Home Site Map Back

Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1839, Sunday, July 3, 1831.

The London Temperance Society.

On Wednesday a meeting was held at Exeter Hall, for the purpose of forming a Temperance Society in London, upon similar principles with those which have been established in America, and more recently in Ireland and Scotland. The meeting was very numerously  attended; the Lord Mayor, who was to have presided, was prevented from attending by public business; in his absence the chair was taken by Sir John Webb.
 There were present the Bishops of Chester and Sodor and Man, numerous ministers of the Established Church, and of dissenting congregations, and a large portion of the company was composed of members of the Society of friends, and a great number of respectable ladies.
The object of the Society, which is formed under the patronage of the Lord Bishop of London, was stated on this, the first public meeting, to be "to abolish the use of distilled spirits as a customary beverage, and to discountenance the causes and practices of intemperance."
The report stated that the committee considered the object of the society rested on two bases--the one that of  Christian charity, the other that of self-preservation; and the principal requisite for the purpose was, a solemn declaration of abstinence from spirituous liquors. The report added that the greatest benefits had been derived from the establishment of temperance societies, the advantages of which were first pointed out by a Belfast newspaper, which led to the foundation, about two years ago, of a society at New Ross, in Ireland,  and which was the first ever established with success in Europe. The members of similar societies in that country, in the short space of time just mentioned, had increased to 600,000 persons, and a large number of confirmed drunkards had been restored  to habits of sobriety. The report concluded by recommending the circulation of tracks, 100,000 of which had already been dispersed with advantage.
William Allan (a member of the Society of Friends), in rising to move the first resolution, observed that it was a matter of surprise that, amidst the number of charities which existed in this country, none of a similar nature with the present had ever been established. The effects produced in America by the establishment of such societies had been of the greatest advantage to society, and he hoped, under Divine Providence, to see the same happy effects produced here. He concluded by moving that the report be approved of and printed, and the committee named be appointed.
The Solicitor-General for Ireland, in seconding the motion, entered at considerable length into the merits of temperance societies, to one of which in Ireland he had the honour of belonging. The learned gentleman stated, that in 1829 the quantity of distilled spirits on which the duty was paid in the three kingdoms amounted to 23,000,000 of gallons. Of rum imported for home consumption, allowing for that re-exported, the quantity was 5,000,000 of gallons. Of brandy and other spirits imported, 1,500,000 gallons; making in the whole, a consumption of 30,000,000 of gallons of ardent spirits consumed in the year. Five millions of revenue had grown out of this; but it had cost the people 15,000,000l. sterling, without mentioning the greater injury and cost to their health and property, from the consequences arising from its consumption. The hon. and learned gentleman proceeded to show how well this 15,000,000l. could be expended for the public good, and without lessening the revenue. It would have paid half a year's interest of the national debt. He also produced medical certificates from the heads of the faculty of Dublin, Edinburgh, and other places, expressing their opinion, "that the entire abstinence from ardent spirits would be attended with the greatest advantages to the working classes."
The resolution was unanimously adopted.br /> The Rev. F. Smith moved—
"That it is the opinion of this meeting, that to the unhappy propensity to drinking ardent spirits is to be attributed the pauperism, disease, and crime, that prevail in this country."
Professor Edgar, of Belfast, in a long address, seconded the resolution, which was unanimously adopted.
Mr. Carr, of New Ross, in Ireland, related, at considerable length, the benefits arising from the society he had formed in that place; and, within two years, many confirmed drunkards had become sober and industrious members of the community.
After some other resolutions had been passed for regulating the society,
  The Bishop of Chester moved that the thanks of the meeting be given to the Lord Bishop of London, for becoming patron of the Society, and to Sir John Webb, for taking the chair, which being carried, the meeting separated.
As a proof, if any be wanting, of the pernicious effect of dram-drinking, we subjoin a letter of Sir Astley Cooper to the secretary of the above society. Sir Astley observes, — " No person has greater hostility to dram-drinking than myself, insomuch that I never suffer any ardent spirits in my house, thinking them evil spirits ! And if the poor could witness the white livers, the dropsies, the shattered nervous systems which I have seen, as the consequence of drinking, they would be aware that spirits and poisons were synonimous terms. But still I think the scheme so Utopian, that I cannot annex my name to it, for I could as soon believe that I could, by my own efforts, stop the cataract of Niagara, as prevent the poor of London from destroying themselves by intemperance."