Against the Great Destroyer
June 1853 — possibly the first state convention of Good Templars, Utica NY
Among the various organizations which have been formed for promoting the cause of temperance is that of the Independent Order of Good Templars, and whose members appear here today wearing this regalia. It is fitting that before I close I should say a few words of this organization.
Having discovered, as was believed, the instrumentality through which the great evil against which we are contending was to be overthrown, it was found desirable to combine in one solid phalanx, all classes of community in the work in which we are engaged. The strong arm and firm purpose of man, the earnest labors and willing heart of woman, and the innocent heart and touching pleadings of childhood all needed to be enlisted in a common warfare against the great destroyer. The labors of these different classes had hitherto been frittered away by separate and independent movements, which though well meant and earnest, have not the moral power which the union of all in a single well-directed attach is capable of exerting. Hence the need of societies and associations which shall include persons of all classes, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, male and female, as members working together in the same halls — united by the same pledges — devoted to the same cause and laboring with a single purpose for the achievement of a common object. This was a want which has bene long felt, but which had neve been supplied until the Independent Order of Good Templars was organized. This union of all classes in a single organization is therefore the great distinguishing feature of this order. The father and his son, the mother and her daughter, the husband and his wife, the brother and the sister here all meet together — all surround the same altar — all take the same obligations — all join in singing the same odes — all band together to rid the world of the greatest foe to the happiness of the race that the wickedness and cupidity of man has ever produced.
What more pleasant spectacle can be presented to the eye of the true philanthropist that such a society ardently engaged in its benevolent work? And such a spectacle we see presented at every meeting of a lodge of Good Templars. Look around their neatly furnished halls and whom do we see there? The aged sire perhaps, with his family about him even to the second generation. The old man on the downhill of life and the youth just starting on its upward way toward manhood. The dignified matron and her young brothers in the noble work of reform in which all are engaged. We see there men and women of all ages, gathered together from all classes, uniting fully and freely I the exercises necessary for the proper discharge of the business of the evening.
We see the ballot box pass round for the election of members and lo, a new thing under the sun — woman votes! Aye, deposits her ballot in the same box with her brothers. And she does this unchallenged and unassailed by the doubts of conservatism or the scoff of the low minded — if indeed it were possible for either of these classes ever to gain admission to the lodge rooms, or if so to retain their illiberal opinions after breathing an atmosphere so progressive and liberal as that to be found within every assembly of Good Templars.
Again we see the ballot box pass round, and this time it is to receive the votes of members for the election of regular officer, and lo, woman votes again! Yes, actually writers upon a slip of papers the name of the member whom she prefers to see elected, and this she deposits in the same box that contains the votes of her brothers. And she may even vote for a sister — a woman — if she will, to fill any place in the lodge, whether high or low. Here too woman is placed on an equality with her brother, and she may be, and often is, elevated to the highest post.
In brief, woman is admitted to the Order upon a footing of entire equality with man, and she has the same right with him to speak, to vote, and to hold office. This, with the admission of youth, is the grand distinguishing feature of this order, and it is one which should commend it to the hearty approval of both men and women everywhere.
But the Order has other excellences to which I should allude. One of these is that it leaves to each lodge to decide for itself touching the management of its finances, the age of its members, and the extent of pecuniary aid which it will extend to the sick or the destitute. Each lodge is left free to fix the charge for admission at whatever amount it sees fit above the sum of fifty cents. It may admit persons as young as twelve years, or it may fix upon any age above that of twelve as necessary to members. It weekly dues may be fixed at one cent per week, or at any higher sum, as the exigencies of each lodge may require; and it may, or may not, provide in its bylaws for the payment of benefits to sick members.
It is a trite saying that the world is governed too much, and the originators of the Order seemed to have borne it in mind when they formed the constitution, for they have wisely left these matters for each lodge to decide for itself. Our ceremonies are simple, yet solemn and instructive, and their repetition night after night in the presence of the members is calculated to impress more and more firmly upon the minds of all the great lessons of temperance and morality which they are intended to teach.
The three degrees which have been established in the Order are designed and admirably calculated to convey still more vividly to the mind the great duty of cultivating the higher impulses of the heart — to cherish towards all a liberal and forgiving [word missing] — and to lead us to the practice of those royal virtues which assimilate humanity with the living spirit of the divinity within us. While they do this, they also bind us by still stronger vows of fidelity to the great principle of total abstinence, so that the warning, “look not upon the wine,” shall ever be ringing in our ears and manifest in our actions.
