Ep. 19 - Dr. Jim Ambuske and Jeanette Patrick of the Washington Library

Join me for my visit to Mount Vernon and my discussion about the first president and his relationship to whiskey.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

This interview pairs nicely with the Whiskey Lore Story Episode: The Whiskey Rebellion: Seeds of Discontent (Part 1)

How did George Washington go from dealing with the whiskey rebellion to opening his own distillery? Well, I went to Mount Vernon to find out the answer to that question and ended up learning so much more.

Join me as I talk with Jim and Jeanette about Washington's management style, his distiller and distillery, and some of the myths that surround him.

  • Photos from my visit to the Washington Library and Distillery at instagram.com/whiskeylore
  • Was it class warfare?
  • Herman Husband the contrarian
  • The reasons for Hamilton's excise
  • Who can bear the cost of this tax?
  • Whiskey as currency
  • Did the farmer distillers leave for Kentucky?
  • Washington's way of enlisting opinions and surrounding himself with great minds
  • The balance of Hamilton vs Jefferson/Randolph
  • Washington doing both
  • Hamilton's plan to kick the crap out of them
  • Looking beyond Western Pennsylvania for influences
  • The Democratic Societies
  • Fallen Timbers and Mad Anthony Wayne
  • Worst defeat per capita for a U.S. force
  • European power intrigue
  • Washington and the insurrectionists vs Lincoln and the Confederacy
  • Washington's drink of choice
  • The dialogue between James Anderson and George Washington during the hiring process
  • Was Mount Vernon a profitable venture? Washington's financial shape.
  • Washington's micromanaging and James Anderson
  • Washington's temper
  • The largest distillery in that time period
  • Washington's unexpected death from quinzy
  • The Premature Burial by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Martha and the freeing of the slaves
  • The fate of the distillery

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore." The full transcript is available on the tab above.


Drew (00:14):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, drew Hamish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to Experience in Kentucky Bourbon. And I want to welcome you to an encore interview from back in late 2020 when I was researching Season four's miniseries on the Whiskey Rebellion. And I want to send a thank you out to Liz Covert of the Ben Franklin's World Podcast because she was the one that put me in touch with Dr. Jim Am Buskey at the Center for Digital Research at the Washington Library at Mount Vernon. And not only did he offer his own services in helping me research, but he also set up an interview with me and Steve Bayshore, the master distiller at George Washington's distillery at Mount Vernon. And in the following discussion, Jim, along with Jeanette Patrick, who's a writer and researcher at the Washington Library, will walk me through all of my questions about George Washington, the man, his distillery, and his motivations and actions during the Whiskey rebellion.

And after we got done with the meeting, Jeanette then walked me around on the behind the scenes tour of the grounds at Mount Vernon and I got to see how George Washington managed his grains in a facility that he built specifically for that and saw a bunch of excavation work going on and found out that it was actually some structure that was left from before. George Washington owned Mount Vernon when his brother Lawrence actually owned it. I am a big George Washington history geek, so this was perfect for me. And the piece that exists was when I got a chance to actually look through the 220 year old distillery ledger that was managed by James Anderson, the distiller for George Washington, an absolute incredible piece of history and something that if you want to see the photos, you can go to instagram.com/whiskey.

Now in this interview, it's really set up to be more of a research type interview. So the intention here was to get some sound bites from Jim and also be able to get some of my questions answered. This was really about building the mini-series about the Whiskey Rebellion, but it turned into also helping me on my research about James Anderson. And I would suggest that you might want to go listen to the mini-series on the rebellion on the Whiskey lore podcast before you listen to this. But you can listen to this and maybe it will inspire you to jump over because there's going to be stuff in here that will be well explained and other things that it might be good to have a little bit of background on. And as we pick up this conversation, I started off by discussing how, to me, Hamilton's whiskey tax seemed to be punishing the farmers in rural areas, but promoting city distillers and creating a form of class warfare. And so we'll pick up the questions from there as we're sitting in the conference room at Washington's Library. And so here's my discussion with Dr. Jim Ambu and Jeanette Patrick.

Jim (03:49):
Yeah, I think in a lot of ways some of the farmers out there did see it in terms of what we would now call class warfare. Herman husband is a very good example of that. He's a guy you might look up. Herman husband's a fascinating character because he participated in sort of every major contrarian event in the 18th century. The Great Awakening, the American Revolution, the whiskey rebellion. There was a revolution, not revolution he didn't like. And he was really sensitive to the fact that sort of the aristocratic Easterners could take advantage of people out in the West in certain circum situations. And I think the thing about is the way in which the economy works in this period and debt is central to all of that debt and credit is the way in which the economy works. There is no great plethora of species hard money to be had, and so everything works on credit.

