Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 5) online

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ways feel that I have made a great failure of it. A drunk-
ard a man with a man's capacities, with a man's sources
of enjoyment, with a man's intellect, and a man's reason,
a man's heart and a man's soul to lower himself below
the level of the beasts over whom God gave him domin-
ion, is a most pitiful sight. Oh ! how degrading it is !
Look at the records of crime and can you find me a mur-
der within the last twelve months in which the drunkard
has not been the prime agent? I search the records of
crime in vain to find such a case. But justice is visited on
the head of the man, drunk or sober. The poor wretch
who was swung into eternity the other day before a crowd
of men, women and children, declared to the very last
that he had no knowledge of the fact. " Gentlemen, I was
drunk, mad drunk ! " Oh, if we would bring before the
people the horrible evil of drunkenness. It seems to me
as if we must call upon the drunken dead (for they won't
take warning by the living) to wipe the grave-dust crum-
bling from their brow, and in tattered shrouds of bony
whiteness, stalk forth, a host, to testify against the power
of drink ! Bring from the gallows drink-maddened men-
slayers, and let them grip their bloody knives, and they
would stand, a host to testify against it! Let the poor
unfortunate victims drowned by their drink, crawl from
their slimy ooze and with suffocation's blood and livid
lips hear them testify against the power that has destroyed
them. Let them snap their burning chains, the doomed
drunkards, and sheeted with fire and dripping with the
waves of hell, hear them, hear them testify against the
deep "damnation of their taking off" by the power of
intemperance! Hear it, oh, young man, hear it! And
may it warn you against the outer pleasant circle of the
whirlpool, the vortex of which is death! [Applause.]

But we speak of social responsibility. To get at that
we must get at the influence that every man exerts. Is
there a young man in this assembly that will tell me he
has no influence? Then I will say that of himself which
he would not like to have me say. I made a man very
angry once, because when, asked to join our abstinence
movement, he said : " I do not know as I have got any
particular influence." I said : " I do not know as you


have." I heard of a man who once said he had not been
as good a man as he ought to have been that he had
overreached in bargains, that he had shut his ear to the
cry of the widow, and so on, but that he should not do so
any more ; when a gentleman got up and said : " I am
very glad to hear my friend make this statement, for I
can testify to the truth of all that he has said." " It is
false, sir," said the man. [Laughter.] The idea of a
man without influence ! Why, if you stand still, shut your
eyes, close your mouth, and fold your arms, you exert
an influence by the position you occupy. A man cannot
live without exerting an influence. Now there are a
great many people who say : " Ah, it is a very good work
you are engaged in, going among these poor, degraded
people." A gentleman in Edinburgh said : " If Mr.
Gough will only go among the poor creatures in the
West Port, and on the High Street, and in the Grass
Market, he will get an audience that may probably be
benefited by his addresses." I am willing to go anywhere
and everywhere to the West Port, or any other port, to
speak on the subject of intemperance, just where the
people call me (and my time is pretty well filled up). I
will go anywhere. But I believe I have got an audience
to-night better to be affected, and with whom more good
can be accomplished, than if every man and woman of you
were debased and degraded, of the very scum of the
streets of the city. Why? Because prevention is better
than cure. You say : " It is all very well for you ; you are
a teetotaler; teetotalism is a capital thing for the poor
and the degraded, and those who cannot govern them-
selves." Let me say, my Christian brethren, teetotalism
is, by the Bible, a lawful principle ; it is lawful to abstain.
I am willing to be bound by the Bible. I bring you pas-
sages containing cautions and warnings and reproofs and
admonitions of the use of wine; and if you can find me
one word in the Bible rebuking or reproving abstinence
from wine, I will abandon the principle to-night. It is a
lawful principle, and you say it is good for the debased.
I say it is good for you if by your abstinence you can help
up your brother who needs it for his own salvation from
drunkenness. Precept is a very good thing. I often hear
it said : " You are engaged in a good cause, Mr. Gough ;



go on ; I wish you success ; you have got my sympathies, I
hope you will do a great deal of good." All very pleasant,
this. But precept without example is worth but little.
If the principle is good and is worthy of your offering it
as a precept or an advice, then you should accept it as an

