Macquarie University
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A new faith? Religious belief and moral enlightenment in the temperance movement in Eastern Australia: 1832-1880

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posted on 2022-10-25, 02:17 authored by Nicole Starling

This thesis examines the relationship between religious tradition and moral enlightenment ideas within the temperance movement in Eastern Australia from 1832-1880. The particular focus is the question of whether and to what extent the private understanding and public rhetoric of the movement’s leaders were consistent with Michael Roe’s claim that the ideology of moral enlightenment was, in essence, a new, secular faith, and that the temperance movement played a pivotal role in its propagation. Roe’s argument presupposes and reinforces the larger secularisation narrative that was propagated by Manning Clark in his History of Australia. In more recent scholarship a body of literature has emerged which has questioned the sharp dichotomies that Clark draws and the over-simplified linearity of the narrative that he constructs. This study of the temperance movement will be informed by this scholarship, as well as by a close examination of the relevant primary sources. In order to create space for a close examination of the complex and varied ways in which religious tradition and moral enlightenment ideas interacted within the thinking and rhetoric of the leaders of the temperance movement, the thesis adopts a biographically-framed approach, focusing on the reported words and actions of four key leaders: George Washington Walker, John McEncroe, Alfred Stackhouse and Mary Ann Thomas. Between them they span four different religious denominations and were active as temperance advocates during a series of overlapping periods that extended from 1832 to the end of the period this thesis examines. The picture that emerges from the four case studies stands in stark contradiction to Roe’s claim. Although there were undeniable elements of Enlightenment thinking that informed the activities of all four leaders and found expression in their rhetoric, they were connected, in each case, with convictions and practices that were native to their own religious traditions in a combination that was, in their view at least, principled and internally coherent. In offering support and leadership to the temperance cause, they were not acting as the proponents of a new, secular faith, but as champions of a cause that was pervasively shaped and motivated by the traditional Christian beliefs that they espoused.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter One: Temperance in Eastern Australia, 1832–1900 – Chapter Two: “Enmity or Indifference to the Religion of the Saviour”? Religion, Irreligion and the Hobart Town Total Abstinence Society Split of 1846 -- Chapter Three: “But One Creed”? John McEncroe and the Catholic Teetotal Movement -- Chapter Four: Temperance and the “Little Flock”: Alfred Stackhouse and the Rise of Church-Based Temperance -- Chapter Five: “Part and Parcel of the Gospel”: Mary Ann Thomas and the Rise of Third-Wave Gospel Temperance – Conclusion -- Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University

Department, Centre or School

School of Social Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Tregenza

Additional Supervisor 1

Tanya Evans


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371 pages

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