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he was appointed a commissioner of the board of
admiralty, which office he declined accepting owing
to the situation of his private affairs. In a letter of
the seventeenth of February, 1780, he thus expressed
himself to Nathaniel Peabody, in relation to this
appointment : ' I am confident that your wishes, that
I would accept the office you mentioned, are
founded on the best principles, viz. the public good ;
though I am not altogether so clear that you would
not be mistaken. No doubt some other person may
be found that will fill the place much better ; at least
this is my sincere wish, for I have nothing more at
heart than our navy. The official account of my
appointment did not reach me until some time in Jan-
uary, although the letter was dated the twenty-seventh
of November ; this may account for my answer being
so long delayed ; indeed I took a fortnight to consider
the matter before I gave my answer, and I assure you
considered it very maturely ; and, in casting up the
account, I found the balance so greatly against it, that
I was obliged, on the principle of self preservation, to
decline.' In the year 1780, immediately after his
retirement from Congress, he was elected a member
of the legislature, to which office he was repeatedly
chosen, and continued to enjoy the confidence and
approbation of his fellow citizens.

"In May, 1782, the superintendent of finance, confid-
ing in ' his inclination and abilities to promote the



GENERAL WILLIAM WHIPPLE. 353

interests of the United States,' appointed Mr.
Whipple receiver for the state of New Hampshire, a
commission at once arduous and unpopular. It was
invariably the rule of Mr. Morris to grant this appoint-
ment only to men of tried integrity and invincible
patriotism. The duty of the office was not only to
receive and transmit the sums collected in the state,
but to expedite that collection by all proper means,
and incessantly to urge the local anthorities to comply
with the requisitions of Congress. The station now
held by Mr. Whipple was, therefore, extremely irk-
some, not only from the urgent and necessary repre-
sentations to the legislature and the people, but from
the total want of success which attended his most per-
severing efforts. So shameful was the sluggishness of
the state in the payment of revenue, that it whs
necessary, six months after the first instalment became
due, to remit money to New Hampshire for the pur-
pose of finishing a single ship on the stocks at Ports-
mouth. The discouraging results of his exertions
induced him, on the third of August, 1783, to repeat
more strongly his desire to abandon an office, the
powers and effects of which were so desirable. But
Mr. Morris was not disposed to lose the services of a
faithful and able agent, without an effort to shake his
determination. ' If,' he remarked, in a letter of the
nineteenth August, 1783, 'a number of competitors
would appear, I am well persuaded that you would
not have accepted. Your original motives must con-
tinue to exist, until the situation of our affairs shall
mend. Persist, then, I pray you, in those efforts
Vol. VI. 24



354 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

which you promised me, and be persuaded that the
consciousness of having them made will be the best
reward. If this is not the. case, I have mistaken your
character.' Let it be remembered that an eulogium
from Robert Morris should be equally venerated as
though it had fallen from the lips of Washington.
The military glory of the hero can never be separated
from the gigantic talents of the financier. It was not
until the month ol January, 1784, that Mr. Whipple
was enabled to make his first remittance to the treas-
ury ; this at a time when the public necessities were
most urgent, consisted of three thousand dollars ! At
length, he was resolved no longer to submit to the
series of vexations which he had endured for more
than two years, and which the infirm state of his
health rendered still more oppressive. On the twenty-
second of July, 1784, he imparted his final determina-
tion to Mr. Morris, and retired from the office of
receiver in the course of the following month.

' A dispute having long subsisted between the states
of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, relative to certain
lands at Wyoming, which, from the hostile spirit in
which it was conducted, demanded the serious con-
sideration of Congress, on the sixteenth day of July,
1782, it was resolved that the agents of those states
should appoint commissioners or judges to constitute
a court for hearing and determining the matter in
question, agreeably to the ninth article of the confed-
eration. On the eighth of August, this requisition
was complied with, and Mr. Whipple was included in
the commission subsequently granted by Congress.



