The Temperance Movement​​​


In the early nineteenth century, citizens of the United States were convinced that some Americans were living in an "immoral manner." Americans were afraid that God would no longer bless their country as a result of these unscrupulous people, so they decided to reform their American society. One of the most prominent reform movements of the 19th century was the temperance movement. The temperance movement was caused by Evangelical beliefs revived by the Second Great Awakening, the growing power of women, and the shifting from an agrarian nation to an industrialized nation. During the temperance movement, societies and organizations such as the American Temperance society - containing a sum of 200,000 members - attempted to sway the public opinion to towards moderation in drinking. However, as the movement developed and gained support, the goal of the reformers evolved to promoting complete abstinence. The temperance movement lost support as it developed the more radical goal of complete abstinence, and was put on hiatus during the Civil War. But there was enough support to eventually lead to the Prohibition Act of 1919, the 18th amendment.

What historical forces led to the rise of the temperance movement?


- "An initial source of the movement was a groundswell of popular religion that focused on abstention from alcohol".
- In an attempt to improve the moral and principles of the American people, Evangelical preachers began a movement endorsing the ban of alcohol
- "People who drank, they claimed, lost their faith in God and ceased observe the teachings of Jesus".
- "To remove an evil of such magnitude as has been induced by the use of intoxicating liquors, requires gigantic efforts; and we are glad to find that such efforts are now making in almost every part of our land, among all classes of people, in every department of the Churches, by Christians, statesmen, and philanthropists."
- Religious beliefs were one of the main forces that sparked the temperance movement: "By the end of the War of 1812 (1812-1814), a radical temperance movement developed consisting of many denominations; Presbyterians, Quakers, Western Methodists, and people of other faiths united in a concerted effort to transform traditional social patterns". These Americans believed that the use of alcohol in the American culture threatened its purity and was an abomination to God.

Women and temperance

Women supporting Temperance
Women supporting Temperance
- "It was, according to the men, a woman's responsibility to raise virtuous children. Many women used this argument against the men. If women were responsible for creating virtuous children, women, they contended, should also play a role in helping those people who have become consumed by immoral acts redeem themselves".
- As women's rights developed throughout the 19th century, women were becoming more and more powerful. One of the ways they used their new-found power was through the temperance movement. Women fed up with their drunk husbands were some of the biggest supporters of temperance and abstinence.
- "Despite lacking the vote, women, who were much less likely to drink than men, took a more prominent role in the political agitation against drink in the United States than in any other country. In such Midwestern states as Ohio women closed many saloons in 1873 and 1874 by extralegal means, such as obstructing entrances with prayer meetings. Later in 1874 the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) organized to fight for prohibition by the more conventional means of propaganda and lobbying. The WCTU leader Frances Willard became the best-known woman reformer in the country. Under her leadership the WCTU adopted a broad program of woman suffrage and social reform and cooperated with radical-minded third parties".

Second Great Awakening

- "During the nineteenth century the Second Great Awakening optimistically aimed to reform the country on Christian principles through nondenominational voluntary societies. Temperance quickly became intertwined with evangelical Protestantism, the status of women, modernizing capitalism, and electoral politics".
- Reform based on Christian principles.
- Evangelical values opposed drinking.
- Business men probably did not want their employees drunk, so they supported temperance to promote efficiency in the workplace.

A video outlining the Second Great Awakening

Shift towards industrialized society

- "The economic transition from an agrarian to an industrialized society more demanding of efficiency and scheduling very likely contributed to popularization of the movement".
- This shows that because farming was being replaced by factories, workers had to be more capable and efficient. Alcohol consumption would likely lessen efficiency, which is why business men supported the temperance movement.

What methods/tactics were used to lead the temperance movement?

Seeking government assistance

- "Most temperance reformers were uncomfortable with community involvement in the drink trade through regulation and taxation, even when the goals were to restrict it and reduce it. But they were eager to use governmental power to make alcohol sales illegal. Although drinking was seen as a sinful, personal moral failing, it was also viewed as a social evil for which government bore responsibility. By making it more difficult to get drink, society could reduce the temptation that overwhelmed weak-willed drinkers".
- Temperance supporters seeked government aid in prohibiting alcohol sale.
- They believed that the government bore responsibility to protect the weak willed from moral failings.

