View single post by Hellcat
 Posted: Sat Mar 16th, 2013 07:50 pm
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Root Beer Lover

Joined: Tue Nov 15th, 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 981

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Was Lincoln actually a member of the temperance movement. According to Douglas Lee Gibboney's Scandals of the Civil War, pages 2&3:

Despite growing up on the frontier, where alcohol could be a balm to harsh reality, Abraham Lincoln was not a drinker. Unlike some abstainers, he was tolerant of people who did partake, which was a practical necessity given the liquid nature of frontier politicking. Like Sam Houston, Lincoln also spoke before temperance groups in a bid to gain their votes. Supporting the reelection of Illinois Congressman Richard Yates, who had a reputation as a drinker, Lincoln said he "would much prefer a temperate man to an intemperate one; still I do not make my vote depend upon whether a candidate does or does not taste liquor." In 1861, a few years after Lincoln's endorsement, Yates appeared drunk when he was inaugurated as governor of Illinois.

Early in his career, Lincoln and a partner, William Berry, struggled to make a living as storekeepers in the tiny village of New Salem Illinois. Hoping to save the failing business, a license to sell liquor by the drink was obtained; Berry may have done this without Lincoln's knowledge. Years later this led to a charge from political opponent Stephen Douglas that Lincoln had been a tavern keeper. Licoln scored his own points in this regard when he paid a social call on Douglas and "the little giant" offered him a libation. Lincoln refused and Douglas asked if Lincoln was a member of a temperance society. Lincoln responded that he was not a temperance member but that he was temperate in that he did not drink liquor. The conversation was soon repeated to prohibitionist groups by Lincolns political allies.

Now this doesn't mean Lincoln was never a member of the temperance party but it more appears at the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates period that he was saying he wasn't a member. It does go on to give an anecdote from the war years of a group of temporance advocates arriving at the White House and claiming that the North was loosing battles because the army (Army of the Potomac most likely given the difference between the Eastern and Western Theaters in terms of Northern victories and losses) was drinking too much whiskey. According to the anecdote Lincoln responded that that was unfair as the Sour drank "more and worse" whiskey.

For his sources for the above he used David Herbert Donald's Lincoln for the material I quoted from the book and Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln:The War Years Vol 2 for the anecdote.

As for Lincoln drinking wine, Gibboney says at the top of page 4 of his book:

Family friend White House staffer Noah Brooks recalled that wine was served at dinner only when special guests were present. To be sociable, the president would touch his wine glass to his lips and occasionally even take a few swallows.

Now that is a part of a paragraph disgussing Mary Todd Lincoln as First Lady in connection to alcohol. That paragraph Gibboney took from Jean H. Baker's Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography and the aforementioned Sandburg work.

Now as for the famed Lincoln quote about what brand Grant drank so he could give it to all his generals, I have no clue if it's for real or not. I do remember several of my text books in grade school and 8th grade mentioning it. That doesn't mean they were right as some stories become so ingrained that they become a part of history whether or not they were actually said or actually occured. And whether or not they were said when their said to have been said. It does seem to fit Lincoln's humor though.

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