ALBERT GRIFFIN’S SPEECH.
Winfield Courier, Thursday, October 29, 1885.
The speech of Hon. Albert Griffin, which has for several days been running by sections in the Daily, now appears in the Weekly entirely, and we would ask our readers to give it a careful perusal. It is to our mind the best and truest exposition of the position of parties in this State, and throughout the north for that matter, in regard to prohibition. It is a powerful and comprehensive speech and expresses our views exactly in every particular, except that we do not see that the governor of this State has made any mistake, particularly in the matter on which Mr. Griffin has criticized him much, that of having refused or neglected to send the militia to Dodge City. We think it would have been a great mistake had he done so. Do not fail to read this grand speech.
THE WINFIELD COURIER.
WINFIELD, COWLEY COUNTY, KANSAS, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1885.
SPEECH OF HON. ALBERT GRIFFIN.
The Present Relation of Political Parties to Prohibition.
An Address Delivered in Topeka, October 15th, 1885.
Winfield Courier, Thursday, October 29, 1885.
Mr. Chairman and Ladies and Gentlemen:
My theme is tonight “The present relation of political parties to prohibition.” The importance of the subject cannot be overestimated; and as I must make statements which, taken by themselves, may possibly irritate some, I wish in the beginning to request hearers to listen to the end before deciding that they have been unfairly or unkindly dealt with, and to bear in mind that censure is only intended for those to whom it is directly applied. I hope no one here will be so weak and ungentlemanly as to insist on wearing away a cap made especially for someone else. The widening divisions and increasing bitterness in the prohibition ranks is mainly attributed to inaccurate statements, to a too sweeping appropriation or application of facts and of condemnation which may have been justifiable, and even necessary, when correct and deserved.
Except when I state the contrary, my remarks will refer solely to “The North.” The general situation and attitude of parties in the old slave states is essentially different from what it is to the north of them, and the prohibition question, like most others, has to be considered from two standpoints in the different sections.
When I speak of prohibitionists, I mean all those who favor prohibitory laws, and not merely the (perhaps) one-twentieth portion of them, who use the term to designate their own political party—not a few of whom make themselves justly obnoxious, by the closeness with which they imitate the Pharisee who boasted of his own superior virtues, and thanked God he was not like other men.
With a rapidly increasing number of people, the dram shop problem is a paramount political issue of the times. With friends as well as foes of the saloon, other questions are fast becoming “side issues.” Many still strive and hope to “keep the subject out of politics,” but it cannot be done. “Regulation and Revenue,” “Local Option,” and “Prohibition” are equally political methods of dealing with a universally acknowledged evil.
Generally the longer a reform can be advanced by non-partisan agitation, the better. But in the advocacy of radical reforms against which large moneyed interests are arrayed, the time nearly always arrives when its friends are compelled to act with and rely on a political party. As a rule, reform measures that appeal strongly to consciences and hearts secure supporters most rapidly when entirely disconnected with party strife; but, when legislation is essential to success, their enemies are certain to, sooner or later, obtain control of and use political parties in their defense; and, of course, an organized opposition at the poles requires an organized support at the ballot box. For nearly a hundred years, the opposition to slavery was non-partisan in its character, but after abolishing the institution in a few states (in which it was always weak), prohibiting the slave trade and consecrating the Northwest to freedom, the anti-slavery agitation bore little further legislative fruit, and slavery grew stronger until a powerful political party antagonized it.
POSITION OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
A very large majority of Republicans in every state are hostile to saloons, but a strong minority are more or less favorable to them, and in this minority are found a majority of the professional office-seekers and wire-workers. Its National convention took no position in the matter. In Kansas, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine it supports prohibition, and in the other states either ignores the question or favors a license system, for the ostensible purpose of diminishing the evils of intemperance by reducing the number of drunkard makers. I know of no exception to the statement that since the rebellion (if not since the organization of the party) every law passed at the request of the temperance element has received a very large percentage of its support from the Republicans; and that every measure passed against their protest has received much the largest percentage of its opposition from that party. Moreover the sentiment of hostility to the saloon is rapidly growing in its ranks. Of its ultra whiskey members, some are converted each year, and others die or join the Democrats, while the recruits for that side are comparatively few. An immense majority of the changes are for the better. A steady, irresistible drift of sentiment in the party is unquestionably everywhere. To deny these facts is to exhibit a degree of ignorance that is discreditable, or a willful wickedness that is abominable. If anyone says the party does not progress as fast as he thinks it should, and occasionally makes bad slips, I have nothing to say; but intelligent men who deny or ignore the facts in the case and call the republican party a friend of the saloon, have no right to complain when the millions of earnest and self-sacrificing prohibitionists in the ranks they so outlandishly malign, denounce them as willful liars and slanderers. And it needs no argument to prove that prohibitionists who thus unjustly assail and misrepresent the overwhelming majority of the friends of the cause, are, when doing so, practically working in the interest of the Democratic party.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
It is everywhere admitted that an overwhelming majority of Democrats are hostile to prohibition. The national and State conventions of that party openly oppose it; and when they advocate a license system, it generally appears to be done for the money there is in it, or as the best way to antagonize prohibition, rather than from enmity to the traffic. Since the war, a very large majority of the votes of Democrats on measures affecting saloons have been cast in accordance with the wishes of that interest and against the protests and petitions of temperance workers. No saloon advocate ever leaves that party on account of its unkind and unfriendly acts; but, each succeeding year constantly increasing numbers gravitate into it from other parties. It has, in its ring, numerous strong temperance men; but each year, the acts and spirit of the party drive some of these into other organizations, and none of that class come from outside to take their places. The inevitable consequence is, that the democratic party is becoming more and more the recognized defender and servant of the dram seller, just as it formerly was of slave hunters. It will move forward on the new issue, as it did on the old, but only as fast as it is compelled to. Like an ox tied behind a wagon, that bellows with rage and pulls back with all its might, that party, with glaring eyes and foaming mouth, is pulling back at the rear of the car of progress, and will advance only as fast as the Republican horses, Humanity and Virtue, drag it. I should be glad to paint a less revolting picture here, but I am stating facts, and truth will not permit—except to say that there are some evidences, among Kansas Democrats, of a coming rebellion against saloon domination.
