Thursday, 13 November 2008

Calling the intemperate working classes

In 1837, the working classes of Deptford were invited to a meeting by one of the leading temperance organisations (and the first based in London). At this time, the British temperance movement was in its early days - Joseph Livesey had started it in Preston just five years before - but it spread quickly. Initially, its message was one of avoiding spirits (but still drinking beer). The dangers of gin had long been recognised: Hogarth's famous Gin Lane was published in 1751, contrasting the evil effects of the spirit with the healthful nature of beer. Soon, however, the temperance movement turned to advocacy of complete teetotalism, identifying all drink as a source of crime, poverty and ill-health. The movement would remain strong throughout the nineteenth century, with thousands 'taking the pledge'; by the end of the century, feminists were increasingly important in the movement, their concern centred upon the connection between drunkenness and domestic violence.

NEW BRITISH & FOREIGN SOCIETY
FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF
Intemperance

A MEETING
OF THE ABOVE SOCIETY, WILL BE HELD IN THE
FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE,
HIGH STREET, DEPTFORD,
On Thursday Feb. 2, 1837

Chair to be taken at half-past Six o’Clock, punctually.

The Working Classes are particularly requested to attend, as they will hear much in which they are deeply interested, and calculated to promote their Happiness and Prosperity

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