Middle Phase 18401860

Where well-to-do groups and Protestant evangelical clergy dominated the early phase of temperance reform, the middle phase included the efforts of artisans and women of the lower and lower-middle classes, who promoted self-help groups among largely working-class drunkards trying to give up drinking (Tyrell, 1979). These artisans organized into the Washingtonian societies (named for George Washington), dedicated to helping

A woodcut dating to the early phase of the temperance movement illustrates the physical and moral afflictions attributed to alcohol. Circa 1820. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

working-class drunkards who were trying to reform.

In 1840, the (first) Washingtonian Temperance Society was established in Baltimore. Members took a pledge against the use of all alcoholic beverages and attempted to convert drunkards to the pledge of teetotalism (c. 1834, derived from total + total = abstinence). By the end of 1841, Wash-ingtonian societies were active in Baltimore, Boston, New York, and other areas throughout the North. These groups were not socially homogeneous. Tyrell (1979) observed that the relationships between the old organizations and the new societies culminated in various struggles for control over the Washingtonian societies, with fragmentation of these groups occurring.

Washingtonian members who wanted respect from the middle-class temperance reformers, including the evangelical reformers, elected to remain with the mainstream temperance movement. The wage earners and reformed drunkards remained in their own societies, and they opposed early efforts at legal coercion—for example, the passage of the Maine Law of 1851. Gusfield (1986) has interpreted support for this law as a reaction against the drinking practices of the Irish and German immigrants to the United States between 1845 and 1855. He argued that temperance reform in this period represented a ''symbolic crusade'' to impose existing cultural values on immigrant groups. Tyrell interpreted the Maine Law as a way for middle-class reformers to control and reform the laboring poor. From 1851 on, many local laws were passed that attempted to limit the consumption of alcohol; however, throughout the remainder of the century, these statutes were repealed, liberalized, or unenforced.

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