Benjamin Rush Essays
Temperance and Prohibition Era Propaganda: A Study in Rhetoric
by Leah Rae Berk
Beginnings: The Minister and the Physician Team Up
In 1805, Benjamin Rush, a physician from Philadelphia, wrote an essay titled "The Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon Man". Rush's writing reflected the changing attitudes towards distilled alcohol at the time, especially among the US medical community. Rush's article drew upon ideas from a century earlier; at the beginning of the eighteenth century, medical practitioners began taking a more scientific approach to medicine. Scientists and doctors like Rush felt that the American public needed to be made aware of the health hazards inherent in alcohol consumption. Rush's argument against the consumption of ardent spirits was not only scientific, but also moral. At the end of his essay, Rush described the moral evils that resulted from the use of distilled spirits such as fraud, theft, uncleanliness and murder (Runes 339). Not long after Rush began writing about alcohol's detrimental effects on moral and physical health, he began a correspondence with the Boston Minister Jeremy Belknap. The physician and the minister soon became collaborators, using a mixture of scientific and moral claims in their fight against the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
The teaming up of the minister and the physician is emblematic of a century of rhetoric surrounding alcohol use and abuse in America. For over a century, Americans argued for abstinence from alcohol using a combination of scientific and moral reasons. What made Rush and Belknap's writing compelling and persuasive for many Americans? Why did later propaganda continue to use Rush and Belknap's two-fold argument against alcohol consumption? In this paper I will address these questions by discussing the rhetorical methods used in Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda.
Anti-liquor Propaganda: A Study in Rhetoric
W. J. Rorabaugh, author of the 1979 book The Alcoholic Republic, wrote "Temperance reformers…flooded America with propaganda" (196). Rorabaugh cited the American Tract Society as one example: by 1851 the Society had distributed nearly five million temperance pamphlets (196). Pamphlets and propaganda were an essential aspect of the American antiliquor crusade, from the Temperance Movement through the Prohibition Era. Although these publications came in a variety of forms and styles, they all used two fundamental rhetorical techniques: logos and pathos. Logos is an appeal to logic; it includes scientific evidence, statistics, facts and other provable forms of information. Rush's use of scientific evidence in "The Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon Man" is an example of logos. A subcategory of logos is ethos or credibility. Not only should facts be provable, they must also come from a trustworthy and reliable source.
The second rhetorical technique employed by anti-liquor propaganda is pathos or appeals to emotion. The final part of Rush's essay dealing with morals and value judgments is based in pathos. Both logos and pathos played an important role in Temperance and Prohibition era propaganda, although ultimately, pathos proved to be the most widely used rhetorical method. Temperance and Prohibition era propaganda appealed to emotion through religious language, drawing upon the prevalent morals and values of the times. Both the Temperance Movement and Prohibition Era coincided with periods of intense religious fervor in the US. These religious revivals were steeped in Puritan moral codes which in turn served as the basis for the underlying ideology of antiliquor propaganda.
Temperance, Prohibition and the Puritans: A Brief HistoryReligious Revivals in the 1800s and Early 1900s
Widespread religious fervor was a central feature of the Temperance and Prohibition eras. In the early nineteenth century, a religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening took the nation by storm (284). As James Morone wrote in his recent book, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History, "With preachers announcing that the millennium lay at hand, men and women began to swear off hard spirits; the yearning for perfection drew them until they were pledging total abstinence" (284). Many of the original Temperance societies had religious affiliations, like the evangelical American Temperance Society which was founded in 1826. Ten years later, at the evangelical American Temperance Society's height, one out of every ten Americans was a member (Morone 284).
Roughly a century later, in the 1910s, there was conservative religious revival in the United States. The religious movements of the Prohibition Era promoted a back to basics approach with a clear, narrow definition of what it meant to be a faithful, observant Christian. Protestant fundamentalists warned of the approaching millennium and the Second Coming of Christ and criticized "the nation's slack morals, 'creampuff' religions" and "'godless social service nonsense'" (Morone 335). Fundamentalist preachers like Billy Sunday told Americans that "the path to heaven ran through a literal reading of the Bible" (335).
Prohibition provided political backing and legitimacy for the religious revivals of the early twentieth century. While critics scoffed at the fundamentalists' stance on the coming millennium and interpretations of the bible, calling them backwards and extreme, Christian fundamentalists held their ground regarding their anti-drinking crusade. According to Morone, "Prohibition offered them [fundamentalists] their one link to national authority, the one public commitment to resisting moral decay" (337).
The morals and values that the religious revivals of the Temperance and Prohibition Eras promoted were steeped in Puritan ideology. Who were the Puritans? What were their fundamental beliefs?Puritan ideology
Puritan ideology emerged as a response to the chaos of the English Reformation in the sixteenth century and seventeenth centuries. The original Puritans criticized the corruption in the Church of England and demanded a return to religious purity. Critics mocked these people, calling them "Puritans," and the name stuck.
The Puritans were among the original English settlers of North America; their first fleet arrived in Massachusetts in 1630. According to James Morone, "No aspect of the Puritan world is more often recalled than the notion of a mission, an errand in the wilderness sealed by a covenant with God" (35). The mission of the Early American Puritans hinged upon the concepts of individual and communal responsibility. Individuals controlled their final destinies: salvation for the righteous and eternal damnation for the sinners, however, the Puritan covenant held the entire community responsible for sinners in this life. God would punish all, saint and sinner alike, with disease, drought, famine and other misfortunes if a community did not reform its sinners. How could individuals and communities achieve success and salvation? According to the Puritans, the answer lay in education, discipline and hard work. Puritans defined the home as the primary place of instruction and saw parents as the most important moral models and instructors for children. Industriousness was a virtue with positive outcomes in this life and the afterlife. The Puritans' emphasis on the importance of hard work developed into what it commonly known as the "Protestant work ethic" (Morone 15). The Early American Puritan values of individual and communal salvation, hard work and the proper education of children are constant themes in Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda.
Types of Propaganda
I found five major categories of Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda: scientific pamphlets, religious pamphlets, posters, children's pamphlets and the fifth category, songs and poems. Using examples of these five forms of propaganda, I will discuss how Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda used logos and pathos and why these rhetorical techniques were effective.Scientific Pamphlets
Scientific pamphlets presented facts and logical arguments against drinking alcohol, while religious pamphlets drew directly upon Christian doctrine, often citing biblical reasons for temperance. Although the terms scientific and religious seem to translate directly in logos and pathos, both types of propaganda used a mixture of rational and emotional appeals to promote abstinence from alcohol.
The scientific pamphlets claimed proven, scientific evidence and practical advice as the basis for their arguments. Titles such as "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People" and "Answers to Favorite Wet Arguments," both from the early 1900s, reinforced the idea that these pamphlets contained factual, objective truth. Most pamphlets also established their ethos or credibility by citing the research and conclusions of experts, including doctors and scientists. The names of the associations distributing these pamphlets, such as the Scientific Temperance Federation of Boston, added to this air of scientific credibility.
Scientific pamphlets also found truth in numbers, using statistics to prove that alcohol was harmful to individuals and society. Pamphlets like "The Cost of Beer (1880s)" and "A Way to Make Money - And a Better Way (early 1900s)" discussed the personal and social expenses of drinking. First they appealed to logos, using statistical evidence. These pamphlets calculated the cost of alcohol, from the price per gallon to the cost of yearly consumption in cities like New York. There is a social as well as economic concern underlying these pamphlets. For example, "The Cost of Beer" addressed pathos by claiming that alcohol consumption leads to noise, broils, stupidity and drunkenness.
