MR. DOW was born March 20, 1804, at Portland, Me. His parents were members of
the Society of Friends, as all his ancestors were as far back as anything is known of them. They were all sober,
industrious, well-to-do farmers, and from them he inherited good health and a strong constitution His education
was first at dames’ schools, three of them; afterwards at the town school at the part of the town where the family
lived; afterwards at the private schools of the Rev. Mr. Weston and the Rev. Joshua Taylor; then at Portland Academy,
Baselial Cushman, Principal; then at the Friends’ Academy, at New Bedford, Thomas A. Green, Principal.
After that he was put into the tannery of his father to learn the art and mystery of converting the raw skins of
animals into the material of which shoes, harnesses, and carriage tops are made, without which society would be
but half civilized. During all those years he kept up his school-day studies, and made books his chief companions
and choicest treasures. In those early days and up to manhood his pocket money was spent in books—scientific, historical,
biographical, voyages, travels, and general literature.
He became early in life interested in the temperance cause, which was then newly born, and very soon saw that no
permanent good could be expected from labor in it so long as the liquor traffic should be permitted to spread temptation
to drink and drunkenness among the people. Very early, therefore, his attention was attracted to that point, and
his work was chiefly devoted to educate public opinion in relation to the grog-shops with which the State of Maine
abounded, and to fire the hearts and consciences of the people with a burning indignation against the traffic in
strong drink. For many years he spent much time and money in missionary work through the State at all seasons,
with his own carriage in summer and winter, always taking at least one friend with him, often two, three, or four,
and paying all expenses.
At length, in 1851, when Mayor of Portland, elected by temperance votes, he drew a bill prohibiting the manufacture,
sale, and keeping for sale of intoxicating liquors, except for medicinal and mechanical purposes and the arts.
This he took to Augusta when the session of the Legislature of that year was nearly dosed; had a public hearing
in the Representatives’ Hall on Friday, the 30th of May, and the next day his bill, without any change whatever,
was passed through both Houses to be enacted, by a vote of eighteen to ten in the Senate and eighty-six to forty
in the House. On Monday, June 2, 1851, it was approved by the Governor, and took effect from that moment. That
act became known throughout Christendom as the Maine Law, and gave rise to the active agitation for prohibition
throughout this country, in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
At the breaking out of the Rebellion, he went into the war as Colonel of the Thirteenth Maine Regiment, which he
raised, with the well-known Second Battery of Artillery, to the command of which he appointed Captain—afterward
General—Tillson. In mid-winter he went with General Butler to the Department of the Gulf, just missing shipwreck
on the way by the blunder or treachery of the captain of the steamer, on which were 2,500 men. He was in command
of Ship Island and its dependencies in the Gulf of Mexico, and while there was promoted to be Brigadier-General
by President Lincoln. Afterward, in connection with that, he was in command of Forts Jackson and Philip, at the
mouth of the Mississippi River. Then he was transferred to the command of East Florida, with head-quarters at Pensacola,
and from there was transferred to Camp Parapet, on the Mississippi River, six miles above New Orleans, and from
there he was transferred to the command of General Banks and had part in the attack on Port Hudson, where he was
While lying by with his wdunds, his head-quarters were needed for more hospital room, and he was transferred to
a plantation house outside the lines, where he was captured by a squad of Logan’s cavalry, and taken all through
rebeldom to Libby Prison at Richmond, stopping two months at Mobile. He was, after six months, exchanged for Fitz
Hugh Lee, and went home on furlough, so broken down in health by lying on the bare floor of the prison through
an exceptionally cold winter, that he recovered only in time to prepare to go again to the front, and was ready
to move when the rebellion caved in.
Neal Dow has been in Europe three times, in each case invited there by the United Kingdom Alliance of England as
its guest. This association was then, and is now, the most powerful and influential prohibition society in any
country. Its seal bears the legend, “The Immediate, Total, Legal Suppression of the Liquor Traffic.” In every part
of the kingdom, great meetings were held in the largest halls in the country, always crowded to their utmost capacity.
Often the gatherings were in the open air, no buildings being large enough to accommodate the multitudes which
came to them.
The three visits occupied nearly four years. The work did not go on in the short evenings of summer, and those
months were spent on the Continent — in France, Belgium, Holland, Prussia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy.
He made four visits across the channel, but was only twice in Italy, going south no farther than Naples. After
his return from his European journeys, he kept up his temperance work in his own country, in large sections of
it, his health continuing to be good.
In 1830 he married Cornelia Durant Maynard, the union being unbroken until 1883, when she passed away.