Reforms of the Early 19th Century

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The Temperance Movement sought to end the increasingly common issue of excessive drinking. Due to the social customs of the time, alcoholism consumed many individuals, mainly men. Drinking was “a basic part of men’s working lives”. (Faragher, p.438) Toasts were routine at work and at social gatherings alike for men. Women, who abstained from public drinking, and children were left to bear the consequent burdens. Economic affairs were controlled by men, making it easy for a family’s savings could easily be squandered on alcohol. Social status was, also, affected by drunkenness. Temperance supporters hoped to stop alcohol consumption and thus end these undesirable results.

The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance was founded by members of the growing middle class in 1826. The middle class did not accept the abundant drinking as previous classes had. They found it immoral and unsafe. The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, “the largest reform organization of the period”, gained momentum and support. (Faragher, p.439) As time went on, many others began to agree with the middle class in this conclusion. Factory owners prohibited drinking on the job because it affected an employee’s performance, often making working with machinery hazardous. Skilled workers and artisans joined the movement. They, men and women, even created their own institutes, the Washington Temperance Societies and Martha Washington Societies. Men emphasized the political aspects of the problem while women placed emphasis on the dangers of drunkenness.

Temperance soon changed from a solely social concern to become a political problem as well. The two prominent political parties, the Whigs and the Democrats, had opposing views on temperance. Whigs were supporters, Democrats were not. The Democrats were not alone in their hostility. Immigrants, who were accustomed to the routine drinking, were also resistant. Despite this resistance and hostility, these...
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