Mar. 28, 1908
More On Local Option
The sentiments of Abraham Lincoln on the question of prohibition have aroused leagues to a high pitch of excitement. Lincoln was a great temperance man, temperance in the use of liquor, just as he was temperate in all things, but he was not a total abstainer and never at any rate favored prohibitory laws. Indeed it is a strange thing while drinking is usually considered a voice still no teetotaler of ancient or modern times ever achieved lasting greatness.
Dr. H. W. Wiley, chief of the pure food bureau of the department of agriculture, called attention to this fact in the Chicago Record-Herld and when one thinks of the long line of statsmen who have made this country the greatest in the world: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, and Grant, the fact becomes more apparent.
But to return to Lincoln, it is a matter of record, that when he worked in the Offcut store in 1831 he not only sold whisky, but sold it over a rough pine bar. Lincoln was a liquor dealer and he never was ashamed of it. In one of the histories of Lincoln it was stated that he was so powerful that he could lift a barrel of whisky and drink from a bung. In 1833 Lincoln in company with a man named Berry kept a small store at a place called New Salem in Sangamon county.
The following is an extract of a court record from that county, of March 6, 1833: “Ordered that Wm. F. Berry in the name of Berry and Lincoln harvet license o keep a tavern in New Salem to continue 12 months from this date and that they shall pay one dollar in addition to 6 heretofore pain and that they shall be allowed the following rates: French brandy per pint 25 cents, peach 18 ¾., apple 12, Holland gin 18 ¾, Domestic gin 12 ½, wine 25. Rum 18 ¾, whisky, 12 ½. etc.”
While we can not tell how Lincoln would vote on the question of prohibition were he in Freeport in the year 1908, still we know that the last time he was in Freeport, just 50 years ago, at the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debate, he went across the street from the Brewster House into a tavern or saloon kept by John Hoebel, now deceased, and there had a drink of whisky with some of his friends and political supporters.
Here is a quotation from Abraham Lincoln: Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance in itself for it goes beyond the bounds of reason, for it seeks to control a man’s appetite by legislation and in making crimes out of things that are not crimes.”
The Civic League has challenged this quotation. The Indianapolis News, one of the leading newspapers of Indiana, has traced this matter up and found that Abraham Lincoln actually used those words in a speech on temperance that he delivered January 22, 1842, before the Washington Society. It is now up to the Civic League to put the News in the Ananias Club, along with Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop Messmer, H. W. Wiley and others.
(EDITORIAL NOTE: The article above cites the wrong month for Lincoln’s Address to the Washington Temperance Society of Springfield, Illinois. It was actually February 22, 1842).