Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of th...

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AA adapted some of it’s principles from the Washingtonian Society

At the height of its popularity, the Washingtonian Society attracted the attention of many prominent people, not the least of whom was Abraham Lincoln, whose speech delivered to the Springfield Washingtonian Temperance Society in February 1842 has become a classic.

He began by praising the society’s success, comparing it to advocates of other approaches who “have no sympathy of feeling or interest with those very persons whom it is their object to convince and persuade.

“But when one who has long been known as the victim of intemperance bursts the fetters that have bound him and appears before his neighbors ‘clothed in his right mind,’ a redeemed specimen of long lost humanity, and stands up with tears of joy trembling in his eyes to tell the miseries once endured, now to be endured no more. . . . In my judgment it is to the battles of this new class of champions our late success is greatly, perhaps chiefly, owing.”

Lincoln criticizes the traditional temperance advocates for speaking to drunks “in the thundering tones of anathema and denunciation” and says that “it is not wonderful that they were slow, very slow, to acknowledge the truth of such denunciation. . . . To have expected them to do otherwise. . . was to expect a reversal of human nature. . . . On this point the Washingtonians greatly excel the temperance advocates of former times. Those whom they desire to convince and persuade are their old friends and companions.

They know they are not demons, nor even the worst of men; they know that generally they are kind, generous and charitable, even beyond the example of the more staid and sober neighbors. . . . And when such is the temper of the advocate. . . no good cause can be unsuccessful.”

AA Markings, Vol. 24 • No. 1 — March – April 2004.

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