Select Men of Sober and Industrious Habits: <i>Alcohol Reform and Social Conflict during the Late Antebellum Period</i>

Bruce E. Stewart

in Moonshiners and Prohibitionists

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130002
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135670 | DOI:
Select Men of Sober and Industrious Habits: Alcohol Reform and Social Conflict during the Late Antebellum Period

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The temperance movement in western North Carolina began taking root in the 1830s when a growing number of highlanders felt that alcohol impeded the region's economic and moral potential. However, some urbanites viewed these reformists as fanatics who were infringing on their right to drink and distill liquor. This conflict over alcohol reform ultimately suggests that the potential fault line in antebellum white society was not between elite slaveholders and the yeoman but between the parochial “plain folk” and the burgeoning urban middle class. Temperance became a badge of respectability, one that helped delineate differences between middle-class town residents and rural mountain whites. Methodist and Baptist preachers also took up the fight against intemperance, professing that personal salvation can be achieved only by refusing “worldly temptations.” However, there were many congregations that disapproved of the movement because they felt it broke tradition and weakened local authority. In addition, local politicians felt that liquor manufacturing was an important cottage industry and rejected anti-distillation legislation. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century, when the region began to feel the full impact of industrialization and urbanization, before reformers could gain the support of rural communities on this issue.

Keywords: North Carolina; temperance movement; antebellum period; urban middle-class; statewide prohibition; drunkenness

Chapter.  10666 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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