In watching a British comedy film this weekend, actor Colin Firth used the expression "Dutch courage" in passing a flask to a fellow character. Ever curious, I looked up the term and discovered an interesting tidbit about early compensation schemes.
According to the website for the Gin and Vodka Association, "Dutch courage" describes a medicinal spirit that was produced in Holland as early as the 17th century. Gin as it was then known was "sold in chemist shops to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones." Apparently a nasty taste led to flavoring with juniper which itself was deemed restorative for health purposes. As it made its way to British troops during the Thirty Years' War, a colorful history unfolded that led to the promulgation of the Gin Act in 1736 which in turn encouraged riots in the street over expensive consumption taxes. (Was this a harbinger of modern-day protests against federal levies around the world?) In 1742, the Gin Act was repealed and the distribution of spirits came under the supervision of magistrates in Britain.
In the meantime, there were instances of gin being distributed as part of one's wages. That caught my attention since too much of anything has its own ill-effects. It's hard to imagine people drinking on the job and being able to adequately perform.
For interested readers, click to read "Gin History, Development & Origin."