Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Prohibition Petition, 1854
Transcript of original document:
The Ladies Petition to the Oregon Legislature To the Hon, the Legislature of Oregon Territory now in session.
Your petitioners, Ladies of Oregon Territory, in view of the existing evil of Intemperance in our rising Colony, res-pectfully pray your Hon body to throw your aegis of protection over our country, our homes and our firesides. We pray that you Legisla-tive councils may aid us in freeing ourselves from the blighting demoralizing influence of intoxication liquors; in pre-serving our moral natures uncorrupted by its poison; in restoring our fallen brethren to their original dignity, and freedom from its thralling power; in the homes of Sisters, who are more than widows, and children more than orphans made so by the "monster rum"; in shielding our husbands, our brothers, and our sons from the shafts aimed at their lives and their fortunes by the venders of spirituous liquors; and in making our beautiful country a country that knoweth not the "worm of the still".
In aid of this, we respectfully pray your Hon body, so to amend the Organic Law of this Territory as to prohibit the introduction, manufacture, and sale of all kinds of in-toxicating liquors, to be read at the polls at the next June Election, that the same may be adopted or rejected at the next Legislature.
And your petitioners would also further pray your Hon body to make the necessary provisions whereby the vote of the people, on such amendments, may be expressed, and ascertained, at the next June Election by affirmative and negative votes.
And as in duty bound your
Petitioners will ever pray &c
Consumption of alcohol has long been a cause of conflict in the United States. Agitation for prohibition was especially strong in the mid-nineteenth century. Liquor was blamed for a host of social evils. Oregon Territory did not prohibit the manufacture, sale, or consumption of alcohol. To change this situation, a Territorial Temperance Society was established in 1852, and the Portland Temperance League was founded in 1854. The women who signed this petition list the dangers of intoxicating liquors, citing their profoundly disruptive effects on the family. This petition sounds several themes, ranging from the damaging effects of alcohol on the wives and children of drinkers to the corrupting influence of strong drink on the men who consume it.
Words and Terms
worm of the still?
For Further Discussion
1. What do the petitioners want from the legislature?
2. How much influence do you think these women would have had on the legislature?
3. Can you think of any similar issues that exist today?