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Temperance Movements


Evidence of the use and abuse of alcoholic beverages can be found in the records of ancient civilizations. Pictorial records from Egypt show the effects of drunken ness; four laws in the Code of hammurabi relate to tavern keepers; and there are several passages in the Bible indicating alcohol and drinking in everyday life. In one of the earliest injunctions for abstinence, the Lord told Aaron that when he went to the meeting tent he and his sons were forbidden under pain of death and by perpetual ordinance throughout their generations from drinking any wine or strong drink (Lv 10.9). In the New Testament the angel told Elizabeth that the child she would bear (John the Baptist) would drink no wine or strong drink (Lk1.15). Succeeding centuries saw the founding by St. Boniface in Germany and by St. Gilbert in England of monasteries that observed the rule of total abstinence. But such actions were exceptions to the general rule. On all levels of society alcohol in one form or another was an accepted part of life. The abuse of it was frowned upon (as was the abuse of anything else), but it was not a matter for long or widespread concern.

Beginnings. Modern temperance movements began in the era of the enlightenment. Motivated by humanitarianism, reform-minded men cast a quizzical glance over all aspects of life, defined the evils that affected society, pinpointed the sources of man's troubles, and set

about to make things right. Similar appraisals were made by the Quakers. In both cases there was a growing awareness of the relationship between drunkenness, poverty, and crime, and an interest in ways in which the causes of such problems could be eliminated.

England. In England the relationship between the availability of cheap alcohol and an increase in drunkenness was demonstrated graphically after the passage of an act of Parliament prohibiting the importation of spirits from foreign countries (1689). Up to that time beer, ale, wine, and Jamaica rum were popular. During the reign of William and Mary (16881702) the use of low-priced gin was introduced. The act of 1689, passed to aid agriculture, allowed any person to set up a distillery upon ten days notice and payment of a small fee. After 1702 no license was required. The result was a rapid increase in distilleries and in popular consumption of alcohol, mainly gin. Drinking clubs flourished. Soon the consumption of gin and the amount of public intoxication aroused the authorities, and the Gin Act of 1736 was passed. It required all who sold alcohol to get a yearly license and forbade the sale of mixed or unmixed liquor in less than two-gallon amounts. This amounted to a virtual prohibition. Popular indignation led to some riots and to widespread civil disobedience. The Gin Act was replaced in 1743 by the milder Tippling Act, which restricted the sale of alcohol to 20 shillings worth. Nevertheless, concern about the general lack of sobriety resulted in petitions to Parliament to do something about the situation. Its measures included stricter licensing arrangements and, during brief periods of crop shortages, prohibitions against the use of grain for spirits. No organized temperance movement existed, but William Hogarth's pictures of "Gin Lane," "Beer Street," and "The Rake's Progress" advertised the evils of intemperance. John Armstrong's The Art of Preserving Health (1744) urged moderation. A Scottish writer, James Burgh, published A Warning to Dram-Drinkers (1751). These men were the heralds of temperance societies that were established in Great Britain in the 1830s.

United States. Meanwhile, the cause of temperance made great progress in the United States. Its pioneer advocate was Dr. Benjamin Rush (17451813) of Philadelphia. As early as 1772 he published a work condemning the use of strong drink. A similar admonition was addressed to the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Rush's Enquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors on the Human Body and Mind (1784) was widely reprinted and distributed for half a century; it challenged the common notion that alcohol was necessary or beneficial. Through his influence the Philadelphia College of Physicians went on record for the cause of temperance in 1787. He also acted as chairman of a committee of physicians to draft a memorial to the Pennsylvania legislature requesting a law to diminish the consumption of liquor. The physicians of Philadelphia presented a petition to the U.S. Congress in 1790 that sought to restrict traffic in liquor. It should be noted that Rush and his colleagues were not seeking to prohibit liquor but only to limit its excessive use.

As early as 1789, 36 of the leading men of Litchfield, Conn., formed a temporary association to discourage the use of spirituous liquors, agreeing not to use them during the coming season. The first American temperance society was founded in Moreau, N.Y., in 1808. Pledging themselves not to use liquor, its members worked to limit the use of spirits by the laboring classes. They hoped to win adherents by pamphlets and speeches, but they had little success. For most of the first three decades of the 19th century, temperance pledges were restricted principally to individuals, families, and parts of congregations. By 1810 only the Quakers and Methodists had recommended the disuse of ardent spirits. In 1811, through Rush's influence, the Presbyterians officially condemned the sin of drunkenness. The Protestant clergy, moreover, attempted to put their own house in order by eliminating the use of liquor at ordinations.

