THE MONSTER, STRONG DRINK.
There are two remarkable passages in a very old book, known as the Proverbs of Solomon, which cannot be read too often, nor pondered too deeply. Let us quote them here:
1. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
2. "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babblings? who hath wounds without cause? who hath, redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."
It is many thousands of years since this record was made, and to-day, as in that far distant age of the world, wine is a mocker, and strong drink raging; and still, as then, they who tarry long at the wine; who go to seek mixed wine, discover that, "at the last," it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.
This mocking and raging! These bitings and stingings! These woes and woundings! Alas, for the exceeding bitter cry of their pain, which is heard above every other cry of sorrow and suffering.
ALCOHOL AN ENEMY.
The curse of strong drink! Where shall we begin, where end, or how, in the clear and truthful sentences that wrest conviction from doubt, make plain the allegations we shall bring against an enemy that is sowing disease, poverty, crime and sorrow throughout the land?
Among our most intelligent, respectable and influential people, this enemy finds a welcome and a place of honor. Indeed, with many he is regarded as a friend and treated as such. Every possible opportunity is given him to gain favor in the household and with intimate and valued friends. He is given the amplest confidence and the largest freedom; and he always repays this confidence with treachery and spoliation; too often blinding and deceiving his victims while his work of robbery goes on. He is not only a robber, but a cruel master; and his bondsmen and abject slaves are to be found in hundreds and thousands, and even tens of thousands, of our homes, from the poor dwelling of the day-laborer, up to the palace of the merchant-prince.
PLACE AND POWER IN THE HOUSEHOLD.
Of this fact no one is ignorant; and yet, strange to tell, large numbers of our most intelligent, respectable and influential people continue to smile upon this enemy; to give him place and power in their households, and to cherish him as a friend; but with this singular reserve of thought and purpose, that he is to be trusted just so far and no farther. He is so pleasant and genial, that, for the sake of his favor, they are ready to encounter the risk of his acquiring, through the license they afford, the vantage-ground of a pitiless enemy!
But, it is not only in their social life that the people hold this enemy in favorable regard, and give him the opportunity to hurt and destroy. Our great Republic has entered into a compact with him, and, for a money-consideration, given him the
FREEDOM OF THE NATION;
so that he can go up and down the land at will. And not only has our great Republic done this but the States of which it is composed, with only one or two exceptions, accord to him the same freedom. Still more surprising, in almost every town and city, his right to plunder, degrade, enslave and destroy the people has been established under the safe guarantee of law.
Let us give ourselves to the sober consideration of what we are suffering at his hands, and take measures of defense and safety, instead of burying our heads in the sand, like the foolish, ostrich, while the huntsmen are sweeping down upon us.
Only those who have given the subject careful consideration have any true idea of the enormous annual consumption, in this country, of spirits, wines and malt liquors. Dr. Hargreaves, in "Our Wasted Resources," gives these startling figures: It amounted in 1870 to 72,425,353 gallons of domestic spirits, 188,527,120 gallons of fermented liquors, 1,441,747 gallons of imported spirits, 9,088,894 gallons of wines, 34,239 gallons of spirituous compounds, and 1,012,754 gallons of ale, beer, etc., or a total of 272,530,107 gallons for 1870, with a total increase of 30,000,000 gallons in 1871, and of 35,000,000 gallons in addition in 1872.
All this in a single year, and at a cost variously estimated at from six to seven hundred millions of dollars! Or, a sum, as statistics tell us, nearly equal to the cost of all the flour, cotton and woolen goods, boots and shoes, clothing, and books and newspapers purchased by the people in the same period of time.
If this were all the cost? If the people wasted no more than seven hundred millions of dollars on these beverages every year, the question of their use would be only one of pecuniary loss or gain. But what farther, in connection with this subject, are we told by statistics? Why, that, in consequence of using these beverages, we have six hundred thousand drunkards; and that of these, sixty thousand die every year. That we have over three hundred murders and four hundred suicides. That over two hundred thousand children are left homeless and friendless. And that at least eighty per cent. of all the crime and pauperism of the land arises from the consumption of this enormous quantity of intoxicating drinks.
In this single view, the question of intemperance assumes a most appalling aspect. The
POVERTY AND DESTITUTION
found in so large a portion of our laboring classes, and their consequent restlessness and discontent, come almost entirely from the waste of substance, idleness and physical incapacity for work, which attend the free use of alcoholic beverages. Of the six or seven hundred millions of dollars paid annually for these beverages, not less than two-thirds are taken out of the earnings of our artisans and laborers, and those who, like them, work for wages.
LOSS TO LABOR.
But the loss does not, of course, stop here. The consequent waste of bodily vigor, and the idleness that is ever the sure accompaniment of drinking, rob this class of at least as much more. Total abstinence societies, building associations, and the use of banks for savings, instead of the dram-sellers' banks for losings, would do more for the well-being of our working classes than all the trades-unions or labor combinations, that ever have or ever will exist. The laboring man's protective union lies in his own good common sense, united with temperance, self-denial and economy. There are very many in our land who know this way; and their condition, as compared with those who know it not, or knowing, will not walk therein, is found to be in striking contrast.
