July 4, 1879 — Independence Day Celebration, Woodstock CT
Once more will the time-honored declaration be made today, by a thousand Fourth of July orators, that “the Americans are a free people.”But I insist that we are governed by the most powerful king whose iron rule ever determined the policy, molded the institutions, or controlled the destinies of a great nation.
So pervasive is his influence that it penetrates to the most obscure and distant hamlet with the same readiness, and there wields the same potency as in his empire’s capital; nay (with reverence be it said), he is like Deity in that his actual presence is coextensive with his vast domain. Our legislatures are his playthings, our congressmen his puppets, and our honored President the latest child of his adoption. We do not often call him by his name, this potentate of million hands and myriad voices; but to my thinking, nothing is today so vital to America as that we become better acquired with our ruler. Let me then present to your thought his Majestic Highness King Majority, Sovereign Ruler of those United States.
Permit me now to introduce a different character who comes to the court of King Majority as chief ambassador from the empire of Satanic Majesty. Behold! I show you the skeleton at our patriotic banquet. It has a skull with straightened forehead and sickening smile; but bedecked with wreaths of vine, clusters of grape, and heads of golden grain – King Alcohol, present at court in radiant disguise. With a foaming beer mug at his lips, he drinks the health of King Majority; and, placing at his feet a chest of gold labeled “Internal Revenue,”he desireth conditions of peace.
Behold in these two figures the bewildering danger and the ineffable hope of the Republic! How can we rouse the stolid giant, King Majority? How light in these sleepy eyes the fires of a holy and relentless purpose? How nerve once more, with the resistless force that smote African slavery to death, the mighty sinews of the Republic’s sleeping king?
How? Only by “sweet reasonableness”; only by ceaseless persuasion; only by noble examples; only by honest hard work based upon fervent and effectual prayer.
Human heads and hearts are much alike. I remember that the great Temperance Crusade of 1874 found me with a beer keg in my cellar, a fatal haziness in my opinions, and a blighting indifference to the temperance reform upon my will. But how did its intense pathos melt my heart; how did its mighty logic tune the lax cords of opinion to concert pitch; how did its miracle of prayer bring thousands to their knees, crying: “Lord, what wouldst thou have made me to do? [Acts 9:6]. For myself, I could never be the same after that. As a woman, a patriot, a Christian, my heart is fixed in deathless enmity to all that can intoxicate. The same influences which so transformed one brain and heart are steadily at work today in a thousand quiet ways.
The sober second thought of the Woman’s Temperance Crusade was organization. The voice of God called to them from the lips of his prophet:“Make a chain, for the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence” [Ezekiel 7:23]. And so in every town and village we are forming these chains of light and of loving helpfulness, which we call “Woman’s Christian Temperance Unions. ”We have already twenty-three stares organized, with thousands of local auxiliaries. Every day brings fresh accessions of women, translated out of the passive and into the active voice on this great question of the protection of their homes. Of the fifty-four thousand papers published in this country eight thousand have temperance facts and figures regularly provided by members of our societies. Temperance literature is being circulated; Our Union, the official organ of the [WCTU], has a large subscription list; Sabbath schools are adopting our plans of temperance instruction; and hundreds of juvenile societies are inscribing on their banners: “Tremble, King Alcohol! We shall grow up. ”Friendly inns and temperance reading rooms are multiplying; Gospel meetings conducted by women are reaching the drinking class in hundreds of communities; the Red and Blue Ribbon Movements have attained magnificent proportions; and all this many-sided work is fast concentrating its influence to place the ballot in the hand of woman, and thus capture for the greatest of reforms of old King Majority. Magnificent is the spectacle of these new forces now rallying to the fray. Side by side with the 500,000 men whose united energies are expended in making and swilling strong drink, we are working day by day. While they brew beer we are brewing public sentiment; while they distill whiskey we are distilling facts; while they rectify brandy we are rectifying political constituencies; and ere long their fuming tide of intoxicating liquor shall be met and driven back by the overwhelming flood of enlightened sentiment and divinely aroused energy.
“To be sure, King Majority gave prohibition to Maine; but prohibition doesn’t prohibit”interrupts Sir Sapient, whose remark furnishes a striking illustration of the power of the human mind to resist knowledge. Just take the spyglass of observation, and behold from Kittery to Calais the gleaming refutation of your error.
