DURATION OF THE MOVEMENT
How long the Washingtonian movement continued in full force is a difficult question to answer. The most dramatic strides were made between the summers of 1841 and 1842, but apparently the peak of activity was reached in 1843. That year, Gough was touring New England, and Hawkins northern and western New York as well as sections of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. R.P. Taylor was doing effective work in Georgia. Late that autumn Hawkins campaigned in North Carolina and Georgia, stimulating great Washingtonian activity in that region. It was a year of high activity, with the major portion of the work carried on, as it was through most of the life of the movement, by numerous Washingtonians whose names are unrecorded.
On May 28, 1844, in Boston, the Washingtonians were the sponsors of, and leading participants in, the largest temperance demonstration ever held, up to that time, with nearly 30,000 members of various temperance organizations participating. Governor George N. Briggs, William K. Mitchell and John B. Gough were the leading speakers.
In the fall of 1845 Hawkins began one of his most intensive campaigns, in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, winding up in the spring of 1846 with very successful meetings in New Orleans and Mobile. During this 8-month period Hawkins not only spoke daily but also directed the work of many assistants and helped, as he always did, to organize societies to continue the work. In much of the territory covered by Hawkins on this campaign the Washingtonian movement was still at full tide in 1845 and 1846. This tends to corroborate the generalization of Wooley and Johnson that “for four years it continued to sweep the country.” But in some of the cities which had been reached by the movement in 1841, a decline had already set in.
In New York City the Sons of Temperance, a total abstinence order which had been founded with the help and blessing of Washingtonians, had begun, late in 1842, to receive into its membership many Washingtonians. Slowly but increasingly it displaced the function of the Washington societies.
In Cincinnati, in January 1845, Lyman Beecher wrote to John Marsh about the “resurgence of the liquor tide” and of the need for a new type of temperance appeal. He thought that “though the Washingtonians have endured and worked well, their thunder is worn out”(13).
Fehlandt (4) states that “By 1843…interest began to wane, and soon Washingtonianism had spent its force.” It might be correct to say that the first signs of waning interest appeared in 1843 but it is not probable that such signs were detectable in most areas before 1844 – and in some areas not until latter. Hence, no generalization seems to apply to the entire country.
Most significant as an index of general interest are the references to the Washingtonian movement in the annual Reports of the executive committee of the American Temperance Union, published in May of each year. The 1842 Report enthusiastically details the spread of the movement. The 1843 Report reflects continued enthusiasm. The 1844 Report notes that the movement “has continued through its fourth year with as much interest as could be expected.” The 1845 Report contains news of the crowded weekly meetings and increased success of the Hartford, Conn., Washington Temperance Society, but there is also expressed the feeling of John Marsh that the movement “has in a considerable measure spent its force.” In the 1846 Report the movement is referred to as “once so deeply enlisting the sympathies.” In the 1847 Report it is admitted that “The reformation of drunkards has not, as in former years, formed a prominent part of the year now past.” The 1848 Report contains no mention of the Washingtonian movement at all.
Hawkins, Gough and others were called Washingtonians to the end of their lives, but there is no record, to the writer’s knowledge, of organized Washingtonian activity beyond 1847 except in the Boston area.3 There in March 1847, the Washingtonians of New
England held a large convention. In January 1848 the Boston Washington Society reported having 56,380 signatures since the date of its founding in 1841. According to Harrison (8), writing in 1860, the Boston society continued to exist and meet weekly up to 1860, at which time 70,000 signatures were claimed. In 1858 the Home for the Fallen, using Washingtonian principles in the rehabilitation of alcoholics, was in existence in Boston.4 But in other parts of the country, by 1858, there were to be found references to “the early days” when Washingtonianism swept the country.
3 The writer has since learned of the existence of the Washingtonian Home in Chicago, founded in 1863 by members of the Order of Good Templars who may well have been Washingtonians. This institution is still engaged exclusively in the rehabilitation of alcoholics.
4 This institution has been in continuous existence to the present time, having undergone a number of changes in name and in policy. It is now known as the Washington Hospital and engages in the treatment of alcoholism by contemporary medical and social techniques.