So you've got sort of the big macro situation where the United States has a massive post-war debt. I think with the federal government had something like 50 million in debt at the end of the war. The states had something like 26 million. Hamilton's great idea after the passage of the Constitution is to assume the state debt into the federal government, combine it as one. He does that for a couple of reasons. One, he wants to attach people to the new government. And so if they are indebted to that new government or if the new government is responsible for controlling that debt, they'll have an interest in the government's survival because a lot of people think at this point that the union is still going to fracture. The other thing is he wants to do is he wants to make the United States a credit worthy nation. And to do that, he thinks if the federal government assumes the debt and then creates a sinking fund to show that the US can pay that debt, well, then they'll be able to get international credit from other lenders.

The excise tax is a consequence of that, as you've already noted. I mean, there are import duties. That's sort of the common way of taxation in the 18th century, at least in the post-war period. There's no real income tax at all. People are very suspicious of that, those things. So the excise tax is one, I think it might be the first actually, or one of the first direct taxes on domestic products that you see in this period. And the problem is that kind of tax falls disproportionately on the people you're talking about, the Easterners and as can pay bear the cost a little bit more because they don't have to transport their whiskey as far to market. The larger producers can pay a flat rate. And so they're paying those who are paying a flat rate, who can produce in volume, I think are paying on average something like 6 cents a gallon.

Whereas the smaller producers and the who become the rebels are paying by the gallon as opposed to that flat rate, and they've got fewer still. So they're paying about 9 cents a gallon. And plus you've got post-war inflation too, which is good for some people and it's bad for other people. And so you've got this imbalance taking place, Hamilton's leaves, this is necessary to establish the government on assure footing to actually pay down its debts, make it a credit worthy lending nation. But it's coming at a high price for a lot of people that you're looking at in this period.

Drew (07:26):
So for the farmer distiller, I mean, whiskey was really currency.

Jim (07:30):
Yeah, yeah. And in part because this isn't a period yet in which the US has direct access to the Mississippi, and so they can't immediately ship wheat or other kinds of grain down river to markets in New Spain or even to the Atlantic. It's going to take time to get that stuff over the mountains. And so by the time the grain gets to Eastern ports, it's probably spoiled. So transforming it into whiskey is the most expeditious way of doing it. And you're right, it does become a kind of currency and be because of the tax, that currency becomes more valuable to some people than others and causes a lot of complications.

Drew (08:10):
So I've heard a lot of people say that when the whiskey rebellion happened, a lot of these farmer distillers just took off for Kentucky to get away from it all through your studies. Does this sound like it would be true?

Jim (08:26):
Yeah, that doesn't sound exactly right to me, and I wouldn't think that that's probably true. I mean, there might be some who are motivated by the aftermath of the whiskey rebellion to go to Kentucky, but Kentucky in general is a hot commodity at this point. I mean, it's becomes a state in 1792 is a former district of Virginia. There's a lot of land out there where people who are interested in tobacco farming or other kinds of farming or in owning enslaved laborers, certainly and enslaved laborers, is not only in their eyes an efficient means of economy, but it's also a major social status for them. And so they might have aspirations for that kind of stuff. But to Kentucky, Tennessee, these western areas in this point are in often ways the place to be, and people are excited about moving there. So there might have been some folks who d depart because of the whiskey rebellion, but they might have just seen better opportunities in general in going to Kentucky.

Drew (09:29):
So let's talk a little bit about George Washington then get into his management style. If you look at his cabinet, then you get a sense that he liked to surround himself with the greatest minds, the best of the best, even if they were coming from opposing points of view like a Hamilton or a Jefferson. Is this the way that he tended to do things when he was a general back during the Revolutionary War as well, kind of enlist all of these different opinions before making a decision?

Jim (10:05):
It actually goes further back than that Washington's management style, both in military and presidential terms, dates back to his service in the seven years war when he is in what was then called the family of General Braddock, essentially when he was an agent camp to General Edward Braddock in the seven Years War. And one of Braddock's management styles was to solicit the opinions of his officers before he made any major decisions. And Washington really learned from that. I mean, when Washington is that age, he was a pretty ambitious, brash young man. But he learns from Braddock the value of listening to other people, particularly in a military context, when so much is on the line. And he takes that and runs with that throughout his military and political career. You see that when he's holding his councils of war during the revolution, we have the minutes from these things often and where he's asking, what he would do is he would say, I'm interested in attacking this particular piece of ground in this particular timeframe.

