Address from the World's Temperance Convention, held in New York, September, 1853, to the Governments of the Earth
THE sacredness of our cause, the great interests involved in its issues, and the earnest attention which it is exciting in the public mind, prompt us to address you. Assembled in Convention to give new stimulus to the Temperance Reformation, and to kindle with fresh ardor its friends in this community, we desire to reach you by the force of our opinions, and secure your earnest cooperation in the noblest and most urgent philanthropic enterprise of modern times.
God, in his providence, has placed in our hands an instrument the most effective ever wielded against the monster, Intemperance. All former measures we may regard as so many voices crying in the wilderness of this mighty evil, prepare ye the way for a prohibitory law. Moral efforts, and the diffusion of information in regard to the extent and enormity of the evils of the rum traffic, were indispensable to create the power to secure and sustain this legal enactment. And, as in the history of the past, we have seen that the mightiest reformations are often brought to a successful triumph by the simplest means; so in this, in a season of darkness and discouragement,
[p. 29]we have beheld one arise, before unknown to fame, who, by securing the passage of a simple law, has in his own State broken up the haunts of this vice, rolled back the swelling tide of temptation, restored to wretched homes peace and happiness, taken the curse from a father's lips, and the fiend-like spirit from a husband's breast and demonstrated to the world what can be done by the force of public opinion embodied in law. We make no extravagant utterance when we say that what Newton was to science--what Fulton was to progress--what Washington was to true liberty--Neal Dow is to the Temperance Reformation. The work which he has wrought has already entered as an element into the civilization of the nineteenth century, and will advance with the progress of that civilization in all lands.
Archimedes said, "Give me a spot upon which to rest my lever, and I will move the world." In a prohibitory law we have the fulcrum, and all that we wait for in this country and in Europe is the lever of public opinion with which to move the world from the darkness, and wretchedness, and carnage of the chief of vices, and lift it into the sunlight, beauty, and purity of Temperance. And we are confident of ultimate success, because the God of virtue, purity and religion, is with us. The conflict with adverse powers may be protracted and severe. Our foes may be numerous--may be entrenched in a thousand citadels--may be sustained by a vast multitude who are under the dominion of appetite; yet in the movements of Divine Providence we hear the trumpet's blast calling the Temperance hosts to a quicker march, and thrilling them with new zeal to assail the strongholds of the enemy.
In seeking your cooperation, we are impelled by the enormity and aggravated character of the evil which we are laboring to suppress. Words lose their force when we attempt to describe it; language breaks down under the weight of the sufferings and crimes which it occasions. Images, epithets, the most comprehensive and intense utterances, fail to set forth the evil in its true light Under statistical reports there are living forms of degradation and sorrow, which, should they appear before us, would fill the mind with horror. Even the dealer in alcoholic drinks could not view his own work, if fully revealed to him without staggering. His countenance would be blanched with the paleness of a corpse--his heart would beat with fearful rapidity--with trembling limbs and quivering lips
[p. 30]he would plead to be released from the view even at the price of his avarice.
All must allow that so far as the evil has power, it takes away a man's health, and leaves him diseased; takes away his human feelings, and leaves him a wild beast; takes away his religion, and makes him a scoffing atheist; takes away his manhood, and leaves him a degraded outcast. It robs, by its tempting power, the industrious of their hard earnings; it burdens cities and nations with enormous taxation; it produces every crime in the catalogue of human wickedness; it swamps every virtue, every tender tie and noble feeling of the human heart. All the commandments in the Decalogue and precepts in the Bible are swallowed up in this great maelstrom of vice. It is more destructive to human life than war, famine, pestilence and fire combined. It sends its victims to the grave in far greater numbers than the legions of Caesar ever fell upon the battle-field, or the armies of Napoleon were ever sacrificed to his cruel ambition. At this moment we are appalled by the ravages of the yellow fever, and by the frequent railroad and steamboat disasters; yet all these are of but little amount compared with the ravages of this terrible vice. It would require six hundred Norwalk disasters every year to equal the number of deaths annually produced by the rum traffic. The yellow fever is confined to certain cities and localities. But this plague spreads over Christendom. There is scarcely a town, village or family, that has not furnished its victims. Its funeral processions are constantly moving, and at this hour thirty thousand of the citizens of the United States are in a course of preparation to be offered up as sacrifices to this cruel Moloch during the coming year.
We appeal to those who occupy the seat of authority throughout the civilized world, and ask how long should so gigantic an evil be permitted to curse society? How long must the wailings of orphans and the agonizing cries of widows be heard in every city, and the dearest interests of humanity be sacrificed to a burning avarice? How long must this monster be retained in the midst of the light, intelligence and virtue of this nineteenth century? Is it not time that instead of man, God's image, lying in the gutter, that rum should take its turn to lie there? Is it not time, while we are devising means in other departments to protect and prolong human life, that efforts be made to clear our skies from the storm-clouds of
[p. 31]this calamity, and avert the lightning flashes from the thousands of homes that are liable to be struck?