GENERAL WILLIAM WHIPPLE. 355

The court of commissioners met at Trenton, in New
Jersey, on the twelfth of November, but did not con-
stitute a quorum until the eighteenth ; when William
Whipple, Welcome Arnold, David Brearly, William
Churchill Houston and Cyrus Griffin, Esqrs., having
taken the necessary oath, opened the court in form.
Mr. Whipple was appointed president, and throughout
the course of this importtint, delicate trial, which ter-
minated on the thirtieth of December, displayed great
ability, impartiality and moderation. Their final sen-
tence and decree was returned to Congress on the
third of January, stating it as a unanimous opinion of
the court, that the state of Connecticut has no right
to the lands in controversy.

" About this time Gen. Whipple began to be
afflicted with strictures in the breast, which at times
proved extremely painful. A little exercise would
induce violent palpitations of the heart which were
very distressing. Riding on horseback often produced
this effect, and frequently caused him to faint and
fall from his horse. This complaint prevented him
from engaging in the more active scenes of life, and
compelled him to decline any further military com-
mand.

" On the twentieth of June, 1782, he was appointed
a judge of the superior court of judicature ; it being
usual, at that period, to fill the office with persons
who had not been educated in the profession of the
law. The bench consisted of four judges, and the
chief justice only was taken from the bar. A discern-
ing mind, sound judgment, and integrity, were deemed



356 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

adequate, but essential qualifications ; and these vir-
tues were possessed by Gen. Whipple.

"In an attempt to sum up the arguments of the coun-
cil, and state a cause to the jury, the e:ffort brought on
the palpitation of his heart in so violent a degree that
he proceeded with great difficulty ; and this was the
only instance of his making a formal speech, whilst
seated upon the bench. He continued, however, to
ride the circuits with the court for the term of two or
three years, and assisted his brethren with his opinion
in the decision of the causes before them.

"On the twenty-fifth of December, 1784, he was
appointed a justice of the peace and quorum through-
out the state, under the new constitution. In the fall
of 1785, the rapid increase of his disorder compelled
him to leave the court, and return home before the
circuit was completed. He was immediately confined
to his chamber, and the nature of his complaint pre-
venting him from lying in bed, his only refreshment
from sleep was received whilst sitting in a chair. The
nature and violence of his disorder being beyond the
reach of medical art, he expired on the twenty-eighth
day of November, 1785, in the fifty-fifth year of his
age. His body was opened, by his special direction,
and it was found that an ossification had taken place
in his heart; the valves being united to the aorta. A
small aperture about the size of a large knitting needle,
remained open, through which all the blood flowed in
its circulation ; and when any sudden motion gave it
new impulse it produced the palpitation and faintness
to which he Avas liable. His body was deposited in
tlie North burying-ground in Portsmouth.



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 357

" Mr. Whipple was possessed of a strong mind, and
quick discernment ; he was easy in his manners, cour-
teous in his deportment, correct in his habits and con-
stant in his friendships. He enjoyed through Hfe a
great share of the pubHc confidence, and although his
early education was limited, his natural good sense and
accurate observations, enabled him to discharge the
duties of the several offices with which he was intrusted
with credit to himself and benefit to the public. In
the various scenes of life in which he engaged, he con-
stantly manifested an honest and persevering spirit of
emulation, which conducted him with rapid strides to
distinction. As a sailor, he speedily attained the
highest rank in the profession ; as a merchant, he was
circumspect and industrious ; as a congressman, he was
firm and fearless ; as a legislator, he was honest and
able ; as a commander, he was cool and courageous 5 as
a judge, he was dignified and impartial ; and as a mem-
ber of many subordinate public offices, he was alert
and persevering. Few men rose more rapidly and
worthily in the scale of society, or bore their new hon-
ors with more modesty and propriety."



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUES-
TION IN THE OLD TIME.

BY HON. GEORGE FOSTER TALBOT.

Read before the Maine Historical Society, May 3, 1894.

