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:: The Significance of The Alcohol Prohibitionists For The Washington Temperance Societies ::
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Paterson
JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL, VOL. 41,(L), 1980. * 
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ALCOHOL PROHIBITIONISTS FOR THE WASHINGTON TEMPERANCE SOCIETIES
- Leonard U. Blumberg*
 
 
 
The Significance of The Alcohol Prohibitionists For The Washington Temperance Societies
vr_left.gifThe Significance of The Alcohol Prohibitionists For The Washington Temperance Societies
   
   
PATERSON

The response to the efforts of the New York Washingtonians was rapid. The "friends of temperance" in Paterson met in the Second Baptist Church on 16 April and that "The Committee appointed to wait on the Delegation from Baltimore," report that "they are now in Boston" (6). (1) Among these "friends of temperance" were Joseph Perry (Schoolteacher) and Alex H. Freeman (sheet metal and stoves), both of whom were later active in the organization of the Washingtonians in Paterson. (2) The senior partner and editor of the Paterson intelligencer, D.H. Day, who was sympathetic to the cause, seized the opportunity to keep interest alive by reprinting an article from the Boston Journal which described, in glowing terms, the visit of the Baltimore delegation (7): "Our friends in the country will be rejoiced to know that there never has existed so much healthy excitement on the subject of temperance, in our city, as at the present moment. - Meetings are held every evening and are crowded to overflowing," it reported. "The mass of people listen with breathless attention to the speakers, and every man goes away with a new zeal in the prosecution of the holy enterprise...Mr. Hawkins, at the Bethel [North Square, Boston] spoke for one hour with tremendous power, and carried his audience captive at his will. Now a deep and solemn silence pervaded the house; now was heard the hushed sob; and now again the outpouring of acclamation, like a cataract's roar. Mr. Wright spoke with more interest and power than he had yet done in our city; and this saying much. After his address four hundred and fifteen came forward and signed the pledge!” So it is no surprise that when Hawkins and Wright (2 of the original Baltimore delegation to New York City), along with several speakers from the New York Washington Temperance Benevolent Society, conducted a series of meetings in Paterson that May they were well received. The Paterson Intelligenc6r commented (8) the "the lectures had formerly been, according to their own statements, drunkards of the worst sort, and the accounts they gave of their own sufferings, and the sufferings of their families, were painful beyond description. Their lectures were strictly practical, and therefore had a greater effect upon the minds of the hearers than all the temperance addresses by persons who knew nothing of the subject from experience" As a consequence, 300 people signed the Washingtonian pledge; on 10 May the Paterson Washington Temperance Benevolent Society was formed by 30 of those who had signed the pledge, using both the name of the New York Society and its constitution (9). ("Temperance Benevolent" was the New York style, in contrast with Baltimore's "Temperance" and Boston's "Total Abstinence.") The Paterson Intelligencer (8), in its comments on the initial formative meetings in Paterson observed that "The ardor of the new fledged total abstinence is truly exhilarating; it seems to them that nothing has hitherto been done in the glorious cause; instead of opposing, as hitherto, they now will take the lead, and as old soldiers turn aside, as a relieved corps, they will go on to certain victory." Ultimately, the "old soldiers" found this enthusiasm a source of irritation as well as satisfaction, because the temperance-prohibitionists had been "labouring in the vineyard" for a long time and wanted what they regarded as their justly deserved reward of community recognition. At the time, however, all were caught up in a glowing and expansive enthusiasm that is evidenced in the report from Paterson printed in the Newark Daily Advertiser of 1 July 1841: "We have known many plans devised for the prosperity and improvement of our towns; laws enacted, companies formed, and new projects to facilitate business carried out - but they all sink into insignificance, both in moral and pecuniary point of view, by the side of the work we are now speaking of." Such dynamism and exaggerated expectations are not atypical of movements for social change in their early growth periods.

