George Washington's whiskey distillery rebuilt
First president also grew hemp at Mount Vernon
George Washington was in the news recently. No, he's not back to lead our country militarily, politically and morally, though we could use him now.
It was the official dedication of an accurate replica of Washington's whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon that made news.
After a five-year archeological effort, and using the 1797 plans for the distillery, Washington's whiskey-making operation was rebuilt on the exact location of the original, using the same kind of equipment and technology that the father of our country used.
In addition to making whiskey and farming different crops on his Mount Vernon acreage, Washington also grew hemp (cannabis), like many people of his time.
Hemp was considered an important crop and widely used as a source for paper, cloth, rope, ship sails and for many other uses.
"Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere," wrote Washington in 1794.
His whiskey distillery and hemp acreage might remind us that Washington was a down-to-Earth human being, as well as a warrior, statesman and American patriot.
LIBERTY, WHISKEY AND HEMP
Five copper stills as well as brick ovens can now be visited on the Mount Vernon site. And the equipment can actually make whiskey.
Mount Vernon officials say they may produce some for special occasions and might try to get approval to bottle and sell it.
Washington began his whiskey business as another way to create income in addition to farming, which was his main source of earnings. Most farmers in his region at the time also made whiskey
As a farmer who grew different types of crops, Washington also took an interest in the hemp plant just like other farmers of his day did. He took note of its properties and productivity, and his writings contain many references to this crop.
"What was done with the seed saved from the India Hemp last summer? It ought, all of it, to have been sewn again; that not only a stock of seed sufficient for my own purposes might have been raised, but to have disseminated the seed to others; as it is more valuable than the common Hemp," Washington wrote.
Hemp paper was used for the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. The U.S. Constitution was reportedly written on hemp paper. And Betsy Ross created the first American flag with hemp fabric.
Washington's contemporary Thomas Jefferson, an avid amateur scientist and naturalist, also took an interest in hemp.
"Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country," wrote Jefferson.
SIR, WE NEED YOU NOW
We might wonder what Washington would think of the state of our nation today.
He and other American patriots fought against a king's corrupt and oppressive rule.
Liberty and freedom from control by some remote and power-hungry ruler were guiding principles that led Washington, other founding fathers and the American patriots to stand up and make changes.
They did not want a king or even a president telling them what to do and how to live their lives.
They wanted freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, homes and property. They wanted protection from a king's power to imprison them without proper cause or fair trial.
Washington and his fellow Americans wanted the freedom to speak and write freely.
They wanted to worship as they pleased and to follow their own paths, their own hearts and minds to enjoy their God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As we approach the mid-term elections of 2006, we might consider Washington's America of 1776, when grass-roots Americans felt a spirit of freedom and change, and they took responsibility to create something different.
Yes, Washington was a down-to-Earth patriot who made whiskey and grew hemp.
And he was a believer in a larger spiritual force that guides the destiny of humanity and that of the United States.
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