Boozy Yank tar­geted de­mon drink

Suc­cess of min­is­ter’s tem­per­ance cam­paign took a hit when he was charged with sex­u­ally as­sault­ing girl, 15

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FORUM - TOM VILLEMAIRE Tom Villemaire is a writer based in Toronto and the Bruce Penin­sula. Tom@His­to­ry­lab.ca

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.

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