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SOCIAL CONTROLS WERE STRONG
In colonial America, informal social controls helped maintain the expectation that the abuse of alcohol was unacceptable. There was a clear consensus that while alcohol was a gift from God its abuse was from the Devil. "Drunkenness was condemned and punished, but only as an abuse of a God-given gift. Drink itself was not looked upon as culpable, any more than food deserved blame for the sin of gluttony. Excess was a personal indiscretion" (Aaron and Musto, 1981, p. 132).
Informal social controls operated both in the home and in the larger community:
Central to the drinking culture of colonial life was the tavern (used here as a term to cover inns, taverns, and ordinaries-any licensed establishment where alcohol was served on the premises). The role of the tavern in colonial America and the attitudes toward it were quite different from what they would become in the nineteenth century. The tavern was considered an integral part of community life, second only in importance to the meetinghouse, which served as the church, town hall, and courtroom. The laws of most colonies required towns to license suitable persons to sell wine and spirits for the convenience of travelers and town dwellers; failure to do so could result in a fine. Contrary to the modem practice of keeping alcohol outlets a certain distance from schools and churches, colonial taverns were often required to be located near the meetinghouse or church. In towns that lacked a meetinghouse or in those where the meetinghouse did not provide sufficient warmth in winter, "religious services and court sessions were held in the great room of the principal tavern; there, ecclesiastical affairs were managed, the town selectmen and county justices met to conduct the business of government, and the voters assembled for town meetings" (Popham, 1978, p. 271). Those who attended these gatherings naturally took advantage of the hospitality of the tavern, the expenses not infrequently being paid out of town funds. People also came to taverns to see plays and concerts, to attend lodge meetings, to participate in lotteries, to read newspapers, and to engage in political debate. Taverns were, in fact, more important as centers of social activity than as places in which to drink. Most drinking took place in the home or at communal gatherings. (Popham, 1978, pp. 267-277; Conroy, 1984) (Prendergast, 1987, p. 27) 3
Tavern owners were expected not only to disperse food, drink, and hospitality, but also to monitor behavior and keep their customers in check (Aaron and Musto, 1981,pp.132-133).
When informal controls failed, there were always legal ones. Alcohol abuse was treated with rapid and sometimes severe punishment. Habitual drinkers "were whipped or forced to wear a mark of shame. Once so labeled, they could be refused the right to purchase liquor. During the seventeenth century, all of the colonies specified a fine or prescribed the stocks for the first drunkenness offense. Repeated offenders often received sentences to hard labor or corporal punishment" (Mendelson and Mello, 1985, p. 11; also see Krout, 1925, pp. 27-28). While infractions did occur, the general sobriety of the colonists suggests the effectiveness of their system of informal and formal controls in a population that averaged about three and a half gallons of alcohol per year per person (Rorabaugh, 1991, p. 17). That rate was dramatically higher than the present rate of consumption.
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