Mary Leitch and Margaret Winning Leitch to James Levi Barton, September 29, 1915



Garrochales, [Puerto] Rico, September 29, 1915.

Rev. J. L. Barton, D. D.
Boston, Mass.

Dear Dr. Barton:

In the Missionary Herald for September we notice that the four masted schooner, "The Estelle Krieger," of Boston is taking to the West Coast of Africa 210,000 gallons of New England rum; and you say, "At each port where it is distributed it will be like the letting loose of hell upon the susceptible and unprotected natives."

Have not Christian nations been allowing this sort of thing long enough?

Has not the Christian Church, which has sufficient influence to form a balance of power on any moral question, been allowing this thing long enough?

What kind of a God would God be, if He did not punish a nation for such sins? We have written quite a long letter to you on this subject and enclose the same. We think that God is speaking in a loud voice through the European war, and calling upon the nations to repent.

As yet we have seen very little in the religious press about the great national sins and a call to repentance.

We notice that the American Board will hold its Annual Meeting in New Haven on October 26th & 27th. Should not this matter be given the prominence it deserves at that meeting.

If the great men of the country, who will attend that meeting are awakened, they can arouse the whole American nation.

The plan that Ex. Senator Blair brings forward which appears in the last part of the letter enclosed, seems to us practical and far-reaching; and we think it ought to be carried out.

If the American Board would approve it, as a policy, and use its best endeavors to have it brought before the Congregational Churches, other Denominational Boards would follow its lead, just as they did in the case of "The Forward Movement Have YOUR OWN MISSIONARY" plan.

The Forward Movement plan was brought forward at an Annual Meeting of the American Board and adopted, and the Foreign Mission Board of nearly every other Denomination has since taken it up. [page 2]

After the Forward Movement was adopted by the American Board at its Annual Meeting it advocated it in its literature to bring it before the Churches.

Before the Annual Meeting referred to, the Forward Movement plan was outlined in a printed leaflet and type written letter, both of which were prepared by us, and a copy of these was sent to every Corporate Member of the American Board.

As a result, the plan was advocated at one of the public sessions, not merely by one speaker but by several.

Could you not prepare an article which would portray the awful sins which Christian nations have committed, and are committing against the weak and helpless heathen nations, and issue a call for repentance and national righteousness and warn the people, as the prophets of old did, that these national sins, if continued in, will surely bring national punishments.

And as the sending of intoxicants to heathen lands is the evil in which our country is chiefly involved, could you not embody in that article Ex. Senator Blair's suggestion as to the action which the Churches might take to overthrow the liquor traffic?

And if such an article, prepared by you, was printed as a leaflet, and sent out to every Corporate Member of the Board together with a type-written hand signed letter by you, asking for the consideration of this question, so vitally related to the Foreign Missionary Work, at the Annual Meeting of the Board, might we not hope that as great and greater results would follow as followed the Annual Meeting where the Forward Movement was advocated and adopted?

If you cannot find time to do this, could you not put the work into the hands of some one who would be the right man to do it?

But we hope that you can do it, as your name would carry great weight.

Who knows better about the evils of the liquor traffic in heathen lands than your missionaries, and you, the Foreign Secretary of the Board?

This call for National Righteousness should come from a great Board like the American Board.

The Annual Meeting of the American Board is a great opportunity, and a great opportunity brings a correspondingly great responsibility. [page 3]

"I have made Thee a watchman x x x when I say unto the wicked 'Thou shalt surely die' and then give him not warning x x x the wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand."

We notice that not only the American Board, but also the National Counsel, and the other National Benevolent Societies of the Congregational Churches will hold their Annual Meetings in New Haven October 20th to 27th.

If you print a leaflet, could you not print enough so you could give copies to all attending those meetings.

Could it be printed, later on, as one number of the Envelope Series, or as an extra issue, so that it could be mailed at pound rates to the churches.

And could you arrange for some prominent speakers to take this matter up at the Annual meeting of the Board? Perhaps Dr. John R. Mott (who, we note is to be one of the speakers) would take this subject up, if asked to do so.

We know that the sessions of the Board will be crowded with very important matters, but would it not be possible to shorten up the singing and prayers and some of the speakers, in order to find time to bring in this matter.

Mr. Hudson Taylor, by his burning denunciations of the opium traffic, aroused the British Christians and awakened a public sentiment in Great Britain which influenced the British Government to change the opium treaty with China.

By helping to get rid of the opium evil, perhaps Mr. Hudson Taylor did more for China than the other missionaries of all Boards put together.

If the American Board will take up this question of National Righteousness, and especially the matter of America exporting intoxicating drinks to heathen lands, it may do as much for Africa as Mr. Hudson Taylor did for China.

And it may save this country suffering terrible [judgments] by the Almighty.

There are times when prayers to God are an abomination; if a man should be doing some important work at that time instead of praying.

We have just now read in "Collier's" of June 26th, 1915, the following: --

"The four masted schooner, 'The Orleans' sailed to the relief of the natives of the West Coast of Africa with 200,000 gallons of rum in her hold." [page 4]

Is a ship load going every month, or how much is being sent in a year from this country to Africa? How long shall this traffic be allowed to go on?

As long as the Christians of this country are willing that it should go on, and not a day longer.

The great American Board could start a movement among the Congregational Churches that would sweep the country.

In 1900 sixteen great nations signed a treaty to prevent the importation of distilled liquors into the whole tropical belt of Africa. The United States was one of these. We think this traffic must be illegal, and there must be some way of stopping it.

Dr. Wilbur F. Crafts, Supt. of the International Reform Bureau, 206 Penn. Ave., S.E. Washington, D.C., has full knowledge of what legal steps have been taken, and what ought to be taken in this matter. If you would ask him to come, he might be able to attend the session at which this matter would be discussed, and in a five or ten minutes talk, could tell just what the Congregational Churches could do. We doubt the Board's program for those two days is all "arranged", but it is not like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it can be altered.

When the Provisional Program of the Ecumenical Missionary Conference of 1900 was first issued, Dr. Crafts called our attention to the fact that it made no provision for the consideration of the opium and liquor traffic as [hindrances] to missionary work. We asked the Secretary of the Conference if a place could not be given on the program for this subject. He replied that it would be impossible.

We then appealed to every member of the Program Committee with the result that a place was given for the consideration of that subject, both at the great Sunday afternoon meeting in Carnegie Hall, and at a supplementary meeting.

We further asked every missionary who attended that Conference to prepare and send to us a written statement, telling what he knew about those evils.

The testimonies given at the Conference and in those letters were compiled into a book entitled "Intoxicating Drinks and Drugs in all Lands and Times." [page 5]

Presentation copies of this book were sent to many influential persons in the United States, Great Britain, Japan, China and the Philippines.

These testimonies encouraged the Statesmen of China to demand release from the opium treaty with Great Britain.

This book helped the British Christians who were opposing the opium traffic to create a public sentiment to bring pressure to bear on the Government at that time, and after the treaty with China was changed, they wrote that this book had come to their help as a reinforcement at the battle of Waterloo.

Therefore perhaps no other session of the Ecumenical Missionary Conference was more far-reaching in its influence than the one which dealt with opium and liquor.

If action taken at the forthcoming meeting of the American Board should result in putting a stop to the rum traffic with Africa, it would be a memorable session of the Board.

With Christian regards,

Very sincerely yours.

(Signed) Mary and Margaret W. Leitch.