Less than thirty years ago they had four hundred open hotel bars and ten miles of saloons. Today Dr. Hamlin, of Constantinople, tells us that, coming home, after forty years’absence, he finds his native state thoroughly renovated from the liquor traffic. General Neal Dow testifies that the law has absolutely driven the sale of strong drink out of all rural districts; and in the larger towns, instead of the free, open sale of former years, it is crowded into secret places, kept by the lowest class of foreigners. Ex-Governors Dingley and Perham and Senator Blaine and Representative Frye declare that it is as well enforced as the law against stealing; and even sensational journalists have not told us that thieves flourish in the Pine Tree State. Mr. [Henry] Reuter, of Boston, president of the National Brewers’Convention, held in St. Louis four weeks ago, says: “Formerly Maine produced nearly ten thousand barrels of beer annually; but this has fallen to seven barrels, in consequence of the local enforcement of prohibitory law.”Surely, this gentleman should be considered as good authority on this subject as a convict is of the strength of this prison bars!
But you say “Maine is different from any other state.”Why so? Are not its citizens of like passions with other men? Turn your glass upon a panorama of Maine as it was in former days. See yonder stalwart workers in the harvest-field paying vigorous addresses to the little brown jug; observe its ubiquitous presence as the logging bee, the “raising,”the wedding, and the funeral; see it pass from lip to lip around the fireside circle; observe the Gospel minister refreshing himself from the demijohn of his parishioner and host; and be assured that within the memory of men now living these were everyday events. I have the testimony from the most honored residents of Maine, whose recitals involved the words “all of which I saw and part of which I was.”But, as gallant Neal Dow hath it, “Maine was sown knee-deep with temperance literature before we reaped the harvest of prohibition.”Let us note the evolution of this seed-planting. Landowners found that two-thirds of their taxes resulted from the liquor traffic (largely in cost of prosecuting criminals and taking care of lunatics and paupers); so they concluded that legalizing saloons for the sake of the revenue was penny wisdom and pound foolishness. Businessmen discovered that the liquor traffic is a pirate on the high seas of trade, that the more the grog-shop is patronized the fewer customers there are for flour and fuel, boots, shoes, and clothes; and so, in self-defense, they declared for prohibition. Church people found that fifteen times as much money went to the dramshop as to the church, and that the teaching of the one more than offset those of the other with the young men of the state; so they perceived they could not conscientiously ally themselves with the liquor traffic by their votes. Those interested in education learned that enough money was swallowed in drinks that deteriorate the brain, to furnish a schoolhouse for every fifty boys and girls, and to set over them teachers of the highest culture; and they saw it was unreasonable to defend the liquor traffic. In short, the majority came to believe that between the upper and neither millstones of starving out saloons, on the one hand, and voting them out, on the other, they could be pounded to death; and they have so pounded them. The question of selling as a beverage the drinks which we know by centuries of demonstration will so craze men that they will commit every crime and show the subtlest cruelty to those they love the best, is not today in Maine an open question with either party; any more than trial by jury or imprisonment for theft. True, the people had a thirty years’war before the declaration of this blessed peace; but what are thirty years when crowned at last by the surrender of King Alcohol to King Majority?
“Ah! but, ”pursues our doubting friend, “Maine is a peculiar state, in this: it has few foreigners, with their traditions of whiskey and beer.”
I grant you, we are at a disadvantage. But go with me to the Cunard wharves of Boston and to Castle Garden of New York, and as the long procession of emigrants steps across the gangway, you will find three times as may men as women. How can we offset their vote for free liquor, on Sundays and all days? Surely, the answer to this question is not far to seek. Strengthen the sinews of old King Majority, by counting in the home vote to offset that of Hamburg and of Cork and let American customs survive by utilizing (at the point where by the correlation of governmental forces opinion”passes into “law”) the opinion of those gentle “natives”who are the necessary and tender guardians of the home, of tempted manhood and untaught little children.
Hands which have just put aside the beer mug, the decanter, and the greasy pack of cards are casting ballots which undermine our Sabbaths, license social crimes that shall be nameless, and open 250,000 dramshops in the shadow of the church and public school. I solemnly call upon my countrymen to release those other hands, familiar with the pages of the Book of God, busied with sacred duties of the home and gracious deeds of charity, that they may drop in those whiter ballots, which, as Gold lives, alone can save the state!
Kind friends, I am not theorizing. I speak that I do know and testify what I have seen [John 3:11]. Out on the Illinois prairies we have resolved to expend on voters the work at first bestowed upon salon-keepers. We have transferred the scene of our Crusade from the dramshop to the council room of the municipal authorities, whence the dramshop derives its guarantees and safeguards. Nay, more. The bitter argument of defeat lead us to trace the tawny, seething, foaming tide of beer and whiskey to its source; and there we found it surging forth from the stately capitol of Illinois, with its proud dome and flag of stripes and stars. So we have made that capitol the center of our operations; and last winter, as one among our many branches of work, we gathered up 175,000 names of Illinois’s best men and women (80,000 being the names of voters), who asked the legislature for a law giving women the ballot on the temperance question. In prosecuting our canvass for these names, we sent copies of our “Home Protection Petition”to every minister, editor, and postmaster in the state; also to all leading temperance men and women, and to every society and corporation from which we had anything to hope.
In this way our great state was permeated, and in most of its towns the petition was brought before the people. The religious press was a unit in our favor. The reform clubs of the state, with ribbons blue and red, helped us with their usual heartiness and efficiency. And what shall be thought of the advance in public sentiment, when (as was often done) all the churches join us on Sabbath night in a “Union Home Protection Meeting,”and ministers of all denominations (Presbyterians included) conduct the opening exercises, after which a woman presents the religious duty of women to seek and men to supply the temperance ballot; and, to crown all, conservative young ladies go up and down the aisles earnestly asking for signatures, and the audience unite in singing
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the Cross;
Life high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.”
Friends, it means something for women of the churches to take this radical position. America has developed no movement more significant for good since the first dawning of the day we celebrate.
The state of Indiana stands with us; only there the temperance women have worked out the problem of deliverance further than we, and asked the ballot on all questions whatsoever. They do the same in Minnesota and in Iowa; while at the East the WCTU of grand old Maine endorses the temperance vote, and Rhode Island sends to Illinois resolutions approval, while Massachusetts, under Mary A. Livermore, has declared for Home Protection and is preparing for the fall campaign; and within a few days Ohio, the Crusade State, which is the mother of us all, has fallen into line. The most conservative estates are Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York; but in each of these there are many brave women, who but bide their time for this same declaration, and the whole twenty-three states already joined in the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union will ere long clasp hands in the only work which can ever fulfill the glorious prophecy of the Crusade. History tell us that on the morning of December 23rd173, when in Hillsboro’, Ohio, the Pentecostal power fell on the “praying hand”which first went forth, the leading men of that rum-cursed town went out from the church where their wives and mothers had assembled, saying: “We can only leave this business with the women and the Lord.”History has repeated itself this winter in our Illinois crusade. Men have placed money in our hands to carry on the Home Protection work, saying: “The women of America must solve this problem. Our business relations, our financial interests, our political affiliation, and ambitions have tied our hands; but we will set yours free, that you may rid us of this awful curse.”
Yet a few men and women, densely ignorant about this movement, have been heard to say: “Who knows that women would vote right?” I confess that noting has more deeply grieved me than this question from the lips of Christian people. Have distillers, brewers, and saloon-keepers, then, more confidence in woman’s sense and goodness than she has herself? They have a very practical method of exhibiting their faith. They declare war to the knife and the knife to the hilt against the Home Protection Movement. By secret circulars, by lobbyists and attorneys, by the ridicule of their newspaper organs, and threats of t personal violence to such women of their families as sign of our petition, they display their confidence in womankind.
The only town in Illinois which sent up a delegation of citizens openly to oppose our petition was Belleville, with its heavy liquor interest and ten thousand German to three thousand American inhabitants; and among our 204 legislators thee were no other dozen men whose annoyance of the Home Protection committee was so persistent and so petty as that of the senator who openly declared he was there to defend the vested interests of his Peoria constituents, who in 1878 produced eight million dollars’worth of ardent spirits. Nay, verily, woman’s vote is the way out of our misery and shame, “our enemies themselves being judges.”[Deuteronomy 37:31]; and none see this so clearly as the liquor dealers, whose alligator eye is on their pocketbook, and the politicians, whose Achilles heel is their ambition. The women of the Crusade must come once more to judgment – not, as aforetime, with trembling lip and tearful eye; but reaching devout hands to grasp the weapon of power and crying with reverent voice: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” [Judges 7:20].
But, after all, “seeing” is a large par of “believing”with this square-headed Yankee nation; so let us seek the testimony of experience.
In Kansas the law provides that the signatures of women shall be requisite to a petition asking for a dramshop before that boon shall be conferred upon a given community. This arrangement wrought such mischief with the liquor dealers that they secured an amendment exempting large towns from such bondage. But in small towns and villages it has greatly interfered with the traffic and has so educated public sentiment that prohibition can – with impunity! – form the theme of a governor’s inaugural, and Kansas is on the warpath for a law hardly less stringent than that of Maine.
In Des Moines, Iowa, a few weeks since, as a test of popular opinion, the women voted on the license question; twelve declaring in favor of saloons and eight hundred against them. In Newton, Iowa, at an election ordered by the council, 172 men voted for license to 319 against – not tow to one against it; while the women’s vote stood one in favor to 394 against licensing saloons. In Kirkville, Missouri, ten women favored the liquor traffic, twenty declined to declare themselves, and five hundred wanted “no license. “In our Illinois campaign, which resulted in 95,000 names of women who expressed their wish to vote against saloons, not one woman in ten declined to affix her name to our petition.
The attitude of the Catholic Church was friendly to our petition, many priests urging their people to sign. Irish women, as a rule, gave us their names, and saloon-keepers wives often secretly did so. Scandinavians were generally enthusiastic for the petition. Germans opposed us; but the reply of one of them indicates the chivalric nature which will come to our aid when our invincible argument against beer shall be brought in contact with the German brain and German conscience. HE said: “If it is not the pledge, I will sign it. I cannot give up my beer; but I want to help the ladies.” To be sure, German saloon-keepers were universally and bitterly antagonistic, and had much to say about “women keeping inside their proper sphere.”…
“But women should content themselves with educating public sentiment,”says one. Nay, we can shorten the process; for we have the sentiment all educated and stored away, ready for use in brain and heart. Only give us the opportunity to turn it to account where in the least time it can achieve the most! Let the great guns of influence, now pointing into vacancy, be swung to the level of benignant use and pointed on election day straight into the faces of the foe! “No; but she should train her son to vote aright,”suggests another. But if she could go along with him, and thus make one vote two, should we then have a superfluous majority in a struggle intense as this one is to be? And then how unequal is her combat for the right to train her boy! Enter yonder saloon. See them gathered around their fiery or their foamy cups, according to the predominance in their veins of Celtic or of Teuton blood. What are they talking of, those sovereign citizens? The times have changed. It is no longer tariff or no tariff, resumption of specie payments, or even the behavior of our southern brethren that occupies their thought. No. Home Questions have come elbowing their way to the front. The child in the midst is also in the marketplace, and they are bidding for him there, the politicians of the saloon. So skillfully will they make out the slate, so vigorously turn the crank of the machine, that, in spit of the churches and temperance societies combined, the measures dear to them will triumph and measures dear to the fond mother heart will fail. Give her, at least, a fair chance to offset by her ballot the machinations which imperil her son.But women cannot fight,” you say, “and for every ballot cast we must tally with a bayonet.” Pray tell us when the law was promulgated that we must analyze the vote at an election, and throw out the ballets of all men aged and decrepit, halt and blind? …I venture the prediction that this republic will prove herself the greatest fighter of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries; but her bullets will be molded into printers’ type, her Gatling guns will be the pulpit and the platform, her war will be a war of words, and underneath the white storm of men’s and women’s ballots her enemies – states rights, the saloon, and the commune – shall find their only shroud.