THE GREENBACK PARTY.
As the greenback party is steadily dissolving, little need be said of it, except that the majority of its remaining members are professed prohibitionists, but, unfortunately, have seldom put their ballots where they could help the cause gain a victory, and too often, as is now being done in Iowa, when offered patronage, have made combinations with the saloon party.
ATTITUDE OF THE PROHIBITION PARTY.
There is also a distinctive prohibition party. The most of its members are undoubtedly good men, whose purity of life and lofty aim secures respect, in spite of the colossal folly of their course, and the unpardonable mendacity and vindictiveness of some of their most influential leaders. So far as I have been able to learn, the party has not, except in a single instance, decided in convention to cast its vote for a prohibitionist who stood any chance of election, but has in many cases refused to support uncompromising prohibitionists; which refusal has, more than once, been the cause of the election of whiskey candidates. The actual results of its labor at the polls, therefore, thus far, nearly always has been to weaken the cause and its friends and to strengthen its enemies. Nor has its course on the rostrum or in the press been more commendable. Instead of bringing their batteries of fact, logic, and pathos to bear mainly against dram sellers and the party that openly defends and protects them, its leading advocates expend the most of their energies to denounce the party in whose ranks are found the great mass of the friends of temperance—and this denunciation is often as unjust and bitter as the most devilish malignity can make it. A copy now before me of The XVIth Amendment, one of the leading organs of that party, gives five times as much space to attack the Republican party as it does to mount an assault on the rum power or its partisan defenders; and three-fourths of the speech of Prof. A. Hopkins, on taking the chair at the last New York prohibition convention, was in the same vein. I am not dealing with motives now, but with facts, which no one will gainsay. However, it will not be improper to add that those who do these things know, and freely admit, in advance, what the present consequences of their acts must be, and their defense is the glorious things which they hope to accomplish some time in the shadowy future, after the Republican party shall have been destroyed. In order to induce us to leave the Republican party, these jaundiced and embittered men of God (or willing instruments of the devil) parade against it, as a whole, every bad act or word of every individual Republican speaker, officer, or newspaper, and warp and entirely distort innocent acts and language, but give credit for little or nothing that is good, and between the gnashing of their teeth, shed crocodile tears because life-long temperance advocates do not flock to their feet and beg the privilege of humbly following in their wake. Does any third party man think this language too strong? If so, let him remember, that it is uttered in defense of multitudes of self-sacrificing men and women unjustly slandered. It applies only to those of whom it is true—the malicious scoundrels and demagogues—of whom, unfortunately, too many have fastened themselves upon the third party.
THE RUM PARTY ALARMED.
However, notwithstanding the mistakes of their friends, the sentiment in favor of prohibition has grown with such wonderful rapidity that the dram selling fraternity has become thoroughly alarmed, and is now industriously perfecting state and national organizations for self-defense. A late copy of the Philadelphia Times contains a report of an interview with Louis Fresney, President of the Philadelphia Hotel and Saloon-keepers Union, giving an account of the league now being formed in that state in which he says:
“Of course the State League will have a say in the politics of the state. We shall choose such candidates for the legislature as will protect our interests and we shall use both influence and money to defeat the men who we know are antagonistic to our cause. It stands to reason that the combined forces of the liquor dealers of Pennsylvania will have a vast amount of political strength. Any man who deals in liquor can become a member of the State League. The objects of the League are protection against the law and order fanatics and to modify the blue laws of 1794—to do away with the Sunday closing, besides we want to take the power away from the Judges of revoking saloon and hotel keeper’s license for the offense of selling liquor on Sunday. (Bills such as I have outlined will be drawn up and presented in the legislature and if they are not favorably considered at the next session, it will give the league an opportunity of knowing the members who are to receive our support and those whom we must displace, if possible. You can see the necessity of the concentrated action of the liquor dealers of the entire state. I can say that the big brewers and wholesale liquor dealers are in concert with us and we can count on them as strong allies to our cause.)”
How do you like this? Shall Mr. Fresney’s liquor league decide who may sit in our legislature and congressional halls, and who are to fill our executive and judicial offices? Even a blind man can see that, with parties constituted as they now are, the general formation of such societies simply means a speedy transfer of the radical saloon advocates from all quarters into a Democratic party as fast as it becomes necessary for the protection of saloon interests. Nobody can blame dram sellers for concentrating (although the possibilities are that they will hasten their own doom by so doing), for the concentration of saloonists ought to lead to a concentration of prohibitionists also. Should not this movement operate as a notice to prohibition democrats to “come out from among them?”
