Many reform societies held their annual meetings during the same week in New York City. Their memberships overlapped to a significant degree and this scheduling made it possible for reformers to attend several meetings. Those planning a World Temperance Convention chose to meet on the day after the American Temperance Union anniversary (as the annual meetings were called). That meeting proved acrimonious and ended with many of the participants stalking out to set up the competing Whole World's Temperance Convention.
All was sweetness and light, though, at the anniversary gathering. This account provides a way of gauging what those who did not "secede" expected the World Temperance Convention to be like. In the event they were in for an enormous shock.
This account also provides useful examples of one approach to reform discussed in the Introduction, the conviction of some that their goal, in this case the universal adoption of the Maine Law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, was so important that no other campaign should be allowed to interfere.
The seventeenth Anniversary of the American Temperance Union was held in Metropolitan Hall, yesterday, at
Capt. HUDSON, of the Navy, offered the following:
Resolved, That the Report just read he adopted, and published under the direction of the Society.
Rev. Mr. HIGGINSON, of Massachusetts, seconded the resolution.
I will second this resolution as a Massachusetts man, for it was this State which seconded the Maine Law. We are grafting our trees up in Massachusetts, and we took a shoot from the Maine stem, and grafted it in, and it thrives well. We are having applications from all parts for shoots from this branch, and whatever cuttings and provings we make, we shall not touch the Maine stem. [Applause.]
There have been a great many steps in the Temperance reform. The first I beard of, was that they would drink no more than they could help! Again, another resolution in advance, was, that the people should only drink on the Fourth of July. And so there have been many steps taken, until this last, the Maine Law, which is the most perfect and glorious of all.
The speaker expressed great hope of what will he effected by the Maine law. It is objected to this law that it is a one idea measure. But it swallows up and leads a great many others tributary. It is a great and beneficial idea. Again, it is objected that it is a harsh measure; so other laws are severe. Why should the law forbid the killing of snipes in the spring, and yet allow men to kill others by liquor! Why guard against the lesser evils while the greater ones are left untouched! This harshness will be fruitful of good. It reminds me of the Methodist minister, out West, who thanked God for rattlesnakes, because their bite brought a reprobate family to their senses. He prayed God for more and larger ones. This law is not impracticable. We want to look this matter in the face. The impracticable thing is to make men drunk, when the temptation is before them, moderately. The only material thing is not to drink at all. This law is the only way to shut out the evil. Though the work seems too great to be done, yet it can be done-- as you will learn. When you see the great power of steam, you may imagine that it is impossible ever to supersede it; and yet some of you believe the man lives in this City who has done it. And I am not sure but that the
The following resolution was moved by Rev. E. W. JACKSON, of Pennsylvania:
Resolved, That while it becomes us as a nation to humble ourselves before Almighty God for any provident intemperance, we will lift up the voice of thanksgiving and praise for the great Temperance reform with which we have been blessed; especially for that last and distinguished feature, in which civil government, the right hand of God, is stretched forth for the protection of the people from the most
This was expanded and sustained in an address by Hon. NEAL DOW, of Portland, Me., who, upon rising, was received with
The resolution was new to the speaker, and to discuss it would require a day.
I shall speak of the difficulties of the Temperance Reformation and its success--especially in the State of Maine.
The great obstacle to the success of the Maine Law is the existence of political parties. He found it so in Maine, and have found that when we agitated the subject, they all opposed us, because they feared for their positions. The great question with each one of these was--What is to become of me, if this new state of things is established?
Political parties are down in Maine. We don't inquire or care who goes to Congress, or hold office, provided we get rid of intemperance.
This question is the greatest of the day, because it is bound up with the social welfare of our people.
But another difficulty is found in an alleged infringement of natural rights--as if men had any natural right to do that which is injurious to the general welfare. The Communists have a right to stop this great evil.
The welfare of the whole body must claim precedence of that of individuals. This is a recognized principle of law upon which men and communities always act.
A case in point exists now in Portland, where an intemperate man had his property and daughters taken from him and placed under a guardian, lest their executors and interests should he destroyed.
Society claims and exercises the right of restoring the nation and happiness of the individual in order to promote those of the community, which are considered more important and imperative. All admit this until they came to the traffic in strong drink. This they think must be a marked exception.
But down East, we regard it as one of the greatest crimes, and intend to agitate the subject until it is so treated and punished.
That is a crime which interferes with the general welfare and happiness--however men may regard it. Their views do not change the nature of the action. How was it with the Slave trade? This was once regarded as honorable and right. Many of our best and most pious men were engaged in it--even the ministry of New-England had their hand in it.
