Rum will brutalize the manliest man in Christendom.-J. B. Gough
Rum excites all that is bad, vicious, and criminal in man.-J. S. White
There may be some wit in a barrel of beer, but there is more in leaving
it alone.-C. Garrett
Sobriety is the bridle of the passions of desire, and temperance is the
bit and curb of that bridle; a restraint put
nto a man's mouth; a
moderate use of meat and drink.-Jeremy Taylor
Temperance is corporeal piety; it is the preservation of divine order in
the body.-Theodore Parker
Temperance may, in its narrower sense, be defined as the observance of a
rational medium with respect to the pleasures of eating and drinking.
But it has also a larger meaning. The temperate man desires to hold all
his pleasures within the limits of what is honorable, and with a proper
reference to the amount of his own pecuniary means. To pursue them more
is excess; to pursue them less is defect. There is, however, in
estimating excess and defect, a certain tacit reference to the average
dispositions of men, and the law of usage or custom of the times.
The word temperance has, we repeat, become narrowed and specialized. We
mean by it, not exactly temperance, but abstinence. The word does not
convey the full force of its older meaning. That signifies, "the right
handling of one's self,--that kind of self-control by which a man's
nature has a chance to act normally;" and this aspect of our subject
must not be overlooked, for it is of great importance.
Instead of being the secondary thing which some think it to be,
temperance is really a much higher virtue than patience or fortitude. It
is the guardian of reason, the bulwark of religion, the sister of
prudence, and the sweetener of life. Be temperate; and time will carry
you forward on its purest current till it lands you on the continent of
a yet purer eternity, as the swelling river rolls its limpid stream into
the bosom of the unfathomable deep.
But even in the more general meaning now given to the word, temperance
is worthy of our most careful study.
Consider what it is to gain the mastery over a single passion! And
think, also, what it is for the mind to be ruled by an appetite! Look at
S. T. Coleridge--a poet who might have sung for all time, a philosopher
capable of teaching and molding generations, skulking away from the eye
of friends and of servants to drink his bottle of laudanum, and then
bewailing his weakness and sin with an agony, the bare recital of which,
makes our hearts bleed with pity. Our task is not only to subdue a
serpent, to tame a lion,--there is a whole menagerie of evil passions to
be kept in subjection, and when the drink habit prevails, we shall soon
become too weak for such a task.
Temperance is an action; it is the tempering of our words and actions to
our circumstances. Sobriety is a state in which one is exempt from every
stimulus to deviate from the right course. As a man who is intoxicated
with wine, runs into excesses, and loses that power of guiding himself
which he has when he is sober or free from all intoxication, so is he
who is intoxicated with any passion, led into irregularities which a man
in his right senses will not be guilty of. Sobriety is, therefore, the
state of being in one's right or sober senses; and sobriety is, with
regard to temperance, as a cause to its effect.
The evils resulting from intemperance are so numerous and so destructive
of human happiness and life, as to command universal attention. Not only
does intemperance greatly increase pauperism and crime, but it often
leads to sad calamities which might otherwise be quite largely avoided.
An old English sea-captain relates the following fact, of which he was
an eyewitness:--"A collier brig was stranded on the Yorkshire coast, and
I had occasion to assist in the distressing service of rescuing a part
of the crew by drawing them up a vertical cliff, two or three hundred
feet in altitude, by means of a very small rope, the only material at
hand. The first two men who caught hold of the rope were hauled safely
up to the top; but the next, after being drawn to a considerable height,
slipped his hold and fell; and with the fourth and last who venturedupon
this only chance of life, the rope gave way, and he also was
plunged into the foaming breakers beneath. Immediately afterward, the
vessel broke up, and the remainder of the ill-fated crew perished before
"What now was the cause of this heart-rending event? Was it stress of
weather, or a contrary wind, or unavoidable accident? No such thing! It
was the entire want of moral conduct in the crew. Every sailor, to a
man, was in a state of intoxication! The helm was intrusted to a boy
ignorant of the coast. He ran the vessel upon the rocks at Whitby; and
one half of the miserable, dissipated crew were plunged into eternity
almost without a knowledge of what was taking place."
