The Temperance Movement

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The Temperance Movement: The Attempted Removal of a Deadly Sin

The Temperance Movement was an attempt to better society by ending the sale and consumption of alcohol. This movement began in the 1830’s to the 1840’s from the desire to reform society and abolishing it’s sins by the removal of slavery. Many people saw the negative effect that alcohol also had on society, and so they put forth an effort to convince others to refrain. The fight for prohibition originated from the church. The Protestant religion enforced abstinence from alcohol and others followed, thinking that preventing the sin would help to reform society (“Roots of Prohibition”). Key leaders in the movement guided people towards their cause, such as Billy J. Clark who saw the chaotic effect that drinking had on society. He observed how dependent society was as it revolved around alcohol (“Billy J. Clark”). He worked to lead others away from the tempting drink and in 1808, he helped to form the first ever temperance society, the Union Temperate Society of Moreau and Northumberland (“History of the World’s Temperance Centennial Congress”). Although many efforts were introduced in order to enforce prohibition, the dependency of Americans on alcohol and their lack of fervor in the cause made it impossible to reform the masses. We still care today because the attempt at Temperance in the past can be used in the present in order to see what actions work and which ones don’t when trying to limit the usage of alcohol (Berridge).

There were several causes of the Temperance Movement in the early 19th century, but all causes seemed to revolve around the desire to reform society with the removal of its sins. Firstly, abolitionists worked to remove what they believed to be the biggest issue at the time, slavery. Through the desire to abolish this sin, they realized that the consumption of alcohol was as equally disastrous to society (“Roots of Prohibition”). The Protestant Church was the primary and initial voice for the movement, urging its followers to refrain from liquor or to drink in moderation, then farther along urged drinkers to resist any temptation to alcohol (Webb). During the Antebellum period there was such a large increase in religion, creating a higher influence of its decisions to the masses. As the church viewed drinking as a sin, anyone who consumed alcohol was viewed as unfaithful to God and his teachings (“Temperance Movement”). A large following against the drinking issue was created from the popularity of the Church in this period, easily spreading its ideas against the shameful liquid (“Roots of Prohibition”). Another major cause of the movement was the realization of the dependency that society had on alcohol. By the year 1830, most American citizens over the age of fifteen were drinking roughly seven gallons of pure alcohol per year, an amount nearly three times of that consumed by an average American presently. The alcohol abuse lead to chaos in the lives of many, such as families that depended on drunken men to provide for them, since at this time women lacked many of the legal rights to be able to support their family on their own (“Roots of Prohibition”). The consumption of alcohol led to many social and personal issues. Alcoholics became increasingly treacherous to society and to themselves (“Temperance Movement”). Many cases of abuse, crime, and murder could be traced back to alcohol. Many people saw alcohol as “always poisonous, and consequently never was nor can be of the least possible benefit, but always the reverse” (Barnum).  They saw that the drink had no benefits through consumption, the only results were chaos and destruction. Through this realization came the desire to push forward with the Temperance Movement.

The followers of the Temperance Movement hoped to reform society with the removal of alcohol, they followed many tactics and strategies in order to do so. One of the main tactics was the formation of Temperance...
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