Livesey autobiography — chapter 18

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My Autobiography would hardly be complete if it did not include a notice of the public celebration in Preston of my 80th Birthday, on March 5th, 1874. I feel, however, a greater difficulty in compiling this chapter than any of those which precede it. The occasion brought to Preston representatives from most of the great temperance organizations in the kingdom. The day’s proceedings began with a Conference, held in the Corn Exchange, and amongst others present were Mr. Barlow, President of the British Temperance League; and also Mr. Crossley and Mr. T. Clegg; Mr. R. Rae, Secretary of the National Temperance League, with whom were Mr. Selway, Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Jabez Inwards. Mr. Logan, of Glasgow, represented the Scottish Temperance League. In the evening, the public meeting was preceded by a tea party, both held in the Corn Exchange. The public meeting was presided over by Mr. Robert Benson, and was addressed by about a dozen speakers from London, Glasgow, Manchester, Bolton, Preston, &c. The report of the proceedings of the day occupied nine lengthy columns in one of the Preston papers, and it is difficult to select from so much matter. I cannot spare space for even the merest outline, of the many speeches delivered, but I give the following by the chairman, who said:—

We are met this evening to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the birth of our esteemed and venerable townsman, Joseph Livesey. There is no one amongst us that deserves our esteem and respect more than he does. Throughout the greater portion of his life he has not only been a political reformer, but, what is of much higher importance, he has been a social and moral reformer. We all know that he was one of the first who took a prominent part in raising the standard of teetotalism in our town and in this country. The principle of the abstinence from alcoholic drink lies very much at the root of all social reforms, and therefore, impressed with the importance of these truths, he has given us line upon line, tract upon tract, leaflet upon leaflet, lecture upon lecture,—spending his strength and his wealth in endeavouring to persuade his countrymen not to touch, taste, or handle these drinks, which have produced, and are still producing, by far the greatest amount of sin, misery, and woe. So much good seed cast broadcast over the length and breadth of our land has yielded, I have no doubt, an abundant harvest, and very many have cause to bless the name of Joseph Livesey. We must all rejoice that he has been enabled to carry on this work for so lengthened a period, and been permitted not only to attain the patriarchal age of three score years and ten, but ten years over; and I do but express the earnest desire of all friends, that he may be favoured to enjoy the remaining years that may be granted him in the quiet and peaceful retrospect of a well-spent life.

The first speaker was Mr. Bradley, who presented the following address:—

To Joseph Livesey, Esq.

The Committee and members of the Preston Temperance Society have much pleasure in tendering their warmest congratulations to their old friend and fellow-townsman, Joseph Livesey, Esq., the venerable patriarch of the Temperance cause, on attaining his 80th natal day, with a fervent prayer that God, in His goodness, will spare and sustain him in health and strength for many years yet to come, so that he may continue his invaluable services to the good cause of Total Abstinence, in which he has so long and successfully been engaged.—March 5th, 1874.— (Signed)—Edward Edelston, James Duthie, Robert Benson, J.P., George Toulmin, J. A. Ferguson, Thomas Evans, David Irvin, J.P., William Bowker, Thomas Walmsley, Daniel Mayor, James Leech, Thomas Rawsthorne, J. J. Cockshott, John Proffitt, E. Dean, Joseph Dearden, Thomas Valiant, James Hodgson, W. R. Thorp, Joseph Jesper, Thomas Margerison, Richard Goring, George Garratt, Joseph Toulmin, William Blackburn, Rev. W. Hodges, James Toulmin, Thomas Hodgson, Robert Arkwright, William Coles, James Edelston, J. Archer Bowen, M.D., George Fish, Henry Garstang, Henry Bradley, W. Sowerbutts, James Garnett, John Irving, Henry Cartmell, Edward Smith.

Mr. Barlow, of Bolton, presented the address from the British Temperance League, the oldest of the many Leagues which we have now at work in furtherance of the cause. The following is a copy of the address:—

To Joseph Livesey, Esq., on his Eightieth Birthday.

