chapter  3
18 Pages

Care for a Drink?

WithJames T. Bennett, Thomas J. DILorenzo

Even the early Puritans, who always get a bad rap, were not prohibitionists. Drunkenness was a sin in their eyes, but they condoned moderate drinking. Temperance did not become a potent force in American life until the first half of the nineteenth century, when "a revolution in social attitudes took place: drinking ceased to be respectable", in the words of historian Ian R. Tyrrell. But temperance advocates soon tired of moral suasion and began lobbying for laws restricting the sale and use of the demon rum. The voluntarist tools of the early temperance advocates—pledges, education, appeals to drunkards to consider the effects on their families—were no match for the long arm of the law. A moralistic crusade against drinking was followed by a series of increasingly repressive laws, culminating in blanket prohibition. The Civil War played a mischievous part in nationalizing the prohibition movement.