In its original form, the Baltimore Washingtonian pledge read as follows (4): "We, whose names are annexed, desirous of forming a society for our mutual benefit, and to guard against a pernicious practice, which is injurious to our health, standing and families we do pledge ourselves as gentlemen, not to drink any spirituous or malt liquors, wine or cider." The pledge used by the New York and Paterson societies reflected the influence of the temperance prohibitionists (10): "We, whose names are hereunto annexed, believing that the use of Intoxicating Liquors as a beverage, is not only needless, but hurtful to the social, civil and religious interests of men - that it tends to form intemperate habits - and that while it is continued, the evils of intemperance will never be done away - do, therefore , pledge ourselves that we will not drink any spirituous or malt liquor, wine or cider, and that in all suitable ways we will discountenance the use of them through the community." While this pledge seemed to support nonpolitical moral suasion (the Washingtonian position) its wording also provided the opening wedge for an explicit legal suasion - prohibitionist position.

The same dynamism that galvanized the Baltimoreans, the New Yorkers and the Bostonians was immediately evident in Paterson. During the first quarter-year, the Paterson Washingtonians conducted 9 mission meetings, which led to the formation of 3 new societies in nearby communities. We know the name of only 1 of these, the Manchester Washington Temperance Benevolent Society, which continued through the years to have a close relationship with the Paterson group. Their activity increased during the second quarter, when 39 mission meetings were held, and continued at least to the middle of June 1842, when delegates were sent to towns in Rockland County, New York, some 20 miles away. Street meetings were held from time to time in Paterson during the same period. A special delegation was even sent to "Cheap Josey's," a tavern "situated between Paterson and Bloomfield ... where shoemakers, tailors, pacemakers, cotton and woolen factory boys, and farmers, met together to drink, gamble and fight" (11,p.5).

This dynamism was also manifested in the personal lives of the artisans and workingmen who signed the pledge and joined the Washingtonians. For instance, John Broughton, a tailor, advertised that he had taken the pledge of "total abstinence from all that intoxicates and in consequence am restored to my sober senses again," and he appealed to his fellow townsmen to give him their "confidence and esteem as a consequence of his constant and sober application to his craft"(12).

The enthusiasm was also evidenced organizationally. By 23 June 1841, there was a [Boys] Juvenile Washington Temperance Benevolent Society of 50 members (13), who recited the following form of the pledge:

A pledge we make, by drinking gin; No wine to take, hard cider, too nor brandy, red, Will never do. To turn the head, nor brewer's beer, nor whiskey hot, Our hearts to cheer, That makes the sot, O quench our thirst, we always bring Nor fiery rum, Cold water, from the well or spring. That ruins home; so here we pledge perpetual hate. Nor will we sin, to all that can intoxicate.(3)

The junior society had about 130 members by the time of the Independence Day celebration. The Fourth of July was a time of special significance to the Washingtonians because in the past it had been the occasion for drunken sprees which disrupted the annual civic parades and embarrassed the respectable citizenry who saw it as a quasi-religious occasion for rededication to freedom and morality. Thus the Independence Day celebration in 1841 was different from previous ones; in the morning the town's Sunday school students paraded, and in the afternoon members of the Paterson Washington Temperance Benevolent Society marched in procession to the Congregational Methodist Church and were presented with a banner by the women church members which read "Total Abstinence from all that Intoxicates." They proceeded to what is now known as Totowa and then to an island in the Passaic River where they heard orations, most of which were by local ministers and ministers from New York (who, we may infer, were temperance-prohibitionists). The brass band of the Passaic Guards, a local voluntary militia group, played music. After a collation, the group met in the Second Presbyterian Church, where some Washingtonian experience speeches were given and some pledges were taken. The Washingtonians were, of course, celebrating their freedom from bondage to alcohol; the temperance-prohibitionist preachers were exhorting their listeners to free the country from its bondage to the rum sellers and rum makers; the contrast with past Independence Day celebrations was stark indeed!