A clergyman presided at a meeting I held at one time.
They called it a teetotal meeting, though that is a term
I do not like very well ; I prefer the word " abstinence,"
because a great many people do not understand the word
" teetotal." They think we must drink nothing but tea.
[Laughter.] But what we mean is abstinence from intox-
icating liquors as a beverage you all understand that.
Well, this clergyman said : " Ladies and gentlemen, I
am a teetotaler and have been for the past two years, and
I will give you my reason why. I found I had no influ-
ence over the drunkards in my parish till I was. Let me
give you an illustration of it. A few weeks ago one of
my parishioners was very drunk in the street, and he was
not aware that I was a member of the Temperance So-
ciety. He was very drunk, and he insulted me. The poor
fellow was so much under the influence of liquor that I
paid no attention to it; but I saw him a few days after-
wards, sober, and I said to him : ' I am ashamed of you ;
you are getting to be a complete nuisance ; you are a
disgrace to the parish; every two weeks, when you get
your wages, you spend them in the public-house, leaving
your family in destitution and want, while you hang about
the streets in the shameful manner in which I saw you
the other day. I am ashamed of you ; you are a perfect
pest to society.' And he shrugged his shoulders, and
twiddled his fingers, and jerked his elbows, and looked at
me as sulkily as he could. Presently I said to him : ' Why
don't you do as I do?' And then he looked in my face
and said : ' Do as you do, sir ! There's a great deal of
difference between you and me, sir.' 'What difference?'
I asked. ' Ah, sir, you know, sir, you are a gentleman
and I am a lab'rin' man.' ' Well, what difference can that
make ? ' ' Why, you see, sir, when you wants your drink,
you don't have to go to no public-house to get it don't
you see? You gets your wine in the cellar; and there's
lots on it there, and you have only to send the servants


down to bring it up. And then you drinks in purty good
company and drinks purty good liquor, too, I 'spects, sir;
and if I could afford it e sir, I'd do just as you do, sir. But
don't you see, sir, I am a lab'rin' man. I gets my wages
once in two weeks. I gets paid off at the public-house,
and when I gets my money I takes a drink along with
the lads and then I takes another ; that is the way it goes.
I drinks what I gets every two weeks, and you drinks
yourself, too, sir, reg'lar.' ' Ah, but,' said I, * I do not
drink at all.' 'What, sir? You a teetotaler?' 'Yes, I
am, and have been more than two years.' ' Well, sir, you
never made any bad use of the drink as anybody ever heerd
of, did you? Well, sir, really, if a gentleman like you can
give up your wine, that drinks in good company, I think a
lab'rin' man like me that is exposed to a great many
temptations and does make bad use on it, I think it's
high time to give up mine ; and so have I done.' And he
went away. The Secretary of the Society got a pledge
and put his name to it. ' There, sir,' said he, ' I tell you if
a gentleman like you can give up your wine, a lab'rin'
man like me ought to do it, sir. There's my name and I
will stick to it.' Now," said the clergyman, " I had no
power over my brother by saying, ' There is a good so-
ciety for just such as you are: there is an exceedingly
good society, go and join it ' ; but I could say : ' My
brother, do as I do ' there was the secret of my power."

I say if you will arrest the intemperate man you must
set him an example, and let your example strengthen him
in his purpose and his resolution. As I said last night
and I am not going over the argument it is a hard mat-
ter to save the drunkard ; it is a hard matter for that man
to break the appetite that seems to permeate every nerve
and vein in his system, crying like the leech : " Give,
give, give." It is a hard matter, and he needs help, and
he needs assistance, and words of kindness and encour-
agement, and, above all, he needs an example.