Can they conscientiously continue to vote with and for a party that they know is hopelessly under the control of brewers, distillers, and dram sellers? And, if they conclude to leave it on that account, will it not be best for them to join a very strong organization, through which, with their help, the cause can be made to succeed within a reasonable time instead of a very small one, through which success is impossible for a long term of years—if not forever? Suppose they do dislike the word republican; should they indefinitely postpone the triumph of humanity rather than yield their prejudices even for a few years? In the days of the rebellion, multitudes pursued the patriotic course of acting with the party that represented radical Unionism, so long as they believed that to be a vital issue. Why not let humanity control now, at least to the extent that patriotism did then?
ITS LESSONS TO REPUBLICANS.
Is it not plain even to natural conservatives that the Republican party cannot comply with the demands of these liquor leagues? Do they not know that the Democratic party will always outbid them for the saloon vote—and get it, in steadily increasing numbers? And if this is so, is it not foolish as well as disgraceful to longer dally with the hideous harlot? Moreover, every concession made for the purpose of retaining irreclaimable saloon devotees repels prohibitionists of other parties who feel inclined to join us, and increases the number of prohibition Republicans who become disheartened and leave us. The dog that grasped for the shadow while crossing the stream lost the meat in his mouth. Is there not danger that, in striving to retain the certainly vanishing whiskey vote, we shall lose exceedingly heavily from the element that is anxious to remain, and repel those who are willing to join us? It is no answer to say that the prohibition democrats have not voted with us in the past when we nominated prohibitionists. Some of them have, and many more would have done so but for the fact that the Republican party has nowhere yet absolutely burned the bridges behind it on this question. So long as we bid for the saloon votes, prohibitionists in other parties will naturally be incredulous of our profession and tardy about joining us. Indeed, none but the most radical will do so. Viewed simply as a matter of policy, is it not best to respond to the demands of the saloon fraternity with a notice to change their vocation or strike their tents? Is it not ruinous folly to ignore the fact that conflict between the home and the saloon is irrepressible and deadly, and that, as the Republican party must, sooner or later, champion the cause of the home everywhere, or die, the sooner it takes its stand, throws off its fetters, and strikes out from the shoulder, the better? Until we do that we will inevitably lose from both elements and gain from neither. How long can the party stand such depletion?
The Republican party of Kansas is practically a prohibition party. I am aware that some of its members are still opposed to that policy, just as many republicans denounced manhood suffrage long after it became a law, but the irreconcilable are in hopeless minority in this state, and while that minority diminishes daily by conversion, desertion, and death, it draws few recruits from anywhere. The politicians who are now trying to persuade prohibitionists to ignore that question next year, are wasting their time—and worse. We should not, cannot, and will not comply with the demand.
The prohibition Republicans of Kansas are resolved to absolutely destroy the saloon business in this nation, and neither threats nor blandishment will deter them. Even if it could be shown that the destruction of the saloon meant the destruction of the party, they would still say “the saloon must and shall go;” but this is hardly among the possibilities. At the time St. John was defeated, any other prohibitionist could have been elected easily, and the cause is very much stronger now than it was then. Kansas is not afraid of prohibition or prohibitionists.
It is not for me to assume to say how the next republican platform shall read, but it needs no prophet to foretell that it will be formulated by uncompromising prohibitionists. I do not believe in making platforms unnecessarily offensive to minorities, and hope for and expect moderation in this direction; but the course decided upon will unquestionably be the one which, in the judgment of the majority, will be the most disastrous to the saloon business.
I have been thus explicit, because some anti-prohibitionists appear to imagine that they can frighten prohibitionists into surrendering their principles for the sake of party harmony. A few might be thus influenced, but the masses will say with the Troy Chief, that “There shall be no straddling hereafter,” and no dodging. The truth is that the voters who prefer the death of the republican party to the destruction of the saloon, are no longer at home in its ranks, and no further attempts should be made to coddle them. The old party managers who want “harmony in the party” next year, should begin to work for it now; should put in the most of their time on themselves and their associates, and should remember that the only possible oasis of harmony is acquiescence in prohibition and the settled policy of the state, to be made as effective as the best laws rigidly enforced can make it.
Prohibitionists have much to encourage them, but, unfortunately, what is called the third party leaven is spreading rapidly, and there is danger that the placards seen above saloon counters in Marysville and other places last fall, which read “St. John our Savior” may be supplemented with the “Third Party Our Protector.” I never yet saw a radical saloon advocate who did not insist that radical prohibition Republicans ought to join the third party, and urge them to do so; and the self-evident course is that they believe the third party prohibitionists are less dangerous to the saloons than the prohibition republicans are. Should not this fact cause men to think before taking advice of their enemies? Having no grudges to pay off nor axes to grind, and prohibition being with me the paramount issue, I think that I can consider the subject dispassionately. Will my third party friends, who are so confident that they are right, try to look at a few points with unprejudiced eyes? The first song sung by the third party siren, when trying to seduce a republican from his allegiance to his party, has been harped by democratic minstrels for twenty years, and is that all the issues growing out of the war are settled.