Our motto is “Faith, Hope and Charity.” Faith, which looks beyond the cold realities of the present, to that unseen yet glorious future wherein will be unveiled the mysteries of divine goodness. Hope, which enables us to trust in the promises of a better life, to bear up under all the trials of time, and like the rainbow in the heavens, is to us the promise of mercy at the hands of our Divine judge. Charity, which induces us to throw over the faults of others the mantle of forgiveness and thus to win them from the dark ways of sin and selfish indulgence, to walk in the sunlight of truth, and to seek the paths of sobriety and virtue. “And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity; these three, but the greatest of these is Charity.”
Of all who become members of the Order these three things are required — first, a declaration of belief in the power and existence of Almighty God. Second, a promise to be obedient to all the laws and rules of the Order, not inconsistent with duty to religion, family or country; and third, a solemn pledge not to make, buy, sell or use as a beverage, any spiritous or malt liquors, wine or cider.
To carry out in its letter and spirit this pledge — to win men from habits of indulgence in the forbidden thing — to rid society of the manifold evils of intemperance — to overthrow the whole system of making, vending or using intoxicating drinks — this is the great object for which this society was formed; this is he great tie which binds its members together.
But says one, your society is a secret society. I am opposed to all secret societies, and therefore cannot join you. Well, my friend, if this be your decisions, I will not stop to argue the point with you. I have no love of secrecy for the sake of secrecy. I have no wish to urge you to join the Order from a mere desire that you should do so for any less elevated purpose. But you must remember that the question is not now raised for the first time. Secret societies for the benevolent objects have long existed, and with perhaps a single brief exception, have ever enjoyed the confidence of the community.
Secret temperance societies have also been in existence for nearly twenty years, and who will deny that they have been the means of doing a vast amount of good? Who will deny that through the efforts of the Sons of Temperance some of the noblest triumphs of our cause have ben achieved? We know, too, that many of the best and noblest champions of our cause are members of that order, and the opinion is held by good and wise men that the peculiar work which they aim to do can in no way be so well performed as through the instrumentalities of these secret temperance orders.
Around the young, these secret associations throw a powerful — nay, an almost charmed influence, inducing them to flee from the paths of the enemy, furnishing them with virtuous associates, protecting them from the wiles of evil companions and pointing them to pure and ennobling objects of pursuit.
Then, my friends, we should forego our objections to secret societies for the sake of the cause, and for the sake of the good these societies may do, and at once unit our efforts with their in their well meant endeavors to drive intemperance from the world.
In truth, however, there is not much that is secret about the Good Templars after all that is really worth knowing, only enough in fact to enable its members to do the work effectively in which they are engaged. You have the constitution and bylaws placed in your hands; you know the times and places of meeting; and the proceedings o f the most important meetings are published to the world. I have told you how the business is transacted and what is done within the lodge rooms. Then what is there that you do not know? Why this — only this — you have not read the simple but instructive ceremonies by which members are initiated into the Order, and you have not bene instructed in the few gentle taps or brief pass word by which members gain admission to the halls, or the tokens and simple signs by which they make themselves known to each other. And will you, because these unimportant but still necessary terms are not unfolded to the gaze of the world, denounce an institution whose objects and tendency you admit to be good? I trust not. Your better judgment should tell you that for so trivial an objection you ought not to stand aloof from this band of brothers and sisters, but to unite your efforts with theirs to urge on the temperance reformation to its destined goal.
And my brothers and sisters of the Order, let it be our chief delight to carry out the principles of our beloved Order, in all their purity and far-reaching benevolence. Let us strive to keep ever bright and clear the chain which binds us together, that we may walk on through life, cheered by those consolations that always flow from the honest discharge of duty in a good cause. Our triumphs, though bloodless, will be glorious! We shall save and not destroy. We shall bind up the wounds of the suffering and give consolation to the broken hearted. We shall win thousands from the snares and temptations which beset them, to take refuge in the practice of the benign and gentle virtues taught in our Order. Se shall do more, for we shall point them to that higher life, where in all the nobler impulses of the soul are enveloped and where we shall dwell forevermore in the presence of our Father and our God!
Copyright 2019 by the Seneca Falls Historical Society, Seneca Falls, NY. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Source: “Against the Great Destroyer,” Bloomer, Amelia Jenks, in Hear Me Patiently: The Reform Speeches of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, ed. Anne C. Coon, (Westport: Greenwood Press), 1994, pp. 57-61.