Besides the wasting drain for drink, and the loss in national wealth, growing out of the idleness and diminished power for work, that invariably follows the use of alcohol in any of its forms, the people are heavily taxed for the repression and punishment of crimes, and the support of paupers and destitute children. A fact or two will give the reader some idea of what this enormous cost must be. In "The Twentieth Annual Report of the Executive Committee of the Prison Association of New York," is this sentence: "There can be no doubt that, of all the proximate sources of crime, the use of intoxicating liquors is the most prolific and the most deadly. Of other causes it may be said that they slay their thousands; of this it may be acknowledged that it slays its tens of thousands. The committee asked for the opinion of the jail officers in nearly every county in the State as to the proportion of commitments due, either directly or indirectly, to strong drink."
The whole number of commitments is given in these words: "Not less than 60,000 to 70,000 [or the sixtieth portion of the inhabitants of the State of New York] human beings--men, women and children--either guilty, or arrested on suspicion of being guilty of crime, pass every year through these institutions." The answers made to the committee by the jail officers, varied from two-thirds as the lowest, to nine-tenths as the highest; and, on taking the average of their figures, it gave seven-eighths as the proportion of commitments for crime directly ascribed to the use of intoxicating drinks!
Taking this as the proportion of those who are made criminals through intemperance, let us get at some estimate of the cost to tax-payers. We find it stated in Tract No. 28, issued by the National Temperance Society, that "a committee was appointed by the Ulster County Temperance Society, in 1861, for the express purpose of ascertaining, from reliable sources, the percentage on every dollar tax paid to the county to support her paupers and criminal justice. The committee, after due examination, came to the conclusion that upwards of sixty cents on the dollar was for the above purpose. This amount was required, according to law, to be paid by every tax-payer as a penalty, or rather as a rum bill, for allowing the liquor traffic to be carried on in the above county. What is said of Ulster County, may, more or less, if a like examination were entered into, be said of every other county, not only in the State of New York, but in every county in the United States."
From the same tract we take this statement: "In a document published by the Legislature of the State of New York, for 1863, being the report of the Secretary of the State to the Legislature, we have the following statements: 'The whole number of paupers relieved during the same period, was 261,252. During the year 1862, 257,354.' These numbers would be in the ratio of one pauper annually to every fifteen inhabitants throughout the State. In an examination made into the history of those paupers by a competent committee, seven-eighths of them were reduced to this low and degraded condition, directly or indirectly, through intemperance."
CURSING THE POOR.
Looking at our laboring classes, with the fact before us, that the cost of the liquor sold annually by retail dealers is equal to nearly $25 for every man, woman and child in our whole population, and we can readily see why so much destitution is to be found among them. Throwing out those who abstain altogether; the children, and a large proportion of women, and those who take a glass only now and then, and it will be seen that for the rest the average of cost must be more than treble. Among working men who drink the cheaper beverages, the ratio of cost to each cannot fall short of a hundred dollars a year. With many, drink consumes from a fourth to one-half of their entire earnings. Is it, then, any wonder that so much poverty and suffering are to be found among them?
CRIME AND PAUPERISM.
The causes that produce crime and pauperism in our own country, work the same disastrous results in other lands where intoxicants are used. An English writer, speaking of the sad effects of intemperance in Great Britain, says: "One hundred million pounds, which is now annually wasted, is a sum as great as was spent in seven years upon all the railways of the kingdom--in the very heyday of railway projects; a sum so vast, that if saved annually, for seven years, would blot out the national debt!" Another writer says, "that in the year 1865, over £6,000,000, or a tenth part of the whole national revenue, was required to support her paupers." Dr. Lees, of London, in speaking of Ireland, says: "Ireland has been a poor nation from want of capital, and has wanted capital chiefly because the people have preferred swallowing it to saving it." The Rev. G. Holt, chaplain of the Birmingham Workhouse, says: "From my own experience, I am convinced of the accuracy of a statement made by the late governor, that of every one hundred persons admitted, ninety-nine were reduced to this state of humiliation and dependence, either directly or indirectly, through the prevalent and ruinous drinking usages."
Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P., in his pamphlet, "How to Stop Drunkenness," says: "It would not be too much to say that if all drinking of fermented liquors could be done away, crime of every kind would fall to a fourth of its present amount, and the whole tone of moral feeling in the lower order might be indefinitely raised. Not only does this vice produce all kinds of wanton mischief, but it has also a negative effect of great importance. It is the mightiest of all the forces that clog the progress of good. * * * The struggle of the school, the library and the church, all united against the beer-shop and the gin-palace, is but one development of the war between Heaven and hell. It is, in short, intoxication that fills our jails; it is intoxication that fills our lunatic asylums; it is intoxication that fills our work-houses with poor. Were it not for this one cause, pauperism would be nearly extinguished in England."
THE BLIGHT EVERYWHERE.
We could go on and fill pages with corroborative facts and figures, drawn from the most reliable sources. But these are amply sufficient to show the extent and magnitude of the curse which the liquor traffic has laid upon our people. Its blight is everywhere--on our industries, on our social life; on our politics, and even on our religion.
And, now, let us take the individual man himself, and see in what manner this treacherous enemy deals with him when he gets him into his power.