Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Elizabeth D. Leonard

Second Advisor

Jason M. Opal


One of the fundamental conflicts in American political history is the one that pits the need to guarantee personal liberty against the desire for the government to pass legislation that will benefit the overall good. Dating back to the very founding of our nation and the deliberations over the ratification of the Constitution, this debate has played itself out over and over again through the course of American history as politicians decide how to balance each of these important considerations. One such manifestation of this debate was the campaign for alcohol prohibition1 in the mid-nineteenth century, a battle which raged especially intensely in Maine, as local reformers fought tenaciously to free the state of the evils they attributed to the liquor traffic. The most famous and most notorious of Maine’s agitators for prohibition was Neal Dow, a native Mainer who campaigned tirelessly against the ravages of alcohol. The quintessential example of a committed antebellum New England reformer, Dow moved slowly up through the various grassroots movements promoting the temperate consumption of alcohol. Frustrated by the slow progress of temperance, Dow adopted a policy of legislative reform, concluding that the government would have to get involved and restrict the sale of alcohol in order to save addicts from themselves if dramatic change really was to occur. Eventually this idea progressed to the point where Dow and similarly minded individuals called for an outright ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol, arguing that this step was necessary if the evil of liquor was ever to be eliminated from the face of the earth. Dow’s leadership and oratorical skills made him a rallying point for this new movement, a man who became the widely recognized leader of the state prohibition cause. This position eventually allowed Dow to draft and present to the Maine State Legislature the first ever genuine statewide prohibition law in the history of the country.


Dow, Neal, 1804-1897 Prohibition, Maine Temperance, Maine Liquor laws, Maine

Included in

History Commons