Reminiscences of an octogenarian in the fields of industrial and social reform/15

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Joshua King Ingalls

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In addition to what I have stated in respect to my Temperance experience and work, I should have mentioned my acquaintance with Dr. Jewett an early advocate of the cause, a very eloquent and efficient worker, Wm. S. Balch, and a number of clergymen of different denominations. Personally I had taken little active part in the movement, until 1841. The Whig Presidential campaign of 1840, with its "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" emblems, had greatly loosened the popular conscience upon the temperance question, and wrought habits of inebriety and dissipation in both city and country. From this general relapse a reaction took place, finding especial expression in the Washingtonian movement, inaugurated in Baltimore by John Hawkins, and a few self reformed drunkards. I was living at Southold at that time, and had witnessed the orgies of the political campaign of the year before. Although opposed at first by the respectable and over pious, it appealed directly to the popular heart and carried all before it. Rich and poor, Whig and Democrat, pious and impious people came together animated by one purpose to stop the drinking habit. Total abstinence, from all intoxicating liquors became the battle cry, and an era of success was then attained without parallel in the history of the reformation. The north branch of east Long Island, which separates Peconic Bay from Long Island Sound, extends from Riverhead to Orient Point some 30 miles. Between the two Greenport is situated, and several villages; Jamesport, Franklinville, Aquebogne, Mattituck, Cutchogue and Southold. Within a year, the whole community was united as one in requiring the cessation of liquor selling, and the practice of temperance. The Tavern keepers at each of these places had licenses and claimed they could not maintain their places without the liquor profit. It was arranged that we should hold meetings at short intervals at each of the places and give the public houses the benefit of a dinner. In this way we prevailed upon them one after another to cease selling liquor, and give a pledge to that effect. Out of nine this pledge was kept, with tolerable exactness, with one exception for more than a year, and the first signs of breaking were on the part of those who had urged on the work as a public good, while keeping liquor in their homes, and in indulging in its use privately. Re-action from the state of tension [107] came after a while, and some returned to their cups again when the stress of public sentiment was relaxed. But a considerable number of the reformed men, stayed reformed, and led sober and industrious lives. Engaged in this work were several men of mark. Dr. Frank Tuthill and a law student named Huntley, of Greenport. Dr. James Richmond of Southold, Revs. Mr. Beers of Riverhead, and Alonzo Welton of Southold, orthodox; Joseph Henson, Methodist, and Giles Waldo, who was teaching the academy at the time. All were effective speakers and workers. Mr. Welton was a fluent and attractive speaker, but had a weakness for the "last word", which is slanderously said to be a woman's peculiarity. He seldom allowed our village meetings to be dismissed without closing remarks, which left their impression on the minds of the hearers as they went away. This became "a little monotonous," after a while, and some of the speakers had expressed opinions in regard to it, particularly Mr. Huntley of Greenport.

Preparation was made for a Washingtonian celebration on 22d February, 1843 at Orient, and Mr. Welton and myself were invited to give addresses, together With Mr. Huntley, Mr. Beers and others. There was no railroad then, and I had no horse, and there seemed no probability that I could go; and so made no preparation for speaking. A friend from Cutchogue, who had been disappointed by companion he had expected, drove up in the morning and insisted I should accompany him. Making hasty preparations I went. We arrived at Orient just as the procession was entering the church. Mr. Huntley immediately came to me saying that the committee had arranged, regardless of his protest, that Mr. Welton should have the last speech; but hoped I would be able to thwart him. The committee on speakers came to me as we had taken our seats on the platform, stating that there were three speakers to precede me, and Mr. Welton, who said he had come unprepared, would make a few extemporaneous remarks at the close, if it were necessary to detain the audience. I explained to them that I had not expected to come, and was wholly unprepared; that they knew I usually wrote out my remarks, and positively declined to speak at all. The opening services commenced, and every thing went smoothly on, until the three speakers had spoken, and the choir were singing the song following [108] the last speech, when Mr. Welton coolly stepped down from the platform and walked out of the church. As the singing ceased, one of the committee came to me and stated the dilemma. Mr. Welton had left and they had just received a message from the hotel that dinner would not be ready for nearly an hour; that the audience must be held or they would not wait for it, and so the meeting prove a financial failure. He insisted that the audience were very desirous I should speak. Not wishing to be thought obstinate, I attempted an extemporary address, succeeding tolerably well. After speaking five minutes or so, I noticed a gentleman walking up the aisle and who took a seat upon the platform, appearing to pay close attention to what was being said. It was Mr. Welton. I continued to speak for a half hour or more; after which another song was sung, when Mr. Welton arose and prefaced his remarks, thus: "When the finest chords have been untouched by a master hand, it ill becomes one like me to take up the theme and assume to hold your attention: and went on to say that it was necessary to entertain them a little longer, and after the fine speaking they had listened to he would attempt to "gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost." He then proceeded to pull out of his pocket a written address and read for a full hour: until the dinner, which it was feared would not be done, was in danger of getting cold, and some of the hearers went away with "last impressions" not altogether complimentary to the Rev. speaker.

