The greatest and most effective agency in any work of enlightenment and reform is the press. By it the advanced thinker and Christian philanthropist is able to speak to the whole people, and to instruct, persuade and influence them. He can address the reason and conscience of thousands, and even of hundreds of thousands of people to whom he could never find access in any other way, and so turn their minds to the right consideration of questions of social interest in regard to which they had been, from old prejudices or habits of thinking, in doubt or grievous error.
No cause has been more largely indebted to the press than that of temperance reform. From the very beginning of agitation on the subject of this reform, the press has been used with great efficiency; and to-day, the literature of temperance is a force of such magnitude and power, that it is moving whole nations, and compelling Parliaments, Chambers of Deputies and Houses of Congress to consider the claims of a question which, if presented fifty years ago, would have been treated, in these grave assemblages, with levity or contempt.
For many years after the reform movement began in this country, the press was used with marked effect. But as most of the books, pamphlets and tracts which were issued came through individual enterprise, the editions were often small and the prices high; and as the sale of such publications was limited, and the profit, if any, light, the efforts to create a broad and comprehensive temperance literature met with but feeble encouragement. But in 1865, a convention was called to meet at Saratoga to consider the subject of a national organization so comprehensive and practical that all the friends of temperance in religious denominations and temperance organizations could unite therein for common work. Out of this convention grew the
NATIONAL TEMPERANCE SOCIETY AND PUBLICATION HOUSE,
which began, at once, the creation of a temperance literature worthy of the great cause it represented. The president of this society is Hon. William E. Dodge, of New York. The vice-presidents are ninety-two in number, and include some of the most distinguished men in the country; clergymen, jurists, statesmen, and private citizens eminent for their public spirit and philanthropy. It has now been in existence some twelve years. Let us see what it has done in that time for temperance literature and the direction and growth of a public sentiment adverse to the liquor traffic. We let the efficient corresponding secretary and publishing agent, J.N. Stearns, speak for the association he so ably represents. Its rooms are at No. 58 Reade Street, New York. Referring to the initial work of the society, "It was resolved," says Mr. Stearns, "that the publishing agent should keep 'all the temperance literature of the day.' This was found to consist of less than a dozen different publications in print, and these of no special value. All the plates of valuable works before in existence were either shipped across the water or melted up and destroyed. The society commenced at once to create a literature of its own, but found it was not the work of a moment. The first publication outside of its monthly paper, was a four-page tract by Rev. T.L. Cuyler, D.D., in February, 1866, entitled 'A Shot at the Decanter,' of which about two hundred thousand copies have been published."
FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED.
"The first book was published in May of the same year, entitled, 'Scripture Testimony against Intoxicating Wine.' Prizes were offered for the best tracts and books, and the best talent in the land sought and solicited to aid in giving light upon every phase of the question. The result has been that an immense mass of manuscripts have been received, examined, assorted, some approved and many rejected, and the list of publications has gone on steadily increasing, until in the eleven years it amounts to four hundred and fifty varieties upon every branch, of the temperance question. There were over twenty separate so-called secret temperance societies, each with a different ritual and constitution, with subordinate organizations scattered all over the land. These contained probably about one million of members. Then there were churches, open societies, State temperance unions, etc., each operating independently and with no common bond of union. Some were for moral suasion alone, others for political action, while others were for both united. The great need for some national organization which should be a common centre and ground of union, a medium of communication between all, and to aid, strengthen and benefit every existing organization and denomination, was felt all over the land.
"This society was organized to supply such a need. It is both a society and a publication house. The need and demand came from every quarter for facts, statistics, arguments and appeals upon every phase of the question, in neat, cheap and compact form, which, could be sent everywhere and used by everybody. Public opinion had settled down against us, and light was needed to arouse it to right action. The pulpit and the platform were to be supplemented by the press, which, henceforth, was to be used in this great and rapidly strengthening cause, as in every other, to reach the individuals and homes of every portion of the land."
AFTER TWELVE YEARS.
"Twelve years have passed--years of anxious preparation and toil, of seed-planting and sowing, and they have been improved. This society now publishes books and tracts upon the moral, economical, physiological, political, financial, religious, medical and social phases of the reform. We have the writings of over two hundred different persons in almost every walk and station in life. We already have a literature of no mean character. Its influence is not only felt in every State and Territory in the land, but in every country on the globe.