East Machias is a town of about two thousand inhab-
itants in the center of the easternmost county of Maine,



358 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

about ten miles, as the crow flies, from the general
line of the sea coast, and about thirty miles from the
eastern border of the United States. The old town-
ship of Machias, as granted by the legislature of Mas-
sachusetts was ten miles square, and embraced an area
of one hundred square miles — perhaps by actual sur-
vey considerably more than that. Governed as one
municipality from its settlement in 17G3 to 1826, it
was in the latter year divided into three towns, each
nearly the size of the ordinary Maine townships, called
Machias, East Machias and Machiasport.

Old Machias has a historic celebrity. It is the only
precinct in our state in which, during the Revolution-
ary struggle, any incident, which was not a disaster
and defeat, occurred of sufficient consequence to be
mentioned in history. The capture of the " Marga-
retta," the first naval victory of the war, earlier by a
few days than the battle of Bunker Hill, occurred in
the territory of Machiasport. The Rim battle, where
from behind earthworks, the ruins of which may still
be traced, a damaging fire was maintained against the
British naval force, Avas fought on the soil of East
Machias ; while from both banks of the river in Machias
proper the hostile squadron was turned back by the
musket fire of the settlers and their Indian allies.

The people of Machias were at the beginning, per-
haps are still, a purer Puritan and Plymouth stock than
can be found anywhere else in New England. From
the fact that Maine never had a considerable seaport
at which foreign emigrants arrived, and that the pas-
sion that attracts the crowd of European poor is eager-



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 359

ness to possess the free and fertile prairies of the West,
our state has slowly grown in spite of an active emi-
gration, by the natural increase of its own first settlers.
From 1820 to 1840, the returning timber ships brought
swarms of Irish and landed them at St. Johns and
Halifax, whence they walked slowly and painfully,
asking for bread and the road to Boston, through the
coast towns of Maine. Many of the sturdy young
men and young women fell out of the procession on
the way, and became farm laborers and domestic ser-
vants, and ultimately permanent residents. The lum-
bering operations in the north and the manufactories in
the west of the state have within the last two decades
attracted a large contingent of Canadian working-men,
mostly of French nationality. But in spite of this
considerable contribution of Irish and French immi-
grants the last census shows, as earlier ones did, that
there are more people of a New England ancestry in
Maine than in any other of the New England states ;
so that, if one wishes to study the traits of character,
the popular ideas, the social customs of the descend-
ants of the colonists of Plymouth and of Salem, it is
not in Essex county or even on the Cape in Mas-
sachusetts that he must make his observations, but in
Somerset, Penobscot and Washington counties in
Maine.

The passengers on the Mayflower and the less famous
immigrant vessels that followed her were not exactly
democrats, nor were the political institutions they
established in the new world typical democracies. In
England where men of the same race, the same social



360 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

rank and the same religious faith succeeded under the
leadership of Cromwell in establishing a commonwealth
and realizing their ideas of a kingdom of heaven on
earth, they did not abolish the aristocracy. There
were men belonging to the highest nobility in the
parliamentary ranks in the fight with the king and his
adherents, as well as in the reformed parliaments and
councils of the Lord Protector. Uniformity of faith
and of religious culture were more sought for than
social equality. All the titles, all the reverence and
respect, all the immunities and estates of the privi-
leged classes were as safely guarded under Crom-
well, as they had been under the Stuart or the Tudor
kings.

So, when men of the same faith settled Massachu-
setts and Connecticut, they brought with them all
their respect for rank and office in church and state,
which years of loyal service had taught them at home.
As heirs of a common salvation, they perhaps looked
forward to a state in which there should be but one
Lord and one Master, and every man should be the
brother and equal of every other of the elect; but in
the meantime there were powers, dignities and offices
in church, in state and in society, to which scriptural
reverence and authority were due. The worshipful
governor, the judge and justice of the peace, the cap-
tain and high officers of the trainbands, the physician
and above all the university-educated clergymen wore
their dignities with great condescension and accepted
gracefully the spontaneous homage of their humble but
not obsequious brethren. The church was a rude



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 361

structure of logs, timber and boards, and the hard
plank seats were mitigated with no upholstery ; but
there were in the rudest of them grades of rank to
distinguish the squire and his lady, the magistrate, the
military commander and those entitled to the designa-
tion of " Honorable " from the artisan, the laborer and
the small farmer, only entitled to be addressed as
" Goodman."

