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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

Rev. G. W. Olver's Speech

Rev. G. W. Olver's Speech.

The Rev. G. W. Olver, B.A., Principal of the Wesleyan Training College, Battersea, said: My lord, ladies, and gentlemen,—1 appreciate quite as highly as most of you can do that peculiar charm of life which is said to arise from the avoidance of all speech-making and letter-writing. (Laughter.) At the same time, I confess to something approaching the feeling of gratification in having the opportunity of standing here this evening. I have been a little surprised to find that it is now five years since the National Temperance League Committee did me the honour to ask me to read at the Crystal Palace a paper on the subject of temperance in its relation to education. From that day to this I have watched with the deepest interest the quiet, persistent, steady, and prudent way in which that committee has continually been bringing this subject—the relation of temperance to education—before the schools, the colleges, and the public in general. I am glad to find that to-night, at all events, we have been able to take one step in advance, and that the committee has already provided that which is a very small and unpretending, page break but nevertheless, I doubt not, will prove to be a most useful textbook upon the subject of temperance. (Cheers.) Many of you may not have seen it. If you have not, I hope that everyone will take care very speedily to obtain a copy and study it for themselves. I have looked somewhat carefully through it, and I can answer for it that as to its style it is clear, and that as to its information it is interesting and instructive; and when I say that the author is Dr. Richardson—(cheers)—I am very sure you will accept that as a guarantee for its accuracy as to scientific statement, and for the moderation with which its truths are put forth. (Cheers.) Now, the price of this little book is just eighteenpence, and, therefore, the investment will not be large. It is provided, as you may suppose, and as, indeed, you have already been told, with a special reference to the introduction of this subject into the elementary day-schools of this country. One object, I take it, of our gathering here this evening is to make an appeal to you for your aid in securing this end. The committee of the National Temperance League, without doubt, are responsible for this meeting, as we are indebted to them most certainly for the steps which have been taken in this direction; and though I have consented to appear here to-night, it is in order, on their behalf, to make an appeal for your aid to assist in leading them on to full success.

Now, it may be that there are some present to-night who are themselves managers of schools. If so, their aid may be very prompt, very direct, and very effective. We ask of them first of all to examine the book, and then I make bold, at least, to advance the request to them at once to put it upon the list of school-books for which they are responsible. There are those here who are teachers, and to you I say that your aid, though it may not be quite so direct, need not be less prompt or less effective. If you will take the book, I am very sure, from my own knowledge of the character of gallery lessons, and of object lessons, and of lessons of the class which belong to the public elementary school system, that you will find, without any breach of conscience clause whatsoever, plenty of opportunities for instilling the principles of a true temperance into the minds and into the hearts of your children. (Cheers.) But I have also to speak a word or two to those of you who are neither managers nor teachers. You are only ratepayers, and if you are not yourselves ratepayers, you have great influence over those who are. Now, my appeal to you on this subject arises from the connection which there ever must be between knowledge and temperance, for let us understand that this alliance is in every respect a holy one—(a laugh)—adding to our faith courage, and to our courage knowledge, let us never forget to add to our knowledge temperance and brotherly kindness, until that charity Divine which comes from above girds and glorifies the whole. (Cheers.) And for the very reason that this alliance is so natural, I want page 9 just to show you how the neglect of it will lead to the wronging of your own interests. I am not going to stay to-night to dwell upon the miseries that are caused by intemperance; but .I ask you for one moment to reflect upon the terrible bill which you are called upon year by year to pay as the result of the prevailing intemperance. (Hear, hear.)

