Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Publican's Meetng


ON Saturday last, it was announced by placards in the various public-houses in the Broadway, Westminster, that Mr. Rowbottom would lecture against tee-totalism in the Westminster Theatre on the following Monday, (Oct. 12,) that discussion would be allowed, and that the admittance would be free. I have since learnt that the theatre was engaged by a milkman, as was supposed by the proprietor for a masonic meeting; this milkman, however, was acting for a publican, named C—,, keeping a gin palace in the Broadway, so you may guess what the tee-totalers had to expect. The Theatre was crammed, the different tap-rooms in the neighbourhood being emptied for the purpose, and many of the audience being quite drunk. Mr. Rowbottom commenced, and during his lecture, he was several times interrupted, but the tee-totalers on the stage interfered with success, to obtain a fair hearing for him—what return they got for this, you will presently hear.

Mr. Rowbottom said, that it was asserted in `' Anti-Bacchus," that the only object of eating and drinking, was to nourish and strengthen the body, that alcoholic drinks, as wine, ale, and porter, contained no nutriment, [false : no such assertion made in " Anti-Bacchus;"] therefore such fluids were not capable of nourishing and strengthening the body. He denied this, for the greater portion of what we took into the body was water; three-fourths of potatoes consisted of water in a staid form, animal food the same, bread one-half, and fish a great deal more. The blood itself was principally formed of water. As to the alcohol contained in strong drinks, it was decomposed in the lungs, and went to strengthen and nourish the body [false.] Wine, &c., contained a great portion of solid matter, and in its best form! Fluids were capable of nourishing the body, and of being formed into solid matter. Mr. Rowbottom then went into a long rigmarole about strength, velocity, and momentum, and said, that the fluids of the body being put into more rapid motion by alcohol, of course, the individual had more strength! and therefore wine, ale, and porter, were strengthening! and he came to the comfortable conclusion, that he was right, and that the tee-totalers were wrong.

It was now suggested to the lecturer, that if there was to be a discussion, he ought to allow time for it, and it was now getting late. He agreed to conclude his lecture, and allow a quarter of an hour for a reply. The publican's mob, however, refused to hear any reply. Hissing, hooting, whistling, foul language, assailed every one who attempted to address them; they would not listen to their own lecturer, when he appealed to them to hear his opponents. Mr. C—, the publican, being roused by a word about traffickers in strong drink, made an amusing exhibition, by standing up in the boxes and holding out his hat, as if he required a few more fool's pence, from the poor drunkards assembled, and patted his immense corporation with astonishing self-complacency and laughable effect. After a quarter of an hour's battling with the mob, who were afraid to hear their lecturer's arguments overturned, his falsehoods exposed, and his sophisms demonstrated, some of the tee-totalers began to retire; a number of drunken fellows now got from the pit on to the stage, and one of them, a brewer's drayman, rolled about like a fish on dry land, or a pig in a kennel ; a scene of uproar and confusion, struggling and staggering, above which, rose the yells and screams of the drunkards, ensued, which beggars description. The tee-totalers, not wishing to take their chance of going to the station-house with these brutes, now retired, and the drunkards kept up their infernal saturnalia by a demolition of the benches, &c.

This was the public discussion promised! This is the way--the fair, open, honest way in which the publicans and their tools meet us ! There will be more tee-totalers made by last Monday's exhibition, than if it had been a tee-total meeting, for numbers of moderation men were disgusted by the gross conduct of the publicans party, and many more will be led to inquire into the subject. The damage done to the theatre, the proprietor expects C—, the publican to pay; and no doubt it was the strength afforded by his strong drink, that enabled his worthy followers to destroy the property they did.

Mr. Rowbottom promised a discussion on the following Friday, the admission to be by tickets, half to be taken by the tee-totalers and half by his party -- will he keep to this arrangement? nous verrons.

So much, Sir, for a public discussion under the auspices of publicans.

Oct. 13, 1840. H. FOSTER.

The Journal of the New British & Foreign Temperance Society, 31 October 1840

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