There are still a few people who openly ridicule both total abstinence
and its advocates, and some, who are wicked enough to endeavor to
misrepresent those who labor in this cause. These persons do not always
succeed, however, as the following incident will show: Horace Greeley
was once met at a railway depot by a red-faced individual, who shook him
warmly by the hand. "I don't recognize you," said Mr. Greeley. "Why,
yes, you must remember how we drank brandy and water together at a
certain place." This amused the bystanders, who knew Mr. Greeley's
strong temperance principles. "Oh, I see," replied Mr. Greeley, "you
drank the brandy, and I drank the water."
It will be found that abstinence from intoxicants is by far the best
rule of living. There is a large amount of genuine wisdom in the words
of a middle-aged German who, some years ago, spoke as follows, at a
temperance meeting: "I shall tell you how it vas. I put my hand on my
head; there was von big pain. Then I put my hand on my pody; and there
vas another big pain. There was very much pains in all my pody. Then I
put my hand in my pocket; and there vas noting. Now there is no more
pain in my head. The pains in my pody are all gone away. I put mine hand
in my pocket, and there ish twenty tollars. So I shall shtay mit de
Theobald Mathew was an Irish priest. He was born in 1790, in a great
house in Tipperary, where his father was the agent of a rich lord. The
delight of his childhood was in giving little feasts and entertainments
to his friends. As long as he lived he was fond of this pleasure.
Indeed, when, at the very last, his physician had forbidden him to
receive company, he was found by his brother giving a dinner to a party
of poor boys.
At twenty-three years of age he was ordained, and was known from that
time as "Father Mathew." After a short time in Kilkenny, he went to
Cork, which was his home for the rest of his life. He was not thought
much of as a scholar, nor at first as a preacher; but he had a warm
heart and every one liked him. Thus he passed quietly along until he
was forty-seven years old; and it did not seem as if the world would
ever hear of "Father Mathew."
There was a little band of Quakers in Cork, who had started a total
abstinence, or "teetotal society." They interested Father Mathew in
their work, and, in 1838, he signed the temperance pledge and enrolled
himself as a member.
Very soon every one in Cork had heard of what Father Mathew had done. He
began at once to preach that men ought not to be drunkards, and that
they ought not to use what would make drunkards. The people of Cork had
always thought what Father Mathew did was right; and they thought so
now. In three months twenty-five thousand persons had taken the pledge.
The story of the new movement spread quickly over Ireland, and Father
Mathew was wanted everywhere. Wherever he went the people crowded to
hear him. There were many pathetic scenes at his meetings; for women
came dragging their drunken husbands with them, and almost forcing them
to take the pledge. Men knelt in great companies and repeated the words
of the pledge together. In Limerick the crowds were so dense that it
was impossible to enroll all the names. More than a hundred thousand
were thought to have taken the pledge in four days.
As a result of his work the saloons were closed in many villages and
towns; and, within five years, half the people in Ireland had taken the
pledge. The quantity of liquor used fell off more than half, and there
was a similar decrease in all kinds of crime.
Then came the terrible years of the Irish famine. By the failure of the
potato crop, hundreds of thousands died of starvation or of fever.
Multitudes had to leave their homes to get government work; and hunger
and despair brought a new temptation to drink. Father Mathew's heart
was well-nigh broken with seeing the misery of his countrymen. The food
was taken from his own table to feed the hungry. Every room in his house
would sometimes be filled with poor people clamoring for bread; and,
largely as a result of this terrible strain, he was stricken with
As soon as Father Mathew had partly recovered from his illness he longed
to do something for his people across the sea. In the year 1849 he
sailed for New York. The mayor of that city made him an address of
welcome; and at Washington he was honored by being admitted to the floor
of both houses of Congress. In spite of his broken health, he visited
twenty-five states, spoke in over three hundred towns and cities, and
gave the pledge to five hundred thousand people. He returned home
thoroughly exhausted, and soon had another stroke of paralysis. But
loving friends cared for him; people still came for his blessing, or to
take the pledge in his presence. He died in 1856, and all the people of
Cork followed him to his burial.
It is said that seven million people took the pledge of total abstinence
at Father Mathew's hands; and it is thought that hundreds of thousands
never broke it. There is now a new feeling about temperance in the
English-speaking world. Drunkenness is now looked upon as a disgrace;
total abstinence is becoming the habit of increasing numbers of people
from year to year; and in the production of this changed feeling, this
simple-hearted, earnest Irish priest did more than any other man.
[Footnote: See "Father Mathew, his Life and Times," by F. J. Mathew
(Cassell & Co., 1880), and "Biography of Father Mathew," by J. F.
Maguire, M. P. (London, 1863).]