On July 4, 1776, the American colonies committed high treason by declaring independence against the bullying British. Among the novel ideas that our founding fathers had conceived at the time, many of our nation’s first leaders also capitalized on the redeeming qualities of hemp in its many forms. The law compelled early colonists to grow hemp for hempen canvas, rope and seed. Here’s four founding fathers that most likely grew hemp, according to historians.
Our nation’s first President wrote often about the lucrative value that cannabis possessed. “Make the most you can of [hemp], by sowing them again in drills!” wrote Washington in a 1794 letter to William Pierce. “Let the ground be well prepared, and the Seed be sown in April. The Hemp may be sown any where.” Washington shared how growing cannabis was not always easy in the eighteenth century. “Began to separate the male from female plants rather too late . . . ” wrote Washington in his grow log. “Pulling up the (male) hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month.” George Washington may have also referenced hashish in one letter, “The artificial preparation of hemp, from Silesia, is really a curiosity.”
“Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp…” Monticello.org gets asked about this misquote more often than any other—and it’s not found in any of Jefferson’s official writings. They also deny that the Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp. They did, however, confirm that Jefferson grew the plant. Jefferson wanted to grow cannabis so bad, he illegally smuggled potent hemp seeds from China into France, where hashish smoking was popular during that era. Like Washington, Jefferson improved hemp landraces and even invented a tool for crushing the plants stems during fiber processing.
Like our nation’s third president, our nation’s fourth president and “Father of the Constitution” keen on growing hemp abundantly and formulating Democratic principles. By now, three out of four presidents had spoken out about the benefits of hemp. “The price of hemp however has been reduced as much by the peace as that of Tobacco has been raised, being sold I am told as low as 20/. per Ct. beyond the mountains,” Madison wrote to Jefferson in a 1784 letter.
Last but not least, Benjamin Franklin, a major figurehead of the American Enlightenment, was an American polymath and architect of Democracy. Young Franklin posed as “Silence Dogood,” one of the many monikers he’d use to get his point across in the New England Courant. Franklin started the first commercial cannabis operation in America, by starting a paper mill using the fibers of hemp. Thomas Paine’s inspired literature, such as the pamphlet “Common Sense,” which was printed on that very paper and would stir up the colonists to rebel against the tyrannical British powers.