The underlying message of many of the scientific pamphlets was that an individual must know all the facts in order to make an informed decision. Yet, the information provided in these pamphlets pointed to only one viable option: temperance. To further the idea that abstinence was obviously the one true answer, a number of scientific temperance pamphlets had rhetorical questions as titles, such as these pamphlets from the early 1900s: "Do you want to be efficient?" "Do you want to be powerful?" and "Do you want a better rating?" Who could say no to these questions? These titles in the form of rhetorical questions likely piqued readers' interest, and, as in the case of "The Cost of Beer," these pamphlets intertwined logical, moral and emotional appeals.
The three pamphlets "Do you want to be efficient?" "Do you want to be powerful?" and "Do you want to a better rating?" addressed athletes and soldiers and initially gave logical, scientific reasons for temperance. The first reason was that alcohol is unhealthy. "Do you want to be efficient?" quoted a noted European psychiatrist who said that "Alcohol in all forms and doses is a poison." Reasons regarding the health problems resulting from alcohol drew upon a variety of scientific fields including psychology, human biology, neuroscience and medicine. These reasons led to the same conclusion: alcohol interferes with mental and physical processes, hurting the body and putting the drinker at a disadvantage. For example, one of the section headings of "Do you want a better rating?" read "Mere Physical Fitness Is Not All" and included the following quotations:
Physical fitness is a farce without self-control, judgment, and discretion, which are the three qualities of mind first to be dulled by and made incompetent by the use of alcohol. - Dr. Haven Emerson
One of the effects of alcohol is to interfere with the coordination of nerve and muscle. It has been repeatedly found that moderate amounts of alcohol interfere with skilled actions which depend on this co-ordination, such as rifle shooting and typing speed. - Dr. E. H. Derrick, M.D.
These quotations not only bring up the health reasons for temperance but also a second reason: abstainers are more industrious and productive. This is another form of logos which uses practical, rather than scientific, knowledge. While the scientific evidence was impressive because it drew upon information and resources that may otherwise have been inaccessible to many readers, these more practical arguments were compelling because they were familiar, appealing to a deeply-ingrained value, the Protestant work ethic.
Like "The Cost of Beer," these three pamphlets addressed pathos by discussing social as well as physical health, an argument which hearkened to the Puritan idea of social welfare. The pamphlet "Do you want to be powerful?" stated:
Experiment shows that drinking but one small bottle of beer or one glass of wine may impair a man's driving capacity… Practically all the hit-run fatal accidents are caused by drunken drivers, says Frank A. Goodwin, Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
This common sense reasoning seems to be an appeal to logic: drinking interferes with one's ability to drive. Individual safety, however, was not the primary concern. The underlying message of this quotation was to alert drivers that their drinking could have harmful effects on others. The example the quotation uses, hit-run accidents, is an appeal to pathos, because it conjures up the image of an innocent victim who is left injured while the driver speeds away. The implication is that people who drink and drive are irresponsible and hurt others, clearly disregarding the Puritan value of concern and consideration for members of one's community.Religious Pamphlets
Religious pamphlets used Christine Doctrine, especially references to the Bible, as the foundation for their argument against alcohol consumption. Pamphlets like "The Holy Bible and Drink" and "Christian Temperance Catechism" (both from the early 1900s) quoted passages from the bible that warned against the evils of drinking. Directly quoting the bible was taken from the Puritan tradition where "emphasis is nearly always on the Bible, which they [the Puritans] saw in sharp contrast to tradition and to merely human ideas and usages" (Emerson 46). "The Holy Bible and Drink" presented twenty frequently asked questions about alcohol consumption from "What about 'one will not hurt you'?" to "What about drunkards being saved?" (2) and a list of pro-temperance answers in the form of quotations from the bible. "Christian Temperance Catechism" took a more step by step approach, using a series of questions and answers which drew on Christian Doctrine and sometimes included quotations from the scriptures. It began with the simplest and most innocuous seeming question and answer: "What is temperance? The proper control of appetite" (1). The questions and answers become more specific and emotionally charged throughout the pamphlet, ending with question and answers like "How can we work successfully against intemperance? By learning and by showing others how the use of intoxicants ruins soul and body" (8). Although these pamphlets followed a logos structure with logical arguments citing evidence from an established source, i.e. the bible, their underlying messages appealed to pathos. For example, "Christian Temperance Catechism" mentioned alcohol as a major source of suffering in society, both spiritual and physical. According to this pamphlet, American society suffered more from intemperance than all other forms of sin and claimed alcohol was a poison and "the cause of three fourths of all of the disease and proverty [sic] and sorrow and crime in our land" (2).
Not all Religious pamphlets utilized a logos format to fight temperance. The early twentieth century pamphlet "Don't Unwittingly Join The Enemy's Forces" is a clear appeal to pathos. Taken from an address given by Bishop Nicholson of the Methodist Episcopal Church, this pamphlet draws upon the Puritan tradition of preaching. The Puritans placed great emphasis on preaching and most "insisted that 'human authorities' have no place in sermons" (Emerson 45). Religious leaders supporting the Temperance movement, like Bishop Nicholson, saw the fight against intemperance as a crusade, literally a holy war. The authority justifying and supporting this fight was not mere human beings, but God.
In his address Bishop Nicholson appealed to deeply held American values and Puritan morals, describing intemperance as a threat to democracy and morality. Nicholson, like many Temperance leaders, described the struggle against liquor as a second American revolution; first Americans freed themselves from the British, now they must free themselves from alcohol. This argument drew upon the American value of liberty and Puritan morals concerning individual and communal responsibility and salvation.
As in a crusade, there was a clearly defined enemy in Nicholson's address. Nicholson not only criticized his opposition, the "wets" or anti-Temperance supporters, he vilified them. Nicholson inspired pathos by describing those who protested temperance as hateful, unprincipled and criminal men with unworthy motives. His argument was passionate and urgent. Not only was the fight against intemperance "the greatest struggle since the Civil War for the effectuation of Democracy" (2), it was a "life and death struggle with the greatest single evil of the ages…the most unprincipled, the most unscrupulous, and the most Satanic forces possible to conceive" (5).
Following in the tradition of Puritan preaching, Nicholson explained that the fight against intemperance was not merely a human endeavor, but God's mission: "God expects every man and every woman to do his or her duty…" (5) He conflated divine and earthly aspirations, saying that people can take part in God's mission by voting against pro-liquor legislation. Nicholson then took his appeal to pathos a step further, claiming that those who do not actively fight intemperance were supporting the enemy, (hence the title of the pamphlet "Don't Unwittingly Join the Enemy's Forces") and therefore neglecting their responsibilities as American Patriots and Christians. He criticized voter apathy, describing those who do not vote as "criminal and unpatriotic" (5), because by not voting these people were effectively giving their vote to the enemy.
Although some religious pamphlets did contain appeals to logos in their structure or actual arguments, the overarching rhetorical technique in this form of propaganda was pathos. Religious pamphlets evoked emotional responses by appealing to people's deeply held religious values and patriotic sentiments.Posters
(All posters mentioned in this section are from 1913)
In many ways, Temperance and Prohibition Era posters offered a condensed version of the scientific and religious pamphlets, presenting their most striking and compelling arguments through images and sound bytes. Many of the posters took the Benjamin Rush approach, showing scientific and logical evidence to prove that alcohol consumption was detrimental to both body and soul.
