In the immortal words of George Washington, "My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth. My second wish is to get sloshed."
"Beer is proof that Ben Franklin loved us and wanted us to be bifocals."
If you think that modern Americans hit the sauce too much, be glad you weren't alive during Colonial times, aka "the saucy years." (History writers, feel free to use that term in American history textbooks in place of "Colonial America.") The Atlantic recently took a look at the work of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an early supporter of temperance. One of the things they found is that early Americans drank a fuckton more than us, starting immediately after the signing of the constitution:
Over the next four decades, Americans kept drinking steadily more, hitting a peak of 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol per person per year in 1830. By comparison, in 2013, Americans older than 14 each drank an average of 2.34 gallons of pure alcohol.
Part of the drinking was a health concern — water back then wasn't always safe to drink. Americans also thought that booze could help various health concerns. According to Ed Crews, writing at History.org:
To their minds, drink kept people warm, aided digestion, and increased strength. Not only did alcohol prevent health problems, but it could cure or at least mitigate them. They took whiskey for colic and laryngitis. Hot brandy punch addressed cholera. Rum-soaked cherries helped with a cold. Pregnant women and women in labor received a shot to ease their discomfort.
And those were far from the only drinks the early Americans had. Colonists also drank wine and cider, strong beers and "small" beers (another term for low-alcohol beer), punches, flips, and more. Hell, I'm surprised Felicity wasn't constantly sucking down applejack in the American Girl books. Or was she? It's been a long time since I've read those. Were they stories about a drunk 10-year-old?
Beyond the health concerns of the Colonial Era, it should be no surprise that there was also an element of early Americans just wanting to drink some damn booze. Like this fellow from Georgia, as quoted by Ed Crews:
If I take a settler after my coffee, a cooler at nine, a bracer at ten, a whetter at eleven and two or three stiffners during the forenoon, who has any right to complain?
Your internal organs, for one. I think they have a right. And that was Dr. Rush's point when he started discussing temperance all the way back in the 1780s — that there are legitimate health concerns to drinking too much. If you look at Rush's moral thermometer, he actually sounds a lot like doctors today:
Hm. I do like Serenity of Mind, but I also like Punch. (via The Atlantic)
Basically, you can drink, but do it with moderation, people. Our water is mostly clean, so you don't have a good excuse.