Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July: important Williams and beer.

Happy birthday, America! As Americans all over the world celebrate their independence day. On July 2, 1776, the second continental congress approved a resolution of independence,  and 2 days later, on July 4, 1776, they signed the declaration of independence, thus officially rejecting British rule.

One of the reasons that fueled the unrest and dissatisfaction with -and ultimately the rejection of - the British rule over their American Colonies was beer. Beer was an important factor in life in the colonies, as were the taverns, which served a central role in their communities. It was not just a place were the locals could drink, but it was where they met, were travelers could find a hearty meal and drink on the way, it was the place were many court houses held their sessions. At times, things would go out of hand, and the British rulers tried to regulate 'drinking and tavern disorders'. But it wasn't until they dared raise taxes on beer that illustrious people such as Samuel Adams and James Otis started a movement of civil disobedience against such a treacherously levied tax. Very soon colonials started a 'buy American' trend, to prefer American brewed ales over imported British ales. To the point that the Boston Tea party (the leaders of which having organised this event in a tavern, or what did you think?), are rumored to almost having decided to dump ale in the harbor. Regardless of where it comes from, such action would have been the purest form of alcohol abuse, but luckily enough sound judgement ruled the day. Just imagine, though, having 'Beer Party Patriots', 'Beer Party Express', etc... Regardless of politics, we can all agree that heaving tea overboard was a much wiser move.

6 of the signers of the declaration were named William, who 'lived life to the full, but balanced', in spirit with our patron saint. Another hero of the war of independence was Col. William Stacy. Born in Gloucester, MA in 1734, he was active in the war from the very beginning, having fought at Lexington and Concord, and later at Bunker Hill and other battles. Col. William Moultrie was also important in the first moments of the war. Defending fort Sullivan in Charleston Harbor, he fended off a 12 hour attack of 10 British warships, sending them badly crippled back in defeat. This greatly encouraged the surrounding states, renewing hope in the cause of independence. General William Whipple, another, had signed the declaration, and commanded a New Hampshire militia brigade in battles at Stillwater and Saratoga against the British general Burgoyne, and later another militia brigade at the battle of Rhode Island.

Of course, we cannot fail to mention the commander of the continental army, George Washington. One of the first things he did upon taking command was ordering a fixed daily ration of beer for all troops. This greatly helped enlistment, keep good spirits, and was often healthier than plain water.

So, when you sit back today, in celebration, or if you're not an US citizen, just sitting back after a long day, sip your beer and toast to those valiant men who fought for freedom, giving us that extraordinary document (declaration of independence and the constitution, documents that sparked a wildfire of freedom in Europe as well, starting with the French revolution in 1789: the praised French 'Declaration of the rights of men and citizens' was inspired by it. So was constitution form 1791, as was the Belgian constitution from 1830, to name a few). Know that beer was important in making that all happen, and then toast to the brewer who gave you that fine drink you are enjoying.


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