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Temperance movement

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    This article will be looking at the temperance movement. This is a movement which has made attempts in reducing the amount of alcohol consumption in a society. This movement arose in the 19th century and it was basically to bring alcohol consumption under control. Alcohol consumption was seen as a way of making people loose self discipline and was also seen as an obstacle in economic growth. Thus the main aim was for people to abstain from alcohol altogether or use it sparingly.

    Alcohol consumption was blamed in the nineteenth century for poverty and poor urban growth. The temperance movement shifted its focus on social prohibition thereby considering the whole society other than an individual. There was also the concern for crime which was seen to be caused by the consumption of alcohol as well as religious concerns.

     Religion fundamentalists played a key role in this as they advocated for family values as well as prohibition of alcohol consumption. They viewed it as a way of destroying the family whereby the alcohol users became abusive and were not able to take care of their families properly.

    How it came about

    The movement came about around the 19th century and the 20th century. In his book William Kellogg (2003), the movement supported mainly absolute abstinence from alcohol consumption and was initially confined to English- speaking countries. However it was generally very strong in the Wales as well as the United States of America.

    Specifically the movement started in the united sates of America around 1845 ending around 1918 at which time a prohibition Act was passed. What the movement was seeking to do was to blame poverty, crime, joblessness, domestic violence s well as poor performance at work on consumption of alcohol and other alcoholic beverages.

    The movement worded towards persuading people to stop the consumption of alcohol and to abstain from it completely. It was a social movement and kick started with the passage of a law in the Maine state known as the Maine law.

    A great part of the temperance movement wished to impose a complete ban on alcohol consumption and this bore fruit with the u. s constitution 18th amendment which brought abut the establishment of prohibition.

    In his book (Joseph Gusfield 1986), the movement started in the United States being a social movement which campaigned against the consumption of alcohol. The campaign was led by some Americans and churches.

    In the 1800 alcohol consumption and particularly beer drinking was very common and it prompted most of the working class people to spend their entire wages on alcohol (Joseph Gusfield 1986). This led to them becoming every irresponsible whereby they were not able to provide even the basic needs for their families and this was because they did not have enough money to live on.

    The temperance movement was joined by many women as well as other workers who produced pamphlets and distributed them with the message of urging people to abstain from alcohol consumption.

    According to (Joseph Gusfield 1986) the movement workers worked very hard towards this cause and in fact traveled around the whole of America to urge people to stop drinking alcohol and also to sign a pledge in regard to this.

    This cause was going on well wit a million people having signed the pledge by 1838. The business owners also supported the movement with the concern of the economy. Since they felt that the consumption of alcohol slowed people performance at work and hence contributing to poor economic growth.

    In his book, (Joseph Gusfield 1986) states that, the state of Maine banned the consumption of alcohol altogether as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages in the year 1851. Subsequently another 13 states followed with the ban.

    Groups for the temperance movement

    In his book (Judith papachristou 1976), the temperance movement was greatly supported by the woman’s Christian temperance union which was formed in 1874. They formed this group after realizing the destructive problems caused by alcohol consumption. These problems caused these problems in the society and many families too.

    They felt that it made the alcohol users unable to provide for their families and also to be violent and hence the escalation of crime, irresponsibility and violation of family values.

    They asked those that were selling alcohol to close their establishments and also marched in demonstrations as well as praying in church. They chose the need for total abstinence to alcohol consumption.

    One of the groups that advocated for compulsory education for temperance movement was the woman’s Christian temperance union, (Judith papachristou 1976). They had a national superintendent who established instructions abut the temperance movement in schools and colleges. Her name was Mary Hunt and she did this alongside Elizabeth Gelok who personally taught in the colleges about the science temperance instruction.

    Mary hunt felt that the people in the schools and colleges were the future voters and gyration and hence sought to teach them abut the temperance movement and her efforts bore fruit wit the idea of making the education compulsory.

    This led to the introduction of legislation in the states and also in the District of Columbia. The legislation urged and mandated students in the United States to receive education in relation to alcohol.

    According to (Judith papachristou 1976), other movements that supported the temperance movement wee the progressive movement, Lucy Webb Hayes, Susan Anthony alongside others. Prohibition of alcohol was viewed by these people as a solution to social ills like poverty, poor economy growth, domestic violence as well as crime. They also viewed prohibition as a way of the United States being a good example to the rest of the world that would follow suit.