This is not true. In a dozen states “a free vote and a fair count” is not permitted. Do not become alarmed. I do not propose to “flaunt the bloody shirt,” nor to repeat the old but too terribly true and woefully sad stories of unpunished murders and wandering exiles. It is of crimes still being perpetrated, and from which you and I are also suffering, that I speak. It is a cold fact and a burning shame that the men who drowned the Nation in blood now rule it through fraudulently managed elections. That the party in power in the south will not permit elections to go against them is denied by only these classes—the shamefully ignorant, and those who are absolutely blinded by prejudice and willful falsities. Southern democrats boldly admit the fact, and justify it. They draw a dark picture of the presumed evils that would result from the domination of ignorant negroes, and, with a manner that appears to say “that settles it,” ask what northern men would do under similar circumstances. I cannot discuss that question now, but must be permitted to say that, in my opinion, it is never either right or necessary to do wrong. In the anti-bellum days, many of these same men believed that a war of races would certainly follow emancipation, and they were not more mistaken in the notion than they are now that ruin would be the result of permitting honest elections.
Just how these crimes can be stopped, I will not undertake to decide; but I will say that, so long as they continue to be systematically and persistently perpetrated, at least one vital issue growing out of the war will not have been settled: and I will add that I do not understand how any honest man can dispute the proposition that a party which perpetrates and profits by such offenses should not be permitted to control the national government. When I hear a former republican mouthing about there being “no difference between the old parties except the offices,” it is sometimes hard to restrain indignation sufficiently to treat him civilly. Not content with robbing their always loyal neighbors of sacred rights, these political usurpers are also even now robbing nearly half a million American citizens in Dakota of their right to enter the Union. Having obtained power by openly disregarding the rights of others, they propose to retain it in the same way.
But I cannot enlarge on this theme. I have referred to it solely for the purpose of impressing on my radical prohibition republican friends the fact that we cannot acquiesce in these infamous crimes against the rights of millions of American citizens—crimes which indeed affect every citizen and the result of which cannot be foretold. The issues growing out of the war are not all settled. We must contend for prohibition with untiring zeal, but must also stand immovably by the political rock on which our government is founded, and resist to the uttermost all attempts to undermine it. Let not impatience at apparently slow progress in one direction lead us to deny or forget the vital importance of this matter.
And will not those republicans who have heretofore preferred to deal with the liquor traffic in some other way than by prohibition and are keenly alive to the importance of honest elections, strike hands with us in our warfare against this monster evil of intemperance also? We will help you all we can, but you must not, you cannot, close your ears to the wailing cry that comes from a million homes made wretched by rum. Political rights and suffering humanity, both antagonized by the same party, appeal to our manhood, our hearts, and our consciences. Shall we not close up the ranks and move forward, shoulder to shoulder, against the common enemy? Without your help we are, at present, powerless, but without our help, you now are, and always will be, equally so. Then will you not say with me that both objects can and should, must and shall be struggled for at the same time and upon the same platform? That “the ballot box” and “the home” shall both be protected by the same party?
But here comes a watery-eyed pair of spectacles and gasps, “the prohibitionists have been insulted.”
“A million republican voters implored the national convention to favor protection to the home, and it contemptuously refused to notice their petition. The widow’s only son must be allowed to go to ruin, but the nabob’s profit on his sheep must not be diminished.” This whining accusation is outrageously untrue, and despicably silly. There were not a quarter as many republican signatures to the petition as is alleged, and, as is always the case, multitudes signed without realizing what they were asking. Moreover, the committee on platform did consider the platform very carefully, and gave Miss Frances Willard, the spokesman for the petitioners, all the time she wanted and the most courteous treatment; and its decision to say nothing about the matter was heartily approved by nine-tenths of the prohibitionists of the country. Looking at the matter from the standpoint of a radical prohibitionist, my judgment is that it did exactly right, and that a contrary course would have given the democrats the electoral votes of nearly, if not quite, every state in the union, and the acknowledged whiskey party would have captured the state government also. Even in Kansas Glick would probably have been re-elected.
“So you admit, do you, that the Republican party acted like a coward, and dodged the right principle for the sake of electing a few men to office?” Well, yes, if it pleases you to put it in that way. A wise general never allows the petitions of friends who do not understand the situation, nor the jeers of enemies and jaunts of fools, to lead him to give battle or assault a fortress when he knows a crushing defeat is certain to be the result. He will try first to strengthen his own army or position, or weaken that of the enemy. In 1856 and 1860 the Republican party, with the approval of many of the critics above referred to, refused to favor the abolition of slavery, and but for “that exhibition of cowardice,” etc., Lincoln never would have been elected, and slavery would now be stronger than ever. Again, in 1864 (still with the same approval), it “dodged a right principle” when it refused to declare in favor of manhood suffrage—but the suppression of the rebellion and the enfranchisement of the colored man was the consequence.
I have asked many sneerers, “Do you think the party should have come out for prohibition in 1872, 1876, or 1880,” and the invariable response is “No.” Why? “Because the times were not ripe for it then.” So it is honest and manly to act the coward and dodge vital principles, when you think it is not safe to do so, is it? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 republicans thought the “times were ripe” for national prohibition last year, but two or three million, equally intelligent, disinterested, courageous, and honest enemies of the saloons thought differently; and because the party acted on the judgment of the overwhelming majority instead of the small minority, some honest men and many knaves heap upon it all the contumely they can find language to express. Is it not nauseating to see a few members of this minority going about with tears in their tones and plasters on their faces, calling attention to the places where they allege they have been “slapped” by a convention that declined to raise its hand?