On going to Danbury, I followed up the temperance work speaking often at their weekly meetings and lecturing at Newtown, Stepney, Hattertown, Bethel, Beaver Brook, North Salem, etc. in the vicinity. And on my return to Long Island, continued to advocate

total abstinence; going to Utica to attend a temperance convention, where I became acquainted with the veteran temperance reformer, Rev. A. B. Grosh. But after the movement degenerated into a political organization and sought to promote temperance and coercive measures and abandoned moral for legal suasion, I lost my interest, not in the cause of temperance, but in the irrational methods by which it was attempted to realize it. As my views of government came clearer, I thought less and less of its interference, in temperance, religion and morals; and came to regard license in any form as [109] a most vicious proceeding. As to many prohibitionists, between license and free trade in Rum, the latter seemed preferable. But what estranged me most from the temperance movement was its evident tendency to join hands with the "God in the Constitution" party in attempts to subvert our ideas of liberty and establish a hierarchy for the control and government of our people. In 1888 I sent an open letter to Mrs. Clara B. Colby, editor Woman's Tribune, addressed to Miss Frances E. Willard. It was published, Mrs. Colby noticing it editorially in the same number as follows:

Away out in Idaho a fellow-traveler asked the writer the meaning of her badge, and when told he replied: "Oh, I thought it meant that you belong to the party that want to put God in the Constitution." This is but an illustration of a wide spread fear engendered by terms used by the W. C. T. U. at their conventions. And because this fear, or vague sentiment exaggerated and embodied by prejudice into a tangible danger, does exist, the Tribune publishes the letter of Prof. Ingalls, which shows very fairly and candidly how the attitude of the W. C. T. U. is regarded by many, and also makes very clearly all the points of persons who are opposed to anything looking towards a possible union of church and state or the introduction of a religious test of any sort. The Tribune hopes that Miss Willard, after the political campaign is over, will find time to present an answer to this letter which will give her own position and serve as a line and plummet by which to determine the value and meaning of convention phraseology.

AN OPEN LETTER. To Miss Frances E. Willard:

Dear Madame:—It is with some hesitancy that a comparative stranger addresses you in this public manner; but one as prominent as yourself before the country, will not, I trust, deem it an intrusion, since my motive is to draw your serious attention to questions of human interests and duties, in a field where you have wrought with great zeal and effectiveness.

Recently, however, for some utterances of yours, or of those allied with you, your position, politically, has been severely criticised, particularly by correspondents of The Woman's Tribune: and although Mrs. Gage may be hasty and inconsiderate. I still think you will be [110] held responsible for the conclusions she so summarily draws, unless you shall; as I hope you may, fully define your aim and purpose in regard to the principles of government, now being discussed both by the National and Prohibition parties. Your well-attested piety and devotion to the religion you profess, could be safely relied upon, in any question of morals or religion, as such; but when a question of subjecting others to our will is involved, these qualities instead of giving assurance, but excite the apprehension of cool and considerate minds; for they reflect that the piety of "Saul of Tarsus," did not restrain, but stimulated him to hunt and persecute those who disagreed with him in religion; thinking he was doing "God's service." Thomas de Torquemada was a most devoted and pious Christian and so was Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, that "fierce hater of: heathens and heretics," who caused the immolation of Hypatia, one of the most noble and pure of womankind, and in a manner so revolting to decency and so fiendishly cruel as to scarce have a parallel, in the whole history of religious persecutions.