The provisions of the law to which your attention is respectfully solicited, contain no new principles of legislation, but only such as are acted upon in every civilized community. The right of society to protect the health, property and lives of its citizens, by legal enactments, is recognised by every government legislature and court in Christendom. It cannot be disputed without assailing the basis upon which society rests. It extends, according to the opinions of the most eminent jurists, not only to the enactment of general laws for self-protection, the execution of penalties, the appointment of a police, and the raising of armies for suppressing rebellion or resisting foreign invaders, but to every thing that tends to injure society.
This principle is acted upon in the laws which are passed against gambling, lotteries, Sabbath-breaking, counterfeiting money, smuggling, the storage of gunpowder, the exposure and sale of demoralizing prints, and any business that endangers the public health or morals. We do not depend upon the influence of moral suasion to protect society against these evils. We do not go to the gambler, and appeal to his conscience, his humanity, his regard for the public welfare. We do not plead with the incendiary, and portray before him the suffering which he occasions, depicting in vivid colors the horrors of a midnight conflagration. We do not depend upon public meetings, speeches and the force of mere argument, to prevent men from stealing, or forging, or uttering slander. Society decrees that these evils shall not be permitted. It employs its whole force to annihilate them; it does not admit for a moment the plan of regulating them. Governments do not license annually, out of regard to public depravity, so many incendiaries, or thieves, or counterfeiters, or dealers in tainted meat. All, therefore, that we contend for, is the application of this principle of legislation to the evils of Intemperance, which is applied to other and lesser evils. And we are confident that as civilization advances, and humanity gains over barbarity, and the iron chains of a degrading avarice fall from the hearts of men, that a statute, similar in its aims to the Maine Law, will be adopted by every nation that is free to enact and enforce its own laws. And we believe that the time has come when a holy alliance should be formed by the governments of the world against their common foe, the rum traffic. The trumpet blasts to arouse
[p. 32]the nations should be sounded from every hill top, and echoed in every valley. The hosts should be marshaled upon every plain, and the war should be one of extermination. None but a Waterloo victory should induce the friends of Temperance to lay down their arms and retire from the field.
The extent to which liquors are drugged, and the basest compounds sold under the names of wine, brandy, &c., is a feature of this traffic which should excite universal indignation and abhorrence. As though alcohol itself were not a sufficiently violent poison, it is mixed with deadly drugs, and thus distributed through the community. Liquors thus prepared are sold with a full knowledge that they will rapidly increase the thirst for strong drink, undermine the health, and fill the mind with indescribable wretchedness. The slave-trader can do no worse with his victims than these men do with those who fall into their grasp. The unholy inquisitor cannot invent more exquisite tortures for the unfortunate inmates of his prison, than these men invent for the poor drunkard, whom they lash to the rack of the delirium tremens, and pass through the horrors of one dark dungeon after another in his passage to an ignominious grave. Such stupendous wickedness should arouse to the most decisive action every one who has not lost all sense of right in whose heart the last spark of humanity has not become extinguished. Rulers, legislators, philanthropists and Christians of every name, should unite in a crusade, to rescue the interests of society from the power of this traffic.
It is almost needless to add that with the success of the Temperance cause is connected every philanthropic and Christian movement of our times. In every advance that is made, we suppress crime, prepare the way for the spread of the gospel, and move forward the civilization of the world. We stimulate with fresh zeal the embattled hosts who have enlisted in the sacred cause of enthroning the King of kings over the nations, and securing to them the blessings of his everlasting reign.
Can you desire greater honor than that of being instrumental in the accomplishment of so noble a work? Can purer or nobler aspirations fill your souls than those which prompt you to stay the ravages of the chief of vices, deliver thousands from a bondage which is the nearest akin to death, and prepare the way for the universal triumph of virtue and religion.
Commending you to the God of Heaven, we earnestly pray that
[p. 33]He will graciously aid you in the struggle, and grant you a complete victory. And we close by recommending to you, one and all, the adoption of the following sentiment: "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my heart and hand to the enactment and execution of the principles of the Maine Law throughout the world."
RUFUS W. CLARKE,
Chairman of the Committee.
The Rev. A. W. MCCLURE, of New Jersey, on behalf of the Committee to whom was referred the economy of the Maine Law, reported as follows:
The Committee to whom was referred the subject of the Economy of the Maine Law, present the following Report:
WE may speak of the economy of this law in its influence upon the pecuniary wealth of the State, or what is called political economy; or as a legal and moral economy for the redress and prevention of a great social evil.
Its effects upon the material interests of the country might be ascertained statistically. It is not needful, just here, to enumerate the millions of gallons of intoxicating drinks annually consumed, and the actual cost of the same; nor the burdens of taxation for the relief of pauperism and the punishment of crime, brought upon the public by intemperance; nor to estimate approximately the amount of loss it occasions by wasting the property and paralyzing the industry of vast masses of the people. These calculations have been often made, and no man of sense will compute the values annually drank out of existence and annihilated, at fewer millions of dollars than are yearly dug from the mines of Australia and California together.