Many posters referred to scientific studies and statistical information, citing medical and scientific experts for ethos. Like the titles of scientific pamphlets (ex. "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People"), the headings of the posters purported indisputable information. Poster headings like "Deaths, Defect, Dwarfings in the Young of Alcoholized Guinea Pigs," "Death Rate From Various Diseases in Drinkers and General Class" and "Insurance Records Show that Drink Shortens Life 11%" with their graphs and charts hardly seem debatable. Despite their scientific and factual claims, many of the underlying messages of these posters were steeped in Puritan morality and appeals to pathos.
Temperance Era posters hinted both at the importance of responsible parenting and the Protestant work ethic, both deeply held Puritan values. A number of posters described how children of alcoholic parents suffered developmentally, both physically and emotionally, citing statistics and scientific studies as proof. Some described how parents who drink have a higher rate of defective children: "Defective Children Increased with Alcoholization of Fathers," "Drinkers' Children Developed More Slowly," "Hand in Hand: Feeblemindedness and Alcoholism: More alcoholism found in parents of Feebleminded than those of Normal Children" and "Child Death Rate Higher in Drinkers' Families." Others depicted the psychological problems drinking caused children: "Drink the Largest Cause of Unhappy Homes in Chicago," "Children in Misery, Parent's Drink to Blame in at Least Three Cases Out of Every Four" and "Drink Burdens Childhood."
Temperance and Prohibition Era posters described alcohol as the source of society's individual and social problems. Alcohol was the cause of laziness, inability to concentrate and other impediments to the ideals of success and the Protestant work ethic as noted in the posters: "Drink Impaired Scholarship," "The Better Chances of the Sober Workman," "Alcohol Impairs Muscle Work" and "Daily Drinking Impaired Memory." Like the scientific pamphlets, these posters used charts, percentages, results from studies and quotations from scientific and medical experts.
Still other posters were more explicitly moralizing, like the following poster which drew upon the Puritan value of care for others:
DRINK MAKES ONE MORE LIABLE TO ACCIDENT
WHAT THE ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY SAYS:
"A man whose nerves have been made unsteady by a recent debauch or by the habitual use of alcohol, should not be permitted to operate dangerous machinery or to carry on dangerous work. He endangers not only his own life, but the lives of others."
The last line, "He endangers not only his own life, but the lives of others," is italicized, the implication being that individuals must care about the welfare of their fellow human beings.
A number of Temperance and Prohibition Era posters, like a number of the religious pamphlets, used a logos format to make a pathos appeal. These posters contained graphs and statistical information, presenting moral claims as factual information, such as "Alcoholism and Degeneracy," "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition" and "Drink A Great Cause of Immorality." The poster "Drink A Great Cause of Immorality" showed the results of a study of 865 Immoral Inebriate Women, claiming that 40% of their immorality was due solely to drink, including as evidence a statement by a medical expert: "There is no apparent reason why any of the persons…should have become immoral but for preceding alcoholism." "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition" presented a graph that tracked the drop in poverty as a result of increased temperance, therefore conflating intemperance and immoral behavior with greater social ills like poverty.
Posters are a powerful form of propaganda; their succinct and striking messages create a sense of urgency. In a poster, complex and extensive information must be condensed into a few words and images. Temperance and Prohibition Era posters did just this, using startling information and making emotional appeals to Americans' most deeply held morals and values.Children's pamphlets
A significant amount of Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda was targeted towards children. Since logical and scientific arguments may not have made sense to young children, the main rhetorical technique in children's pamphlets was pathos. This form of anti-liquor propaganda related children's emotional responses and experiences to moral issues.
The large quantity of temperance pamphlets targeted towards children was likely a result of Puritan ideology. According to the Puritans, children's moral education began at home; as the Puritan minister and saint Richard Greenham, wrote in his essay "Of the good education of children":
If parents would have their children blessed at church and school, let them beware they give their children no corrupt examples at home by any carelessness, profaneness or ungodliness. Otherwise, parents will do them more harm at home than both pastors and schoolmasters can do them good abroad. (Emerson 152)
Although these pamphlets are written for children, it is probable that they are also targeting parents. A central theme in many children's pamphlets is the role of parents in promoting temperance and how a child should react if his/her parent is intemperate.
Children's pamphlets generally began with an illustration and a story about a child or an animal whose experiences served as a subtle or direct warning against intemperance. The next section would usually contain a poem, dialogue or mini-story which reinforced the ideas presented in the first story. Many of these pamphlets also ended with advice, telling children to abstain from alcohol and to join the temperance crusade. Two examples of children's pamphlets are "Grandmother's boy (1880s)" and "Look out for the trap! (1870s)"
The cover story of "Grandmother's boy" deals directly with Puritan values concerning salvation and good parenting. In the pamphlet's opening story, a little boy who has been raised by his pro-temperance grandmother pays his father a visit. The father is a wealthy, educated man who is enjoying a bottle of wine with his friends. The son, who has taken the temperance pledge, embarrasses his father, asking him why he is drinking alcohol, and then says: " 'If I'd known you drinked such stuff, I shouldn't wanted to come and see you. It makes folks drunkards, and makes them so wicked they can't go to heaven (3-4).'" The child's reaction to his father's drinking appeals to pathos, especially fear, in two ways. First, it plays upon parents' fear that their children will lose respect for them and not want to spend time with them. Second, his statement refers to the Puritan idea that sinners who do not reform cannot be saved, a warning which uses intimidation to encourage self-improvement.
The following section in the pamphlet "Grandmother's boy" is a poem titled "Johnny's Soliloquy," which expresses the messages of the first story even more explicitly. The poem encourages children to serve as models to their parents, as in the phrase, "The boy is father to the man (3)" which is repeated throughout the poem. By taking the temperance pledge of total abstinence from alcohol and encouraging their parents to do so, children modeled the Puritan ideal of saving oneself and others.
The last two paragraphs of the "Grandmother's Boy" titled "Stand Firm!" make a stirring call to arms. Describing temperance as the "way of truth and right (4)," this section of the pamphlet reads like an excerpt from a passionate sermon. It draws upon the crusade concept, telling the reader that "God will help us" and that the struggle against temptation is a fight children can and must win.
The children's pamphlet "Look out for the trap!" also warns against the dangers of temptation. This pamphlet begins with a picture and story of two squirrels. As in an Aesop's fable, the two squirrels come into trouble as a result of their own foolishness - both fell prey to temptation - and there is a moral at the end of the story: "Children, avoid temptation. Always be sure there is no trap beyond" (2). In this story the trap beyond is set by Charlie Wood, who tempts the squirrels into his home with good food. Once Charlie slams the door shut, the squirrels realize that "they were no longer their own masters" (2). Charlie's imprisonment of the squirrels is analogous to, as temperance supporters would have put it, a drunkard's enslavement to drink.
The story of the two squirrels ends with an anecdote. The narrator switches from third person omniscient to a more conversational, first person, telling the reader he saw a young boy give in to temptation. Worst of all, the one who tempted him was his mother. This final appeal to pathos is meant to shock both children and parents and to show children that even though their parents may have the best intentions, those intentions may be wrong and harmful.
The second part of "Look out for the trap!" is a short story titled "Why Joseph Signed the Pledge." The story draws upon a common theme in Temperance propaganda: a child living in poverty whose father is a drunkard and therefore cannot provide for his family. The story evokes a great deal of pity for Joseph, the protagonist, who is taunted by a wealthier classmate. "Oh! You needn't feel so big…" says the classmate, "your folks are poor and your father is a drunkard" (3).
