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simple habits and unassuming manners, entirely devoid of all merely personal ambition, and possessing no very remarkable talents; and even his oratorical powers, which are considerable, derive their chief force less from any previous cultivation, than from an earnest conviction of the importance and excellence of the work in which he his engaged.
We shall make no apology to our readers, for laying before them a very short account of the labours of this great and good man; the subject cannot fail to be of interest to those who sympathize with the great mass of their Irish fellow subjects.
It was early in the spring of 1838, that a Roman Catholic friar (Father Mathew, as he is usually called,) was prevailed upon by some friends of his, Quakers in the city of Cork, to become a member of a Temperance Society which they had founded there. He had no sooner entered the Society, than he found that its rules were ill adapted to accomplish the purpose for which they had been framed, and with the energy and single-mindedness which are his principal characteristics, he immediately proceeded to remodel it. A new Society was founded on the 10th of April of that year, and the large number of persons who joined it, and the fidelity with which they adhered to their pledge, soon attracted attention in the country surrounding Cork. A report became current amongst the common people that a priest who lived there possessed an infallible cure for drunkenness; their love of the marvellous led them to ascribe his success to supernatural agency, and so rapidly did this helief gain ground, that before the year had elapsed, the high roads leading to Cork from all parts of the country, were daily thronged by people on their pilgrimage (as they called it,) to Father Mathew. For several months, the numbers daily increased, and the distance from which the pilgrims came became greater, until it frequently happened that parties started from a distance of one hundred miles, and came up by regular marches, getting drunk every night as long as their money lasted, which they called taking their farewell of whiskey. The impression which such a journey must have left on the minds of the pilgrims, contributed probably in some degree to the remarkable fidelity with which they adhered to the pledge which was immediately afterwards administered to them. In the summer of 1839 the writer of this account was at Limerick, which had furnished a larger number of pilgrims than any other town of Ireland, and was there informed by persons most likely to be acquainted with the facts, (viz. police magistrates, and masters of manufactories,) that only two persons had, up to that period, been known to violate the pledge, and that of these two persons, one had died, and the other had gone mad shortly afterwards, which circumstances had incalculably strengthened the pre-existing belief in supernatural agency.
Late in 1839, strong representations having been made to him of the benefits he might confer by proceeding in person to different parts of the country, Father Mathew determined upon visiting Limerick. The crowds of people who flocked into the city from all parts of the adjacent country, and their eagerness to get ņear enough to see or touch him, is described as most remarkable by the military and the police, who were eye-witnesses of the scene; but what is more extraordinary, no accounts followed of violations of a pledge taken in this hasty manner by hundreds and even thousands at a time. During the remainder of this year Father Mathew visited several other places in the South of Ireland, and in the spring of 1840 he determined to venture upon the great experiment of a visit to the Irish metropolis. The experiment was completely successful; on the last day of the single week that he spent in Dublin, where he had already administered the pledge to no less than 50,000 persons, undiminished numbers were seen pressing forward to the steps of the Custom House, and kneeling down in parties of 1,000 each, bareheaded and in the midst of heavy rain, to listen to the exhortation of the priest, and to repeat after him the words of the promise. * Since that period Father Mathew has successively visited almost every place of importance throughout about twothirds of the southern division of Ireland; he has made a second visit to Dublin, in the course of which the pledge was administered to about 80,000 persons; and at the beginning of the present year he estimated at upwards of 3,000,000, the total number of persons by whom from first to last the pledge had been taken. f
The proofs of the success of the movement, and of its effect on the general habits of the people, are exceedingly striking. In the year 1840, the falling off in the revenue from excise
* The words of the Pledge are as follows: “I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, except used medicinally, and by order of a medical man, and to discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance.” The form of kneeling down bareheaded was adopted by Father Mathew principally for convenience sake, and to preserve order among such great numbers, as well as to make the ceremony more impressive.
+ The number of persons to whom, on each occasion, the pledge was administered, was estimated by the police or military, who were always employed to keep order, in the following mode, which does not seem to be liable to any great inaccuracy. The greatest number of persons who could be enclosed within a ring, formed by some given number of the policemen or soldiers, was first exactly ascertained by counting. The pledge was administered to successive batches formed in this way, and the ascertained number of the first batch was assumed as true for all the succeeding ones.
duties in Ireland amounted to £500,000, and from this fact it has been inferred by persons most competent to form an opinion on the subject, that the actual decrease in the consumption of ardent spirits in that year is to the extent of about £1,000,000. The effect of increasing temperance on the frequency of crimes of violence is equally remarkable. The following extract from the returns of crime made to the Government, which are as accurate as unceasing care, and an admirable machinery for the purpose can make them, shows the number of cases of intoxication, and of such other offences as may be considered more immediately to originate in intemperance, in each successive year, from a period prior to the commencement of Father Mathew's labours to the present time.
