January 1, 1817
Reverand William Metcalfe sails to Philadelphia from England with 40 members of Bible Christian Church
Rev Metcalfe brings 40 Englishmen to Philadelphia with vegetarian ideals tied to their faith
From The Development of the Movement by The Vegetarian Society UK:
Two followers of the Reverend Cowherd, the Reverend William Metcalfe and the Reverend James Clark, set sail for the United States with thirty-nine other members of the Bible Christian Church in 1817. Some of them remained vegetarian and provided a nucleus for the American vegetarian movement.
The current and increasingly publicized debate over the vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, brought to the mainstream largely by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has a history in the United States. In 18th-century America various Christian sects practiced ascetism that included the "self-denial" of vegetarianism. However, it wasn't until the 19th century (as far as this historian has thus far been able to discern) that vegetarians took their contention about Jesus and vegetarianism public. It began in 1817, when Reverend William Metcalfe of England brought a small group of Bible-Christians, members of a church established a decade before by the Swedenborgian Reverend William Cowherd, to Pennsylvania.
Once settled in America, Metcalfe and his wife, Susanne, tried to teach their neighbors in Philadelphia about pacifism, temperance, abolitionism and vegetarianism--major tenets of their religion. His church did not enjoy widespread success, but what it lacked in size it gained in loyalty.
Metcalfe's little group of loyal vegetarians and their leader not only abstained from meat, they believed that Jesus had been a vegetarian. On account of teaching such a belief, Reverend Metcalfe, a congenial, pious and well-liked man, was unable to build a large congregation and sometimes suffered the slings of opposition to vegetarianism. Metcalfe's wisdom as a preacher and a person was attacked in the newspapers, and he was called "Infidel."
As a result, Metcalfe constantly had to struggle to keep the church financially stable. When he wasn't preaching, he was busy teaching in the church's tiny school, or writing and publishing two newspapers that reported on issues such as slavery, temperance and, it can be assumed, vegetarianism. Metcalfe's legacy of vegetarianism doesn't end at the church gate, for he was a force that brought together two other determined and courageous vegetarians. Those two individuals were Sylvester Graham and William Alcott, M.D. Together, Metcalfe and the two renowned vegetarian advocates formed the first national vegetarian organization in America.
January 1, 1835
A Defence of the Graham System of Living
Detractors argued that Graham was antiscientific, a proud, vain, and demagogic speaker who offered exaggeration and blustery language rather than empirical proof. To his followers, Graham was a prophet who gave practical advice for improved health, spirit, and intellect.
In 1835 Graham furthered his development of a unified theory of diet, publishing A Defence of the Graham System of Living. Poor diet was endemic in America, a result of the malevolent effects of “Luxury, soft enervating Luxury,” which had “lulled her victims into a fatal security” that would ultimately lead to self-destruction. Graham warned that the effects of a pernicious diet went further than just the individual. The nation itself was at risk of becoming degraded by overindulgence and luxury that had “destroyed our health, perverted our morals, debased our intellects, and, in its prevalence[,] . . . may foresee the downfall of a people, once famed for their intelligence, their virtue, and their freedom.” American opulence created moral and social ills, Graham argued, including “our diseases, our deformities, our poverty, and our slavery.”
The city brought forth “the noxious effects of impure air, sedentary habits, and unwholesome employments,” all of which pulled individuals further from physical and mental health. The growing metropolises of antebellum America were fi lled with a variety of urban amusements that Graham viewed as threatening vices. Saloons, brothels, and dining establishments with their alcohol, sex for gratifi cation, and overly taxing foods all provided services that Graham warned against as causing moral and physical failure. These distractions not only led individuals to falter but also ensured that they would remain disconnected from their natural physical state.
Graham’s attacks resonated in the rapidly developing industrial capitalist society of the Northeast, which freed individuals from the rigors of farm life yet at the same time destabilized the very social structures that had previously provided stability and comfort. The ascendance of the self-made man was contrasted among concerned politicians with the foppish aristocrats who purportedly composed the European ruling class, described by John Adams in 1819 as “producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly.” Free individuals had the opportunity and ability to create their own identities and build their own lives; however, with this freedom came the opportunity to fail as well as succeed. The same stark choice, according to proto-vegetarians, applied to dietary practices, which could influence and even dictate moral and physical well-being.
