity sank so low that he did not seek a third term.

When Thomas Jefferson succeeded him as president in 1802, one of the first things he did was repeal the hated excise tax. So, for the next 50 or 60 years we happily turned amber waves of grain into oceans of tax-free booze.
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Postby Hillbilly Rebel » Sat Dec 01, 2007 5:27 am

This was a direct insult and attack on the very people who had just won the freedom for the new country. It was on the bravery on the frontiersmen that the revoultion was won. Many who fought to assert the independence for the new county had moved to America to find freedom to distill and not be taxed in the first place.

This also is the first instance of the haves manipulating the laws of this country to benefit themselves and to put the have nots in a position of not being able to compete. The law required the taxes to be paid up front. On the frontier in places like western Pennsylvania and Kentucky, where was little or no money, whiskey was an accepted currency. Therefore the law effectively preventing them from ever having a chance of being legal in the first place.

This law was about protecting the tide water aristocracy from the little people as much as it was about raising taxes. Don't you find it interesting that as a distiller, George directly benefited from the law that he passed? In overcoming the group assembled near Pittsburgh, he used the largest force every assemble for the purpose of putting down a civil disobedience in the United States. The moonshiners and citizens fleeing the violence and the coming military confrontation added largely to the settlement of other western states such as Tennessee, Kentucky and areas where a man might have a little privacy to do a little cooking.

By the way, if George Washington slept in all those beds that he is alleged to have slept in, I can see why they call him the father of the country. Way to go George!
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Postby Butch50 » Sat Dec 01, 2007 7:42 am

So, was George Washington the father of the BATF? Appears to be. :shock:
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Postby Uncle Jesse » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:11 am

The new country was trying to pay off it's war debts. So a genius named Alexander Hamilton decided a tax on whiskey stills would be a great idea. Washington went along because at that time he was much more concerned about this own investments and such than in worrying about the frontiersmen. He was also getting old, and tired, and his body was failing him.

Hamilton had arranged to have bonds issued which were _guaranteed_ by the U.S. Government. He and his cronies managed to get all these bonds since Hamilton arranged it that way. They were going to pay themselves on the backs of the very people who had fought the revolution with little or no pay for their services.

To tax a still back then was to tax the very income and livelihood of the frontiersmen. And for what? To pay a debt they didn't rightly owe. The only way those folks could get their crops to market to sell was to turn them into whiskey so they'd survive the journey. A good still would trade for a 250 acre farm back then and people relied on them for income to feed and shelter their families.

Harry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee, was sent in to quash the rebellion. It ended without a gun being fired, though people had been tarred and feathered early on, specifically some of the first 'revenoors' sent from Washington to collect taxes.

This started a mass exodus of the Scots-Irish from PA to Kentucky and other places.

I'm not sure why, but one of my ancestors changed his name and moved from Perry County, PA to Meigs County, OH. We know he did it to flee debts and taxes but I'm not sure whether or not this was a result of the Whiskey Rebellion since it was in or around 1798, 4 years after the Rebellion was quashed. Back then creditors would and could take the shirt off your back since there was no bankruptcy procedure.

Whenever I hear about how Washington was such a great guy and father of our country would 'could not tell a lie', and whenever I see that infamous Federalist Hamilton on the U.S. currency I think about how they treated the folks who had sacrificed so much to expel the British for them.

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Postby Jameson Beam » Tue Dec 25, 2007 6:21 am

But after all, while Washington may have been 2 faced in these respects, it still must be said that all of us here are "Just Following In Our Founding Father's Footsteps....".

So what the heck is wrong with that? :?

As a matter of fact:

MOUNT VERNON, Va. - After a nearly 200-year hiatus, George Washington's still is bubbling again, churning out the same sort of rye whiskey that made the Founding Father the nation's most successful whiskey producer in the years after his presidency.

Washington's Mount Vernon estate on March 30 officially opened a $2.1 million reconstruction of Washington's original distillery on the exact site where it was located in 1799, a few miles down the road from his famous mansion overlooking the Potomac River.

Mount Vernon officials hope the distillery will illustrate Washington's prowess as an entrepreneur. The estate also won special legislation this year from the Virginia General Assembly to sell limited quantities of the whiskey — up to 5,000 gallons a year — to give estate visitors a taste of alcohol history.

The distillery is considered a gateway to the American Whiskey Trail, which includes historic sites along with working distilleries that are open to the public, like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey in Kentucky and Jack Daniel's in Tennessee.

The Mount Vernon distillery "will become the equivalent of a national distillery museum," said Frank Coleman, spokesman for Distilled Spirits Council, which paid for the reconstruction.

"Whiskey tourism is growing around the world, just like tourists go to Bordeaux or the Napa Valley to visit wineries. This sort of helps us level the playing field with winemakers," Coleman said. "There could be no better representative for America's distilling heritage than George Washington."

