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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

Canon Hopkins' Speech

Canon Hopkins' Speech.

The Rev. Canon Hopkins, B.D., Chairman of the Littleport School Board: My lord, ladies, and gentlemen,—I feel very much indebted to the committee of this society for permitting me to address you to-night, and, I may also add, for permitting me to meet face to face a great many friends who are fellow-workers both in the cause of education and in the cause of temperance. I rejoice very much in being permitted to see them, having known their names and honoured their work for many years. My lord, I must be very brief, because time is going away, but I venture page 22 to put my remarks under two heads. First, I will show that there is some necessity for this work of introducing temperance teaching into our elementary schools, and then I will try to show that it is a practical and possible thing to do.

First of all, there is a necessity. Amongst other things, I stand here as the chairman of the Committee of Convocation for the Province of Canterbury on the Prevalence of Intemperance—the unworthy successor of a venerable and good man—Archdeacon Sandford. (Hear, hear.) I hold in my hand the report of that committee which was presented in the year 1869. Many startling facts were brought to light by the publication of that report; but, perhaps, one of the most startling of all, and the most solemn in its consequence, was this—the early age at which habits of intemperance begin. In the evidence that was collected upon that subject, some people mentioned even such ages as ten and twelve in which habits of intemperance begin, and there are no fewer than 245 of the clergy who give; is the result of their experience, extending over many years, that habits of intemperance usually begin from twelve to eighteen years of age. Now, if that be the case, we must feel that there is a deeply seated evil which is affecting the very fountain of our juvenile life, and it is never too early to begin to try to put something into the young mind which shall be a counteracting influence against these temptations which so very early assail them. Of course, we all know the hopeful and successful efforts which are made by our Bands of Hope. (Hear, hear.) It is a happy thing to reflect upon the number of young people who, with the consent of their parents, are induced to begin life without ever tasting alcoholic drinks, who know nothing but the taste of pure water and of liquids which are wholesome and nourishing; I say this is a happy thing, for surely those in such a case can sing:—

"Brightly gleam our banners,
Pointing to the sky."

But, my lord, we want something else besides these voluntary associations, and I may perhaps be allowed to say that among the recommendations of that report to which I have alluded as long since as the year 1869 was one (No. 6), that education in the best and widest way was a most effectual non-legislative remedy against the evil of intemperance. The whole paragraph is most interesting, but I will only read this:—"In connection with such special teaching—teaching on the evils of intemperance ought, in the opinion of your committee, to form a branch of education in all our schools." That was the opinion of that committee in that year, and I think it goes far to prove the first proposition which I said I would endeavour to make good—viz., the necessity for this work; and in the appendix we have most important evidence given by the clergy, by recorders of boroughs, by governors of gaols, by chief constables, and others, as to the importance and value of providing special education for the young on the laws of page 23 health, the physiological aspects of food and drink, the effects of alcohol on the system, and the certain and awful consequences of defying God's eternal laws in any or in all of these respects. (Cheers.)

Witnesses from the same classes also dwell upon the necessity of educating females, especially in such directions as household matters—for it is remarkable that there are comparatively few young married women who have ever been taught regularly the duties which belong either to a wife or a mother. Therefore, I submit to this meeting that there exists a great necessity for the work which we are trying to inaugurate this evening—I mean practically to inaugurate. The suggestion has been made long ago, but now we want to give it body and force, and to give it a momentum which will carry it through and make it a real, practical, living influence brought to bear upon the youthful part of our population. (Cheers.)

I think it might be a matter of regret to us that in that very charming little book of Dr. Richardson's called "Hygeia"—rather a hard name—" City of Health," a very slight allusion is made to the schools of that very happy town. Hospitals and other things engage his attention, but now, most fortunately, he has supplied the lack which appeared in his former book, and has given us this most valuable manual. Like other speakers tonight, I got hold of that book very early, and read it right through, for you can hardly put it down when you once begin it, so interesting is it, and so admirably arranged; and I hope and trust, as Mr. Wright has said, that this "Temperance Lesson Book" will not only be a valuable text-book itself, but will be a mine of information, giving suggestive hints, out of which other labourers may dig material for new class-books.

I want now to show the practicability of this teaching. Even now there are not wanting some useful books. That recommendation of the Committee of Convocation did bear fruit. There is a series of lesson books (Phillips' series), and in the sixth book, by Canon Cromwell, I think you will find a series of reading lessons, giving a most valuable part of the teachings of such authorities as Mr. Hoyle, Canon Ellison, and a few others, whose names are well known by all who take an interest in the subject of temperance, and these truths are put in a practical and useful way. The whole of that series has a decidedly indirect and most valuable temperance leaning, showing the advantages of this virtue in a variety of ways.

