Extracts from Biography of F.R.Lees relating to IoM

Dr F.R.Lees (1892)
F.R.Lees (1892)


F.R.Lees, born 15 March1815, played a major role in temperance work from its earliest days in the 1830's through to his death in 1897. The following extracts are taken from Dr F.R.Lees, A Biography by Frederick Lees published by H.J.Osborn, London, 1904; a somewhat hagiographic memoir in which Dr Lees is favourably compared with Cardinal Newman whose "brain was in fibre inadequate to grapple with the fundmentals of belief" whereas that of Dr Lees was more than adequate to show the errors of him and all other thinkers of that age.




FREDERIC RICHARD LEES’ earliest experience with a newspaper was that of thousands of others who have trod the thorny path of journalistic enterprizes. He and four other associates, fellow-workers at the Debating Society and at the Leeds Temperance Society, started in that town a small, fortnightly temperance journal, the first number of which appeared early in January, 1837. But by the end of the year, after a feeble struggle, it died.

Serious work in temperance journalism did not commence until a year or so after his marriage, on October 22nd, 1838, to Miss Mercy Joanna Jowett, the daughter of Samuel and Mary Jowett*, of Burmantofts Hall, near Leeds, with whom he spent part of his youth and early manhood. The British Temperance Advocate and Journal, of which he became editor and proprietor in 1840, all rights in it being ceded to him by the British Temperance Association on condition of fulfilling a number of conditions, among which was a provision that a certain number of free copies should be circulated weekly in order to spread principles of temperance, was published at Douglas, and under circumstances so novel as to make them worthy of narration. At that period of its eventful history the Isle of Man enjoyed the privilege of free postage of newspapers to and from its shores ; in fact, in 1839, it was virtually in the position of a foreign nation, technically it was not a British possession but a possession of the British Crown. And as newspapers to and from the colonies were (by 1st Victoria, 1837) transmitted free of charge, unless sent by private ships, it was possible to send newspapers to and from Douglas without paying a single penny. This privilege was not withdrawn until 1848, when an Act (11 and 12 Victorae, cap. 117) was passed rendering newspapers published in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man liable to postage. These newspapers were not liable to the stamp duty, and could elect either to pay the duty or the postage.

Under the management of the new editor the Temperance Advocate rapidly became a great success. Lees was becoming known as a forcible writer and speaker on subjects closely connected with the social welfare of the people, and his articles, written under the nom de guerre of "pathfinder," were eagerly read by thousands. On the average, the circulation of the Advocate for the United Kingdom and abroad was ten thousand copies, four thousand of which were distributed gratuitously. Hundreds upon hundreds of Temperance Advocates went as far afield as Canada, the West and East Indies, France, and the Channel Islands, post-free. The object of gratuitous distribution of the paper was to reach doctors and ministers of religion, and those in a position to influence the opinions of large numbers of people, rather than to gain the sympathies of private individuals ; and it must be admitted that the plan succeeded admirably. Not only did large numbers express satisfaction at the contents, but many voluntarily sent subscriptions for issues which they had already received, and requests that the paper be sent to them regularly. Some few, it may be, indignantly demanded that their names be removed from the free-list, but these—unwilling to be convinced of their errors, or disquieted by the editor’s religious views—were small in number compared with those who welcomed the Douglas publication.


Having now got the Advocate into full swing, Lees returned to Leeds, and in addition to carrying on his editorial duties from that place, found time for much lecturing. He also published at Douglas other temperance papers, such as supplements to the Advocate, which in 1843 were issued in a collected form as the " Standard Temperance Library," and in the same year the " Illustrated History of Alcohol," the outcome of the Framlingham discussion, containing a series of coloured pathological plates by Dr. Sewall, an American doctor, representing the human stomach in a state of health, and in a state of disease through drink. These plates included the picture of the stomach of a man named St. Martin in a state of health, and after ten days’ moderate drinking. The man’s stomach had been laid open through a gun-shot wound. These drawings, I may say en passant, were introduced to Lees’ notice by Mr. Edward C. Delavan, the well-known American reformer, in a letter which he wrote him from Ballston Centre, Saratoga County, in January, 1843. They never failed to produce a deep impression when produced at lectures. Other temperance works which he wrote a little before or during the period he edited the Temperance Advocate were " The History of the Wine Question," 1841 ; " The Aberdeen Prize Essay on Deut. xiv. , 25-20," in which he harmonized that passage with the position of the ultra-teetotalers—viz., that the Scriptures did not sanction the use of strong drinks, 1841 ; and another Prize Essay written under the nom de guerre of Flavius Raphael de Linde (F.R.L.) on " The Nature, Elements, and Rites of the Christian Eucharist."

In June, 1844, the Temperance Advocate commenced a new series under the title of the National Temperance Advocate, and at the end of the year Lees resigned the paper into the hands of the executive of the British Temperance Association In a fare-well note the editor thanked his numerous friends and supporters, and stated that he would endeavour ) in the columns of a new journal, to be called the Truth seeker, to find a more free and fitting channel of discussion. This new venture was carried on for about a year.

(* :Mr . Samuel Jowett was a letter-press printer in Dickenson’s Yard, Boar Lane, Leeds. He was the printer of " Owenism Dissected " and the " Owenite Anatomised," besides several other pamphlets of his son-in-law.)




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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