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National Good Templar
Journey To New Horizons
Celebrating 150 Years of IOGT Work
A review by Derek Rutherford
Edited by Shawn B.
A Noble Past
IOGT was not the first temperance or total abstinence society. There was a sporadic growth of such organizations in the early decades of the nineteenth century, particularly in North America, Great Britain and in several other parts of Europe. Drinking problems had become endemic in these parts of the world and were severely affecting the fabric of society by blighting families and causing poverty, misery and distress to children. Drink was also seen as detrimental to the growth of commercialism and industrialization at the time. Before IOGT came into existence, Richard Cobden, the great leader of the free trade movement in Britain, wrote in 1849:
"The temperance cause really lies at the root of all social and political progression … The moral force of the masses lies in the Temperance Movement, and I confess I have no faith in anything apart from that movement for the elevation of the working classes."
Accomplishing this would require world organizations capable of inspiring the dedication and commitment of the masses. Good Templary was to prove one such organization – a radical movement, ahead of its times in enfranchising women and proclaiming that all were brothers and sisters in one united family.
The first seeds were sown by the Washingtonian Movement when six men signed the pledge in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1840. The impact that this movement had, at the end of its first two years, is evidenced by a speech given by Abraham Lincoln to the society’s meeting at Springfield, Illinois in 1842:
"Of our political revolution of 1776 we are justly proud. It had given us a degree of political freedom far exceeding that of any other nation of the earth. In it the world had found a solution of the long-mooted problem as to the capability of man to govern himself. In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind."
"Turn now to the temperance revolution. In it, we shall find a strong bondage broken; a viler slavery manumitted; a greater tyrant deposed. In it, more of want supplied, more disease healed, more sorrow assuaged. By it no orphans starving, no widows weeping. By it, none wounded in feeling, none injured in interest – even the dram maker and dram seller will have glided into occupations so gradually as never to have felt the shock of change; and will stand ready to join others in the universal song of gladness."
"And what a noble ally this, to the cause of political freedom. With such an aid, its march cannot fail to be on and on, till every son of earth shall drink in rich fruition, the sorrow quenching drafts of perfect liberty. Happy day, when all appetites controlled, all passions subdued, all subjected, mind, all conquering mind, shall live and move the monarch of the world. Glorious consummation! Hail fall of Fury! Reign of Reason, all hail!"
"And when the victory shall be complete – when there shall be neither a slave nor drunkard on the earth – how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place and the cradle of both those revolutions, that shall have ended in that victory. How nobly distinguished that People, who shall have planted, and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of the species."
However, by 1845 the Washingtonian Movement was a spent force, but during its time had reclaimed 250,000 drunkards and three times as many habitual drinkers. However, the relapse rate was extremely high. The society was unable to capture the commitment and loyalty of its members.
In 1842 in New York City, 16 Washingtonians established The Order of the Sons of Temperance, a benefit society. The Sons of Temperance recognized the need for children’s work and established the "Cadets of Temperance." To meet the needs of some of the young people connected with the cadets, who thought they were too old to be associated with children and too young to be admitted to the adult section, a youth section was formed called the "Knights of Jericho." It took as a motto "Humanity, Temperance and Charity." It was from this stem that the flower of Good Templary was to blossom.
At Oriskany Falls (then known as Castor Hollow) a village near Utica, a lodge of the Knights of Jericho was established in 1850. Shortly afterwards, it was visited by 13 members of a group which had been established in Utica. Under the leadership of Wesley Bailey, this body of printers decided to rename the two lodges as the "Order of Good Templars." Thus, in 1851 in Utica, the name of "Good Templar" came into existence.
Its derivation is probably from Orders which had had an existence in America such as Templars of Honour. Knights of Jericho could easily conjure in the mind Templars and the story of the Good Samaritan. Indeed the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan was to be incorporated into IOGT’s Degree of Charity. The motto of the renamed organization was "Friendship, Hope and Charity".
Over the next 12 months, 14 Good Templar lodges were established; by the summer of 1852, a convention was called in Utica to establish a Grand Lodge. During the convention, a dispute broke out between Wesley Bailey and Leverett Coon, who had established a lodge in Syracuse.
Leverett Coon left the meeting and his lodge, Excelsior, in Syracuse supported his actions by renaming the organization the "Independent Order of Good Templars" with the motto altered to "Faith, Hope and Charity". Eureka Lodge in Fayetteville supported this action.
In the same month Coon met Nathaniel Curtis, a prominent Washingtonian, from Ithaca. Curtis established the Forest City Lodge in Ithaca on July 23rd, 1852, and Leverett Coon issued the first charter of his new organization to this lodge. The first six women to become Good Templars were initiated into the Forest City Lodge on August 14th, 1852.
Representatives from the three lodges met in Syracuse at the Empire Building from August 15th-17th, 1852, and established the "Grand Lodge of New York." Coon was not elected President. The position was given to Nathaniel Curtis. Coon, disappointed and his pride wounded at not being placed at the head of the organization, left and little was heard of him again. However, this did not affect the fortunes of the organization, for the leadership was left in strong hands.
After a faltering start, the Order had a phenomenal rise in the United States, establishing itself throughout the Union and in Canada. The reasons for its success were several:
Unlike the Washingtonian movement, whose members relapsed, IOGT was the most successful of all the organizations working at the time in retaining those it had reclaimed from drink. Through its principles and methods of work, it was able to capture and retain the loyalty of its members. It was the most zealous of all the temperance organizations.