Another sign of vitality was the existence of an active relief committee. The society's constitution provided that when they found a "poor drunkard in distress, from poverty, and unable to provide for his immediate necessities, to furnish him with food, raiment and shelter, or any of them, at his own discretion or if need be, with medicine and medical advice, provided always, that such relief shall in no case be granted unless there be reasonable grounds to believe that such poor drunkard will sign the pledge and reform...11 (10, Art.VI). The relief committee was active in the town although its actual cash resources were very limited. It's work was supplemented by that of the Martha Washington Temperance Benevolent Society, which in the quarter ending 3 August 1842 handed out $7.72 in cash, 23 articles of clothing and sundry provisions to families of reformed inebriates. The first directress at that time was the wife of Joseph Perry, the school-teacher who was also active as a temperance-prohibitionist.

By mid September 1841, the Paterson Washingtonians felt strong enough to call for a countrywide mass temperance meeting. The meeting was held on 19 November; had there not been a snowfall of several inches, the Martha Washingtonians of Paterson would have marched in the procession under their banner with a slogan that made their position quite clear: "Total abstinence or no husband! 11 Forty years later, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union used a similar slogan: "Lips that touch wine will never touch mine."

Finally, membership and financial data give us an additional assessment of the strength of the Paterson Washingtonian society in its formative period, although it is certainly not a clear one. By the end of the first quarter year of its existence, the Paterson society had 290 members and had gotten 1245 pledges, including 230 from the junior society. During the second quarter, the recording secretary claimed that 504 had joined the society, making a total of 1730 members. (4)These membership statistics must be viewed with caution because it seems probable that the distinction between members of the Paterson society and those who had signed the society's pledge had been obfuscated; it seems more likely that the 504 reported new members were those who had signed the pledge during the quarter and that 1730 was the total number of persons who had signed the pledge up to that time. Later data supported this interpretation: in March 1842 it was reported that the Paterson society had 2572 members; during the ensuing week 77 persons signed the pledge, and there was then a report of 2649 members. This confusion makes it impossible to assess the significance of membership statistics. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that through mid-1842 the Paterson society continued to grow; what is in doubt is the rate of growth and the numbers during this period of maximal growth.

The financial data also gives us a mixed picture of the vitality of the Paterson Washingtonians. In the first quarter, the society had a cash income of $28.35 and an expenditure of $19.56 for the use of a local Presbyterian church as a meeting place and for the relief of "poor drunkards." But, with a cash balance of $8.69, the society also had "accounts receivable" (my term) of $54, some of which was due from members and the balance of which had probably been given as loans rather than as cash grants to drunkards. The financial problem continued into the second quarter when the recording secretary commented in his report that the society was having problems collecting fees and dues owed to it; he recommended the formation of a special committee and also that a collection be taken at each meeting. By November 1842, a resolution was adopted "that some means may be devised to liquidate the debt of the Society, and report some plan to keep out of debt in the future..." (15). The procedure apparently adopted was one common for the period, subscriptions (regular contributions) were solicited among the citizens of Paterson.

The Washington Temperance Benevolent Society of Paterson continued to have considerable vitality at least through Independence Day. In May, the first anniversary of the society was celebrated with a public parade attended by delegates from Manchester, Aquackanonk, Hackensack, Godwinville, New Prospect, Jersey City, Newark, Boonton, Morristown and Mattewan. A company of Washington Temperance Guards with its own band came from New York City. Several weeks later, a group from New York City Hose Company Number 33 came to Paterson "with a view of giving our citizens a Specimen of Temperance song singing," and there was "an overflowing meeting assembled to hear this celebrated company exercise their vocal powers. Their performance was received with great éclat by the audience and gave universal satisfaction. One of them related his experience of the sad effects of drunkenness, and several of our cold water army made short addresses..."(16). They also successfully persuaded the members of the Paterson Company Number 3 to sign the pledge as a group. Sometime in April a group of Temperance Guards, including a choral group that sang regularly at the meetings of the society, was formed in Paterson. The combined Independence Day celebration of the Paterson and Manchester societies went well and was the major celebration in the town. The Washingtonians apparently continued to perceive themselves as the leaders of the temperance movement, judging by the toast to "Reformed Drunkards" (17), which went as follows: "The great Pioneers, who in front of the army of truth, are now successfully cutting the way through the Alcoholic wilderness of inequity and crime ..." The last pledge of the celebration, however, reflected both the continued concern for heavy drinkers and a recognition that the bloom had begun to fade: "To Backsliders - We pity them - May they again sign the pledge, and 'beware of the first glass."' This note of realism contrasts with the congratulatory tone of the recording secretary's comments at the close of the second quarterly report of the Paterson society (18): "Before closing this Report, it seems proper to notice the fidelity and perseverance with which the reformed have kept their pledge, and the blessed results to which this conduct has led, whether considered in reference to their own characters, the comfort and well being of their families, their influence in society, or their business affairs; also to invite the temperate and moderate drinker to cooperate with us in the endeavor to put an end to drunkenness." At this time Nathaniel Lane (sheet metal worker and stove merchant) was president of the society and his partner, Alex H. Freeman, was a member of the standing (executive) committee. (Lane was elected town tax collector on the Whig ticket in 1844. Joseph Perry was treasurer and John K. Flood, a storekeeper who short became town clerk, had been recording secretary and was now corresponding secretary. In addition, the arrangements committee included David H. Day, publisher of the Paterson Intelligencer, Abraham Van Blarcom, a temperance-prohibitionist, and John Avison, shoemaker, who was an activist in antislavery politics, a temperance-prohibitionist, and the town post-master. There can be no doubt that the temperance-prohibitionists were in positions of dominance in the society at this time.

By that summer, however, the new recording secretary commented in the quarterly report (19) that "There has been for a short time past, at least it seemed to me, a suppression of spirits among our veteran troops of this town; nor indeed with a reflecting mind is this to [be] wondered at, for preparatory to the great and glorious battles of the 10th of May and the 4th of July last, both resulting in signal victory over the enemy, their exertions, both physically and mentally, was excessive from exercise; marching, countermarching, raising and manning batteries, with a thousand or more etceteras, together with pains of scars (for their were no lives lost on the side of the Temperance Army) which are consequent to the battlefield." He continued, "Our spirits and wounds now healed up, let the victories of the past encourage to redouble our exertions, in not only guarding against the insidious movements of the deadly foe, but in making secure preparations for the next pitched battle, which will be fought on May 10th, 1843." Still using military language, he urged the society, "not to retire to our camps in the flush of victory... 11 and to "stand aloof from all political manoeuvring" for he observed that the society was being wooed by "wiley politicians" whom he called "wolves in sheep's clothing." The latter history of the society suggests that he was referring to the "respectables" who had joined the society. Civic life during this period was intensely political, and there can be little doubt that efforts were made to manoeuvre what seemed to be a strong and vital group to express positions favourable to the election of Whig, Anti-Slavery or Loco-foco (Democrat) candidates. The recording secretary had pointed to what proved to be a recurring problem for the society. In contrast to his predecessor in the post, the recording secretary, who warned his fellow Washingtonians of the dangers of alcohol and the need to continue to fight, apparently had an alcohol problem of his own; he was unceremoniously dropped from office on 28 October 1842 because he had broken his pledge, a fact that he acknowledged in a written communication that he requested be placed in the minutes of the society. Other incidents of recidivism began to receive attention, and there was an occasional report in the Paterson Intelligencer. Such a case was that of a 33-year-old man who after 18 months of abstinence, went on a spree and, despite the best efforts of a representative of the society (similar to Twelfth-Stepping in Alcoholics Anonymous), finally drowned himself in the Passaic River.

The annual report of the Manchester Washington Temperance Benevolent Society (20), published just before Christmas, 1842, indicated that the falling off of interest and "backsliding" were not unique to Paterson. The Manchester Society claimed 102 members when it was organized, some having dual membership in the Paterson society. Participation apparently had never been heavy, even among those who signed the pledge and were considered members, but with the help of the Paterson society, the total number had grown to 642. Two of the three taverns in Manchester had closed down, all 4 of the town's grocery stores had stopped selling spirits, and reclaimed members were now observing the Sabbath in church. Notwithstanding this, Benjamin Geroe, the recording secretary and an active temperance-prohibitionist, commented that some of the officers as well as some of the members "have not paid that attention to so good a cause as they might have done, and probably through their inattention in a measure, may be ascribed the cause of some falling away or returning to their cups." He concludes, nonetheless, with the hopeful statement that "of late a new impulse appears to be given to the standard of Teetotalism, as if they were determined on nothing less than complete victory."

Meanwhile the society rapidly became routinized; its meetings apparently were about the same week after week and much of the early excitement dissipated. Some of the extra-organizational efforts of the society were given up. Both the Junior Washington Temperance Benevolent Society and the Temperance Guards projects were abandoned sometime after the Independence Day celebration. Appeals were made to "make some extra efforts to produce a more lively interest in the cause of Temperance"(15), and a week-long series of meetings, similar to those held in the formative period of the society, was organized. Prominent speakers from New York and Philadelphia were "engaged" for these meetings; special meetings were held as often as possible to hear popular "Washingtonian lectures," for a degree of specialization had begun to emerge. That comment that "If the above named gentlemen do not draw full houses, we don't know who can" (21), makes clear that recruitment was uppermost in the minds of the sponsors. A drift away from Washingtonian practices appears to have begun; at the last meeting in November 1842, a motion was passed that thereafter the pledge would not be circulated at meetings but would be available for those who wished to sign. Evidently most of those who now came to the meetings had signed the pledge; for all practical purposes, the membership recruitment process had reached its peak and only a few who were eligible to sign the pledge were now coming to the meetings. Further, "experience meetings," which were a central feature of Washingtonian practice, had apparently fallen off during mid-1842, because a motion was passed to hold experience meetings "in order to bring out new speakers to keep up the interest of the meetings" (22). But these experience meetings were to be held on Thursday nights while the regular meetings were held on Friday nights (both were held in the basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church). A trial of King Alcohol was scheduled for February 1843 in order to pique the interest of persons who might not otherwise be attracted to the meetings. For a time the weekly meetings were dropped, but they were begun again in the hope that they would attract more members and greater participation.

The second anniversary celebration of the Washington Temperance Benevolent Society of Paterson, on 10 May 1843, was a more subdued affair than the previous one, although there was a procession through Paterson and Manchester. The Independence Day celebration that year included the Washingtonians, but they did not dominate it as they had in the two previous years. The incoming president, Samuel A. Van Saun, was a grocery store keeper, a member of the Township Poor Committee, and a warden of the Paterson Fire Association; the incoming recording secretary was Dr. J. Nightingale; the treasurer was William Moyle, a public accountant and bill collector, who was also an active antislavery advocate; and John Avison was on the standing committee. Given this kind of top leadership in the Paterson society, it is not surprising to find that on 18 June 1843 there was a lecture by Reverend Warren, agent of the New Jersey State Temperance Society, and that on the next day Warren suggested organizing a juvenile band to be coordinated with the activities of the Washington Society. That is, the temperance-prohibitionists now proposed to pick up the juvenile program that the Washingtonians had abandoned.

The liaison with the temperance-prohibitionists intensified in 1844. Until this time, the Paterson Washingtonians had largely ignored the meetings of the county and state temperance societies, but now a delegation was appointed to attend the State Temperance Convention to be held in Trenton on 17 January 1844. Among the delegates were Benjamin Geroe the longtime recording secretary of the Manchester society (which was now an auxiliary of the Paterson society), Nathaniel Lane, Samuel A. Van Saun and Horatio Moses, the incoming president of the Paterson society. The third anniversary celebration of the Paterson Washingtonians on 10 May 1844 was a relatively subdued evening service held in the Methodist Episcopal Church. "The audience was large and respectable, "said the Paterson Intelligencer, (23), "principally ladies, whose presence and strict attention, enlivens and cheers a meeting of any description.', One of the principal speakers was the Reverend E. Cheever, of Newark, secretary of the Essex County Temperance Society, who gave an address "well calculated to invigorate teetotalers with new life and to reward action." Horatio Moses was the new president; Samuel A. Van Saun was now treasurer, John Avison and Benjamin Crane, an antislavery activist, were members of the executive committee and Wright Flavell, also an antislavery activist, was on the relief committee. The speaker at the 9 August 1844 meeting was the Reverend Mr. Wise, agent of the New England Temperance Society, whose subject was "the moral character of the traffic in intoxicating liquors; in which he showed by convincing arguments, that it could not be carried on in obedience to the divine commandments, but was productive of much injury to mankind, producing crime, disease, degradation, and death to a great extent" (24). This was followed by a speech on 30 August 1844 at which a Mr. Root spoke "of the necessity of Christians aiding the Temperance Cause" (25). Root also discussed his theory that evil spirits exert influence over men suffering from delirium tremens (26), which is referred to as a "disease" in the newspaper report. All of this built to a meeting on 15 November at which the members of the society were asked to circulate a petition to the legislature calling for prohibition of the sale of alcoholic drinks on the Christian Sabbath; the members of the Washington Temperance Benevolent Society of Paterson had now been brought around to political activism contrary to the original Washington stance and in line with the temperance-prohibitionist political strategy of incrementalism. The principal speaker, the Reverend Mr. Russell, further "spoke of the influence of Public Sentiment in Republican governments, and showed that in order to sustain good laws we must continue to sow the seeds of truth and thus get public sentiment right in regard to the subject of Temperance, that it will sustain good laws" (27). His speech, in conjunction with those of other recent speakers, provided the basis for a justification of political temperance activity-prohibitionism.

