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Did Lincoln enjoy the warmth of an occasional glass of whiskey? More than a few accounts suggest as much, but as far as can be ascertained, it just isn't true. Two quotes from Lincoln are often used out of context and make him sound like a drinking man; both are taken from a speech he made to the Springfield, Washington, Temperance Society in 1842. The first cites Lincoln's saying that intoxicating drinks were commonly the first draught of the infant and the last draught of the dying man. Indeed, Lincoln said just that; but he was not applauding the use and enjoyment of liquor. Instead, in the context of the speech, he was merely describing a common practice of the times, implying that if people were made aware of the evils of alcohol, such foolishness would stop. In effect, Lincoln was urging the temperance group to enlighten the public.
In the second example, Lincoln is often erroneously quoted as saying that injury from alcohol arose from the abuse of a good thing rather than from the use of a bad thing. Again, the quote has been twisted over the years to make Lincoln sound as though he were defending drinkers. What he actually said was that although many people were injured by alcohol, they didn't seem to believe that it was from the use of a bad thing and they thought it merely from the abuse of a good thing. Lincoln himself implied that he believed the injuries were a direct result of the use of liquor-a bad thing.
In this same speech, Lincoln stated his belief that people would be more likely to stop drinking if, instead of being preached to about the evils of alcohol, they were shown examples of how sobriety would enhance their lives. In the twentieth century, Alcoholics Anonymous went on to prove his point.
To cap off the Lincoln question, two more instances give insight into his views: In 1 854, after Lincoln refused to partake of whiskey on a particular occasion, Stephen A. Douglas asked him if he were a member of a temperance society. Lincoln replied that although he wasn't a member of any such society, he personally didn't drink. Later, in 1861, he did, however, add his signature to a temperance declaration that already bore the names of earlier Presidents, including John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, James Madison, Franklin Pierce, James K. Polk, ZacharyTaylor and John Tyler.
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