Working away last night on the history of Ontario beer and brewing while Jordan was dilly-dallying over beer in the 1980's, I was looking at issues related to the beginnings of temperance and specifically references to the "Dunkin Act" of the Province of Canada, named after politician Christopher Dunkin and repealed in 1878. See, before Canada became a country - sorta - in 1867, there was this other country called... Canada which existed under a constitution that lasted from 1841 to 1867. It was named after the upper end of New France, conquered in 1760 by the British which was named, you guessed it, Canada.
Anyway, the Dunkin Act was the short name for The Canada Temperance Act of 1864 under which municipalities could vote to declare themselves "dry" - meaning free from alcohol sales. When Toronto ran its vote in 1877, a committee of those working for the "no" side kept notes of the debates and, after they won the day, published them. The accounts are full of spicy Victorian rhetoric like the passage above spoken on 23 July 1877 at the Coliseum on Alice Street. Apparently the Sally Anne held meetings there, too. I shall endeavour to work the making of pants too tight to sit down in part of my daily patter from herein out.
And, as the rest of that passage illustrates, the temperance movement may have had quite a valid point in those times. Not only was there a mass of drinking going on but there were other things triggering the movement. The rise of mechanical workplaces needing greater sobriety, the development of a greater sense of individual responsibility compared to more carefree status-ridden Georgians of the first third of the century and, not least of all, the development of a mass middle class of skilled tradesmen and less affluent professionals. Concurrent with this was a pretty sharp u-turn in medical thought which shifted daily alcohol consumption from a principled part of a robust diet to a poison to the body and society. It is interesting to watch this shift happen in less than half a generation just as southern Ontario gets fully mapped out if not yet populated.
We are prone to associate ourselves with history's winning sides but few of us would not side with the goals of the reformers at this stage of the debate. The are, after all, dreaming and fighting only for the lives we live today. In the story of Ontario beer takes something of a side seat in the debate at this point, the real enemy being whisky. In fact, just a few days before on the 10th of July one speaker, surely coincidentally named O'Keefe, got a big cheer from the crowd when he said he was pro-Temperance, though not in a legal imposed form, and also in favour of light wine and beer. Poorly made cheap rot gut? Who sides with that now?