SPREAD OF THE MOVEMENT
phenomenon like this could not be confined to Baltimore, for the Washington
men had it in their power to meet many pressing needs. First of all,
there were the drunkards in need of reclamation - a need long ignored
because the opinion prevailed that there was no hope for them. The meeting
of this need partook of the miraculous. Secondly, there was the overwhelming
drive on the part of the reformed men to carry their message of hope
to other victims of drink - spilling over into a desire to prevent such
suffering by winning those not addicted to certain sobriety in total
abstinence. Finally, there were the needs of the temperance leaders.
Set back by the 1836 decision to put temperance on a total abstinence
basis, they needed a convincing argument for total abstinence as well
as some effective means of rekindling enthusiasm for their cause. The
Washington men were the answer to these needs, for what could be a better
argument for total abstinence that its apparent power to reclaim even
the confirmed drunkard; and what could excite more interest than the
personally told experiences of reformed drunkards?
first recorded activity outside of Baltimore was the speaking of John
H.W. Hawkins, in February 1841, to the delegates of the Maryland State
Temperance Society, meeting in Annapolis, and to the members of the
State Legislature in the same city.
who was to become the most effective spokesman of the movement, had
joined the Washington Temperance Society on June 14, 1840, after more
than 20 years of excessive drinking. Born in Baltimore on September
28, 1797, he was apprenticed at an early age to a hat maker. During
this apprenticeship he developed a dependence on alcohol which was increased
during 3 years in the frontier communities of the West. His religious
conversion at the age of 18 did not eradicate this craving. Resuming
his trade in Baltimore, he battled in vain against his addiction. The
panic of 1937 left him unemployed, reducing him to a pauper on public
relief. Guilt and remorse over his family's destitution only intensified
his alcoholism. His own account of his last drinking days and his reclamation,
as given in his first New York talk, are preserved for us:
said he, "shall I forget the 12th of June last. The first two weeks
in June I averaged - it is a cross to acknowledge it - as much as a
quart and a pint a day. That morning I was miserable beyond conception,
and was hesitating whether to live or die. My little daughter came to
my bed and said, II hope you won't send me for any more whiskey today.'
I told her to go out of the room. She went weeping. I wounded her sorely,
though I had made up my mind I would drink no more. I suffered all the
horrors of the pit that day, but my wife supported me. She said, "Hold
on, hold on. I Next day I felt better. Monday I wanted to go down and
see my old associates who had joined the Washington Society. I went
and signed. I felt like a free man. What was I now to do to regain my
character? My friends took me by the hand. They encouraged me. They
did right. If there is a man on earth who deserves the sympathy of the
world it is the poor drunkard; he is poisoned, cast out, knows not what
to do, and must be helped or be lost... (8).
did not take his associates long to discover that he had the qualities
of a leader. A splendid physique and commanding presence, combined with
a gift for extemporaneous speaking, made him an ideal lecturer. (l)"
It is not surprising, therefore, that Hawkins was selected to speak
before the Maryland State Temperance Society and the State Legislature.
Christian Keener left an eyewitness report of the latter occasion which
helps to explain Hawkins' appeal:
He commenced his speech by letting them know that he stood before then
a reformed drunkard, less than twelve months ago taken almost out of
the gutter; and now in the Senate chamber of his native State, addressing
hundreds of the best informed and most intelligent men and women, and
they listened with tearful attention. The circumstances had an almost
overpowering effect on his own feelings and those of his audience. He
is a man of plain, good common sense, with a sincerity about him, and
easy way of expressing himself, that every word took like a point-blank
shot. His was the eloquence of the heart; no effort at display (9).
this time, a Baltimore businessman attended a temperance meeting in
New York City. News of the Baltimore developments having already been
circulated by John Marsh through the Journal of the American Temperance
Union, this visitor was requested to give a brief history and description
of the Washington Soc3ety. A conversation with Dr. Rease, after the
meeting, brought forth the suggestion that some of the Washington men
be invited to New York to relate their experiences. This tentative proposition
was taken to the Baltimore society, accepted by them, and the arrangements
completed for a delegation of five to go. The five were William K. Mitchell,
John W. Hawkins, J.F. Pollard, and two other members, Shaw and Casey.
first meeting in New York was held on Tuesday, March 23, 1841, in the
Methodist Episcopal Church on Green Street. The curious throngs were
not disappointed. As in Baltimore, the experiences of these "reformed
drunkards" deeply moved and inspired all those who came to hear.
