Prohibition Essays On Education
Temperance and Prohibition Era Propaganda: A Study in Rhetoric
by Leah Rae Berk
Beginnings: The Minister and the Physician Team Up
In 1805, Benjamin Rush, a physician from Philadelphia, wrote an essay titled "The Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon Man". Rush's writing reflected the changing attitudes towards distilled alcohol at the time, especially among the US medical community. Rush's article drew upon ideas from a century earlier; at the beginning of the eighteenth century, medical practitioners began taking a more scientific approach to medicine. Scientists and doctors like Rush felt that the American public needed to be made aware of the health hazards inherent in alcohol consumption. Rush's argument against the consumption of ardent spirits was not only scientific, but also moral. At the end of his essay, Rush described the moral evils that resulted from the use of distilled spirits such as fraud, theft, uncleanliness and murder (Runes 339). Not long after Rush began writing about alcohol's detrimental effects on moral and physical health, he began a correspondence with the Boston Minister Jeremy Belknap. The physician and the minister soon became collaborators, using a mixture of scientific and moral claims in their fight against the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
The teaming up of the minister and the physician is emblematic of a century of rhetoric surrounding alcohol use and abuse in America. For over a century, Americans argued for abstinence from alcohol using a combination of scientific and moral reasons. What made Rush and Belknap's writing compelling and persuasive for many Americans? Why did later propaganda continue to use Rush and Belknap's two-fold argument against alcohol consumption? In this paper I will address these questions by discussing the rhetorical methods used in Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda.
Anti-liquor Propaganda: A Study in Rhetoric
W. J. Rorabaugh, author of the 1979 book The Alcoholic Republic, wrote "Temperance reformers…flooded America with propaganda" (196). Rorabaugh cited the American Tract Society as one example: by 1851 the Society had distributed nearly five million temperance pamphlets (196). Pamphlets and propaganda were an essential aspect of the American antiliquor crusade, from the Temperance Movement through the Prohibition Era. Although these publications came in a variety of forms and styles, they all used two fundamental rhetorical techniques: logos and pathos. Logos is an appeal to logic; it includes scientific evidence, statistics, facts and other provable forms of information. Rush's use of scientific evidence in "The Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon Man" is an example of logos. A subcategory of logos is ethos or credibility. Not only should facts be provable, they must also come from a trustworthy and reliable source.
The second rhetorical technique employed by anti-liquor propaganda is pathos or appeals to emotion. The final part of Rush's essay dealing with morals and value judgments is based in pathos. Both logos and pathos played an important role in Temperance and Prohibition era propaganda, although ultimately, pathos proved to be the most widely used rhetorical method. Temperance and Prohibition era propaganda appealed to emotion through religious language, drawing upon the prevalent morals and values of the times. Both the Temperance Movement and Prohibition Era coincided with periods of intense religious fervor in the US. These religious revivals were steeped in Puritan moral codes which in turn served as the basis for the underlying ideology of antiliquor propaganda.
Temperance, Prohibition and the Puritans: A Brief HistoryReligious Revivals in the 1800s and Early 1900s
Widespread religious fervor was a central feature of the Temperance and Prohibition eras. In the early nineteenth century, a religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening took the nation by storm (284). As James Morone wrote in his recent book, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History, "With preachers announcing that the millennium lay at hand, men and women began to swear off hard spirits; the yearning for perfection drew them until they were pledging total abstinence" (284). Many of the original Temperance societies had religious affiliations, like the evangelical American Temperance Society which was founded in 1826. Ten years later, at the evangelical American Temperance Society's height, one out of every ten Americans was a member (Morone 284).
Roughly a century later, in the 1910s, there was conservative religious revival in the United States. The religious movements of the Prohibition Era promoted a back to basics approach with a clear, narrow definition of what it meant to be a faithful, observant Christian. Protestant fundamentalists warned of the approaching millennium and the Second Coming of Christ and criticized "the nation's slack morals, 'creampuff' religions" and "'godless social service nonsense'" (Morone 335). Fundamentalist preachers like Billy Sunday told Americans that "the path to heaven ran through a literal reading of the Bible" (335).
Prohibition provided political backing and legitimacy for the religious revivals of the early twentieth century. While critics scoffed at the fundamentalists' stance on the coming millennium and interpretations of the bible, calling them backwards and extreme, Christian fundamentalists held their ground regarding their anti-drinking crusade. According to Morone, "Prohibition offered them [fundamentalists] their one link to national authority, the one public commitment to resisting moral decay" (337).