This old aristrocratic form had not wholly disap-
peared from the social life of my fellow-townspeople
as I first remember them. The settlers had in fact two
distinct origins, and subsided into two distinct social
strata. The first sixteen, who took up lots and built
mills at West Falls in 1763, and the settlers at East
Falls who followed them in 1765, came from one place,
Black Point, in our adjoining town of Scarborough.
They were farmers, fishermen and practical lumber-
men with a carpenter, a blacksmith for house and mill-
building and repair. The boss element was the mer-
chant, Ichabod Jones, who was the broker and factor
of the colony, receiving and selling their lumber and
purchasing for them their groceries, food, clothing and
supplies, and his nephew, Judge Jones, who early
appeared as a resident, wearing easily the honor of
first citizen and chief magistrate. He was reenforced
soon by the local trader, the minister, the physician,
and these, nearly all of them immigrants from Boston
and its vicinity, fell into one social group and kept
themselves quite aloof from what were called the
common people. The distinguished services of Col.
Benjamin Foster, Capt. Stephen Smith and the



362 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

O'Briens in the Revolutionary war elevated them and
their families into the ranks of the aristocracy, to
which they did not naturally belong.

Between these classes there was always a deep
social gulf not to be easily passed. They met together
in town meeting, where the pugnacious and loquacious
artisan had his fling at the pretentious trader and got
the popular laugh against him. They met together
at the funerals, where relationship to the deceased
was the only distinction. They went to the same
meeting-house where the pews had no other rank than
the ability of the pew-holder to contribute to the min-
ister's salary. But they were not invited to each
others' weddings, nor parties, nor dances, — if such
questionable entertainments were ever ventured upon,
— and there was no more spontaneous visiting or call-
ing upon each other, except for strictly business
errands, than if they had belonged to different races
and had spoken different languages.

I have said thus much of this place and of this peo-
ple as introductory to the main purpose of this writ-
ing, which is to give some account of the remarkable
Temperance Reformation which took place among
them nearly seventy years ago in my early childhood.
It is a great thing for a single individual to stop sud-
denly in the routine of his daily toil, in the pursuit of
gain or pleasure, and to think what courses of his
life, fast binding the chains of habit about his will, are
tending towards degeneration and evil, and, instructed
by an awakened conscience, resolutely to change that
course of life and hold to a safer path onward to the



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 363

end. Such crises occur but are not common in human
experience. But for a whole community, simultane-
ously and by a common inspiration to bethink them
that certain conduct, which they have by insidious
impulses allowed to control their wills, is evil of itself
and draws with it misery and punishment for them-
selves and their posterity, and then by concerted
action, — the good purpose of one man strengthened
by the good purpose of" his neighbor — thoroughly to
reform the evil conduct altogether, surely nothing that
social man does in the brief stage of his life is worthier
of mention in history.

I do not know that there was anything peculiar or
excessive in the primitive drinking habits of these
people I have made the subjects of my sketch. A
description of their customs, as they were at that early
period would be equally applicable to almost every
other community in Maine, in New England, in all
the more northern of the United States — for in the
new as in the old world, intemperance so far as it has
a physical cause, seems largely a vice or a disease of
high latitudes. Men seek by a sort of blind instinct in
alcohol the stimulus, which the warmth and sunlight
of the equatorial regions supply. Islam has found
but little difficulty in making effectual its prohibition
of the use of wine among the faithful, but was never
able to push its conquests into the northern temperate
zones; while the Russians, the Scotch and the Swedes —
peoples upon whom the sun has been niggard in
bestowing his beams — confess, as Hamlet did for his
Danes : —



364 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition.

