The National Encyclopædia


TEMPERANCE,

a movement for the diminution or suppression of the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors, which has of late years attained extraordinary and gratifying proportions, was inaugurated, on this side of the Atlantic, by the self-devotion of an Irish priest, named Father Mathew. He was one of those remarkable men who arise at rare intervals, gifted with the faculty of appealing direct to the hearts of the multitude, and arousing their enthusiasm while securing their convictions. His eloquence was fervid and spontaneous; he possessed a happy flow of imagery and illustration; and both in his manner and speech there was a powerful earnestness which invariably proved contagious.

It is true that before his time, and, in fact, as far back as the beginning of the present century, a temperance movement had been in existence. It seems to have originated in the United States, where the extraordinary prevalence of the vice of drunkenness called for stringent measures of reform. In April, 1808, a society was established at Saratoga, in New York, which pledged its members against the use of alcoholic drinks except under medical advice, in case of disease, or at public dinners; three exceptions which opened a wide door for indulgence and dissipation. We cannot wonder, therefore, that it effected but little good, or that it was found necessary, in 1825, to organize a confederacy on stricter principles, which was called 'The American Society for the

It is said that a plasterer's labourer, named Richard Turner, was accustomed to stutter out in Lancashire dialect his hatred of the 'moderate' doctrine, "I'll hev nowt to do with wi' this moderation -- botheration -- pledge; I'll be reet down tee-tee-total for ever and ever.'

Promotion of Temperance.' In 1829 'The New York State Temperance Society' commenced its career, and in less than two years had founded 1000 affiliated societies, and a periodical (The Journal of Humanity) designed to support the movement. From the New World the new gospel of temperance spread to the Old, and numerous associations sprung up in the north of Ireland and in Scotland; in the latter country, through the exertions of Mr. John Dunlop, of Greenock, 'The Glasgow and West of Scotland Temperance Society' being established in November, 1829. It should be noted that the efforts of this and similar societies were mainly, if not altogether, directed against the use of spirits, but that beer and wine were not as yet prohibited. The temperance reformers were indefatigable in their labours, and before the close of 1830 had gained so much ground in Scotland that they boasted of 130 societies, with 25,478 members. But the movement entered upon a new phase in 1830, when Total Abstinence Societies were started, whose members were pledged to abstain from all kinds of intoxicating drink. In the same year a society on the old temperance principle was established at Bradford, in Yorkshire; in April, one at Warrington; in May, one at Manchester; and in 1831, under high auspices, 'The British and Foreign Temperance Society' commenced its labours. The total abstinence movement extended to England in 1832, and the first English association with this object sprung up at Preston, in Lancashire. The word 'teetotal' came into use in the following year. It is said that a plasterer's labourer, named Richard Turner, was accustomed to stutter out in Lancashire dialect his hatred of the 'moderate' doctrine, "I'll hev nowt to do with we' this moderation -- botheration -- pledge; I'll be reet down tee-tee-total for ever and ever.' The 'tee-tee-total' was accepted by abstainers as the shibboleth of their creed. It is but fair to add that some authorities ascribe a different derivation to the phrase, which they state is in common use in the county palatine as a synonym for thorough; when a man is discharged from inability to work, he is said to be teetotally sacked. At all events teetotalism made an extraordinarily rapid progress, and and active warfare arose between its professors on the one hand, and the more moderate advocates of temperance on the other.

The balance was decided in favour of the former, it seems to us, by the energy and eloquence of Father Mathew, who commenced his labours at Cork in 1833, and in five months administered the teetotal pledge in Ireland to 131,000 persons. Travelling round the island he increased the number to upwards of 1,500,000, and when he visited England and Scotland his success was not less distinguished. He gave so great an impetus to the movement that he may fairly be called the apostle of teetotalism. It is true that even before his death something of the excessive fervour of his disciples had declined, and thousands of pledge abstainers had 'relapsed;' but no impartial observer will deny that he effected a marked improvement in the morals of the lower classes, and that much of the undeniable progress in temperate habits made by skilled artizans and labourers is due to the impetus administered by this extraordinary man.

In 1846 'The World's Temperance Convention' met in London, on which occasion 302 delegates represented different societies in Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States. Since that period the cause of temperance has progressed in a manner which no moralist can fail to rejoice at. Associations are formed and flourishing not only in our great cities but in our small rural towns, and the young have been enlisted in the movement by the establishment of so-called 'Bands of Hope.' Their principles are advocated by magazines and weekly journals, lectures, public and private meetings, demonstrations, and prize novels and essays. It is affirmed that, at the present time, the United Kingdom can boast of 3,000,000 persons pledged to total abstinence from alcoholic liquors. There are several organizations, all having the same object in view, but proceeding to it by different paths and having their independent organs in the press.

The Total Abstainers' Union is an exceedingly active body, and endeavours to attract proselytes by the organization, in the summer, of well-managed excursions on Saturday afternoons to places of interest, and in the winter, of Saturday evening concerts and tea-meetings, to which the public are admitted at the lowest possible rates.

A body of pledged teetotallers was organized in the United States in 1870, under the name of 'Good Templars,' somewhat resembling the Freemasons in their signs and in their fondness for numerous officers and gay insignia. The scheme succeeded admirably, and was afterwards introduced with equal success into this country, the society having proved a great attraction to many teetotallers who had become somewhat lukewarm, as well as to the young.

We must look for the suppression of intemperance to the gradual spread of education, to measures of sanitary reform, and to the slow but steady progress of public opinion... No impartial person will deny that drunkenness is the appalling vice of the United Kingdom, the canker which eats into its very life, the fester which threatens to corrupt the whole body politic.

Of late years the advocates of temperance and teetotalism, not contented with social and literary propagandism, have endeavoured to enforce their principles by means of legislative action. In the state of Maine, in America, the liquor traffic was suppressed in 1846, and in 1851 a law for the suppression of tippling shops, &c., rendered penal the sale of intoxicating drinks. It has, however, been proved on incontrovertible evidence that these measures have rather tended to encourage than diminish intemperance, and that evasions of the law on a scale of enormous magnitude have demoralized public feeling and thrown open the door to scandalous abuses. The advocates of legislative prohibition in the United Kingdom have, therefore, felt that to agitate for a Maine liquor law would be a hopeless task, and have laboured to obtain what they call a Permissive Bill, by which a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers in a parish may be at liberty to sappers the sale of liquor in that parish. To such an enactment the same objections would apply as to a Maine liquor law. It would be equally a violation of all rules of political economy, would be equally unsuccessful, and would just as certainly promote an illegal and unlicensed traffic. We must look for the suppression of intemperance to the gradual spread of education, to measures of sanitary reform, and to the slow but steady progress of public opinion. No impartial person will deny that drunkenness is the appalling vice of the United Kingdom, the canker which eats into its very life, the fester which threatens to corrupt the whole body politic, and every statesman and moralist will rejoice in the crusade directed against it by the advocates of total abstinence, so long as they confine themselve within reasonable limits.

Into the physiological bearings of the question we consider it unnecessary to enter. They have been argued by some of our ablest writers, and the weight of evidence seems to us undeniably in favour of those who contend that alcohol in small quantities may be taken with advantage by most constitutions. On the other hand, in large doses it is a potent poison, and those persons who cannot depend upon their self-control and habits of prudence will do well to abandon it altogether, either in the shape of wine, beer, or spirits. And he who can live in a pure atmosphere, and obtain a sufficient supply of wholesome food, may certainly dispense with the stimulant, even though confident in his power to use it moderately.