The Youth’s Temperance Lecturer didn’t last long, but it made an impression on editors of other periodicals, who reprinted various pieces. “Lecture on Temperance” appears to be the first part of either a long piece or a series; Youth’s Companion reprinted other sections detailing intemperance in the bible and in history.

The format is standard for early didactic works, with an all-knowing narrator being fed opportunities to lecture by an attentive child audience. Here, though, the lecturer demands attention from his listeners—a moment perhaps familiar to the author of the piece.

[Transcriber’s note: Single quotation marks are scattered erratically through the piece; instead of attempting to standardize them, I’ve included them wherever they appear in the text.]
“Lecture on Temperance” (reprinted from Youth’s Temperance Lecturer; from Youth’s Companion, Nov 28, 1832; p. 111)

A meeting of the Youth’s Temperance Society, was held in the little white school house, on the green, and the place was full. The President, and Secretary, were in their places, and Mr. Lecturer was called upon to conduct the meeting, which he did, as follows:

Come, little children! I am going to talk to you; and now, I want every little girl, and every little boy, to look straight at me, and keep entirely still, and listen to every word.

I shall tell you some things, and sometimes I shall ask you questions. Whenever I ask a question, and stop for an answer, all the little girls and boys that know, can answer.

Little children, when you walk abroad, into the fields, you see many kinds of animals, such as oxen, horses, and sheep. In the woods there ar wild animals, such as foxes, bears, and wolves. And you see many kinds of fowls and birds. In the rivers and in the sea, are a great many fishes. And in the air, and on the ground, there are a great many insects. Now children, what do you suppose keeps them all alive? Can you tell me? How do they live? What keeps them from starving and dying? You all know they live by eating. You see the cows eat grass. In the winter they eat hay. The horse eats hay and oats. The fowls eat grains. The pigs are fed with corn. Birds feed on worms. Every thing that lives must have food. Little children, and men and women must have food to eat or they cannot live. But all things that grow are not good to eat. Some things are good for cattle to eat, which are not good for men to eat. The ox eats hay. But little Henry cannot eat it. He must have bread, and such kind of victuals to eat.

Now children, do animals ever eat too much, and make themselves sick?—Answer, children, any one of you that can.

Oliver Observer here answered—‘Yes. One of father’s oxen broke into the clover field, last summer, and eat so much that it almost killed him.’

‘Very well, Oliver. It is true that such cases sometimes happen. It is supposed that wild animals seldom, if ever, do this. But tame animals, such as live with men, seem to have learned their bad habits, and sometimes eat too much.—But they do not know any better. But men ought to know better; and yet they eat too much, oftener than the brute animals do, and this is the reason, (as Physicians think,) why they are oftener sick. Men, too, have many more kinds of diseases than horses, sheep, and oxen; and the reason probably is, because men eat so many more kinds of victuals, all mixt up together.

Men are sometimes very proud of knowwing so much. They know more than the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air. They can talk, and reason, and read and write, which the brute animals cannot do. And yet the birds, and the beasts, act as though they were much wiser than men, about some things. They take much better care of their health than people commonly do. Every day you may see people who have hurt themselves by eating and drinking. But it is only once in a great while, that a horse or an ox is known to do so. Some people, who almost kill themselves with intemperate eating and drinking, are, yet, so over careful as to keep themselves so close from fresh air and clean water, that they can scarcely breath, [sic] or wash themselves without danger. This they call taking care of their health! And yet, it is the very thing that i should call, being very careless of their health. Children! did you ever know a goose catch cold, by getting its feet wet?—Answer me.’

‘No, sir’—‘No’—‘No’—answered a score of voices, together. And there was some laughing.

