Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Jonathan Petropoulos

Reader 2

Professor Lisa Cody

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This thesis explores the impact of rum, be it the distillation, consumption, or trade of it, upon the formation of the American Revolution and the desire of American Colonists for independence. Through the analysis of three distinct subfactors: rum as an economic force, rum as a political tool, and the cultural and societal impacts of the rum trade and its subsequent removal from the American ethos, this project contends that rum as a commodity became a driving factor in the creation of the United States. While much has been written on the roles of stamps, sugar, and tea in the American Revolution, there is a gap in such literature regarding rum and its subsequent dismission that, given the outsized impact of the spirit, feels both glaring and purposeful. Rum was and remains the first American spirit—albeit forgotten. Rum now is a symbol of tropical lands and far-away beaches, not colonial dissidence or patriotic rebellion, but this was not always the case. Examining how rum formed America and why Americans forgot it reveals not only lessons in the ethos of the United States but also macro-economic trends regarding a shift towards capitalistic endeavors that played a far larger role in fermenting rebellion than any desire for liberty. The fallout of such fiscally focused foundations still resonates with American culture today, and as such, the exploration of rum’s role in eighteenth-century America can shed light on the perhaps misguided alignment of American values and the purposeful decisions that created them.