Temperance Raises its Ugly Head (1800 to 1900)

Emergence of Temperance (1800 to 1900)

Alcohol and temperance becomes the focal point of a cultural war between different life styles and values; small town versus cities.

Temperance thought began emerging during the 1800s. Following the Revolutionary War, numerous problems were associated with rapidly the growing industrialization, urbanization and social changes. Alcohol and temperance became the focal point of a cultural war between different life styles and values; small town versus cities, “Old Americans” versus immigrants, the South versus the Northeast, Protestantism versus Catholicism and Judaism, and so on.

With the breakdown of social norms that discouraging alcohol abuse, heavy drinking became much more common and caused numerous problems. And although alcohol abuse caused problems, it came to be seen as the primary cause, rather than largely the result, of societal changes and problems.

Drinking excessively tended not to be a problem on a farm, but was inconsistent with the growing need for factory workers who followed the clock rather the level of sunlight or the seasonal needs of agriculture. Employers wanted reliable and sober workers who would show up on time and not get hurt on the job.

Protestant churches began to view the substance of alcohol itself as evil and its consumption, even in moderation, as a sin. This, combined with a growing women’s movement that stressed the protection of domestic life from partner violence, child neglect, and lost wages, thus strengthened the movement into a religious and moral crusade.

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