Three features of the society deserve especial notice: 1-Its guiding principle will be common-sense, not fanaticism. 2-It will require no pledges from members. 3-It will not weary the students with constant appeals, but will assume that each student has sufficient intelligence and conscience to decide for himself whether or not to join the society.
The first peculiarity will certainly be appreciated by every Harvard student; if there is anything we do not believe in, it is bigotry. There are some practices that all conscientious men believe to be wrong, but in regard to drinking, perfectly upright men may differ. The friends of the society believe that total abstinence is on the whole the best practice; but they respect the views of those who conscientiously differ, and wish it to be distinctly understood that they have no sympathy whatever with those who ground their belief in total abstinence upon anything but common-sense.
An equally striking feature is the absence of pledges. Harvard students rightly wish to be free to change their opinions and habits whenever they see sufficient reasons for changing them. A political club does not require a pledge from each member that he will never change his mind, and join another party. English Free Trade societies do not require a pledge of eternal belief in the superiority of Free Trade over Protection. Neither will this society take pledges for the practice of total abstinence. It is intended that membership shall mean total abstinence, but as a member can withdraw from the society at any time, he will always have his membership in his own hands, and so will always have his habits in his own hands. Not only will members thus feel open to all sound argument, but what is even more important, the society will thus recognize the only principle of manly conduct, that we must do as we think right, not because of an artificial attachment to a pledge, but because of our own determination so to do; that the force that regulates personal conduct must come not from without but from within.
Another peculiarity of the society will be that, although it will seek to arouse an interest in the question of intemperance, it will not weary the student with importunity. Its meetings will not be so frequent as to ride the subject to death, Neither will the society run wild over lectures, which will be few, and will be given by men worth hearing. Two lectures will probably be given under the auspices of the society before the end of the current academic year, by Rev. Phillips Brooks, D. D., and Prof. James, men whom Harvard students honor as they do few others for ability, candor and liberal-mindedness, and who would favor no scheme that was not fair and manly.
Professors and students representing various opinions and habits have been consulted, and all believe that a total abstinence society, thus free from bigotry, pledges and importunity, and based upon common-sense, self-respect and gentlemanliness, will be respected by every student, whatever his own opinions or habits may be. We dare, therefore, to hope for the support of many, and the respect of all.
C. W. B., '82.