Another assertion which many iterate and reiterate, as though it settles the whole controversy, is that “new issues always require new parties.”
This is much oftener untrue than true. Successful parties represent general tendencies and aspirations rather than specific measures. The democratic party, for instance, has advocated one or both sides of many issues, some of which have long ceased to interest the people. Is there a man here who can tell, offhand, what specific issue brought it into existence?
The motive power of the democratic party is the selfish instinct, and its soul shines forth in the old saying, “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” The motive power of the republican party is the humanitarian instinct, which is best expressed in the golden rule, “Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.” Its first recognized object was to exclude slavery from the territories. This was done in 1861, more than twenty-four years ago, and, according to theorists, it should have died the year it came into power. But, fortunately, it did not, as it has since, in addition to a multitude of minor matters, settled several questions of great importance such as:
The abolition of slavery.
The suppression of the rebellion.
The reconstruction of the Union.
The enfranchisement of the Negro.
The preservation of the National credit.
Upon all except the second of these problems there was, at first, a serious division of opinion in the party; but the majority ruled, and the objectors either accepted and acquiesced in the decision, or left the party. A pumpkin vine bears one crop, and dies; but the fruit tree yields new stores for a long succession of years. Even when the crop was diminished in both quantity and quality, and decay has found a lodgment in its trunk, the owner of a choice tree from which he found his young love in the halcyon days, and under whose shade his children made merry, will not cut it down as a cumberer of the ground until he shall have dug about it, and pruned it, and used every possible means to restore it to health and usefulness. And shall the political tree which has given the nation such wonderful harvests of great and good and glorious deeds be abandoned to the axes of enemies without a determined effort to save it? No, no, my friends! The order for destruction should not be lightly issued. Show a necessity for it, and, though heart-strings break, I will join you; but that necessity must first be established, and it must also be shown that the new party is, on the whole, a better one, and will probably be able to do more work for the country and all humanity.
It is asserted by many that experience in Kansas has proved that prohibitionists cannot safely trust officials who do not openly endorse the principle of prohibition. The answer is, that if true, the proper remedy is to nominate no more candidates of that kind. But I do not entirely admit the proposition. Some anti-prohibitionist officials have done their whole duty; while other officials whose professions of devotion to the cause are pitched on the highest key, have failed to act as they talk. Abraham Lincoln, when elected president, was very far from being an abolitionist, but it was he who issued the emancipation proclamation. Last year the nomination of Col. Martin drew back into the ranks many republican voters, who have since become fully reconciled and are now aggressive supporters of the law. The permanent increase of strength gained by this conciliatory act, vastly outweighs any loss that may have resulted. But, asks an objector, has not Gov. Martin been untrue to prohibition? I answer that, even if he has, the balance is still on the profit side, for the cause. But I do not endorse the charge, as made. It is true that the governor has made grievous mistakes, from which much harm has resulted, and still more is likely to follow, but I am not prepared to assert that there has been any intentional betrayal of the trust reposed in him. I have not refrained from criticizing him with the utmost plainness, but I am as free to admit that it was his duty to exercise his own judgment and act according to his own convictions of duty. Some men appear to be unfortunately constituted that they cannot help defending all the acts of their party and its leading officials, and great harm is the result; but it is equally unfortunate and wrong to denounce as traitors to principle those who may simply be mistaken. Whenever, to accomplish a desired result, men must act together, patient perseverance and a conciliatory spirit is absolutely essential to success.
We should, of course, always fearlessly condemn the wrong, instead of endorsing and consenting to it, no matter who is the derelict or guilty person, and should as persistently advocate the right; but, even when the majority do not at once agree with us, it does not follow that we should despair and thereafter treat them as enemies. When Fremont’s emancipation proclamation was revoked, the hearts of many abolitionists stood still; and when Union generals returned slaves to their owners, they were justly indignant. The temptation was strong to refuse support to a President and party that would permit such things, and a few did thus refuse—but they only weakened one holy cause without strengthening the other. Suppose that, in that trying hour, the abolitionists had, in their righteous wrath, withdrawn from the Union army, organized one of their own, announced their intention of fighting both Federals and Confederates; and suppose, further, they had insisted that, because the confederates were avowedly in favor of slavery, they were more to be respected than the Federals, many of whom professed hostility to the institution, but were still used to keep men in bondage, and that, heretofore, it was their first duty to destroy the Union army; and suppose still further that in accordance with these ideas, they had made their attacks almost entirely upon the Federal armies where they were being most severely pressed by the Confederates, who everywhere cheered and furnished them with supplies: What would have been the result, and what would history have said of them? And yet would not that course have been as defensible as that of the impatient prohibitionist whose chief effort now is to defeat the party that contains nineteen-twentieths of the friends of the cause; and who tries to do this with the full knowledge that success would put the acknowledged rum party in power? A man is, in law (and in common sense) presumed to intend and desire what is most likely to result from his acts. Therefore, it must be presumed that the third party men desire the transfer of the power to make and execute laws from a party, a large part, if not a majority, of which is opposed to saloons, to a party that is almost solidly in favor of them. It is not surprising that saloon men throw up their hats and help pay the campaign expenses of third party candidates; but how really honest prohibitionists can pursue so idiotic a policy, and yet act like sensible men in other respects is more than I can understand.