Of the right of women to the ballot I say nothing. All persons of intelligence, whose prejudices have not become indurated beyond the power of logic’s sledge-hammer to break them, have been convinced already. For the rest there is no cure save one – the death cure – which comes soon or late and will open more eyes than it closes. Of the Republic’s right to woman’s ballot I might say much. Well did two leaders of public thought set forth that right when Joseph Cook declared that “woman’s vote would be to the voices in our great cities what the lighting is to oak”; and when Richard S. Storrs said: “If women want the suffrage they will be sure to have it, and I don’t know but when it comes it will turn out to be precious amethyst that drives drunkenness out of politics”?
But women do not care to vote.” This is the “last ditch” of the conservatives. The evolution of temperance sentiment among women hitherto conservative refutes this argument; yet I confess there are many who do not yet perceive their duty. But Jack’s beanstalk furnishes only a tame illustration of the growth of women in this direction in the years since the Crusade. Of this swift growth I have already given abundant proof. It is, in my judgment, the most solid basis of gratitude on this national anniversary.
During past year’s brave women who pioneered the equal suffrage movement, and whose perceptions of justice were keen as a Damascus blade, took for their rallying cry:”Taxation without representation is tyranny.” But the average woman, who has nothing to be taxed, declines to go forth to battle on that issue. Since the Crusade, plain, practical temperance people have begun appealing to this same average woman, saying, “With your vote we can close the saloons that tempt your boys to ruin”; and behold! They have transfixed with arrow of conviction that’s mother’s heart, and she us ready for the fray. Not rights, but duties; not her need alone, but that of her children and her country; not the “woman,” but the “human” question is stirring women’s hearts and breaking down their prejudice today. For they begin to perceive the divine fact that civilization, in proportion as in becomes Christianized, will make increasing demands up creation’s gentler half; that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the mount are voted up or voted down upon election day; and that military exigency requires the army of the Prince of Peace to call out its reserves.
The experience which opened the eyes of one cultured conservative in Illinois is here in point.
Mrs. Pellucid was my companion at the Capitol, where, with other ladies, we spent several weeks in the endeavor to secure legislative support for our Home Protection measures. One of the members, when earnestly appealed to, replied, with a rueful grimace: “Ladies, when I tell you the leading towns in the district I represent, you will see that I cannot do as you wish,” and he rattled off such names as “Frankfort, Hamburg, and Bremen,” wished us “the success that our earnestness merited,” and bowed himself out.
“Why–what—does–he–mean?” inquired my lovely Conservative, in astonishment.
A committee clerk stood by, who answered, briskly: “Why, ladies, Mr. Teutonius represents a district in which German voters are in the majority; therefore, he cannot support your bill.”
“Why, I though ta lawmaker was to represent his own judgment and conscience,” murmured the sweet-voiced lady.
“His judgment, yes; for that tells him on which side the majority of votes in his district is locate. His conscience, no; for that would often cost him his chances of a political future,” answers the well-instructed youth.
“O-o-oh!” softly ejaculated Mrs. Pellucid, in the key of E flat, minor scale.
By this time Mr. Politicus entered; in response to our invitations, of course – he never would have come on his own motion. After a brief conversation, he pledged himself to vote for our bill and to make a speech in our favor. Nevertheless, if you should glance over the list we are carefully preserving and industriously circulating in Illinois, of men who voted against us, you would find his name. But he is an honest fellow in his way, and we owe it to a motion made by him that women were, for the first time in history, allowed to speak before the legislature of Illinois. He explained his desertion of the temperance cause on this wise: “I tell you, ladies, I’ve got to go back on you. I’m leader of my party in the House, and they’ve cracked the party whip mighty lively around my ears. The long and short of it is, I’ve got to represent the men that voted me in.”
