I can’t let the 206th anniversary of the Cheshire Mammoth Cheese pass without comment. On 20 July 1801 the citizens of Cheshire, in the Berkshires, covered themselves in eternal glory, not to mention, one imagines, curds and whey, when they manufactured and shipped a 1,235 pound cheeseball to Thomas Jefferson in Washington D.C. to celebrate his victory over John Adams in the election of 1800. As the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities writes:
When news of the “mammoth cheese” reached the eastern part of the state, it caused consternation. Jefferson had won the presidency by defeating John Adams, Massachusetts’ native son. Westerners were more in sympathy with Jefferson’s vision of a nation of independent yeoman farmers than they were with the strong central government advocated by Adams and his supporters in the Federalist Party. Cheshire’s cheese was a sign of the tensions over ideology, economics, and politics that long divided the state’s eastern and western regions.
“Strong central government,” is an understatement. Adams was locked in a bitter partisan battle to hold on to power. To help win, he supervised passage of some of the most repressive legislation ever approved by the Congress, including the Sedition Act, which said anyone, “opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States,” could be imprisoned for up to two years. The Act also made it illegal to, “write, print, utter, or publish,” anything critical of the president or Congress. The gambit backfired. Jefferson’s campaign slogan was pointed: “Jefferson and Liberty.” The repressive legislation was vigorously criticized by the bloggers of the day. When the opposition won the election, many called the event the Revolution of 1800.
A salute to the good people of Cheshire and western Massachusetts and their giant ball of, dare I write it, Freedom Cheese.