Yesterday, in celebration of Indepdence Day, our executive director Baylen Linnekin wrote a blog post at Huffington Post columnist Radley Balko's personal blog The Agitator (where Linnekin is guestblogging about food and law this week) about the relationship between food, drink, and the Declaration of Independence. To summarize, Linnekin notes Thomas Jefferson listed a “long train of abuses and usurpations” in the Declaration of Independence that were either directly or indirectly related to British violations of American colonists' rights in food. Among these abuses and usurpations is the fact the King of England had caused British troops to be quartered in colonial taverns and homes “to harass our people, and eat out their substance”—a direct reference to two quartering acts enacted by the British in the 1760s and 1770s. (Yes the word “eat” actually appears in the Declaration of Independence.)
What Linnekin alluded to but didn't write about in more detail yesterday is that these abominable quartering laws required colonists not just to house British troops but to provide them with certain enumerated food and drink. Taken as a whole, the acts required colonists to provide British troops with beer, vinegar, salt, pepper, utensils, candles, and firewood--all free of charge. What's more, the scope of the quartering acts also permitted British troops to seize colonists' farm produce and animals--from fruits and vegetables to pigs and sheep--something the troops did regularly without colonists' consent both prior to and during the Revolutionary War.
When James Madison later authored the Bill of Rights, he needed look back no further than Jefferson's list of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” to be reminded that the quartering of British troops--very much including the compelled provisioning of food and drink--was one of the American colonists’ greatest grievances against the British in the period leading up to the American Revolution. Hence, Madison included the text for what became the Third Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights.
In case you missed the post yesterday, another good example of the vital relationship between food and drink and the constitutional rights we enjoy today as Americans is the essential link between the Revolutionary- and pre-Revolutionary-era gatherings that took place in colonial American taverns and the language and spirit of the First Amendment's Assembly Clause--also part of the research Linnekin has carrired out as executive director of Keep Food Legal.
Watch Linnekin in a new video as he raises a glass to the Assembly Clause, colonial American taverns and their modern iterations, our Founding Fathers, and Independence.