Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Ian Williams

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 1560258918

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Ian Williams describes in captivating detail how Rum and the molasses that it was made from was to the 18th century what oil is today. Rum was used by the colonists to clear Native American tribes and to buy slaves. To make it, they regularly traded with the enemy French during the Seven Years' War, angering their British masters and setting themselves on the road to Revolution. The regular flow of rum was essential to keeping both armies in the field since soldiers relied on rum to keep up their fighting spirits. Even though the Puritans themselves were fond of rum in quantities that would appall modern day doctors, temperance and Prohibition have obscured the historical role of the "Global Spirit with its warm heart in the Caribbean." Ian Williams' book triumphantly restores rum's rightful place in history, taking us across space and time, from its origins in the plantations of Barbados through Puritan and Revolutionary New England, to voodoo rites in modern Haiti, where to mix rum with Coke risks invoking the wrath of the god, and across the Florida straits where Fidel and the Bacardi family are still fighting over the rights for the ingredients of Cuba Libre.

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them:Many of the Leading Puritans may (without Injustice) be thus Characteris’d. They are Saints without Religion, Traders without Honesty, Christians without Charity, Magistrates without Mercy, subjects without Loyalty, Neighbours without Amity, Faithless Friends, Implacable Enemys, and Rich Men without Money. Although he notes that the sailors who worked the ship that ferried him over depended on brandy and tobacco to fuel their labors, he contrasts that with the habits of the New World,

1711, Brigadier General John Hill complained that his troops had drunk “rumm to excess” in Boston, so instead of confronting the French in Quebec, 250 had deserted and others were in hospital.104 Possibly not since the days of Ancient Rome had human settlements been so dependent on imported foodstuffs for their survival as the Sugar Islands were. But while Rome and Athens exacted tribute from just across the Mediterranean, the Caribbean colonies were not imperial metropoles but outlying outposts

produce. The sugar lobby made sure that rums from Jamaica and Barbados were exempt from duty until sold, while New England rum paid duty on arrival at British ports. The sugar lobby was favored again in 1760, when Parliament added an additional duty of one penny a gallon on all rums except those coming from the West Indies. As a result, in England, Caribbean rum imports rose, while the sales of New England rum remained low, with only six hundred gallons officially imported to Britain in 1770. It

three years of the war—adding a whole new dimension to friendly fire and certainly conducive to loosening the apron strings between the mother country and the increasingly unruly daughter colonies. Despite the best efforts of the Yankee traders’ efforts to feed and finance the enemy, by the end of the war British fleets and armies had conquered and occupied most of the French islands in the Caribbean. Ironically, that meant that—nominally, at least—the sugar and molasses that these islands

tactics were extremely successful. The changeover in popular mood was fairly quick. In 1758, the British commander in Boston tolerantly complained about the state his troops got into because grateful Bostonians, overjoyed at the fall of the French fortress of Louisberg, plied the soldiery with rum: “The jubilation was so exuberant that I could not prevent the men from being quite filled with rum by the inhabitants.”171 In 1766 the citizenry of New York, grateful for their deliverance from the

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