Temperance Movement

By: Olivia Clark

What Was The Temperance Movement?

It was a social movement that happened during the 19th and early 20th centuries that urged personal moderation or completer abstinence from consuming alcoholic beverages and was one of the largest movements in the 1800s. Many people believed that alcohol was strongly connected to insanity, poverty and many other evils of the world, thus the temperance movement gained momentum.

How It Got Started

It began in the 19th century. In 1838, Massachusetts created a law that made it possible to buy hard liquor only in large quantities, so working-class citizens would not be able to afford it. In 1846, Maine became the first state to pass a first state law that prohibited the sale of alcohol, which then encouraged other states to go "dry" meaning to favor prohibition. Much of the initial successes happened in rural America, specifically the Western and Southern states.


John B. Gough

In 1842 John B. Gough took a pledge in Worcester, Massachusetts to never drink and began his career of lecturing against the evils of alcohol. Over the more than forty years he campaigned against drinking, Gough gave upwards of 9,600 lectures to more than nine million people in America, Canada, and Great Britain. During the years 1843-47, he had traveled about 6,840 miles gaining 15,218 signatures to the pledge. He had great success in converting drinkers. John B. Gough turned temperance reform into a profitable profession that was both a business as well as a cause. He eventually died in 1886.

John H.W. Hawkins

He battled against his addiction but guilt and remorse over his family's poverty only intensified his alcoholism. He had joined the Washington Temperance Society on June 14, 1840, after more than 20 years of excessive drinking. John H.W. Hawkins' first speaking was held outside of Baltimore in the February of 1841 to the delegates of the Maryland State Temperance Society that meet in Annapolis, along with the members of the State Legislature in the same city. Hawkins, became one of the most effective spokesman of the movement.

The Goal and Tatics


  • The goal of the temperance movement was to try to ban the manufacture, selling, and transportation of all alcoholic beverages and convert people into non-alcoholic drinkers.


  • International cooperation- strategy changed from moral persuasion to being anxious for government control of liquor, using social, educational and political tactics. They succeeded in getting many liquor laws passed nationwide.

  • Temperance Societies- Reformers used tactics such as scaring innocent Americans to coerce them into joining their societies. They told people that alcohol was a substance that "tainted moral purity" and if their targets further refused to join their group, reformers tried to scare them with threats or messed with their guilty conscience. As a result of this strategy, Americans that didn't join the popular Temperance Societies were brainwashed into believing that they damaged themselves and were traitors and outlaws to their country.

  • Propaganda- Many reformers started peaceful protest using signs with a message on them and loudly chanting in public areas. Reformers also used cartoons, posters, and literature to further spread their message and trying to make people want to convert to being non-alcoholic drinkers.

Major Achievements

  • At one point before the civil war, the American Temperance Society consisted of 200,000 members. Americans unified under the idea that alcohol was immoral and wrong which was exactly what temperance reformers had hoped for.
  • It helped build onto the concept of individual choice and responsibility. The pledge was a conscious act that one person did in an effort to make himself or herself a better human being.