Dear Mr. Livesey,—The Executive of the British Temperance League greets you on this your 80th birthday. The association with which we are connected, and which is somewhat fully represented here to-day, is not strange to you. Some of your earliest labours in the work of temperance principles and social reforms were in connection with the British Temperance League Association—now called the British Temperance League,—and from then till now—more than 40 years—your name and work have directly or indirectly been associated with it. The principles you hold so dear, and which you have so nobly advocated, are the foundation principles upon which our organization is built; and although our views and yours in reference to matters of detail have not always been in perfect harmony, yet, we have agreed to differ on many points, always maintaining the most perfect agreement in reference to the true basis of the movement, namely, total abstinence, pure and simple, for the individual, and restriction, with the view of the ultimate overthrow of the liquor traffic by legislative enactment. And now, dear sir, permit us to express our earnest hope, that although you have already passed the allotted age of man, your useful life may be spared yet many years; and that when your Master calls you, may you peacefully fall asleep, having the consciousness that you have done what you could to remove the curse of drunkenness from our land, and that your children may catch your mantle, and may go forward to the battle, and that to them may be graciously permitted to wear the laurels of victory.—We are, dear sir,

JAS. BARLOW, President. WM. HOYLE, Treasurer. DAVID CROSSLEY, Chairman. E. B. DAWSON, Hon. Sec. T. ATKIN, Sec.

Mr. Logan, of Glasgow, next presented the following:—

Address from the Directors of the Scottish Temperance League to Joseph Livesey, Esq., of Preston, at the celebration of his 80th Birthday, 5th March, 1874.

Dear Friend,—Having learned that you are to be honoured by a public celebration of your 80th birthday, which occurs on the 5th of March, the Directors of the Scottish Temperance League gladly avail themselves of the occasion to express their high appreciation of the great services which you have rendered to the temperance movement, and their high admiration of your character as a man and a public benefactor.

To the town of Preston belongs the great honour of originating the total abstinence movement as a national and aggressive movement, and among its originators and early propagators no one was more prominent or more abundant in labour than yourself. Your name has been a household word in temperance circles throughout the length and breadth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and far beyond these countries, since the very beginning of the movement. As an author and a lecturer, you did much to launch the infant cause upon the great sea of public opinion. Your visits to the principal towns and cities in the kingdom, and the delivery of your famous Malt Liquor Lecture attracted wide attention, and laid broad and deep the foundations of the movement that has now found a place in almost every town and village and hamlet in the land, and which is now all but universally admitted to be one of the greatest and most beneficent enterprises of the age. During the entire period of its existence your labours have been unremitting; for the last 42 years you have consecrated your talents, your time, your energies to the advancement of the cause. By means of your efforts the drunkard has been reclaimed, and the young and the sober have been shielded from temptation.—”The blessing of him that was ready to perish has come upon you.”

You have edited and published newspapers and periodicals on your own responsibility; you have written and published and circulated tracts and pamphlets and lectures; you have lectured and visited from house to house, at all times and in all seasons, and all without fee or pecuniary reward; you have adhered to the practice of total abstinence in health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow, and after an experience of 42 years, and with the weight of 80 summers and winters on your head, your faith in its adaptation to men and women at all ages and in all circumstances is unshaken. Your faith in the simple practice of total abstinence has never failed; when others have become impatient of results, and have resorted to other methods of advancing the cause, you have preferred to walk in the old paths, and have refused to follow the multitude in what you believe to be mistaken and short-sighted policy.

We admire your talents, your courage, your faith, your patience, your labours of love. We honour you for your devotion to the temperance cause for the long period of 42 years, and for all the good that you have been enabled to accomplish. We congratulate you upon having attained to the advanced age of four score years, with your intellect unclouded, your affections warm and generous, and your enthusiasm, philanthropy, and patriotism unabated. We hope that you may still be spared in the enjoyment of a hale and useful old age, and be privileged to witness still greater results from your efforts; that the evening of your life may be calm and peaceful, and when your work is done, that you may receive the approval of the Great Master, to whose service you consecrated the best energies of your life.

Signed in name and on behalf of the Directors, WILLIAM COLLINS, President. NEIL M’NEILL, Chairman of Board. WM. JOHNSTON, Secretary.

Mr. Selway, of London, speaking for the National Temperance League, explained that Mr. Bowly, the President, was unavoidably prevented from presenting their address. While the other addresses were in the usual form suited for framing, this of the National League was got up like a large folio album, in order to afford a sufficient number of pages for the large number of signatures, which, being executed in fac-simile, gives the book a greater interest and valuation, as including a selection of autographs of the leading temperance men throughout the kingdom. The following is a copy of the address:—

To Joseph Livesey, on completing his eightieth year, 5th March, 1874.

You have this day been permitted to accomplish fourscore of years, and from the vantage-ground thus attained can look back upon a life not only protracted beyond the average, but one that has been as useful as it has been long. The welfare of the people, the diffusion of knowledge and liberty, civil and religious, have ever found in you an ardent advocate and a stalwart champion; but we would on this memorable day refer with especial pleasure and gratification to the years of unremitted toil which you have given to promote the great cause of Temperance, by inducing the people to abstain from those baneful drinks which produce drunkenness, with all its attendant evils and vices.

