Rum and Lemonade

June 02, 2005

Dr. Curmudgeon wonders "what exactly was the accident with the rum and lemonade? Is that some kind of New Hampshire cocktail?"

Very close - the intended cocktail was wine and lemonade, but French grabbed the wrong decanter. Full story below the fold.

French himself was a second tier New Hampshire politician and lifelong Mason. He ended up as the head of the American Masonic order in the 1850s and 1860s. He served as Clerk of the House of Representatives in the 1840s and 1850s, then after switching his allegiance from Democrat to Republican he served in the city public works during the civil war. I forget the details, but recall that he was constantly working with Lincoln about the civil defenses of the capital during the Civil War. French grew up in New England Congregationalism and flirted with reform, including taking a Temperance Pledge, before returning, as did many of his contemporaries, to drinking and smoking in the 1850s and 1860s. He ended up drifting into the Unitarian Church, the least doctrinal and most works-oriented of the mid-century religious choices.

Things to notice:

  • French presided over a temperance meeting but drank wine and had rum readily available in his house.
  • Some temperance advocates wanted to focus on all alcohol, while French and many early temperance reformers were more interested in social control - the whiskey epidemic - than in the more expensive tipples.
  • French resents the crusading temperament common among New England reformers.
  • French is deeply concerned that he might be a heretic: he rejects the specific proposals made by the mainstream clergy, but still grants them a large dose of moral authority - like modern secular jews who define Judaism by the most Frum Orthodox standards.
All italics are in the original, and were almost certainly underscores in the manuscript diary.

Donald B. Cole and John J. McDonough [ed]
Benjamin Brown French
Witness to the Young Republic:
A Yankee's Journal, 1828-1870.

University Press of New England, Hanover NH, 1989.

June 2, 1831.
".... Went to ride with Pierce this morning. Was in at the State Temperance meeting, took the chair as Vice President, came home and drank a glass of rum by mistake, thought it was wine, & poured it into a tumbler full of Lemonade. Pierce quizzed me for it very much. Never mind, I shall pay him one day. Temperance is a glorious affair -- if it be not intemperately followed. There are men in the world who never ought to have been unclouted -- they are children in years. One of this class made a motion that foreign wines should be debarred access to those throats which are so often stretched in the cause of temperance. How very ridiculous; those very wines, if they could be generaly used in the community would do more to promote the cause of Temperance than 10,000,000 speeches from grown-up babies. I wish the Temperance cause well with all my heart, but I fear the imprudence of the Reverend Clergy will upset it all -- they are the most imprudent class in the whole community, the orthodox clergy I mean, they think everything must be driven -- not so -- men may be coaxed but not driven. I fear I am getting to be a heretic. Is there a hereafter? I believe there must be; it cannot be that we are to end when this tenement of clay becomes uninhabited. If so what motive could have caused our existence. But on this serious matter I grow sleepy, & it's after 10. I am for bed." p 19

Posted by Red Ted at June 2, 2005 08:41 PM | TrackBack