In 1891, forty years after IOGT’s birth, Samuel Hastings wrote:
"The ritual of the Order has been translated into ten to twelve different languages. In all parts of the world the same ritual is in use, the same songs are sung, and the same password is everywhere used to gain admission to the lodge room. A Good Templar would be just as welcome in China, in Africa, in New Zealand as he would be at his own home."
"Since the introduction of the Order more than eight million have taken the pledge of total abstinence. Of this number probably not less than eight hundred thousand were hard drinkers and of those at least four hundred thousand have kept their pledge and become active in the cause."
"It has always had within its ranks all classes of men and women – the high and the low – the rich and the poor, the learned and underlearned – and has thus been able to exert an influence in all classes."
"It has had within its ranks two Vice Presidents of the USA, scores of Governors of States, Members of the Congress, Judges of Courts, Members of the Legislature, presidents and professors of colleges, bishops, doctors of divinity and of medicine, labouring men: in fact, men of every profession, trade and occupation, class or condition, race, colour and nationality have been represented in its ranks."
IOGT comes to Europe
The most significant year in its history was 1868. In that year Joseph Malins returned to his native England and held a meeting in a small chapel in Cregoe Street, Birmingham. From this small gathering IOGT was to spread to the continent of Europe and to the rest of the world.
Within two to three years the Order spread to Ireland, Wales, Australia, Malta, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Cape Colony South Africa, Bermuda, Belgium and East India.
By 1876 the Order had been planted in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Madras, British Honduras, British Guyana, the island of St. Christopher, Jamaica, Malacca, China, Japan, Sierra Leone, St. Helena, Argentina, Trinidad, Grenada and the Bahamas.
After 1876 it was established in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Germany and Jerusalem and from 1900 onwards Holland, Burma, Colonial Malay, Nigeria and Panama.
By its golden jubilee celebrations in Utica in 1901 William Turnbull of Scotland in his history of the Order could truly say:
"There is no hour of the day nor night when, in some part of the world, its members are not meeting to proceed the great temperance reform."
After 1910, through the work of the International Chief, Edward Wavrinsky, the Order spread to Russia, Latvia and Italy. In the 1920’s to Finland, Poland and the Dutch West Indies, and in the 1930’s Yugoslavia, Austria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Mysore Hyderbad.
When prohibition was won in the 1920’s, membership in America declined since members felt that victory had been achieved. In the thirties, when prohibition was repealed, IOGT suffered from the aftermath of its association with a prohibitionist temperance movement which had lost political credibility. When AA was founded in 1937 with its disease philosophy, it took on the role of providing a "home" for alcoholics which had been IOGT’s original forte.
World War II adversely affected the work and ground was lost in almost all countries and ceased in a fair number. In 1933, Hitler forced the German organization to leave the international body. At the same time, Dr. Reinhard Strecker was removed as the German leader of IOGT, but after the war was seen as the right person to achieve a smooth reunion. It has since recovered and Germany now has the greatest number of members outside of Scandinavia.
After World War II, IOGT began to rebuild its influence and formulated a new platform in 1947 which emphasized peace work. Soon, the International profile of IOGT was raised once again.
The work among children was officially recognized in 1871 and was soon organized in separate chapters with their own specific rules and rituals. Officially, the lower age limit was 5 years. Members over 16 years were to join the adult lodge. Youth groups were formed within the lodges. Separate Good Templar youth organizations were formed in some countries at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The idea of separate youth groups spread rapidly after World War II. The international umbrella for the youth work, "The International Good Templar Youth Federation" (IGTYF) was founded in 1962, and now acts as a coordinator for all youth and juvenile work of IOGT and forms a strong branch of IOGT.
Major Split in the Movement
A major split occurred from 1876 to 1887 on the issue of separate lodges for blacks and whites. Before the Civil War the Missouri section had taken away the charter of a lodge which admitted black members. Dr. Bristol remonstrated:
"Any man or woman liable to get drunk is a proper person to receive in the Order provided his or her character was good."
Two years before that the North American senior body had received and accepted a black representative without any question being raised.
After the Civil War, matters came to a head when in 1875, to allow for the sensitivities of Southern states, dual lodges and Grand Lodges were allowed. Malins and other British members were not satisfied. They insisted on rigid adherence to the doctrine of racial equality. At the Kentucky meeting in 1876, the British amendment to stop dual lodges was defeated. Malins declared:
"We honour the flag of our country but we love the flag of Good Templary more because it covers all nations and all peoples!"
The British, together with other delegates, left the meeting and established their own international body. Due to the efforts of John B. Finch, the schism between these bodies was healed at Saratoga, New York in 1887.
The development of the American Independent Order of Good Templars into a truly "International Order of Good Templars" was fully accomplished in the thirty year period of 1872-1902. This was acknowledged at the International meeting in 1905 when the title was changed from Independent to International.
The lodge called Good Templars in Utica in 1851 had a lamp shining in its lodge window every night. It was a light that shined as a symbol for the drinker, signifying a home for them and a home for the drinker’s family. By the lodge ritual in the old days, the candle burned.
The ritual is gone, but the candle continues to burn for drinkers and abstainers alike. While there is no uniform method of work and our member organizations vary from country to country, we have remained true to our founding principles expressed in our present motto: “Temperance, Peace and Brotherhood.”