The story describes the Puritan ideal of redemption through self-improvement and helping others. Joseph's mother reminds him to depend upon his own energies, trust in God and remember that he is responsible only for his own faults (4). Joseph remembers his mother's advice and, through his hard work and determination achieves the epitome of the Protestant work ethic, becoming "a useful and respected man." He follows the Puritan value of individual and communal improvement by helping his father become "a sober man and 'respected by other folks'" (4). The boy who taunted Joseph in school, however, lives to see his wealthy father become poor and a drunkard.
Joseph's story concludes with a piece of advice: "Boys, never twit another for what he can not help" (4). The moral of the story is a direct reference to the gold rule (i.e. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and appeals to human compassion, kindness and respect.
"Grandmother's boy," "Look out for the trap" and many other children's pamphlets present a dilemma whose solution is temperance. The dilemma is an extreme situation, often of pain, suffering or another intense emotion which must be immediately and directly addressed. Abstinence from alcohol is always the happy ending - as soon as the characters in the story swear off spirits they become successful, happy and achieve salvation.Songs and Poems
In Hellfire Nation, James Morone discusses one of America's earliest anthems, the jeremiad. Dating back to the seventeenth century, the jeremiad was "a lament that the people have fallen into sinful ways and face ruin unless they swiftly reform" (14). The jeremiad described specific crimes which had invoked God's wrath, scolding Americans for their moral degeneracy, and reminding people of "their mission with an immodest goal: redeem the world" (Morone 42, 45).
The poems and songs of the Temperance and Prohibition Eras were direct descendants of the jeremiad. Like the jeremiad, these poems and songs defined a specific problem, intemperance, its ruinous effects on both individual and society, and the need for personal and communal responsibility and reform. Three central themes in Temperance era songs and poetry were the drunkard's story, the crusade and temperance as a form of liberty.
Although their themes were similar to other Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda, songs and poems had a distinct style and structure. Unlike scientific and religious pamphlets, posters, and children's pamphlets, which used text and images, songs and poems formed part of an oral tradition. While a reader can always re-read a complex argument or refer to a new fact or statistic in a text, a listener cannot re-hear a song or poem. As a result, the songs and poems are more repetitive and direct, drawing upon common themes and widely accepted ideas rather than introducing new information. Like children's pamphlets, Temperance and Prohibition Era songs and poems use pathos more or less exclusively.
Many songs and poems speak specifically to the plight of drunkards, both as an example of the dangers of intemperance and to encourage people to join the temperance crusade. Religious references are especially prevalent: alcohol is described as an evil temptation and the devil's agent. Drunkards are those who have fallen from grace; they have lost control of their lives and sunk to ruin and damnation. According to these poems and songs, alcohol is to blame for most of society's ills. Once complete abstinence is achieved, prisons will empty, crime will cease, humanity will be saved and the kingdom of heaven will reign on earth.
The poems "The Curse of Rum (1800s)" and "The Face Upon the Floor (early 1900s)" and the song "The Drunkard's Fall (early 1900s)" depict the dangers of drinking and the plight of the drunkard. "The Curse of Rum" draws upon common religious themes in order to demonize alcohol. The poem describes rum as the serpent from the Garden of Eden, a "soul destroyer" (1) that has destroyed the paradise of the home by bringing disease and sin into society.
The underlying message in these songs and poems is not to take the first drink, because once people begin, they lose control and cannot stop. According to "The Face Upon the Floor" and "The Drunkard's Fall," even the most successful and promising individuals can fall prey to alcohol's evils once they take their first drink. "The Face Upon the Floor" depicts a penniless, filthy, wretched drunkard who wanders into a bar and tells a group of young men his story, from wealth, good looks and a loving wife to how drinking led him to current state, and then falls to the floor dead. "The Drunkard's Fall," whose subtitle reads "a warning for all college men wherein is declared how a Yale man was fired yesterday for over-cutting" describes how even the best and the brightest fall to ruin once they take to drinking. As the refrain states: "He was a Yale man, but he done all wrong." The young man becomes apathetic, lazy and eventually goes insane from drinking. Neither he nor the drunkard in "The Face Upon The Floor" can achieve the goals of the Protestant work ethic or reach spiritual salvation. Their alcohol abuse has taken away their capabilities for productivity and success, both on earth and in the world to come.
Songs and poetry make more direct appeals to pathos than other types of temperance propaganda because of their oversimplification and use of hyperbole. Oftentimes the title of a song or poem is enough to evoke a strong emotional response, as in the case of the song title "Father's a Drunkard and Mother is Dead (1866)." Song and poem titles may give a clear warning or command, like the songs "Girls, Wait For A Temperance Man (1867)" and "Help The Fallen Brother (mid to late 1800s)." The first song is a reference to the Puritan ideal of good parenting and addresses both children's' and parents' fears that children will not be taken care of and even abandoned. "Help The Fallen Brother" is a clear appeal to compassion and the Puritan idea that everyone must be reformed in order for a community to achieve success and salvation.
The solution to these individual and social ills, as mentioned in other types of Temperance Propaganda, was the crusade. The first verse and chorus of the "Anti-Saloon Battle Hymn (1907)" for example, provides a rousing call to arms:
The might are gathering for conflict; / The right is arrayed against wrong; /
The hosts of the righteous are singing, / And this is the voice of their song: —
Cho. — The Saloon, it must go! Do you hear us?/ Repeat it again and again.
They strive to make millions of money;/ We strive to save hundreds of men!
As in Bishop Nicholson's address, the enemy, in this case the saloon, is clearly defined and its motives are proclaimed immoral and unjust. The battle hymn describes the saloon as an "awful, unspeakable monster" and asks God to free the people of the United states from its shackles.
Metaphors of slavery and liberation and their relationship to the temperance crusade are a significant aspect of Temperance era songs and poetry. The song "Emancipation (1914)" speaks of America as a nation with "True liberty so grand,/ that makes men free" and alcohol as a monster that enslaves Americans. The song conflates the crusade's mission with Puritan ideals of personal and communal salvation, ending with the stanza:
This is the hope of all / To see the traffic fall, / And not one slave.
Then wave from sea to sea, / By union temperance plea, / Old Glory's jubilee, /
Our nation free!
Even the most convincing anti-temperance supporter would have been hard pressed to refute the stanza above. It makes a powerful appeal to pathos, addressing many Americans' pride in their freedom and faith. How could anyone question such fundamental beliefs? And, if anyone did, who would listen?
Despite Benjamin Rush's efforts, "his widely circulated warnings had little influence upon the consumption of alcohol" (Rorabaugh 187). In fact, alcohol consumption actually rose during Rush's anti-liquor crusade and did not begin to decrease until the early 1830s (Rorabaugh 187). W.J. Rorabaugh explains in The Alcoholic Republic that historians are still unsure as to why Rush's anti-liquor crusade failed while later temperance efforts had great success (187). I propose that the answer lies in the rhetoric.
Benjamin Rush took a logos approach to promoting temperance, noting the harmful physiological effects of alcohol. He did not appeal to pathos until the end of "The Effect of Ardent Spirits Upon Man," when he described the moral depravity and social ills caused by alcohol consumption. Rush's use of pathos may have been too little too late. The weakness of using a logical argument is that it can be refuted, either with other logical explanations, new information or emotional appeals. It is harder to question people's emotions and deeply held morals and values. To do so would not only be considered offensive, it would also be futile. As I wrote earlier, how could anyone question such fundamental beliefs? And, if anyone did, who would listen?
Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda were founded on pathos. Although a number of pamphlets drew upon both logos and pathos, many forms of propaganda, including children's pamphlets, songs and poems, used only emotional appeals. Temperance and Prohibition Era propaganda appealed to deeply held beliefs, based upon Puritan ideology and all-American values. While Rush's more scientific arguments could be disputed or ignored, most Americans would not question the importance of God, hard work, personal and communal salvation and freedom.
