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At the time Wisconsin began to be settled by Northeasterners, the temperance "cause" was already well advanced. Organizing had been going on for some time in New England, New York, and other states. Leaders of the movement at the end of the year 1836 estimated that there were in the United States seven thousand temperance societies with an aggregate of about a million and a half members. It was also stated that three thousand distilleries had ceased operations, seven thousand merchants had given up the sale of liquor, ten thousand drunkards had been reformed, and one thousand vessels were sailing without spirits on board.' While the testimony on which these statements rest is ex parte, there is no reason to doubt that temperance reform, already seriously agitated for a dozen years or more, had made substantial progress, especially among the class of Yankees who constituted so large a part of the Wisconsin immigration during the next fifteen or twenty years.

In the new territory, however, the Southwesterners, rather than the Northeasterners, were at first the dominant element; and there was little sentiment among the men of the lead mining region in favor of abandoning the use of strong drink. Accordingly, the territorial statute relating to this subject was a very simple licensing law which applied to taverns and groceries, authorizing county boards, town boards, city and village boards to issue licenses at discretion. That was the law until after Wisconsin became a state in the Union-to be exact, until 1849.

During the 1840's the temperance movement of the country received two distinct impulses through changes in

1 National Temperance Almanac, 1836.

organization. First, in 1842, was established the Washingtonian Society for the reclamation of drunkards, this class having been largely neglected under the earlier movement, which was designed mainly to prevent sober men from falling victims to the seductions of strong drink. The Washingtonian Societies multiplied and penetrated everywhere, supplementing the regular temperance societies which, however, did not maintain their earlier zeal and success. Then, about the middle of the decade a new society, the Sons of Temperance, had its inception, and this organization experienced a remarkable success for some years.

It was the Sons of Temperance that developed the sentiment for the drastic regulation or complete prohibition of the liquor traffic in Wisconsin. The Grand Division of the order for this state was founded at Milwaukee on the twenty-second of February, 1848, with John B. Smith as president. At that time there already existed in Wisconsin some twenty-three or twenty-four subordinate divisions with a total membership of about three hundred. The movement was recent, for the division at Racine dated from March, 1847, and it was number four, locals having been formed a little earlier at Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Hazel Green.2

The organization of the Grand Division imparted to the movement intensity and confidence. Many prominent men joined the order, the newspapers generally treated it with diplomatic caution, if they did not openly sympathize with it, and it was soon realized that it might become a power in politics. During the first session of the state legislature, held in July, 1848, a bill was introduced in the senate by Simeon Mills, of Madison, to repeal the licensing act which had been on the statute book for almost a decade.3 We have only intimations of the substitute which the

2 Old Oaken Bucket (Racine), Dec. 16, 1849, 249.

'The law regulating taverns and groceries. See Statutes of Wisconsin, 1839, 123.

proponents of the repeal desired. But from the discussion in committee of the whole it is clear they wanted to enact the principle "that all persons who shall sell ardent spirits shall be liable in suits at law for all damages which may arise from such sales." Eleven senators gave their adherence to that principle, while eight opposed. Those in favor represented Walworth, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Waukesha, Green, Racine, Rock, Dane, and Milwaukee counties. The opponents of the bill represented Iowa, Crawford, Sheboygan, Washington, Columbia, Lafayette, and Milwaukee counties.

The matter stopped with the senate, the assembly having no such bill before it. But at the next session a bill was brought forward in both houses which was passed and approved by the governor. The resulting statute was referred to as Chapter 29, Revised Statutes of 1849, and was entitled: "An act relating to the sale of spirituous liquors." The distinctive provision of the law was that it required the vendor of liquor to execute a $1000 bond, with adequate sureties, on which he could be sued for any damages either to community or to individual which might be thought to result from his sale of liquor. Town boards could sue to recover damages in case of paupers created by drink sold them; a wife might sue to recover damages to herself and children in case of the husband's neglect due to the same


This act of 1849 was apparently a Wisconsin invention. So far as I can find, no other state had a law similar to it; the temperance press of the country lauded it as a great step forward in temperance legislation, and the temperance people of this state boasted of the state's leadership. At a great meeting of Sons of Temperance in Madison, July 7, they toasted the late legislature, saying: "They washed out a multitude of sins by the act making dealers in spirituous liquors responsible to their victims and to the com

munity for all damages caused by the sale of their poisonous drugs." And yet, the law did not work. In May, 1849, A. Constantine Barry of Racine began the publication of a temperance paper, or magazine, called The Old Oaken Bucket. That paper was made the official organ of the Wisconsin Grand Division Sons of Temperance, and, of course, the editor was profoundly interested in this legislation. He regarded the temperance law as "a good and righteous law" and was pleased with the fact that it was everywhere held up as a model; still he was convinced that "generally speaking, it will remain a dead letter on the statute books. There is a greater law opposed to it and which renders it a nullity. Unless enlightened public opinion and sentiment go along with a law and sustain it, it is good for nothing." And public opinion did not sustain the temperance law.

But the move to repeal the law, in the next legislature, came not from the friends of temperance but from their opponents. In the senate, a repeal bill was introduced by Fred W. Horn, of Cedarburg, Ozaukee (then Washington) County, and in the assembly by Cornelius S. Griffin, who represented Mequon in the later Ozaukee County and Germantown in Washington County. So it was a case of the Germans' seeking to abolish a law which was the most characteristic expression of Yankee austerity. Yankee sentiment, however, prevailed. The Sons of Temperance had extended their organization powerfully during the preceding year, and evidently many politicians were either afraid to encounter their opposition or were genuinely sympathetic with their plans. So, instead of having the law abolished, as they desired, Mr. Horn and his coadjutors suffered the discomfiture of seeing it strengthened by amendment.

'See Madison Wisconsin Express, July 10, 1849. The act, however, was in harmony with the spirit of the temperance crusade. See, for example, Charles Jewett, M. D., Speeches, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings (Boston, 1849).

5 Old Oaken Bucket, Sept. 29, 1849, 169.

Mr. Horn nevertheless derived some satisfaction from the presentation of an ironical minority report in which he delivered views diametrically opposed to those of the Yankee legislators, and since his views are doubtless representative of the German attitude they deserve to be quoted. The majority of the special committee, under the chairmanship of John B. Smith of Milwaukee-head of the Sons of Temperance of Wisconsin-reported in favor of the passage of the bill, which was generally known as the Smith bill. Mr. Horn facetiously asked permission to add a few points by way of "perfecting" the bill (which was sure to pass the senate) so that there might be no chance "for the miserable wretch who sells liquid poison to his fellow men of evading the law and to keep the tippler himself as harmless [blameless] as possible, adopting the principle that no man is responsible for his own acts; but the one [is responsible] who tempted him to commit crime and ruin himself, and your committee trusts that many a poor sinner may, by that doctrine, enter the Kingdom of Heaven, inasmuch as the Devil who tempted him is the only one to blame in the matter."

Then follow several "sections" of a pretended amended bill, the most pointed being the following: "Every and all persons who for the space of twenty-five years and upwards have been steady drinkers in every part of the globe, and by that means may have accomplished their ruin and poverty by degrees and who shall find their way into this state with but one sixpence in their pockets, if that sixpence is paid for liquor, the person so giving or selling the liquor to such person shall support all the orphans and the widow of the man who spent his last sixpence with him; and such liquor vendor shall not be allowed to prove that the ruin of such person has been accomplished years ago, and in other countries, but the words of the law 'justly attributable to such traffic' shall cover all cases of this kind."

Senate Journal, 1850. Proceedings for Jan. 21 and 22, 1850.

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