Animal foods were primarily to blame for personal vice, according to Graham, causing “a coarseness and ferocity of disposition” that rendered “the temper irritable and petulant; the passion of anger is either induced or strengthened by its use.” Meat consumption made humans no better than the violent members of the animal kingdom that fed on the flesh of other animals. This distinction helps explain Graham and his followers’ lack of interest in animal welfare. Meatless dietary reform was predicated on the notion that humans had the ability and responsibility to use logic and analysis to make the best possible choices. Instinct and desire dictated the actions of lower animals rather than rationale and self-control. Evils such as poverty and slavery could only exist in a society where humanity exhibited animalistic qualities of cruelty and aggression.
With the success of Graham’s lectures came a growing community of both devoted minions and frustrated critics. Detractors argued that Graham was antiscientific, a proud, vain, and demagogic speaker who offered exaggeration and blustery language rather than empirical proof. To his followers, Graham was a prophet who gave practical advice for improved health, spirit, and intellect.
By the mid-1830s a distinct community was created by adherents to Graham’s diet. Known as Grahamites, these individuals attempted to apply Graham’s dietetic principles to everyday life. Many followers simply applied Graham’s principles to their own kitchens, baking Graham bread, drinking cold water, and eating a vegetable diet, particularly in places like the South where few other Grahamites existed. Others—mainly urban and northeastern residents—crafted a Grahamite community through building and living in public institutions aimed at gaining converts and saving lost carnivores. The boardinghouse, with its promises of room, board, and kinship, became the center of urban Grahamite living.
April 1, 1837
Animal flesh was barred from the New York Grahamite home, however, eggs were eaten as they were not directly connected to death or suffering. Meals would be made of "hominy, rice, porridge, and a variety of seasonal vegetables including beets, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and squash"
Similar rules prevailed at Boston’s first Grahamite boardinghouse, though without the flexibility of democratic decision making for meal times. The home opened at 23 Brattle Street near Harvard Square in April 1837. The Boston Grahamite home was run by David Cambell, an abolitionist who in 1840 spread the gospel of Graham to reform-minded students at Oberlin College in Ohio. Students embraced the lifestyle, and the college briefly banned meat from all of its dining halls. Boston’s Grahamite boardinghouse purportedly drew a mixed crowd as well, ranging from “the most laborious to the most sedentary,” and from the permanent to the “transient or occasional.” The home reported housing between twenty and thirty permanent boarders at a time, consistently throughout the year. Advocates for the Boston house emphasized that it sought to draw healthy, vigorous individuals already acclimated to the Graham diet, rather than “invalids” who were “pale and sickly.” Homes that drew unhealthy boarders had another name, one that Grahamites wanted to avoid being connected with: hospitals. Boston’s Grahamite boardinghouse was also utilized as a meeting place for dietary and social reformers.
Animal flesh was barred from the New York Grahamite home, as were other poisons such as caffeine and alcohol. Toasted, stale Graham bread brewed with water was off ered to those who craved a cup of morning coffee. The simple meals furnished centered on vegetables and whole grains. Breakfast consisted of the omnipresent Graham bread, along with a variety of fresh fruits, including apples, peaches, cherries, and strawberries.
Interestingly, eggs were allowed at the breakfast table, and were even considered an important component of Grahamite diets, despite being animal-based. Eggs were not directly connected to death or suffering. As a result, Grahamites found them to be acceptable for consumption. Dinner— served in the afternoon and the largest meal of the day—consisted primarily of hominy, rice, porridge, and a variety of seasonal vegetables including beets, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and squash. Supper was a simpler, lighter meal and included Graham bread, milk, oatmeal, hominy, barley gruel, or mashed cornmeal.
Grahamites represented a cross-section of moral and scientific reformers in the United States. The group’s message eventually reached as far as the South and West, as evidenced by letters and articles that appeared in group’s publication, the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity. Grahamism, however, was most organized and popular in the Northeast, where Grahamite boardinghouses proliferated.
The houses drew a mix of urban middle-class reformers. Similar to abolitionists of the period, Grahamites were primarily skilled artisans or trade workers, including housewrights, piano makers, grocers, merchants, bookbinders, and cabinetmakers. These were individuals with respectable occupations, and the boardinghouses provided structure and moral guidance. Residents were often interested in the total reform ideology associated with Grahamism. The boardinghouse on Beekman Street, for example, housed at various times such well-known New York reformers as New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, pacifist Henry Clarke Wright, abolitionists Lewis Tappan and Theodore Weld, and future president of the American Anti-Slavery Society Arthur Tappan. Transcendentalist author Ralph Waldo Emerson— though not a Grahamite—did visit once to dine with Greeley and utopian socialist Albert Brisbane in March 1842.
January 1, 1842
Lectures to Ladies on Anatomy and Physiology
Mary Gove Nichols, disciple of Graham, taught physiology and anatomy and claimed that God designed humans to eat vegetables.
Mary Gove Nichols was a leading crusader for vegetarianism during the mid 19th century. She was a disciple of Sylvester Graham - perhaps the foremost vegetarian advocate of the century - and as a "Grahamite" her major form of activism was to teach physiology and anatomy to Americans.
To this end, Gove, who was a physician and proprietor of a water cure establishment (a non drug, "nature cure" facility), presented a series of lectures to female-only audiences eager to learn about the human body and how it functions. At the time, women were not supposed to lecture to audiences including males, but Gove managed to reach them as well through her published lectures, her magazine, and other works. Gove was also a novelist, acknowledged by no less a literary figure than Edgar Allan Poe, whose dying young wife Gove attempted to save from a fatal case of consumption (tuberculosis).
Gove couldn't save Poe's beloved cousin/wife, but she did help many people regain good health. Women (and men) were interested in what Gove had to teach, because they wanted to take control of their health and the health of their families instead of relying on the often treacherous, sometimes fatal drug medicine prevalent throughout the century.
Nichols and her lectures were popular. History records that at one lecture, the audience numbered as many as 2,000 - and that lecture was delivered in a small city. Vegetarianism was an integral component of Gove's teachings. Like her mentor Graham, Gove explained that God did not design the human body for flesh eating but to eat of the foods of the vegetable kingdom.
Gove, like Graham, was not typical of today's vegetarian advocate. It's doubtful that she would have approved of many vegetarian convenience foods, although she probably would have liked those low in fat and high in fiber. One's diet had to be heavy on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits - devoid of coffee, tea, condiments, and grease as well as meat - to pass inspection by her. Gove and other vegetarian crusaders contended that in some cases a diet that included flesh foods might be more wholesome than one that was vegetarian but loaded with grease and pastries. This was a concession evidently born out of compromise, which all but the staunchest vegetarian activists (those motivated primarily by religion or animal rights) seem to have made. Most likely they made this concession because they lived in a virulently meat-hungry and vegetarian-suspicious time that lacked hard scientific evidence proving the benefits of rejecting meat.
Besides the "vegetable diet," Gove and other "physiologists" called for a long list of daily practices, from bathing and exercise to adequate rest and cheerful attitude, as the prescription for health. If that advice seems familiar, the next time it is mentioned remember Gove, who like Graham, journeyed from city to city preaching physiology and a vegetable diet. Over time, many of the ideas of the American veg pioneers - derived from observation, the Bible, and natural history - have been scientifically verified and adopted by mainstream medicine. Until now, Graham, Gove, and company have rarely received credit for their attempts to aid ailing America. When they have been recognized, they and their groundbreaking work have usually been portrayed more as caricatures than as people of strong character, out to save the sick from unhealthful habits.
May 15, 1850
American Vegetarian Society is established
Rev. Metcalfe describes the tenets of the American Vegetarian Society
The Rev. William Metcalfe on taking the chair, addressed the Convention in a few appropriate remarks, expressive of the objects of the Convention. So far as he was informed, he believed the objects contemplated to be, to promote a knowledge of the principles, and an extension of the practice of a Vegetable Diet in the community; - to induce habits of abstinence from fish, flesh and fowl, as food; and secure the adoption of a principle which would tend essentially to promote a "sound mind in a sound body."