- "Alcohol Impairs Muscle Work." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Alcohol: Practical Facts for Practical People." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Alcoholism and Degeneracy." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Aristotle. The Rhetoric and The Poetics. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts and Ingram Bywater. New York: The Modern Library, 1954.
- "The Better Chances of the Sober Workman." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Bishop Nicholson. "Don't Unwittingly Join the Enemy's Forces." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Cherrington, Ernest H. "Answers to Favorite Wet Arguments." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection. 11 Nov. 2004.
- "Child Death Rate Higher in Drinkers' Families." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Children in Misery, Parents' Drink to Blame in at Least Three Cases Out of Every Four." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Colman, Julia. "Christian Temperance Catechism." 19--? Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Cost of Beer." New York: Published for the Woman's National Christian Temperance Union by the National Temperance Society and Publication House, 188-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Curse of Rum." Providence, 18--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Daily Drinking Impaired Memory." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- D'Arcy, H.A. "The Face Upon The Floor." Montreal: Metropolitan Show Print, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Death Rate From Various Diseases in Drinkers and General Class." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Deaths, Defects, Dwarfings in the Young of Alcoholized Guinea Pigs." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Decide for Yourself." Columbus, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Defective Children Increased With Alcoholization of Fathers." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want a better rating?" Washington, D.C.: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want to be efficient?" Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Do you want to be powerful?" Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, Inc., 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "A Doleful New Ballad Called The Drunkard's Fall." New Haven: Bibliographical Press, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink Burdens Childhood." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink A Great Cause Of Immorality." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink Impaired Scholarship." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink the Largest Cause of Unhappy Homes in Chicago." Boston, MA: Scientific Temperance Federation, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drink Makes One More Liable to Accident." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Drinker's Children Develop More Slowly." Westerville, Ohio: Lincoln-Lee Legion, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Dungan, G. W. "Anti-Saloon Battle Hymn." Moore, PA, 1907. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Emerson, Everett H. English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1968.
- "Girls, Wait For a Temperance Man." New York: C.M. Tremaine, 1867. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Grandmother's Boy." New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 188-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Hand in Hand: Feeblemindedness, Alcoholism." Boston, MA and Westerville, Ohio: Scientific Temperance Federation and American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "The Holy Bible and Drink." Westerville, Ohio: Temperance Foundation Inc., 19--. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Hubbard, Evangelist. "Emancipation." Galesburg, Il., 1914. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Insurance Records Show That Drink Shortens Life 11%." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 1913. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Intemperance as a Cause of Poverty Greatly Reduced Since Prohibition." Boston, MA: Constitution Defense Committee, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Keith, Oscar. "Help the Fallen Brother." Worcester, MA: Worcester Reform Club, between 1850 and 1899. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "Look out for the trap!" New York: The National Temperance Society and Publication House, 187-?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Morone, James A. Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
- Parkhurst, E. A. "Father's a Drunkard and Mother is Dead." Washington, D.C.: John F. Ellis, 1866. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- Rorabaugh, W. J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
- Runes, Dagobert D. The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.
- Tannenbaum, Barbara. TA 22: Persuasive Communication. Brown University, Fall 2004.
- "The Titanic Carried Down 1503 People." Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Company, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
- "A Way to Make Money and a Better Way." Westerville, Ohio: American Anti-Saloon League Press Bureau, 19--?. Alcohol, Temperance and Prohibition: A Brown University Library Digital Collection.
Written in partial fulfillment of requirements for UC 116: Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the American Consciousness (Professor David Lewis — Fall 2004)
About the Book
Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical.
Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798.
Benjamin Rush collected twenty-five of his previous writings and published them in Philadelphia in 1798 in a volume he titled Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical. The famous doctor, philosopher, and patriot had published on a host of subjects in the previous decade. Many of these items had first been seen in pamphlet form, or in the pages of the American Museum and the Columbian Magazine, some years before. Two essays in the twenty-five had not previously been printed in any form. Though Rush published rich treatises on medicine, constitutional matters, and government, many of his essays served as an aggressive defense of his own opinions of the moment on various matters, great and small. One may assume that the pieces he chose for this volume represent the ideas that had remained important to him in the intervening years. They do include some of his most well known views on education, government, and slavery. Ever the apostle of the "useful," he was explicit in his hope that this republication would aid in advancing those causes still requiring action. But he also recognized advances. He left out two earlier essays on slavery, for example, saying that the matter was now closer to resolution worldwide and that anti-slavery societies in Great Britain were currently active in providing more valuable tracts condemning the trade.
The essays he did include are arranged as follows:
A Plan for establishing Public Schools in Pennsylvania, and for conducting Education agreeable to a Republican form of Government. Addressed to the Legislature and Citizens of Pennsylvania, in the year 1786. In this opening essay, one of his most famous, Rush advocates learning friendly to religion, liberty, law, manners, agriculture, and manufacture. His "simple plan" for the state advocates one university in the capital and four colleges (in Philadelphia, Carlisle, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh), together with free schools in every township in Pennsylvania. All of society would bear the cost, and all would be repaid through improvement in trade, manufacture, and order.
On the mode of Education proper in a Republic. Following on from his previous essay, Rush warns that the state's varied and numerous immigrants made success in public education vital. The young should be converted into "republican machines." He first drives home the importance of education grounded in New Testament religion, since, as he states, without virtue there is no liberty. Christianity teaches humility, self-denial, and brotherly love, all so important in the running of a republic. To cement love of country and liberty, citizens must believe that they are themselves "public property." The social life of students should be disciplined in diet (the broths of ancient Sparta or modern Scotland) and they should abstain from liquor and keeping long hours. He stands against boarding in dormitories, preferring the civilizing effect of local families. His curriculum would prefer active languages to "dead" ones - no degree would be awarded without facilities in French and German. The program would contain eloquence, a close attention to the English language, History, Commerce, and Chemistry. At some stage, there should be taught useful subjects such as agriculture, manufacture, inland navigation, and government, including attendance at county court sessions. Women should also be educated in government, liberty, and patriotism since they are the first teachers of young children.
Observations upon the study of the Latin and Greek languages, as a branch of liberal Education, with hints of a plan of liberal Instruction, without them, accommodated to the present state of society, manners and government in the United States. The theme of education continues with his hostility to the time and energies schools and scholars waste in the pursuit of "dead" languages, especially Latin and Greek, saying that there are "a hundred more useful subjects." The thrall under which liberal education suffers is a folly and should undergo radical reform. He attacks the defense put up that these studies enhance good English, taste, eloquence, and vocabulary. It is time in a new century to leave the often impious and immoral legends of the past; their studies are no longer needed. Abandoning them will purify English and revitalize and democratize schools. In this reform Rush would like to see children during the first eight years of life reading, writing, and speaking only English, followed by four years more of natural history and geography. French and German would follow at twelve years old, with arithmetic. From fourteen through eighteen years, students could turn to philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, logic, and history. "Moral Philosophy" would go, to be replaced with the teaching of Christianity. (Since this proposal met with a storm of correspondence when it was first published, Rush here includes support from a Virginia academy head in Alexandria, and his letter in answer.)
