Temperance and Purity
c. October 14-16, 1895, The National Purity Congress, Park Avenue Friends’ Meeting House, Baltimore MD
It sometimes happens that a reformer is so thoroughly engrossed in his own cause that he loses sight of the importance of other reforms, and even of the help that others might be to his. In a few sad instances he has been known, figuratively speaking, to throw stones at others who are really helping him. Among all the reforms that engage our attention at the present time, none are more closely allied than purity and temperance, no vices more closely related than impurity and intemperance. No reformers can or ought to be more mutually helpful than those engaged along these two lines.
In this country I believe all who are engaged in either are friendly to both, but in England there are persons doing earnest work for purity, who are unwilling to investigate even the effects of alcoholic drinks upon chastity, while on the Continent of Europe some of the purity workers are utterly opposed to total abstinence, as are the masses of religious people and nearly all the clergy, Protestant and Romish.
In the course of the long journey I made all over the world, which lasted from July 13, 1883, to June 18, 1891, although I started for the sole purpose of organizing W.C.T.U.’s, I soon found that I must help in the Purity Reform or fail to do my duty. In this way much additional light was thrown upon the close connection between the two evils.
I have indeed come to believe that in Christian countries, where alone religion holds up the correct standard of purity, the two vices are intertwined at the warp and woof in the web. Where the religion of the country presents no barrier to sins of impurity, if drink adds its incitements, the results are fearful beyond description.
The desire to lead a pure life must arise from instinct inherited from a pure ancestry, from a knowledge of God’s plan, the only high, holy, joyous plan, for the conduct of sexual life, the fear of evil results from a wrong course, or the union of these motives. In the latter case we have a young person well fitted to go through life with a face open as the light, a life as pure as the stars.
Comparatively few such young people would go astray if their powers were not thrown out of the normal balance.
Alcohol (opium and tobacco as well) is capable of doing this, and then saddest results follow.
“I never should have yielded to him but for the wine he persuaded me to take,” is the wail of thousands of young girls who had no wish to go astray.
“I could not support the horrors of this life (in a brothel), without the spirits I drink. It deadens my feelings and then I don’t care,” is constantly said to workers by these poor fallen sisters.
“I never wished to sin with women till after I took to drink,” is the frequent confession of men who have turned back from a sinful life.
”One thing I know, you cannot carry the purity reform till we fellows leave off drink,” said a “society” man to the White Cross advocate who was laboring with him.
These are not isolated sayings, but repeated so often that they may be taken as formula for great classes. All through Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, no sooner had prohibition been put into operation than inmates of houses of ill fame began to steal away, and soon the houses themselves to be closed, and it is a constant sequence of prohibition.
Naturally the question will be asked, “How does alcohol bring these things to pass?
For a clear understanding of the case it is necessary to state what alcohol is. I use the words of the late William B. Carpenter, of England, who to the day of his recent death was the first toxicologist of the world. He said, in an important and well considered lecture, given in a scientific course before the Lowell Institute in Boston, and afterwards printed: ”Alcohol is a deadly, irritant poison, not a true stimulant. Through this narcotic power it first attacks, then weakens, and, if the alchoholic habit continues, destroys the will power.”
Next, it constantly confuses reason and judgment.
Thirdly, it produces, especially if taken in the form of malted liquors, an abnormal excitation of the sexual desires.
If the last named result only took place, the higher powers of reason and judgment might still point out the only right and safe line of conduct, and that rudder of the human being, will power, keep him walking in it. But, alas, while evil clamors for indulgence, all these higher powers are drowsy, and the fall comes.
When in conversation with a well known English lady residing in Naples, she spoke of the very common infidelity in marriage by wives of all classes, as well as husbands, declaring that more than one-third of the marriage vows taken were broken by husband or wife, or both. I remarked that the universal habit of wine drinking probably had some influence in bringing about that state of affairs.
“Oh, no! It is the forced, loveless marriages,” said the lady. To that I replied, “Suppose a young wife has no love for her husband; suppose she falls in love with another man who has conceived a passion for her. If neither drank they would yield to reason, decide to see each other no more, and will power would hold them to that course.” When I had finished the explanation as given above, the lady said, “I believe you may be right.
I have not understood before how alcohol acts on the different powers of the mind.”
