General Neal Dow, the man who earned himself the nicknames, ‘Napoleon of Temperance and the ‘Father of Prohibition’ visited Belfast during this week in 1866, reported the News Letter.
He was the guest of honour of a conversazione that was held in the Ulster (Minor) Hall in connection with the Irish Temperance League.
There was a large attendance at the occasion of both ladies and gentlemen. Notable among those present were William Mullan, Esq, the mayor of Belfast, the Reverend Dr Morgan, Reverend Dr Houston, Reverend John Rogers, Reverend John White, Reverend John Macnaughton, Reverend Charles Seaver, Reverend G H Shanks and Reverend Alexander Gray. Also in attendance were Dr Carmichael, Dr Smith, David Taylor Esq, JP, alderman Robert Lindsay, Messrs T H Brown, Alexander Crawford, JP, J P Corry, John Simms, John McKibben and Alexander Riddell, but there many others attending the conversazione.
General Dow, on coming forward to address the meeting, was received with great enthusiasm. He said that Ireland was more identified with American than any other country, for their people consisted largely of men and women of Irish blood. There was a saying in America, he remarked, that New Hampshire was a noble state from which to emigrate, but he felt that Ireland was a noble country to emigrate from.
He said he had not realised this until he “saw that Ireland was a noble country to live in as well”.
Dow said: “When I passed through the fertile valleys and plains of Ireland, my heart sank within me to witness the condition of many of the inhabitants.
“All the misery and wretchedness in the country is the result from the drinking usages of the people.”
General Dow continued to remark that “influential men and women of Ireland should set an example of abstinence”.
:“You should regard it as the first of Christian duties that the influence of your example should be always for the right and never for the wrong.”
He next referred to the operations of the Maine Liquor Law in some of the states of America, “where jails were closed up and pauperism was unknown”.
He added: “In several Northern States no man trafficked in drink can be admitted into any Christian church, and no man who professed to be a Christian would let his buildings for the purpose of selling drink.”