Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gough, John Ballantine

John Bartholomew Gough in later editions.

GOUGH, JOHN BALLANTINE (1817–1886), temperance orator, was born at Sandgate, Kent, 22 Aug. 1817, of parents who were poor but of excellent character, with whom he resided till he was twelve. At that age, in consequence of the poverty of his family, he went out to America with a family who for ten guineas agreed to teach him a trade and take care of him till he was twenty-one, and there he learned the business of a bookbinder. He acquired a love of drink, and for seven years lived recklessly. At length a well-known temperance advocate, Joel Stratton, induced him to take the pledge. He began to attend temperance meetings and to recommend abstinence, when his ability as a speaker attracted notice. Giving up his trade in 1843, he became a temperance lecturer, and was soon the foremost speaker on temperance in the United States.

In 1853 he revisited England at the request of the London Temperance League. He extended his visit to Scotland and lectured to immense audiences in the principal towns. Returning after two years to the United States, he resumed his work there, but revisited Liverpool on 26 Aug. 1857. He remained three years in the United Kingdom. During the two years of his first visit he delivered 438 lectures and travelled 23,224 miles; during the three years of his second, he gave 605 lectures and travelled 40,217 miles. In 1878 he paid a third visit to this country. A splendid welcome was given him by a distinguished assembly in the gardens of Westminster Abbey at the invitation of Dean Stanley. After a month spent on the continent, Gough began his public work in Mr. Spurgeon's Tabernacle. Advancing years told adversely on his oratory, but his audiences were not less enthusiastic. Besides lecturing on temperance, he lectured on kindred subjects like ‘London Life,’ ‘Habit,’ ‘Curiosity,’ ‘Circumstances,’ &c.

Gough published in 1846 his ‘Autobiography,’ which was subsequently extended and reissued in 1871; in 1877 appeared his ‘Orations;’ in 1879 his ‘Temperance Gleanings;’ in 1880 ‘Sunshine and Shadow, or Gleanings from my Life Work,’ and in 1885 ‘Platform Echoes.’ Returning to America in 1879 he continued his work. When lecturing in the Franklin Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, he was seized with a paralytic stroke, and died, after a short illness, on 18 Feb. 1886. He had been twice married, but left no family.

No other speaker on the temperance question had ever so fully gained the public ear. After his lectures many took the pledge; men of high social and professional position espoused the cause; and new societies were formed.

[Gough's Autobiography and other works; League Journal and other temperance papers, February 1886; Report of the Scottish Temperance League; Funeral Sermons by Taylor, Cuyler, and others.]

W. G. B.