Document 7C: "Temperance. Whole World's Temperance Convention," New York Times, Sept. 5, 1853, p. 3.

[p. 3]


Whole World's Temperance Convention


Speeches of Rev. John Pierpont and Hon.
John P. Hale.

    In our issue of Saturday morning, the reports of the proceedings at the Woman's Temperance Convention, were necessarily curtailed. We append sketches of the remarks of Rev. John PIERPONT and Hon. JOHN P. HALE, as made at the evening session of the Convention on Friday:

    The first speaker of the evening was Rev. J. PIERPONT, of Massachusetts. Upon his being introduced, he was received with much applause. He said: I have been requested this evening to limit my remarks to one point. I therefore have no scintillation [?] which to amuse you, nor have I any appeal to make to your feelings. I have a plain, close argument to address to your understandings. The point to which I am asked to speak in this, viz.: the propriety or necessity of penal legislation in aid of moral reform; consequent upon your conclusions on this point will be your opinions on the advantage or disadvantage of the Maine Law, or to law analogous to it. He presented an argument principally in reply to the objections advanced against the law. We have been told this afternoon by our friend BOOTH, from Wisconsin, that the great object of our meeting together on an occasion like this, is first to create a public sentiment in favor of Temperance; and, secondly, to incorporate that sentiment into the form of penal legislation against those who stand in the way of reform. The objection is raised against this, that "hitherto your penal legislation has been found inoperative, and inefficient as to all acts of moral obliquity." We are told by the delegate from Belgium, that we have as much stealing in the world now, as when there was no legislation against stealing. But where has there ever been a period recorded by history, during which we have not had legislation against moral obliquities--against thieves, robbers, murderers, assaults and batteries, and other forms of wrong? I believe that no history opens its page instructive to us on this point. And if legislation is just in any case of moral obliquity, why not in this? What is there to prevent this form of wrong from being subjected to the same pressure of legislation that is brought to bear against other forms of wrong? If it is penal to kill my neighbor with a bullet why is it not penal to kill him with the bowl? If penal to give a man poison which does its work in six hours, why not as to that which does its work in six years? Should you measure the guilt of the act that results in either case? If so, then I demand tenfold more punishment for the wrong done by alcohol than by arsenic, because tenfold more misery results from the former poison. The arsenic destroys the dismal life alone--it does not touch the soul; but alcohol not only destroys the animal organization, but it destroys the soul, all moral power, ability, and intellectual light, and degrades the unfortunate victim to a point below brutality. Therefore I ask, on the score of reason, for a stronger penalty against the man who inflicts death by alcohol then he who uses arsenic. In fact, the objection on the ground that a law is ineffectual to suppress a vice or crime, is equally applicable to every law which is made to prevent all the sins taken notice of in the Decalogue. I know that no moral law of God is adequate to prevent violations of it. Then shall we have no law? Expunge all the penal statutes from the books--try it in any community under the blue dome, and see where you will come to. I agree with the friend from Belgium in reprobating the severe penalties; I have no doubt he would go with me in opposing all capital punishment. But I would make the rumseller feel the full penalty of the law which wisdom, in conjunction with even justice, should enact. Another objection which comes from the rumsellers or those antagonistic to the reformation, is that the cause ought to be carried on by moral agencies alone--by moral instrumentalities and moral suasion. "Do not interfere with politics," is the cry. "Do not bring down the angel, to throw him in the nite, and despoil his wings," say the rumsellers. There is an old maxim in strategy: "Fas est ab hoste docere." To be taught by the enemy. I have no doubt that it is the opinion of every rum-seller in New York, that it is periling the cause to bring it into politics. I take your counsel, gentlemen rum-sellers, I take the ground that legal prohibition is moral action. I take the ground that, in this cause, as in every other moral cause, there is not that antagonism implied in the objection between the moral and political action. My argument is intended to drive to that point, and I would have the community disabused of the idea that there is in necessary antagonism between the two actions.

    What is a moral act? I do not know that I can better define it than in this way--that it is an act resulting from or consisting in the activity of one of the moral sentiments. We do not characterize it by the instrumentality through which it is effected, but by the motive from which it presents. Pardon the metaphysics of the argument, my friends. Take a case by way of illustration. Suppose a man, in a fit of desperation, go and hang himself, and I find him shortly after. What will I do? Leave that man to "his liberty," as was argued for this afternoon--allow him entire liberty to hang there till he died I think that humanity says no--his freedom, in that instance, must be restricted. What do I do? Perhaps I would endeavor to untie the rope, but cannot, and then I take my jack-knife and cut the rope across, and take him down. Is that, on my part, a moral action in saving that man's life? I want you to say whether that is a moral action or not. ("Aye" here rose from the entire audience) Where is the morality?--is it in my jack-knife?--is it in the hand that holds the knife?--is it in any part of the animal organization? Where do you find it?--trace it back and you will find it to proceed from the moral sentiment, prompted by the love of my neighbor. As many as think with me, say aye. (A loud "Aye.") O. K. (Laughter.) Take another case: Suppose the Good Samaritan, instead of finding one poor traveler, bruised and wounded, had found twenty men in the same condition, all of them imploring him to attend to their individual case. He would tell them he could not attend to all and would put spurs to his horse and make for Jericho. He finds the City Council in session, and tells them to send nurses, surgeons, &c., &c., and to make an appropriation to relieve these poor sufferers; and he tells the tale so that they cannot refuse, and vote a thousand dollars for the work. Is that a moral action in the part of the magistrates of Jericho?

