By the 1830s William Whipper was a successful Pennsylvania lumberman. He was also an abolitionist and temperance advocate. Whipper’s interest in temperance reflected a growing concern among African American leaders about the impact of alcohol on the free (and enslaved) African American population. By 1831 the Coloured American Conventional Temperance Society was formed and a decade later most black communities had local versions of the Society as well as temperance boardinghouses, stores, restaurants, and newspapers. In his presidential address to the Colored Temperance Society of Philadelphia on January 8, 1834, Whipper argues that alcohol is another form of slavery.
FELLOW MEMBERS: Having been so highly honored by your suffrages, as to be elevated to the distinguished situation of presiding over this institution, the claims of duty require of me the arduous task of explaining the motives and considerations that should actuate us in promoting its objects.
Those who associate themselves for the improvement of their moral condition, are exercising the highest order of legislation. The present is an era for us to notice the evils, and mark the moral depravity, that have afflicted the human family since they have fallen from the holy estate that our first parents enjoyed.
Intemperance, the blighting monster, that extirpator of the human species, has slain mankind with a power that can only be likened unto the axe, which in the march of civilization is rapidly clearing our native forests. It is an evil for magnitude unexcelled, and in the history of the world must stand without a parallel. Every negro slavery, horrible as it is, painted in its most ignominious colors, and ferreted out in all its degrading consequences, is but a concomitant. Probably to no people on earth would this language be more objectionable than to the present audience; yet I firmly believe it to be strictly true. To a people like ours, whose whole history is wrapt in the most obsequious degradation, multiplied injuries and tyrannical