Poor Mrs. Pellucid! How appealing was her voice, as she replied: “But I am sure your better nature tells you to represent us.” Mr. Politicus brought his great fist down on the table with a stalwart thump, and said: “course it does, Madam; but, Lord bless you women, you can’t stand by a fellow that stands by you, for you hain’t got any votes.” Just here a young lady of the group piped up: “Oh! But we would persuade our friends to vote for you.” “Beg pardon, Miss; but you couldn’t do nothin’ of the kind,” said he. “Don’t you s’pose I know the lay o’ the land in my deestrict?” The young lady now grasped the other horn of the dilemma, saying, desperately: “But we will get the temperance men in your district to vote against you if you desert us in this manner.” His rejoined was a deplorable revelation to our simple-minded company: “Never a bit on’t, Miss. The temperance men are an easy-going lot, and will vote the part ticket anyhow. Old dog Tray’s ever faithful! We’ve ignored them for years; but they come up smilin’ and vote the Republican ticket all the same. You’ll see!” “But won’t you stand by us for God and home and native land!” pleased Mrs. Pellucid, with a sweetness that would have captured any man not already caught in the snares of a gainsaying constituency. The worthy politician thumped the table again, and closed the interview by saying: “You women are altogether too good to live in this world. If you could only vote, you’d have this legislature solid. But, since you can’t, I’m bound to stand by such a conscience as I’ve got, and it tells me to stick to the fellows that voted me in. Good morning!” And he got speedily out of the range of those clear, sad eyes. Mr Readyright (an ex-senator) came in. With all the vehemence of his Irish nature he anathematized the “weak-kneed temperance men.” “Sure as you’re living, Politicus told you the truth,” said he. “The temperance men are the football of parties. There’s none so poor to do ‘em reverence. Where are the plucky young fellows that were here when we gave Illinois her present local option law?” (By the way, that law bears the name of this valiant senator, who is, by the same token a Democrat.) “Where are they? Out in the cold, to be sure. Did the temperance folks remember their services and send ‘em back? Not a bit of it. Bu the whiskey men didn’t forget the grudge they owed ‘em, and they’re on the shelf today – every last man of ‘em.” “I tell you,” and the wise old gentleman gesticulated wildly in his wrath, “until you women have the power to say who shall make the laws and who enforce ‘em, and to reward by re-election them that are faithful to your cause and punish by defeat them that go back upon it, you may hang your bonnets on a very high nail, for you’ll not need ‘em to attend the funeral of the liquor traffic!” “Why,” exclaimed one of the ladies, confusedly, “you don’t mean to say that the temperance ballot is not enough, and that we must follow in the footsteps of Susan B. _____?” The sturdy old gentleman walked to the door, and fired this Parthian arrow back at us: “Susan could teach any one of y you’re a-b-cs. This winter’s defeat’ll be a paying investment to ye all, if ye learn that a politician is now and ever will be the drawn image, pocket edition, safety-valve, and speakin’-trumpet of the folks that voted him in.”
The ladies drew a long breath. “I begin to see men as trees walking,” [Mark 8:24] slowing murmured sweet Sister Pellucid.
“But we must bide the Lord’s time,” warningly uttered an old lady, who had just arrived. To her the brisk committee clerk ventured this answer: “But Senator Readyright says you’ll find the Lord’s time will come just about twenty-four hours after the women get their eyes open!”
A temperance member of the House is the last caller whom I will report He spake in this wise: “Ladies, I pretend to no superior saintship. I am like other men, only I come from a district that would behead me if I did not stand by you. I have a pocket full of letters, received today from party leaders at home, assuring me I run no risk.” At the close of three weeks of such a school as this, one of our radicals asked Mrs. Pellucid, chief of conservatives, this pointed question: “Are you still for the Home Protection vote alone, or for the ballot on all questions?” She replied, in thrilling tones and most explicit words: “Any woman who could have shared our bitter experience here without desiring to vote on every officer, from constable to President, would be either a knave or a fool.”
This lady reasoned that, since we are solemnly bound to be wise as serpents [Matthew 10:16], we must harness self-interest to our on-moving chariot. The great majority of men who are in office desire to be re-elected. By fair means, if they can; but to be re-elected anyhow. Only in one way can they bring this to pass, by securing on their side old King Majority. If we furnish them with a constituency committed to the proposition “The saloon must go,” then go it will, and on the double quick. Let the city council know that women have the ballot, and will not vote for them if they license saloons, and they will soon come out for prohibition. Let the sheriff, marshal, and constable know that their tenure of office depends on their success in executing the law thus secured, and their faithfulness will leave nothing to be desired. Let the shuffling justice and the truckling judge know that a severe interpretation of the law will brighten their chances of promotion, and d you will behold rigors of penalty which Neal Dow himself would wince to see.
