Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oops - I stand corrected!

Dick Stevens, owner of the the Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus in Columbus Ohio has pulled his line of t-shirts, for sale on premises, that bear a quote or, to be more precise, a misquote concerning beer widely attributed to that printer, scientist, author and Founding Father - Benjamin Franklin. Stevens' inspiration comes from the research and work of brewing historian Bob Skilnik that provides convincing proof that Franklin was writing not about beer or ale, but about rain and its nourishing affect on grapes, and therefore - ultimately - on wine.

In a previous posting, I had cited this Franklin quote - "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" - as part of my attempt to provide a near inclusive listing of all beer and drinking quotes. In the pursuit of accuracy, I will therefore follow Stevens' lead and amend my previous posting for this particular quote. It is still a drinking quote, but certainly not a beer or ale quote. Kudos to Dick Stevens for taking this stand (and monetary loss) in the name of historical accuracy!

Stevens summarizes his actions by saying,

We do everything we can to serve up the best tasting beers at the Elevator (and we are) always striving to brew them true to style. To then sell or give away t-shirts that quote a historical untruth is simply not our style. I hope that we can set the record straight about this little white lie that has been repeated for years. I have no doubt that ole Ben enjoyed a tankard or two of beer with friends and associates, but this beer quote, while well-meaning, is inaccurate.

But Stevens doesn't stop there, he adds,

To all our customers who have purchased the erroneously quoted Ben Franklin t-shirts, we do apologize and ask that they return the t-shirts to the Elevator where we will immediately exchange it for a new t-shirt, free of charge. Let me emphasize that this recall will entail absolutely no cost to our loyal customers, and help them save face.
So what in fact did Franklin say? The historian, Bob Skilnik was able to locate a letter from Franklin to the French economist André Morellet, circa 1779, wherein Franklin reveals his unique perspective on biblical history and wine's role therein. This is a fascinating quote and reveals much about Franklin's religious views and his near devotion to the role of wine in human society, he writes:


You have often enlivened me, my dear friend, by your excellent drinking-songs; in return, i beg to edify you by some Christian, moral, and philosophical reflections upon the same subject.

In vino veritas, says the wise man, --"Truth is in wine." Before the days of Noah, then, men having nothing but water to drink, could not discover the truth. Thus they went astray, became abominably wicked, and were justly exterminated by "water", which they loved to drink.

The good man Noah, seeing that through this pernicious beverage all his contemporaries had perished, took it in aversion; and to quench his thirst God created the vine, and revealed to him the means of converting its fruit into wine. By means of this liquor he discovered numberless important truths; so that ever since this time the word to "divine" has been in common use, signifying originally, "to discover by means of" WINE (VIN). Thus the patriarch Joseph took upon himself to "divine" by means of a cup or glass of wine, a liquor which obtained this name to show that it was not of human but "divine" invention (another proof of the "antiquity" of the French language, in opposition to M. Geebelin); nay, since that time, all things of peculiar excellence, even the Deities themselves, have been called "Divine" or Di"vin"ities.

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage of Cana [sic] as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operations, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

It is true that God has also instructed man to reduce wine into water. But into what sort of water? -- "Water of Life." ("Eaude Vie.") And this, than man may be able upon occasion to perform the miracle of Cana [sic], and convert common water into that excellent species of wine which we call "punch." My Christian brother, be kind and benevolent like God, and do not spoil this good drink.

He made wine to gladden the hear of man; do not, therefore when at table you see your neighbor pour wine into his glass, be eager to mingle water with it. Why should you drown "truth"? It is probable that your neighbor knows better than you what suits him. perhaps he does no like water; perhaps he would only put in a few drops for fashion's sake; perhaps he does not wish any one to observe how little he puts in his glass. Do not, then offer water, except to children; it is a mistaken piece of politeness, and often very inconvenient. I give you this hint as a man of the world; and I will finish as I began, like a good Christian, in making a religious observation of high importance, taken from the Holy Scriptures. I mean that the apostle counselled [sic] Timothy very seriously to put wine into his water for the sake of his health; but that no one of the apostles or holy fathers ever recommended "putting water to

P.S. To confirm still more your piety and gratitude to Divine Providence, reflect upon the situation which it has given to the "elbow". You see (Figures 1 and 2) in animals, who are intended to drink the waters that flow upon the earth, that if they have long legs, they have also a long neck, so that they can get at their drink without kneeling down. But man, who was destined to drink wine, must be able to raise the glass to his mouth. If the elbow had been placed nearer the hand (as in Figure 3), the part in advance would have been too short to bring the glass up to the mouth; and if it had been placed nearer the shoulder, (as in Figure 4) that part would have been so long that it would have carried the wine far beyond the mouth. But the actual situation, (represented in Figure 5), we are enabled to drink at our ease, the glass going exactly to the mouth. Let us, then, with the glass in hand, adore this benevolent wisdom; -- let us adore and drink!

the Beer Kaiser

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