In 1853 when I first visited this country I was giving
an address in a certain place and two persons came up to
sign the pledge the worst specimens I ever saw at a
public meeting in my life, though I have seen such in the
streets. I can hardly attempt to describe them : the man
looked as if the drink had scorched up his neck ; he was



bowed down, crooked in the back, a sort of shiftless crea-
ture, as they would say in America, his limbs hanging as
if they were half-paralyzed, a perfect victim. And the
wife was a horrible looking creature. With all my re-
spect for womankind I felt that an eternity of companion-
ship with such as she with no change, would be hell with
no other punishment. She was ragged, and her clothes
hung loosely upon her. She had a thing that might be
called a shawl that should have covered her shoulders and
neck, but was twisted round one shoulder and came un-
der the arm; she looked as if she would like a fight a
perfect virago her eye as cold as a piece of gray granite.
But she with her husband signed the pledge. Some of
the officers with myself watched the whole operation.
The Secretary was making out certificates of membership
for those who were entitled to them by paying sixpence
for a beautifully embossed card. The man looked on and
said to the woman : " I should like to join the society
and get a certificate." Said she : " There's sixpence to
pay for them things; come along wi' me." "No, no,"
said he ; " I want to join the 'ciety and get a ce'tificate and
be a member." " There's sixpence to pay," repeated the
woman ; " no, no, come along."

And there they were, one pulling one way and the other
the other, when a gentleman, as noble a looking gentle-
man as any here on the platform, came up and said
cheerfully : " Well, good people, are you going to sign
the pledge?" "We have signed the pledge, sir," said
the man ; " me and my missus, and we want to join the
'ciety and get a ce'tificate." "Well, why don't you?"
Then the man fumbled in his rags as if he had left his
pocket-book at home, and said : " There's sixpence to
pay." "That need make no difference at all; here's a
shilling; make these people out a couple of certificates."
The effect of the words was as plain and palpable as the
effect of sunlight when its first gleam touches the top of a
hill. The man looked before half-idiot and half-beast;
and now he looked half-idiot and half-man. His back
seemed to straighten out a little, and there was more ap-
pearance of humanity about him. He was called upon
to give his name and he walked up straighter than ever
and gave it. I watched the woman. She was working


her fingers about her gown as if she would tie it in knots,
and looked fiercer than before. The Secretary said:
" Now, madam, your name, if you please." She looked
straight before her and was perfectly still. " Come,
ma'am, we are waiting; others want to be served; we are
waiting for you to sign, if you please." Then one hand
went up so quick and dashed away one big drop, and then
another, and then she gathered the wretched shawl and
held it close over her shoulders and bosom, and then put
her naked arm to her face, and the tears and dirt mingled
to the tips of her fingers. The one word of kindness and
sympathy had stirred the white ashes that covered the
last spark of the woman, and she stood, sobbing like a
little child as she went and gave her name. [Applause.]
This noble man's work was not done. He came and
laid his hand on the shoulder of that filthy creature did
he defile his fingers ? No ; and he said to him : " Now,
my friend, remember you are one of us." " One of us,
sir ! " " To be sure. You and your good woman have
signed the pledge and have got a certificate saying that
you belong to our society, and are one with us." " Did
you hear that, ole ooman? Did you hear that? Come
along; the gen'leman says we are 'one of us.' Come
along." And away they went. Twenty-two months af-
terward I was introduced to that man by a minister of
the Gospel, who said : " He wants to shake hands with
you before you go to America." I took the man by the
hand " I am glad to see you, sir," said he. " Mr. Gough,
I have been to hear you a great many times and I wanted
to bid you God-speed across the water before you go." I
said : " Have you ever seen that gentleman who laid his
hand on your shoulder that night?" " No, sir," said he;
" never, God bless him ! I have never seen him since. It
seems to me sometimes, sir, that if I should never see him
again in this world, but met him in heaven, I should
never get tired of telling him that the words he said to me
that night nerved me as no man's words ever nerved me
yet. God bless him ! My wife, sir, is a changed woman.
We have got children, and we teach them their prayers,
and we have got a little bit put in that God Almighty
may bless him. Good-by, Mr. Gough ; God bless you ! "
[Applause.] Is not that worth something? It is not


worth a sacrifice? Is not it worth meeting with all the
scorn and contempt of the circle of society in which you
move if, by self-denial and self-sacrifice, the blessing of
one man ready to perish shall come upon you? 'It is
worth something. Then we say precept and example.