Our third party friends are never so delighted as when comparing themselves with the old abolitionists, who, in their opinion really abolished slavery. I would not detract one iota from the credit due to Garrison, Phillips, Birney, and those who acted with them, but it is not right to rob others for their benefit. While their eloquent appeals for the slaves did much good, it is also unfortunately true that the excessive bitterness of their language in denunciation of free-soilers who did not agree with them as to methods, as well as of slave-holders, did much harm. Greely, Chase, Giddings, Lincoln, and their associates, undoubtedly made ten converts where the partisan abolitionists made one. It is the leaven in the lump—not that on the shelf that leavens it. Free soil Whigs and democrats, when talking with party friends on this subject, converted multitudes who would have turned their backs on and closed their hearts to those who commenced by denouncing the constitution of their country and the party and church they loved. The Republican party was not an outgrowth from the abolition party, but was generated from the heat resulting from the repeal of the Missouri compromise operating on seed sowed by a multitude of good men, only a small portion of whom were abolitionists. Its position on the slavery question then was more conservative than it now is on temperance, and long after Lincoln was made president, he was denounced by Wendall Phillips as “the slave hound of Illinois.” But as the sympathies and aspirations of the mass of the party were in the right direction, it steadily advanced to higher grounds on the slavery question, just as it is now doing on the saloon question. Before going further, it may be proper to ask, what is the general character of this independent prohibition party? So far as I can judge, it is, excepting on the question of prohibition, substantially a democratic party. It is true that the mass of its members were once republicans, but its most influential members were once democrats, greenbackers, or republicans who have not merely joined another organization to fight the liquor traffic more effectively, but have apostatized from their former principles; and it is not strange that this should be the case. It is natural that the prohibition democrats, with whom the cause is the paramount issue, should leave the party they know is hopelessly wedded to the saloons, and should become leaders in the one they join. Most of the same class of Republican intellects, however, see clearly that, sooner or later, their party must and will rally en masse around the home, and consequently remain in it. The Republicans who go into the third party are generally those who have more enthusiasm, or temper, than judgment; and are thus constitutionally unfitted for leadership. There are, it is true, some ex-republicans who are leaders; but in most instances, their antecedents raise a strong presumption that disappointed ambition, or mercenary motives, caused the change, which would also account for their extreme rancor and their apostasy from other ideas and principles they once advocated. Moreover their avowed intention of destroying the Republican party nationally leads them to belittle and controvert the principles and issues it advocates. It seems to me that no unprejudiced man can listen to the most active speakers, and read the proceedings of the principle conventions of the third party, without feeling that I am not mistaken in this matter. At the New York State convention, held September 11th, the following resolutions were adopted.
“Resolved, That it is the judgment of this convention, that the issues culminating in and resulting from the late war which have been for many years past a source of irritation to the old parties and which have been reviewed at each succeeding national and state contest are a menace to the south and the amity and good will which must prevail in order to secure a happy and united country, and that the time has come when they should be buried from our sight.
“Resolved, That the names, association, and memories of the two old parties (Republican and Democratic) are a constant menace to the peace, prosperity, and tranquility of the nation, and to the end that ‘peace and good will,’ may reign, we call upon all patriotic and God fearing people to unite with us in burying the unhappy memories of the past, and erecting anew our altars of devotion to our common country by engaging in our grand crusade against the great crime of crimes, and all political parties in affiliation with it, to the end that our Sabbaths may not be desecrated, and that our homes and children may be protected and our God honored.”
How does this authoritative utterance sound to men to whom it smacks dishonor to abandon old allies merely because they are powerful and in trouble—ave, look like loathsome meanness and infernal wickedness? In the opinion of these degenerate dough faces of modern New York, even the heart stirring memories of the period when heroes risked their own lives to save that of their country must be buried out of sight, and the very name of the party that abolished slavery must not so much as be spoken in a whisper. The Grand Army of the Republic must, we suppose, hold no more reunions; Memorial day must be tabooed and half the chaplet must be torn from the brow of Lincoln, the emancipator, to be placed on that of Davis, the traitor. These resolutions were, of course, a bid by democrats, apostate Republicans, and unthinking men, for southern smiles and votes, and in all that convention of four or five hundred delegates there was not one to rise up and protest against such despicable truckling.
Others will do as they please, but, for one, I cannot honor a party which, during the first year of its revivified existence, volunteers to swallow so large an amount of the dirtiest kind of dirt, and smacks its greedy lips for more. Uriah Heep never made a more repulsive exhibition of himself. No one else is responsible for what I say, and I will therefore add that, while I take no exception to such a sentiment, when they come from old time democrats and think it natural that they should be anxious to even forget there had been a rebellion, language cannot express the mingled contempt and abhorrence I feel for old time Republicans who seek to do such dishonor to the glorious “memories” that have made our age illustrious. My vision cannot penetrate the future, and, for ought I know, it may yet become necessary for prohibition republicans to bury the party they love so dearly, but if that day ever comes, its requiems will never cease to sound, and the flowers on its grave will be kept fresh by the gratitude and love impelled tears of those whose God is not self. If ever we must go, we will carry with us our devotion to the rights of man and fair dealing. In short, we will be Republicans in fact let us be called what we may.