John Ellis, M. D., author of “Avoidable Causes of Disease,” “Deterioration of the Puritan Stock,” etc., says upon this subject: “lam satisfied that the chief causes of the social evil . . . are the use of intoxicating drinks and narcotics . . . and the fashionable modes of dress among women.”
A lady in one of our large cities whose husband is a quiet but indefatigable worker among wicked fashionable young men, told me that again and again men said to her husband, “If I am to live right I must give up balls, society, everything. The wine, the undress of the ladies, are too much for me every time. We rush from the ball to the brothel. Every great ball prepares a harvest for that sort of place.”
An American gentleman who has recently spent much time in France, observed very carefully the effect of wine upon young, even little, children. As all children drink at table d’hote, he had plenty of opportunities to observe. He saw so frequently a plainly marked excitement in this direction that he became convinced that wine is an important factor in bringing about the early and common impurity in the country. In view of these facts I appeal to the supporters of this Congress who are not yet identified with the temperance movement, to give us your voice and vote to remove this potent stimulant to sexual vice, not only in our country but all over the world.
Most of us must give ourselves mainly to one reform only, but occasions frequently arise when one Society can give countenance and help to another, and we can always help each other at the polls. The W.C.T.U. in all State and National legislation the Purity Association may undertake, will help you to the limit of our
power and influence, while every step we gain is breaking down the obstacles to your ultimate triumph.
And now, as I have not, in reading my paper, consumed all the time I may fairly claim, I wish to bring forward three points vital to the success of the Purity Reform.
First: Woman was not created to be an adjunct of man, but co-ordinate with him; responsible to God only just as man is, in doing God’s work of peopling the earth, subduing it, and carrying on the world. As long as the opposite idea prevails, as soon as a man listens to the seductions of sin he will feel at liberty to thrust this being, created solely for his use, into whatever condition pleases him best. Hence polygamy, concubinage, divorce at the will of the husband alone, as in Japan, Egypt and other countries, and hence harlotry. The co-ordination of men and women must be taught to the young, especially to boys, everywhere and always.
Second: All boys must be taught that personal purity of thought, word and act, all through life, is as glorious and indispensable in man as woman, and as obligatory upon him; that he commits an irreparable wrong not only against himself, body, intellect and soul, but against his future wife and his descendants, down to the third and fourth generation, if he transgresses the law of purity. We must teach that it is as necessary for a boy or young man to keep the marriage vow as well
before as after marriage. Girls must be taught the frightful consequences to themselves and their children if they marry impure men.
And thirdly: We must change laws and constitutions, if need be, in order to punish adequately women and men who make a trade of betraying innocent girls into the clutches of vile men, veritable Minotaurs, fattening upon the bodies and souls of virgin girls.
Let us remember that the constitutions, whether National or State, as well as the laws, were made by men, have been amended and can be whenever advance in thought, in knowledge, in justice or humanity demands it. The needed change is to forbid these persons to be released on bail, between arrest and trial; if convicted, not to sentence them to pay a fine, but to prison for a term of years for the first offence, and for life on the second conviction.
As it is now, the rich customers go bail, the rich customers pay the fines, and the wretched panderer to vice gets off with a few hours in the station house, a few hours more in the court room, and with no pecuniary loss. Should not this trade in virgin innocence be put on a par with treason and murder, the two unbailable offences? When you return to your homes to night, which would be the more terrible news to you: that a beloved daughter lay murdered in her saintly purity, or had been stolen, sold to a villain; you could not find her; ‘your eyes would never see her more, but she would soon be sold again into a brothel, there to lead a life of the most revolting slavery this earth has ever known? If your daughter is safe because of your standing in society, will not you make the daughters of the poor man in the back street, or of the poor widow who once lived next door to you, or the poor girl who stands alone in the world, with no man or woman to protect her, as safe as your own?
Source: The National Purity Congress, Its Papers, Addresses, Portraits: An Illustrated Record of the Papers and Addresses of the First National Purity Congress, Held Under the Auspices of the American Purity Alliance, in the Park Avenue Friends’ Meeting House, Baltimore, October 14, 15 and 16, 1895, ed. Aaron M. Powell (New York: The American Purity Alliance), 1896, pp. 166-172.