There is also great force in the consideration that, if women, not themselves eligible to office, had the power to elect or to defeat men (who will alone be eligible for a long while yet), the precise check might by this arrangement be supplied which would keep politics form forming with the worst elements of society that unholy alliance which is today the grief of Christians and the despair of patriots. Belonging to no party ourselves, we might be able to life the Sabbath, the temperance movement, and kindred moral questions out of the mire or merely partisan politics into which they have fallen. It is, at least, worth trying. Into the seething caldron, where the witch’s broth is bubbling, let us cast this one ingredient more. In speaking thus I am aware that I transcend the present purpose of my constituency, and represent myself rater than “the folks that voted me in!”
Our temperance women in the West are learning that, while the primary meetings are the most easily influenced, they are the most influential political bodies in America. Ere long the WCTUs will attend these, beginning in the smaller and more reputable communities. We are confident that nothing would be so effective in securing the attendance of the respectable voter as the presence at the primaries of “his sisters and his cousins and his aunts.” To be “in at the birth of measures vital to the well-being of society seems to us in the light of last winter’s experience, a more useful investment of our influence than to be “in at the death.” At Springfield we found the enemy entrenched, while in the primaries his soldiers are not yet even recruited. We intend also to open in each locality books of record; and, by through canvass, to secure an informal registration of all men and women – the former as to how they will and the latter as to how they would (mournful potential mood!) vote on the question of permitting saloons. Everysuch effort helps to obliterate party lines; or, more correctly, to mass the moral elements by which alone society coheres, against the disintegrating forces, which of themselves would drive us into chaos and old night.
New England must lead. Let not the West outstrip you in this glorious race. I appeal to the women of the East. Already New Hampshire and Massachusetts have placed in your hands the educational vote, which has a direct bearing on the temperance question, since by its use the mothers of this land can place on the school committees those who will make the scientific reasons for total abstinence a regular study of the children. I beg you, by its use, to testify your fitness and desire for the more powerful weapon it foretells. It comes to you as the gift of a few earnest, persistent women, who steadily asked your legislators to bestow it, even as they will the larger gift, if you as diligently seek it Your undertaking will not be so gigantic as ours in Illinois, for with us 34 in the senate and 102 in the house must first agree to a constitutional amendment, and then the concurrence of two-thirds of our voters must e secured. Another contrast further illustrates the favorable conditions here. Negro suffrage at the South was forced upon wide areas occupied by a voting population bitterly hostile to the innovation. Here woman’s vote must first be granted by free consent of a majority of the representatives chosen directly by those ho are already citizens; and by operating over the small area of a single state at a time it would arouse no violent upheaval of the opposition. Besides, the large excess of women here makes this the fitting battleground of a foregone victory.
Women of New England! among all the divisions of our great White Ribbon Army you occupy the strategic position. Truly, your valiant daughter, Illinois, earlier flung down the gauge of the new battle; but your blood is in our veins, your courage nerves our hearts, your practical foresight determines our methods of work. I come from the prairies, where we are marshaling forces for a fresh attack, and solemnly adjure you to lead us in this fight for God and home and native land. Still let dear old New England take her natural place in the forefront of the battle; and from an enemy more hateful than King George let the descendants of our foremothers deliver Concord and Lexington, and wield once more in Boston, with its eight miles of grog-shops, the sword of Bunker Hill! To chronicle the deeds by which your devotion shall add fresh luster to names renowned and hallowed, the Must of History prepares her tablet and poises her impartial pen.
Friends, there is always a way out for humanity. Evermore in earth’s affairs God works by means. Today he hurls back upon us our complaining cry: “How long? O Lord! How long? [Isaiah 7:11]. Even as he answered fainthearted Israel, so he replies to us: What can I do for this people that I have not done? “Speak until the children of Israel that they go forward” [Exodus 14:15] . . .
Source: Report published in The Independent, July 10, 1879, 11-13.
Also published in: Willard, Frances. “Home Protection,” as printed in Let Something Good Be Said: Speeches and Writings of Frances E. Willard. Edited by Carolyn De Swarte Gifford and Amy R. Slagell. (Chicago: University Of Illinois Press, 2007). pp. 35-47.