He observed that the subject was one of a deeply interesting nature. The preservation of health, and the attainment of longevity were objects of desire with every human being, whatever might be the tenure by which life was held. The subject of diet was confessedly one of interest to all, and one on whichall ought to have an accurate knowledge, especially as to its main principles, and their more immediate personal application. He had long ago laid aside the use of the flesh of animals, and had confined himself to the products of the vegetable kingdom. "It was nearly forty-one years since he had made use of any kind of flesh-food. He had raised a family, some of his children being present; and he had children and grandchildren who had never tasted flesh. The consequence of that system of dietetics had been altogether satisfactory. As a general thing they had enjoyed good health - better in fact, than their neighbours. When the yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia, in 1818, his residence was in the immediate vicinity of its appearance. He visited families afflicted with that disease, and yet neither himself nor his family were affected by the epidemic. The same exemption was experienced during the cholera of 1832 and 1849. All those facts went to confirm more fully, the sentiment in favour of vegetable food, long ago embraced, that the diet best adopted to health - best adapted to the true enjoyment of life, and to the development of all the higher powers of our nature, was that known as the Vegetarian Diet (Applause).
They had met there to endeavour to form a Vegetarian Society, composed of individuals favourable to the adoption and dissemination of principles advocating the Vegetable Diet. It would be for that assembly to consider whether it would be well to organize an association of that kind then, or not, and to act accordingly. Some discussion followed these remarks of the President.
That comaprative anatomy, human physiology, and chamical analysis of different animal and farinaceous substances, uniteldly proclaim the position, that not only the human race may, but should, subsist upon the productions of the vegetable kingdom.
That the Vegetarianm principle of diet derives the most ancient authority from the appointment of the Creator to man - when he lived in purity and peace, and was blessed with health and happiness - in Paradise.
That though the use of animal food be claimed, under the sanction of succeeding times, it rests only on the permissions accorded to man in his degraded condition, and is a departure from the appointment of the creator.
That if any man would return to Paradise and purity, to mental and physical enjoyment, he must return to the Paradisaical diet, and abstain from the killing and eating of animals as food.
That there is found in the vegetable world every element which enters into the animal organization; and that combinations of those elements in the vegetable kingdom are best adapted to the most natural and healthy nourishment of man.
That the approbation of man's unsophisticated and unbiassed powers of taste, sight, and smell, are involuntarily given to fruits, farinacea, and vegetable substances, in preference to the mangled carcases of butchered animals.
That flesh-eating is the key-stone to a wide-spread arch of superfluous wants, to meet which, life is filled with stern and rugged encounters, while the adoption of a vegetarian diet is calculated to destroy the strife of antagonism, and to sustain life in serenity and strength.
That as there are intellectual feasts and a mental being into which the inebriate can never enter, and delights which he can never enjoy - so there are mental feasts, and a moral being, which to the flesh-eater can never be revealed, and moral happiness in which he cannot fully participate.
That cruelty, in any form, for the mere purpose of procuring unnecesary food, or to gratify depraved appetites, is obnoxious to the pure human soul, and repugnant to the noblest attributes of our being.
That the evidence of Linnaeus, Sir Richard Phillips, Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley, Swedenborg, Howard, Jefferson, Rouseau, Akenside, Pope, Shelley, Sir John Sinclair, Arbuthnot, and a host of others, living as well as ancient observers of nature, testify to the truth of vegetarianism.
That in the vegetarian cause, a new field of exercises is opened up to the moral reformer, in which he is most earnestly and cordially invited to become a co-worker with truth, by adopting its teachings in the government of his own life, and by diffusing its principles in all his efforts for the elevation of his fellow man.
That we will personally interest ourselves in promoting the circulation of publications calculated to advance our cause - such as the London Vegetarian Advocate, the water cure and phrenological journals of New York, and all publications having for their objects the promotion of a knowledge of the laws of our being.
That we hail with great joy the progress of the vegetarian cause in England, where large societies exist, which, in one or two instances, embrace nearly five hundred members.
That it is advisable to organize State and local vegetarian societies wherever practicable, with as littel delay as possible - lecturing and diffusing facts and principles in the science of man.