    The Bouquet Man here came forward, and placed some of his choice wares in a conspicuous point of view. Mr. P. continued:

    The moment the politicians wash their hands and wipe them, that moment there is no wrong is political action. We want a law that will hold a shield over the family of the intemperate man. We cannot get that in the present form of society, except through the medium of political organization; and God placed us in society that we may affect those benevolent objects through that means. Am I understood? Have you come with me to the conclusion that moral activity can be brought out through the medium of political organization? Where, then, is the impropriety of bringing in political action in aid of a moral object? It has remained under one touch of metaphysics. (Laughter) Now, let us hear no more, gentlemen rum-sellers, if you have heard the argument, and do not mean to be laughed at, about keeping confined to moral action alone in this movement. They also say that "we cannot push a man into the Kingdom of Heaven at the point of the bayonet," when we speak of legislative restrictions upon the sale of alcohol. Well, but we do not ask for the Maine Law with an immediate view to the drunkard--he is not named or alluded to in the law. The law is intended to bear on the drunkard-maker.

    Religion--the Church, if you please--has one function in especial and that is to bring men from darkness to light--from the power of evil to the living God. The State, as a State, has another function, and that is to protect every individual in the State in the enjoyment of his every right. When that is done, the State, in the language of the law, is functus officio--it has finished its business. The State says every parent has a right to the services of his child; and it would be wrong for any other member of the community to withdraw the child from the power, discipline, influence, instruction, or service of the parent. Every husband has a right to the affections of his wife, and vice versa. So, until all those rights are secured, the State has not discharged its function. In likewise, the State has a right to see that the men whom she may possibly be obliged, at one day or other, to call to her service, be capable of discharging the duties incumbent on them. No one, therefore, has a right to impinge upon the ability of the citizen to serve the State. [Much ironical applause, and stamping and shuffling of feet]

    The Chairman--I appeal to the sense of courtesy of the Convention to preserve order.

    Mr. P. continuing--Any other claim for liberty is 'anarchy' in its worst form. Now what is my argument? [More shuffling of feet and applause.] Nothing fur [?] her. [Laughter]

    LUCRETIA MOTT, well known to Maine as a Temperance and Abolitionist speaker, then came forward, and made one of her characteristic speeches. She earnestly recommended teetotalism in its broadest sense, the disuse of green tea and other stimulants by women, and also the disuse of snuff as an article of mastication by the fair sex. She was much applauded throughout the course of her remarks.

    Hon. JOHN P. HALE then came forward, and was received with hearty applause.

