Benjamin Franklin and Madeira Wine
Benjamin Franklin wrote an autobiography of his life, explaining the various adventures he went through on the road to Independence. In 1744, he began writing about the need of the colonists to maintain a militia, to help protect its citizens against the many attacks that were happening at the time. Spain and France were both in a war against Great Britain at the time, and the colonists were a natural target of hostilities.
The colonists responded to his encouragement with great enthusiasm, and soon there were companies and regiments being formed up and down the coast. Now they just needed some heavy artillery with which to man their forts. They had a few cannon in Boston, but not nearly enough to keep their cities safe.
Benjamin Franklin and a few of his friends therefore headed up to meet with Governor Clinton of New York, the English-appointed ruler of that state. Here are Ben Franklin's own words about this meeting:
"He at first refus’d us peremptorily; but at dinner with his council, where there was great drinking of Madeira wine, as the custom of that place then was, he softened by degrees, and said he would lend us six. After a few more bumpers he advanc’d to ten; and at length he very good-naturedly conceded eighteen."
Madeira is a fortified wine which comes from a small island southwest of Portugal. Starting in the 1500s, the natives of Maderia would add brandy to their local wine to help the wine survive the long, hot ship voyages it would take to Europe. The wine was shipped in large casks and sent to stores. People buying the Madeira would come in with their own container, and would buy the wine in measures. Think of this as you buying meat at the deli counter in a store - you go in and ask for "2 pounds of ham", and it is measured out and given to you. This is the same way that Madeira was served to drinkers of the time.
When the US colonies were formed, Madeira was extremely popular. It was a tasty drink, considered to be healthy, and would last years without special care. At the 1830s Sturbridge Village Recreation, a cask of Madeira sits in the back of the General Store, waiting for customers.
Ben Franklin's Background
Ben Franklin's Winemaking Instructions: 1743
Benjamin Franklin's Wine Quotes
Wine Regions in History