Temperance Movement

Temperance Movement Essay Sample

Dec 4, 2017 at Superb Free History Essays Online

The Idea of Temperance

The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was a period in the US history marked by a few social reforms. Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865) some organizations were insisting on no person shall consume alcohol. In the beginning, these groups called for abstinence that later proved to fail, which in turn, made them count on the force of the law. These efforts to minimize the consumption of alcohol by the masses led to the formation of the Temperance Movement in the USA.

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The Temperance Movement traces its development from moral and religious motions to legal tranquility of the society. The idea of temperance dates back to the antiquity; however,  the movement appeared as a result to the numerous efforts to diminish the use of distilled beverages nowadays. The first promulgators of the movement arose from the evangelical Protestants and Baptist individuals. They advocated that alcohol was harmful health wise for any person; as well as, it leads to the destruction of families and reputation (Appleby, 1997). The first temperance movement that actually passed a law with success was in Maine. The main goal of the law was to prove that it is a model for the improvement of the society’s welfare. Evermore, shortly after the Temperance Movement arose, the National Prohibition emerged in the USA with the similar scope to decrease consumption of alcohol. However, this effort failed to prevent the use of alcohol. It also led to the abusive and illegal production of alcohol that was not taxed by the government (Grimes, 1993).  


The Temperance Movement was geared mainly toward men. Along with the purpose to persuade men to give up drinking, the movement in the late 1830s encouraged the ban of the retail liquor license. Therefore, on many occasions candidates from different religious groups were encouraged to run for governmental offices. The idea behind this was that they will be more prone to pass laws that would ultimately stop the production and use of alcohol among masses. Alternatively, some of the southern states whites attributed the temperance with the involvement of northern individuals. This influence was associated with economic development and lack of personal liberty, thus leading them to reject the temperance. Such happenings proves that this movement had its issues based on location, social standings and as it will be shown racial prejudice. (Murdock, 1998) 

The Ideology of Temperance

The ideology of the movement was predominant and acknowledged across gender, race, religion and even age barriers. It was also intertwined with antislavery and women rights issues. Thus, the temperance movement suffered some distress after the Civil War. The southern states were noticeably opposed to allowing other races into the temperance organizations, and yet they were all for not letting them to consume alcoholic beverages (Thompson, 1999). Thus, the political participants of the temperance were also members of the antislavery and women’ rights groups.

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Furthermore, the mixed emotions about gender, race, and political views led to the creation of The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The purpose of the WCTU, as well as the other mentioned temperance groups, was to eliminate consumption of alcohol and facilitate safe homes and happy families. Since the WCTU was predominant across class, racial and religious masses it was also involved in a number of other important social issues such as, child and women welfare, health and woman rights. Therefore, the organization allowed African-American women participate in various events in order to improve their race’s image and social liberties. In this context, it is well noticeable that the temperance movement had positive effects on the races and various social groups (Warner, 1997).

Chinese Goods

On the contrary, the Chinese control of opium had a relatively different direction.  The introduction of opium among the Chinese population was caused by the trade between Britain and China. Britain was always interested in the Chinese products such as, tea, silk or porcelain. However, the Chinese had no interest in any of Britain’s trade products and thus demanding to be paid in silver. The exchange of Chinese goods for silver created economic troubles for Britain. Therefore, in order to regulate this problem, the British persuaded the Chinese to accept opium as payment for their goods. 

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The sales of opium helped put Britain’s economy back on track; however, since it is an addictive drug, opium began to cause huge problems for China. The great demand for opium attracted India into the market and created a price drop on the market. The competition for importing opium into China that was created among merchants worldwide led to the Opium Wars. On local levels the massive influx of opium into the country led the Yongzheng Emperor to prohibit the import of opium by law.  This law was not followed by many and thus failed. The next attempt to outlaw opium and its addiction was attempted by the Qing Empire by issuing a Decree to prohibit opium imports and its use. The Chinese government declared punishment by death for Chinese born dealers. 

All in all, the evident similarity between both situations is that the governments were involved on different levels. The purpose of the government force was to stop the use of two different but yet similarly addictive drugs. Finally, the results proved that without government involvement of government powers the end results could have been different.

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