I ask you to think of what it costs you to meet the poverty and the crime of this country. I ask you to bear in mind that over and above all other charges that hitherto have been made, there has been added of late a charge for education—the cheapest rate that ever was laid upon a nation—(cheers)—and a rate which will prove to you a most effectual means of saving, if you will use your power aright. If you are prepared to go hand-in-hand and thoroughly with the movement for which you are called together to-night—if you will take care that whilst you are called upon to bear the charges of education you will use your educational power in the cause of temperance—then I say to you that the progress of temperance will so effectually lessen the bill for poverty and crime that you will have saved upon the one hand, over and over, and over again, ten, twenty, aye, I would dare to say—upon the whole cost and mischief wrought in the country—on to one hundred times what you expend for education. (Cheers.) Now, my lord, there is no doubt that you have already this evening touched upon matters which go directly to the heart and the judgment, whether of this meeting or of any other meeting. The rate pay era of this country have not the power which belongs to them on this subject. I do not understand at all why I should be compelled to hold a valuable property upon a repairing lease, and that meanwhile my landlord, for the purpose of increasing, as he supposes, his own wealth, should for money payment hand over to some other person the right to go and undermine the foundations of my building, and cause immense destruction year after year to my property. I do not understand at all the philosophy of requiring the ratepayers of this country, in their several localities, to bear the expenses of the poverty and crime which are occasioned by drink, and yet persistently to say that they shall have no check or control over the agencies which bring about that crime and that poverty. (Cheers.) And, my lord, the truth is so clear, that I am persuaded that we have only to hold our ground and to maintain our argument, and, as certainly as truth conquers, the power and control over the licensing system of this country must come into the hands of the people. (Cheers.)

We have sometimes stood upon a high ground—you may have done so as I myself have—and as you have looked out upon the darkness, you have seen here and there the fitful gleam of lights shining up athwart the sky; but you have known what they meant—it was only the northern lights. But you have looked out again at another hour, and right away along the eastern page 10 horizon you have seen the faint streak of light, steady, clear, and growing, and you have known what that means, and it means that the day is coming; and as I have looked out, listening to the remarks which you, my lord, have made to-night and at other times, I have no doubt I can see, it may be somewhat faint, but, thank God, it is clear and it is brightening, the dawn of the final victory. (Loud cheers.)

Now, my lord, there is another reason why I make this appeal to-night to you, and it is for the sake of those who themselves are engaged in this temperance work. It is necessary that we ourselves should take care to study this subject with all the help which science can bring to bear upon it. The time was when the force in aid of temperance in this country was the force of energy, the force of heart, the force of consciousness from the very sight of the results that the drinking customs were wrong; but although there was immense force, there was not the power to give the quiet scientific reasons for the hope that was in us, and now everything that we can do in the way of promoting the quiet study of this subject—everything that we can do in order to engage on our side the intellect of the country—will lead to the securing of a more sustained, a more equable, a more steady, and a more powerful movement in aid of temperance. The more we ourselves can link in our own case this knowledge with our own temperance, the nearer we certainly shall be to the triumph to which we look forward, and I do not know who there is that can attempt to stand against us. Why, I appeal to the publicans themselves. I say to them, "Do you want to keep the people in ignorance of the facts, in order that you may get their money for the drink? (Cheers.) Do you?" Someone behind me says, "Undoubtedly they do." But I don't want you to tell me what you think they do, I want them to be manly enough to stand up and say it. (Hear, hear.) I want us to have a clear understanding as to whether the drink traffic rests upon ignorance or not. If it does not, then we claim the help even of the publican interest in promoting knowledge. If they put any barrier in our way, then I say it is patent proof that they are at least afraid of light. And, my lord, I will say one thing more, and then I have done.

I quite understand your feeling, my lord, when, with your very accustomed charity, you have put the case of the interests on the other side. I hope the day will never come when the total abstainers of this country will lightly put their finger upon any interest that is a just interest. But if you call upon me to judge between the money interests of any man whose money interests depend upon the vice, the misery, the ruin—physical, moral, social, and spiritual—of my fellow-men, and, on the other hand, all the interests that are dearest to humanity, for the life that is and the life that is to come, I know which to choose. (Cheers.) I emphatically deny that the liquor traffic of this country has any page 11 legitimate vested interest in that traffic. (Cheers.) I deny the right of any man, or any number of men, to maintain, under; the protection of the law, a course of action which is notoriously the increasing cause of the moral ruin of our country—yes, my lord, and is threatening to be the cause of the terrible political disturbance of our country. Britain never will be free until it has broken the shackles of the liquor traffic, and until the electors of this country have been able to stand up in their freedom, and to claim deliverance from the iron hand that has held them down so long. (Loud applause.)