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FATHER MATHEW’S AMERICAN TOUR, 1849–1851 JOHN F. QUINN in the 1830s and 1840s Ireland was a stronghold for the temperance movement . The man most responsible for the success of teetotalism was Father Theobald Mathew, a Capuchin1 friar, who joined the movement in 1838. Under Mathew’s leadership, millions of Irish men and women—a majority of the population—took the total abstinence pledge.2 By the early 1840s, Daniel O’Connell was regularly referring to the temperance movement as a “mighty moral miracle.” While Mathew’s campaign ultimately faltered , teetotalism remains to this day a powerful countertradition in Ireland . Elizabeth Malcolm, an expert on Irish drinking habits, notes that Ireland had one of the highest proportions of teetotallers in the non-Islamic world.3 A recent survey of Irish drinking behavior found that 13.1 percent of men and 25.6 percent of women were total abstainers.4 Despite Mathew’s signiWcance in Irish history, scholars have refrained from awarding him the attention he deserves. Statues of him have been erected in both Dublin and Cork and streets have been named for him, but relatively little has been written about him. F. S. L. Lyons did not even mention Mathew in his nine-hundred-page survey of modern Ireland and Donal McCartney made only one passing reference to him in his study of nineteenth-century Ireland.5 A few biographies of Mathew were written in the nineteenth century and in the early part of this century. Although FATHER MATHEW’S AMERICAN TOUR, 1849–1851 91 1 The Capuchins are one of the main branches of the Franciscans. They were established in Italy in 1525 and were Wrst sent to Ireland in 1615. See Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), 3: 320–327. 2 According to the oYcial census, Ireland’s population in 1841 was 8,175,000. See K. H. Connell, The Population of Ireland, 1750–1845 (Oxford, 1950), p. 3. 3 Elizabeth Malcolm, “Ireland Sober, Ireland Free”: Drink and Temperance in Nineteenth Century Ireland (Dublin, 1986), p. x. 4 Ibid., pp. 332–33. 5 F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland since the Famine (London, 1971); Donal McCartney, The Dawning of Democracy: Ireland 1800–1870 (Dublin, 1987). informative, these works tend toward hagiography.6 In 1992 Colm Kerrigan published a new biography—the Wrst to appear since 1947. Kerrigan’s short study, along with the Wne portrayal of temperance in Ireland by Elizabeth Malcolm and George Bretherton, has helped give readers a more objective understanding of Mathew’s life and labors.7 In May, 1849, Mathew set sail from Liverpool for the United States, the Wnal temperance campaign of his career. He had been hoping to visit America for years. Now, in his sixtieth year and in failing health, Mathew Wnally set out on what would prove to be the most extensive tour of his career: he would spend two-and-a-half years traveling the length and breadth of the United States promoting temperance. Mathew had joined the teetotal movement at the behest of William Martin, a Quaker friend. Martin had founded a nonsectarian total abstinence society in Cork in 1835, but had had diYculty in attracting new members. Convinced that a priest was needed to draw the Roman Catholic masses, Martin began pleading with Mathew to associate himself with the movement. After some hesitation, Mathew took the total abstinence pledge and assumed the presidency of the Cork Total Abstinence Society. Martin had made a shrewd choice indeed. From the moment Mathew joined, the temperance movement expanded at a phenomenal rate. Within a few months his reputation had spread; prospective teetotalers were coming to see him from Waterford, Limerick, and Galway. By the end of 1839 Mathew had begun traveling around Ireland promoting teetotalism. Almost everywhere throngs greeted him and eagerly received the total abstinence pledge from him. After conquering Ireland, Mathew began traveling abroad to enroll the Scots and English in his burgeoning movement. In 1843 Francis Patrick Kenrick, the Irish-born bishop of Philadelphia, had invited Mathew to visit the United States.8 Kenrick had been promoting teetotalism throughout Pennsylvania since 1840. Mathew accepted FATHER MATHEW’S AMERICAN TOUR, 1849–1851 92 6 Father Augustine, O.F.M. Cap...


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