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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 1914)
Urges Signing Abstinence Pledge
Following is the report, taken from
the Detroit Times, of the meeting at
Ann Arbor in which Mr. Bryan urged
tho signing of the total abstinence
Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 30. The
American premier, who thrilled and
inspired 5,000 university and high
school boys in the Hill auditorium,
Saturday night as the outstanding
feature of the largest Y. M. C. A.
boys' conference ever hold disclosed
a new national field of activity in
which ho proposes to enlist the most
powerfully persuasive voice in the
public life of America today.
This new moral project, suggested
to Mr. 'Bryan by the phrasing of the
appeal of 4,000 Michigan boys for his
presence at their conrerence, was re
vealed by the secretary of state in a
digression from his address, "The
Making of a Man." The foremost
peace advocate of the world has se
cured the signatures of 30 govern
ments to his arbitration proposal; he
now proposes to get the youth of
America to "sign up" with him in a
covenant of abstention from alco
holic beverages. Fully three-fourths
or the great body of young men arose
when ho called for an expression.
The pledges, headed by the signature
of the secretary of state, will be cir
culated by the 4,000 Y. M. C. A. boys
of Michigan, who invited Mr. Bryan
to the conference.
Mr. Bryan's significant "digression"
was as follows:
"Having told you something that
my mother stamped upon my miner
before I was 10, and something that
my father stamped upon my mind be
fore I was 15, I come to a third, thing
that they united in impressing upon
me when I was so young that I can
"I do not remember when I first
signed th,e pledge. If riiad to guess
I should say that it' was the day
that I learned to sign my name, but I
may have signed it a few times be
fore that with my mark. But what I
do know is that I have been signing
the pledge all my life. And I know
further that, as long as I live, I shall
sign the pledge any day if, by signing,
I can get one human being to sign
with me. (Applause.) ,.
"I believe in signing the pledge. It
has been a protection to me. When I
went into public life they told me a
man had to drink in order to be in
politics. If is a lie. A man does
not have to drink to be in politics.
There is no position that a sober man
can not fill better than a drinking
man. (Loud applause.)
"When the president asked me to
become a member of his cabinet I
told him that I knew of but one ob
jection that could be raised against
me, and that was that we did not use
wine and would not serve it. He left
it for my wife and I to decide, and
it did not take us long to do it. (Ap
plause.) We have not found it neces
sary to use wine in extending hos
pitality to those who represent other
nations; this nation's diplomacy is
not of the kind that makes it neces
sary to give a man drink in order to
deal with him." (Applause.)
".May I digress just a moment? The.
day before I left home I met a friend
who was drinking and I asked him if
he would sign the pledge with me
and he said that he would. I drew
up the pledge and it read: We, the
undersigned promise, God helping us,
never to use intoxicating liquor as a
beverage.'- After he had signed it I
saidto;iiim: 'We will have two copies
of it, Twill keep one and give your
wife the other. He replied to me,
Do you know that my wife will think
more of that pledge that if you gave
her a thousand dollars? I said, 'It is
worth more to her than a thousand
dollars.' I had that pledge in my
pocket as I was coming east thG other!
day when your leader, Mr, Van Dis, !
met mo in Chicago and showed me
this invitation, Signed by 4,000 boyst
I could not resist sucn an invitation."
"I could not decline it and do you
know how that invitation began?
Read it 'We, the undersigned' and
that made me think of the pledge in
my pocket and I decided to make a
proposition to you. I want to sign
a pledge with just as many of you
as will sign. I am going to ask those
in charge of this meeting to give you
a chance to sign u pledge here or
when you go home. I have already
signed it. I would like to have every
boy here sign that pledge, and then I
would like to have him go home and
get as many more signers as possible,
commencing with his parents and his
brothers and sisters, and with his
"If we could just get men to sign
the pledge and keep it, we would not
have the disgraceful spectacle that
we have in this country today with
four limes as much spent for liquor
as for education and 10 times as
much as is spent for religion. If we
had this condition wo would not have
all the sorrow and suffering that
drink causes. If the young men of
this state will bind themselves to
gether in agreement not to drink, it
will soon be easy to solve the liquor
question and to drive the saloon from
"I do not want any one to rise
unless" he is willing. I do not want
this to be done In any sudden passion
or fit of enthusiasm. It Is a pledge
for life. But, how many of you have
thought about it enough to rise and
indicate that you are willing to sign
the pledge with me? How many of
you? (At this point nearly all the
boys in the audience arose). Boys,
I am much obliged to you, and I want
these boys down here to know that
students in the gallery rose too."
"You know, when I am working in
politics I must get a majority to agree
with me before I can get anything I
believe in put into operation, and it
is not as easy as you might think to
get a majority to agree with you al
ways. But if I can get one human
being to start on a better way I have
done something, and it will .maKe mo
glad all the rest of my life if, by com
ing here tonight, I have been ablo to
protect any of you by a pledge against
the evils of intemperance. Forgive
this digression. I think it is the most
profitable digression I ever made in
making a speech."
Mr. Bryan believes tbjat 50,000
Michigan boys will jo:n him in this
total abstinence pledge. His plan is
to present the same to the youth of
every state as opportunity offers.
James Schermerhom introduced
Mr. Bryan as a personality and in
fluence comparable to Gladstone in
the political and social life of Eng
land "a spiritually-minded man of
the world." He can come to a boys'
conference from a political conven
tion, said Mr. Schermerhom, without
changing his mind or his methods.
The conference closed Sunday af
ternoon with an address by Fred B.
Smith, of New York, whom Mr. Bryan
commended to the boys as bearing
the mantle of the great Moody. Mr.
Smith's subject was "A Strong Man,"
and it was a powerful exhortation to
lead the Christian life. Many arose
; for prayers.
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.,
December 7, 1914. Mr. Cbas. W.
Bryan, Lincoln, Neb. Dear Mr. Bryan:
I am most happy to tell you that I
have ALWAYS been a great admirer
.of Mr. W. .T. Bryan, have supported
him with all my heart every time he
has been before the people for tho
presidency, and shall always esteem
him as second to no mnn otfr country
calls GREAT. The stand he took be
fore the Baltimoro convention, and
tho way ho won out on it was enough
to immortalize him, had he done no
other great things for tho maH3cs of
the people. Long may ho live and
prosper, and may his associate editor
bo spared to stand by him and Tho
Commoner to tho end. Yours very
truly, J. S. Surbor.
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