Like many early Americans, Lane witnessed the ups and downs of his beloved country. "Downs" like unemployment, crime and poverty were growing around major cities and towns, and citizens like Lane were starting to look for a solution to squash these evils that were spreading across the country. One of the solutions that men like Lane believed would help lift America above these problems was the advent of the temperance movement. The temperance movement was the fight against alcohol consumption, which temperance followers believed was at the heart of the many problems America battled at the time.
The American temperance movement was formed in the late 18th - early 19th century and by 1826, the American Temperance Society was established and the members pledged their abstinence from consuming alcohol as well as their commitment in helping to educate and reform others to a sober life. In December of 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment was proposed and went into effect January of 1920, which made the selling and drinking of alcoholic beverages illegal until the 1933. (Wikipedia; Temperance)
Along with his political support of the Republican Party, Lane was openly and actively a man of the American temperance movement. Like many other early-nineteenth century reforms, “the temperance ethos and organization originated in the Northeast. But unlike antislavery and women’s rights, the temperance center of gravity shifted elsewhere.” (Blocker xii-xiii) “Elsewhere” happened to be in the Midwest, where our author then resided in Akron, Ohio. In his writing, Lane expresses his temperance views openly and with great pride and even encourages his descendants to live “by strict sobriety, integrity, industry and frugality, tempered by a reasonable charity barring the crosses and reverses incident to the best regulated lives…." (Lane 456)
However, before Prohibition, drinking in America was indeed a pastime enjoyed by many which made many venders a good fortune. Lane's family in Suffield, Connecticut was no exception.
Lane recalls his childhood days, growing up in his hometown where:
The use of cider, as a common beverage, was universal in those days, and for the use of the family, the workmen in the shops, and the visitors to the establishment, there was usually a supply, of about one hundred barrels of that commodity laid in every fall. Besides what was used in the house, both with meals, and between meals, there was almost literally a constant stream of cider flowing from the cellar to the shop. (Lane 24)
One would think that kind of familiarity with alcoholic beverages would condition Lane to accept alcohol as a normal part of everyday life, but Lane encounters a number of drunk and disorderly “tramps” along his many travels that would result in his eventual disgust for the activity in general.
One of his very first encounters with a drunken and useless tramp results in an early victory for the temperance movement:
[There were] a number of neighborhood “tramps”, who would make the “grand rounds” of the streets, daily, for the purpose of gratifying their appetites for cider; our wood shop being a favorite resort for that class of portable nuisances. Among them was an old fellow by the name of Jonah King. He was lame and walked with a cane, and at about such an hour, regularly every day, he would come limping in, steer straight for the cider mug and drain its contents at a single draft. Then after taking awhile in the garrulous style peculiar to old so one day I brought him a quart or so of good strong Cider Vinegar. Not stopping to taste it, he took one of his most elongated swigs at it before discovering what it was. Suddenly, forgetting his piety, he uttered some rather profane remarks about the imposition that had been practiced upon him, and the men and boys in the shop joining in the laugh, when the “cream” of the joke became apparent, “Uncle Jonah” left the shop in high […] and did not trouble us again for several months. His “enterprise”, however, was in no wise abated, and he managed to return home cider drunk every night, to the day of his death, a year of two afterwards. (Lane 25)
It is difficult not to chuckle at the previous tale, but one must bear in mind that across America during this time, many lives were being disrupted and even ruined by the excessive use of alcohol. With alcohol consumption at unprecedented levels, more and more Americans became gravely alarmed over the prevalence of drunkenness and its undeniable social costs. "Disease, broken families, premature death, crime, and pauperism were some of the social evils temperance reformers pointed to as the consequences of unbridled drinking in America.” (Gienapp 25)
Lane’s dedication to the beliefs behind temperance started before he joined the actual Washingtonian Temperance Movement in the year of 1844, in one of his first newspapers titled The Buzzard. Although “the blackleg fraternity were, of course, the principal objects of [his] attention, the various other vices of the time – whiskey selling, drunkenness, +c, received a due share of [Lane’s] consideration.” (Lane 144) Soon enough, Lane became a full time temperance lecturer, traveling to nearby cities and towns with the hope that he could help promote sobriety while calling out the evils of a drunken life.