The power to interfere with the exercise of the individual conscience once granted, and superior piety and a deep sense of religious duty make more imperative the purpose of coercion and despotic rule. The great and good Aurelius, was incited wholly by his piety and the desire to do what was best for his people, to the persecution of the early Christians. Europe to-day stands tremblingly apprehensive of a general war and a more despotic rule, because the present Emperor of Germany is known to be devoutly orthodox.

To me it seems due to the liberal minds interested in the several reforms you so ably champion, that a clear definition should be given to such phrases as: "God is the source of all power in governments." It is the right of Christ to rule the Nations," etc. You cannot be allowed to follow the line of ecclesiastical subterfuge, which "palters in a double sense" through use of equivocal terms, however un-intentional on your part this may be done. Should I use the term "Government of God," I should mean the inevitable sequence of results to action in every cognizable domain of his Universe; and this implies the absence and denial to any man or woman of the right to control and rule any other man or woman, except such as the force of truth and the suggestion of worthy example cause them to voluntarily [111] yield. But this is not the church's meaning of these phrases. She means a government under authority of a revelation made to barbaric people in ages long gone by; when authority was everything, exactness of statement of little account, man nothing and woman less—the slave of a slave or "the instigator of the devil to lure men to sin." She means government by "a visible head or vice-regent." Is it possible that this is the meaning you attach to the phrase? "The reign of Christ" is no less ambiguous. Is such confusion of language necessary in the honest statement of any important truth? I would define the last phrase to mean a "rule of equity accepted through a love and free choice of the good, by mankind, and which all coercion must tend to prevent and frustrate.

I deem this, so far as we know, to have been the conception of Jesus when he said: "My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight." He aspired to rule the willing hearts of men. Any other rule, not strictly parental, is despotism, and can only beget hypocrisy or slavish fear; never trustful obedience.

Now the platform of the Prohibition, and of the National party, to both of which the W. C. T. U. is allied, in direct issue with our "Declaration of Independence," asserts that "governments derive their power from God," and not "from the consent of the governed." And here is met again the double meaning clericalism so delights in, for it may mean the denial of all power among men to legislate for mankind, leaving everything to the operation of God's laws in Nature, or it may mean a God-appointed hierocracy to interpret and enforce the law, as it is found in the old and new Testament, in the traditions of a church; or it may be the Koran, or book of Mormon, according as the followers of either might be found in a majority in any community. In the usual church meaning, this declaration is treason in every sense in which such term is applicable in our system of government, except by the actual "levying of war." So far as you are personally concerned, I think you sincerely desire the rule or reign of "One who cometh to judge the earth in righteousness," "rule in equity;" and promote the enjoyment of all in the reaping of the results of their labor—giving "to every man (or woman) according to his work;" and by no means, to enthrone brutal force, and [112] carnal, murderous weapons for effecting spiritual aims. Certainly farther experience in that direction cannot be required. For the past is strewn with the wrecks of Nations and institutions which have attempted to make men moral, temperate and pious by coercive measures. To see how cruel such rule has invariably become, we; only have to refer to that of the church, in suppressing the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and in plotting and completing the ruin of the Italian Republics of the 16th century. We need not indeed go out of our country and its colonial history in the days of Cotton Mather and the Puritan clergy of Massachusetts, whose deeds of cruelty and blood she can never erase from her record. Then suffrage if not confined wholly to the male citizen was confined to the church members. I shall not believe you would advocate such a curtailment of the franchise, unless you so expressly stated; but it would doubtless relieve many anxious minds, who are interested in your work, as well as in the suffrage question, to have an explicit denial of any such purpose.