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"Among the early publications of the society were those printed upon 'The Adulteration of Liquors,' 'The Physiological Action of Alcohol,' 'Alcohol: Its Nature and Effects,' 'Alcohol: Its Place and Power,' 'Is Alcohol Food?' Text-Book of Temperance,' etc., followed later by 'Bacchus Dethroned,' 'The Medical Use of Alcohol,' 'Is Alcohol a Necessary of Life?' 'Our Wasted Resources,' 'On Alcohol,' 'Prohibition does Prohibit,' 'Fruits of the Liquor Traffic,' 'The Throne of Iniquity,' 'Suppression of the Liquor Traffic,' 'Alcohol as a Food and Medicine,' etc.
"The truths of these books and pamphlets, which have been reproduced in a thousand ways in sermons, addresses, newspapers, etc., have already permeated the community to such an extent as to bear much fruit."
In the creation of a literature for children, the society early issued The Youths' Temperance Banner, a paper for Sunday-schools. This has attained a circulation of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand copies monthly. It has also created a Sunday-school temperance library, which numbers already as many as seventy bound, volumes; editions of which reaching in the aggregate to one hundred and eighty-three thousand five hundred and seventy-six volumes have already been sold. The society also publishes a monthly paper called the National Temperance Advocate, which has a wide circulation.
REMARKABLE GROWTH OF TEMPERANCE LITERATURE.
The number of books, pamphlets and tracts which have been issued by the National Temperance Society during the twelve years of its existence, is four hundred and sixty, some of them large and important volumes.
To this extraordinary production and growth of temperance literature in the past twelve years are the people indebted for that advanced public sentiment which is to-day gathering such force and will.
And here, let us say, in behalf of a society which has done such grand and noble work, that from the very outset it has had to struggle with pecuniary difficulties.
Referring to the difficulties and embarrassments with which the society has had to contend from the beginning, the secretary says:
"The early financial struggles of the society are known only to a very few persons. It was deemed best by the majority of the board not to let the public know our poverty. Looking back over the eleven years of severe struggles, pecuniary embarrassments, unexpected difficulties, anxious days, toiling, wearisome nights, with hopes of relief dashed at almost every turn, surrounded by the indifference of friends, and with the violent opposition of enemies, we can only wonder that the society has breasted the storm and is saved from a complete and total wreck. * * * This society never was endowed, never had a working capital, never has been the recipient of contributions from churches or of systematic donations from individuals. It never has had a day of relief from financial embarrassment since its organization; and yet there never has been a day but that the sum of ten thousand dollars would have lifted it out of its embarrassments and started it with a buoyant heart on towards the accomplishment of its mission."
And he adds: "Notwithstanding all these constant and ever-pressing financial embarrassments, the society has never faltered for one moment, but has gone steadily on doing its appointed work, exploring new fields, and developing both old and new truths and documents and principles, and it stands to-day the strongest and most solid and substantial bulwark against intemperance in the land."
A MOST IMPORTANT AGENCY.
As the most important of all the agencies now used for the suppression of the liquor traffic, and as the efficient ally of all let us rally to the support of our great publication house and see that it has ampler means for the work in which it is engaged. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women in our land who are happy and prosperous to-day because of what this society has done in the last twelve years to create a sentiment adverse to the traffic and to the drinking usages of society. Its work is so silent and unobtrusive in comparison, with that of many other efficient, but more limited instrumentalities, that we are apt to lose sight of its claims, and to fail in giving an adequate support to the very power, which is, in a large measure, the source of power to all the rest.
If we would war successfully with our strong and defiant enemy, we must look to it that the literature of temperance does not languish. We are not making it half as efficient as it might be. Here we have a thoroughly organized publication house, with capable and active agents, which, if the means were placed at its disposal, could flood the country with books, pamphlets and tracts by millions every year; and we leave it to struggle with embarrassments, and to halting and crippled work. This is not well. Our literature is our right arm in this great conflict, and only in the degree that we strengthen this arm will we be successful in our pursuit of victory.
"Whatever revenue license pays the State is fully counterbalanced by the increased cost of jails, poorhouses and police, for which the patient public pays immense taxation. The moral burdens from the infamous traffic are all additional to the financial."