In his manuscript, Lane reveals a cunning tactic in gaining access into the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting town:
In my lecturing operations I adopted a somewhat novel method of attracting public attention, and for reaching the ear of the two classes of persons we more particularly desired to bring within the influence of Temperance teachings – the whisky drinker and the whisky seller – vis, to professedly speak in favor of the sale and use of alcoholic liquors. To carry out this plan I arranged with another lecturer, Mr John U Fiester, then known as the “Ohio Self-Sharpener”, to co-operate with me. On reaching the suburbs of a town – no previous announcement of our coming having been given – I would get out of the buggy and let Mr Fiester ride in alone. He would drive into the most business portion of the town, generally selecting a location near some whisky grocery or hotel, and, standing up in the buggy, begin to talk He would soon attract a crowd about him, and most generally there would be a few fellows about him who would interrupt and try to bother him. Meantime, quietly walking in, perhaps by another street, I would mix in with the crowd and take a hand in the interruptions. Seeing a tolerably respectable looking stranger thus taking up the cudgels for them, the natives would hand off, and give me the full field. After a little, Fiester would seemingly get out of patience and turning fiercely upon me, would say: “See here, old fellow, if you’ve got anything to say in favor of whisky selling, and whisky drinking, get up and say it like a man, and I’ll listen to you, and then I’ll talk and you shall listen to me – what say you?” “All right!” I would respond, and, climbing into some wagon, or upon a store box, or barrel, I would go at him; talking largely about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States – the “inalienable rights of all men to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, getting in an occasional joke about light-fisted tee-totalers +c +c. Then I would let him go on again for a short time, when I would again break in with some ridiculous question, and get in a few more of my rum-bottle arguments, giving him the final close. He would then announce to them who he was, and that if they would furnish him with a house, and an audience, he would lecture to them in the evening. The Temperance men would step forward and tender to him a church, a hall, or the Court House, and he would request all present to circulate the notice as thoroughly as possible, that the friends of temperance might all be on hand. I would then announce that though I was traveling, I would stay over, too, and hold the old fellow level, and request all my friends to be on hand, at the meeting. The result would be that all classes would turn out, and though the drinkers and sellers would soon discover that I was burlesquing them, and, while using their arguments, so putting them as to show their fallacy and make them appear perfectly ridiculous, they would, nevertheless, attend night after night; and in this way we got hundreds of names to the pledge, and many persons to abandon the traffic, that could never have been reached at all, by regular straight-forward lecturing. (Lane 194-195)
Lane’s active and rigorous involvement with the temperance movement not only had him lecturing as a means of employment, but it also put him in danger of being singled out by those who favored the inebriated life and did not mind expressing their opinions to Lane physically.
Lane recalls three incidents of these “disagreements” between the side of temperance and the side of intoxication:
My lectures were generally well attended, and listened to with attention, and often with enthusiasm and marked success. Occasionally, however, I met with rough characters, and rough treatment. My first serious renconter was at Fredericksburg, Wayne County, July 22d 1845, briefly as follows: It was my first visit to the Village, and I had not a single acquaintance there. The meeting was in quite a large, old fashioned church, which was well filled. After some preliminaries, the President invited me into the pulpit, and introduced me to the audience. As I was about to begin my lecture, a man about in the middle of the house, arose and deired to be heard a moment, and no objection being made, proceeded to enquire if I was editor of the Buzzard in August, 1844. I replied that I was. He then stated to the audience that he was a Temperance man, and did not wish to do anything to injure the cause, but that I was unworthy of being heard; that I published a low, mean, filthy, blackguard, slanderous paper, the object of which was to slander people for money; that I had published falsehoods and he could prove it; and he called upon the religious and moral part of the community, to assist him in putting me down. I replied that the gentleman was a stranger to me, and I did not know of what he had to complain; that, like all newspaper men, I was liable to be imposed upon, but always ready to set the matter right, on being informed of any injustice being done; that I did not wish to force myself upon them, and would cheerfully submit to the will of the meeting. He then reiterated what he had before said, with a good deal of other theatrical bombast, winding up by saying “and he shan’t be heard if I can prevent it: if I have friends enough to put him down! At this juncture, another gentleman arose and said that as no specific charges had been made, or proof offered that I was not worthy of being heard, he would move that I proceed with my lecture, which motion was carried by an almost unanimous vote there being only two or three voices in the negative; where upon the disgruntled objector precipitately, and indignantly, left the house. (Lane 190-191)
