Among those mourning the deaths of Philip Bliss and the other victims of the Pacific Express was the President-elect of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, who would soon be officially proclaimed winner of the 1876 election by only one electoral vote. The nation was reeling at the time from Reconstruction, economic depression, and the political scandals of Ulysses S. Grant. Hayes brought to the presidency a keen mind, a love for literature, and courage (in the Civil War, he was wounded four times and had four horses shot from under him). He also had a secret weapon—his wife Lucy, whom he had married on December 30, 1852. Lucy brought to Washington a college degree (she was the first President’s wife to have one), a gift for hospitality, and an open commitment to Jesus Christ.
But she didn’t bring any alcohol.
Official Washington was shocked by her banning of alcoholic beverages from the Executive Mansion, and the First Lady was dubbed “Lemonade Lucy.” She was unapologetic. “It is true I violathe a precedent,” she said, “but I shall not violate the Constitution, which is all that, through my husband, I have taken an oath to obey.” She later told a friend, “I had three sons coming to manhood and did not feel I could be the first to put the wine cup to their lips.”
Among those displeased was Hayes’s secretary of state who grumbled after one state dinner, “It was a brilliant affair. The water flowed like champagne.”
President and Mrs. Hayes began each day with morning prayers, making no secret of their lifelong custom of family devotions. They ended most days with music and singing. They were devout Methodists. During their years in Washington, they attended the Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church; and when the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, Lucy became its first president. Sunday evenings at the White House were times of worship. Hymnbooks were distributed, and Lucy sang vigorously the hymns of Philip Bliss and others.
Kings and leaders should not get drunk
Or even want to drink.
Drinking makes you forget your responsibilities,
And you mistreat the poor.
Beer and wine are only for the dying
Or for those who have lost all hope. (Proverbs 31:4-6)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 30.