What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?
You might recognize the line - it’s from a sea shanty tune sung on old military vessels by the crew as they worked. So, what do you do with a drunken sailor? One of the proposed solutions of the song is to “...shave his belly with a rusty razor.”
I propose something a little different: thank him.
I had better explain myself before I’m accused of hitting the sauce.
You see, in Colonial America, we loved our alcohol. Back then we believed alcohol could cure the sick and make strong those who were weak.
Many of our founding fathers drank - and quite frequently. John Adams, for example, began each day with a draft of hard cider. Jefferson imported his favorite brews from France. Sam Adams, at one point, even managed his father’s brewery (the marketing folks behind that modern-day brand all need to be given raises). Even John Hancock was accused of smuggling wine - and knowing him, it was likely true!
Not everyone was on board, of course. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration and founders of American medicine, was actually one of the first to view alcoholism as a disease and an addiction. In the late 1700s, it was estimated that the annual consumption of alcohol for each person over 15 years of age was a whopping 40 gallons!
Yes, early Americans believed alcohol to be healthy - and given their circumstances, they weren’t that far from the truth.
Here’s why: there was a far more dangerous and worrisome drink - water.
One sip could make you seriously ill, and everyone knew it.
In fact, lack of drinkable water nearly wiped out the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, VA. George Percy wrote “cold water taken out of the river...was the destruction of many of our men.”
Later, American history was nearly altered once again during the Revolutionary War. In the winter of 1777, George Washington suffered huge losses at Valley Forge when 3,000 soldiers were wiped out with illness and another 2,000 had to leave the army because they were so sick. That totaled over 40% of the men Washington had at Valley Forge!
One of the causes of these illnesses was lack of clean drinking water.
But the American colonists learned how to deal with their water situation. In Europe, polluted waterways were a much bigger problem, and so many Europeans drank alcohol instead. It made for an easy example for colonists to follow.
Of course, there’s another drink that altered the course of American history in two huge ways. Think you know the answer?
The second beverage we have to thank for helping to shape our nation was likely influenced by the first.
Since most of the Founders met and hatched their plans in bars and taverns you can bet there was alcohol involved. After all, it must have taken some liquid courage to dress up as Native Americans, sneak onto a British ship in the middle of the night and throw chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.
After the Boston Tea Party, John Adams wrote to his wife and declared, “Tea must be universally renounced and I must be weaned, and the sooner the better.”
From this point on, there was an unofficial boycott on tea in the Colonies. As a show of solidarity, people united and vowed to only serve coffee in their homes. Before long people began to associate coffee with the Revolution itself. It even got to the point where some viewed the drinking of tea as a betrayal and it was declared a “traitor’s drink!”
It took ten years from the Boston Tea Party until the end of the Revolutionary War, and during that time early Americans developed a taste for coffee. The drink remained popular after the war and continues to be a part of our identity today.
The reason coffee shaped our future was because it inadvertently made drinking water marginally safer. Boiling the water to make coffee prevented some of the ills associated with “cold water” like the kind that almost wiped out Jamestown. In fact, if not for the prevalence of coffee, some historians speculate that the Civil War and the Settling of the West could have turned out quite differently, with much higher rates of waterborne illness and disease.
Now, modern science tells us that boiling isn’t the most effective water treatment method. On top of that, our water supplies today have the potential to be contaminated with A LOT MORE than what the colonists had to deal with. Now there are even more pollutants such as chlorine, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides and many others.
Thankfully, our very own pioneers at My Patriot Supply have innovated a much more effective way for modern day Patriots to get safe, clean water.
The Alexapure Pro Water Filtration System uses breakthrough technology that removes 99.9999% of contaminants from your water supply.
(Incidentally, we’ve also developed Franklin’s Finest. Franklin’s Finest is the only Survival Coffee on the market with a true 25-year shelf life! Our coffee is so good some reviewers are writing in that it’s better than many of the big brand names!)
Now we know why we should thank the drunken sailor because without them stumbling into a workaround for contaminated water, we might not be here today. Our Founding Fathers did what they had to do to survive. Their trials and tribulations with water, along with their revolutionary conversion to coffee, shaped our world today - and we are still putting their lessons to good use.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply