The Good Templars

Good Templars

The Independent Order of Good Templars

One day in 1832 Joseph Livesey made a conscious decision that he wouldn’t drink any more alcohol. To make it a solemn vow he and seven fellow workmen signed a pledge to that effect and thus the temperance movement began. This act prompted many like-minded men to follow suit and by the year 1835 “The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance” was formed.

But the United Kingdom was not the only place where “spirits” of moderation, if you’ll pardon the pun, were taking root. In the United States and other countries many were making a decision to omit hard spirits from their lives and in some cases a total abstinence from alcohol was the order of the day.

As is almost always the case when three people get together with the same ideas, one will inevitably grab a gavel, another a pen and paper and the last will guard the door. Then is born a secret society or fraternal order. The temperance movement was no exception. The movement, which seems to have simultaneously popped up in the UK and North America in the 1830’s, led to the birth of many temperance fraternal societies in the early years of the 1840s.

With regard to the American ones the first seems to have been the Sons of Temperance, which began in New York City in 1842. Unlike many fraternal organizations, the “Sons” admitted men and women into its doors. There were, as with most fraternal orders and societies, secret rituals, passwords and handshakes. Members wore regalia. Although noble in its ambitions it met with some contrary thought in the growing temperance movement. Many people felt that a “Secret Society” might not be in the best interests of the movement.

Be that as it may, temperance fraternal orders grew and in the same year of 1842 the Independent Order of Rechabites was formed as an offshoot of the English order of the same name, but which had an earlier pedigree, starting in 1835. Unlike the Sons of Temperance, the Rechabites was a male only temperance society. However there was a female counterpart called the Daughters of Rechab. The Rechabites preached total abstinence and met in “tents” as opposed to lodges. This name for their gatherings was figurative and not literal and comes from the Rechabites found in the book of Jeremiah, who abstained from wine and lived in tents.

“And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever.”

Jeremiah 35: 5-6

But the reader must ask what has Temperance to do with the Knights Templar? Very little if one considers that in the later years of the original order, the Templars became so known for their drinking of alcohol that a common expression of the day for a drunkard was, “He drinks like a Templar.” It is unknown whether those in the temperance movement where aware of this old saying, but many of the orders of the 1800’s adapted the name of the Templars.

“The Marshall Temperance Fraternity” was established in 1845 and later on changed their name to “The Marshall Temple.” Still later they changed again to the “Sons of Honor” and finally settled on “The Templars of Honor and Temperance.”

They seem to have modeled themselves on the earlier Sons of Temperance and used a system of six degrees based on the legend of Damon and Pythias as well as the aforementioned Knights Templar. Like the Sons of Temperance they had traditional fraternal modes of recognition including passwords, grips and the traditional regalia such as collars and aprons. Like most of the temperance fraternities, the order is not in existence today.

There is however, one temperance order that is in existence still and that is The Independent order of Good Templars. The IOOGT was founded in Utica New York in 1851 and was originally known as the Knights of Jericho. It used a three-degree system, collars and aprons like in Freemasonry. Regalia is no longer used by the modern counterpart.

Although similar to the Sons of Temperance, which began in 1842, they claimed that their organization was superior because they weren’t bothered with selling life insurance to the membership, something their predecessors were actively engaged in.

In 1859 the Good Templars formed their platform of six items concerning their stand on the temperance movement:

1st – Total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage

2nd – No license in any form or under any circumstances for the sale of such liquors to be used as a beverage.

3rd – The absolute prohibition of the manufacture, importation and sale of intoxicating liquors for such purposes-prohibition by the will of the people, expressed in due form of law with the penalties descried for a crime of such enormity.

4th – The creation of a healthy public opinion upon the subject by active dissemination of truth in all the modes known to an enlightened philanthropy.

5th – The election of good, honest men to administer the laws.

6th – Persistence in efforts to save individuals and communities from so direful a scourge against all forms of opposition and difficulty until our success is complete and universal.

The next few years of the organization would see many new members admitted to the order. In 1865 the order had 60,000 members and with the end of the Civil War behind them the order had over 400,000 members by 1869. These members seemed dissatisfied with the Republican and Democratic parties and in 1869 the Prohibition Party was formed. It attracted only a small number of voters, but occasionally, as in the case of the close political race of 1884 between Cleveland and Blaine, may well have played the spoiler in this evenly matched race. Many historians contend that this may well have been the case. In New York State the Prohibition Candidate, John P. St. John received 25,000 votes and Blaine lost the state by only 1,149 votes. Many of those voters were no doubt Good Templars casting what they felt to be the “good vote.”

Today, less political in nature, the order is known as the International Order of Good Templars or IOTG and operates worldwide in over 40 countries. As in the original organization, the IOTG admits men and women equally and promotes the ideas of temperance, peace and brotherhood. At this time it stands as the largest non-government run organization working in the field of temperance and has expanded its practice of temperance beyond mere alcohol to include narcotics and other drug dependencies.

While this modern day Templar namesake may not be similar to the originals in their consumption of alcohol, they do share the spirit of Templarism in fighting the good fight for a cause they believe in.

Please Note:
We have no information on nor are we affiliated with this organization. Neither do we have info on members past or present.

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About Us was started in the fall of 1997 by Stephen Dafoe, a Canadian author who has written several books on the Templars and related subjects.

Read more from our Modern Templars Archives – Templar History