Washington, Jefferson, and Sun Tea

One of the little-known bits of the early history of our country involves an argument between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson over this new beverage called sun tea.

Washington wanted a law passed to ban it, at least in his home state of Virginia, because he thought it unsanitary and “a Danger to the publick Health”. Jefferson told him such a ban would be in violation of the newly-ratified Constitution.

Sorely puzzled, Washington pored over the document line-by-line. He didn’t find anything that looked like it would even remotely address the issue. He asked some of his friends, and they were all similarly stymied.

Finally, he asked James Madison for his opinion. Madison, after all, had written many of the so-called Federalist Papers, and was deeply involved in drafting the Constitution. If anyone knew where the document might be construed to prevent any ban of sun tea, Madison would.

For days, Washington heard nothing. Finally, after two weeks, he received a letter from Madison, outlining his findings. The letter is lost to history, but it remains famous for its first sentence:

“Yes, Virginian, there is a Sun Tea Clause.”

(From the Official Manual for Spice Cadets)