He would ask the officers in his immediate command and some of his aids to solicit written opinions about the wisdom or the futility of making such an attack. And then he would gather them together in a council of war and talk with them about their opinions, asking questions, having those officers debate and trying to get some kind of consensus about what their actions should be. And sometimes Washington knew what he wanted to do, often he knew what he wanted to do, but he knew that he needed the opinions of others if he was going to make a sound judgment, the kind of management style he brought into his presidential administration as well. As you referenced, he put together an all-star team of who's revolutionaries on that first cabinet, but he's got, one of the great challenges he faces is he's got Jefferson and Hamilton in that cabinet, and they don't start out hating each other, but by the end, at the end of their time together in that cabinet, their positions relative to each other have become untenable.

And so he spends a lot of the time trying to manage that situation. But he does the same thing when Hamilton comes up with Hi, his plan for a national bank or for his plan for manufacturing. He asks various cabinet members for the written opinions and then convenes them on occasion to talk about some of these major issues. So same thing with the whiskey rebellion, I think he would've convened, he did a convening, a cabinet on that. He solicited opinions certainly from Alexander Hamilton, even when Hamilton leaves the cabinet, he's still a shadow advisor to Washington. He's still asking his opinion, but he is also getting legal opinions from the attorney General Randolph certainly, and other people as well, trying to figure out what's the best approach and how to make sure that he as president can well and faithfully execute the laws, but also not overreach.

Drew (13:19):
So you had Jefferson in opposition to Hamilton in the cabinet, and then when Jefferson stepped out, income's Randolph, and it's just like Hamilton's changing dance partners on the opposition. And you've got Hamilton who wants to use the militia, and then you've got Randolph who thinks diplomacy is the best way to go. But what I find fascinating is that Washington decided to do both.

Jim (13:49):
Yeah, no, I think that's a great point. I mean, he's trying to find that middle course between Randolph's sort of desire to let's this work this out through legal means. Where in Hamilton, what does he say? He's like, I can't remember the quote, something about the government must be hercule in its efforts, or something like that where he's just basically, let's just go kick the crap out of him.

Drew (14:15):
Oh man, Hamilton did using that military machine. Yeah,

Jim (14:19):
Exactly. Exactly. So again, and that's where you see that deliberative process play out in the ways in which they attempt to first negotiate with the rebels, try to get them to disperse. There's the Peace Commissioners and there's that proclamation that orders them to disperse by September one, and he's priming the pump kind of saying, listen, we're going to give you every legal excuse to stop what you're doing and to stop disobeying the law, but will come a point where we have to take potentially more extreme measures. And you kind of see that process play out over the course of those several months.

Drew (15:02):
So one of the things that we do sometimes with history is we tend to look at everything in isolation and not really pay attention to the other things that may be going on at that time period that may influence decisions. And this was a time period when the terror was going on over in France, and France was a interesting country for this country to pay attention to because they really had followed their revolutionary steps by looking at what we did. And now you had this whiskey rebellion going on, and was this people looking back and seeing what they were doing over there and how were these situations playing out in Washington's mind when he's trying to make decisions on how to handle the whiskey rebellion?

Jim (16:03):
Yeah, you've actually got two big contexts to think about. One is that international context in the sense that the French Revolution has become extraordinarily violent in 1793 Washington issues, the neutrality proclamation trying to keep the United States out of the war from either supporting Britain or France while trying to maintain American trade. But he well knows from various incidents that a lot of Americans are inspired by France despite knowledge of how violent it's become. And there are these little things that are starting to pop up called democratic societies, which in a simple way, kind of simple way to look at it, is democratic society, sort of having a Jeffersonian mindset that the people themselves are sovereign and that they are their own best masters, and that they can sort of decide for themselves in a lot of ways how they should proceed in life. The other.

So that's percolating in the back of their mind. They're worried that some kind of domestic rebellion could potentially translate it into something much greater. They're also very aware, as we said earlier, that the United States is still very fragile. I mean, it's easy to look back and think that the United States was on a solid footing post constitution, but every major European power and not a little percentage of the American population expected the United States to come apart in any given moment. So they're worried about that. The other major challenge they've got actually is in Ohio at the same time that this 13,000 mil man militia is marching to Western Pennsylvania, what was called the Legion under the command of General Anthony Wayne is waging a campaign against the Ohio Shawnee Confederacy, which they eventually defeated fallen timbers in the fall of 1794. And the United States under the Washington Administration had been waging a protracted campaign against the Miami Shawnee Confederacy since they took office suffering major defeats under Josiah Harmer and under Arthur Sinclair actually harm's or Sinclair's defeat is I think still to this day, the worst defeat per capita by an American army in the United States history essentially wipes it out.

