Apostle of temperance : John Saunders and the early history of the temperance movement in New South Wales
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 01:00 by Nicole Starling
Existing histories of the early temperance movement in New South Wales all adopt broad, structural approaches, constructing explanatory narratives that focus variously on issues of class, social status and secularisation to explain the rise of the movement in the early 1830s and its turn toward total abstinence in the final years of that decade.This thesis examines the writings and reported actions of a key leader in the movement, John Saunders, in order to complement and, where necessary, complicate the already existing histories. What emerges is a case study in the complex interaction between class, status and religious belief within the understandings and motivations that drove the movement, with broader implications for our understanding of religion and secularism in nineteenth-century Australia. While issues of class and social status were undeniably prominent within the rationale and rhetoric of the movement, neither of these factors on its own is sufficient to explain the motivations and behaviour of those involved. Nor does the theory that the early temperance movement was driven by a fundamentally secular ideology of “moral enlightenment” allow sufficient room for the multi-layered and carefully-articulated combination of enlightenment ideals and evangelical convictions within the thinking of leaders such as Saunders.