"an act for the Suppression of Drinking Houses and Tippling Shops"—it was Neal Dow's phrase and the climax of his work across a decade—came before the legislature of Maine in May 1851. Representation that year in Maine was strongly Democratic, and a leading opponent of the act attacked it as one of the "inquisitorial edicts of the temperance fanatics of Portland, headed by its popinjay Major, a Whig abolitionist of the most ultra stripe." The issue, however, was above simple partisanship. Dow appealed personally to House and Senate leaders, who pushed the bill through with two-thirds majorities in each chamber. Within two days after his appearance in the capital, Dow was able to lay the law before the governor and obtain his immediate signature. This triumph inspired temperance workers in every state of the union to organize, petition, and rally. With Dow himself leading the crusade, there followed a remarkable series of victories: Minnesota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, and New Hampshire. A total of thirteen states had Maine Laws by 1855.
These laws prohibited the manufacture and sale of "spiritous or intoxicating liquors," which in Maine meant almost anything alcoholic that was not intended for medical or mechanical purposes. In other states amendments would soon permit wine and beer, The laws did not prohibit the personal use of whatever beverage an individual might import or brew up for himself or have stored away before the laws were signed. The goal was to abolish public drunkenness—usually, as in colonial Virginia,