At a time when men were far more than now slaves to the habit of drinking, and when the belief in the necessity for alcoholic drinks was very great, the strong common-sense of your intellect grasped the idea that total abstinence from intoxicating liquors was the only cure for drunkenness, and with courage equal to the occasion, on the 23rd August, 1832, you originated and signed that pledge which has since become the bond of union of untold thousands, not only throughout the United Kingdom, but in every quarter of the globe, whose health, happiness, and prosperity have testified, and do testify to the advantages following upon the course you then adopted.

For more than forty years, a period greater than a generation of men, you have with unabated zeal and unswerving labour exerted the power of speech and the influence of your pen to promote the great work of Sobriety.

The earliest Temperance literature had you for its author, and the system of conveying truth in homely illustration and pithy sentences into every household by means of small printed messengers is largely indebted for its present great development to your earnest exertions.

Since the first inception of the Total Abstinence pledge how varied have been, and are, the agencies seeking to deal with the gigantic evils resulting from intoxicating drinks! Others may have sought new fields or to map other roads, but you have, amid many discouragements, doubtless, firmly held to your first and true course, unmoved by the lures of fashion or the hopes of ardent spirits who may have thought that they could obtain by change of action a more rapid result. You have ever been true to the cardinal doctrine of personal abstinence, the only true basis of national sobriety; and we feel that the happiest effects must follow on your example being pointed to as that of one who, under all circumstances of trial, disappointment, or success, never lost sight of his one aim, and pursued it with the energy and intelligence of a clear and vigorous mind.

The time has arrived when in the usual course of nature we must soon be called upon to say “Farewell!” Your name has been a household word, revered and respected alike by the child and the father, and it will be long indeed before Joseph Livesey is forgotten by those who have by his instrumentality been reclaimed from intemperance, or prevented from falling into its direful embrace. Their strong-nerved arms and those of their children shall combine to maintain the old flag in all its stateliness, and many a good man will seek to catch your falling mantle.

The day is far spent, the labour has been heavy, the rest shall be sweet; the light that shone more and more unto the perfect blaze of midday glory may somewhat wane, but “at eventide it shall be light.” The presence of Him who has been your support in days of trouble will not leave you at the midnight hour, and when the joyful morning dawns, the greeting cry shall be, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” That this may be so is alike the belief and the earnest prayer of the undersigned, who heartily congratulate you on this your 80th natal day.

[The address was signed by more than 220 representative temperance men in all parts of the United Kingdom, including the following:—Samuel Bowly, President of the National Temperance League; James Barlow, J.P., President of the British Temperance League; Samuel Morley, M.P., President of the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union; Sir Walter C. Trevelyan, Bart., President of the United Kingdom Alliance; William Collins, President of the Scottish Temperance League; Arthur Pease, President of the North of England Temperance League; John Harding, President of the Western Temperance League; Charles Sturge, J.P., President of the West Midland Temperance League; G. E. Norton, President of the Dorset County Temperance Association; W. S. Caine, President of the South Lancashire and North Cheshire Total Abstinence Union; Henry Munroe, M.D., F.L.S., Grand Worthy Vice-Templar of the Independent Order of Good Templars; J. A. Bowen, M.D., Chief Templar of the United Templar Order; Thomas Kooke, M.A., Honorary Secretary of the Church of England Temperance Society; Major-General F. Eardley-Wilmot, B.A., F.B.S., London; Bear-Admiral Sir William King Hall, K.C.B., Devonport; Major B. C. Stileman, J.P., Winchelsea; Eev. Canon Babington, M.A., Brighton; Rev. Newman Hall, L.L.B., London; Rev. Stenton Eardley, B.A., Streatham; Rev. Robert Maguire, M.A., London; Rev. Charles Stovel, London; Rev. William Beid, Edinburgh; Rev. Charles Garrett, Liverpool; Rev. William M’Kerrow, DJX, Manchester; Rev. Joseph Brown, D.D., Moderator of the United Presbyterian Synod; E. S. Ellis, J.P., Chairman of the Midland Railway Company; J. Ashworth, Bochdale; Edward Baines, Leeds; B. S. Bartleet, J.P., D.L., Redditch; J. D. Bassett, Leighton Buzzard; John Broomhall, J.P., Penge; J. Cadbury, Birmingham; T. Clegg, Manchester; Thos. Cook, Leicester; Joseph Crosfield, Reigate; George Cruikshank, London; W. H. Darby, J.P., Brymbo; James Edmunds, M.D., London; Charles Gilpin, M.P.; Jonathan Grubb, Sudbury; John Hughes, London; Charles Jupe, Mere; Alderman Lee, Wakefield; W. D. Lucas Shadwell, J.P., D.L., Hastings; Alderman Nield, Warrington; Hugh Owen, London; George Palmer, J.P., Reading; W. I. Palmer, Beading; W. B. Robinson, Portsmouth; William Rowntree, Scarborough; T. B. Smithies, London; William Saunders, London; James Stubbin, Birmingham; William Tweedie, London; Edward Vivian, J.P., Torquay, &c, &c]