Less than a month after the foregoing adventure, August 23 1845, I had an appointment to speak at the little Village of McCutchernsville, in Wyandotte County, I found the Village quiet, and the temperance people energetic and zealous. Just at night, the delegates to a Democratic Convention, which had been held at the County-seat during the day, returned to the Village, pretty thouroughly “enthused”, and it soon became evident that there was “fun ahead”. At the appointed hour, the Village School House was filled to its utmost capacity, while there had assembled upon the outside, nearly as large a crowd, who, in their drunken rage, declared that I should be “jerked out of that”, if I attempted to speak. But paying no attention to their bluster, when the meeting was duly organized, I proceeded with my talk. The noise outside suddenly subsided, probably out of curiosity to hear what I had to say, for the windows were all wide open. I stood directly before the front window, flanked, on either side, by the President and Secretary of the Society; the entry being upon my left. I had been speaking perhaps ten minutes, when, whack! came an egg against my back, falling to the floor behind me. The Secretary shut down the window, and I proceeded. In five or ten minutes more, another egg came flying short of me, however, and striking the head of a small boy in front of me. All the windows were then closed, and I again proceeded. Shortly, another egg whizzed past my face, from the direction of the entry, striking against the opposite wall. Two or three resolute Temperance men then took up their positions in the entry, and I was permitted to close, without further interuption, except an occasional howl upon the outside. After leaving the house several more eggs were thrown at me, all of which hot somebody else, creating the utmost excitement in the village, and resulting in the reformation of the leader of the mob – formerly a man of wealth and influence – and many others, and the closing of the bars of the two hotels whose landlords had furnished the ammunitions – both whisky and eggs – for the occasion. On examining my coat, after reaching the house of the President of the Society where I had been domiciled for the night, I found that not a single particle of the egg, which had struck my back, had adhered to it – a lucky escape, truly (Lane 192-193)
The next year, July 8th 1846, I had an appointment to lecture in Millersburg, the county-seat of Holmes County. It was my first visit to that then, as well as now, Democratic strong hold. Arriving there just at night, I put up at a liquor hotel, directly opposite the Court House, where, I subsequently learned, the meeting was to be. At the appointed hour, every seat, and every inch of standing room, was occupied – the audience consisting of a fair proportion of males and females, and evidently the very best people of the place. I spoke from the Judges’ bench, the President of the Society on my right, and the Secretary on my left. Directly in my rear, there was a large window, with slat blinds; the lower sash of the window being raised. There was good order within, and quietness without, until I was about half through with my talk, when, suddenly, a large volley of eggs was hurled against the window blind, a small spatter, only, of which adhered to my garments; the greater portion, evidently thrown diagonally from near the corners of the building, striking the president and Secretary upon their heads. The window being then closed, I concluded my lecture without further interruption. On leaving the house, and when some ten or twelve feet from the steps, an egg whizzed past my head, and struck a lady, on the opposite side of the street, square in the mouth. The fellow who threw it raised his arm to throw another, but was promptly prevented from doing so, by persons near him, and taken into custody. This attempt at mobocracy also created very great excitement, resulting not only in the prosecution and conviction of the offender, and several of his aiders and abettors, but also in a greatly increased activity for the cause of Temperance in that (Lane 193-194)
Whether one agrees with Lane's temperance attitude or not, his long life and overall agreeable character prove to the modern reader that he fought for what he believed in and truly tried to make a difference in the world around him.
1. Temperance poem. Dedicated to the noble crew of the United States receiving ship Franklin, at Charlestown Navy Yard and sung in the Boston Baptist Bethen, corner of Lewis and Commercial Streets, Friday evening September 7th, 1849, after the pres
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 59, Folder 17.
2. Family temperance pledge. [Blank form for members of the family to sign] [n. p.] [c. 1887].
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 238, Folder 42a.
3. National circular of the several state temperance societies, to the citizens of the United States ... [New York 185-?].
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 122, Folder 39.
4. Programme of the Temperance convention, Middletown, Oct. 26, 27, 1841.
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 8, Folder 5.
5. To the temperance workers of Ohio. [n. d.].
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 138, Folder 27.
6. Temperance ticket. [n. d.].
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 82, Folder 18.
7. Annual address of the Massachusetts temperance alliance to the people of the Commonwealth ... Boston, Sept. 12th, 1861.
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 67, Folder 27a.
8. Temperance pledge filled in by James Sweeney 19 Nov. 1841
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 119, Folder 11
Broadsides, leaflets, and pamphlets from America and Europe