George Washington, Distiller

  • There is a fascinating What if ... article by Michael Bechloss about George Washington and his distillery at Mount Vernon (The New York Times, 12-Feb-2016). Following his presidency in 1797, Washington found himself in need of money, despite an 8,000 acre plantation and labor by hundreds of enslaved African-Americans. His plantation manager suggested starting a distillery, which in 1799 produced nearly 11,000 gallons and achieved a profit of about $7,500 (about $142,000 today). What might have become one of the great businesses of the early republic — it was already the largest distillery in America — was cut short when Washington died in December 1799.
JDN | 15-Jan-2017

Quotes and snippets from Jefferson have been used to suggest that he altered his views on slavery, or that these were inconsistent with each other. He can be quoted to sound like an ardent abolitionist, or to sound like the most oppressive of masters. But everything he wrote on the subject is consistent with the complex treatment he gave to slavery in his Notes [on Virginia]. He always opposed enslavement in general and further slave imports to Virginia in particular. He always supported the freeing of slaves en masse, but always and only in connection with a scheme of deportation ...

Garry Wills
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1978)