The temperance movement was born largely as a result of the Second Great Awakening. A significant element in the Second Awakening was the "Social Gospel," the belief that being a good Christian involved a certain degree of responsibility to one's fellow man and woman. The Temperance movement was a substantial factor in the social gospel.
Prior to the Second Awakening, American consumption of whiskey averaged three gallons per person per year. It was largely because of problems caused by alcohol consumption (domestic difficulties, poverty, suicide) that a group of Boston ministers formed the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance in 1826. The society members gave speeches and held essay contests on the evils of alcohol. Interestingly, although drunkenness was always considered sinful, this was the first time that consumption of alcohol in any form was considered sinful. Members of the society were asked to sign cards whereby they pledged never to consume alcohol. They were told to add a "T" after their signature signifying "total abstinence." (Hence the term "T-Teetotaller.") In 1833 the American Temperance Union was formed which opposed the consumption of "demon whiskey." By reason of the society's efforts, consumption of alcohol in the U.S. was reduced substantially.