The morals and values that the religious revivals of the Temperance and Prohibition Eras promoted were steeped in Puritan ideology. Who were the Puritans? What were their fundamental beliefs?Puritan ideology
Puritan ideology emerged as a response to the chaos of the English Reformation in the sixteenth century and seventeenth centuries. The original Puritans criticized the corruption in the Church of England and demanded a return to religious purity. Critics mocked these people, calling them "Puritans," and the name stuck.
The Puritans were among the original English settlers of North America; their first fleet arrived in Massachusetts in 1630. According to James Morone, "No aspect of the Puritan world is more often recalled than the notion of a mission, an errand in the wilderness sealed by a covenant with God" (35). The mission of the Early American Puritans hinged upon the concepts of individual and communal responsibility. Individuals controlled their final destinies: salvation for the righteous and eternal damnation for the sinners, however, the Puritan covenant held the entire community responsible for sinners in this life. God would punish all, saint and sinner alike, with disease, drought, famine and other misfortunes if a community did not reform its sinners. How could individuals and communities achieve success and salvation? According to the Puritans, the answer lay in education, discipline and hard work. Puritans defined the home as the primary place of instruction and saw parents as the most important moral models and instructors for children. Industriousness was a virtue with positive outcomes in this life and the afterlife. The Puritans' emphasis on the importance of hard work developed into what it commonly known as the "Protestant work ethic" (Morone 15). The Early American Puritan values of individual and communal salvation, hard work and the proper education of children are constant themes in Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda.
Types of Propaganda
I found five major categories of Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda: scientific pamphlets, religious pamphlets, posters, children's pamphlets and the fifth category, songs and poems. Using examples of these five forms of propaganda, I will discuss how Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda used logos and pathos and why these rhetorical techniques were effective.Scientific Pamphlets
Scientific pamphlets presented facts and logical arguments against drinking alcohol, while religious pamphlets drew directly upon Christian doctrine, often citing biblical reasons for temperance. Although the terms scientific and religious seem to translate directly in logos and pathos, both types of propaganda used a mixture of rational and emotional appeals to promote abstinence from alcohol.
The scientific pamphlets claimed proven, scientific evidence and practical advice as the basis for their arguments. Titles such as "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People" and "Answers to Favorite Wet Arguments," both from the early 1900s, reinforced the idea that these pamphlets contained factual, objective truth. Most pamphlets also established their ethos or credibility by citing the research and conclusions of experts, including doctors and scientists. The names of the associations distributing these pamphlets, such as the Scientific Temperance Federation of Boston, added to this air of scientific credibility.
Scientific pamphlets also found truth in numbers, using statistics to prove that alcohol was harmful to individuals and society. Pamphlets like "The Cost of Beer (1880s)" and "A Way to Make Money - And a Better Way (early 1900s)" discussed the personal and social expenses of drinking. First they appealed to logos, using statistical evidence. These pamphlets calculated the cost of alcohol, from the price per gallon to the cost of yearly consumption in cities like New York. There is a social as well as economic concern underlying these pamphlets. For example, "The Cost of Beer" addressed pathos by claiming that alcohol consumption leads to noise, broils, stupidity and drunkenness.
The underlying message of many of the scientific pamphlets was that an individual must know all the facts in order to make an informed decision. Yet, the information provided in these pamphlets pointed to only one viable option: temperance. To further the idea that abstinence was obviously the one true answer, a number of scientific temperance pamphlets had rhetorical questions as titles, such as these pamphlets from the early 1900s: "Do you want to be efficient?" "Do you want to be powerful?" and "Do you want a better rating?" Who could say no to these questions? These titles in the form of rhetorical questions likely piqued readers' interest, and, as in the case of "The Cost of Beer," these pamphlets intertwined logical, moral and emotional appeals.
The three pamphlets "Do you want to be efficient?" "Do you want to be powerful?" and "Do you want to a better rating?" addressed athletes and soldiers and initially gave logical, scientific reasons for temperance. The first reason was that alcohol is unhealthy. "Do you want to be efficient?" quoted a noted European psychiatrist who said that "Alcohol in all forms and doses is a poison." Reasons regarding the health problems resulting from alcohol drew upon a variety of scientific fields including psychology, human biology, neuroscience and medicine. These reasons led to the same conclusion: alcohol interferes with mental and physical processes, hurting the body and putting the drinker at a disadvantage. For example, one of the section headings of "Do you want a better rating?" read "Mere Physical Fitness Is Not All" and included the following quotations:
Physical fitness is a farce without self-control, judgment, and discretion, which are the three qualities of mind first to be dulled by and made incompetent by the use of alcohol. - Dr. Haven Emerson
One of the effects of alcohol is to interfere with the coordination of nerve and muscle. It has been repeatedly found that moderate amounts of alcohol interfere with skilled actions which depend on this co-ordination, such as rifle shooting and typing speed. - Dr. E. H. Derrick, M.D.