The Maine Law aims to stop this frightful absorption of wealth, thus "swilled by the wild and wasteful ocean" of Intemperance. It aims to add these squandered millions to the productive capital, and to the resources for improvement and enjoyment of this great nation. We are not so sanguine as to expect that it will perfectly and instantly secure this glorious result. The sensual habits and passions of large bodies of the people, both home-born and foreign-born, are not to be overcome in a day. Nor is the covetous greed
[p. 34]of a huge array of rich capitalists and unprincipled traffickers to be corrected forthwith by a single act of legislation. All laws which are not a dead letter, will be broken, more or less, just so far as they contravene the passions or interests of numerous individuals. When we take into account the strength of the drunkard's appetite, and the craft of the drunkard-maker's avarice, there is no ground for the opinion that this law, where it is administered with ordinary fidelity and energy, is more violated, in proportion, than any other wholesome statute. From all such places, it is proved by ample returns, that while it depopulates the jails, and thins out the crowded alms-houses, it replenishes the pockets of the industrious poor, and augments the comforts of the productive classes. We are, therefore, confident that wherever the Maine Law shall have been sustained and enforced for a series of years, in any region, it will not only effect an increased valuation of property, but a more equal distribution of it and a more general enjoyment of its benefits. It will be found that temperance and industry "constitute the barrel and the cruse, out of which most families, of every rank and profession, may freely take without danger of exhausting them."
But if we speak of economy in the larger sense, as a legal system devised to redress and prevent a desolating social evil, the excellence of the Maine Law dispensation is equally apparent.
It deals directly with the physical cause of the evil. It lays its iron gripe on the very stuff that does the mischief, and dooms it to perish ere it has wrought further harm. It "stops the supplies," and at once disables and defeats all the allied forces of Intemperance.
It greatly simplifies the operations of justice, by making the pernicious liquors testify against themselves beyond the possibility of mistake or perjury. It does not oblige us to wait for volunteer witnesses, or to submit to discomfiture through the false swearing of those whose broken oaths are as plentiful as their swallowed drams.
It shuts up the public liquor shops, those open vomitories of hell. This has all along been the grand desideratum in the Temperance Reform. Experience proves that Temperance Societies cannot reform drunkards so fast and so surely as grog-shops can make them. Man is a most fallible creature; and there is little safety for him, except in the removal of temptation. Let drinking-places of all grades be utterly abolished, and the friends of Temperance
[p. 35]might safely leave it to moral suasion to consummate, with God's blessing, this great beneficent reform.
The Maine Law is a powerful solvent for that base residuum which was left by all previous operations. After moral suasion had exhausted its strength, there remained a sort of "dead heads" of society, the dregs of human kind, for whom the liquor business had irresistible attractions. In the first place, most of them loved the accursed drink, and all of them loved the filthy lucre it amassed. In the next place, there is no employment, except begging and stealing, which requires so little capital, or so little knowledge of business, to carry it on. In the last place, no article of trade met such sure and quick demand, or yielded such enormous returns of profit. It was the very calling for every lazy and worthless fellow who was for getting his living in the easiest way that would not expose him to certain fine and imprisonment Even such men, hardened against every other consideration of justice and mercy, quail at the terrors of "the noble law of Maine."
Its efficiency is fully attested by the character of the opposition it excites. The enemies of Temperance well understand themselves and their nefarious interest Would you know what kind of law is most certain to demolish them? You may safely trust their unfailing instinct. Observe what legislation it is that most arouses their anger, provokes their deepest curses, calls forth their direst threats, and stimulates their most frantic resistance. Such is the legislation which will do what is needed, and such is the legislation of which Maine has given us the illustrious pattern. Its enemies, to be sure, in their ravings, affirm that the law is inoperative, and that as much liquor is drank where it is enacted as ever. But if so, whence the undying animosity and infuriate declamation of the traffickers and their organs? Nay, verily! if they felt their assertion true, they would become the greatest Maine-law-men alive.
Let, then, the friends of Temperance stand fast and firm by this sound form of enactment in all its essential provisions. The real economy of it, as a legal dispensation, can never be fairly estimated, till it has been established over a large body of contiguous States, so that borderers and coasters may not evade its intentions. It must be still further tested by a lapse of time sufficient to make, us familiar with the new order of things, and to admit of the comparison of a term of years with equal preceding periods, as to the statistics of poverty and suffering and crime. No clear head or
[p. 36]sound heart can question the sure result. As certainly as "thrift is the fuel of magnificence," so surely will Temperance be the talisman of prosperity.
E. W. JACKSON, Pa.
WM. H. BURLEIGH.
A. W. McCLURE.
The report was adopted.
The Hon. J. B. O'NEAL, on behalf of the Committee to prepare an address to manufacturers and venders of intoxicating drinks, reported as follows: