FOUNDATION OF THE SOCIETY
5th of April, 1840, was an eventful day. Influences were set at work
then, which have been developing and extending ever since, and which
promise to accomplish much for the good of mankind. On the evening of
that day, half a dozen men met in the bar-room of a tavern in Baltimore.
They had often met there before, spent their hours in friendly converse,
and mingled in the mutual drowning of care in the bowl. It was a place
of usual resort to them. And now they had met there as before, to drink
together from the poisonous cup, to which they were all too much addicted.
Without having become outcasts or sots, they had all confessedly suffered
severely from the frequent and intemperate use of intoxicating drinks,
- suffered in their health, suffered in their estates, suffered in their
families, their habits, their feelings and their reputation.
though these were plain men, they were men of unusual energy. It is
true that alcohol had made its ravages on their characters, their minds,
and their hearts. But the energy of manhood still survived. They were
the victims, rather than merely the votaries of the pleasures of the
bowl. They were in business, and five of them had families. They cared
for their business and loved their families. They had all started out
in life when young, with the hopes which usually beat high in the hearts
of youth in every branch of business, or situation in life, when first
entering upon the world. For a time they ran well. Business was fair.
Friends were not few. They had married, and were happy.
any man told either of them at eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years of
age, that twenty-five or thirty would find them drunkards, - that, like
thousands around them, they would suffer from the poison of the serpent,
and the sting of the adder in the cup, they would have laughed the insinuation
to scorn, and honestly too. They never dreamed then of being drunkards.
They drank moderately, and freely too. The habits of society at that
time, - of all classes of society, even religious, sanctioned the free
use of alcoholic drinks; and they went with the multitude never for
a moment thinking of evil. But the love of drink particularly of the
"social glass," grew upon them gradually and insensibly, until
habit was fixed and appetite strong; and ere they had suspected it,
they found themselves in the power of a monster, bound hand and foot
in chains, - the slaves of their own appetites. And now they frequented
the public taverns; and oft at night, or during the day, and even on
the Sabbath, instead of being at their business, or with their families,
or at church, they were to be found at the Hotel or Grogshop. They knew
it was wrong. They saw the evil; they felt it; they lamented it; and
times without number did they promise wife and friend and self, that
they would drink no more. They were sincere. They meant to be sober.
But at some fatal hour they would take one glass again, "just one
glass;" and they found themselves as powerless and debased as ever.
was on the evening of the day on which we have introduced them to the
reader that these six men were once more together at the tavern. Their
families were forsaken at home. Their business for the day was done.
But neither was entirely forgotten. The bar with its temptations was
near them. Their habits were to contend with. And the cravings of an
unnatural appetite within were against all good resolves. But these
men had not lost all their principle, their energy, or their feeling.
They looked to their homes, and they saw that much of domestic bliss,
which should gather round the fireside, was banished by the inebriating
cup. They looked to their business, and they knew they had suffered
there. They counted the cost, and they were astonished at the amount
of money they threw away in visiting the dram-shop. They looked back
to the days of their youth, when with free hearts and bounding hopes,
they had leaped into life, and had looked forward into the future never
dreaming of such a slavery. They looked to their reputation, their influence,
their health, their feelings, and their energy of character; and they
felt that they would lose all these, if they prosecuted much longer
the way in which they were hurrying down to death. They looked into
the future, and all was clouds and darkness. They deliberately weighed
the movement about to be made; and then rising in the energy of their
still surviving manhood, they resolved that hour they would drink no
more of the poisonous draught forever; and that to carry out their resolutions,
they would form a society with a pledge to that effect, and bind themselves
under it to each other for life.
is no fancy sketch. The circumstances have often been stated by the
founders of the society, just as we have detailed them. We do not pretend
to say, that the feelings and reflections above stated were matters
of grave deliberation and discussion among them. The movement had more
of a spontaneous character, and was at once and rather impulsively approved
as soon as suggested. But these were the silent meditations and reflections,
which were working in each individual breast, so that it needed but
that the proper chord should be touched, under the circumstances, and
their hearts all vibrated together: the matter needed but a proposal
to meet the approbation of all. It should also be remarked that the
idea of reformation had been suggested among them at a former meeting,
but no conclusion had been arrived at, as to either the certainty or
the manner of the accomplishment of their purpose.
now the deed was done. A constitution was agreed upon; and as the movement
was a great and important one, a great name was proposed to be affixed
as the title of the society. It was adopted. And this was the foundation
of the Washington Temperance Society of Baltimore.
the character of the deed itself, and the extraordinary results, which
have proceeded and are yet proceeding from it, justice requires that
the names of the founders of this association should be recorded, that
they may be handed down in all the future annals of the Temperance cause.
William K. Mitchell, John F. Loss, David Anderson, George Stears, Archibald
Campbell and James McCurley were the "original six," who founded
the Washington Temperance Society of Baltimore, and of course the originators
of that new system of Temperance operations, which has of late attracted
the attention of the country.
to the evening on which the society was formed, we have intimated that
the subject of reformation had been in contemplation among them for
several days. When the adoption of a society and pledge was proposed,
several difficulties were in the way of their successful organization.
These difficulties were mainly the apprehensions of evil influences
being introduced into the action of the society, to divert them from
their simple purpose, if, as might be, the society should ever become
efficient and numerous.
suggestion therefore it was resolved among themselves, that they would
place the temperance cause, so far as they were concerned, in the position
of a unit: that the society, as such, was to recognize no creed of religion,
nor party in politics; and that neither political nor religious action
of any kind, should ever be introduced into the society's operations.
Personal abstinence from all intoxicating drinks was to be the basis,
and only requisite of membership. Moral suasion was to be the only means
by which they, as a body, were to induce others to adopt their principles.
As a society, their whole business was to induce others not to drink
intoxicating liquors. They would thus be less likely to excite the suspicions
or prejudices of any class of men, and have free access to all; this
would render Temperance a simple principle of personal abstinence. It
would be, in the language of Father Matthew, "a green spot in the
desert of life, where all could meet in peace and harmony."
they determined that the regular meetings of the society should be meetings
for the detail of personal experience, and not for debates, lectures
and speeches; that even on matters of necessary business, as few remarks
as possible only would be tolerated. Thus all temperance addresses were
to be in the form of the individual experience of the several members.
The spirit of this rule and common sense were to guide them how far
any should be allowed to go in his remarks. The society was thus based
on facts, and not on an abstraction, and the principle of common honesty
was to direct them in all their movements.
difficulties being out of the way - the society being now organized,
and the constitution and pledge adopted and signed, the founders resolved
to hold weekly experience meetings for their own encouragement and benefit,
and for the good of others who might be induced to attend.