Washington's farm manager, Scotsman James Anderson, began distilling whiskey in February 1797, in the final months of Washington's presidency. Anderson convinced a reluctant Washington to build a large-scale distillery a few months later, and the distillery was completed in March 1798.

By 1799, Washington was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year — sold at 50 cents a gallon for the common variety and $1 a gallon for the more refined product, which was run through the still four times.

Washington died that year, and soon thereafter the business fell off. Within a decade, the building fell into disrepair and in 1814, it burned to the ground. (from) ... _s_whiskey

Notice the statement - "The estate also won special legislation this year from the Virginia General Assembly to sell limited quantities of the whiskey — up to 5,000 gallons a year — to give estate visitors a taste of alcohol history."


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Let's not forget the Corn Patent.....

Postby Dan Call » Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:29 pm

The Pennsylvania Dutch/Irish farmers were still way pissed after the whiskey rebellion!!! Yes...TJ was great about 'lessening' government while Hamilton was the bulwark of a strong Federal government. Jefferson called the excise tax a "hostile to the genius of a free people." Jefferson, although considered the consummate liberal of his day, was actually the 'less governement' thinker who provided the foundation for what is today the GOP!!! But I digress.....

His brilliant move, besides repealing the liquor tax, was to offer 60 acre "corn patents" to farmers to move to Kentucky and start farming corn on land that had a 'permanent structure' on it. Kentucky was still part of Virginia and these regions had French names after the "House of Bourbon" in guys know the rest of the story....HA!

What is interesting is two dutch names that come to us now from that origin.....Beam and Van Winkle. Beam was originally "Boehm" or "Boem" then later to 'Beam.' Van Winkle was more aristocratic and survived unscathed.
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Postby Hillbilly Rebel » Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:45 pm

By the way, I was at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville last fall. I noticed that they had 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle in the Bourbon Bar. I had tried but not been able to find a fifth of the stuff for sale, so I thought that I would try a drink instead. It cost $45.00 dollars for a single drink, over the rocks, with a splash of water. Guess I am just not that much of a bourbon connoisseur. To me it was way too woody. The barrel came though overpoweringly. I think I will settle for my aged bourbon in the the 13 to 15 year old time frame from here on out. (and before you ask, yes, I have tried 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle but wasn't really that impressed.) Currently drinking Woodford Reserve as my bonded drink of choice.
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Re: George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

Postby IPAmonkey » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:01 pm

Glad to find the G. Washington story on here after browsing through the topics a little bit. I actually did a small research paper on this when I was in school and came across a list of quotes our founding father had regarding spirits, etc. It is so crazy to look at the history of this country and how everything relates to what we love! Jesse, I think you will enjoy these!

“And, as an encouragement to them to behave well, and to attend diligently to their
Duty, the Colonel [Washington] promises to give them, so long as they deserve it, four
gallons of rum, made into punch, every day.”
General Orders
August 7, 1756

“In like Manner, since our Imports of Spirit have become so precarious, nay
impracticable, on Account of the Enemy’s Fleet which infests our Whole Coast, I would
beg leave to suggest the propriety of erecting Public Distilleries in different States. The
benefits arising from moderate use of Liquor, have been experienced in All Armies, and
are not to be disputed !!”
George Washington to the President of Congress
August 16, 1777

“As the President will be going, if he proceeds, into the Country of Whiskey he
proposes to make use of that liquor for his drink…”
Bartholemew Dandridge to Henry Knox
October 9, 1794

“It is necessary, there should always be a Sufficient Quantity of Spirits with the Army, to
furnish moderate supplies to the Troops. In many instances, such as when they are
marching in hot or Cold weather, in Camp in Wet, on fatigue or in Working Parties, it is
so essential, that it is not to be dispensed with. I should be happy if the exorbitant
price, to which it has risen, could be reduced.”
George Washington to William Buchanan
August 20, 1777

“… the Serjeants [should] see it [liquor] duly distributed daily and mixed with Water at
stated times; in which case … it will become refreshing and salutary.”
General Orders
May 16, 1782

How fun is that??
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Re: George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

Postby Samohon » Thu Apr 14, 2011 3:33 am

Ah those Scots again, cause a stampede in an empty barn... :moresarcasm:

Thanks guy's... :clap:
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Re: George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

Postby Bushman » Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:14 am

IPAmonkey, thanks for the quotes I enjoyed reading them. Kona is one of the places I want to visit. I just got back from 20 days on Maui and Kauai, very relaxing and enjoyed the scuba diving and hiking.
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Re: George Washington was a Major Moonshiner

Postby TDick » Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:53 pm

I posted another video on the thread about making GW Rye.

But I saw this video more about the history of The Father Of Our Country's operation.
Thought I would add it here:

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