This I Believe

Ryan - 98024, Washington
Entered on January 25, 2008

The temperance movement was a worldwide idea, not just pertaining to the United States. It started in the United States based on the ideas of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who believed in moderation, rather than prohibition. In 1784 he argued that large consumption of alcohol was harmful to both physical and mental health. In 1789 200 Connecticut farmers formed a temperance association, and similar groups were formed in Virginia and New York. Eventually there were organizations in 8 states.

Eventually these groups expanded their views on Alcohol, and voiced their opinions on gambling, use of profanity on the Sabbath, and other moral issues of the time. The American temperance society was formed in 1826, it had over 1,500,000 members. Temperance is the movement that eventually led to Prohibition.

1. I believe the ideals of temperance (moderation rather than complete abstinence) is a very health practice and was a great basis for a social movement.

2. People should have full right to voice their opinion and associate themselves with others who share their opinion, however they should not have the right to force their opinion onto others

3. The combination of a large social movement with morals can be unpleasant however, and including a multitude of morals with one group is bad news. People who joined for one idea may not agree with another idea the whole group ‘supports’

4. Taking an idea too far (as we saw with this movement) always ends in something bad (such as prohibition)

^^^ About 5

This concept improved the United States, however the implication resulted in a concept I feel did not improve the United States. I believe that the idea of moderation from alcohol is the basis for a healthy lifestyle, while still providing the complete choice of the individual as to whether they’ll drink any at all or not. The basis of this concept was legit as well; the main idea came from a physician. However when the groups began to gain power, I feel it turned into a bad thing. They not only voiced their opinions on alcohol, but also on other moral issues such as gambling. As their power continued to grow, the idea came about that without alcohol, there would be no drunkenness. They then moved to start a movement to abstain completely from the consumption of alcohol, and I believe this is where it truly went south. Again, I don’t have a problem with people voicing their opinions, but when they expect others to follow their own train of thought, to the point of making it illegal if they don’t, that’s a bad thing.

Had the temperance movement stayed nothing more than a concept about alcohol, I feel it would have stayed a good movement, but because of their involvement with other moral views such as gambling, it became something bigger, more powerful, and less conclusive. As the power grew, so did their level of respect and authority. And as the saying goes, ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’, and I feel this saying holds true to this concept in American history.