These quotations not only bring up the health reasons for temperance but also a second reason: abstainers are more industrious and productive. This is another form of logos which uses practical, rather than scientific, knowledge. While the scientific evidence was impressive because it drew upon information and resources that may otherwise have been inaccessible to many readers, these more practical arguments were compelling because they were familiar, appealing to a deeply-ingrained value, the Protestant work ethic.
Like "The Cost of Beer," these three pamphlets addressed pathos by discussing social as well as physical health, an argument which hearkened to the Puritan idea of social welfare. The pamphlet "Do you want to be powerful?" stated:
Experiment shows that drinking but one small bottle of beer or one glass of wine may impair a man's driving capacity… Practically all the hit-run fatal accidents are caused by drunken drivers, says Frank A. Goodwin, Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
This common sense reasoning seems to be an appeal to logic: drinking interferes with one's ability to drive. Individual safety, however, was not the primary concern. The underlying message of this quotation was to alert drivers that their drinking could have harmful effects on others. The example the quotation uses, hit-run accidents, is an appeal to pathos, because it conjures up the image of an innocent victim who is left injured while the driver speeds away. The implication is that people who drink and drive are irresponsible and hurt others, clearly disregarding the Puritan value of concern and consideration for members of one's community.Religious Pamphlets
Religious pamphlets used Christine Doctrine, especially references to the Bible, as the foundation for their argument against alcohol consumption. Pamphlets like "The Holy Bible and Drink" and "Christian Temperance Catechism" (both from the early 1900s) quoted passages from the bible that warned against the evils of drinking. Directly quoting the bible was taken from the Puritan tradition where "emphasis is nearly always on the Bible, which they [the Puritans] saw in sharp contrast to tradition and to merely human ideas and usages" (Emerson 46). "The Holy Bible and Drink" presented twenty frequently asked questions about alcohol consumption from "What about 'one will not hurt you'?" to "What about drunkards being saved?" (2) and a list of pro-temperance answers in the form of quotations from the bible. "Christian Temperance Catechism" took a more step by step approach, using a series of questions and answers which drew on Christian Doctrine and sometimes included quotations from the scriptures. It began with the simplest and most innocuous seeming question and answer: "What is temperance? The proper control of appetite" (1). The questions and answers become more specific and emotionally charged throughout the pamphlet, ending with question and answers like "How can we work successfully against intemperance? By learning and by showing others how the use of intoxicants ruins soul and body" (8). Although these pamphlets followed a logos structure with logical arguments citing evidence from an established source, i.e. the bible, their underlying messages appealed to pathos. For example, "Christian Temperance Catechism" mentioned alcohol as a major source of suffering in society, both spiritual and physical. According to this pamphlet, American society suffered more from intemperance than all other forms of sin and claimed alcohol was a poison and "the cause of three fourths of all of the disease and proverty [sic] and sorrow and crime in our land" (2).
Not all Religious pamphlets utilized a logos format to fight temperance. The early twentieth century pamphlet "Don't Unwittingly Join The Enemy's Forces" is a clear appeal to pathos. Taken from an address given by Bishop Nicholson of the Methodist Episcopal Church, this pamphlet draws upon the Puritan tradition of preaching. The Puritans placed great emphasis on preaching and most "insisted that 'human authorities' have no place in sermons" (Emerson 45). Religious leaders supporting the Temperance movement, like Bishop Nicholson, saw the fight against intemperance as a crusade, literally a holy war. The authority justifying and supporting this fight was not mere human beings, but God.
In his address Bishop Nicholson appealed to deeply held American values and Puritan morals, describing intemperance as a threat to democracy and morality. Nicholson, like many Temperance leaders, described the struggle against liquor as a second American revolution; first Americans freed themselves from the British, now they must free themselves from alcohol. This argument drew upon the American value of liberty and Puritan morals concerning individual and communal responsibility and salvation.