Maine Statute of Prohibition

- "Maine pioneered statewide prohibition, enacting a statute to that effect in 1851. Other states imitated the Maine law, but enforcement difficulties made many people turn away from statewide prohibition as impracticable. Moreover the disruption of the sectional crisis and the Civil War eclipsed the temperance cause temporarily".
- Maine was the first to attempt statewide prohibition, 1851
- Northern state was the first to prohibit, because in most intellectuals and people interested in moral reform were in the North
- Enforcement difficulties in other states foreshadowed the coming scorning of the 18th amendment
- Maine set the precedent for other states seeking prohibition.
- As a result of Maine's statute, twelve states would follow suit as they outlawed the alcohol too.

The Creation of Temperance Societies

In an attempt to persuade Americans into supporting their abstinence from alcohol movement, reformers began small societies known as "Temperance Societies." These societies were formed with the mission of convincing all members to refrain from alcohol entirely. The most famous of these societies were known as the Washingtonian Societies. The Washingtonian Society was initiated by six drunkards in a Baltimore tavern; the men began a movement of working-class Americans for abstinence from alcohol. These societies' radical ideals were noted in The Father's Magazine which read, "Such is the nature of alcoholic drinks, and the nature of men, that any general attempt to use intoxicating liquors moderately, must fail - must degenerate into excess." Washingtonian members believed that because of the nature of man - that they were not a
A certificate for joining a temperance society
A certificate for joining a temperance society
ble to overcome the temptation of drinking more than "moderately" - Americans had to pledge completely to a teetotalism society. Furthermore, these religious Washingtonians claimed that people required the help of God also to resist their urge to drink. Reformers of the Temperance Movement truly believed that the nature of man had been weakened to a point by alcohol that only God could save them.

Reformers used tactics such as scaring innocent Americans in an attempt to coerce them into joining their societies. Americans of the Temperance Society of Baltimore told citizens that alcohol was a substance that "tainted moral purity" and made the miseries of life worse rather than the common thought that it alleviated the problems. If their targets further refused to join the groups, reformers tried to scare them with threats or took a stab at their guilty conscience. They went on to say, "If you decline rendering your assistance, and withhold the influence of your example, we can only say, remember, you thereby injure yourselves, you stand amenable to your country, and answerable to your God." As a result of this strategy, Americans that didn't join the popular Temperance Societies were brainwashed into believing that they damaged the well-being of the American culture and were traitors and outlaws to their country.

Political cartoons

- Many political cartoons serving as propaganda for temperance societies were created during the 19th century to attempt to sway the public in favor of abstinence from alcohol. Here are a few examples:
An allegorical 1874 political cartoon print, depicting a holy women destroying barrels of booze; reference to Carrie Nation with the hatchet
An allegorical 1874 political cartoon print, depicting a holy women destroying barrels of booze; reference to Carrie Nation with the hatchet

A Temperance cartoon from Australia
A Temperance cartoon from Australia

Acartoon comparing alcohol to demons
Acartoon comparing alcohol to demons

Important Individuals/Groups and Leaders of the Temperance Movement

Important Groups

American Temperance Society

- The first large temperance society was the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, founded in New England in 1826. It was evangelical. Leaders were elite men, but women were members as well. By 1835 had 1.5 million members. Promoted moderation in drinking, abstinence from hard liquor, agenda involved moral persuasion, education, and setting good example to encourage reform.
- Evangelical in morals.
- Lead by elite men, allowed women members.
- A lot of members, temperance was very widespread.
- Promoted moderation rather than complete abstinence.

American Temperance Union

- The American Temperance Union replaced the American Temperance Society in 1836. It pledged to total abstinence from alcohol, much more extreme beliefs. Its radical objectives cost the temperance movement some wealthy supporters and most of its southern supporters. The movement remained strong in NE and NY, the most Puritanical in belief.
- Much more radical, stronger evangelical beliefs.
- Most temperance supporters were moderates. They were scared off by the pledge of total abstinence.
- However, support remained strong in the North. This shows that the temperance movement is rooted in the North, because of Puritanical and evangelical beliefs.