    Mr. PRESIDENT, ladies and gentlemen, said he--I think I can assure you, without any affectation, that the last thing that I expected was to have addressed you this evening; and when I have gone off the stage, you will believe in my sincerity, when I tell you that I came utterly unprepared to address you. And, friends, nothing but the determination, while I have a will, never to turn my back upon a cause that commends itself to my judgment, and the sympathies of my heart, has prevented me leaving the hall before I responded to this call. (Loud applause.) As I have said, I have nothing to say, and you must permit me, friends, to give you what illustrations I may from some of the experiences which, within the last few days, come to my recollection, suggesting something that may possibly afford profitable subjects for thought upon this occasion. A week ago today, I was riding upon a train of cars, through my native village, a remote country town in New Hampshire. The hour was late, and the engineer began to fear that he would not make his trip in time to form the necessary connection, and he put on all the extra speed, and hurried through the village, and the result was, that an old woman, 85 years of age, who happened to be upon the track, was struck by the engine--her head thrown against it, and in an instant she was lifeless. It sent a thrill of horror through that whole village. Nothing else was talked of, and deep and loud were the execrations and denunciations against the Company and the conductor of the engine, through whose carelessness this fearful accident happened; and when I arrived in this City last evening, upon going to my place of business, the first letter which I opened was one from this very village, inquiring if such an act as that might be committed, and the law afford no remedy. That is not a solitary instance. Who does not remember the fearful catastrophe that took place a short time ago upon the New Haven Railway, where something like 50 human beings, without a moment's warning, were summoned to close their connection with the affairs of Time, and enter upon the unnamed realities of another world. What was the result, from one end of the country to the other? Why, newspapers, and politicians, and legislators, and philosophers, were examining the question, to see if some mode could not be adopted; if Government was tamely to sit still, and have such scenes enacted, and see such wanton carelessness as this, by which so many lives of those who were entitled to the protection of the law were wantonly, ruthlessly, and carelessly thrown away. And it did not stop here. The legislature went to work; and the Legislature of the State in which this accident occurred immediately introduced into its deliberations a stringent bill, which became a law. And the State of Connecticut have done what they could to guard its citizens in all coming time, and those that may travel through its borders, from any calamitous catastrophe that should happen by means of a draw-bridge. Now if the wise Legislature of Connecticut will extend the sphere of their inquiry, and ask if there is not in Connecticut, and within every state of this Union, causes which summon, if not as suddenly, a great deal more surely to their last account, hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of its citizens, it seems to me they would find out that draw bridges are not the only things which they have to fear within their borders. (Applause.) Again, my friends, whose sympathies have not been excited, whose heart has not bled, whose pity has not been excited as they have dwelt upon the fearful tale which tells us of the ravages which pestilence is working in the neighboring city of New Orleans? Why, they are now visited by a pestilence "that worseth is darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday." Suppose it were told, in addition to this, that there was to be found in the city of New Orleans a set of men who make their living fortunes, nay, grow eminently wealthy, by selling to the devoted inhabitants of that city, articles of food which were found to be a fruitful source of yellow fever. Would you give any money to aid the victims of that disease and that pestilence in New-Orleans, until the authorities of that town had done what they could to put down the business of those who were dealing in those articles which had produced this pestilence? I think not. Is there not another pestilence, compared with which your fever is bought, and in comparison with which the railway accidents do not deserve to be mentioned? Is not this pestilence visiting its victims, not only in the heat of Summer, but in the cold of Winter? The citizens of New-Orleans hope that as the Summer passes away, and the cooling breezes of autumn come, the epidemic will go away in the winds of heaven, and health will again smile upon the streets and dwellings. But there is another pestilence that knows no climate, no season and no locality. It strikes its victims in the crowded haunts of men, and pursues him to his desolate home in the forest. It strikes amid the heat of summer, and the cooling winds of Autumn bring no relief from the attack. Even Winter winds will not assuage it; but in all times, in all seasons, and in all climes it goes forth, striking victims with a malady, compared with which the yellow fever or any other plague which may be cured by the practitioners of the healing art, is as nothing. They may find local causes for this pestilence. They may have low marshes from whose stagnant pools come up miasma loaded with death. But there is another stagnant pool whose miasma ascends forever. No tempest from Heaven has ever been fierce enough to blow it over the people and leave them safe. It comes in the zephyrs of Spring, in the faint winds of Summer, in the cooling breath of Autumn and in the fierceness of the Winter tempest. It comes at all times--it never ceases. And while your sympathy, and your ingenuity, and your pity are appealed to, to do something to manage the minor evils in relation to this great evil, which is the fruitful parent of them all, you are silent, helpless, and dumb. Is it not time that this state of things should cease? Is it not time that active sympathy, which inquires into the cause and seeks for a remedy for every other evil that afflicts man, should turn its attention to this, the greatest of all evils, and the parent of them all? [Applause.] We hear of deeds of philanthropy and benevolence spoken of, which have characterized ages that have past, and times that History brings to us. It is said that the greatest discovery of philanthropy that has been made, was the discovery of vaccination for small pox. It was a great triumph of the healing art, and it was a great triumph of humanity that discovered that simple process by which the ravages of that most loathsome disease may be stayed. If it be so, with how much higher honor shall he be crowned and what high place ought he to hold in the affections of man, who shall discover an antidote for that evil--that disease--compared with which the small pox and the yellow fever deserve not to be named. If I understand rightly, the friends of Temperance are the parties who have found it--[Loud applause]--and whose motto is "Touch not, taste not, handle not the impure thing." [Renewed applause] They have discovered an antidote compared with the results of which, all that has been effected by the introduction of vaccination for small-pox is as nothing. I do not propose to go into detail this evening, for I have come up simply in obedience to your call, to let you know that my heart is with you.[Loud applause] And to let you know that it is a cause upon which I am not willing at any time to turn my back. [Renewed applause] Mr. President, shall I turn my back upon the cause because you have invited your wives, mothers and sisters? Surely, my friends, if this be such a work of philanthropy--such an effect as I have described it to be, it is entitled to the sympathy of woman, and it is not meet that she, that was last at the cross and first at the sepulchre, should stay her hand here. [Enthusiastic applause] Let this cause be taken up and be carried forward in that way which shall command itself to the best judgment of us all. It is a field of philanthropy so wide that we may all work in it without jostling against each other, and divide among ourselves the best for our labor in this glorious cause. With these remarks, my friends. I will leave, and not further trespass upon your patience; and I am sure I owe an apology to you for undertaking to address you on the subject of Temperance, when I stand before JOHN PIERPONT. [Loud and prolonged applause]

    Mr. GARRISON was called for, and made a few remarks, the substance of which was that he could not conscientiously vote for a Temperance Candidate, if he stood alone on his Temperance principles, and was opposed to the great cause which he (Mr. G.) had been the champion of for years.

    Miss LUCY STONE then offered a few observations.

    It was moved, seconded, and carried unanimously, that the thanks of this Convention be given to the Amphions, who had so kindly contributed to the pleasure of the audience; and to the reporters of the public Press.

    A gentleman proposed a vote of thanks to the President, which was carried unanimously, amid much applause.

    The Convention then adjourned sine die.

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