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BIRTH OF THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT
It was in this environment that people began seeking an explanation and a solution for drinking problems. One suggestion had come from one of the foremost physicians of the period, Dr. Benjamin Rush. In 1784, Dr. Rush argued that the excessive use of alcohol was injurious to physical and psychological health (Katcher, 1993, p. 275).
Apparently influenced by Rush's widely discussed belief, about 200 farmers in a Connecticut community formed a temperance association in 1789. Similar associations were formed in Virginia in 1800 and New York State in 1808. 5 Within the next decade other temperance organizations were formed in eight states, some being statewide organizations (Asbury, 1968, pp. 28-31).
During the early 1800's, temperance societies offered two pledge options: moderation in drinking or total abstinence. After those who pledged the preferred total abstinence began writing "T.A." on their pledge cards, they became known as "teetotalers."
(Mendelson, J. H., and Mello, N. K. Alcohol: Use and Abuse in America. Boston, Massachusetts: Little Brown, 1983, p. 34.)
The future looked bright for the young movement, which advocated temperance or moderation rather than abstinence. 5 But many of the leaders overestimated their strength; they expanded their activities and took positions on gambling, profanation of the Sabbath, and other moral issues. They became involved in political bickering and by the early 1820s their movement stalled (Asbury, 1968, p. 31).
But some stalwart leaders persevered in pressing their cause forward. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and benefltted from a renewed interest in religion and morality. Within 10 years it claimed more than 8,000 local groups and over 1,500,000 members (Fumas, 1965, p. 55). By 1839, 15 temperance journals were being published (Cherrington, 1920, pp. 98-123). Simultaneously, many Protestant churches were beginning to promote temperance.
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