National Prohibition Party

- "Frustrated with the major political parties, temperance reformers organized the National Prohibition Party in 1869. At first it proposed a broad reform program, but later the party narrowed its focus to eliminating the sale of alcohol. Regardless of the scope of its program, the National Prohibition Party got few votes in any elections, while the Republican and
National Prohibition Convention, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1892.
National Prohibition Convention, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1892.
Democratic Parties remained politically dominant".
- This was the first political party with the sole purpose of promoting temperance and achieving prohibition.
- However, it lacked public support, because it got very few votes in elections.
This shows that most people were not supportive of complete prohibition. Preludes the disapproval of prohibition in the 18th amendment.

Important Individuals

Neal S. Dow
Neal S. Dow (March 20, 1804 – October 2, 1897)
Neal S. Dow (March 20, 1804 – October 2, 1897)

-Neal S. Dow was known as both the "Father of Prohibition" and the "Napoleon of Temperance.
-His views on alcohol were the result of his Quaker upbringing in which he learned to avoid the temptations of alcoholic beverages
-Dow was the mayor of Portland, Maine from 1851 to 1854.
-Dow was a founding member of the Maine Temperance Society and was among the leading supporters of the Maine Temperance Statute.
-In 1880, Neal Dow was the presidential candidate for the Prohibition Party; he pledged a national abstinence from all spirits.

Carrie A. Nation
Carrie A. Nation (November 25, 1846 - June 9, 1911)
Carrie A. Nation (November 25, 1846 - June 9, 1911)

- Carrie Nation was a member of the temperance movement.
- She was a very religious woman. When her first protest for temperance failed, Nation began to pray to God for direction. On June 5, 1900, she felt that she had recieved an answer. She wrote, "The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, "GO TO KIOWA," and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, "I'LL STAND BY YOU". The words, "Go to Kiowa," were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but "I'll stand by you," was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: "Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them". After this, she became known for her vandalism of bars, particularly with a hatchet. Her so-called "hatchetations" became well known, as she smashed and destroyed bars all around Kansas and Missouri. Her vandalism would result in about thirty arrests and many fines.
- Her protests were motivated by God. She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like".

Frances Willard
Frances Willard (September 28, 1839 – February 17, 1898)
Frances Willard (September 28, 1839 – February 17, 1898)

- Frances Willard was a temperance reformer and women's suffragist. Her influence played a big part in the passage of the 18th amendment, the Prohibition Act.
- Willard was one of the founders of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, a very women's organization devoted to promoting temperance. She would become the second president of the organization.
- "In addition to temperance, Frances Willard promoted women's rights, suffrage, equal pay for equal work, and an eight-hour day. She embraced the political arena , realizing the empowerment that women would experience if able to vote. Miss Willard was a teacher, an excellent speaker, a successful lobbyist, and an expert in forming public opinion."

Was the temperance movement successful in achieving its goals?

-After the brutal Civil War ended in 1865, support for the Temperance movement and other reform movements dwindled.
-Although temperance reformers coerced thirteen states to ratify anti-alcohol laws, by 1868 every state had legalized spirits once again aside from Maine.
-At the start of the 20th Century, the Temperance movement regained support.

-The growing support in the new century led to the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1917. The Amendment stated that, "After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited."
-Dubbed the Noble Experiment, from 1920 to 1933, alcohol was forbidden in America, thus accomplishing the mission of reformers nearly a century prior.
-Although the 21st Amendment was eventually passed, thus repealing the 18th Amendment, we believe that the Temperance movement was successful
-Temperance Reformers won over the public and at one point the American Temperance Society consisted of 200,000 members. Until the Civil War, Americans unified under the idea that alcohol was immoral and wrong - exactly what temperance reformers had hoped for.
-The dreams of the Temperance Movement did not live past the 1930's but they were successful in persuading the American public to unite against a common enemy: alcohol.
- Though the goals of the Temperance Movement ultimately would die out, the movement still has relevance today. The Temperance Movement set the precedent for the current war on drugs.