As in a crusade, there was a clearly defined enemy in Nicholson's address. Nicholson not only criticized his opposition, the "wets" or anti-Temperance supporters, he vilified them. Nicholson inspired pathos by describing those who protested temperance as hateful, unprincipled and criminal men with unworthy motives. His argument was passionate and urgent. Not only was the fight against intemperance "the greatest struggle since the Civil War for the effectuation of Democracy" (2), it was a "life and death struggle with the greatest single evil of the ages…the most unprincipled, the most unscrupulous, and the most Satanic forces possible to conceive" (5).
Following in the tradition of Puritan preaching, Nicholson explained that the fight against intemperance was not merely a human endeavor, but God's mission: "God expects every man and every woman to do his or her duty…" (5) He conflated divine and earthly aspirations, saying that people can take part in God's mission by voting against pro-liquor legislation. Nicholson then took his appeal to pathos a step further, claiming that those who do not actively fight intemperance were supporting the enemy, (hence the title of the pamphlet "Don't Unwittingly Join the Enemy's Forces") and therefore neglecting their responsibilities as American Patriots and Christians. He criticized voter apathy, describing those who do not vote as "criminal and unpatriotic" (5), because by not voting these people were effectively giving their vote to the enemy.
Although some religious pamphlets did contain appeals to logos in their structure or actual arguments, the overarching rhetorical technique in this form of propaganda was pathos. Religious pamphlets evoked emotional responses by appealing to people's deeply held religious values and patriotic sentiments.Posters
(All posters mentioned in this section are from 1913)
In many ways, Temperance and Prohibition Era posters offered a condensed version of the scientific and religious pamphlets, presenting their most striking and compelling arguments through images and sound bytes. Many of the posters took the Benjamin Rush approach, showing scientific and logical evidence to prove that alcohol consumption was detrimental to both body and soul.
Many posters referred to scientific studies and statistical information, citing medical and scientific experts for ethos. Like the titles of scientific pamphlets (ex. "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People"), the headings of the posters purported indisputable information. Poster headings like "Deaths, Defect, Dwarfings in the Young of Alcoholized Guinea Pigs," "Death Rate From Various Diseases in Drinkers and General Class" and "Insurance Records Show that Drink Shortens Life 11%" with their graphs and charts hardly seem debatable. Despite their scientific and factual claims, many of the underlying messages of these posters were steeped in Puritan morality and appeals to pathos.
Temperance Era posters hinted both at the importance of responsible parenting and the Protestant work ethic, both deeply held Puritan values. A number of posters described how children of alcoholic parents suffered developmentally, both physically and emotionally, citing statistics and scientific studies as proof. Some described how parents who drink have a higher rate of defective children: "Defective Children Increased with Alcoholization of Fathers," "Drinkers' Children Developed More Slowly," "Hand in Hand: Feeblemindedness and Alcoholism: More alcoholism found in parents of Feebleminded than those of Normal Children" and "Child Death Rate Higher in Drinkers' Families." Others depicted the psychological problems drinking caused children: "Drink the Largest Cause of Unhappy Homes in Chicago," "Children in Misery, Parent's Drink to Blame in at Least Three Cases Out of Every Four" and "Drink Burdens Childhood."
Temperance and Prohibition Era posters described alcohol as the source of society's individual and social problems. Alcohol was the cause of laziness, inability to concentrate and other impediments to the ideals of success and the Protestant work ethic as noted in the posters: "Drink Impaired Scholarship," "The Better Chances of the Sober Workman," "Alcohol Impairs Muscle Work" and "Daily Drinking Impaired Memory." Like the scientific pamphlets, these posters used charts, percentages, results from studies and quotations from scientific and medical experts.
Still other posters were more explicitly moralizing, like the following poster which drew upon the Puritan value of care for others:
DRINK MAKES ONE MORE LIABLE TO ACCIDENT
WHAT THE ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY SAYS:
"A man whose nerves have been made unsteady by a recent debauch or by the habitual use of alcohol, should not be permitted to operate dangerous machinery or to carry on dangerous work. He endangers not only his own life, but the lives of others."
The last line, "He endangers not only his own life, but the lives of others," is italicized, the implication being that individuals must care about the welfare of their fellow human beings.
A number of Temperance and Prohibition Era posters, like a number of the religious pamphlets, used a logos format to make a pathos appeal. These posters contained graphs and statistical information, presenting moral claims as factual information, such as "Alcoholism and Degeneracy," "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition" and "Drink A Great Cause of Immorality." The poster "Drink A Great Cause of Immorality" showed the results of a study of 865 Immoral Inebriate Women, claiming that 40% of their immorality was due solely to drink, including as evidence a statement by a medical expert: "There is no apparent reason why any of the persons…should have become immoral but for preceding alcoholism." "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition" presented a graph that tracked the drop in poverty as a result of increased temperance, therefore conflating intemperance and immoral behavior with greater social ills like poverty.
