Taran Buie History 20
March 21, 2011 Kelly Knight
Transitions in America 1790-1840
In America between 1790 up until 1840 the American republicans were trying to find their way without being under control of England. Like any other time period in American history following independence the colonist had to adjust and take immediate action. I agree with W.J. Rorabaugh when he claimed this fifty year period of the American republic was one of intense transitions, because so much happened that affected the generations to come. This time in America can be look at as Americans going through middle school and high school. I compare these two unlike time periods because they have so much in common when it comes to finding an identity and the changes that take place in pursuit of it.
The consumption of alcohol sky rocketed during these years and played a major role in military, social and even political life and was critical the help mold the founding of the new America. Like middle school and high school you begin to find yourself and start to branch off from you parents. America was in the same situation, newly freed from England it was up to Americans to make every lasting decision. This is when the intense transitions began to take place because there was so many issues to be handled and even more voices trying to be heard in the final decision. Many things can be associated with the transitions America underwent but alcohol and taverns certainly stand out.
Even before the war on independence occurred, taverns were very popular amongst congressmen, solders and other men of high honor. Taverns were almost like secret hideouts for colonist to make internal plots against the English. Patriots viewed public houses as the nurseries of freedom, and that taverns were certainly seed beds of the Revolution, the places where British tyranny was condemned, militiamen organized, and independence plotted (Rorabaugh 35). It was during the fifty years following the War for independence that drinking rum, whiskey, brandy, and gin became a driving force behind the transition of America.
Americans ran to the bottle and began drinking regularly and heavily. Due to this the transition of taverns became a major structure in colonial villages, and the focus of social life. In these small towns the taverns were usually built next to other important structures like courthouses and churches and often aided in their institutional functions. For example, before trials, it was common for defendants, attorneys, judges, and jurymen to gather [in taverns] to drink, and sometime matters were settled out of court. At other times, when a controversial case attracted a crowd, it was necessary to hold the trial in the tavern, which was the only public building roomy enough to accommodate the spectators (Roarbaugh 27). Taverns began to hold almost the same weight as the politicians who conducted business in them because so much of that business was being held at the taverns.
Drinking alcohol also transitioned the social class order. For one, taverns were used to maintain order in the social classes. According to Roarbaugh, village elders imposed a strict licensing system as means of preserving the social order, so that more often than not only ministers, men of authority, and other “men and women of good moral character” could serve as publicans (Roarbaugh 28).