What the Christ enshrined in your affections seeks, as to these issues, we have no means of knowing, but as revealed by yourself. The desire to see love and justice reign may make you impatient of the slow progress of the world's reformation; but it must be borne in mind that the universe is run on a broader gauge than our finite minds can compass. In the absence of any proof that God and Christ have authorized any other means of reform than through man's appreciation of good, and personal experience of the results of his action, it seems to me the very height of presumption and blasphemy for any however good or great to attempt other means. Only what is most suspiciously miraculous, can be appealed to by the modern or ancient church to sanction the remotest authority to trifle with the freedom of man or woman, or interfere in any way to lessen their individual responsibility. God has never directed the creation or destruction of any forms of government, but has left us free to learn by trial which is best suited to any times or peoples. God does not enforce virtue, temperance, or piety, but by allowing us to learn by experience what is good." For more than fifteen centuries the church, however, has been trying the alternative of force and superstitious fear, and of course has failed in employing the Divine sanctions [113] of reason and experience; inculcating instead, hatred of differing opinions and bending all moral axioms and aims to increase her authority and maintain her power, over the actions and beliefs of men. To do the best one can, without conforming to her behest, "is in." To follow her direction, and accept her terms turns the foulest guilt to grace. All this is very churchlike; but certainly not God or Christlike, in any sense you usually employ those terms.

Now the application together of these widely diverse principles, to temperance or morals of any kind, is simply impossible. The good which the laborers of the W. C. T. U. have effected in this direction, have been largely counterbalanced by the Spirit of partisanship and intolerant zeal evinced in ways which the "Divine Government" has never instituted and Jesus never sanctioned by word or act; resulting in espionage and detective work, perjury and betrayal of confidences such as can only be justified by the church casuistry, that "the end justifies the means." For the man coerced to virtue is vicious still, and only flatters with hypocrisy till espionage is withdrawn. This is proven by the history of the temperance reform, with which I have been acquainted almost from the inception. After an erratic experience of about a quarter of a century, it had so failed as to offer no serious opposition to the orgies of dissipation attending the "hard cider" campaign of l840. At its close John Hawkins and other self "reformed drunkards" began the Washingtonian movement. They were not Christians in the church sense, nor political artisans, Eschewing politics and sectarian religion they were given a cold shoulder by the formally religious. At first it was with difficulty that a church, vestry or school house could be obtained for their meetings. But the intrinsic merits of their reform soon gave it power, and shortly marked one of the eras of sobriety and abstinence in our Nation. As soon, however, as it became popular and they saw the car moving, the clergyman, the lawyer, the politician and physician concluded they had best get on and ride. The first saw that his religion was necessary to make men truly temperate— that without grace temperance would be counted sin. The lawyer discovered that the important thing to do was to "make a law," in order to give their cause success. The politician espied a place in which he could work his "caucus" and "political deal." Even the doctor [114] discovered something advantageous to his craft, and suggested the substitution of the apothecary for the dram shop, and, in the language of a regular M. D., insisted that there should be required "a physician's prescription, in place of the dangerous exercise of private judgment in regard to stimulants required by the laity."

"If you desire to become temperate," said the ecclesiastic, "ask the church, accept its creed and become pious." "To remedy this evil," said the attorney, "make a law that I may interpret and enforce."

"You can only accomplish your aim," said the office seeker, "by political action."

"If you must drink," said the doctor, "the only safe method is to have me prescribe it."

The Washingtonians replied: "We are here to do what you have ever left undone, and to reform an evil, which your callings separately or collectively, have never corrected, even if they have not made it worse."

But in the end formalism triumphed. Betrayed by a few weak but eloquent men, like John B. Gough; the good work, so nobly begun, became a semi-religious movement loaded with little ambitions and jealousies of clerical, legal, political and medical professionals. At times the true reform spirit has been revived only to be betrayed as before.