Organization in the United States. The man largely responsible for the real beginning of a nationwide movement was Lyman Beecher (17751863). Beecher was shocked by the drunkenness he observed during his student years at Yale. Later, while serving as pastor of the Presbyterian Church at East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y., he was outraged when a local liquor seller corrupted the Montauk tribespeople with drink. During this period Rush's pamphlet on the effects of drink made a deep impression on him. Between 1806 and 1809 he began to preach on the evils of intemperance. Similar sermons were preached in Connecticut Congregational churches by Ebenezer Porter at Washington and by Herman Humphrey at Fairfield. In 1811, a year after Beecher was transferred to Litchfield, the General Council of the Congregational Churches in Connecticut, aroused by the sermons of Porter and Humphrey, appointed a committee to see what could be done about the problem. When in 1812 the committee reported that it was unable to find a solution, Beecher promptly suggested that a new committee be appointed. This was done, and Beecher was made a member of it. To the amazement of his colleagues, he presented the following day a report that discussed the possibility of forming an organization to combat intemperance and the decline of public morals. His proposals gave pause to the more conservative clergymen; but in the end his report was adopted, printed, and distributed. Beecher urged that the pamphlets by Rush and Porter should also be circulated. In this way the cause was launched in Connecticut.

American Temperance Society. Following the War of 1812, the movement was given impetus by a wave of religious revivalism and a spirit of concern for the welfare of all classes of mankind. Justin Edwards, a Congregational clergyman at Andover, Mass., responded to Beecher's argument and began to preach temperance in 1815. Ten years later he published A Well Conducted Farm (1825), a description of a farm near Boston run on strict temperance principles. The work was widely distributed and presumably had great influence. Other tracts came from his pen. In 1826 Edwards joined with 15 others to found at Boston the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance. Edwards devoted a great deal of time to lecturing, organizing, and writing in behalf of the society. His temperance address at St. John's, New Brunswick, led to the establishment of the St. John's Temperance Society, which pioneered the cause in Canada.

The American Temperance Society sent lecturers around the country and used the approach of religious revivals. It employed paid campaign managers and used newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals. Essay contests were conducted and the winning entries printed and circulated.

The tempo of reform agitation was kept up by frequent local meetings, a large-scale annual meeting, and the publication of annual reports.

Local Societies. Temperance societies sprang up throughout the land. In 1832 an overflow crowd attended a meeting held in the capitol in Washington, D.C., for the purpose of promoting temperance in the United States. Chaplains of the House and Senate participated, and the meeting was chaired by Secretary of War Lewis Cass, who later in the year issued an order that substituted coffee for the army's ration of spirits and prohibited sutlers from selling liquor to soldiers. Through the efforts of Sen. Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Sen. Felix Grundy of Tennessee, a Congressional Temperance Society was formed in 1833. Cass was chosen as the first president. The example of Congress led to the establishment of temperance societies in the legislative bodies of various states.

Elsewhere in the country the cause gained ground. Women were encouraged to become active in temperance work. The tendency to make temperance a family concern also led to the establishment through Sunday schools of some children's temperance groups. The pledge was signed when the children were 12 or 14. By 1833 the American Temperance Society claimed that 4,000 local

societies had been organized with a total membership of half a million. Groups that were affiliated with the American Temperance Society were in the minority; but since it was the largest organized group, the society wielded the greatest influence. The temperance agitation led to the opening of temperance hotels and to the adoption of a total abstinence rule by three newly built railroads.

American Temperance Union. This rapid growth soon produced some problems. In an effort to unite and coordinate the objectives of the various groups, the American Temperance Society held a convention in Philadelphia in 1833 that created the United States Temperance Union. A special committee was appointed to determine the ways and means of unifying the work of all societies. Nothing was done, however, until 1836, when the committee called for a convention of societies of the United States and Canada to meet at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in August. Some 348 delegates from 19 states and from Canada assembled. In an effort to integrate the Canadian societies, a reorganization took place, and the name was changed to the American Temperance Union (ATU).

For some years dissension had been developing among the reformers about whether the goals of the organization were temperance or total abstinence. One group thought that the use of wine and malt beverages was not harmful. Also, in the case of wine, it was felt that a ban would conflict with sacramental uses and with certain scriptural passages. The total abstinence supporters felt that the pledge should ban the use of anything that could intoxicate, pointing out that wine and beer stimulated a craving for stronger drink. Under the leadership of Lyman Beecher, Justin Edwards, and Edward C. Delavan, the total abstinence group won the day; but an obscurely worded resolution was adopted in an effort to satisfy the losers.