Thoughts upon the amusements and punishments, which are proper for Schools is a reply Rush wrote in August 1796 to George Clymer, a well-known Philadelphia merchant who signed the Declaration of Independence, was a Pennsylvania representative to the first U. S. Congress, and first president of the Philadelphia Bank. Clymer had asked his opinion, and Rush was specific in his response. Amusements should be strictly supervised and should include agriculture (growing vegetables, for example) and manufactures (like carpentry). Punishments of the type now usual in schools were disgraceful, he said. Corporal punishment of any kind should be abolished. Physical punishment hurts mind, body, and drives children from the love of learning. Better would be a graduated system of reproach that moves from private admonition, confinement after school, then the mark of a small sign of disgrace held before the whole school, and finally expulsion. He refuses to apologize for his idealism since schoolmasters, along with mothers, are the first to form citizenship in young Americans.
Thoughts upon Female Education, accommodated to the present state of society, manners, and government, in the United States of America is another well-known set of Rush opinions, given in July 1787in his address to the Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia, which he had helped to found. He begins by holding that education should match the individual society it serves. The earlier marriage, working conditions, and duties of motherhood in the United States force different considerations than in Britain, for example. Here, women's education needs to be concentrated and should include excellent English, figures and book-keeping, a general knowledge of history, science, and geography sufficient to be a "good companion" to a learned man, together with vocal music, and Christianity. He would encourage this education, and says that it is time to break away from Great Britain in this; women of knowledge would reform society and domestic life.
A defense of the Bible as a School Book, written first in March 1791, is a lengthy answer to Reverend Jeremy Belknap, the Boston Unitarian minister and historian to whom Rush had long promised to explain his thoughts on this matter. One of Rush's great disappointments was the banishment of the Bible as a lesson book in public schools. For this he blamed the Deism then popular. Here, he lays down his belief that "Christianity is the only true and perfect religion" and the Bible is the best way to learn that faith since it contains more necessary knowledge than any other book. A child's memory is suited to religious knowledge, the stories are interesting, and if one reads the Bible when young, one will continue to do so later in life. He also sees its use as God's command and notes that the qualities he sees in the Quakers, Germans, Scots, and Jews - whom he discusses at length - come from the centrality of the Bible in their education. He concludes with a typical hyperbolic claim that Bible based education in schools will, in two generations, eliminate infidelity and render civil government "scarcely necessary."
An address to the Ministers of the Gospel of every denomination in the United States upon subjects interesting to morals was originally written in June 1788. The piece takes the form of a warning of the types of immorality that can doom the young nation "to misery and slavery." Noting that all denominations can unite on this, he goes on to describe public and private habits drawing the nation down. Among public follies, he begins with the drinking of distilled spirits, something that he feels states should not permit, noting that the taxes they generate are not worth the damage. He moves on to militia gatherings, so usually a scene of drunkenness and carousing, and declares that the militia should be abolished as unnecessary in a time of peace. Fairs at which people gather are likewise no longer needed and promote immorality. He includes "law suits" on his public list, holding that "they are highly disreputable between persons who profess Christianity." The "licentiousness of the Press" is a shelter for cowardly libel and injury and needs somehow to be curbed. Horse racing and cock fighting should be outlawed, while all male clubs, and any Sunday amusements also earn his condemnation. In domestic affairs, he cites the habit of leaving children and servants to run wild when the heads of the house engage in long absences from home. Too frequent and lavish entertaining, and hiring children all are as damaging. He recommends annual contracts for all domestic staff. For all of this, he proposes his solution to be a "Christian Convention" set up as an official branch of the federal government to advance morals. To this group each sect would appoint a representative to create unified action. With this office in place, he reasons, the United States will continue, "to teach mankind."
An inquiry into the consistency of Oaths with Christianity Rush completed in January 1789. He states his objection, in reason and in religion, to the demand that people should be required to guarantee truth in civil affairs with a sworn oath. This sets up levels of truth, and reason dictates that there can be only one truth. In the Bible, only people in denial, like Peter who swears three times he does not know Christ, use the oath, and passages in Matthew and James explicitly forbid swearing an oath. The Apostles did not swear oaths to take up their duties. He recommends banishing oath-taking from public life, saying that we should speak under oath always or not at all. (Four months later, George Washington and John Adams took the oath as first president and vice-president under the new Constitution of the United States.)
An enquiry into to Effects of Public Punishments upon Criminals, and upon Society was presented at a meeting of the Society for Promoting Political Enquiries at the home of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia on May 9, 1787. The meeting was among those the society called to examine the state of prisons and punishment in the city. Philadelphia had, to the dismay of many, begun to use chain gangs of prisoners working on public streets under a 1786 law reform that allowed the substitution of "hard labor" for death in certain felonies, like burglary and sodomy. Rush began his thoughtful and reasoned protest against public punishments by confirming his belief that punishment must be aimed at reformation of the criminal or the removal of the intractable offender from society. To those in many nations who say that punishment should be public, through hanging, corporal punishment, or disgracing public labor, Rush says that all public punishments make bad men worse and actually increase crime. In the criminal, it builds fearlessness and a sense of revenge while destroying his sense of shame. In the observer, it creates admiration for the criminal suffering with courage, pity for the man breaking down under punishment, and eventual insensibility through familiarity to human suffering of all kinds. Finally, using criminals in public labor makes all such tasks a disreputable calling, especially in public works. A better solution would be to build a large state "house," complete with apartments, a religious hall, and solitary cells (then largely unknown) for those who need it. Vary the punishment with the crime and the criminal, and keep secret from the inmate the duration of his sentence. The courts would visit twice a year to review the sentences and prisoners' progress. All this would be designed to inflict thoughtful and reforming punishment on the mind of the criminal, teaching him to value his liberty. (A few months later, Rush and several prominent Quakers founded the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons and began to lobby for improved conditions at the overcrowded Walnut Street Gaol, then the only prison in the state. This resulted in 1790 in a new extension at the jail with solitary confinement cells and a gathering area such as Rush had recommended. From these Philadelphia Quakers came the term "penitentiary," and this extension's design instituted the cellblock design of modern prisons.)
An enquiry into the consistency of the Punishment of Murder by Death, with Reason and Revelation Rush finished on Independence Day, 1797, ten years after taking up the matter of public punishment at Franklin's house. He had spoken against capital punishment then, and in this pamphlet he laid out his lifelong and powerful objections to the judicial taking of a human life. Capital punishment is indeed "unreasonable" to Benjamin Rush. It lessens the horror of ending life and leads to more murders, it acts as state sponsored suicide, and justice becomes more difficult to apply as lawyers will plead down and juries will fail to convict. Capital punishment also violates "divine revelation." It usurps God's authority and bears the stain of folly and revenge. To those who say that the laws of Moses justify execution, he responds that God only meant that code to remain until man could move on into civilization and grace - God intended improvement in man. If the ancient laws of Leviticus are to be applied equally, the United States must execute people for adultery and blasphemy, he reasons. The Bible, after all, contains many who killed but escaped the wrath of God, including Moses himself, and David. Christ's appearance was crucial because he came to save and not to kill, proving , Rush says, that the world is improving according to God's plan. Now, modern man protects women and children and civilians in war and we "decline all wars to be unlawful but such as are purely defensive." Society moves on and legislators should be careful of daring to go against Christ and his Gospel. (The death penalty in Pennsylvania had, under William Penn, been applied only in cases of murder. Later, many other crimes were made punishable by death. The 1786 reforms restored the original policy, reserving death for murder and treason. Pennsylvania was the first state to develop "degrees" of murder and the application of the death penalty in 1793 as a compromise with Quaker demands for abolition. Michigan, in 1846, became the first state to abolish the death penalty for murder.)