A letter of congratulation was read from Mr. Thornton, Secretary of the Western Temperance League, as was also the following:—

Congratulatory address from the Committee of the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union to Joseph Livesey, Esq., on his eightieth birthday, March 5th, 1874.

Dear Sir,—We desire to congratulate you on the attainment of your eightieth year, and to express our admiration of your long and faithful labours on behalf of the Temperance movement and Bands of Hope. You have the distinguished honour of having been one of the founders of the Temperance reformation, and enjoy the felicity of living to see it established on a high and enduring basis. Your personal and gratuitous advocacy of total abstinence in days when advocates were few, and treated with contempt and persecution, was ever firm, gentle, wise, and powerful. Your sacrifices for the good cause were cheerfully made. Your publications the Moral Reformer, the Staunch Teetotaler, and the famous “Malt Lecture,” attest the wisdom, clearness, and philanthropy of your mind and heart, and the “Malt Lecture” especially will long remain a text book in our literature. You have also always taken a deep interest in the young, and sought by many kindly efforts to prevent them becoming the victims of our national curse. For all this we, in common with all Band of Hope workers and other Temperance reformers, hold you in sincere esteem.

We trust that, in the providence of the Universal Father, your latter days may be full of peace, and we can assure you that when you have passed away from our presence to your reward we shall cherish your memory with tender regard, and enrol your name among the benefactors of mankind.

We remain, dear sir, on behalf of the Committee,
Yours faithfully,
Samuel Morley, President. Silas Tucker, Chairman of Committee. George W. M’Cree, Frederic T. Smith, Secretaries.

