[The movement toward prohibition began in the United States in the early 1800's. During a reform movement in the 1830's and 1840's the demand for prohibition gathered momentum. In 1846 Maine passed the first state prohibition law. By 1855, 12 more states had adopted prohibition. In 1869 the drys founded the Prohibition Party. In 1874 the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was founded. The Anti-Saloon League was set up in 1895, about the time when several states were ending prohibition. By 1900 only five states were dry. It was not until 1917 that Congress approved the 18th Amendment to the constitution, and it took effect in 1919. With this background in mind we are not surprised at the involvement of W. A. Lawrence in the popular prohibition movement as depicted in the following speech read in 1891 by W. A. Lawrence before the Independent Order of Good Templars.]
In the year 1851, in Oneida county, in our own Empire state, a few young people assembled for the purpose of organizing a better temperance society than was then known. The outcome of this conferrence is our present Independent Order of Good Templars.
From Oneida county it has gone wherever civilization has extended. From one Lodge, it has grown to 755 Lodges; and from a score of members to a membership of 36270 in this state alone. It holds more than 25000 lodge meetings and more than 2000 public meetings in this state each year. It has initiated, in this state alone, during the last fifteen years, more than half a million people, and in the world at large more than four and a half million.
Our name is Lyion [?]. With yrih, sig rai, saintatio and hass-worls, [??] we are bound together; working systematically for a cause worthy our best efforts. We believe in being moderate in the use of a bad thing by totally abstaining from it. We believe in curtailing by cutting off the supply.
With its righteous object - the overthrow of the dram traffic; its motto - faith, hope and charity; its watch-word - harmony; its imperative declaration which it loves to repeat - the saloon must go; its platform - total abstinence (for the individual) and prohibition (for state and nation), we march onward to conquer, not to be conquered.
After having thus taken a glimpse of our order in general, let us consider, for a moment; our own individual Lodge.
We have initiated during our exhistence as a Lodge about 200 people, sisters brothers; and expelled only five. We have entertained county Lodge twice, and have held series of public meetings. Although our name is "Wide awake," we sometimes have to struggle to keep from becoming dormant. The trouble isn't in our principles nor our platform but in our membership. Are we prepared to meet the arguments and objections of those whom we would induce to join us? If, for instance, our friend hurl at us the statement of Christ's first miracle in justification of the use of the cup, are we ready with an answer?
If we are thoroughly fired up by the perusal of temperance literature, we will be sure to shoot it at someone; therefore in the words of our late lamented brother - John B. Finch - I say load up, load up, load up.
W. A. Lawrence
Read before the Lodge
Sep. 11, 1891, W. A. L.