Archival Follies, Knowledge Droppings

Antebellum America Runs on Dunkin’

Or, A Democratic Party Plank Worth Bringing Back

you moused over! good for you!

You may celebrate the Jacksononians for their commitment to democracy, or you may loathe them for their violent, heathenish, small government ways and fanatical campaign against of sensible currency regulation.

But whatever the case, I now offer you proof that must come together and appreciate their foresight in at least one area. For the Dems did get one thing right: America runs on Dunkin’! Or rather, cheap caffeine. Sweet cheap caffeine … And in the 1840s, that meant the cry of FREE COFFEE echoed throughout Congress’s halls alongside meeker requests for free soil and labor, etc.:

No person can deny that the Democrats came into power with professions against a tea and coffee tax; and it is equally undeniable that to the Democratic party is entitled the credit of keeping those articles free ever since the year 1832. Sir, this good old Democratic policy of keeping the foreign necessaries of life down as low as you can, has gained our party a great many votes; and both policy and justice require that we should not turn our backs upon it. Had Mr. Clay been for free tea and free coffee and Mr. Polk against it, who doubts but the election of 1844 would have differently resulted?

~John Wentworth, Free Tea, Free Coffee, Free Harbors, and Free Territory.: Remarks of Mr. John Wentworth, of Illinois, Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 2, 1847, Upon the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation Bill, with His Personal Explanations, in Answer to the Attacks of the Washington Union. To Which Is Added a Portion of the Speech of His Colleague, (Mr. Douglass,) Touching the Course of the Union’s Reports Thereof (Washington, D.C.: Printed at the Office of Blair & Rives, 1847). Emphasis mine.

UPDATED:Turns out that coffee is still free! and tea nearly so (for some reason, only green tea imports are taxed, but then only at a very low 6.4% rate).

So it would seem that our current union still maintains some vestiges of the old, pure Democracy… or that modern governments are funded by income taxes rather than customs.

But definitely one of those, for sure.

Image: “Dunkin’ Donuts,” Steve Garfield /, Flickr, CC License

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