Then, years ago, there was a series called "Greig's series," and amongst them there was a most valuable treatise by Dr. Mann upon food and drink. If anybody wants to see this subject ably and carefully treated, he may see it there. It gives you, in a most graphic manner, all the particulars of what happens to a man when he gets drunk, and dead drunk, and how very nearly the latter figure of speech is a reality; how closely that man has come page 24 upon the very verge of human life, so that there is but a step—aye, even less than a step—between him and death. Then, again, there are some manuals of health, which are published by the Christian Knowledge Society, and notably one by the late Dr. Parkes, "On the Personal Care of Health." It is a very inexpensive book, and if any one would take it in hand, they would find that life is divided into certain periods by Dr. Parkes, who, I should judge from a perusal of the book, could not then have been an abstainer. He comes to this conclusion, that at the most important period of life, when people are growing to maturity, that growing age to which our chairman has alluded, when, unfortunately, years ago, growing boys were set to drink port wine at eleven o'clock and a little bottled beer at supper, and all that sort of thing—Dr. Parkes asks, "Should alcohol be taken at that age V' and says that he has no difficulty whatever in saying that intoxicating drinks should not be partaken of at that time, though he is less decided when dealing with the other ages. He says:—"I strongly advise every young man and every young woman to become a total abstainer—(cheers)—and for these reasons,"—which I won't trouble the meeting by reading. That is the testimony of a man who does not fall under the suspicion which I am under of being a temperance advocate—perhaps a fanatic, an enthusiast, or I do not know what. (Laughter.) It is a calm, deliberate opinion of a medical man who himself feels great doubt on the subject at another period of life; but as regards the young—the hope of the future, those who will very soon have to take our places, for we are going down the hill—as regards the young, there is no doubt at all the best thing they can do is to become total abstainers.

Then there is Dr. Birney's work on "Food." These health manuals are most valuable. Then there might be a manual upon the matter of expense. It would not be a very difficult manual to put together. I should almost like to give you a ten minutes' lesson now, but I am afraid I should weary you. I could easily ask you a few questions and put the matter before you in a plain way. I might tell you how much it costs to maintain a public-house—I mean how much it costs a parish to do so. I made a calculation as regards my own parish, and it came out that the public-house probably costs us, to give it bare livelihood, ten or twelve shillings per week, and even at that rate we pay away a lot of money in alcoholic drinks. We might as well spend it in fireworks. This would actually build every year in the very best possible manner schools of the best description to accommodate 500 children. We might actually provide schools every year for the whole of our juvenile population for the money we are obliged to spend in drink in order to maintain our public-houses. That is not at all an unusual thing.

In the eastern counties we have sadly too many drunkards. I page 25 would we could stop the entail, but the truth is that perhaps the only manufacture of importance we have in the district is the manufacture of beer—the only thing that gives employment to the poor agriculturist, with very few exceptions. That gives it a strong hold upon the people there. If a man wants better wages than those offered to the agricultural labourer, the only person he can go to is the brewer. These are all matters of considerable interest and importance, and I think we should teach our youths something about them.

Here, my lord, I venture to make a suggestion, and I hope it will be taken in good part, but I do think it would be a graceful proceeding and a bit or poetical justice if the great manufacturers and purveyors of beverages which contain alcohol would come forward and provide the means for giving this teaching. (Laughter.) Their customers want to know how to use the drinks which they manufacture and sell. (Laughter.) It is very important that they should do so; and I know that many of those gentlemen who are most benevolent and kind-hearted, most unwilling to do injury to their fellow-creatures, might probably come forward and assist us, and I should suggest the forming of prizes or a scholarship, which would elicit opinions and foster study on this important subject. I commend the suggestion very respectfully to their favourable attention. (Laughter.)

Of course we do not want at a meeting of this kind to assume a tone of dictation as to modes of procedure: what we want is to fairly urge upon the country the necessity and importance of encouraging temperance teaching in public elementary schools. I want to express a hope that temperance teaching will not be confined to public elementary schools; that if it begins with them it won't end there, and that it will find a place in schools of a higher grade—(cheers)—until its importance is recognised there, and then we may really try with some effect to wake up the educated and influential classes of this country to look into this question, as many of them are looking into it, in away they never did before, so as to get to understood the principles which underlie the whole subject.

Temperance reformers have done something—nay, we may thankfully say they have done much—though they have only after all scratched the cuticle of the matter, and not gone so deeply as they want to go into the heart and brain of the country. Hence we have to make the public feel what is the real value and importance of this subject which we are commending to their notice. One effect of sound education is to banish superstition, and especially pernicious superstition, and if there is one superstition that" is more deeply rooted than another in this country, it is that these drinks are harmless and necessary, necessary for people in health—I won't presume to say anything about people who are not in health. But this is really the most wretched superstition that page 26 ever got possession of the mind of a great people. They are neither required to give vigour of mind nor strength of body. They are not in the least degree necessary, and one effect, we may hope, of a sound education on this point will be to banish such a superstition to the moles and to the bats, where it ought to go and ought to stay.

We want to spread abroad a knowledge of the real effects of the habitual use of these drinks, whether the use be in what is called "moderation," or in what is called "excess." The facts people ought to know, and many people are in most perfect ignorance of them. It is time, therefore, for us to enlighten them, and I hope we shall succeed. I am afraid I have trespassed on the patience of the meeting; but I hope I have succeeded in showing, first, that there is a need for the step we are taking, and then that it is a practical and possible thing to do, and well it reminds one of a few lines of Pope, when he says:

"Reason's whole pleasure, all joys of sense,
Lie in three words—health, peace, competence;
But health consists with temperance alone,
And peace, oh, virtue! peace is all thine own."