Posters are a powerful form of propaganda; their succinct and striking messages create a sense of urgency. In a poster, complex and extensive information must be condensed into a few words and images. Temperance and Prohibition Era posters did just this, using startling information and making emotional appeals to Americans' most deeply held morals and values.Children's pamphlets
A significant amount of Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda was targeted towards children. Since logical and scientific arguments may not have made sense to young children, the main rhetorical technique in children's pamphlets was pathos. This form of anti-liquor propaganda related children's emotional responses and experiences to moral issues.
The large quantity of temperance pamphlets targeted towards children was likely a result of Puritan ideology. According to the Puritans, children's moral education began at home; as the Puritan minister and saint Richard Greenham, wrote in his essay "Of the good education of children":
If parents would have their children blessed at church and school, let them beware they give their children no corrupt examples at home by any carelessness, profaneness or ungodliness. Otherwise, parents will do them more harm at home than both pastors and schoolmasters can do them good abroad. (Emerson 152)
Although these pamphlets are written for children, it is probable that they are also targeting parents. A central theme in many children's pamphlets is the role of parents in promoting temperance and how a child should react if his/her parent is intemperate.
Children's pamphlets generally began with an illustration and a story about a child or an animal whose experiences served as a subtle or direct warning against intemperance. The next section would usually contain a poem, dialogue or mini-story which reinforced the ideas presented in the first story. Many of these pamphlets also ended with advice, telling children to abstain from alcohol and to join the temperance crusade. Two examples of children's pamphlets are "Grandmother's boy (1880s)" and "Look out for the trap! (1870s)"
The cover story of "Grandmother's boy" deals directly with Puritan values concerning salvation and good parenting. In the pamphlet's opening story, a little boy who has been raised by his pro-temperance grandmother pays his father a visit. The father is a wealthy, educated man who is enjoying a bottle of wine with his friends. The son, who has taken the temperance pledge, embarrasses his father, asking him why he is drinking alcohol, and then says: " 'If I'd known you drinked such stuff, I shouldn't wanted to come and see you. It makes folks drunkards, and makes them so wicked they can't go to heaven (3-4).'" The child's reaction to his father's drinking appeals to pathos, especially fear, in two ways. First, it plays upon parents' fear that their children will lose respect for them and not want to spend time with them. Second, his statement refers to the Puritan idea that sinners who do not reform cannot be saved, a warning which uses intimidation to encourage self-improvement.
The following section in the pamphlet "Grandmother's boy" is a poem titled "Johnny's Soliloquy," which expresses the messages of the first story even more explicitly. The poem encourages children to serve as models to their parents, as in the phrase, "The boy is father to the man (3)" which is repeated throughout the poem. By taking the temperance pledge of total abstinence from alcohol and encouraging their parents to do so, children modeled the Puritan ideal of saving oneself and others.
The last two paragraphs of the "Grandmother's Boy" titled "Stand Firm!" make a stirring call to arms. Describing temperance as the "way of truth and right (4)," this section of the pamphlet reads like an excerpt from a passionate sermon. It draws upon the crusade concept, telling the reader that "God will help us" and that the struggle against temptation is a fight children can and must win.
The children's pamphlet "Look out for the trap!" also warns against the dangers of temptation. This pamphlet begins with a picture and story of two squirrels. As in an Aesop's fable, the two squirrels come into trouble as a result of their own foolishness - both fell prey to temptation - and there is a moral at the end of the story: "Children, avoid temptation. Always be sure there is no trap beyond" (2). In this story the trap beyond is set by Charlie Wood, who tempts the squirrels into his home with good food. Once Charlie slams the door shut, the squirrels realize that "they were no longer their own masters" (2). Charlie's imprisonment of the squirrels is analogous to, as temperance supporters would have put it, a drunkard's enslavement to drink.
The story of the two squirrels ends with an anecdote. The narrator switches from third person omniscient to a more conversational, first person, telling the reader he saw a young boy give in to temptation. Worst of all, the one who tempted him was his mother. This final appeal to pathos is meant to shock both children and parents and to show children that even though their parents may have the best intentions, those intentions may be wrong and harmful.