But how is it now! The slaver is treated as a pirate, and is hanged when taken on the high seas.
The Barnegat pirates were stigmatized as the basest criminals, and yet their acts were far less criminal than the conduct of those who decoy men into the paths of intemperance, who destroy man by strong drinks!
Public indignation was fearfully roused by the discovery a few years since in Edinburg, that over forty persons had been murdered, that their bodies might be sold to medical dissectors!! Are not such murders constantly enacted for the gain of the rumseller!
The traffic in strong drink is the greatest crime against society. However you regard this here in New-York, we in Maine consider it a great crime and will never ease our agitation till it is so treated and regarded. But some say this is a moral question and should not be brought into the political field. Your present law was made by wise men. And yet does it diminish the evil. You punish the drunkard, over and over again; but you leave the Rumseller to go free. You must begin with him and you will then have no more drunkenness here. Were you to arraign the keepers of the St. Nicholas or the Metropolitan, and send them to Blackwell's Island, you would have no more drunkeness. Men of New-York! will you see the present state of things continued among you!
But many say that such a law cannot effect this object. It does so in Maine. Yet you hear it said that there is more liquor drunk now in Maine than ever. This is simply the talk of Boston rumsellers--not that of the sellers or drinkers in Maine.
Of this take an instance: A huge firm in North Market-st., who deal in foreign liquors manufactured on the ground--talked this way in Boston. But one of them happened to be calling upon one of his country customers, who asked him as to their trade in Maine! He replied: We used to have three hundred customers in Maine, who cash traded with us from $500 to $2,000 per year--but now, said he, all Maine is not worth n d--n! [Great applause.]
You may go up and down the State of Maine, and not find a place where liquors are exposed for sale. Here you have them upon every corner, and why! To ruin the men and women of the Empire State.
The wholesale trade in Maine stopped instantly, upon the passage of this law. The retail trade is now as disreputable as picking pockets or stealing sheep. An action for libel would lie against a man for calling another "rumseller," as quickly as for the other. Intemperance ceased almost immediately, and the hagging and wretchedness consequent upon it. They fined the rumseller instead of the drunkards, and filled the lock-ups, of which there are eighteen in Portland, which were full under the old law, with barrels and demijohns instead of men. The rumsellers lost their milch cows, every customer being worth the price of one every year, or about $40. Every respectable man quit the business when it became unlawful.
Great numbers of intemperate men have been reformed. One hard head stuck it out, until he found it such a bother to get, that he gave it up, and that when he had boasted that when he could not get it times would be hard in Portland! Another, a stranger, walked five miles and could not get a drop. Men of New-York, we have set you an example, and you have Yankee blood enough in you to follow it, and we expect to see you do so!
Rev. Dr. PATTON introduced the following resolution:
"That we welcome to our platform the distinguished author of the Maine Law, and thank him for his learned exposition of its principles. We believe it to be wise and just, demanded in its distinguishing feature by the increasing and unendurable evil in every State, and we pledge to it our untiring efforts and our generous contributions"
The Dr. advocated this in a vein of humor which kept the house in a roar, during which he showered compliments upon NEAL DOW, and prepared the way for a collection. He said the law is unchristian; the Maine folks had no business to send off the rum and rum makers down here, and we shall pay you off by passing the law and sending them elsewhere. This is a sumptuary law, it is said. Men should not be frightened by the big name. We have laws regulating eating and drinking! The law will not allow poisoned meat to be sold; now why should poisoned drink be sold! You can't use your property in the disadvantage of your neighbor's. What injures property more than the use of alcoholic drinks! We cannot use it for the injury of the health and morals of others. What injures these more than intoxicating drinks?
The resolution was adopted.
Resolved That the response to the great principles of our reform, especially of the Maine Law, from Canada from Great Britain, from Missionary station's in Africa and India and the
Mr. CHAMBERS came forward and read the following resolution, and made some impassioned remarks--
While a collection was being taken, Mayor BARSTOW of Providence, was introduced, and contended that Rhode Island should not be judged by the remark, "that a man who could dodge the
A prohibitory law has existed for six years, under which 20 out of over 31 towns, including Providence, with 60,000 people, have steadily refused to give licenses. We hope much for the Maine law in Rhode Island.
Capt. FOOTE wished martial law for 31 minutes, when the audience might beat a retreat. The liquor rations have been abolished in the army and the merchant marine. It should be done also in the Navy. I wish all to
The audience dispersed at the close of this address.