And so there is of a federal army as fighting in the Ohio country at this point. So there's, they're thinking about that international context with the French Revolution and trying to make sure that domestic discontent doesn't take a violent turn. But then they're also very aware of the fact that on the western fringes of the United States, which they claim, but still under the control of the Miami and Shawnee, who who's landed actually is they're fighting that protracted war as well. So they've got a lot going on in that period and Washington's worried about all of it.

Drew (19:06):
Well, and then you also had the European powers really not that far disconnected from their time in North America, and some of them still lingering. So you had Spain, great Britain, and they were kind of teasing people back then about maybe coming in and lending a hand in these uprisings.

Jim (19:29):
Yeah, there's a lot of Spanish intrigue and a lot of American intrigue with Spaniards, particularly in the West. And yeah, you're absolutely right, Tina. There's this, it's easy to think that once independence is achieved, there's a kind of disconnect between the US and Europe, but that's just not the case. I mean, the United States remains deeply entangled with Britain long after independence, even though it's a close ally with France and the Spanish on the southern borders and frontiers. And so they're very much a real present thing in their minds.

Drew (20:04):
Now, one of the things I really like about George Washington and the reason why he is my favorite president is because he set a lot of precedents. And one of those precedents was walking away after two terms, which was something that was respected all the way up into the beginning of the 20th century. So there's no reason for term limits because all the presidents kind of followed that along. And so when I think about the whiskey rebellion and how it ended, there were 20 people who were put on trial, two convicted, and Washington pardoned both of them. And when I heard that, it got me thinking about Abraham Lincoln and how at the end of the Civil War after the Confederacy put their guns down, he basically decided not to punish them, but just allow them back in and say, Hey, you're part of the family again, we had disagreement, but here we are, the United States again. And so they were all welcomed back in. So with Washington pardoning, these two guys, do you see this as Washington's way of saying, Hey, this is over with and let's just move forward?

Jim (21:22):
Well, in part, yes. I think either the analogy to Lincoln in the South in his plan for reconstruction had he lived is a good one. What I think they're thinking about with the whiskey rebellion is that the show of forest has caused the rebels to disperse. They made it very clear that the federal government is willing to do what it needs to do to enforce federal law up to the point of declaring that local authority cannot handle the situation, and that there needs to be a federalized military force to help execute the laws. But then the other side of it though, as you rightly point out, is that very few people are prosecuted in those that are pardoned. And so what's going on there in part is that a Washington's willingness to show leniency. If they had taken that army and met still 500 people who were still willing to cause trouble disobey the laws, and there had been some kind of attack, well then instead of aspiring just enough fear that the federal government is going to take measures necessary to enforce its own will and to enforce the Constitution, if there was some kind of major attacker where there were hundreds of people killed or there were hundreds of other kinds of incidents, well then you've got a situation in which Americans, by and large are going to start to worry about tyranny, which they already do.

I mean, there is still a heck of a lot of skepticism about the federal government under that constitution. The democratic societies are a good reflection of that. So if instead you showed us enough force to get them to disperse, to get them to show the rebels that the federal government is serious, but then you pardon people and you don't prosecute people and you show leniency, you are showing a willingness to forgive and forget that you have made your point, but that you're not going to press it any further, and that you hope by showing that grace, that then people will willingly obey the law and not cause trouble in the future. So it's kind of a carrot and stick kind of thing.

Drew (23:34):
Well, I hope you're enjoying the conversation with Dr. Jim Ambu and Jeanette Patrick and Jeanette will be coming up here in the second half, we're going to talk a little bit about George Washington's drinking habits, learn a little bit about that distillery, and we're going to hear some gruesome details about how George Washington died. Now, this is one of those myths that is more of a general history myth rather than being a whiskey myth. But I had to ask about it because I've heard multiple stories on it and I wanted to get the real scoop since I was at Mount Vernon. So we'll get to that in just a moment. And if you are planning a trip to Kentucky now that everything hopefully is going to open up in 2021 and you want to plan out an ultimate list of distilleries to visit, we'll check out Whiskey Laura's Travel Guide to experiencing Kentucky Bourbon.

I profile 32 distilleries that I visited in Kentucky, and I've organized all the information into a powerful planning guide where you can compare, contrast and decide on the perfect set of distilleries for your journey to bourbon country. I tell you my top three reasons why you should visit each. I'll teach you the logistics of how to plan out your days. I'll tell you how to handle tastings, and I'll even give you enough history and process that you'll have a great foundation of information about how bourbon is made, and that'll get you past the overwhelmed feeling that you can get hearing all that information all up front. And then this way you get more of the subtle nuances of what makes each distillery special and what they focus on. There's even some handy tips in there about how to prepare for the fast-paced bourbon tastings at the end of your tour. To get your copy, all you have to do is go on Amazon and do a search for whiskey lore travel guide or head to whiskey lord.com/kentucky book.

Welcome back to the Center for Digital Research at the Washington Library. I am talking with Jeanette Patrick, and we are going to be talking a little bit more about Washington's distillery and about the drinking habits of our first president. So back in colonial times, originally rum was the drink of choice, and then it evolved into rye whiskey because that was something that they could make locally. And then a lot of our forefathers drank Madeira wine, and I've always associated Washington with Madeira wine as well. So I wanted to find out from Jeanette was Madeira Washington's drink of choice.

Jeanette (26:15):
So yes, Madeira is, I think Washington's drink of choice. He orders barrels of it frequently. We have the financial records that show it. So that's definitely his personal drink, like there's beer beam brewed on the estate, and some of it is for Washington and his guests, but there's also evidence that suggests the enslaved community is brewing for their own consumption as well. And we think that that's the reason whiskey is brewed also, is that there is some property use by family and guests, but it's also for the enslaved community. And then Washington just has so much grain, he then turns it into his commercial business.

Drew (27:05):
So what kind of grain was he growing here at Mount Vernon?

Jeanette (27:09):
Steve's definitely going to have the best answer, but we know he's growing wheat and rye and barley, and he has, he's growing five or six different grains in varying quantities based on the year. So I would guess that he, Anderson probably knew how much surplus or what percentage of what he had and played with what was available.

Drew (27:37):
So Anderson's an interesting guy because he comes in not as a distiller, but comes in as a farm manager, and he gets hired as George Washington is stepping down from the presidency, and they've got this little awkward back and forth. They have going on through letters. I guess they hadn't met each other before. And it just seems like a curious time to be hiring a new manager.

Jeanette (28:06):
So we see throughout Washington's time, he almost always has managers at Mount Vernon, especially when he's away. And so what becomes a Mount Vernon estate when he dies is it is about 8,000 acres and it's broken into five separate farms. So where we are now as part of Mansion House Farm, and then there were four outlying farms that were all almost connected, but there's land in between each of the different plots. And so he has farm managers basically from when he can afford them on each farm has their own, and then someone is often heading them, and so that he can keep track. So I don't know who is managing the farm at the end of the presidency before Anderson comes in, but I'm guessing for some reason Washington frequently has problems with his managers. And so I don't know that the end of the presidency is what causes him to hire Anderson.

I'm guessing just he had an opening and we see, depending on the year, higher turnovers, because Washington is an incredibly strict, he has very high expectations, he's very strict with the decorum. He wants his hired staff to show off a farmer. At one point, he's very angry that keeps getting drunk, and he's just like, he wants to fire him and the manager of the estate at the time. For some reason, it takes them a while to decide to do it. So it could have been just that Anderson is in the area and he probably finds people who know of his of him, and that's how we end up with him here.

Drew (29:44):
So let's talk about Mount Vernon and the state. It was in around the time of the distillery getting started, there's a grist mill already. There are crops, but he seems somewhat hesitant about the suggestion of starting a distillery, and he's very cautious about the costs of getting this thing going. Was Mountain Vernon as a profitable venture for Washington?

Jeanette (30:14):
So he definitely struggles many times throughout his life, and he gets key inflections of cash at really opportune moments. But I'd say he is very much a land rich and by land also enslaved people, rich person who then is frequently cash poor. So I mean, he is, he's in a lot of debt. He dealing with tobacco and having to trade that with the Brits. And so when he marries Martha, who is the widow of an incredibly wealthy man, cash and enslaved people come in. And so he's able to expand Mount Vernon. And after one of Martha's children dies, we see another influx in the amount of cash that Martha then has access to. And so we see another expansion happening of the estate. And so he is an incredibly, frugal isn't probably the right word, because he likes to buy nice things when he can afford them, but he is definitely very attuned to his financial situation. And he seems to always be trying very hard to be out of debt and to have not self-sufficient plantation because he needs the trade. He has to have people to sell it to. But he definitely seems, I mean, he doesn't die in debt. So many of his, yeah, yeah. But I mean, he doesn't die with a lot of cash either. He has some, but it's not a lot.

Jim (31:53):
Yeah, I agree entirely. It's in a lot of ways it's a race to the bottom, while it's also a race to the top, because in order to maintain that aristocratic lifestyle, you've got to spend on finery fine things. You've got to compete with your fellow peers in the social class. And so they're in a sense, trying to outdo each other. And Washington know, all these guys know Jefferson and Monroe, they know that they can't afford to keep doing this stuff, but they feel the social pressure to do so. And the Revolutionary War was a particularly hard time because he did take expenses, all of his expenses. We have records of those, which are pretty amazing. But he didn't draw a salary in part because he didn't want to look like he was doing this for his own self-interest, but that had real financial consequences for his farm.

And then of course, he's not running his farm, as Jeanette said. He had a very particular way he liked to run Mount Vernon, and when he wasn't there, he was frequently disappointed with the people who were particularly his family members who were running it during the war. So it took its financial toll, and he spends the rest of his life after the war trying to recover. There was some dispute of whether or not he was going to take a presidential salary, and he was sort of hemming and hauling. And someone had finally sort of said, yeah, dude, you kind of need this to take the money. Nice.

Jeanette (33:24):
Yeah, I think was, especially when he realizes he has to set up basically another nice house to entertain people in, and all of the expenses he's going to be accruing from the social part of the presidency, I think is what finally helps him realize, because he doesn't have the cash to do any of that.

Drew (33:43):
So here we go again into Washington's management style, and we talk about how, from what I understand of George Washington, he used to send back detailed documents telling exactly how he wanted his managers to handle things at Mount Vernon. So he was kind of a micromanager from a distance. And then here comes James Anderson into this situation. And Washington has all the time in the world now to focus on what his managers are doing firsthand. And so it doesn't surprise me that in the spring of 1798, Anderson threatens to leave. So I have to ask about Washington's management style. We know how he was as a general and as a president where he was enlisting the opinions of others. Did that all disappear when he returned home?

Jeanette (34:48):
Mean maybe. But we see Washington is still gathering information on the best farming techniques he's writing to, there's a woman in Maryland, what

Jim (35:02):
Let's say Art Arthur Young in England.

Jeanette (35:04):
Yes. And so he's talking to Arthur Miller in England. He's talking to a woman in Maryland who has this grand greenhouse that Washington wants, and he gets plans from her and then has it a similar one built here. So he's still doing the research and he's still talking to people in the area or from further out. So yes, it is him making these very specific decisions and expecting high work out of his staff. But I think that we still see him doing similar things where he, and I think a lot of it also goes back to he doesn't have a formal education like many of his peers. And so he, throughout his life seems to be concerned he's going to come across as uneducated or not understanding the normal thing for his new class. And so I think we see that the style he learns under Braddock is really impactful through the rest of his life, helping him not feel like an ignorant country boy as he's in these grand situations. So yeah, I think he probably would've listened to Anderson, but if he didn't like what he was saying, yeah, he's going to make the decisions. But I think we see that with his military decisions also. He's listening to people, but he's making the decision. He wants to have things, have things done the way he wants them done.

Drew (36:30):
So it brings up an interesting question about how Washington worked with people overall, because I did some reading and read the story about where Alexander Hamilton and Washington, Washington embarked something at Hamilton and Hamilton stood his ground and made Washington actually feel bad about how he had responded. So coarsely to Hamilton, did Washington have a temper? And was that temper something that he sometimes felt guilty about?

Jim (37:06):
Yeah, he had a very famous temper, actually, and I can't remember who said it, but it might have been Jefferson. No, it was Jefferson. He described him later in life when he was looking back on the revolution that Washington was the perfect picture of comport and composure, but you could always see that simmering underneath the beneath was just what he called this great rage. And that, I think it's, what was it when it let loose sit and met with great fury or something like that? And it did on a number of occasions after the Battle of Monmouth, when he tears apart Charles Lee General Charles Lee, when he yells at Hamilton and Hamilton and Jefferson after a cabinet meeting or during cabinet meetings, he kind of loses it on them. So there were the moments, he was always attempting to keep things under control, but sometimes it would let loose its boundaries and people would see it.

Drew (38:09):
So talking a little bit more about Washington's distillery, I know at one point it was claimed that the distillery was the largest at its time, and now it's kind of been pulled back to one of the largest distilleries during that time period. And here is where I run into the biggest issue, because if this Hamilton Tax, the excise tax was forcing records to be kept, then we should know what the largest distillery was. And so in 1799 or 98, whichever year it was, the distillery at Mount Vernon was doing 11,000 gallons a year. So we know that number. And then we could look at somebody like Evan Williams who claims to be Kentucky's first distiller, even though in 1783, Kentucky wasn't a state. It wasn't a county, there wasn't anything called Kentucky around at that time. He was actually in Virginia. And so trying to figure out, there's no licenses for these distilleries at that time, but there was the tax revenue information. And John Neville, he should have been measuring that was part of his job, was to measure how much whiskey was being produced by him and by other distillers in Western Pennsylvania. So I mean, I got a question, where do we find these records so that we can finally put to bed who the largest distillery was?

Jeanette (39:46):
So we have Washington's records from the financial ledgers he keeps. And so I would guess that if there are other larger stills, there's probably a good chance that those records still exist somewhere. Also, if they are paying the taxes on them, then there should be federal tax records. And so the National Archives or the Library of Congress would have those if they still exist.

Drew (40:21):
Okay, so here's another mystery that I want to clear up about George Washington. Again, my favorite president and one of my favorite historical figures. And when he came back to Mount Vernon in 1797, a place that he'd always talked about coming back to, he was so in love with that area, and he just wanted to be back home. Well, he finally gets back home. He lives three years and then he dies. And he didn't die in a very pleasant way, from what I've heard. I didn't know what he had died of. And then I looked it up and saw that he died of Quincy. And so now I had to look up what Quincy was, kind of walk us through how he died that last couple of days, how he ended up in this because it wasn't expected he was a healthy man. And then suddenly things turned for the worst pretty quickly.

Jeanette (41:28):
So Washington, the tail part of it is every day he goes and he checks his farms and he's out riding, and it starts to probably snow cause it's December and he comes back and he's a very punctual person and he's late for dinner. And so he doesn't change out of his wet clothes. And so that's obviously not what he dies from, but how it impacts his immune system. So he wakes up in the middle of the night feeling very sick, and Martha had just been recovering from a cold. And so he won't let her get up to go call for one of their enslaved workers to send for the doctor. And so they wait until Caroline, who's an enslaved housekeeper, comes in early in the morning to light the fire. And at that point, she goes for one of Tibias Leer who then sends for one of the doctors, I think Craig is the first one they call.

And so yeah, Washington is a huge believer in Bleedings. And so before Dr. Arrives, he convinces, I think it's in there with him at the time that he go ahead and go ahead and cut me. Let's get working on getting me batter and it doesn't do anything. And so then doctor shows up and continues to check on Washington. They take even more blood from him. Two more doctors are eventually called throughout the two-ish days, and he continues to worsen, and it's an absurd percent of blood. They end up pulling from him. I don't remember what it is off the top of my head, but they were bleeding him like crazy. And so he's got an infection in his throat and he's basically slowly suffocating. So what did I miss?

Jim (43:20):
Yeah, that was it. Yeah, they bleed him several times. At one point the blood starts to turn very thick, which is a sign that he's lost too much blood and he is not replacing what he has fast enough. And then he at one point says, that's enough. And one of the remarkable parts of the story is he actually, one of my professors used to tell a story, he essentially takes control of his own dying. He starts to feel his pulse aware that he's going to go. And so he wants to be in control of that. And then eventually he expires, and not before he asked, was it Martha to go get two copies of the will, one which was older, had that destroyed and made sure that the more recent will, which I think he had done in July of 99, was there. And so that putting his affairs in order to literally at the last minute because he knew he, it was up.

Drew (44:24):
So another interesting thing about Washington's death is that, and this goes to one of my favorite authors, ed Grey Poe, who wrote a story called The Premature Burial, which you can get the gist of what the story is from that. I won't give away the twist at the end, but this idea of being buried alive was a real fear for Washington, wasn't it?

Jeanette (44:53):
Yes, it definitely was. And so he has, I think it's written into the will, but he's definitely conveyed that he wants them to wait three days beforehand. And he's just very concerned that he's not actually dead. And it's clearly a life fear. It's not something that in that moment he just suddenly gets worried about. So yeah, and I don't know where it comes from. I mean, it's not uncommon in the 18th century to not know for sure if someone's dead or not. But yeah, I mean, we don't have any records of family members not actually being dead when they stick them in a coffin. Yeah, yeah.

Jim (45:36):
Well, I think he says it too, when he is dying, he says, have me decently buried and don't put me in the vault for three days or something.

Drew (45:42):
Well, and then there's another part of the Washington death story that I find interesting, which is that he called for the emancipation of his slaves upon Martha's passing. But then I've also heard that she actually emancipated those enslaved people before she died. Is that true?

Jeanette (46:02):
Yes. So yeah, Washington writes in his will that upon Martha's death, all of the people he owns are to be set free. And so this Washington's will becomes common knowledge. So the enslaved population at Mount Vernon is aware that this is going to happen. And so Martha becomes very concerned for her life. She writes in a couple of letters that there's a fire that starts in one of the barns, and there are a couple of other things happening that she starts to get concerned that possibly someone is going to try and kill her so that everyone can be freed sooner. And so she's definitely very concerned. We don't know for sure if any of the events leading up to this are actually intended to scare her, but she's very worried. And so she does set everyone free to January 1st, 1801, so just over a year after Washington dies.

And so there over 300 enslaved people at Mount Vernon, but this only applies to about half of them because the other half are not owned by Washington, but are owned by the estate of Martha Washington's first husband. So legally, unless they had purchased each individual person from the estate, Martha and George couldn't do anything to free these individual people. So Martha has control to use them during her life, but she can't do anything that will financially, negatively impact the estate. And so when she dies, the enslaved people that were under her control are immediately passed to her four grandchildren. So we see that on Washington's death and then Martha's death, those two big moments really divide the enslaved community that had been together for decades and had or married. And so you have families that are forcibly split apart. Children are all property of whoever their mother is property of. So if a Washington enslaved person had married someone who was owned by the Costas Estate, then parents can be separated, and then the children are all going to go legally with whoever the mother is owned by. But then when the grandchildren split up the estate, they're not necessarily keeping families together again. And so by the end of 1802, we see that the community here has been divided onto four different, they're owned by four different people now, or they've been set free

Drew (48:41):
At the point of Marthas.

Jeanette (48:43):
Yes. And the only exception to all of this is in Washington's will. Immediately upon his death, William Lee received his freedom. And William Lee is the enslaved man who is with him throughout the war and gets injured after the war, but is with Washington for his entire career, basically. So he's freedom immediately upon Washington's death.

Drew (49:04):
So what happened to Mount Vernon after Washington's death and after Martha's death? Because I understand that James Anderson actually worked at the distillery for a little while longer in his farm manager.

Jeanette (49:18):
So when Washington dies, he decides where all of his land property is going to go. And so that becomes to be divided up. But the exception is the acreage that Mount Vernon is situated on, and that while Martha's alive, she still gets to reside here and live on it. But then it gets passed to one of George Washington's nephews because while Martha has children from her first marriage, George never has any children. So it goes to one of his nephews and it goes to Bushrod. And so he eventually comes and lives here. And is, it's Jim, the first Washington descendant who owns it is the Supreme Court Justice, right?

Jim (50:03):
Yeah, Bush Road, Washington, who would associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Jeanette (50:08):
So he is here, but not always here because he has other important things to do, and he already has land that he's living and running when the Washingtons die. So after Martha dies, Bush Shred takes possession of the property, and I think the distillery is still up and running for it's less than a decade or it's, it's not an extensive amount of time. And then I think it catches fire. And at that point, distilling is no longer happening on the estate,

Drew (50:44):
So it just faded away.

Jeanette (50:45):
Yeah. And so eventually the state of Virginia ends up owning it and did, it's either the state or Fairfax County, I don't remember, which ends up owning the property and does archeology work and finds the remains of the distillery in Gristmill. And then eventually the Mount Vernon Ladies Association buys it from the government, and then we had both of them reconstructed.

Drew (51:16):
So what was left of it? Was it just a foundation? Yes.

Jeanette (51:21):
Okay. Yes. And there are photos somewhere of digs that happened out there. So yeah, they find the foundations of both buildings

Drew (51:31):
And the recreation of it. Was that from drawings or how did they figure that out?

Jeanette (51:37):
I know that the, so because we have the footprints, they had a general idea of it. I don't know with either of, well, the, so with the mill, we know what the mill like, there's an Oliver Evans mill system inside it, and there are definitely drawings of what that system looks like in place. But with the distillery, I don't know if we had any Mount Vernon specific like drawings.

Drew (52:11):
And that's why you should wait until next week because I'm going to be talking with Steve Beshore, and we're going to go into all of this great detail. And Jeanette and Jim gave me all sorts of great information, definitely helped out on the Whiskey Rebellion. And it was great to hear some of the myths about Washington and his death, especially dispelled. And to learn a little bit more about who George Washington was, because these historical characters sometimes become almost mythical, and we really sort of lose their humanity after a period of time. And there's so many different accounts of George Washington's life that you can really sort of see him as multi-dimensional, but which dimension was probably closest to who he was. So very interesting. And once again, thank you to Jim and Jeanette for spending time with me. And if you're ready to head to Mount Vernon in the distillery, then just go to Mount vernon.org. You'll find a link to Washington's library there as well. If you're a history geek, make sure that you check out Jim Ambu key's podcast called Conversations at The Washington Library. And remember that I post all of my travel photos on instagram.com, facebook.com and twitter.com now at slash whiskey lore. Well, thank you for listening. Hope you enjoyed this episode. And remember, share with a Friend. I'm your host, drew Hamish. And until next time, cheers. And Lan jva

Whiskey Lores of production of Travel Fuel's Life, L L C.


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