It is due to yourself, and also to the movements with which you a associated to say that your work seems largely to partake of the true humanitarian spirit. I greatly admire your way of putting the question of prohibition: "each to prohibit himself, and thus establish a government of self-control; a very different thing from having a government for everybody by someone! Admitting what is yet unproven, that "protection protects," and "prohibition prohibits," who shall protect us against our protectors, and prohibit the prohibitors? The church uses fermented wines in the religious service. Physicians prescribe alcohol ad libitum through the druggist, who is nearly as multitudinous as the rum-seller, and with the tobacconist is doing more to wreck the health and happiness of mankind than he. The wealthy import wines and liquors and drink at home and treat their fashionable friends. Will police supervision or suppression [115] of the saloons, be effective, or appear to the many otherwise than as a measure creating invidious distinctions? The intemperance of the home of wealth, the fashionable hotel, and the exclusive social circle, is not reinforced from the low groggery and gutter, but directly the reverse. You seem to have already apprehended that, and hence the stand against the "high license" craze. You are correct in supposing "it is the rum-seller's profit, which sustains the deleterious traffic."

And it seems to me that the true basis of reform in all the social matters you are engaged in, is industrial and economic, and can be effected only through liberty, not repression; love, not violence; by means of equity and knowledge of exact truth, as it is found in the nature and experience of mankind and by promoting exact estimates of the value of things. The true home for which you mistakenly suppose we are indebted to the religion of the church, had its origin in the Human Nature developed in such freedom as existed under the Germanic tribes. The Hebrews and all polygamic nations had harems and seraglios but no homes, in the sense you mean; and the monogamic Greeks and Latins, with their loose sexual morality never reached your ideal; purity was demanded of the woman, but not of the man. The word home is Anglo Saxon, and is wanting in the languages of the east and Southern Europe. With her Christmas, and Easter, and many of her fasts and festivals Christianity derived her conception of the heimath or "home," and its faithful attachments to the women whom Tacitus and Pliny described. But our commercial proprietorship of the land makes to woman our modern home a mockery. When woman is "evicted" from home as our laws provide, she is unqueened, if not unsexed. Industry without opportunity or raw material, becomes enslaved to greed; and the man and the boy seek in the saloon, the satisfaction which a homeless shelter denies. The woman is reduced to drudgery, or seeks escape through dangerous paths, or becomes the victim of marital ownership to one perhaps whose inherited lands or annuities have enabled him to appropriate the earnings of others without contributing any useful service of his own. How widely different is the actual Christian home, especially of the industrious poor, from the one you have idealized? Not the children of the undevout alone become prey to intemperance [116] and vice; but the most pious parents have children with wrecked lives. Vicious ways in youth, when not hereditary, are due to over-indulgence or unnatural repression, and in about equal degree to each. Mental indolence is the main source of error, and is fostered by yielding gratifications without estimating and exacting cost, or in suppressing normally healthful activities. The overburdened and care-worn woman, whose mother-love is thus tried and sacrificed is in a condition to do both.

How little our popular religious teaching is calculated to correct these tendencies, or remove the fundamental injustice, no one can be better informed than yourself. The ecclesiastical or political machine does not seek the advancement, but the subjugation of the human being, of the woman particularly. It holds out the promise of an imaginary good, yet fails to encourage broad and varied investigation and experience in demonstration of what is good.

I can by no means close my eyes to the fact that religious bigotry and designing cabals in church and state are preparing to subvert such liberties as we now enjoy. "The Man of the Vatican" has never retracted his claim to make and unmake rulers of states. He prescribes to-day the manner in which citizens, who are members of, the communion, shall exercise their political rights. When the question of church domination comes, absolutist in church and state will unite. Catholics will not all be found Romanist, then, nor Protestants all liberals. Reactionary Rome will draw to her side a large following from the Anglican church, particularly that branch of it, in this country, which still sighs for the return of monarchy, and a "Church by law established." The Episcopalian, including the Methodist and the Presbyterian, who is for state interference in matters of religion, will to a large extent be drawn into the retrograde vortex or will "pool their issues," and take the chance of obtaining or gaining supremacy. It is now evident that a despotic rule in state will make common cause with the religious hierarchy. Protestant England and Germany with their aristocracies of birth and wealth are today in league with papal Rome to shut out progress and to suppress the discussion of the land question and other social reforms.

