This ballad – or dramatic song – makes a strong if melodramatic plea for people to resist the temptations of alcohol, on the grounds that ‘dissipation’ leads to ‘poverty’ and ‘poverty to desperation’:
Such Taverns as these are the Railroads to Hell,
Their Barrels are Engines which make men rebel;
Their jugs and Glasses which furnish their Trains,
Will empty your Pockets and muddle your Brains.
And thus Drunkards ride to Hell in their pride
With nothing but steam from the Barrels inside.
The 1830s saw the first concerted rise of the Temperance Movement in Britain. While there had long been churches, community organisations and individuals who opposed the consumption of alcohol on moral or social grounds, the 1830s was the first time that moves to restrict or resist the sale of alcohol became attached to a popular political movement – in this case Chartism. The Chartists were a movement of loosely affiliated workers’ groups, who intended to improve the lot of the working class by organising to oppose political corruption and economic exploitation. It was often a subtext of Chartist literature that in order to be better organised, the working class needed to be more disciplined; hence the general support for Temperance.