Are you a fan of historic late nineteenth-century American hymnals? How about controversial constitutional amendments that impinge on the private lives of individuals? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, I’ve got just the thing for you: "Prohibition Bells and Songs of the New Crusade: for Temperance Organizations, Reform Clubs, Prohibition Camps, and Political Campaigns." This collection of hymns, which you can find using our nifty new search engine, is comprised primarily of hymns promoting temperance, including "The Saloon Must Go", "Prohibition Chariot", "The New Battle Hymn of the Republic" (complete with thinly-veiled references to alcohol as "the cursed thing" and "the monster") and "Temperance Doxology" (which is just the same as the regular doxology but with the word "temperance" added to the title). This collection of hymns was published in 1888 to support the movement to proscribe liquor sales, which was frequently supported by both evangelical Christians, who associated alcohol with moral decline, and proponents of the social gospel, who noted the correlation between alcoholism and poverty.
Also published in 1888 was "Temperance Rallying Songs," with similar political motivations and even less subtlety. In addition to a few familiar standards, the hymnal includes many temperance hymns, such as a retelling of Daniel 5, with King Belshazzar replaced with "King Alcohol," a revision of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that honors the banner of temperance, and a song that claims alcohol will "rob you of your manhood" and encourages people to oppose its strength and "vote it out of existence." One hymn says of alcohol, "A horrid spell, a fatal charm,/ Unseen, is hidden there,/ Which if it touch but once the soul,/ Will lure it to despair" and that "In every drop a serpent lurks/ To sting the trusting heart." Both hymnals seem to be marketed for temperance organizations rather than churches.
During the nineteenth century, hymns were commonly used to promote social reform and support political movements. "Songs of the League," for example, is a collection of hymns focusing on peace that was compiled by the League of Universal Brotherhood, which believed all war to be destructive and inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity. As part of Hymnary's ongoing project to merge with the Dictionary of North American Hymnology (DNAH), hundreds of historic hymnals have been uploaded and indexed, with more being added daily.
--Landon Knoppers, Hymnary.org intern