Online Encyclopedia

TEMPERANCE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 581 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
TEMPERANCE. The word " temperance," which strictly means. moderation, has acquired a particular meaning in connexion with intoxicating liquor, and it is here used in that limited sense. The " temperance question " is the equivalent in English of l'alcoolisme and Alkoholismus in French and German-speaking countries respectively; it embraces all the problems that arise in connexion with the use or abuse of alcoholic drink. This usage has arisen from the practice of societies formed for the purpose of suppressing or reducing the consumption of such liquors, and calling themselves Temperance Societies. Their activity is often spoken of as the Temperance Movement, though that term properly covers very much wider ground. Historical.—Ever since man in some distant age first discovered that process of fermentation by which sugar is converted into alcohol and carbonic acid, and experienced the intoxicating effects of the liquor so produced, there has been, in a sense, a temperance question. The records of the ancient Oriental civilizations contain many references to it, and from very remote times efforts were made by priests, sages or -law-givers in India, Persia, China, Palestine, Egypt, Greece and Carthage to combat the vice of drunkenness. But the evil appears never to have been so great or the object of so much attention in the ancient world as in Western countries and our own era. Two circumstances mainly differentiate the modern problem; one is the use of distilled waters or spirits as a beverage, and the other the climatic conditions prevailing in the more northern latitudes which are the home of Western civilization. The intoxicating drinks used by the ancients were wines obtained from grapes or other fruits and beers from various kinds of grain. These products were not confined to the East, but were known to the ancient civilizations of Mexico and Peru and even to primitive peoples who used the sugar-containing juices and other substances indigenous in their country. In the time of the Romans the barbarians in the north of Europe used fermented liquors made from honey (mead), barley (beer) and apples (cider} in place of grape-wine. All such drinks produce intoxication if taken in sufficient quantity; but their action is so much slower and less violent than that of distilled spirits that even their abuse did not give rise to any opposition that can properly be called a movement, and the distinction has repeatedly formed the basis of legislation in several countries down to this day. Extremists now place all alcohol-containing drinks under the same ban, but fermented liquors are still generally held to be comparatively innocuous; nor can any one deny that there is a difference. It is safe to say that if spirits had never been discovered the history of the question would have been entirely different. The distillation of essences from various substances seems to have been known to the ancients and to have been carried on by the Arabians in the dark ages; but potable spirits were not known until the 13th century. The distilled essence of wine or aqua vitae (brandy) is mentioned then as a new discovery by Arnoldus de Villa Nova, a chemist and physician, who regarded it, from the chemical or medical point of view, as a divine product. It probably came into use very gradually, but once the art of distillation had been mastered it was extended to other alcoholic substances in countries where wine was not grown. Malt, from which beer had been made from time immemorial, was naturally used for the ' Hence it used to be called " water-work "; see Shakespeare, Hen. IV., part ii. act ii. sc. I. purpose, and then gin or Geneva spirits and whisky or usquebagh (Irish for " water of life ") were added to grape brandy; then came corn brandy in the north and east of Europe, rum from sugar canes in the Indies, potato spirit, and eventually, as the process was perfected, rectified ethyl alcohol from almost anything containing sugar or starch. The concentrated form of alcohol, thus evolved, for a long time carried with it the prestige of a divine essence from the middle ages when chemistry was a mysterious art allied to all sorts of superstitions. It had potent properties and was held to possess great virtue. This view is embodied in the name " water of life," and was at one time universally held; traces of it still linger among the very ignorant. 'Ardent spirit seemed particularly desirable to the habitants of the cold and damp regions of northern Europe, where the people took to it with avidity and imbibed it without restraint when it became cheap and accessible. That happened in England, as related in the article on LIQUOR LAWS, in the early part of the 18th century; and out of the frightful results which followed there eventually arose the modern Temperance Movement. The legislature had been busy with the liquor traffic for more than two centuries previously, but its task had been the repression of disorder; the thing was a nuisance and had to be checked in the interests of public order. It is significant that though drunkenness had been prevalent from the earliest times, the disorder which forced legislative control did not make its appearance until after the introduction of spirits; but they were not cheap enough to be generally accessible until the home manufacture of gin was encouraged towards the end of the 17th century, and consequently their use did not cause visible demoralization on a large scale until then. When, however, the spirit bars in London put up signboards, as related by Smollett, inviting people to be " drunk for one penny " and " dead drunk for 2d.," with " straw for nothing " on which to sleep off the effects, the full significance of unlimited indulgence in spirits became visible. Speaking in the House of Lords in 1743 Lord Lonsdale said: " In every part of this great metropolis whoever shall pass along the streets will find wretchedness stretched upon the pavement, insensible and motionless, and only removed by the charity of passengers from the danger of being crushed by carriages or trampled by horses or strangled with filth in the common sewers. These liquors not only infatuate the mind but poison the body; they not only fill our streets with madness and our prisons with criminals, but