A plan of a Peace Office for the United States was Benjamin Rush at his most vitriolic and passionate as he pleaded powerfully his deep beliefs against standing armies, and the taking of human life needlessly by any means. He did this with a detailed proposal for a "Peace Office of the United States" headed by a Secretary. This would match the recently founded War Office. The Secretary of Peace would be a true republican and a Christian who would be charged with establishing free schools in every U. S. community and overseeing the quality of teachers and curriculum. He would also be required to provide a copy of the American edition of the Bible to every family in America. He would venerate human life and repeal all death penalties, what Rush calls "murder in cold blood." In fact, the legend "The Son of Man Came into the World not to destroy men's lives, but to save them" would be inscribed in gold above every public building in the nation. The department would set out to make war less popular with the abolition of the militia, all military parades, and all uniforms in peacetime. The office would have for its symbols a lamb, a dove, and an olive branch and would house a collection of ploughshares and pruning hooks made from swords. The War Office, on the other hand, would have signs announcing it as "An Office for butchering the human species" and "Widow and Orphan making office" and "An office for creating poverty and the destruction of liberty, and national happiness." Its lobby is to be adorned with paintings of the horrors of war and suffering civilians headed with the words, in blood red, "NATIONAL GLORY."
Information to Europeans who are disposed to migrate to the United States of America is a response to a letter from a Quaker friend in London requesting information on the subject. The unnamed friend wrote in August 1789, and Rush answered in April 1790. Rush intends to update Franklin's Advice those who would remove to America (1782) and begins with a description of those who should not come, including the idle rich, full time literary men, and all professors of the fine arts except music masters. Those who would benefit would be farmers, mechanics, laborers, those poor willing to become indentured servants, and men of learned professions, providing they do not underestimate the advances the United States has made in this area. The opportunities are limitless for the right kind of person. Rights of religion are guaranteed - he notes that three Catholics already sit in Congress - birth outside the United States is not a limit on any office but president, and there is solid loyalty to the republic, and therefore tranquility rules. States vary in their suitability, and he pleads Pennsylvania's case as the most appreciative and welcoming to the immigrant, saying confidently that Pennsylvania will always be the leading state in the union.
An Account of the Progress of Population, Agriculture, Manners, and Government, in Pennsylvania, in a letter to a friend in England is an essay outlining in lengthy detail the manner in which the settlement of Pennsylvania takes place, especially in social and economic terms. Rush describes first settlers as solitary families building a small cabin, cultivating maize and surviving through hunting. The first settler lives much like the Indians and enjoys hunting, fishing, and liquor till he gains other settler neighbors. This brings the restrictions of law and the Gospel that eventually lead to his selling up and moving to fresher territory. The second type of settler improves the land further, planting orchards and adding wheat and rye. He is usually short of cash and cannot keep up his improvements. He is not a churchgoer and will not pay taxes; he prefers rough company and heavy drink. He gets into debt and is forced to sell up, as well. The third type is the permanent developer of the area, a man of property and character with skill in agriculture. He builds a stone barn, uses stoves for heat, and is self-sufficient in most products. He likes government and willingly pays his taxes and supports schools and churches. Rush says this third type now numbers about two-thirds of all Pennsylvania farmers.
An Account of the manners, of the German Inhabitants of Pennsylvania is an essay that reveals Benjamin Rush's deep admiration for the character and faculties of Pennsylvania's German settlers. He outlines how Germans arrive, often in groups with their clergyman, mostly as farmers but also as skilled tanners, butchers, and sugar bakers. They are fine agriculturalists. Rush notes that Germans choose good land, build good fences, replant trees, and live soberly and frugally in large, happy families. Collectively, the Germans of the state support churches, schools, and the Constitution. They excel in music, especially in church. He describes them as mostly Lutheran, together with sizeable numbers of German Presbyterians, and small groups of Mennonites, the Moravians of Bethlehem - whom he explains at length - and Catholics in Philadelphia. Rush asserts that all Pennsylvanians can learn from the one third of the people in their state who are now German. The state and its citizens should continue to help Franklin College in Lancaster, cherish German religious sects, and relieve them from militia laws.
Thoughts on common sense Rush wrote in April 1791 to dethrone popular "common sense" in favor of reason. He defines common sense as that which most believe and feel during a certain era. This, of course, changes across time and place. The certainty of common sense, therefore, does not accord with reason, he writes. For Rush, common sense "is characteristic only of common minds." He concludes this short piece with the visionary's oft noted lament, that men of reason generally are not appreciated for generations because they in their own time contradict the common sense of their age.
An Account of the Vices peculiar to the Indians of North America is Rush's effort to counterbalance the effects of popular romantic opinions of the "noble savage" on the minds of "weak people." Any virtues Indians possess - and others admire - he says stem only from necessity. Completing the "natural history," Rush lists Native American vices, from uncleanness to cruelty, from drunkenness to treachery, and from idleness to the "degradation of women." He completes his description with praise for a vibrant civil government in the United States that is committed to eliminating such vices amongst all Americans.
Observations upon the influence of the Habitual use of Tobacco upon Health, Morals, and Property sees Rush return somewhat to medicine, although his essay also touches upon the social and moral damage of what he calls this "addiction." The habit begins as any other, slowly and insidiously. He calls it completely artificial, noting that no person has been born with a craving for tobacco. It causes loss of appetite, incomplete digestion, tremors, lost teeth, and lip cancer. Typically, he dismisses advocates of tobacco's usefulness by asserting that habitual use destroys any medical efficacy. What is worse, tobacco leads to immorality. It increases thirst and therefore encourages heavy drinking. He sees it promoting idleness, uncleanness, and rudeness. Animals will not touch it, confirming its status as a poison. He concludes with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, a non-user, who said that in his long life he never met a single smoker who recommended the use of tobacco to him.
An Account of the Sugar Maple Tree of the United States comprises Rush's answer in July 1791 to a request for information from Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State. In a long and detailed letter, Rush displays both his breadth of interests as a naturalist and his typical idealism concerning the future of the newly independent United States. His gathering of facts is comprehensive. He relates the character of the tree itself, gives a complete description of the tapping process, and the refining of sugar from the raw product. He tells that the average tree, carefully treated, will produce 20-30 gallons of sap annually from which five or six pounds of sugar may be refined. In debating the matter of a central refinery being more efficient, he decides that the individual farming family is the better manufacturer, noting that one man sold 600 pounds of sugar in one season recently. Seeing maple sugar as a powerful future benefit to the United States, he argues that its quality is better than cane sugar, and that potential production could supply the entire population and even provide valuable exports. He sees health benefits in the increased use of sugar in the American diet. Interestingly, he brushes aside what would be modern concerns to this, saying that some do believe "that sugar injures the teeth, but this opinion now has so few advocates that it does not deserve a serious refutation." Finally, he hopes that the dominance of maple sugar will destroy the basis for slavery in the sugar islands of the Caribbean. (Rush and Jefferson were corresponding at a time when hopes of alternatives to British sugar imports where high. Quakers were also explicit in their hope that slavery would thus be damaged as an institution on the sugar plantations.)
An account of the life and death of Edward Drinker, who died on the 17 of November, 1782, in the 103 year of his age sees Rush's skills of observation and curiosity again in action. The subject here was born and grew up before Philadelphia was a city, and saw Indians fishing where the docks of the city now stood. He worked in Boston as a cabinetmaker and returned to Philadelphia in retirement in 1745. Rush relates Drinker's habits, strengths, and infirmities in these later years, noting his cheerful and pious nature and his temperate behavior as keys to his longevity. He concludes with more reflections of the history that Drinker had lived as an American.
