From: Anonymous Eight
Time: 7:55:03 PM
Remote Name: 220.127.116.11
Anonymous Eight History 67 W. Cutler Primary Source-Temperance
Q. What kind of person wrote this address? A. The person who wrote this was Dr. J.S. Wilson. He must have been an evangelical minister. The reason I make this claim is based on the time period that this address was given. The address was given in December of 1841. During this time, evangelical reformers were influencing many towns. These reformers preached abstinence from alcohol. The main target of the reformers was the man of the towns who neglected or abused his families. After the American Revolution, whiskey became the most popular beverage. It was cheap and easy to make. The water at this time was often contaminated, so Americans preferred to drink the whiskey. The reformers thought this would be hazardous to a God-fearing society. “The temperance reformers viewed indulgence in alcohol as a threat to public morality”(p.326). The American Temperance Society, formed in 1826, campaigned successfully to reduce the alcohol consumption in America. The only problem was that they only attacked the evils of hard liquor; they left beer and wine alone. “Per capita consumption of hard liquor declined more than 50 percent during the 1830’s”(p.327). The only assumption I can make of this Dr. Wilson is that he was not content with the success of the attack on hard liquor exclusively; he wanted to rid society of all alcohol, including beer and wine. Wilson gave this address at the end of 1841, after the consumption of hard liquor declined by 50 percent. He truly believed that the only way to achieve a utopian society was by total abstinence.
Q. To whom did he direct his remarks and why? A. Wilson directed his remarks to the women of the American towns. In this period of economic expansion, women’s roles in the domestic sphere changed. Where once women and men both worked together in the economic survival of their family, the introduction of factories brought that practice to an end. Women were left at home to tend to the children, leaving the men the sole responsibility of providing finances. The women accepted their role in the domestic sphere. They did not consider themselves inferior to their male counterparts, but rather equal for they were handed the importance of instilling proper values and morals in the children. One point that must be made is that in this time period, marriage changed from parental control to marriage out of love for one another. Parents did not force their children to marry for social status, but rather let them marry whomever they felt they loved. “Wives now began to behave more like the companions of their husbands and less like their servants or children”(p.327). Men now felt an emotional attachment to their lives. They respected their wives and treated their marriage as a joint venture. Due to the emotional attachment and respect for their wives, Dr. Wilson recruited women to help reform their husbands. He pleads to the daughters that they should join forces with their mothers to encourage the males in their lives to abstain from alcohol. In the evangelical culture, women were viewed as guardians of religious and moral values. Dr. Wilson believed that if the women made it known that they did not condone the consumption of alcohol, then the men in their lives would abstain out of admiration and respect for their wives. Since the influence of the church was not working, Dr. Wilson tried to take a more personal approach to the temperance movement by taking it inside the home. The only way to do this was by recruiting women.