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John Gough, (pronounced "Goff"), was born at Sandgate,
Kent, London on August 22, 1817. Gough was an Englishman whose
father was a pensioner. Gough was brought to America when his
father, who could not pay for John to learn a trade, sent him
to America with a family from their village. John's father paid
the family 10 guineas so that they would take John to America,
teach him a trade and provide for him until he was 21 years old.
Once in America, John lost employment and was continually in debt.
When the death of his mother occurred and his employment problems
continued, Gough turned to drinking. The following lines are how
he described his addiction to alcohol, "I was now the slave
of a habit which had become completely my master, and which fastened
its remorseless fangs in my very vitals." Soon after Gough
realized what a mess his life was becoming because of the alcohol,
a Temperance advocate approached him and convinced Gough to sign
a pledge and come to a meeting. At this meeting that Gough attended,
he made his first speech on Temperance (John
B. Gough - Sketch of his life work and orations).
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"The Man Who Drinks Because He is Cold...The
Man Who Drinks Because He is Hot"
"Now for a moment let us look at some of the reasons given
for drinking, or some of the excuses for taking a glass. We total
abstainers have no excuse or apology to offer for our position
of antagonism to the drink.
"Women's Power and Influence"
A man once rose in a meeting which I held and said, 'I will sign
the pledge if you let me have a little drop when I want it as
a medicine.' When a man prescribes for sickness so long in advance,
I look at him with suspicion. I said, 'When the doctor prescribes
it you may take it.' 'But,' said he, "I don't want to go
to the doctor every time I am sick; I want to take a little when
I feel I need it; if you let me do that I will join the society,
because I think you are doing a great work.' Anyone would give
his name in that way, for it would cost him nothing. 'When I feel
I need it!' 'It is very cold to-day, I shiver from head to foot;
I must have a little something it is so cold, and I need it.'
Or, 'It is very hot to-day; dear me! such weather as this swelters
a man to death; I must have something to keep me up in such hot
weather; I need it.' Another man drinks a little in summer-time
because there are insects in the water, and spirits kill them.
Another thinks he needs something in winter-time because it is
so hurtful to drink cold water" (John
Gough, Platform Echoes,122-123).
"I have a strong belief in the rights of women, though
I may not be what in the ordinary phrase is styled 'a woman's
rights man' (528). The wife has an influence to exert, and it
is a most astounding thing to me that so many ladies look askance
at the subject of temperance. What is there undignified in doing
away with a miserable, paltry custom? It is time-honored and old-fashioned,
certainly. What mighty power a woman has for good or for evil;
a word of sympathy from her lips goes a great way. Many and many
a man has been saved by waking to the consciousness that some
tender-hearted, pure woman felt some sympathy for him and some
interest in him, though he was debased and degraded" (John
Gough, Platform Echoes, 530).
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- The following article from the "Qunicy Aurora"
explains Gough's ability to touch the hearts of his audience,
"Mr. Gough. This popular Washingtonian lecturer held three
successive meeting in this town, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday
evenings of last week. He had full houses every evening, not
withstanding the unfavorable weather, and awakened a very lively
interest in the Washingtonian cause. According to the lecturer's
account of himself his advantages for education have been very
limited, and he claims to possess but little information except
what he has gathered from practical intercourse with the world
of men. Whatever may have been his previous course of life, he
has made himself remarkably familiar with the workings of the
human heart, and acquired surprising skill in swaying its susceptibilities.
We understand that about fifty were induced by him to add their
names to the Washingtonian list in this place."
- The following article, from the "Boston Mercantile Journal",
describes the impact that Gough's temperance lectures had on
his listeners, "At the close of the Temperance meeting last
evening, in Richmond Street Church, a young man only eighteen
years of age, came forward and addressed his young companions,
stating that he had long been acquainted with Mr. Gough, and
was often associated with him in his days of dissipation; and
that he now, in the presence of this great assembly, forever
renounced all intoxicating drinks, and signed the pledge of total
abstinence, and urged the same duty on the young men who had
that day drank with him. It was done with great propriety, and
produced great effect-inducing many to follow his example, and
sign the pledge."
- abstinence. John Gough was also frequently spoke at ladies'
meetings and "pressed powerfully the subject of female influence,
the duty incumbent upon them to break the drinking fashions of
- Among the complaints made in regards to Gough's lectures
many of the complaints deal with the issue of mixing orthodoxy
and Temperance. For example, "The Angelic Gazette Burner"',"
states that, 'We are sorry that Mr. Gough finds it convenient
to mix so much orthodoxy with Temperance Addresses. We thought
all sectarism was to be avoided in such matters.' The article
goes on to explain that, "We believe, and we believe it
soberly, that the introduction of sectarism of any sort into
the Temperance cause, is calculated greatly to hinder, if not
defeat, that cause itself; and we love Temperance, almost above
any other moral enterprise, we feel it our duty ever to protest
against the introduction into it of what we feel and know must
injure the cause."
- Appeal to Women and Children - An article from, "The
Newsletter," of Westfield, Massachusetts, explained how
Gough appealed to children and women, "He warned the youth
especially not to be drawn into the whirlpool of intemperance.
He alluded to the terrible sufferings of children-of broken hearted
wives-caused by the drunkenness of husbands and fathers; and
he asked, 'what could so perfectly brutalize and bestoify humanity,
and cause even a mother to forget her sucking child, as intemperance!'
- July 10, 1850
- Appeal to Women - During another lecture that Gough
made in Montreal, he said about women, 'If every lady in Montreal,
would resolve not to drink another glass of wine, the drinking
customs of the city would come to an end in thirty days.'
-September 28, 1850, "The Pilot"
- Payment - "Some of these lectures were gratuitous,
and for some of them he was paid from $10 to $40 each. He never
dictates a price for his services, but always leaves that matter
to the opinion and liberty of his employers."
- Gough had the ability to appeal to all of the members of
his audience, he could bring people to tears or cause uncontrollable
laughter. The following excerpt is from an article in the "New
York Daily Times" reporting on Gough's lecture at the Academy
of Music, "When he told the 'good horse' story, we shuddered
lest he line of Clergy that backed him on stage should perish
from suffocation, trying to smother their laughter. When he rehearsed
the tale of the drunken 'brute' who beat his wife-at least every
other man used his handkerchief-and it was a sad time for those
who forgot their handkerchiefs."
- Gough personifies alcohol as he speaks with a drunkard in
the streets, "'...you are serving a hard master. I have
served him myself. You are receiving his wages, and I will tell
you that you would be much better if you were to do his work
without any wages at all, for his wages are worse than his work;
but you need not serve him any longer; do as I and hundreds of
others have done, become a sober man...'"
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responses to Gough.
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