The Maine Law of 1851 (prohibition) was a national model, but what did it represent?

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gkopf | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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The Maine Law of 1851 outlawed the sale and consumption of alcohol.  This law was an effect of the temperance movement, which had begun long before and had gained a following throughout the years.  The temperance movement was driven by efforts from various religious organizations "to suppress the too free use of ardent spirits, and its kindred vices, profaneness and gambling, and to encourage and promote temperance and general morality."  In other words, it was believed that drinking and drunkenness would prevent American people and businesses from focusing on their work or conduct.  

In 1851 the Maine Law was passed and prohibition became a political platform:

"The Maine Law became a model for state campaigns throughout the country. During the early years of the 1850s temperance was one of the issues along with nativism, slavery, and the demise of the Whig Party that colored state political campaigns."

Many other states adopted their own version of the law throughout the decade, but they were quickly repealed or found unconstitutional.

The original Maine Law represented a shift from prohibition as a moral vice to a legal issue.  Instead of focusing on alcohol consumption as a moral hindrance, it treated it as a campaign issue.

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