I had of course to acknowledge the presentation of the addresses, and also the many references to my labours in the cause which had been enlarged upon by the various speakers. I make a few extracts from the lengthened address I delivered on that, to me, very memorable occasion. I remarked: —I have long laboured to ward off such a celebration as that which has taken place this evening, but it appears that with all my caution and stratagem, and obstinacy I may add, I have been unable to be a match for the Preston, the London, the Scotch, and other Leagues upon this very important question. I never liked presentations. I have always written against and spoken against them, but I will not trouble you with my reasons excepting one, and I think that reason has weight in it. It is this—that a great deal too much honour is done to the individual, and others deserving either as much or nearly as much are overlooked. Persons who receive presentations, and to whose honour celebrations are got up, are often possessed of means and opportunities which do not fall to other obscure persons, poor persons, persons hampered with other engagements, who often labour as hard as I have done, and they are passed by, whilst I receive the congratulations from every part of the kingdom as well as from my Preston friends, and for which certainly I ought to feel extremely obliged. This is one reason, my friends, why I am opposed to these presentations. I could give other reasons, but then, perhaps, they would not tend to the edification of us on the present occasion. I did feel when I came into the room that I should feel embarrassed on this occasion, but when I came to look round me on the platform and see so many of my old friends, I felt in a great measure relieved from that embarrassment. * * * The total abstinence cause is the one to which I have given the greatest amount of my labour and attention, and it is the cause at the basis of which I do not hesitate to say every other cause owes its prosperity. Unless you can do away with the drink and the drinking system you neither can secure the education of the young nor the establishment of religion amongst the people. You can secure neither political liberty in its proper and highest sense, religious progress, nor anything else that is good, because so long as people drink they are in an unfit state either for individual improvement or for social progress. Worse than the public-house, bad as that is, the taking of intoxicating liquors is greatly spread in the homes of the people. What is termed a respectable drinker’s house is the house for the spread of intoxication,—for the promotion of drinking. There is drink on the table in the morning, noon, and very often at night; and it is always in profusion on every social occasion. We have to labour to counteract all this, to say nothing of the inherent desire everyone brings into the world with them in favour of the drink. There was a time, my friends, some of you remember it—oh, I do remember it well, and if that time could come again I would really be like the Primitive Methodists—I would shout “Hallelujah.” The time I refer to is from the year 1832 to 1837—five years, during which we laboured hard, and to which Mr. Clay in his reports, again and again referred, showing that crime had diminished; five years, during which we had a number of demonstrations in favour of teetotalism at our procession meetings in the Theatre, when our anniversaries occupied six nights in the week, and when we had members of Parliament in the chair—great men every night. Our cause, my friends, has been going back. We have to start again, to begin again. Now, I want another beginning, another earnest start. Our organization may seem slender compared with those engaged in the opposite profession, yet with so much truth on our side, that gives us the advantage. The drink system is bad, and the arguments we use against it cannot be controverted. All who enjoy the blessings of perfect sobriety have a good word for teetotalism, but there are so many bound down by the chain of custom and usages, that they have not the courage to act according to their convictions. My friends, let us vigorously commence again; let us see if we cannot this Spring make a spring in favour of the old cause. You women can do a vast deal more than you do—infinitely more than you are now doing, in persuading people to leave that course of indulgence, idleness, and indifference to which they had been so much addicted. We should all try while we live, my friends, to do all that we can in the way of conferring blessings upon our fellow-creatures. We all profess to be Christians. Whether we be Catholics, Protestants, or Dissenters, no matter, we all like to be called Christians. Now, what is the character of a Christian? You will read it, my friends, in the parable of the prodigal son, also in the parable where the woman had ten pieces of silver and she lost one, and searched diligently until she found it; you will read it in another parable adjoining, where a man had a hundred sheep, one of which went astray, and he left the ninety and nine in the wilderness and was determined to find the one, and when he found it he put it on his shoulders and came home rejoicing, calling his friends and neighbours together. The meaning you all know. It is this—that there is greater joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than there is over the ninety and nine that need no repentance. We see men going to ruin; ministers of religion see and know individuals in their congregation, and also out of their congregation, who are drinking themselves to death, and yet they do not put up the warning hand. My dear friends, every one of you must try to pick out one that you know something about, and associate yourselves with them. It is not only for you to proclaim the teetotal doctrine from the platform, to enlighten the people, and to get their judgments informed accurately, but it is perhaps more influential and better in the long run that you should associate yourselves with them. There is not only light, but love wanted. No thorough teetotaller should live a day, should never sleep a night without considering—now, what can I do to benefit those people stricken or bowed down by the curse of strong drink? You must excuse me, my friends, but we do nothing compared with what we should do. We do nothing compared with what we did at the beginning of our enterprise, when our society prospered amazingly, and it was all because there was more attention, more zeal, more self-denial, more visiting, more determination to face the enemy, more carelessness as to what people said about us, and of us, and of our labours. And that which produced good results 40 years ago, the very same doctrine and the very same labour, will produce the same results at the present time.

Since the eventful celebration above noticed, more than seven years have elapsed, and on the recurrence of the 5th of March in each of those years, my kind friends at Preston have, through a deputation from the Committee of the Temperance Society, presented me with a congratulatory address. On each birthday since my 80th, friends in other towns have telegraphed me kind messages of congratulation; on some occasions these have been sent from public meetings held on the evenings of March 5th, in the respective years since 1874. In the present year (1881) amongst other letters which I received was one from Sir Edward Baines, formerly M.P. for Leeds, who, as chairman of the Leeds Temperance Society, forwarded a resolution of congratulation from that Association, adopted at a public meeting. On the morning of the 5th, a deputation, consisting of Mr. George Ling, representing the Central Temperance Association, and Mr. W. Walkley, president of the North London Temperance Society, and representing also the St. Pancras Total Abstinence Society, called upon me, having come from London for the express purpose of presenting the congratulations of those organizations, handing me a copy of the following resolution, passed at a meeting held in the Central Temperance Hall, Bishopgate Street, London, presided over by Wm. Saunders, Esq.: —”That this meeting of the members and friends, at the anniversary of the Central Temperance Association, hereby express their thanks and gratitude to God for the present position and power of the temperance movement, and desire to congratulate Mr. Joseph Livesey, of Preston, on attaining his 87th birthday, wishing him health and happiness further to witness the triumphs of that principle to which he has devoted with disinterested fidelity nearly 50 years of his long and honourable life.”

The latter part of this work being undertaken in my 88th year, and when in enfeebled health, is necessarily less complete than the former portion written in 1867 and 1868. Those who desire a fuller history of the commencement and progress of the teetotal movement, I must refer them to my “Reminiscences of Early Teetotalism.”


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