Re: Parallels to transcendental generation

Michel J Martin (
Tue, 11 Jun 1996 09:25:28 -0400

Chuck has identified an important question for understanding the movement
to suppress illegal drugs and underaged drinking today.

Having researched the first wave of prohibitionist sentiment in the mid
nineteenth century, it is true that the most fervent prohibitionists were
sometimes former drunks. Temperance societies from the 1850s to the
1880s liked to have speakers at their weekly meetings tell of the horrors
of being addicted to alcohol. The evangelical style was supposed to
scare youth into fearing the dangers of alcohol. These societies, like
the Women's Christian Temperance Union by the 1870s, were highly
organized and well-funded and supported. Such societies, however, would
never have gained public favor before the 1830s. Only after 1830,
according to the available estimates on alcohol consumption, did drinking
decline significantly in the population at large. Before then, consuming
seven gallons of alcohol a year was normal (today's average consumption
level for adults is around two gallons a year). Once drinking became
associated with disreputable lifestyles, such as the rough urban poverty
of young Irishmen after the mid-1840s, and once the population reduced
drinking levels from seven gallons in 1830 to two gallons in 1850,
prohibitionists went ahead with their admonitions.

According to my initial research on the baby boomers, there is no
question that the increased rates of consumption of illegal drugs
followed their arrival to adolescence and adulthood. Now that many baby
boomers are parents, they seem to be having second thoughts about the
value of experimenting with illegal drugs.

Mike Martin
Temple U., History