The second part of "Look out for the trap!" is a short story titled "Why Joseph Signed the Pledge." The story draws upon a common theme in Temperance propaganda: a child living in poverty whose father is a drunkard and therefore cannot provide for his family. The story evokes a great deal of pity for Joseph, the protagonist, who is taunted by a wealthier classmate. "Oh! You needn't feel so big…" says the classmate, "your folks are poor and your father is a drunkard" (3).
The story describes the Puritan ideal of redemption through self-improvement and helping others. Joseph's mother reminds him to depend upon his own energies, trust in God and remember that he is responsible only for his own faults (4). Joseph remembers his mother's advice and, through his hard work and determination achieves the epitome of the Protestant work ethic, becoming "a useful and respected man." He follows the Puritan value of individual and communal improvement by helping his father become "a sober man and 'respected by other folks'" (4). The boy who taunted Joseph in school, however, lives to see his wealthy father become poor and a drunkard.
Joseph's story concludes with a piece of advice: "Boys, never twit another for what he can not help" (4). The moral of the story is a direct reference to the gold rule (i.e. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and appeals to human compassion, kindness and respect.
"Grandmother's boy," "Look out for the trap" and many other children's pamphlets present a dilemma whose solution is temperance. The dilemma is an extreme situation, often of pain, suffering or another intense emotion which must be immediately and directly addressed. Abstinence from alcohol is always the happy ending - as soon as the characters in the story swear off spirits they become successful, happy and achieve salvation.Songs and Poems
In Hellfire Nation, James Morone discusses one of America's earliest anthems, the jeremiad. Dating back to the seventeenth century, the jeremiad was "a lament that the people have fallen into sinful ways and face ruin unless they swiftly reform" (14). The jeremiad described specific crimes which had invoked God's wrath, scolding Americans for their moral degeneracy, and reminding people of "their mission with an immodest goal: redeem the world" (Morone 42, 45).
The poems and songs of the Temperance and Prohibition Eras were direct descendants of the jeremiad. Like the jeremiad, these poems and songs defined a specific problem, intemperance, its ruinous effects on both individual and society, and the need for personal and communal responsibility and reform. Three central themes in Temperance era songs and poetry were the drunkard's story, the crusade and temperance as a form of liberty.
Although their themes were similar to other Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda, songs and poems had a distinct style and structure. Unlike scientific and religious pamphlets, posters, and children's pamphlets, which used text and images, songs and poems formed part of an oral tradition. While a reader can always re-read a complex argument or refer to a new fact or statistic in a text, a listener cannot re-hear a song or poem. As a result, the songs and poems are more repetitive and direct, drawing upon common themes and widely accepted ideas rather than introducing new information. Like children's pamphlets, Temperance and Prohibition Era songs and poems use pathos more or less exclusively.
Many songs and poems speak specifically to the plight of drunkards, both as an example of the dangers of intemperance and to encourage people to join the temperance crusade. Religious references are especially prevalent: alcohol is described as an evil temptation and the devil's agent. Drunkards are those who have fallen from grace; they have lost control of their lives and sunk to ruin and damnation. According to these poems and songs, alcohol is to blame for most of society's ills. Once complete abstinence is achieved, prisons will empty, crime will cease, humanity will be saved and the kingdom of heaven will reign on earth.
The poems "The Curse of Rum (1800s)" and "The Face Upon the Floor (early 1900s)" and the song "The Drunkard's Fall (early 1900s)" depict the dangers of drinking and the plight of the drunkard. "The Curse of Rum" draws upon common religious themes in order to demonize alcohol. The poem describes rum as the serpent from the Garden of Eden, a "soul destroyer" (1) that has destroyed the paradise of the home by bringing disease and sin into society.
The underlying message in these songs and poems is not to take the first drink, because once people begin, they lose control and cannot stop. According to "The Face Upon the Floor" and "The Drunkard's Fall," even the most successful and promising individuals can fall prey to alcohol's evils once they take their first drink. "The Face Upon the Floor" depicts a penniless, filthy, wretched drunkard who wanders into a bar and tells a group of young men his story, from wealth, good looks and a loving wife to how drinking led him to current state, and then falls to the floor dead. "The Drunkard's Fall," whose subtitle reads "a warning for all college men wherein is declared how a Yale man was fired yesterday for over-cutting" describes how even the best and the brightest fall to ruin once they take to drinking. As the refrain states: "He was a Yale man, but he done all wrong." The young man becomes apathetic, lazy and eventually goes insane from drinking. Neither he nor the drunkard in "The Face Upon The Floor" can achieve the goals of the Protestant work ethic or reach spiritual salvation. Their alcohol abuse has taken away their capabilities for productivity and success, both on earth and in the world to come.