This disagreement over goals was fought on various levels after the convention. All societies that affiliated with the reorganized ATU had to support a strongly worded pledge against the use of and traffic in intoxicating beverages. Societies that refused to take this pledge were considered inactive by the ATU. This decision split the movement and gradually led to a decline in membership and influence. The alienation of conservative members deprived the ATU of the financial support of prominent businessmen. There was dissension also about whether moral suasion or an organized effort for legal action was the best way to bring about reform. Another factor weakening the movement was the growing involvement of various temperance leaders in the crusade against slavery.

Washington Temperance Society. A great revival of total abstinence took place in 1840 as a result of activities of societies of reformed drunkards. Up to this time the reform impulse tended to treat drunkards as already lost and to concentrate on keeping persons from becoming such. A group of Baltimore drinkers who attended a temperance lecture in a spirit of fun were won over and decided to found their own organization. The Washington Temperance Society was the result. Using narrations of personal experience to create an emotional climate and parades, uniforms, and floats to build organizational morale, the Washington societies became popular and induced many persons to take the pledge. Women participated in the crusade through the Martha Washington Movement and through Ladies Benevolent Societies. By 1843 the Washingtonians claimed that 100,000 drunkards and a half million intemperate drinkers had signed their names to the temperance pledge.

Leaders of the older societies noted that few pledge signers joined the older temperance organizations, and few reformed drunkards seemed interested in religion. It seemed that at the conclusion of a Washington campaign either a new society was formed or an older one converted to the Washington model. They objected to the fact that Washington societies were opposed to legislative action to enforce temperance. On their part, the Washingtonians said that the older societies often criticized their principles and methods and refused to cooperate. Such dissension prevented unified action. Public confidence in the Washingtonians was impaired by the frequent relapse of pledge signers and by the lack of any centralized organization to give direction to the various units. Within ten years after its founding, the Washington movement as such virtually disappeared. Those members who were still faithful to their pledge gravitated to older societies or to fraternal orders.

Sons and Daughters of Temperance. Earlier, in 1842, a group of members of the Washington Society of New York, alarmed by the weakness of their parent group, had formed the Sons of Temperance. They had three goals: to prevent intemperance, to provide mutual assistance in case of sickness, and to elevate their characters. An initiation fee and the payment of weekly dues provided a fund for use in case of sickness. Soon the Sons of Temperance became a highly centralized and well-disciplined fraternal organization. Chapters were organized in other states. By 1850 the national organization reported a paid membership of more than 245,000 organized into 36 grand and 5,894 subordinate divisions. Two members of the New York Sons of Temperance helped to found the Daughters of Temperance, a mutual benefit association of women pledged to total abstinence. This movement also spread. In 1849 Susan B. Anthony gave her first address on temperance and women's rights before a Daughters of Temperance group in Canajoharie, N.Y.

Catholic Societies. Catholics, too, had become increasingly interested in the cause of temperance. As early as 1835 the Irish Temperance Society in Boston drew its membership from both Catholics and Protestants. Other independent Catholic groups were found elsewhere. Temperance societies were given encouragement and approval by the hierarchy at the Fourth Provincial Council in Baltimore (1840). The council recommended that societies be established in all parishes, and as a result many temperance and total abstinence groups were established by priests. Catholics in general tended to believe that the moderate use of alcohol was not wrong and that only the abuse of it resulted in the sin of intemperance (see temper ance, virtue of).

A more favorable attitude toward total abstinence was the result of the efforts of Theobald mathew, an Irish Capuchin. Beginning in 1838, Father Mathew had led an enormously popular movement for total abstinence in Ireland. News of his success encouraged priests and bishops in the United States, as well as Protestant temperance leaders. When the years of famine brought thousands of Irish to America, many of them carried with them their adherence to Father Mathew's pledge. Both Catholic and Protestant groups invited Mathew to visit the United States. Various problems postponed his visit until 1849, when he was entertained at the White House by President Zachary Taylor and made a successful tour of the country. When Mathew returned to Ireland in 1851, the New York Herald, a newspaper opposed to temperance, estimated that in his travels through 25 states the priest had given the pledge to almost half a million people, both Catholic and Protestant.

International Organization. The widespread interest in temperance, mainly in the United States and Europe, led to the first World's Temperance Convention in London in 1846. The American delegation included such prominent figures as Lyman Beecher, William Lloyd Garrison, and abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.

