A Mirror for the Intemperate, ca. 1830

by Henry Bowen

“A mirror for the intemperate” broadside, Boston, ca. 1830 (Gilder Lehrman CThe temperance crusade against liquor consumption was a central element of reform movements of the antebellum period. It drew support from middle-class Protestants, skilled artisans, clerks, shopkeepers, free blacks, and Mormons, as well as many conservative clergy and some Southerners who were otherwise hostile to reform. This broadside, “A Mirror for the Intemperate,” reflects the movement’s concerns that alcohol consumption led to economic waste, polluted youth, crime, poverty, and domestic violence.

“A Mirror for the Intemperate,” printed in Boston, ca. 1830, features illustrations, poems, and extracts exemplifying the dangers of alcohol. One illustration features a barroom scene where a brawl has broken out. Another shows a “moderate drinker” being overtaken by a many-headed “hydra monster” representing alcohol. Each of the monster’s heads represents a type of liquor—brandy, rum, whiskey, and gin—and a lady temperance takes on the monster, killing it one head at a time.

The broadside also features an “Extract from the dying Declaration of Nicholas Fernandez, who, with nine others, were executed in front of Cadiz Harbor in December, 1829, for Piracy and Murder.” Fernandez blames his fate on “the habitual use of ardent spirits” and warns parents to teach their children “the fatal consequences of Intemperance.”

Excerpt

Parents into whose hands this my dying declaration may fall will perceive that I date the commencement of my departure from the paths of rectitude and virtue, from the moment when I become addicted to the habitual use of ardent spirits—and it is my sincere prayer that if they value the happiness of their children—if they desire their welfare here, and their eternal well being hereafter, that they early teach them the fatal consequences of Intemperance!

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