Parsimony and frugal habits keep many communi-
ties sober ; the steady industry, and the rigid econ-
omy, which farming requires and promotes, do not
minister much to luxury and indulgence either in eat-
ing or drinking. The practice of selling the choicest
food products, and eating only what cannot be sold
soon becomes a habit of self-control and abstemious-
ness. On the other hand a community of lumbermen,
whose gains, if not larger, come to them all at once
in large instalments, are apt to be free livers and
liberal spenders. Where the cram-trader, indemnified
by an exorbitant profit, is anxious to increase rather
than restrict the logger's store account, and would be
glad to have his customer in his debt at the end of
the year, so as to drive as good or a better bargain
with him for his next winter's work, the customer is
very profuse in ordering supplies, where he has an
indefinite credit, and the items of rum and tobacco are
apt to figure in the account somewhat in the propor-
tions of Falstaff's sack and bread.

Besides this, the cold and exposure of long day's
work in the snows of the woods, the bivouac on the
sodden banks and the daily accidents of wounds and
bruises and ducking in the ice-cold water, that
attended river driving, used to be supposed to require
the prophylactic of alcohol to ensure the preservation
of health. As a medical agency the frequent and
strong potations under which this strain of excessive
labor was cheerfully undertaken probably had little or



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 365

no efficacy. In our great civil war thousands of men
bore the greater hardships of long campaigns in mala-
rious regions, better safeguarded by the less dangerous
stimulus of coffee and wholesome food. But the ner-
vous and mental effect of the stimulating dram in
helping the men over some crisis of extra-hard work
and in making them insensible to frosts and fatigue
could but have been considerable.

The river fisheries must be mentioned too as having
a considerable influence on the drinking: habits of the
community, a chapter of whose history I am trying to
tell. In May and June came the shoals of alewives,
generally accompanied with a few sporadic specimens
of the salmon and the shad. The first were taken in
brush wiers set along the flats in tide waters, but later
they made a rush up the river in quest of their remote
spawning grounds at its head waters, and were baled
out in tubs full by the eager crowds of fishers lining
all the banks. They could only be caught in swift run-
ning waters, and between the head of the tide and the
lakes there were not many rods after taking out the
six rods allowed by law for access to the fishways
where the dippers could stand.

There was a local law regulating this fishery, which
was vigorously enforced, under which a close time
from Friday till Tuesday morning of each week was
allowed for the fish to pursue their upward flight un-
molested by net or hook ; and this they seemed to know
how to take advantage of. The close days would wit-
ness the mill races so crowded with the swarming
tribes, that the underliers forced those above them to



366 MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

the surface and showed a continuous chevaux de/rise,
of back fins, that looked Hke the ripple of a breeze on
the bosom of the water, and when the lawful fish days
set in the wary creatures would stay sulkily in the tide
waters, and the swearing fishermen would sweep and
lash the empty waters all day long with not a single
tail to wriggle in their baskets. The season lasted
from three to six weeks and people came to engage
in the business from all parts of the county, many
bringing their supplies of food and camping out over
the close days till their catch of from six to twenty
barrels was completed.

They got in each others' way, they contended for the
best chances, they quarreled, sometimes fought. Some-
times thev leaped up to the middle in the mill stream
for want of space on the shore, sometimes in their
competition they pushed each other into the water. To
hear the yelling and the swearing, to witness the push-
ing and struggling, to be present before the justice of
the peace, when a squabble about fishing had culmi-
nated in an assault and battery, that resulted in an
arrest and trial and fine, one would naturally infer
that to use an old saw '' rum done it," and, that, if the
practice of drinking to excess was ever in vogue among
this class of people, this would be one of the seasons,
when they would drink without much moderation.

Military exercises and parades always brought sug-
gestions of tippling. As near the center of a military
brio-ade East Machias was often selected as the theater
of the General Muster in the autumn, and its large level
fields afforded ample scope to draw out in a tolerably



TEMPERANCE AND THE DRINK QUESTION IN OLD TIME. 367

straight line the militia of the vicinage. This annual
display so much enjoyed in anticipation never quite
realized the enthusiastic expectations of us boys. The



Online LibraryMaine Historical SocietyCollections of the Maine historical society (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 34)