    According to the book (Joseph Gusfield 1986) alcohol consumption in America was seen as a root for social evil and anti social behaviors. It was seen to have a negative influence on labor productivity and was also condemned by Henry ford.

    However the amendment on the ban on alcohol was passed and took effect in 1920, it banned the manufacture, transportation, import and export of alcoholic beverages (jack blocker 2003).

    The people against the ban had to find another way of getting alcohol albeit illegally. This came with the organized crime which was headed by a Chicago gangster john Torrio (jack blocker 2003). Specifically Capone took over the organization of John Torrio and brought about brothels, breweries, distillers as well as illegal drinking establishments. This came alongside corruption amongst some government officials who benefited from this.

    This heightened crime, tax evasion, murder and other antisocial behavior. Capone was however arrested but served just but a small jail term. He died in 1947 of cardiac arrest. Another challenge in trying to enforce the amendment was the illegal alcohol trafficker gangs who thrived in sneaking illegal alcohol into the country. (Jack Blocker 2003).

    A great number of people also drank irresponsibly after the prohibition. They did this as a sign of rebellion as well as curtailing help for those alcoholics who wished to reform.

    Among the supporters of the temperance movement was the progressive movement, Lucy Hayes, Susan Anthony, Nelly mc Clung, Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Lyman Beecher, and U.S Commissioner of Education, Abraham Lincoln and Billy Sunday among others.

    Those who did not support were the anti prohibitionists, Alfred Smith and Edward Bellamy

    The anti- prohibitionist movement

    According to (Joseph Gusfield 1986), among the Americans alcohol consumption was a middle class culture. Drinkers often preferred to ignore the law and avoid it altogether. During the prohibition period also the resistance increased with alcohol being illegally sneaked into the country from Canada, and also there were illegal distillers as well as corruption in the government which saw the alcohol business thrive even after the ban had been imposed.

    The prohibition period was long and so was the resistance rendering the efforts of prohibitionists useless and less effective. This made the temperance advocates to apply various means amongst them demonstrations in trying to pass the message across about abstinence from alcohol consumption.

    According to (Joseph Gusfield 1986) as early as 1933, the temperance movement can be seen to have been fighting a loosing battle. Joseph (Gusfield 1986) in his book, he feels that in a normal American culture an abstainer from alcohol is viewed as a social non-conformist. In his view the middle class American does not advocate for abstinence from alcohol and does not support it.

    However in 1867 the prohibitionist party was formed according to Robert fowler 1999 and this party was responsible for passing the U.S. constitution amendment in the year 1919. This amendment outlawed the sale, import, export, production as well as transportation of alcohol in the U.S


    During the 19th century in America there were contrasts as well as conflicts relating to the old ways of life and the religion fundamentalists, on the issue of alcohol consumption. This was brought about by urbanism and the growth making America a cosmopolitan. This however led to the culture of alcohol consumption and religious fundamentalists saw this as a great concern. This was seen to be decadence in the moral standards.

    However it is seen that women became a great influence in the legislation as well as the democratic process. These movements led to the introduction to amendments against alcohol consumption which was seen as a positive move in the curbing of crime, violence, poverty as well as poor economic growth.

    One of the major challenges faced by the temperance movement was the fact that taking a pledge not to drink was not seen as a way of being temperate. The temperance movement was particularly against what the drinking did to people and how it made them loose focus.

    They focused on the family and the effects that drinking had as well as the irresponsibility and loss to alcohol drinkers and due to this reason an amendment was made in the constitution of the united states of America which prohibited the consumption of alcohol.


    David Thelen (1986), Paths of Resistance, Oxford University Publishers. U.S

    Jack Blocker (2003), Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History, ABC –CLIO Publishers. U.S

    Joseph Gusfield (1986), Symbolic Crusade, University of Illinois Publishers. New York

    Judith Papachristou (1976), Women together, Knopf Publishers. California

    Robber Fowler (1999), Religion and Politics in America, West View Publishers. New York

    William Kellogg (2003), American History the Easy Way, Barron Educational Series Publishers. U.S


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