Legislation. By mid-19th century nearly every state had some law licensing the sale of alcoholic beverages, but fees were low and regulations were lax. Urged on by reformers, various states experimented with firmer regulations and with local option. Massachusetts passed a law in 1838 that prohibited the selling of liquor in less than 15-gallon quantities. Many liquor dealers refused to obey the law, and their cases aroused a great deal of public interest. Finally, in 1840, the legislature repealed the law. Reliance was placed on local option laws that proved to be quite effective.

Under the leadership of Neal Dow, temperance advocates in Maine took advantage of the local enthusiasm for the Washington movement to build political support for the cause of prohibition. By 1846 they had sufficient support in the legislature to enact the first comprehensive state prohibition act. The enforcement of this measure depended on the way in which town selectmen granted licenses to sell alcohol for medicinal purposes, through which it was still possible to evade the law. This difficulty was overcome in 1851 by the passage of a law forbidding the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors in the state, authorizing the issuance of search warrants on the complaints of three citizens, and giving all fines collected to prosecuting officers.

News of the victory in Maine gave encouragement to temperance advocates both in the United States and abroad and led to a period of renewed activity. Between 1852 and 1855, 12 states and 1 territory passed prohibition laws. Prohibitionist forces narrowly missed enacting similar measures in two other states. But the victories were short-lived; some of these laws were declared unconstitutional, others repealed as a result of a change in public sentiment. By 1863 only six states still had prohibition statutes, and five of these subsequently repealed such laws.

Decline and Resurgence. Another landmark in the temperance crusade was the publication of Timothy Shay Arthur's Ten Nights in a Barroom (1850), which, widely read and dramatized, did much to maintain public interest in the cause. Nevertheless, the growing concern of Americans over the slavery question weakened the temperance movement. Several talented spokesmen found themselves more and more involved in the antislavery movement. Those who attempted to keep the slavery question out of temperance activities found themselves denounced by abolitionists as being friendly to slave owners and indifferent to the cause of the black American. The need to raise money to finance the Civil War led the government to impose an excise tax on liquor, and this action had a far-reaching effectin later years prohibition proposals were weighed against the potential loss of revenue by federal and state authorities. One permanent achievement was the abolition of the spirit ration in the U.S. Navy (1862).

Origins of the Prohibition Party. Problems growing out of the war and reconstruction, discouragement about prohibition experiments, and the loss of financial support by various societies led to further decline in the public interest in temperance. Yet this same period saw the beginning of renewed activity by persistent reformers. In August 1865 temperance groups met at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to reorganize and enlarge the work formerly carried on by the ATU. One result was the establishment of the National Temperance Society and Publication House, which soon became an important agency for research and education. The new group adopted a program aimed to make states dry and people total abstainers. One of the strongest general temperance societies in this period was the Independent Order of Good Templars, founded in 1851. Like many similar societies, it had concerned itself with moral suasion. In 1868, however, it called for the formation of a new political party. Since neither of the major political parties welcomed this revival of interest in temperance, a new Prohibition party was born in 1869. Three years later it ran its first candidate for the presidency, James Black of Pennsylvania.

Founding of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League. In Cleveland, Ohio, the National Women's Temperance Union was organized in 1874 and incorporated in 1883. Also in 1883 the World Woman's Christian Temperance Union was organized. At Oberlin, Ohio, a local temperance group organized the Ohio Anti-Saloon League in 1893; its aims were to preach the benefits of temperance and to close all saloons in Ohio. That same year an Anti-Saloon League was founded in the District of Columbia. In 1895 these two groups and 45 other local temperance organizations founded a national organization, the Anti-Saloon League of America.

Catholic Total Abstinence Movement. Catholic leaders also became more interested and active. The bishops believed that something had to be done about intemperance, that any new effort had to avoid the mistakes of the past, and that the effort had to be definitely Catholic and to depend first of all on spiritual means of improvement. These views were reflected in a decree of the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866) that urged pastors to warn their people about the evils of drunkenness. Total abstinence pledges, the mutual encouragement of those who belonged to temperance societies, and frequent reception of the Sacraments were held out as means for overcoming the problem. Within the next few years interest in total abstinence revived, and many Catholic societies were formed. State organizations soon followed. A convention of Catholic temperance societies in Baltimore in 1872 led to the formation of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America (CTAUA). The CTAUA was moderate and nonprohibitionist, and it avoided politics. Publications sponsored by the CTAUA and by various Catholic groups and societies helped to keep temperance news before the public. Isaac T. hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers and editor of the Catholic World, was long active in the total abstinence movement. The most widely read paper was the Catholic Total Abstinence News, published in Philadelphia.