our hospitals with cripples. . . . Those women who riot in this poisonous debauchery are quickly disabled from bearing children, or produce children diseased from their birth." The latter part of this quotation is particularly interesting because it proves the participation of women in public drunkenness at this period and shows that the physical ruin caused by excess and its national consequences were then for the first time recognized. It was the first step towards the inauguration of the Temperance Movement in the sense of a spontaneous and conscious effort on the part of the community as distinguished from the action of authority responsible for public decency. The need was only realized by degrees. Intemperance was one of many questions which we can now see were struggling into existence during the latter half of the 18th century, to become the subject matter of " social reform " in the loth. Like the majority of them it was a question of bodily welfare, of health. A breach had been made in the unthinking traditional belief in the' virtue of alcoholic liquor by the experiences referred to; and medical thought, as soon as it began to busy itself with health as distinguished from the treatment of disease, took the matter up. In 1804 Dr Trotter of Edinburgh published a book on the subject, which was an expansion of his academic thesis written in 1788; Dr Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, a distinguished American physician and politician, who had studied in Edinburgh and London, wrote a striking paper on the same subject in the same year; and very soon after this the organized Temperance Movement was set on foot in the United States, where the habit of spirit-drinking had been transplanted from the British Islands. Temperance Organization.—In 1808 a temperance society was founded at Saratoga in the state of New York, and in .1813. the Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance made its appearance. These seem to have been the earliest organizations, though the device of a pledge of abstinence had been introduced in 1800. The movement made rapid progress mainly under the influence ,of the Churches. In 1826 the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance was founded in Boston, and by 1833 there were 60oo local societies in several states with more than a million members. The campaign was for the most part directed against the use of spirits only, and the proposal to include all alcoholic drinks in the pledge of abstinence, though adopted by a few societie6 was rejected in 1833 by the American Society, but accepted in 1836 and retained ever since. In Europe the earliest organizations were formed in Ireland. A temperance club is said to have been started at Skibbereen in 1818, and others followed; but it was in 1829 that the organized movement began to make effectual progress with the formation of the Ulster Temperance Society. By the end of that year there were twenty-five societies in Ireland and two or three in Scotland. In 1830 the movement spread to York-shire and Lancashire, and supported a newspaper called the Temperance Societies' Record, according to which there were then 127 societies with 23,000 paying members and 60,000 associated abstainers. In 1831 the British and Foreign Temperance Society was founded in London with the Bishop of London (Blomfield) for president and Archbishop Sumner for one of the vice-presidents. This important society, of which Queen Victoria became patron on her accession in 1837, came to an end in 1850, when the whole cause was under an eclipse. At the time it was formed temperance meant abstinence from spirits, as at first in the United States; but very soon afterwards the more drastic form of total abstinence began to be urged in the north of England and acquired the name of teetotalism from " tee-total," a local intensive for " total." It led to strife in the societies and damaged the cause, which suffered in public estimation from the intemperance of some of its advocates. The early promise of the movement was not fulfilled; it ceased to grow after a few years and then declined, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States. The most remarkable episode in the temperance campaign at this period was the mission of the Rev. Theobald Mathew of Cork, commonly known as Father Mathew, the greatest of all temperance missionaries. He travelled through Ireland in the years 1838–42 and everywhere excited intense enthusiasm. People flocked to hear him and took the pledge in crowds. In 1841 the number of abstainers in Ireland was estimated to be 4,647,000, which is more than the entire population to-day. In three years the consumption of spirits fell from ro,815,000 to 5,290,000 gallons. This was not all due to Father Mathew, because great depression and distress prevailed at the same time, but he unquestionably exercised an extraordinary influence. In 1843 he went to England, where he had less, though still great, success, and in 185o to America. He died in 1856, by which time the cause had fallen into a depressed state in both countries. In the United States a flash of enthusiasm of a similar character, but on a smaller scale, known as the Washingtonian movement, had appeared about the same time. It was started in Baltimore by a knot of reformed drunkards in 1840 and was carried on by means of public meetings; many societies were formed and some half-million persons took the pledge, including many reformed drunkards. But the public grew weary of the agitation and enthusiasm died down. The decline of moral suasion and of the societies was followed by a tendency to have recourse to compulsion and to secure by legislation that abstinence from alcoholic drinks which the public would not voluntarily adopt or would not maintain when adopted. In 1845 a law prohibiting the public sale of liquor was passed in New York State but repealed in 1847; in 1851 state prohibition was adopted in Maine (see LIQUOR LAWS). The same tendency was manifested in England by the formation in 1853 of the United Kingdom Alliance " to procure the total and immediate legislative suppression of the traffic in intoxicating liquors as beverages." Since that time the organized movement has embraced both elements, the voluntary and the compulsory, and has combined the inculcation of individual abstinence with the promotion of legislation for the reduction or suppression of the traffic. On