The Temperance Movement, a social and political movement promoted by members of religious groups, advocated moderation in alcohol consumption. The evolution of the movement was fuelled by a growing concern over social problems including insanity and poverty believed to be caused by alcohol consumption. In the early 19th century contamination of drinking water caused epidemics of cholera, and due to the expense of tea and coffee many poor people and their children drank beer to quench their thirst.
The movement which was popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States later radicalized with the ultimate intention of the legal prohibition of alcohol and used political pressure to convince the government to enact laws to regulate alcohol.
All organizations that promoted temperance, abstinence and prohibition were commonly referred to as temperance groups.
Temperance pledge forms were included in Bibles during the Temperance Movement in Canada to encourage family generations to limit or abstain from consuming alcohol.
A statement made in Australia in 1914 by Sydney’s Lord Mayor Alderman Richards declared that ‘in many cases persons would prefer drinking at a fountain to slaking their thirst at a bar, and more fountains would at least be a small set-off to the dangerous temptations of the public-house.’
From the Irish Temperance League Journal, Feburary 1863:
The success of the drinking fountain movement has been very great. It is a happy state of things that people, as they wander through the streets of many of our larger cities, can quench their thirst at a fountain, instead of being compelled to invest their money in the nasty decoctions vended in the whisky shop! The drinking fountain has a claim upon the sympathies of the benevolent, and we hope to see them multiplied indefinitely…..By all means let us try and shut out from hundreds the temptation to visit the public-houses – hot-beds of idleness, poverty, vice and crime.
Billy Martin, often called the grandfather of the cause in Ireland, was known for his speeches which included the quote, ‘Drink of the fountain, bubbling free; ‘Twas good for Samson, and ‘tis good for thee.’
Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Springfield Washington Temperance Society in 1841 using a persuasive tone in opposition to the usual rebuking delivery of the Temperance advocates.
…And when the victory shall be complete – when there shall be neither a slave nor drunkard on the earth – how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place and the cradle of both those revolutions, that shall have ended in that victory. How nobly distinguished that People, who shall have planted, and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of the species.
Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The Scottish Saracen Foundry used an open bible displaying a verse from St. John’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 14, ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.’