The country now called the United States of America was originally not a country but thirteen colonies, ruled by British law, policy and politics. The American Revolutionary War, which began in 1775, was fought to free the colonies from the control of Britain. In 1781, the Revolutionary War was over.
Then came the task of forming a country originating from the original thirteen colonies. Those colonies became the United States of America on September 9th 1776. Before that, the American government was the domain of Continental Congress. The founding fathers – who originated the Declaration of Independence declaring that the colonies were no longer under British rule, followed by the eventual end of the American Revolutionary War with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 – were now the governors of a country that had no money and had significant debts from the Revolutionary War.
The first domestic product to be taxed for the purpose of paying off debts incurred by the Revolutionary War was the Whiskey tax that became law in 1791. This new country called the United States of America was helped by the revenue accumulated from “alcohol.” America had begun its rise to power through the revenue collected from alcohol taxation, a mood- and mind-altering substance.
In 1794 the beginning of the first of many taxations on tobacco began. The accumulation of revenue from the taxation of tobacco by 1880 accounted for 31% of America’s revenue, almost one third of America’s income. Again, another mode and mind-altering substance began to influence the building of America.
The country was growing, but there was a problem; it could only grow north or south. It could only grow as far north as Massachusetts which was the farthest state until the northern most part of Massachusetts became Maine. The country expanded south only as far as Georgia.
It couldn’t expand to the east, because of the Atlantic Ocean. The only possibility left to the new Americans was to expand west. The problem was, to the west of the new American states were the Louisiana territories, which were owned by France, both a major power and an ally. The new country was trapped along the eastern seaboard.
Fortunately for America there was a world event taking shape that would greatly impact it. An incredible opportunity was taking shape. The French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte was fighting the British and he needed money. He thought that if he sold the Louisiana Territories to America, he could accomplish two things at once; the money raised could be used to buy supplies for his army to continue to fight Britain, which he hoped would ingratiate France to America, and America would be more aligned with France than Britain. America bought the 828,000 square miles of land that included parts of Minnesota. This historic purchase became known as the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. America paid $15,000,000, the equivalent of about $309,000,000 in today’s money, but still a bargain. Napoleon’s plan didn’t work. Britain defeated France and America remained Britain’s ally.
America’s purchase of the Louisiana territories gave it the ability to move west and white Americans brought with them a new substance called “whiskey and rum.” They used this substance to take advantage of Native Americans in trade, and in their abuse of Native Americans to take control of their land. To this day I believe that the Native Americans have never recovered from the introduction of alcohol into their culture. Native Americans had never before had alcohol in their culture, except for a very weak sort of beer, brewed from corn, called “tiswin.” They were not prepared for the introduction of “whiskey and rum.” And their lives were devastated by it.
As white settlers moved west, they encountered many different native nations and used alcohol as a trading tool to move forward their agenda. If you think about this, the majority of the Native Americans who were most affected by alcohol were the young males. Young men of a tribe were the warriors and if they were drinking or were drunk, their ability to fight to protect their tribe would be greatly impaired. Once again, alcohol, a mood and mind-altering substance, plays a part in American history and ultimately, world history.
Moving west to the pacific ocean
The Louisiana Purchase opened up the West to the settlers and by 1805 the West was at the beginning of its colonization by white settlers. Nothing opened up the West the way the first Transcontinental Railroad did. The Transcontinental Railroad did two major things; it made it safer and cheaper to get from one coast to the other and it encouraged the growth of towns along the route of the railroad throughout the West. But there was a problem. In order to build the railroad manpower was needed. There weren’t enough white men to build the railroad from coast to coast. Slaves couldn’t be used as they were growing cotton and tobacco, a much needed commodity at that time because it was used for world trade, which then produced income to affect the new country’s income. America needed manpower.
Another world event was taking place that would impact America’s good fortune. The Chinese were trying to suppress the sale of opium by the British and the French. The problem was that this was unacceptable to the Europeans because it meant the profits they enjoyed would stop. The Europeans thought this situation intolerable and their response was to declare war on China. This was called the Second Opium War. The Chinese lost and the opium trade continued. When the Chinese were approached by the Americans to come to America and help to build the Transcontinental Railroad, many Chinese took the offer. Chinese arriving in America to build the Transcontinental Railroad ultimately settled both on the West coast, mostly in San Francisco, and on the East coast, mostly in New York. To this day the largest communities of Chinese people are Chinatown in San Francisco and Chinatown in New York. Many are the descendants of the Chinese immigrants that came to help build the railroad, and once again, drugs played a part in this piece of world history. It is estimated that in the six years that it took to build the railroad that as many as one thousand two hundred Chinese workers died building this monumental industrial construction project.
When the Chinese arrived in America, they brought their culture. This included smoking opium and opium smoking created yet another historical event. The first anti-drug law was enacted in 1875 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors making it a misdemeanor to keep or go into opium dens. This was the beginning of modern anti-drug laws and policies. These laws primarily targeted the Chinese.
These new drug laws and policies were only instituted after the railroad was completed and the Chinese workers that built the railroad were now competing with white men for jobs in the new emerging American industrial nation.
Chinese people and their communities were blamed for lawlessness and depravity especially once the children of the affluent began to frequent opium dens. Once again drugs were used to create social policy and laws aimed at nonwhites. The beginning of using drug laws and drug policies to affect political change had begun.
George Lewis is founder and CEO of Motivational Consulting, Inc. and has more than 18 years of experience in the human services industry. His website is motivationalconsultinginc.com.