the whole the latter has predominated, particularly in the United States, where -organized 'agitation has for more than half a century made temperance a political question and has produced the various experiments in legislation of which an account is given in the article on LIQUOR Laws. In 1869 a National Prohibition Party was formed. In Great Britain the political element has been less predominant but sufficiently pronounced to form a distinguishing feature between the early and more enthusiastic stage of temperance agitation, which after lasting some twenty years suffered a reaction, and the later one, which began between 186o and 187o and made way more gradually. In addition to combining the moral and the political elements the modern movement is characterized by the following features : (1) international organization, (2) organized co-operation of women. (3) juvenile temperance, (4) teaching of temperance in schools and elsewhere, (5) scientific study of alcohol and inebriety. (t) International organization appears to have been started by the Order of Good Templars, a society of abstainers formed in 1851 at Utica in New York State. It spread over the United States and Canada, and in 1868 was introduced into Great Britain. Some years later it was extended to Scandinavia, where it is very strong. Temperance societies had previously existed in Norway from 1836 and in Sweden from 1837; these seem to be the earliest examples on the continent of Europe. The Good Templar organization has spread to several other European countries, to Australasia, India, South and West Africa and South America. There are several other international societies, and international congresses have been held, the first in 1885 at Antwerp. A World's Prohibition Conference was held in London in 1909. It was attended by about 300 delegates from temperance societies in nearly all parts of the world, and resulted in the foundation of an International Prohibition Federation, which embraces every country in Europe with three or four minor exceptions, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, the British self-governing Dominions, India, China, Japan, Palestine, Tunisia and Hawaii. The formation of this body indicates the growth of the most uncompromising form of antagonism to the liquor traffic. Its object is the total abolition of the legalized traffic throughout the world. (2) The organization of women, which has also become inter-national, dates from 1874, when the National Women's Christian Temperance Union was founded at Cleveland in the United States. In 1907 it had branches in every state in the Union and in about to,000 towns and villages with an aggregate membership of 350,000, It employs all means, educational and social as well as political, but it has exercised great influence in promoting that drastic legislation which characterizes the United States. It has also taken up many other questions relating to women, in addition to temperance, and has adopted the badge of a white ribbon. About the year 1883 Miss Frances Willard, who had been the moving spirit of the Union, carried the organization of women into other lands and formed the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which now possesses branches in some fifty countries with a total membership of half a million. It has held several conventions in America and Europe and circulated a polyglot petition, said to be the largest on record, which has been presented to a large number of sovereigns and other heads of states. There are several other female organizations in the United Kingdom. (3) The inclusion of children in temperance organization goes back to 1847, when a society was formed at Leeds, in Yorkshire, of juvenile abstainers who had taken the pledge; it took the name of Band of Hope. The practice spread, and in 1851 a Band of Hope Union was formed. There are now a number of such unions, for the United Kingdom, Scotland, Ireland and separate counties in England; the Bands of Hope are said to number 15,000 in all. There are also several other juvenile organizations, some of which are branches of the adult societies. By far the largest is the juvenile section of the Church of England Temperance Society, which has 485,888 members (1910). Children's societies in the United States are usually called the Loyal Temperance Legion, but there are some Bands of Hope also. On the continent of Europe juvenile organizations exist in several countries and notably in Sweden and Belgium (societes scolaires). (4) The teaching of temperance in schools, which has become a great feature of the moral propaganda, was begun by private effort In 1852, when the late Mr John Hope inaugurated a regular weeklyvisitation of day-schools in Edinburgh. In 1875. at the invitation of the National Temperance League, the late Sir Benjamin Richard-son wrote his Temperance Lesson Book, which was adopted by many schools as a primer. In 1889 school-teaching by travelling lecturers was taken up by the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union, and the example was followed by many other societies. The Band of Hope Unions in England alone have spent over 3000 a year for the last twenty years in itinerant lectures; object-lessons on the nature and effects of alcoholic drinks are given to children in the higher standards. The Church of England Temperance Society carries on similar work in diocesan schools, and examines the children in the subject of temperance; in 1909 it had in use 6000 lantern slides for lectures, and set 7598 examination papers. The voluntary temperance teaching having grown continuously and become very extensive, has led to action by central education authorities. In 1906 the Board of Education in Ireland made " Hygiene and Temperance " a compulsory subject in the public schools. In 1909 the Board of Education for England issued a syllabus of temperance teaching, the adoption of which in elementary schools is optional. In Scotland also courses of teaching in hygiene and temperance are permissive and have been adopted by many local educational authorities. In the United States compulsory teaching is of much longer standing and more advanced. The question was first taken up by the Women's Christian Temperance Union (see above) in 1879; it was believed that by teaching the physiological effects of alcohol to all children the problem of in-temperance would be effectually " solved," and