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Neal Dow

Date of birth : 1804-03-20
Date of death : 1897-10-02
Birthplace : Portland, Oregon, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2011-12-22

Neal Dow was an American temperance reformer. His long, successful career, together with his reputation as father of the "Maine Law," made him a national figure.

Born in Portland, Maine, on March 20, 1804, Dow was raised in a well-to-do and highly moral Quaker household. Although he read widely and had a good mind, his father was skeptical of the conduct of and influences among college students and was unwilling to send him to college. Accordingly, Dow entered his father's tannery, rose to a partnership, and expanded his business interests in several directions; these accomplishments did not, however, satisfy his need for civic participation.

Dow next entered into temperance activities. He became unusually well informed about the subject in a state which consumed large amounts of liquor, and he became an outstanding speaker against its use. Dow and others in the Maine Temperance Union developed a program aimed at total abolition of liquor sales; since a substantial number of the members were also antislavery advocates, they doubly antagonized the conservative proliquor forces.

In 1846 a measure intended to prohibit liquor sales in Maine was enacted but was so ineffective that it doubled Dow's determination to impose a better-drawn measure. In 1851 Dow became mayor of Portland and applied himself to influencing the state legislature and governor to pass the measure. Despite bitter recriminations it became law, and its passage made Dow famous. He applied the "Maine Law" firmly in Portland and accepted engagements throughout the North to express his sentiments against liquor and slavery. Opposition to the Maine Law consolidated and grew aggressive. Elected mayor again in 1855, Dow continued his fight for full enforcement. Later that year a riot was instigated by proliquor forces in which a rioter was killed and several others wounded by police defending a legally administered liquor supply. Rumor and antiprohibition propaganda accused Dow of murder, but though the Maine Law itself became subject to shifting public sentiment, Dow's good repute held firm. In 1857 he took the first of three lecture trips to England.

Despite his Quaker heritage Dow volunteered for service in the Civil War and was awarded a colonelcy of volunteers. He was active in the Gulf command, was promoted to brigadier general, and served later in Florida. Wounded in 1863, Dow was taken prisoner and spent 8 months at Libby Prison, Richmond, Va., and at Mobile, Ala., before being exchanged.

After the war Dow resumed his temperance work. Dissatisfied with the conduct of the Republican party and its chieftains, in 1880 he joined with other prohibitionists and became their candidate for president, receiving 10,305 votes. He died in Portland on Oct. 2, 1897.


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