The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony


SBA to the Editor, Carson League [1]

Mr. Thomas,

During the past week, Mrs. Albro and myself have spoken in the villages of Jordan, Elbridge, Cardiff, Tully, Fabius, Lafayette, Fayetteville and Manlius.[2] The meetings were well attended. Men, women and children, all turn out, curious to see the women lecturers, and hear what they may have to say. In many places the people seem unwilling to commit themselves with regard to the propriety of woman's publicly advocating the Temperance Reform, and that unwillingness is greatly increased where the clergy refuse to give countenance to the movement. The power of the clergy over the minds of the people, particularly the women, is truly alarming. I am every day, more and more made to feel the importance of woman's being educated to "lean not upon man but upon her own understanding."[3] The question now, with the masses of the women, is not whether they may be instrumental in doing good to society by engaging in the temperance work we propose to them, but, will the minister approve of the plan of action. It affords me much pleasure to state, that, in most of the villages we visited last week, the ministers of several of the churches, gave public testimony in favor of the Women's New York State Temperance Society, and heartily recommended to the women to form auxiliary Temperance Societies and set themselves earnestly and energetically about the work of enlightening the masses and causing them to feel that our only hope in the ultimate triumph of the temperance cause lies in the enactment of the Heaven born "Maine Law." This work, (as your readers doubtless are aware,) we propose to the women to accomplish, by means of banding themselves together, raising a fund and expending it in purchasing temperance tracts and news papers, and distributing them gratuitously, throughout their respective villages and towns, also by holding frequent public meetings. I do wish the women of every town and village of the state would form such societies. We want the right sort of a public sentiment: and the most efficient means of obtaining it, is to place the right sort of reading in every family, that the women and children may be informed, and keep up such an incessant talking about voting for temperance men, that their husbands and fathers will be compelled for peace's sake, if no other, to cast their votes for honest, humane, total abstinence men.
There seems to be a strong determination on the part of the Presbyterian Clergy, to crush this public movement of woman in the temperance cause. It is very seldom that a Presbyterian Church is opened for our meetings, and more seldom that a Presbyterian Priest attends them. All of which is perfectly consistent with the church dogma of theirs, which says woman must keep silence in the churches.
Our most enthusiastic meetings were those at Fabius. Indeed the woman element seemed to be just what was there needed to rouse the people to action. The Baptist, Methodist disciple[4] and clergymen all said they had preached plain temperance truths to the people, but all to no effect, except that the Baptist clergyman is thereby compelled to seek a new home, where the good cause is better loved. Most certain it is, that if the Minister proclaims other truths than those agreeable to his contributing members, his support will be withdrawn and he be left to go hungry until he may chance to find another situation. The Baptist Church retains among its members a rum-seller, who probably pays as much or more money toward sustaining it than any other member, and since the church does not possess the moral power to excommunicate this vile rum-seller, rum has shown itself quite capable of rendering the position of a temperance clergyman so uncomfortable as to compel him to leave it.
The connexion of the churches with the liquor traffic is truly fearful. We can hardly find one but is in some way connected with it. It is my solemn duty to speak against this monster vice of rum drinking wherever it may be found. The place that is not too holy to give shelter to this abomination, is not too exalted to be attacked by both man and woman. I hope the day not far distant when those professing to be the light of the world shall absolve all connexion with the liquor traffic and all who sanction or sustain it.

Yours for Temperance,

S. B. Anthony.

Carson League, 30 September 1852.
    [1.] John Thomas, of Syracuse, was an ally of Gerrit Smith and an editor. From 1849 to 1851 he edited the Liberty Party Paper, and when it merged with the North Star to form Frederick Douglass' Paper, Thomas was listed as contributing editor. The Carson League began weekly publication in June 1851, with Thomas as editor until at least 1854. It was the paper of the Carson League, an association of temperance reformers committed to using the law, the courts, and political action to defeat the liquor traffic. Under Thomas's editorship, the paper reported favorably on a wide range of reforms and encouraged women's activism in the temperance movement. (Douglass, Papers, 5:163n; Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem, s.v. "Carson, Thomas L." and "Carson League.")
    [2.] All towns and villages in Ononodaga County, circling Syracuse on the east, south, and west.
    [3.] A revision of Prov. 3:5.
    [4.] This should, no doubt, read "Methodist, Disciples," as the two denominations were unrelated. Known first as the "Campbellite" and later as the "Christian" church, the Disciples sought to restore Christianity to its primitive form.