As a general rule, the CTAUA maintained its position on moral suasion, but it did lobby for high license fees. In the 1880s and 1890s, led by Abp. John ireland, the CTAUA became more interested in legislation and cooperated with nonsectarian pressure groups seeking dry goals. In 1895 Ireland was chosen as the second vice president of the Anti-Saloon League.

At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, Catholics who sold liquor were warned to consider the occasion of sin that surrounded their business and to choose, if they could, a more becoming way of making a living. Thirteen years later Bp. John A. Watterson of Columbus, Ohio, issued a notice barring saloon keepers from membership in Catholic societies of the diocese. This action was appealed to the apostolic delegate, Abp. Francesco satolli, who upheld the bishop. Such zeal produced bad effects, for while the Catholic population as a whole became more temperate, it refused to become prohibitionist.

Movement for National Prohibition. Elsewhere in the nation the movement for prohibition gained ground, especially among women. It received national publicity as the result of the actions of Carry Nation, who with a hatchet or other weapons conducted a destructive campaign against Kansas saloons. Such flamboyant and illegal action did little to reassure conservative-minded persons about the wisdom of the temperance cause. To prevent complete suppression and to reach a compromise with the reformers many states enacted laws requiring a high license fee of saloon keepers and liquor dealers. It was thought that such laws would reduce the number of outlets for liquor and make them more respectable. Liquor dealers objected to the monopolistic tendencies inherent in the plan. Another compromise measure was making the retail sale of liquor a municipal or county monopoly. Experience with these substitutes convinced reformers that the best answer to the problem lay in national prohibition.

As the woman suffrage movement advanced, so did the cause of prohibition. Symptomatic of this new enthusiasm was the establishment of a Catholic Women's Auxiliary of the Anti-Saloon League in 1912. Similar auxiliaries sprang up elsewhere. World War I greatly increased the influence of women in American life. When a congressional investigation revealed that the antiprohibition and antifeminist German-American Alliance had also distributed pro-German propaganda, the goals of the reformers became patriotic goals. Persistence, patriotism, and the needs of war helped to push the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through the various state legislatures. The amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, was adopted in 1919 and became effective the following year. Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson's veto to pass the Volstead Act, which provided the necessary federal enforcement machinery.

One of the prominent Americans who did not share the popular enthusiasm for the amendment was Cardinal James gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore. Earlier in his career Gibbons had spoken for temperance, but he did not believe that total abstinence was essential for morality. He felt that local option was in keeping with the principle of self-government but that national prohibition was both unwise and unjust. While the amendment was being considered, he issued a statement condemning it as a product of fanaticism and as dangerous to personal and religious liberty.

A different view was taken by Father George Zurcher, of North Evans, N.Y., who in 1919 founded the Catholic Clergy Prohibition League of America. This league was instrumental in securing the passage of regulations governing sacramental wine that were incorporated into the Volstead Act. It also distributed thousands of copies of its official organ, Catholics and Prohibition, which proclaimed the benefits of prohibition and exposed the chicanery of wet Catholic politicians. In 1922 Zurcher made a trip to New Zealand, where he spoke in favor of prohibition.

The activities of American temperance societies in the 19th century had led to the formation of similar societies in Europe. These groups pursued goals ranging from temperance and total abolition to high license fees and prohibition. The Scandinavians, the Russians, and the Americans tried the national prohibition experiment, and all eventually repealed it.

Repeal. In the United States, the constitutionality of the adoption of the 18th Amendment was attacked in the courts. The amendment and the enforcement procedures contributed to the development of a widespread disrespect for law and authority and to the growth of the power and influence of organized crime. In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president on a Democratic party platform that called for the repeal of the prohibition amendment. Following his election, Congress in March 1933 passed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act to legalize beverages with an alcoholic content of 3.2 percent. Later in 1933 the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th, was adopted. The failure of the national experiment in prohibition tended to discredit the temperance leaders, including many Protestant clergymen who had endorsed it. The division of opinion in the Catholic Church over the relative merits of various aspects of the temperance crusade and the prohibition amendment helped Catholics to weather the reaction more easily.

Bibliography: s. d. bacon, ed., Understanding Alcoholism (Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 315; 1958). j. bland, Hibernian Crusade: The Story of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America (Washington 1951). f. l. byrne, Prophet of Prohibition: Neal Dow and His Crusade (Madison 1961). Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem, ed. e. h. cherrington et al., 6 v. (Westerville, Ohio 192530). m. curti, The Growth of American Thought (2d ed. New York 1951). j. r. gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement (Urbana, Ill. 1963). r. hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York 1955). j. a. krout, The Origins of Prohibition (New York 1925). a. sinclair, Prohibition: The Era of Excess (Boston 1962).

[h. d. langley]

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