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Jan 1 1900

Opinion of some Local Presbyterian Ministers and Laymen
Would Drive Many from Church--More Liberty to Laymen

There does not appear to be a unanimity of local Presbyterian opinion regarding the action of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States in adopting William Jennings-Bryan's proposal that every minister, church official, member, and the faculties and students of denominational colleges sign a total abstinence pledge. But nearly all the prominent Presbyterians, ministers and laymen interviewed this morning, thought that the ruling was too drastic. Some thought it should apply only to ministers; others considered that it should be only a suggestion or recommendation, while still others described the whole thing as ridiculous.

Bitter--not Bitters

Asked for his opinion, Rev. Dr. Drummond said: "I don't think it will be anything more than a recommendation. I don't think the General Assembly would attempt to compel anybody to sign the pledge. It is not the habit of the church to regulate personal conduct. The question of abstention is something that must be left to the individual. It is not wise to attempt to regulate personal conduct by legislation. The O.T.A. has done a great deal of good and, if it is not altogether a success, we must take the sweet with the bitter--not bitters. The act has made that word singular."

Too Great a Hardship

Rev. J.A. Wilson remarked, "I wouldn't think that too great a hardship. A man going in for the ministry should be free from any such habits as drinking. I would feel like giving a little more liberty to the laymen, but the ministers should set an example in a matter that is, to say the least, questionable. For the layman it should be a matter of conscience. It would be better if he were an abstainer, but I would not dictate to him on the subject."

Better Without Them

Asked if such a rule would not drive many away from the church, Rev. Mr. Wilson replied: "Some might be driven away but we'd be better off without whatever ministers it would keep away."

Rev. S. Banks Nelson's only comment was: "All I have to say is- thank God I live in a free country. That's all I'll say."

Says it is Absurd

William Lees, a prominent Presbyterian layman, said: "Absurd! I am a temperance man and I believe that prohibition avoids the necessity for self-discipline, without which there can be no development. Prohibition is unfair, wrong in principle and will not accomplish what it is intended for.

Shouts to Advertise

"Such a rule would drive many away from the church. Of course, Bryan is in the pay of the Anti-Saloon League, gets some $14,000 a year, I understand and he has to show some activity for the money. He gets up on the housetops and shouts to advertise himself."


Lyman Lee, another prominent Presbyterian and also a lawyer, observed: "I'm surprised that they got that through. It is going a very long way. I should think it would create a certain amount of trouble if put into effect here and I suppose the effect will be the same in the States. It is not unlikely it would cause a certain number to leave the church." 1

1 The McQuesten family favoured abstinence and worked very hard for the liquor referendum in 1902 in Hamilton, which was defeated although many of the saloons were forced to close. Dr. Calvin McQuesten and his son Isaac used to make their own wine and hard cider W5832. Isaac McQuesten was an alcoholic which contributed to his death and, consequently, his wife, Mary, restricted alcohol in the household. However, wine appears to have been was allowed, but perhaps, only for medicinal purposes. Edna mentions receiving a bottle of dandelion wine "Mrs. Stuart brought us another bottle of dandelion wine so I had a swig to keep out the cold." (See W6043, W2440, W5832). Also, the patent medicines of the day contained 40% to 50% alcohol.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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