Stanton Peele Asks if George Washington Was an Alcoholic By Modern Standards


George Washington's farewell
Alonzo Chappel/Public Domain

George Washington's alcohol consumption was, at times, prodigious. That consumption by Washington and his fellow founding fathers has been whitewashed—literally—from American history by the intervening Temperance movement, whose effects still drive us. For instance, the classic picture of Washington taking his farewell from his troops at Fraunces Tavern in New York—which, of course, involved a toast—was painted with a serving flask clearly visible. This container was painted out of these same pictures later in the nineteenth century, reminiscent of Soviet photos with purged former leaders excised. As Stanton Peele points out, for our ancestors, getting drunk—but not losing control—was simply socially accepted.