A favorite argument of some sincere third party men is that their organization will “Divide the solid south.” Don Quixote never started on a more hopeless mission. The political methods in use at the South are not prompted merely by general cussedness and hatred of the Republican party, but by an insane dread of “negro ascendency.” Her rulers actually believe that it is absolutely necessary for the preservation of society that the whites shall be kept substantially solid and the negro vote excluded from the ballot box, or nullified, and they will not permit any division that threatens to change the present political situation in that respect. Most southern prohibitionists are Negrophobites, and the argument there which makes the most votes is that whiskey sellers encourage negroes to steal. They are doing good work, in their way, but no will-o’-the-wisp was ever more deceiving than the idea that an independent prohibition party can be made a success in the south.
There are plenty of people in the old slave states who will talk about the democratic party and would like to join the new one, but when it comes to acting, they care not. The fundamental defect in the southern character is a lack of moral courage. Of physical courage, they have superabundance, but the native southerner who can stand up in a small minority (as Geo. W. Cabel is now doing) and act on their own convictions against the wishes of the ruling class, when it is aroused, is scarce. If the union men of the south had been as aggressive or their views as the secessionists were, there could have been no rebellion. If the whites now there would like to join the republican party were not afraid to do so—if they had the moral courage to act the part of true men—the democrats, in spite of all they could do, would lose half the south at the next election. But—the case is hopeless, at least for the present.
It may be well to consider here the chance of success if radical prohibition Republicans should join the 150,000 in the wilderness. The organization of a successful national political party is not child’s play. There have been hundreds of attempts, more or less, in this country, but of them all, only five ever elected a president and two of these were really one party with different names. Several bid fair, for a time, in the opinion of many, to succeed; but only a very few ever elected a single elector. It is also as hard to kill a once successful national party as to build up a new one. From the foundation of our government only two parties—the Federal and the Whig—have died after once electing a president. The old Republican party merely changed its name (while in power) to that of democrat. The Federal party elected three presidents, and, after a hiatus, during which there was practically but one party, was followed by the Whig party. The Whigs won two national victories, but lost the fruit of both. The national career of that party was one of almost unbroken disaster, and yet, in 1856, it had been practically destroyed by the Know-Nothing party; its remains were strong enough to enable the Democrats to defeat Fremont, and would have been equally potent in 1860 but for the division in the democratic ranks. The democratic party is a still more forcible illustration of the difficulty of killing a once dominant party. And yet, with the plain teachings of history staring them in the face, enthusiastic young men, visionary old ones, and disappointed aspirants for office, appear to imagine that it will take them but a short time to wipe the Republican party from the face of the earth, in spite of its soul stirring record and the millions whose heart strings cling to it so tenaciously.
It is possible that the republican party will never elect another president, but no impartial student of history will ever dispute the proposition that it will remain in existence, a power for good or evil, long after this century closes. Under these circumstances can the third party ever succeed? I think not. Radical prohibition Republicans can, by leaving its ranks, permanently drive it from power, but by so doing, they would enable the old bourbon democracy, strengthened by radical whiskey republicans, to tighten its grip on the nation. Would that help the temperance cause? And if so, please tell me how. There are not enough radical prohibitionists—that is those with whom prohibition is the paramount question—in all the parties in any state to constitute a majority. Radicals are always in the minority, and never succeed until they, in some way, secure the support of a portion of the conservative element. With the republican party hopelessly crippled, and doing by the prohibition party what that party has done and is still trying to do by it, would not the saloon element have an indefinite lease of power?
Perhaps some verdant youth will suggest that, in such a contingency, the prohibitionists and republicans could unite and sweep the field. Perhaps so; but would they? On what basis could they unite? Would the prohibitionists who now denounce the republican party more frequently and bitterly than they do democracy, the saloon and the devil combined, vote the republican ticket? Would the republicans under such circumstances, support a ticket nominated by its most abusive enemy? Hardly; and what then? You tell; I cannot.
Some third party men lay the flattering unction to their souls that, although they will never elect a president, they will do good by teaching the Republican party a lesson. This is a mild way of saying we will punish certain friends by refusing to work for them for certain principles and measures, about which we are all agreed because they will not unite with us in favor of either measures they are opposed to entirely, or do not think it the proper time to bring to the front just now. They appear to forget that converts are seldom made by blows in the face, especially when dealt by professed friends. The assailed persons are much more likely, when able to do so, to give lesson for lesson and return blow for blow. Does it ever occur to honest and sensible third party men that the blows they strike fall mainly on friends instead of enemies of their cause? Is it possible that they are ignorant of the fact that everywhere dram sellers urge radical prohibition republicans to join the third party, and taunt them with inconsistency when they refuse to do so? Do they not know that whiskey democrats help to pay their campaign expenses and really regard its members as practically assistant democrats! And what is more, that they are right in doing so? Are they so utterly blinded by childish impatience, or by anger at the failure of others to do their duty, or at their own shortcomings, or by wounded vanity, that they cannot see the one thing essential to their success is concentration? The saloonists have undisputed control of the democratic party, and are steadily drawing their friends into it from all other parties. So long as prohibitionists are seriously divided they will be defeated, and the watchword of the hour should therefore be concentration. The aim of all sincere prohibitionists should be to harmonize, and to do this we must rise above prejudice and not stickle on non-essentials. Is it not easier for fifty men to walk twenty miles than for a thousand men to walk fifteen miles? Is it not easier for the few to go to the many than for the latter to go to the former? Three-fourths of the prohibitionists are republicans, and not one in twenty is a third party man. Shall the nineteen be required to go to the one? Would it not be better to persuade the one-fourth to go to the three-fourths?
