IN The Independent of May 22, we find the following announcement:—
A telling example of the evil of intoxicating liquors is that offered by the dismissal of Post-Chaplain John Vaughan Lewis, formerly a popular minister of St. John’s Church, the most fashionable church in Washington City, who was appointed to a chaplaincy in the army in 1883. He was compelled to leave his church by his unfortunate, and we must add, criminal habit of drinking. The habit pursued him after he left the church and while a chaplain in the army. A year ago he was confined in an insane asylum for treatment, after having been recommended for retirement by a re-tiring board. It was hoped that the treatment would result in a partial cure, so that he might be restored to duty; but such has not been the case, and an order has been issued directing his retirement with a year’s pay.
That is also a telling example of the evil of State chaplaincies. There was a man dismissed from the church for drunkenness, and then by some “influence” or other hocus-pocus was made a chaplain in the army. That is to say, he was not fit any longer to belong to a church, therefore it was proper for the State to take him up and give him charge of the spiritual interests and the moral culture of its soldiers.
Addicted to habitual drinking when he was appointed in 1883, he kept it up all these seven years “while a chaplain in the army;” and a year ago he was confined in an asylum for treatment, with the hope of “a partial cure, so that he might be restored to duty.” That is to say, an habitual drinker is worthy to be appointed a chaplain in the army, and so long as he is not entirely gone in besotted inebriety he is capable of performing “duty” as a chaplain. When, however, it is no longer possible to keep him even partially sober then it is proper to retire him “with a year’s pay.” Eight year’s pay, therefore,—not less than ten thousand dollars of public money—has been paid to this chaplain for doing a drunkard’s “duty.”
Such a misappropriation of public money however is a very small item in comparison with the infamous and standing insult thus imposed upon every enlisted man in the United States Army. For, to assume—as the appointment of such a character as that to the office of chaplain, and as the keeping of him there knowing him to be such, does assume—that the soldiers of the United States army are so low and degraded that a confirmed drunkard is a fit instructor in morals and a proper person to take charge of their spiritual interests, is nothing short of an infamous insult imposed upon every enlisted man in the service.
Considerable has been said lately about bettering the condition of the enlisted men in the army. There is plenty of room for it. And the total abolition of the whole system of State chaplaincies in the army and everywhere else, would be an excellent beginning.
Under the circumstances it is difficult to suppose that this man was not known to be what lie was, when he was appointed. For President Arthur, who appointed him, was an attendant at the very church of which he was a minister before he was appointed chaplain. It is indeed atelling example.
A. T. J.