Return of the number of offences, of each of the Classes men
tioned below, as reported by the Constabulary and Committee in Ireland during each of the years mentioned.
Return of the undermentioned offences not specially reported by
the Constabulary, but summarily disposed of by the Magistrates, or sent by them to trial at Assizes or Quarter Sessions during each of the years mentioned.
Intoxication . .
1837. / 1838. 1839. 1840. . 34,239 48,173 43,464 25,419 . 30,380 33,901 26,305 20,793
With reference to the second Table, it is important to obVol. III. No. 12.-New Series.
serve, that the increase in the number of reported cases of intoxication for the year 1838 is not attributed by the InspectorGeneral of the Constabulary to an increase in the number of offences of that kind actually committed, but to the effect of a circular which about that period he addressed to the Constabulary, calling upon them to exercise greater vigilance in taking up drunkards.
Comparative Statement of the Number of Persons taken into
custody by the Dublin Metropolitan Police for Intoxication and Assaults during the years 1839 and 1840.
It is very greatly to the credit of Father Mathew and his coadjutors, that the Society has been kept entirely free, although not without great difficulty, from any kind of exclusive religious or political feeling. It is open to all without distinction, and amongst its most ardent supporters are to be found persons of all religious persuasions, and of every shade of political party. On the medal there is a religious device of the Paschal Lamb and the Crucifix, with the motto “ In hoc signo vinces,” but the medal is given only to those who apply for it, and all persons who merely take the pledge from Father Mathew are thereby constituted members of the society. It is a remarkable fact, that he was at first opposed by the clergy of all denominations, and by none more than by those of his own Church; and, although they have been forced into participation and apparent approval by the general enthusiasm on the subject, they still continue to regard the influence which he exercises with some jealousy.
The belief of supernatural power has undoubtedly contributed something to Father Mathew's success, but it is proper to state that he has not himself given the smallest encouragement to any such belief. From the beginning he has uniformly and publicly disclaimed all pretensions to miraculous power for any purpose whatever, and his extraordinary success is, no doubt, mainly attributable to his own simple and energetic character and style of eloquence, and to the actual experience of tens of thousands of his converts of the intrinsic goodness of the cause which he advocates.
The opportunity which the popular enthusiasm has afforded him of making money by the sale of medals has naturally been made the ground for an imputation on him of interested motives. It has been made, however, to a wonderfully slight extent, and only when his name first began to attract attention. Now that all the facts connected with the subject have for a long period been under the observation of the public, the charge is, on all hands, admitted to be entirely unfounded. Wherever a surplus has been left, it has been appropriated to Charitable purposes; but at Cork, the more permanent scene of Father Mathew's labours, the number of medals distributed is so small, as compared with the number of those who take the pledge, that, after paying a salary to the person employed to distribute them, and after carrying to account those which are given to such as are considered too poor to pay for them, no balance has remained applicable to any purpose. Indeed, we have good grounds to believe that, in his private fortune, Father Mathew has been a loser by the cause in which he has been so patriotically engaged. He has certainly given several remarkable proofs of his disinterestedness. It is stated, and we have reason to know truly stated, that some of his nearest relations, who were engaged in business as distillers, have been seriously injured, in a worldly point of view, by the success of the Temperance Movement, and he has himself uniformly declined all those opportunities of personal distinction which his success and consequent celebrity have thrown in his way, from the rare and most praiseworthy fear of lessening his influence with the people, and injuring the great cause which he had undertaken.*
* During his first visit to Dublin, the Lord Lieutenant pressed Father Mathew to dine with him, and told him that he would invite to meet him some persons who were desirous of making his acquaintance, and whom he could hardly have an opportunity of meeting under other circumstances. This invitation he begged to be permitted to decline, excusing himself on the ground of his simple habits, and of the determination he had made to preserve them, from a belief that on that preservation depended, to some extent, his influence with the people, and consequently his success in the work to which he had devoted himself.