Remarkable circumstances in the constitution and life of Ann Woods, an old woman of 96 years of age continues Rush's observations on aging, a study he was actively pursuing in the summer of 1788 and which was published later in the second volume of his gathered Medical Enquiries and Observations. He chronicles the case of Ann Woods, an old woman who came to his door begging food. From her he ascertained her extremely interesting medical history. She had arrived in Philadelphia from England at ten and had lived there ever since. She had married twice, for the second time at age sixty, and had children from both marriages. She had lost all her teeth in her fifth decade of life, her hair having turned gray a little earlier. Her menstrual cycle had flowed from around nineteen to aged eighty, and she had her last child at sixty-one. She had been a washer woman and suffered from rheumatism, followed a simple diet, and never used spirits. She had been bled often over the years. He noted admiringly that she was a cheerful woman who counted her blessings. Rush made his observations on the facts he had gathered both on childbearing and the menstrual cycle. He concluded that chronic diseases, if treated, do not shorten life; nor does motherhood, when temperance and less than the hardest work moderate its effects. Finally, in her cheerfulness he finds a possible addition to her longevity, calling her an example to all who complain about their lot in life.
Biographical Anecdotes of Benjamin Lay, written in February 1790, relates aspects of the life of this famous Philadelphia Quaker and fiery anti-slavery campaigner who had died decades before. Benjamin Lay (1682-1759) was an English Quaker who had settled first in the West Indies and then, appalled by slavery, moved to Abington around 1830. He scorned nearby Philadelphia for its own legal Negro servitude. From there, he embarked on an infamous career as an agitator against slavery, first among the Quakers of the area, and then more broadly. He disrupted meetings and made ironic demonstrations on the evils of the trade. His activities took on even greater impact from his appearance and his character. He was a small, physically deformed man who eschewed any extravagance, and who ate only vegetables and drank only water. Rush relates all of this, including his misguided attempt to emulate Christ and fast for forty days and forty nights, almost dying in the process. Rush estimates that Lay's temper and methods may have not been the best means to achieve his ends, but praises his efforts at drawing attention and beginning a movement now of increasing power.
Biographical Anecdotes of Anthony Benezet, which Rush had first written in July 1788, follows his essay on Lay and maintains the anti-slavery theme. Anthony Benezet (1713-1784) was born a Huguenot in northern France, was educated in England, and traveled with his family to Philadelphia in 1731. He joined the Pennsylvania Quakers, became a schoolteacher in Germantown, and later taught at the famous Friends' English School in Philadelphia. He became a fierce advocate for the end of slavery and published widely on the subject. His influence was especially strong in his former home of Britain. In Philadelphia, he was famous for his evening classes for black children, set up in his own home. He founded the first girl's school in the city in 1754, and in 1770, with Quaker help, he established the Negro School of Philadelphia. Rush concentrates mostly upon Benezet's character and his efforts on behalf of others, including his role as the American representative in prisoner exchanges with the British in Philadelphia. His funeral after his death in May 1784, Rush relates, had "many hundred" black mourners.
Paradise of Negro Slaves - a dream continues this section attacking slavery. Rush tells us that after reading Thomas Clarkson's (1760-1846) essay on slavery, he fell asleep and dreamed a dream so striking that he must relate it. (Clarkson was the British abolitionist made famous through his pamphlet An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African, published in 1786.) In his dream Rush is in a scenic and idyllic land filled exclusively with black inhabitants who are happy and content. They are all former slaves now in a privileged afterlife that God has provided as they wait for Judgment Day. The people tell Rush that God has done this as recompense for their earthly suffering. He hears stories of forgiveness of cruel masters who have embraced remorse for their actions, as well as warnings to others to repent for the suffering they have caused before it was too late. These tales were suddenly interrupted when cheers and shouts arose for another white man who was arriving. Rush recognizes him as Anthony Benezet. He is awakened by these shouts and finds himself returned to his bedroom in Philadelphia. (Rush, as a pioneer of psychology, was interested in the observation of dreams, and he would often relate his own to his closest friends, such as he did in letters to John Adams.)
Eulogium upon Dr. William Cullen was delivered on July 9, 1790 before the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. Rush was a suitable candidate for this honor, having been one of Cullen's students in Edinburgh who had helped spread his ideas to the United States. William Cullen (1710-1790), born in Lanarkshire, was a student of Alexander Munro at Edinburgh, helped found the Glasgow Medical School, and from 1755 to the end of his career was an outstanding professor at Edinburgh. His fame spread and attracted students from all over Europe, helping to make his medical school the most famous in Europe. Linking disease to the nervous system, he coined the word "neurosis." Rush concentrates his eulogy on the period that he had known Cullen as a teacher and mentor in Scotland. With fulsome praise, Rush describes Cullen as a great and original genius who had perfected "peculiar and useful" learning. His mind was expansive, and he valued literature (Shakespeare was his favorite), history, and geography. His thoughts rejected everything not useful and instead embraced all ideas and facts of value. "His memory had no rubbish in it," says Rush. As a teacher, he was eloquent and approachable. He charged his students to doubt, lecturing and discussing in simple terms, having led the fight - Rush notes with emphasis - to instruct in English rather than Latin at the university. He was tall, slender, and with blue eyes. He worked almost to the end of his life and died that January, having saved many lives around the world and having spread learning across the oceans. While Rush concludes by saying that Cullen is "medicine's Newton," he warns not to place the great man beyond question. Cullen himself would see that as folly, for improvement of knowledge is all.
Eulogium upon David Rittenhouse reprints the eulogy that Benjamin Rush was selected to give before the American Philosophical Society on December 17, 1796 in honor of its late departed president. David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) was born near Germantown and educated himself as both a clock and instrument maker and astronomer. He became one of the most valued scientists and surveyors of the early United States. He was also a public man, serving the Committee of Public Safety during the American Revolution. He helped to rewrite the state constitution, was an active Anti-Federalist, and acted as state treasurer for twelve years. His last public position was as director of the U. S. Mint. Rush's tone hints at the loss the Society has suffered. He wonders at the mind that educated itself with just a few books to the point where it produced a model of the solar system fine enough to sit in the two great American universities of the day. (His "orrery" is still held at the University of Pennsylvania today.) Rush relates Rittenhouse's career as an observer of the passage of the planets, reading off his long list of publications on the subject. He also praises his work across the northeast, before and after the Revolution, as a border surveyor and arbitrator of territorial disputes between states. Rush, as was usual for him in these public tributes, cannot resist airing his own ideas about the classical bent of liberal education, saying that Rittenhouse never wasted time with Latin and Greek, but spoke German, French, and Dutch. Rush also admired his "superlative modesty," his piety, his republican values, and his attachment to family. He had deservedly succeeded Benjamin Franklin to the presidency of the American Philosophical Society in 1791. His death the previous June had been a blow for all the scientific community - he now rests fittingly, Rush relates, in the simple monument of his observatory.
Rush's collection of essays provides a rich treasure trove of the ideas, controversy, and boundless optimism represented in the new United States in the decade surrounding the ratification of the new Constitution. Many of the famous doctor's idiosyncrasies are represented here, along with evidence of the remarkable energies he poured into his many causes; education, penal reform, temperance, and the abolition of slavery all are illuminated in these essays. Rush also brings his famous powers of observation and detail to smaller matters, now forgotten, such as ways in which the frontier was settled, or the dream of self-sufficiency in sugar production. His descriptions of Pennsylvania, its population and their strengths and weaknesses, are invaluable first hand glimpses of a tumultuous and heroic period in the life of the Commonwealth. These essays indicate that perhaps only Franklin and Jefferson can teach us as much, and in such great variety and detail, about the early days of the new nation as can Benjamin Rush.
Researched and authored by John Osborne, Ph. D.