Fishy Roots of American Politics

I’m reading Cod by Mark Kurlansky, subtitled A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. It is surprisingly fun and interesting. I bought it after someone assumed I had read it, given that I work on fisheries economics. (I am so small.) While I knew that North Atlantic cod fisheries were plentiful in earlier times, I had no idea how important they were to establish settlements along the northern-most part of the East coast of North America. (Telling: A gilded wooden cod hung from the ceiling in eighteenth-century Boston Town Hall, see p. 79*) Anyway, I wanted to recite a couple of passages about early American politics.

[…] it was calculated that [in 1733,]  the consumption of rum in the American colonies averaged 3.75 U.S. gallons per person annualy. In 1757, George Washington ran for the Fairfax County seat in the House of Burgesses. His campaign expenses included twenty-eight gallons of rum and fifty gallons of rum punch. There was also wine, beer, and cider. This may seem modest compared to today’s campaign spending, but in 1757 Fairfax County, Virginia, had only 391 voters [pp. 95-96].

Fishy, indeed. The next passage concerns John Adams, the second U.S. President:

John Adams [is] America’s most underrated founding father. It was Adams, whose face is on no currency and has inspired few monuments, who argued in the Continental Congress for complete independence from England, who won his argument by forging a Massachusetts-Virginia alliance and then bringing along the colonies in between, who chose Colonel George Washington to lead the Continental Army, who wrote “Thoughts on Government,” which became a blueprint in designing the United States government, and who then plucked from their ranks young Thomas Jefferson for a protégé and assigned him to write the Declaration of Independence on the grounds that the young Virginian was a better writer than himself [p. 99].

I am too small to realize that someone else (who I know) is a better writer than myself.

* Page numbers refer to the Vintage Books 1999 paperback edition .

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