“An Interesting Letter” The American Sentinel 5, 16, pp. 121-123.

April 17, 1890

HERE is a letter that explains itself. The California whence it is written is not the State of California, but the post-office of that name in Michigan. The ladies of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union are ever welcome to a hearing in our columns.

California, March 11, 1890.


Your paper has become of late a regular visitor in my home, coming from some unknown source, and I cannot refrain from expressing nay astonishment and righteous indignation at the misleading statements and false charges made against the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, in your issue of Feb. 13. In your statement that “the directors of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Milwaukee gave formal notice to the W.C.T.U. that they could no longer have the use of their building for the reason that having allied them-selves with the Prohibition party they must be treated as other political organizations are,” you have purposly [sic.] or otherwise omitted the most important fact concerning that action of which I cannot think you were ignorant.

Why did you not, like an honest man, give the real true reason for such action. Which was that they (the directors) were instigated to this deed by brewers who contributed to the building fund?

You could not have done this and then added as you did, “The management of the Y.M C.A. which through all the ups and downs of the day has kept it straight on its Christian course clear of all entanglements, is worthy of the highest admiration on the part of everybody, as it has it on the part of the AMERICAN SENTINEL.” It is only an evidence of receiving [sic.] bad dollars for a good object, and that never yet won the approval of God or the admiration of good men, your statement to the contrary nevertheless, and I am grieved to see a professedly Christian paper express their “admiration” of a deed that was instigated and accomplished by the saloon element. You say further, “The W.C.T.U. has ceased to be anything but a political club, and its work anything less than a continuous political campaign.” It is certainly the duty of people who make such grave charges, either to prove them or in honor cease to slander the brave organization that stands by the work of temperance reform unstampeded. This charge you cannot substantiate by any word or act upon record. The W.C.T.U. is organized mother love seeking to promote the interests of home and all that a Christian wife and mother holds sacred and dear—working with a determination that yields to no discouragement for the suppression of all that is impure and unholy, and for the advancement of all that is pure and true and good. In calmly reflecting upon your statement, from a personal knowledge of, and a long identification with, the work of the W.C.T.U. I am forced to one of these conclusions—that you are totally [sic.] ignorant regarding the work of the W.C.T.U. or you are wholly in sympathy with the saloon.

Was it the work of a “political campaign” or was it divine love that nerved the heart and brain of Mrs. Mary Hunt to labor and cease not until she had brought State and National protection to the aid of 12,000,000 of the children of our public schools, in securing in twenty-six States and Territories a Scientific Temperance Instruction law? Is the suppression of impure literature and the laws forbidding the sale of tobacco and cigarettes, to minors, the work of a “political campaign?”

Look at the record of the work of the W.C.T.U. among the railroad employes, the soldiers and sailors, the lumbermen; the work of the Flower Mission; ask the men in the jails and prisons of its influence upon them and then answer! We do not claim anything to boast of in our work, but very much to thank God for. In our own State during the past year, we have supported two missionaries in the lumber camps. The men have become acquainted with the name and work of our organization. One fellow said to the missionary, who asked him to sign the pledge, “Yes, I’ll sign it and keep it too, for the W.C.T.U. is the only organization that thinks we poor fellows have souls.” Is this and kindred work among the inmates of our jails, and prisons, and almshouses, that has been blessed of God to hundreds of souls the work of a “political campaign?” If you so regard it, your ideas of a political campaign must be vastly different from those of the majority of politicians. [122]

Will you, as an honest man and a Christian, withdraw the base and false accusation, or will you stand with those who foster and protect the saloon with all its attendant misery and crime? Your statement is nothing less than a wicked and malicious slander of the W.C.T.U.—an organization which has for its chief object, the education of the whole people in the principles of Bible temperance and total abstinence and the ultimate over-throw of the saloon upon which the curse of God rests.

I ask you now, will you look at the record of work done by any one of all of the forty different departments of the Union in the past year, or any year of, their existence which by the blessing of God has resulted in the conversion of many souls in this and foreign lands, and then say wherein it has been of the nature of a political campaign?

If you can say one word in defense of or proof of your statement, I shall be glad to hear from you. If you cannot, your Christian integrity is at stake and demands a retraction of your statement which is wholly devoid of truth as regards the work of the W.C.T.U. I ask only what is just and right.

Refusal or failure to do this will be sufficient evidence that you cannot, or will not, and that your influence and sympathy are given to perpetuate the saloon.

Respectfully, S. L. JEFFERS.

This letter we willingly print. It is plain and to the point. We have not space to reply in detail, to all the statements made, but the principal ones we will notice.

First, in regard to the Milwaukee affair, this letter contains the first and only intimation that we have had that the Young Men’s Christian Association, of Milwaukee, was instigated in that matter by the brewers. And this statement should be supported by proofs. As it stands we say plainly that we do not believe it.

There are two reasons why we do not believe it. First, we are not ready to believe such a statement as that concerning the Young Men’s Christian Association upon ex parte statements, unsupported by any proofs whatever. Secondly, because the thing is improbable in itself, from the simple fact that a party contributing to the building fund of an association does not secure a shadow of authority or right to control the actions of that association. I may contribute to the building of a church or hall, as many people do, yet that gives me no right ever to have any voice in the control or use of such building. In such cases, contributors, as such, have no moral right to any control in the matter, and it is certain that they have no legal right. And therefore to believe that the directors of the Young Men’s Christian Association “were instigated to this deed by the brewers who contributed to the building fund,” is to go directly in the face of all moral and legal probability.

For this reason we say to the writer of this letter,—and we say it respectfully,—that we do not believe that the statement given is the “true reason” for this action. If she has proofs to show that it is so, we will gladly print them, if she will send them to us.

We do not believe that the saloon element controls, or can control, the Young Men’s Christian Association in any matter. And although this lady may be “grieved” to have us say so, and to express our admiration of the Young Men’s Christian Association, it seems to us that she ought to be no less grieved to give her authority to a charge which involves the Young Men’s Christian Association in the control of the saloon element. To us that seems to be a much more serious charge than to say that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is a political club.

This brings us to the second, and in fact the main point. And that is, that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is political. We agree with the writer of this letter that it is the duty of those who make charges to prove them. And it is the settled policy of the SENTINEL to make no charges which it is not able to prove to the satisfaction of all fair minded people.

But says the writer, “This charge you cannot substantiate by any word or act upon record.” Well that depends. We have some records, and we shall quote from them statements that show that there is at least some basis for the statement which we made. In the minutes of the New York convention printed in the Union Signal of November 8, 1888, there is this statement:—

Chairman Dickey appeared before the convention, and asked that Miss Willard be permitted or instructed to sit as a counseling member of the Prohibition Executive Committee. She was so instructed by the convention.

Now the Prohibition party is political and nothing else. Its executive committee is a political body only. That body exists only for political purposes, and its members are such only for political purposes. Their counsels are nothing but political counsels. Therefore when the convention instructed its President to sit as a counseling member of the Prohibition executive committee, that convention did by that action distinctly commit itself to political action and alliance; and it did thereby make itself political.

Notice, the convention was asked that Miss Willard “be permitted or instructed,” etc., and “she was instructed.” If she had been but permitted, no one could justly attach any more weight to it than to any other individual and voluntary action; but when the choice between these two steps was open to the convention, and the convention chose the stronger action and distinctly instructed its president to sit as a counseling member of the executive committee of the Prohibition party, that action became the action of the convention, and as certainly made the National Union political as any action could possibly do.

Again, in the minutes of the same convention, we find that an important delegation so fully understood that the national body is political, that it presented a memorial asking the National Convention to compel the State Unions to conform to the national body in this.

The Illinois Union, by its president, Mrs. Louise S. Rounds, presented a memorial in which is the following statement:—

We further believe that the pledge you gave the Prohibition party … by such an overwhelming majority, gave to you as a logical sequence, a political policy, which no member of your honorable body has the right to antagonize.

We believe precisely with the Illinois Union. We believe that the pledge which the National Union gave to the Prohibition party, and the alliance with that party which the National Union still holds, did give to the National Union as a logical sequence a political policy, and thereby made it a political organization. We believe that the Illinois Union was then considered loyal, and that it is still so to the National Union. Why then, should we be so harshly reproved for believing and saying the same thing that the Illinois Union itself believed and said.