Not only that, but real-life drama was enacted at the meeting. The New
York Commercial Advertiser reported the next morning:
the first speech a young man rose in the gallery and, though intoxicated,
begged to know if there was any hope for him; declaring his readiness
to bind himself, from that hour, to drink no more. He was invited to
come down and sign the pledge, which he did forthwith, in the presence
of the audience, under deep emotion, which seemed to be contagious,
for others followed; and during each of the speeches they continued
to come forward and sign, until more than a hundred pledges were obtained;
a large portion of which were intemperate persons, some of whom were
old and grey headed. Such a scene as was beheld at the secretary's table
while they were signing, and the unaffected tears that were flowing,
and the cordial greetings of the recruits by the Baltimore delegates,
was never before witnessed in New York(8).
the subsequent meetings were equally successful. John Marsh and the
other temperance leaders who were promoting the meetings were delighted.
With no church large enough to hold the curious crowds, it was decided
to hold an open air meeting in City Hall Park. More than 4,000 turned
out for this. The speakers, mounted on upturned rum kegs, again enthralled
the crowd. This impressive occasion was merely the climax of a triumphant
campaign: about 2,000 were converted to the total abstinence pledge,
including many confirmed drunkards with whom the men worked between
meetings. At this time the Washington Temperance Society of New York
delegation returned to Baltimore in time for the first anniversary parade
and celebration, an April 5th. With the memory of the New York success
still fresh in their minds, this must have been a very happy and meaningful
occasion - not merely the recognition of a year's achievement, but also
a portent of things to come.
began to happen rapidly now. While the New York meetings were in progress,
John Marsh wrote to the Boston temperance leaders about the power of
the Washingtonian appeal. Arrangements were quickly made so that within
a week after the first anniversary celebration Hawkins and William E.
Wright were on their way to Boston for a series of meetings in the churches.
There were those who doubted that Bostonians would respond as enthusiastically
as New Yorkers, but the coming of these speakers was well published
and even larger crowds than in New York greeted them. The first meeting
was held on April 15, 1841. The Daily Mail had this report the following
Odeon was filled to its utmost capacity, last evening, by a promiscuous
audience of temperance men, distillers, wholesalers and retail dealers
in ardent spirits, conformed inebriates, moderate drinkers, lovers of
the social glass, teetotalers, etc., to listen to the speeches of the
famous "Reformed Drunkards," delegates from the Washington
Temperance Society of Baltimore, who have excited such a deep interest
in the cause of temperance in other places...Mr. Hawkins of Baltimore,
was the second of the "Reformed Drunkards" introduced to the
meeting. He was a man of forty-four years of age - of fine manly form
- and he said he had been more than twenty years a confirmed inebriate.
He spoke with rather more fluency, force and effect, than his predecessor,
but in the same vein of free and easy, off-hand, direct, bang-up style;
at times in a single conversational manner, then earnest and vehement,
then pathetic, then humorous - but always manly and reasonable. Mr.
Hawkins succeeded in "working up" his audience finely. Now
the house was as quiet and still as a deserted church, and anon the
high dome rang with violent bursts of laughter and applause. Now he
assumed the melting mood, and pictured the scenes of a drunkard's home,
and that home his own, and fountains of generous feelings, in many hearts,
gushed forth in tears - and again, in a moment, as he related, some
ludicrous story, these tearful eyes glistened with delight, sighs changed
to hearty shouts, and long faces were convulsed with broad grins and
glorious smiles (1).
Boston Mercantile Journal reported the same meeting in the following
exercises at the temperance meeting at the Odeon last evening possessed
a deep and thrilling interest. The hall was crowded and Messrs. Hawkins
and Wright...spoke with great eloquence and power for more than two
hours, and when, at ten o'clock, they proposed abridging somewhat they
had to say, shouts of "Go on! Go on!" were heard from all
parts of the house. We believe more tears were never shed by an audience
in one evening than flowed last night...Old grey haired men sobbed like
children, and the noble and honourable bowed their heads and wept. Three
hundred and seventy-seven came forward and made "the second declaration
of independence," by pledging themselves to touch no intoxicating
drink; among them were noticed many bloated countenances, familiar as
common drunkards; and we promise them health, prosperity, honour, and
happiness in the pursuance of their new principles(9).
even the standing room in Faneuil Hall was filled, a few evenings later,
and the crowd responded with unrestrained enthusiasm, several hundred
coming forward to sign the pledge at the close of the meeting, there
was no longer any doubt that the Washingtonian reformers had a universally
potent appeal. Here was "human interest" material par excellence.
