On July 4, 1776—247 years ago—the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. Many of them not only grew hemp but insisted how important the plant is to the foundation of American agriculture. Sorting through rumors about the Founding Fathers and hemp is another story, with invented quotes and misinformation.
The Declaration’s blanket assertion, “all Men are created equal,” should be taken with a grain of salt given that many Founding Fathers owned slaves, and Thomas Jefferson’s and Henry Clay’s slaves also grew hemp. It would take a lot longer for actual equal rights to materialize.
In colonial times, hemp was an acceptable form of tax payment for over 150 years. Here’s the top Founding Fathers who farmed, milled, processed, or advocated for hemp.
MountVernon.org, George Washington’s estate, admits he grew hemp extensively and compared it to tobacco. “Throughout his lifetime, George Washington cultivated hemp at Mount Vernon for industrial uses,” Mount Vernon writes. “The fibers from hemp held excellent properties for making rope and sail canvas. In addition, hemp fibers could be spun into thread for clothing or, as indicated in Mount Vernon records, used in repairing the large seine nets Washington used in his fishing operation along the Potomac.”
Nearly half a million Americans die annually from tobacco-related illness, but to think that it could have been avoided if Washington had his way is powerful. “At one point in the 1760’s Washington considered whether hemp would be a more lucrative cash crop than tobacco but determined wheat was a better alternative.” Today scholars can sift through George Washington’s detailed grow log.
Jefferson’s hemp crops were massive, and he enlisted slaves to grow it. “Enslaved laborers cultivated hemp both at …
Author: Benjamin M. Adams / High Times