Songs and poetry make more direct appeals to pathos than other types of temperance propaganda because of their oversimplification and use of hyperbole. Oftentimes the title of a song or poem is enough to evoke a strong emotional response, as in the case of the song title "Father's a Drunkard and Mother is Dead (1866)." Song and poem titles may give a clear warning or command, like the songs "Girls, Wait For A Temperance Man (1867)" and "Help The Fallen Brother (mid to late 1800s)." The first song is a reference to the Puritan ideal of good parenting and addresses both children's' and parents' fears that children will not be taken care of and even abandoned. "Help The Fallen Brother" is a clear appeal to compassion and the Puritan idea that everyone must be reformed in order for a community to achieve success and salvation.
The solution to these individual and social ills, as mentioned in other types of Temperance Propaganda, was the crusade. The first verse and chorus of the "Anti-Saloon Battle Hymn (1907)" for example, provides a rousing call to arms:
The might are gathering for conflict; / The right is arrayed against wrong; /
The hosts of the righteous are singing, / And this is the voice of their song: —
Cho. — The Saloon, it must go! Do you hear us?/ Repeat it again and again.
They strive to make millions of money;/ We strive to save hundreds of men!
As in Bishop Nicholson's address, the enemy, in this case the saloon, is clearly defined and its motives are proclaimed immoral and unjust. The battle hymn describes the saloon as an "awful, unspeakable monster" and asks God to free the people of the United states from its shackles.
Metaphors of slavery and liberation and their relationship to the temperance crusade are a significant aspect of Temperance era songs and poetry. The song "Emancipation (1914)" speaks of America as a nation with "True liberty so grand,/ that makes men free" and alcohol as a monster that enslaves Americans. The song conflates the crusade's mission with Puritan ideals of personal and communal salvation, ending with the stanza:
This is the hope of all / To see the traffic fall, / And not one slave.
Then wave from sea to sea, / By union temperance plea, / Old Glory's jubilee, /
Our nation free!
Even the most convincing anti-temperance supporter would have been hard pressed to refute the stanza above. It makes a powerful appeal to pathos, addressing many Americans' pride in their freedom and faith. How could anyone question such fundamental beliefs? And, if anyone did, who would listen?
Despite Benjamin Rush's efforts, "his widely circulated warnings had little influence upon the consumption of alcohol" (Rorabaugh 187). In fact, alcohol consumption actually rose during Rush's anti-liquor crusade and did not begin to decrease until the early 1830s (Rorabaugh 187). W.J. Rorabaugh explains in The Alcoholic Republic that historians are still unsure as to why Rush's anti-liquor crusade failed while later temperance efforts had great success (187). I propose that the answer lies in the rhetoric.
Benjamin Rush took a logos approach to promoting temperance, noting the harmful physiological effects of alcohol. He did not appeal to pathos until the end of "The Effect of Ardent Spirits Upon Man," when he described the moral depravity and social ills caused by alcohol consumption. Rush's use of pathos may have been too little too late. The weakness of using a logical argument is that it can be refuted, either with other logical explanations, new information or emotional appeals. It is harder to question people's emotions and deeply held morals and values. To do so would not only be considered offensive, it would also be futile. As I wrote earlier, how could anyone question such fundamental beliefs? And, if anyone did, who would listen?
Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda were founded on pathos. Although a number of pamphlets drew upon both logos and pathos, many forms of propaganda, including children's pamphlets, songs and poems, used only emotional appeals. Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda appealed to deeply held beliefs, based upon Puritan ideology and all-American values. While Rush's more scientific arguments could be disputed or ignored, most Americans would not question the importance of God, hard work, personal and communal salvation and freedom.
- "Alcohol Impairs Muscle Work." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Alcoholism and Degeneracy." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Aristotle. The Rhetoric and The Poetics. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts and Ingram Bywater. New York: The Modern Library, 1954.
- "The Better Chances of the Sober Workman." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Bishop Nicholson. "Don't Unwittingly Join the Enemy's Forces." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Cherrington, Ernest H. "Answers to Favorite Wet Arguments." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection. 11 Nov. 2004.