Again, in that same convention, Mrs. Lathrap said in her speech that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union “is political.” Again, we ask why should we be so chastised for saying of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union what so prominent a representative, in open convention, said of it?

Once more, in the National Convention of the National Union held in Nashville, Tennessee, 1887, of which we have also an official copy of the minutes, the following words were spoken in the President’s annual address:—

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, local, State, National, and world-wide, has one vital, organic thought, one all-absorbing purpose, on undying enthusiasm, and it is that Christ shall be this worlds king. Yea, verily, THIS WORLD’S king in its realm of cause and effect; king of its courts, its camps, its commerce; king of its colleges and cloisters; king of its customs and its constitutions. Not a king who hears the Nation praising him far off from the lips outward but one who, dwelling in their hearts, radiates his presence into their daily doings, and make his word as much the text-book of their daily lives, as the multiplication table is of their business transactions. The kingdom of Christ is no poetic fancy with us white ribboners; no mystic dream. It is a solid sphere of fact…. The kingdom of Christ must enter the realm of law through the gateway of politics; as one of our own has said.

Now as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, local, State, National, and world-wide has but the one purpose, the one thought, and that an “all-absorbing one,” of making Christ this world’s king; as that kingdom is “a solid sphere of fact,” and must enter the realm of law through the gateway of politics; then there is no other conclusion, than that the one organic thought and all-absorbing purpose of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, local, State, National, and world-wide, is political. This is the truth, is is political.

We know that the Union “though its forty departments” does much good. We [123] never thought of denying that. By this it has gained its power and influence. And upon this in strictness of truth we are compelled to make a statement that cannot be successfully denied, that is, that the influence which the National Union has gained by all these different lines of work, is used only for a political purpose. Instead of that influence being used to glorify Jesus Christ in a Christian way, it is used to glorify the Union and especially its leadership in a worldly, ambitious, and political way.

We believe that the evidence here given is sufficient to convince fair-minded people that our statement that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is political, was not wicked, nor malicious, nor slanderous. We merely stated what the records of the Union state; we only said what they say. Yet we are somewhat in doubt whether it will convince the writer of this letter or perhaps other members of the Union; because their ideas of what is political are different from those which are commonly supposed to be conveyed by that word. It seems as though every thing that they do is counted religious. That which to others is political, to them is religious. For instance, Mrs. Gougar was once making a regular campaign Prohibition speech. In the speech she personally called the name of a certain person. That person demanded to be heard in reply. He was prosecuted for disturbing a religious meeting. When such things as this are held to be religious, then it is hard to convince those who so hold, that anything is political. But even this refuge cannot protect them from the force of truth, because such a “religion” as that is political, and that only. Not only this, but wherever and whenever religion is connected with politics, that religion is political. Any religion which claims or uses political influence or political power, is political, and that only.

All this is spoken of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union as a body. We believe that there are connected with that body many individual humble Christian women, who do their Christian work in a Christian way, are content with that, and are grieved with the ways of the leadership and the body of the Union, who so persistently continue their political course. We know a number of such women who have separated themselves from the Union for this very reason.

We have not said any of these things out of enmity to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and no fair-minded reader of the SENTINEL can justly accuse us of being a friend of the saloon. We have said these things simply in criticism of the political course of the Union.

Let the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union honestly be what its name demands that it shall be, that is, Christian. Let it work for Christian temperance, in a Christian way. The influence which it may gain by such Christian conduct let it use for the glory of Jesus Christ, and the honor of the Christian name. Let it do this and it will find no better friend in this world than the AMERICAN SENTINEL: but so long as it calls itself political and acts accordingly; so long as it seeks by alliance with the National Reform Association, the American Sabbath Union, and other religio-political organizations, in the effort to secure control of the civil power to enforce religious observances; so long as it works for Sunday laws; so long as it endorses, and calls for the adoption of, a religious amendment to the Constitution of the United States; so long as it holds that Jesus Christ shall be “this world’s king;” so long as it holds the kingdom of Christ to be political and attempts to establish it by political means; just so long, and in all these things, will the AMERICAN SENTINEL criticise its methods, and oppose its workings, and denounce its aims.

A. T. J.

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