There are many Sabbath-school teachers here, prob-
ably. Sabbath-schools are the nurseries of the church;
and intemperance is robbing the nursery of the church of
its lambs. You have work to do. You have sometimes
been astonished to find that in Sabbath-schools in this
metropolis and in this country they refuse to allow the
principle of abstinence to be spoken of in the presence of
their children. And why? Drunkenness in this land
would die out with the present race of the intemperate if
there were no more made. Death alone would sweep the
land of drunkenness in forty years if there were no other
drunkards made. Is there any necessity that there should
be any others made? Is there any benefit that you can
tell me to be derived morally, physically, intellectually or
religiously, to your children by the use of intoxicating
liquor as a beverage? You may tell me, if you please,
"The great fault I find with you teetotalers is your radi-
calism ; you go too far ; you seem to say that every indi-
vidual who drinks must necessarily become a drunkard;
that if this boy uses it he must necessarily become intem-
perate. Now, my father used it and he died a respectable
moderate drinker ; I use it and I was never out of the way
through drink in my life ; and it is not a necessity that
these children shall become intemperate if they drink."

I do not say so. But I do say this, that no young man
ever intended to become a drunkard; he never set out
with a determination that he would ruin himself, body
and soul, for time and for eternity ; it is not all who drink
that become drunkards we know that. Suppose you
were going to kill a mad dog, and I should call out:
" Don't kill that animal ! Don't kill him ! " You would
say: "He is mad." "Well, but if he is mad, he is one
of God's creatures; if he is a little crazy, let him alone."
" But he will bite somebody, won't he? " " Yes, probably
he may bite somebody, but he can't bite everybody, so let
him alone." You would say : " That would be nonsensi-
cal." Now I am as much afraid of a dog as anybody; I


always give a dog a wide berth ; if I see one running along
the street in the direction in which I am approaching, I
always step out, no matter how muddy the streets are. I
have such a horror of hydrophobia that if a dog should
bite me, I should never see a happy hour again, that is an
hour free from uneasiness. The very first nervous twitch
of the system I had, the very first symptom of illness, I
should be terrified for fear of hydrophobia. But as I am
a living man to-night, and shall answer for what I say in
that day for which all others are made, I had rather a mad
dog should tear my flesh from my limbs to-night than that
I should become again a victim of this accursed habit.
[Applause.] I should, so help me heaven!

I know all who drink do not become drunkards; but
are there none among the victims of this vice that have
been taught in the Sabbath-school ? Some of them have
been Sabbath-school teachers ; and some (Heaven pity us)
are about the streets of our city to-day who were once
ministers of the Gospel. The power of drink no man
can understand; it is a mystery to the victim himself. I
spoke with a man who was strong-minded with regard to
everything else ; a man of intellectual power and ability
a man who has made himself famous as an author ; and I
pleaded with him to give up the habit. I showed him
the daguerrotypes of his wife and two daughters and I
said to him : " You tell me you love your wife look
there ; for her sake, give it up ; you tell me you love your
children; that girl you say is to be married soon; never
let her husband tell her that her father is a drunkard."
And he shook his head. I put my hand upon him, and I
pleaded with him as if I were pleading for his own life.
Then he stepped back and brushed his ringers through his
hair and wiped away the tears that were streaming hot
down his cheeks, and said: "Give it up? why, John
Gough, Dives in hell never longed for a drop of water on
his cracked tongue as with every power I have longed for
drink, and I will have it!" That man was once a Sab-
bath-school scholar.

I belonged at one time to a club of young men, some
thirty-five, and there was scarce one who did not receive
a religious education, scarce one who had not been taught
in the Sabbath-school, had not been dandled in the lap of



piety. Those young men formed themselves into a club
for social enjoyment, having no idea of the danger they
were incurring. By-and-by they began to sink, and they
gave up this thing and the other that was good.

I spoke once in the Melodeon in the city of Boston and
I said this : " Twelve years ago I stood in this house, or
sat in this house for I was a spectator the last time
it was opened for theatrical performance ; and now I de-
liver the first temperance address ever delivered in it.
But I ask, Where are the young men who were associated
with me in this house? Where are they now?" And
echo only answered: "Where are they now?" One I
knew; he came into my place of business and wanted a
loan of ninepence, which was just about sixpence of your
money. I gave it to him and he got drunk with it. I was
told he was ill, I went to see him but they would not let
me in. Three days afterward they told me he was dy-
ing. I then went in, for his mother who stood behind
the girl that opened the door told her to admit me. I
sat by his bedside. He had beaten his clenched hands
till they looked like anything but human hands; he had
bitten his lip and his mouth was spitting forth blasphemy
and bloody foam, and he was struggling in all the horror
of delirium tremens. He bounded from the bed, dashed
himself against the wall, and fell back in quivering convul-
sions. And thus he died. He had not seen his twenty-
third birthday ; and at eighteen years of age he was a
Sabbath-school teacher.

