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Manners, Society for the Reformation of

Manners, Society for the Reformation of. Such societies, which sprang up in the 1690s in London and the larger provincial towns, were a mixture of evangelicalism and social control. The early signs of the Commercial Revolution, accompanied by great anxiety about the spread of free thinking, persuaded many conservatives that vice, drunkenness, and luxury were rotting the fabric of society. The church courts were no longer keen to enforce morality and sabbath observance. The societies brought prosecutions against vice and protested against lewd plays and lascivious entertainments, such as masquerades. By the early years of George I's reign, they were bringing more than 2,000 prosecutions a year. They acquired considerable unpopularity. Magistrates found them tediously zealous and as early as 1698 Defoe commented that ‘we do not find a rich drunkard carried before my Lord Mayor’. Their support collapsed in the 1730s, despite the efforts of Bishop Gibson. Wesley and the methodists revived them in the 1750s but by 1766 Wesley wrote that this ‘excellent design is at a full stop’. The disappointing results of the crusades did not prevent the establishment of a Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802.

J. A. Cannon

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