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Introduction Readers may wonder why a historian who teaches courses on Victorian England would write a book that deals with the United States and its intractable problem of race relations. Many years ago, while I was studying the drink question in late nineteenth-century Britain , an international fraternal temperance society known as the Independent Order of Good Templars began to fascinate me.1 The IOGT offered a fresh approach for the study of the temperance movement , the working and lower-middle classes, and gender relations. Gradually I realized that it also provided a new perspective for investigating racism in North America and transatlantic racial attitudes after the Civil War. My quest for the Good Templars led me back to familiar places. My boyhood home in the Hudson River valley was not far from the west-central New York birthplace of the Templar Order. My home today is in an Ohio college town which, I have discovered, once boasted two Templar lodges. The airport that serves my locality is in Kentucky, the greatest bastion of the southern white Templars during the 1870s. My wife grew up in North Carolina, where black membership first became a practical question for the Order in the former slave states. Her sister lives near Boston, where in the late 1870s and the 1880s a few Templar lodges practiced a racial egalitarianism rarely matched in the United States even to this day. Writing this book demanded rethinking what constitutes history . When I left graduate school more than three decades ago, I could not have imagined spending a substantial portion ofmy middle years studying a fraternal temperance society. In doing so, I have learned much that I never expected to need to know. My book is a voyage of discovery that maps virtually unknown territory. To make my exploration manageable, I rarely venture beyond the North Atlantic, English-speaking community, although the Templars lived on every continent and spoke many languages. 1 2 Temperance and Racism As Jose Harris says of the Freemasons, the Templar Order "was a network that was simultaneously both more intimately parochial and more international than any nation-state."2 The book has multiple objectives. It contributes to the history of the temperance movement and the history of fraternal organizations , in part by combining them-and in part by internationalizing them. It also reveals a new facet of African American history, the story of the black Templars. The controversy over black membership opens a new window on racial attitudes and behavior in the late nineteenth century on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and both sides of the Atlantic. It shows that a great many white Templars rejected the extreme versions of racism prevalent at the time; the Templar ideology of universalism helps explain why. Other moral reform organizations struggled with the contradiction between racism and quasi-religious assumptions of a common humanity, but they nearly always avoided dramatic confrontations by accommodating the views of their more racist members. In contrast, the Templar Order was rent by what I have termed the great schism from 1876 to 1887.3 Connecting the views and behavior of the Templars with those of the larger community is an important, difficult task that I barely start in this book. Sadly, I find no evidence that Templar universalism moderated racial prejudice in the United States or elsewhere in the English-speaking world. When I evoke grand-sounding themes such as a struggle between Britain and the American South, I refer only to the conflict between the small part of the populations that belonged to the IOGT. Readers should be cautioned about two other things. It is not easy to generalize about a fluctuating membership, residing in varied geographical and sociocultural contexts at different times. Nevertheless, I argue that something distinctive can be found in the IOGT virtually everywhere and always. This distinctive feature is the ideology I have called universalism, which in theory welcomed into membership all teetotalers committed to prohibition. This ideology began to take shape shortly after the creation of the IOGT in the early 1850s, when male Templars accepted women as members with equal rights. In practice, however, the scope of that welcome varied. This book documents the ways that whites in the American . South rejected black people as members of the Templar family. Yet the rhetoric of the Templar Order encouraged its universalist ideology to develop into literal universalism, differentiating the Order Introduction 3 from most fraternal societies, which defined themselves by excluding women...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813161518
Related ISBN
9780813119847
MARC Record
OCLC
903964986
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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