Boozy Yank targeted demon drink
Success of minister’s temperance campaign took a hit when he was charged with sexually assaulting girl, 15
One of Ontario’s most enthusiastic supporters of temperance was an American who knew all too well the dangers of drink.
David Rine, an American Methodist minister, best known for his battles in the name of temperance, was born in Pennsylvania in 1835. He started off in the printing trade, and it was there he enjoyed his first drink.
He learned to “imbibe the genial glass,” it’s said, but the printing trade didn’t rub off on Rine. At the age of 30 he became a preacher in the Methodist church, starting at the Second Methodist in Allegheny.
It was here he had his first whiff of scandal, but it wouldn’t be his last. Rine and Rev. John Gray, of Christ Methodist Church in nearby Pittsburgh, were charged by the church of having some sort of immoral conduct with a woman of “doubtful reputation.” Not much came out of the investigation, but the men’s reputations were damaged enough that they left town.
This sent Rine into a bit of a spin and he apparently enjoyed too many genial glasses. He was nabbed by the authorities twice for theft while drunk; the second time, got him two years in prison.
On his release, he tried starting new and fresh, with a patent business, and soon was back imbibing. But in December 1876, Francis Murphy, a leader in the American Temperance movement, convinced Rine to quit drinking and convert to the Gospel Temperance Movement.
Rine became an enthusiastic proponent and then a leader of the temperance movement — in 1877, he laid claim to gaining 35,000 pledges in Erie County alone.
By the 1870s, the temperance movement was reaching one of its high points and had seeped across the border into Canada, with more and more effort being put into prohibition. The Dunkin Act, which offered municipalities the power to ban alcohol, had already been passed by Parliament in 1864.
In 1877, Rine was invited to St. Catharines. For some reason, people there were apparently concerned with profligate drinking and welcomed the temperance crusader, who, according to local press, was very successful. He was invited to Toronto later the same year.
Rine spoke for free. He campaigned for 10 months, spreading the word in Toronto and around the rest of southern Ontario, hitting places like Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough, Galt and London, sometimes ranging as far as Montreal and Quebec City in the neighbouring province.
He was on a roll. And, in 1878, the federal government brought in a similar law to the Dunkin Act, called the Scott Act. But it all came to a crashing halt when, in the spring of 1878, Rine was arrested near Stratford for sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. The charge was reduced to common assault and Rine was acquitted in the jury trial, but his effectiveness as a religious leader fighting demon alcohol was severely damaged. That same year his wife died, and Rine literally wandered the wilderness for three years.
He tried a comeback but failed, “even in Toronto,” says one account.
Showing signs of mental breakdown, Rine moved to Detroit. He was picked up a year later on a tear, claiming ownership of the whole city. He was committed to the Wayne County Home for the Insane and died there soon after.
The Dunkin Act was the second federal kick at the Temperance can, giving municipalities the right to hold plebicites to ban alcohol sales. It was passed at the peak of David Rines' success as one of the Canadian movement's leaders.