Another one said to me : " John, I am going whaling.
I cannot stand the temptations of the city. When I de-
clare I will drink no more, one and another comes and
asks me to take a little. So I am going whaling for three
years. But," said he, "John, I will have one glorious
spree and that will be the last." And he did, and it was
the last. The next morning he went on board ship; all
his nerves were unstrung; but he was a man whom we
should call a noble-hearted fellow; he would never shirk
from duty. He was ordered aloft; hand over hand he
climbed the ratlines, and set his feet on the crosstrees
when he slipped down, fell upon the deck and was picked
up a corpse.


Another kept a pair of horses at Reid's stables at the
back of the Pemberton House, and drove young men to
Brighton and Dorchester, and Cambridge and Cam-
bridgeport. Where is he? Dead. He died in the horse-
trough in Reid's stable, with no living being near him but
a person named John Augustus who was then our great
Boston philanthropist, and that which seemed to affect
him most in his last moments was the thought : " They
have all left me, left me alone ; they drunk my wine, they
drove my horses, they laughed at my jokes, they clapped
me on the back, called me ' good fellow/ they applauded
my songs; but now, when death is feeling for my heart-
strings, they have all left me, and you, the man I despised,
the man I have ridiculed, the man I have laughed at, you
are the only man to wipe the death-damp from my brow."
And thus he died.

I might bring you another such case, and another, all
well attested facts. When I was at home last, I went to
this very place, and a man came up and said: "Well,
how are you?" "Well, Charlie," said I; "how do you
do ? " " Well," said he ; " just as I used to. You are a
temperance lecturer and I keep on the same old jog."
" Do you drink now? " said I. " Just the same as I used.
Let me see; how long is it since you left? Eighteen
years? so it is. Well, I go on the same regular old jog; I
never get drunk in my life and you know I could always
drink you and half a dozen others under the table."
There was one man who could stand it, and all about him
men were falling with as much intention of being moder-
ate as he. The effect on his nervous system was a mere
nothing; he could drink and laugh, and laugh and quaff,
and walk away with a curl of the lip in contempt of those
who were staggering and tumbling under the table, hav-
ing taken the same quantity as himself.

I say not all who drink become drunkards, but there is
a risk about it ; and if that principle of abstinence is law-
ful, why not assist us in encouraging the young as they
come upon the stage of action to repudiate the thing for-
ever? This association is a mighty power and has a
mighty power. The Young Men's Christian Association
of London is a great fact and every individual in it, as I
have said before, exerts an influence, and has an influence


to exert. Will you allow me to present to your sympathy
and your careful and prayerful consideration, the move-
ment I have the honor to advocate as a great instrumen-
tality in rolling away the hindrance to the moral eleyation
of the working classes and the moral elevation of those
who are debased and degraded? We want your sym-
pathy and your prayerful cooperation. At any rate, if
you cannot give us your cooperation, give us your
thoughtful and prayerful consideration. Take the claims
of this movement home with you to-night; look at it on
every side, from every point of view. We seek to pre-
vent, we seek to build a barrier between the unpolluted
lip and the intoxicating cup, and we say that the loss of
one soul by the drink may not counterbalance the good
that moderate drinkers can manufacture out of the use
of it.

It may be a little thing to you to save a man, but it is
everything to the man saved ; and that man is worth saving.
Worth saving ! To be sure he is. I saw a lady one day on
Broadway pull off her glove, and a-s she pulled it off I heard
something strike, with a rich jingling sound, upon the
pavement; and I saw something roll in the distance a
gem, a brilliant ; it might have been worth twenty guineas,
it might have been worth fifty, it might have been worth

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 5) → online text (page 11 of 38)