“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” We’ve all seen this quote among mugs and shirts in various trinket shops around Boston, but has anyone actually questioned the legitimacy of this famous quote? If one decides to research this quote, curious of the authenticity of it’s origin, they are in for a surprising conclusions. This famous quote, attributed to our founding father Benjamin Franklin, is actually false.
As it turns out, Franklin was never a huge lover of beer, though he did enjoy it in moderation. In fact, when Franklin was writing his autobiography, he specifically mentions distaste for his fellow printers when they would drink beer while working. As Franklin said: “At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at Press, imagining I felt a Want of the Bodily Exercise I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in Number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. “However, that does not mean Franklin had an aversion towards all alcohol, in fact Franklin was a great lover of wine. As for how the confusion with the quote began, one could speculate that it was the result of a letter Franklin wrote to one on his friends.
In 1779, while in France, Franklin wrote to his friend, André Morellet, a famous writer and philosopher, among other things (1727–1819). The quote read as such:
We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!1
This quote certainly helps spread some insight into how this quote may have started, but it still doesn’t explain how it got misinterpreted. As we know, history can be similar to a very long game of telephone, where information gets broken up and distorted as it is passed down from person to person. Because of this, we may never know how this quote was first misinterpreted and spread out.
Still, as it happens, there may be an answer after all. In 1778, Franklin came back to his London printshop which he had operated 40 years prior. After finding the same printer which Franklin had worked on, Franklin is said to have celebrated with his fellow printers by ordering rounds of beer for all of them. This provides a little more insight into the history behind this quote and a somewhat feasible explanation for how it became so misconstrued. Regardless, even though Franklin may not have actually said ” Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”, it’s safe to say that the quote is not going anywhere anytime soon and neither is the legacy of one of the most famous people in American history, Benjamin Franklin.