Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MATHEW, Theobald, apostle of temperance, born in Thomastown, County Tipperary, Ireland, 10 October, 1790; died there, 8 December, 1856. He was educated in the College of Maynooth, and entered a Capuchin convent at Kilkenny, where he remained until after his ordination in 1814, when he took charge of a chapel in Cork. His urbane manners and charitable disposition soon acquired for him great influence. He interested himself warmly in the condition of the lower classes, and organized a religious association for visiting the poor and the sick, which he induced many young men to join. In 1838 a Quaker first directed his attention to the necessity of suppressing intemperance, and soon afterward he was invited to Cork to join in devising a crusade against drunkenness. A total abstinence society was formed, of which he was chosen president. Thirty-five persons took the pledge at once, and the following day several hundred joined the society. In the course of five months he administered the pledge at Cork alone to 150,000 people, and no small part of this success was due to Father Mathew's personal influence. He was then invited to all parts of Ireland, and was followed by great crowds. After visiting every town in Ireland he went to England, where he was received with enthusiasm. His benevolences had involved him deeply in debt, and, although he received a pension of £300 from the queen, most of it was applied to paying an insurance on his life for the benefit of his creditors. His brother, a wealthy distiller in Ireland, also assisted him financially, until his business was ruined by the progress of the temperance movement. After his tour of England he visited the United States, arriving in New York in July, 1849. He made a successful visit to that city, and did good service in Boston, but alienated a number of its citizens by his refusal, for diplomatic reasons, to join the anti-slavery societies. In Washington he was admitted to a seat on the floor of congress, an honor that had not previously been conferred on any foreigner but Lafayette. Beginning with Richmond he made a tour of the southern states, subsequently visiting Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. In his farewell address to the citizens of the United States, he said that he had obtained 600,000 signatures to the temperance pledge in this country. A statue to his memory has been placed in the central square of Salem, Massachusetts, the gift of Thomas Horgan to that town. See "Biography of Father Mathew," by John Francis McGuire (New York, 1864).
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