- 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 gallonsand
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.
George Washington, Distiller
But as an intellectual enterprise ... [Jefferson’s University of Virgina] proved less satisfactory to its creator when it opened the year before he died. The students turned out be not so much an aristocracy of virtue and talent as a gang of rowdy youths with a taste for drink, gambling, breaking windows, firing guns into the air, and thrashing professors who tried to stop them. The horrified Jefferson came down from his mountain to Charlottesville to reprimand them. Flanked by his dear friends and fellow trustees James Madison and James Monroe, the frail eighty-two-year-old patriarch drew himself up to his full six foot two, began to speak — and burst into tears.