We can count, upon the other side, all friends of full religious toleration, the heretical sects generally, and all however orthodox who [117] hold to congregational methods of church government. The Baptist rather than the Methodist should stand as a wall against any approach of concerted action between church and state, would they not shame their history and traditions and cover the names of their martyrs and honored leaders with ignominy. We need not flatter ourselves that this struggle is not coming, and soon. May it be not a bloody one like the issue of chattelism. But from such conflict only a love of good, exactness of knowledge, honest work and noble endeavor can save us.

The shallow device of the National party convention, in starting out with a denial of intention to join church and state, can deceive no one. They afterwards expressly proclaim it. It does not matter whether the church is united to the state, or subjected to it, as in England, where it is simply a political mistress. Again the state may be subjected to the church. Such a government Rome, Sicily, and Italy had until united Italy displaced them. Can any well-wisher of his kind desire to see the return of such rule? "Most Christian" Spain is now burning Bibles and her church is openly advocating the re-establishment of the Inquisition so "that sinners and heretics may be adequately punished." Yet such is the inevitable issue of any government, under an organic law into which the name of the Incomprehensible is incorporated, as proposed by the National platform. It could only lead to a deadly strife between the sects for mastery of the state or a Federal "trust" of the hierarchies to rule by "divine right." To place the utmost charitable construction on this purpose would he to assume that it intends after all a popular government, not a hierarchy, in which the legislators, judges and executive shall be churchmen; but this would necessitate confining the franchise to the church membership. It would be a perilous as well as unjust thing to disfranchise thus a majority of present voters. But since women outnumber men in the churches and have not yet been enfranchised, they might submit to such limitation. I see that some of your public speakers and papers, are noticing, without disapproval the appellation of an "educational imitation,, to the franchise for women, though no such limitation exists as to mate suffrage.

But what I am interested to now is this, whether your idea of a [118] "Godly government" contemplates issues of this kind? And if so, it seems but just that it should be clearly stated, and so be fully understood by such advocates of woman suffrage as Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mrs. Gage, Mrs. Neyman, and a host of other pioneering and earnest workers, and by all who cherish the memories of Lucretia Mott, Ernestine L. Rose and Frances Wright.

It is proper I should add that I do not think it possible you can really intend anything of the kind; but it is evident that your position is otherwise quite misunderstood not by Mrs. Gage alone. The advocates of "a religious test" so regard it and quote you as sustaining their fanatical or designing aims. When the "impending crisis comes" I confidently hope you will be found upon the side of freedom, and that your persuasive voice and facile pen with all "sweet reasonableness" and "invincible purpose" will support the cause of human progress and point the way to "Reason, not to Rome." I am consoled, moreover, by the reflection that even if woman's enfranchisement should lead to the putting of the Awefull Name into the Constitution it will be the "Elohim" of Genesis, the optimist God, who saw that everything he had made "was good," and not the "Jehovah" the pessimist "Lord God" of the "second mention," as Gladstone terms it, who saw everything evil, nothing he did not curse, even to the clod of "ground." Still I think it would be far better to incorporate the love and knowledge of good in our lives and thoughts, than to put any name however sacred into an organic law to be wrangled over, in the struggle for power between conflicting sects and factions.

With much respect, J. K. INGALLS.

But more than eight years have passed away and no answer has been given to it though I have been informed that she promised a mutual friend to answer it. Rev. Jesse H. Jones of North Abington, Mass., requested the privilege of a reply; but Mrs. Colby deemed it Miss Willard's duty to reply to the questions propounded, and refused to admit a reply from any other party.[1] Utterances from Miss Willard since, particularly one from England on the subject of general legislation on Temperance, and other subjects involving the interference [119] of the state with social and religious questions, indicate too plainly, that she has cast her influence with the coercionists and subversionists.

[1] Jones was a Christian communist, contributor to The Word, The American Socialist, and The Oneida Circular, an antagonist of Anthony Comstock, and one of the organizers of the Christian Labor Union of Boston.