No fiction could be more exciting or dramatic. These true-life narratives
pulled at the heartstrings. They aroused awe and wonder at the "miracle
of rebirth." Formal religious beliefs had flesh and blood put on
dry bones. And, to the victim of drink, the Washingtonian message was
like a promise of life to a doomed man. It was the impossible come true.
these meetings, a Washington Total-Abstinence Society was formed in
Boston. Hawkins was also engaged as the paid secretary of the Massachusetts
Temperance Society, and on June 1, 1841, returned from Baltimore with
his family. Within a short space of time, he and his Boston associates
succeeded in carrying the Washingtonian movement into 160 New England
May 11, 1841, the executive committee of the American Temperance Union,
on the occasion of its anniversary meeting in New York City, paid high
tribute to the Washingtonians. In July at the national convention of
the Union, at Saratoga Springs, this praise was even more fulsome. John
Marsh and many of the other leaders saw in the Washingtonians the possibilities
of a great forward advance for the temperance movement. None of them,
however, even in their most optimistic moments, sensed the vitality
that was to be manifested by the Washingtonian movement that very summer
before the Saratoga convention, two of the most famous of the many Washingtonian
deputation teams, Pollard and Wright, and Vickers and Small, had begun
extensive tours. By autumn, many teams and individuals were in the field.
From the 1842 Report of the American Temperance Union, it is possible
to trace the rapid spread of the movement throughout the country.
Pollard and W.E. Wright, both of Baltimore - the former having accompanied
Hawkins to New York, and the latter to Boston - began their work early
in the summer of 1841 in Hudson, New York. Their first efforts were
discouraging, but soon they got attention and in a few weeks nearly
3,000 of the 5,500 inhabitants of Hudson had signed the pledge. A Hudson
resident has left this account of their type of meeting:
of the meeting took the air of deep religious solemnity, eyes that never
wept before were suffused...the simple tale of the ruined inebriate,
interrupted by a silence that told of emotions too big for utterance,
would awaken general sympathy, and dissolve a large portion of the audience
in tears. The spell which had bound so many seemed to dissolve under
the magic eloquence of those unlettered men. They spoke from the heart
to the heart. The drunkard found himself unexpectedly an object of interest.
He was no longer an outcast. There were some who still looked upon him
as a man. A chord was reached which had long since ceased to respond
to other influences less kind in their nature...The social principle
operated with great power. A few leaders in the ranks of intemperance
having signed the pledge, it appeared to be the signal for the mass
to follow: and on they came, like a torrent sweeping everything before
it. It was for weeks the all-absorbing topic... (7).
and Wright attended the Saratoga convention and then toured through
central and western New York; and that autumn, through New Jersey and
Pennsylvania. On this tour they obtained 23,340 signatures to the pledge,
"one-fifth of which were supposed to be common drunkards"(7).
Late in 1841 they spoke in Maryland and Delaware. They moved in January
1842 into Virginia, where they worked particularly in Richmond, Petersburg,
Charlottesville and Norfolk, pledging Negroes as well as whites.
other famous team, Jesse Vickers and Jesse W. Small, also of Baltimore,
began their campaign in June 1841 in Pittsburgh, where "all classes,
all ages, all ranks and denominations, and both sexes, pressed every
night into overflowing churches." In a brief time 10,000 were pledged,
"Including a multitude of most hopeless characters"(7). This
success was followed by another in Wheeling, from which place they proceeded
to Cincinnati where Lyman Beecher, now president of Lane Theological
Seminary, had diligently prepared the way for their coming. Large crowds
turned out for the meetings and a strong Washington society was organized
which, by the end of 1841, claimed 8,000 members, 900 of them reformed.
Cincinnati became the chief centre of Washingtonianism in the West,
and Vickers and Small spent a great deal of time preparing the converts
who were to carry on the missionary work. One of these Cincinnati teams,
Brown and Porter, obtained 6,529 signatures in an 8-week campaign in
the surrounding country, 1,630 of them from "hard drinkers"
and 700 from confirmed drunkards. Another Cincinnati team, Turner and
Guptill, toured western Ohio and Michigan. On December 21, 1841, a team
of three, probably including Vickers, began a campaign in St. Louis,
laying the foundation for a Washington society that numbered 7,500 within
a few months. Many communities in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois were
also visited. It is interesting to note that on February 22, 1842, Abraham
Lincoln addressed the Washington Society of Springfield, Ill. Just how
quickly the West was cultivated by the Washingtonian missionaries, operating
chiefly out of Cincinnati, is shown by the May 1842 claims of 60,000
signatures in Ohio, 30,000 in Kentucky, and 10,000 in Illinois. Of these,
it was claimed, "every seventh man is a reformed drunkard, and
every fourth man a reformed tippler"(7).
intensity of this cultivation varied with time and place. How intensive
it could be is well portrayed by a citizen of Pittsburgh, in a letter
to John Marsh, in April 1842:
work has grown in this city and vicinity...at such a rate as has defied
a registration of its triumphs with anything like statistical accuracy.
