Members of Congress formed the Congressional Temperance Society in 1833 . Both past and present members were included. It also welcomed heads of departments and military officers.
The goal of the new Society was to promote temperance beliefs. It used logic, good example, and moral influence. At that time temperance meant moderation rather than abstinence.
The Congressional Temperance Society prohibited members from discussing any controversial matter within the group. That was a wise decision. Many temperance groups addressed other moral issues. This caused conflict and weakened their impact on alcohol.
In 1840, the Washingtonian movement swept the nation. It brought renewed zeal into the temperance movement. It also radicalized its goal. The movement now largely abandoned temperance or moderation. Its new goal was complete abstention from all alcohol.
A series of meetings in 1842 led to re-organization of the Society. It had a new name and a new goal. It was now the Congressional Total Abstinence Society. Its new goal was abstinence from all alcohol. In any amount. In any form: beer, wine or distilled spirits (liquor). By anyone. For any reason. Period.
The Society relied heavily on the drive of its different leaders. This varied over time. The Society had a series of ups and downs. But it tended over time to have longer and serious downs. The Society didn’t so much die. It withered away.
- Spunger, K. Cold water Congressmen: the Congressional Temperance Society before the Civil War. Hist, 27(4).
- Ward, H. Congressional Temperance Society. Cyclopaedia of Temperance and Prohibition. NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1891.