Rush, Benjamin by Faye Huntington

In 1885, all over this land, we celebrated a centennial. It was not in commemoration of a victory upon the battlefield, it was not the celebration of a victory, but rather as we observe with fitting ceremonies the anniversaries of the firing of the first guns in any contest of right against wrong, so in this last centennial year we commemorated the first booming of cannon in the great war against the rum traffic, the beginning of a war that is not ended yet; all along down the century the booming has been heard, and to-day this moral fight is waging fiercely.

About one hundred and forty years before, near the city of Philadelphia, a boy named Benjamin Rush was growing up. It is said of him that as he advanced from childhood to boyhood his love of study was unusual, amounting to a passion. He graduated from Princeton College when only fifteen years old, and with high honors. He began the study of medicine in Philadelphia, but went abroad to complete his medical education and studied under the first physicians in Edinburgh, London and Paris; thus the best opportunities for gaining knowledge of his chosen profession were added to natural abilities and the spirit of research. He became a practising physician in Philadelphia, and was soon after chosen professor of chemistry in a medical college in the same city. While he is now at the distance of a century, best known as one who struck the first blow for temperance reform, yet it is interesting to know that when in 1776, he was a member of the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania, he was the mover of the first resolution to consider the expediency of a Declaration of Independence on the part of the American Colonies. He was made chairman of a committee appointed to consider the matter. Afterwards he was a member of the Continental Congress, and was one of the devoted band who in Independence Hall affixed their names to the immortal document which cut the colonies loose from their moorings and swung them out upon a sea of blood, to bring them at last into the harbor of freedom and independence. As was said of him at the meeting in Philadelphia, last year: "He was a great controlling force in all that pertained to the successful struggle of the colonies for national independence." We are told that "He was one of the most active, original and famous men of his times; an enthusiast, a philanthropist, a man of immense grasp in the work-day world, as well as a polished scholar, and a scientist of the most exact methods."

He was interested in educational enterprises; he wrote upon epidemic diseases, and won great honor for himself, so that the kings of other lands bestowed upon him the medals which they are wont to give to those whom they desire to honor. And now let me quote again from one who appreciates the character of this truly great man:

"This matchless physician, eminent scholar and pure patriot blent all his wise rare gifts in one tribute and cast them at the feet of his Master. He was a devout Christian."

At length his soul was stirred within him as he witnessed the increasing evils of intemperance, and he wrote and published his celebrated essay upon "The Effects of ardent Spirits upon the Human Body and Mind, with an account of the means of preventing them, and of the remedies for curing them." This is said to have been the first temperance treatise ever published—the beginning of a temperance literature. So short a time ago, just one pamphlet of less than fifty pages; now, whole libraries of bound books, besides scores upon scores of pamphlets, leaflets and many periodicals devoted exclusively to the cause of temperance! and nearly three quarters of a century after this good man had gone to his rest, men and women from all over the land thronged the city of his birth "To recount the victories won in the war—and to strike glad hands of fellowship."

And now what made Doctor Rush great? What is the best thing said of him?