‘Neither did I,’ said Mr. Lecturer. ‘But I once knew a family of little boys, that never had a pair of shoes, in summer or winter. I have seen them running and playing on the frozen pond, many a time, with their bare feet to the cold ice, for several minutes, when they would run in, and warm them. They seemed healthy. But I do not tell the story because I wish you to do so. your parents have kindly provided you with comfortable shoes and stockings, and this is right and proper. You should not go barefoot in cold weather, like the poor children I spoke of, whose cruel father had rather buy rum to get drunk, than to buy shoes for his children. Though the children might be as tough as geese, they were also as ignorant.—But knowledge need not hinder men from taking as good care of their health as geese do. And though little children should not run barefoot, in the snow, like geese, they should not, on the other hand, be kept so tenderly as to make them weakly and feeble. many children are kept from air and water, as though it were poison; while cakes, pies, sweet meats, pickles, cucumbers, tea, coffee, beer, wine, cordials, and gin-sling, are crammed into them, and poured down them, in so many kinds, and in such large parcels, that any body might suppose it was intended to make a pantry or a grocery store of their little stomachs. No wonder that little Henry gets sick, Anna has the headache, Mary is sick at the stomach, Charles has a dysentery, and William a fever. Then comes the doctor, with his pills, and his powders, and his physic, to get the dirty mess of stuff out of them, so that they can get well again. All this is, commonly, because they eat too much, or eat and drink bad things, that they ought not to eat or drink at all. I want mothers, as well as children, to hear this. But I want you, children, especially to hear, and remember, and never teaze for every thing you can see or think of, to eat, and drink. You should rather ask your mothers to be careful, and not let you have any thing that will hurt you. I know some children who do so, and who would no more drink tea or coffee, than any member of this little Temperance Society would drink intoxicating liquors. The rule of Temperance is, to eat and drink nothing that will hurt you. The art of Temperance is the art of health, and shows us how to keep from being sick. I have taken this way of talking, to show you this.—Hearken, and remember. Now answer me, little children,—what is the rule of Temperance?’

Answer, by the children. ‘To eat and drink nothing that will hurt us.’

‘What does the art of Temperance teach you?’

Answer. ‘It teaches us how to keep from getting sick.’

Well, don’t every little boy, and every little girl wish to learn this art?’

Answer. ‘Yes.’

‘Then I suppose you will be glad to come here again, at the next monthly meeting, and hear more about it?’

‘Yes, sir! Yes! Yes!’ said a hundred voices at once, so that the house rang again.

‘Well, then,’ said Mr. Lecturer, ‘I’ll come, and talk to you again. And let me tell you, what I wish to talk about, at the next meeting, or afterwards. I want to make you understand what an excellent thing it is, to have good health;—and how bad it is, to lose it, and be weak and sickly. I want you to see that the God who has made your little bodies so curiously, that you might be strong to serve him, and do good, will be displeased with you, if you spoil them, by your carelessness and intemperance in eating and drinking.—Then I want to show you how to be ‘temperate in all things.’ this will take a great many lectures. But I will close now, by asking you a few plain questions, which you can all answer.

Did you ever know any brute animal drink intoxicating liquor4s?’


‘Did you ever see a drunken horse, or cow, or sheep?’


‘But, you have seen drunken men, and women?’

‘Yes. A great many.’

‘Then, do not intemperate men act worse than beasts?’


‘Did you ever see a horse or an ox get tired, or faint, for want of strong drink?’


‘Did you ever see any body give their cattle strong drink, to make them do more work, or to keep them from catching cold?’


‘Then men do not need it, do they?’


‘A hog is one of the dirtiest of animals, is it not?’


‘But which is dirtier, a hog or a drunkard?’

‘A drunkard.’

‘And how is it that people become drunkards?’

‘By moderate drinking.’

‘Then moderate drinkers act as if they wished to be dirtier than the hogs, do they not.’


‘Did you ever see a hog enter a grog-shop?’


‘Well, then, I hope none of you will be so much dirtier than the pigs, as to drink ardent spirit, or be seen going into grog-shops, after it.’

Here, Mr. Lecturer concluded, and after some few remarks by others, the meeting was adjourned.

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