Is the republican platform objectionable to the minority? The third party creed is at least almost equally so to the majority. The truth is that few thinking men ever endorse all of the planks of their party platform, without reservation or special interpretations. The language of a platform is of little importance in comparison with the spirit and real object of a party. Let the national republican party once become the acknowledged enemy of the saloon, and most of the sincere prohibitionists from other parties should, and, I think, will join it, in spite of objections to some portion of its platform, and those who do not join it will be more than offset by anti-prohibitionists who will remain in its ranks and vote its ticket. Cannot prohibitionists in other parties do more for the cause by joining the republican party and helping to commit it more entirely to the right, than they can by putting their votes where they know they will not count against the common enemy.
In my judgment the quickest and, indeed, the only way, to secure the triumph of prohibition is through the republican party, but to do this it must, of course, be made an uncompromising enemy of the saloon. Will those who take exceptions to this consider a few facts?
On the old issues, a majority of the people have been and are republicans. The party is now composed of two grand divisions—prohibitionists and anti-prohibitionists—and each of these bodies is again divisible into radicals and moderates.
Radical prohibitionists are those who care even more for prohibition than for the party, while the moderates care most for the party.
Radical antis are those who will abandon the party when it becomes necessary to choose between it and the saloon; while the moderates will stand by the flag, no matter what is the attitude of the party toward the saloons.
It follows, therefore, that wherever the prohibitionists control the republican party, they will poll the votes of all the friends of the cause in the party—the most conservative as well as the most radical—and those of a majority of its opponents also. In some states, the prohibition republican party could succeed without outside help, but in others it would be defeated until earnest prohibitionists from outside joined it, or temperance boys grow into men. That they would soon be thus recruited is altogether probable. Men will join a powerful party for the purpose of securing a desired result, who will not join a weak one that is evidently unable to accomplish it, and a large majority of the young men who are growing up are enemies of the saloon.
This policy of working first in and then through the republican party, which is heartily commended to the republicans of other states, has been tested in Kansas and works well. With one exception, a large majority of the antis have voted for the prohibitionists on republican tickets; and that exception was on account of the individual and not of the principle.
But, says an objectioner, the prohibitionists are stronger in Kansas than elsewhere. That being true, division is all the more dangerous where the cause is weak. Our success is the result of intelligent, persistent, and self-sacrificing work; and prohibition will succeed in any state where its friends follow our example for a series of years—certainly much sooner in this way than in any other. I have no words of defense for the Ohio platform, and am not surprised that Ohio prohibitionists were nauseated by it. But they should remember that they were themselves much to blame. If they had attended the primaries, they could have controlled the convention and made the platform to suit themselves. Having failed to do their duty then, they could not help the matter by practically helping the enemies of honest elections. If I had been a citizen of Ohio, I think I should have written on my ballot, “voted under protest.” But I would not have been satisfied with that. I would have decided never again to be found napping when I should be awake. One hour at a primary meeting is often worth more than a week’s work at other times and places. This fact is well known and yet millions of “good” people refuse to attend them, and as persistently growl afterwards and lay the blame on the shoulders of others.
Let me, in conclusion, try again to impress on all friends of the cause the undeniable fact that concentration and organization are the chief essentials to success. We must, in some way, unite the great bulk of the friends of the cause, and to this end must bear and forbear. Sometimes, exceedingly plain language has to be used, but when that is the case, it should be done in a right spirit and applied only to those who deserve it.
Republican prohibitionists, especially, should not sweepingly condemn all third party men. As a whole, the latter are as honest as the former. Their error is of the head, not of the heart. They usually have less discretion and political knowledge than zeal and temper—and nothing is more common than for zeal and temper to become so inextricably mixed as to be mistaken, one for the other, and to transform good men into “blind leaders of the blind.” I again, therefore, urge all friends of the cause to always be exceedingly careful not to speak so loosely that condemnation deserved by one shall seemingly apply to another.
Personal vanity, ambition, greed, like and dislikes, should, also, as far as possible, be ignored and the success of the cause ever kept uppermost. We should always be on our guard against plausible theories that promise splendid results—sometime in the future—but give the present advantage to the enemy. It is the practical man who accomplishes great results. Are we misjudged, snubbed, or wronged? Let us not grow peevish, fractious, nor soured; but, remembering that the happiness of millions of men, women, and children is at stake, keep at work doing each day what our hands find to do at that time. We are engaged in a war with a terrible monster on whose side are arrayed long established custom, laziness, vicious tendencies, powerful appetites, and hundreds of millions of money. It is indeed a powerful combination, but to meet it we have the disinterested friends of humanity, the lofty aspirations, and generous impulses of youth, the schools and churches of the land, and the God of the Universe. Victory is absolutely certain; but how soon it will be won or how long delayed, will depend upon the spirit and persistency of our labors.