From this point on, reports of the Washington Temperance Benevolent Society become more and more sketchy. The affiliation with the state temperance society had become regularized is suggested by the fact that three of the four delegates sent to the January 1845 convention had also been to the 1844 convention. Informal ties were developed with the Ancient Order of Rechabites, a temperance fraternal order. In March 1846 the Paterson Washingtonians moved another step, toward the temperance- prohibitionist approach with the passage of a resolution stating "That in the opinion of this Society, the Court of Common Pleas, at its present session in granting licenses, have not only violated the strict letter and spirit of the law, but have shown themselves destitute of common morality" (26). This resolution, ostensibly a commentary on who should or should not receive licenses, moves close to prohibitionism when it denounces the members of the court as "destitute of common morality"; only by a refusal of all licenses would the court have been in accordance with the concept of "common morality," which the group now seemed to espouse. The Paterson Washington society was almost moribund by 1846, but there was still enough life in it for a major controversy, one which illustrates that, for all practical purposes, it had been absorbed into the temperance-prohibitionist camp. This was so, despite the fact that on 18 March 1846 it published a resolution to the effect that it was neutral with respect to moral, political or religious questions and that it did not attempt to control the individual acts of its members in any respect outside of its business in the Temperance Hall. This was obviously in anticipation of a letter printed in the Paterson Intelligencer of 25 March 1846 by S. Tutle, a member of the executive committee of the society, in which he tendered his resignation from the committee on the grounds that the society had become political. "There were some," he wrote, "who were slow to embrace the principles of Total Abstinence, and Washingtonians, forgetting the secret of their success (moral suasion), resorted to political action, to force those men into compliance with their principles. From that time to the present, a shameful course of hypocrisy and double-dealing has been pursued by many of the professed friends of Temperance. They care no more for the progress of Temperance principles than they do for the religion of Mohamet; and they only mount the Temperance hobby, hoping to ride over the ruins of the Whig party." Tuttle went on to point out that at a recent county temperance meeting called at the behest of the Paterson Washington society a resolution was adopted that "we, as lovers of the principles set forth in the previous address [i.e., temperance-prohibitionist principles], will not give our suffrage to any persons who is not pledged to Total Abstinence," thereby proscribing every unpledged candidate and raising up a powerful opposition to the temperance cause. Tuttle argued that the Paterson Washington society had called the meeting and that the resolution had been passed unanimously, and so the Paterson Society, was inconsistent in now claiming that it had not taken a political position. Tuttle further claimed that one of the objects of the meeting was to take action to support the formation of a temperance ticket for town officers at the ensuing town meeting. Tuttle argued that such a ticket could not win but could only lead to the defeat of the Whigs. To which some participants of the convention reportedly replied "God speed" before Tuttle could point out that the major consequence of the plan would be the election of the Democratic slate. When he did point that out and offered a counterrevolution, he was voted down by those who were committed to political action. He charged that "The Society has now sanctioned the political juggling of its members, by telling them in effect, that it will have nothing to do with politics, and that they may come into their Hall and hold a Temperance Benevolent meeting, and then go right into the next room, or any other place and hold a Temperance Political meeting, and it will be all right; and if any man charges the Society with political movements, then he is an artful and designing man! I think, sir that the Temperance Society, as a body, is secretly in favour of these political movements, and therefore I have declined acting as one of its Business Committee." He goes on to say that after the meeting one member admitted that he wanted the Whig party to lose at the next election and that he was a Loco-foco (Democrat). An unsigned reply the following week argued that Mr. Tuttle had intruded into a private meeting called expressly to form a caucus (and, by inference that was not a Washingtonian meeting) and so he was out of order. Efforts were made to resolve the serious disagreement that had arisen within the Paterson Washington Temperance Benevolent Society but they were not very successful. The society went on with its annual meeting and the Independence Day celebration was conducted in conjunction with the Rechabites and the Sons of Temperance. At one meeting in June not enough members were present to provide a quorum. The struggle came to a head when, at the mid-August meeting, Abraham Van Blarcom, a temperance-prohibitionist, offered a resolution that the society support a local option license law similar to the one in New York State and that the members of the society would not support anyone who was "not known as the open and decided friend of such a law" (29). The motion was tabled, to be brought up at the mid-September meeting. Tuttle offered an amendment to strike out the clause about withholding the vote, and the support of local option licensing passed. There ensued an indecisive struggle between the advocates of withholding the vote and those opposed. The resolution of this struggle was not publicly reported, but it is clear that the temperance-prohibitionist position in favour of legal suasion had been accepted even by those who were opposed to withholding the vote; the struggle was over the next steps of political activity rather than the principle that Washingtonians would refrain from efforts to prevent the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages through legislation.

That the Paterson Washington Temperance Benevolent Society was now largely irrelevant to the temperance movement in Paterson is evidenced by the fact that in early November 1847 a series of temperance meetings were announced in the various churches in town - the Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and Free Presbyterian. The meetings were strongly legalistic and linked morality to a legislative approach. The Washingtonian society was not a sponsor of these meetings; it had been bypassed. There is even some question as to whether the organization any longer existed except in a nominal sense, for reports of its activities were no longer published in the Paterson Intelligencer, which had been strongly supportive from its very inception.

*Posted with permission from Alcohol Research Documentation, Inc., publisher of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol (now the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs [www.jsad.com])

The Significance of The Alcohol Prohibitionists For The Washington Temperance Societies
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