...The most active agents and labourers in the field have been at no
time able to report the state of the work in their own entire province
- the work spread us from place to place - running in so many currents,
and meeting in their way so many others arising from other sources,
or springing spontaneously in their pathway, that no one could measure
its dimensions or compass its spread. We have kept some eight or ten
missionaries in the field ever since last June, who have toiled over
every part and parcel of every adjoining country of Pennsylvania, and
spread thence into Ohio and Virginia, leaving no school house, or country
church, or little village, cross roads, forge, furnace, factory, or
mills, unvisited; holding meetings wherever two or three could be gathered
together, and organizing as many as from 20 to 30 societies in a single
the Boston area, Washingtonian activity was intensive from the beginning.
Within 3 months after the first Hawkins and Wright meetings, the Boston
society had this to report:
this society went into operation the delegating committee have sent
out two hundred and seventeen delegations to one hundred and sixty towns
in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island, with
wonderful success....Some of those towns where we have formed societies
are now sending out their delegates. The whole country is now alive
to the subject...It is acknowledged on all sides that no people like
ours - although unlearned - could create such a wonderful interest in
the all absorbing cause....
is no doubt that about 50,000 persons have signed the pledge in the
different towns that our delegates have visited. Where societies were
already formed, a more lively interest was created, - new signers obtained
from those who had been inebriates, and thus a new energy imparted...Where
societies had not before existed, new societies were formed...(8).
months later, in May 1842, the Boston society had 13,000 members, had
sent 260 delegations to 350 towns in New England, and had produced a
number of converts who had become effective missionaries outside of
New England. Benjamin Goodhue, in December 1841, stirred up great interest
in Sag Harbour and the east end of Long Island. A Mr. Cady, during this
winter, toured North Carolina, securing 10,000 signatures. In February
1842 Joseph J. Johnson and an unnamed fellow Bostonian conducted successful
campaigns in Mobile and New Orleans.
May 1842 the movement had penetrated every major area of the country
and was going particularly strong in central New York and New England.
The most vigorous urban centres were Baltimore, New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Washington, Cincinnati and St. Louis. The city of Baltimore
had 15 societies and 7,842 members. New York and vicinity had 23 societies
and 16,000 members. In the Journal of the American Temperance Union,
on April 1, 1842, John Marsh wrote enthusiastically of the New York
activity: "We suppose there are not less than fifty meetings held
weekly and most of them are perfect jams. Our accessions are numerous
and often of the most hopeless characters"(9). In and around Philadelphia,
where the societies took the name of Jefferson, some 20,000 members
were enrolled. In the District of Columbia there were 4,297 members
and another 1,000 in Alexandria, Va. Later in the year Hawkins visited
Washington and was successful in reactivating the old Congressional
Temperance Society and putting it on a total abstinence basis. Congressman
George N. Briggs, soon to be Governor of Massachusetts, became president
of this reorganized society.
the list of outstanding reformed men who became effective Washingtonian
missionaries during this first year, there should be added the names
of George Haydock, Hudson, N.Y.(8,000 signatures); Col. John Wallis,
Philadelphia (7,000 signatures); Thomas M. Woodruff, New York City;
Abel Bishop, New Haven, Conn.; and Joseph Hayes, Bath, Me.
1842 the most outstanding temperance orator of all was won to the cause.
John B. Gough, a bookbinder, was reformed. When his platform ability
was discovered, many Washingtonian societies sponsored his addresses.
As his popularity grew he became a professional free-lance lecturer;
and during the years 1843-47 traveled 6,840 miles, gaining 15,218 signatures
to the pledge (11).
important development was the organization of women into the little
known "Martha Washington" societies. The first such society
was organized "in a church at the corner of Chrystie and Delancey
Streets, New York, on May 12 of that year , through the efforts
of William A. Wisdom and John W. Oliver"(12). The constitution
detailed the purpose:
the use of all intoxicating drinks has caused, and is causing, incalculable
evils to individuals and families, and has a tendency to prostrate all
means adapted to the moral, social and eternal happiness of the whole
human family; we, the undersigned ladies of New York, feeling ourselves
especially called upon, not only to refrain from the use of all intoxicating
drinks, but, by our influence and example, to induce others to do the
same, do therefore form ourselves into an association(12).
Martha Washington societies were organized in many places, functioning
to some extent as auxiliaries of the Washingtonian societies, but also
engaged in the actual rehabilitation of alcoholic women. In the annual
Report of 1843, there is this reference"...the Martha Washington
Societies, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and reclaiming the
intemperate of their own sex, have been maintained, in most places,
with great spirit..."(7).