- "Child Death Rate Higher in Drinkers' Families." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Children in Misery, Parents' Drink to Blame in at Least Three Cases Out of Every Four." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Colman, Julia. "Christian Temperance Catechism." 19--? Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Cost of Beer." New York: Published for the Woman's National Christian Temperance Union by the National Temperance Society and Publication House, 188-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Curse of Rum." Providence, 18--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Daily Drinking Impaired Memory." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- D'Arcy, H.A. "The Face Upon The Floor." Montreal: Metropolitan Show Print, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Death Rate From Various Diseases in Drinkers and General Class." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Deaths, Defects, Dwarfings in the Young of Alcoholized Guinea Pigs." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Decide for Yourself." Columbus, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Defective Children Increased With Alcoholization of Fathers." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want a better rating?" Washington, D.C.: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want to be efficient?" Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want to be powerful?" Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "A Doleful New Ballad Called The Drunkard's Fall." New Haven: Bibliographical Press, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink Burdens Childhood." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink A Great Cause Of Immorality." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
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- "Drink the Largest Cause of Unhappy Homes in Chicago." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink Makes One More Liable to Accident." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
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- "Girls, Wait For a Temperance Man." New York: C.M. Tremaine, 1867. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Grandmother's Boy." New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 188-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Hand in Hand: Feeblemindedness, Alcoholism." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Holy Bible and Drink." Westerville, Ohio: Temperance Foundation Inc., 19--. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Hubbard, Evangelist. "Emancipation." Galesburg, Il., 1914. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Insurance Records Show That Drink Shortens Life 11%." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition." Boston, MA: Constitution Defense Committee, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Keith, Oscar. "Help the Fallen Brother." Worcester, MA: Worcester Reform Club, between 1850 and 1899. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Look out for the trap!" New York: The National Temperance Society and Publication House, 187-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Morone, James A. Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
- Parkhurst, E. A. "Father's a Drunkard and Mother is Dead." Washington, D.C.: John F. Ellis, 1866. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Rorabaugh, W. J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
- Runes, Dagobert D. The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.
- Tannenbaum, Barbara. TA 22: Persuasive Communication. Brown University, Fall 2004.
- "The Titanic Carried Down 1503 People." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "A Way to Make Money and a Better Way." Westerville, Ohio: American Anti-Saloon League Press Bureau, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
Written in partial fulfillment of requirements for UC 116: Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the American Consciousness (Professor David Lewis — Fall 2004)
22 Winning Topics For An Argument Essay On Prohibition
The prohibition in the United States was repealed after just thirteen years. In that time, however, a number of topics were developed worth exploring in an argument essay. Here are 22 worth consideration:
- Do you think the prohibition amendment was ratified in response to women activists who were seeking equal voting rights?
- How did the estimate and apparent rise of alcohol consumption across the nation in the 1850s encourage the debate about prohibition?
- How did prohibition lead to the rise of organized crime in major cities across the United States and could it have been prevented?
- Do you think the United States should reintroduce prohibition or tax alcohol with a higher rate as a means to lower the amount being consumed?
- Do you believe a prohibition law similar to the law passed in the early 20th century work today in your state?
- Would prohibition or a similar law regulating the consumption of alcohol have a different effect in today’s society?
- What are the biggest similarities and differences between prohibition and the War on Drugs? Do you think the U.S. learned from the results of prohibition?
- What were the greatest social and economic effects of prohibition in the early 20th century? Did it influence the following decades in any way?
- Why do think the Federal Government decided to regulate the consumption of alcohol anyways rather than impose higher taxes?
- Did prohibition give rise to America’s bootleggers and moonshiners counter-culture in the United States?
- Do you think the very act of prohibiting alcohol distribution and consumption promoted curiosity in people?
- Was organized crime the biggest factor behind the bringing about the end to the prohibition era or were there other pressures?
- What were the immediate societal and economic effects of repealing prohibition in the early 20th century?
- How did F. Scott Fitzgerald deal with the issue of prohibition in his classic American novel “The Great Gatsby”.
- Did prohibition lead to rise to other types of crime? And if so why do you think congress didn’t consider the relationship before passing the amendment?
- Do you think the repeal of prohibition paved the way for the United States’ current societal push to legalize marijuana?
- Do you think that if there had been a greater emphasis on enforcement of prohibition then the amendment would have been a success?
- Do you think the amendment was repealed because of the rise of crimes or because of public pressures from normal citizens?
- Do you think that the thirteen years in which prohibition was in effect was a failure largely because of lack of enforcement?
- Do you think the lessons learned from prohibition posit support for legalization of all types of drugs in the U.S.?
- Do you think that prohibition was destined to fail right from the start and that it may have only been a political ploy to gain voting support?
- Which political group was the most responsible for the repeal of the prohibition amendment and did it lead to future success?
If you want to learn more about writing a great argument essay, check it out.