PROGRESS AND INFLUENCE OF THE SOCIETY
Immediately after the organization of the society, the several members went privately to their friends, especially their former drinking associates, and persuaded them in the spirit of kindness, to abandon strong drink, and join the society. To every excuse and plea that they could not reform, they would reply by referring to their own experience. And they generally clung to a man until they had persuaded him to give up the bottle forever, or at least to go with them to the next meeting of their society. When such was the condition or promise, true to his man, each member on the evening of meeting, instead of going alone and waiting for his friend, would go to his house, or to the Grogshop, and, if necessary, lead him by the arm away from the bar, and conduct him in person to the meeting. This has often been done. When the individual was once within their hall, they regarded him as an easy convert. The experience of others who had been like him, and the good influences set to work upon him, soon led him to feel, think and act aright. Such exertions, judiciously made in the spirit of kindness, have rarely failed of entire success.
In the course of some months, the society gradually increased in numbers and interest. The aggressive principle, or missionary spirit, once at work, grew and spread with the growth and extension of the society. In the meantime, the members had the benefit of several months’ experience in the use of cold water. They began to feel better, to look better, and in every respect to be satisfied with the change in their habits. As some of them expressed it: “They were just waking up from a long sleep of many years, and now only beginning to live.” The “experiences” of the members were now more and more interesting, and began to attract somewhat the attention of the public; and through their influence many of the most desperate and hopeless subjects of intemperance were redeemed. By the truly Samaritan conduct of these sacrificing men, many a poor inebriate, whose friends had long given him over as beyond the reach of hope, was rescued from his chains, and elevated from the depths of degradation, to which strong drink, had reduced him. Each of these was not only a new experience man, but virtually another missionary.
In six months after its formation, the society numbered eighty or ninety, many of whom were reformed drunkards. And no man could attend their meetings, as the author then first did without seeing that there was a spirit among them which would not die – a principle which would diffuse itself abroad in the community, and pour the richest blessings on the heads of many a family in Baltimore; – and even spread to the farthest borders of the land. As yet, however, their meetings were held in their own private hall, which they had rented for the purpose. The citizens did not generally know of the movement; and such as did, hardly had confidence in the permanency of the reformations.
In November, 1840, their first public meeting was held in the Masonic Hall, which was crowded on the occasion. As this was their first public effort however, and as the object was rather intended to be an introduction to the public, very little experience was given. In addition to these remarks made by gentlemen invited to address the meeting, the President simply stated the principles of the society, that they might be understood by the community. Not long after this another public meeting was called in one of the churches of the city, on which occasion several of the members of the society publicly told their tale of woe and warning, counsel and advice, and with thrilling effect. Numbers were induced to sign the pledge; many of them victims of intemperance. And in the bosom of the society they found a home, and friends to counsel and defend them.
Frequent public experience meetings now followed, and were continued week after week during the entire winter. Public attention was now fully arrested. The meetings, though held in the largest churches of the city, were crowded to excess. Every family that had a poor miserable inebriate connected with it, hailed with joy and hopes the influence which this society was exerting in reforming the intemperate, and used every exertion to induce such persons to attend the meetings of the Washington Society, and sign the pledge. And many a good-hearted, yea, noble-hearted man, who had long found the chains of appetite galling to him, and had often wished and tried in vain to shake them off, now went to this society, signed the pledge, and found him-self a free man. Many reformed, whose friends and the community had long since given them over as irrecoverable, – many even from the lowest depths of disgrace and reproach. Some were almost literally dug up out of the earth, – who had not only been abandoned as beyond hope, but who had been forgotten by their early friends, or reckoned among the dead. Many such were brought out of their hiding-places, and to the surprise of their friends, soon after their reformation, they were found “clothed and in their right mind,” and prepared to occupy that position in society, which they had forfeited only by dissipation. Insomuch that the society was familiarly known by the expressive title of the “Resurrection Society.”
The society was now increasing in numbers so fast, that their regular place of meeting was becoming too small to accommodate them all. A division was contemplated. But it was at length resolved, the branches should be formed in the various sections of the city; this was accordingly done. In the meantime other societies began to spring up in the city, on the same general principles with the Washington; some auxiliary, and others independent. All of these societies under their present organization, (with two or three exceptions,) owe their origin directly or indirectly to the influence of the parent Washington Society, and have borrowed most of their features, as well as obtained most of their life from it. Many of these associations have been very prosperous, and have done incalculable good in reclaiming the intemperate, confirming the temperate, and advancing the common cause. If our assigned limits would allow, it would afford us pleasure to make honourable mention of some of these societies; but as it is, we can not go into any detail respecting them. We hail them as fellow-labourers in a common cause, take them by the hand, and bid them “God speed.” We call upon them to rival us in good works, and in adhering to first principles, – and then our motto is: “We be brethren; let us not fall out by the way.”
It should be observed that most of the Temperance societies, in existence in this city previous to the formation of the Washington, have either been remodeled or discontinued, and their places filled up by more energetic ones. Many of the societies admit only of grown men as members; but there are others connected with the various churches, or composed entirely of female or youth, where such may join as choose to do so.