a systematic political campaign was planned and carried out for the purpose of obtaining compulsory legislation to give effect to this idea. The campaign was successful in New York in 1884, in Pennsylvania in 1885 and subsequently in other states. Laws have now been passed in every state and territory, making anti-alcohol teaching part of the curriculum in the public schools, and tobacco is usually included. The manner of teaching has given rise to much controversy and opposition. Temperance is taught in connexion with physiology and hygiene, but the promoters of the movement insisted that prominence should be given to it and that the text-books should be adapted accordingly. Consequently a class of text-books came into use which were offensive to men of science and well-educated teachers because they contained false statements and absolute nonsense. The effect of forcing teachers to teach what they knew to be untrue was very unfortunate, and in some states the laws have undergone revision. With regard to other countries the practice varies greatly. School-teaching is compulsory in Canada, except in Quebec and Prince Edward Island, where it is permissive; in France since 1902; in Sweden since 1892, and in Iceland. It is recognized by authority but optional in Australia, South Africa, some provinces of India, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland. The movement in favour of school-teaching is continuously and generally advancing. (5) The scientific study of the physiology and pathology of alcohol is a very large subject in itself. As has been shown above, the pioneers of the temperance movement were medical men; and though the Churches soon became the chief moving force, doctors have always exercised an influence, and in more recent times since people learnt to bow down to the name of Science there has been a marked tendency to have recourse to scientific authority for arguments and support, of which the teaching of temperance as a branch of physiology or hygiene is an illustration. At the same time the increasing interest taken in all questions relating to health has directed the attention of scientific investigators to this subject, while advancing knowledge of physiology, pathology and chemistry in general and improved means of investigation have enabled them to pursue it in various directions. Consequently a large amount of research has been devoted to alcohol and its effects both by experimentation on animals and plants and by observation of the morbid conditions set up in human beings by excessive and long-continued indulgence in alcoholic drinks. Another field of inquiry which has been actively worked is the statistical study of drink in relation to nationality, occupation, disease, insanity, mortality, longevity, crime, pauperism and other aspects of social life. In London there is a society, consisting chiefly of medical men, for the scientific study of inebriety; it holds periodical meetings at which papers are read and discussed. But the subject is being worked at in every country, and a vast mass of information has been accumulated. An attempt will be made later on to summarize the more important results of this activity. There is no doubt that it has exercised a strong influence on public opinion and on the whole in the direction of temperance. A great change of attitude has taken place and is still going on. The ill-effects of excessive drinking, especially of distilled spirits, have long been recognized, but the tendency now is to question whether any alcohol-containing drinks are of any value at all and to deny any valid distinction between distilled and fermented liquors. Medical abstinence societies have been formed in England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Present Slate of the Movement.—No comprehensive data are available for estimating the numerical strength of the temperance organizations or the number of abstainers at the present time; but the Alliance Year Book contains a directory of societies, which at least give some idea of the wide distribution of the movement. The following summary figures are extracted from the list; they relate to distinct organizations, exclusive of branches and sub-sections, having for their object the promotion of individual abstinence or of legislation : The United Kingdom, 62 ; Australasia, I I ; Canada, 2; South Africa, 3; India, 2; United States, io; Austria-Hungary, 8 ; Belgium, 2 ; Denmark, 5 ; France, 4 ; Germany, i2 ; Holland, 6 ; Sweden, 6; Switzerland, ii. The figures are no doubt very imperfect and must not be taken in any way to represent the relative strength of temperance organizations in the several countries. The list for the United Kingdom is much more complete than for the other countries. The Alliance Year Book indeed gives the names of 130 organizations in the United Kingdom connected in some way with temperance work; but these include local branches, juvenile sections, insurance companies, orphanages and so on. An attempt has been made to pick out the temperance societies as ordinarily understood; but some of those included are merely committees for promoting particular pieces of legislation, and on the other hand bodies like the Salvation Army and the Church Army, which do a great deal of temperance work but are not primarily and principally engaged in it, have been omitted. Altogether the subject is full of confusion and not susceptible of exact statement. The number of societies is no guide to the number of individuals, for many persons belong to several organizations. There can be little doubt that the organized movement is numerically strongest in the United States and next strongest in the United Kingdom, but no reliable estimates can be made. Some of the British societies call for particular notice. The two principal ones are the Church of England Temperance Society and the United Kingdom Alliance. The latter, founded in 1853, is the chief fighting political organization, having total prohibition of the liquor traffic for its object; its income is about £12,000 a year. The Church of England Temperance Society is much the largest of the British societies. It was founded in 1862 and re-constituted in 1873 on a dual basis of total abstinence and general
End of Article: TEMPERANCE
[back]
TEMPERA (the Italian term), or DISTEMPER
[next]
TEMPERATURE IN PLATINUM DEGREES

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.