Page images



the character, condition, and prosperity of our people than any other law that was ever enacted." 1

And what he says is true. Almost every writer on the United States bears out his statement, although they may not perhaps attribute all the improvement to this particular law. Even Mr. M'Carthy says that it acts as a check upon drinking, because it draws it into low places, and makes it disreputable; 2 and that the evasion is chiefly by foreigners, but that the Americans themselves are "largely total abstainers." He and others say that it enables the authorities to make raids upon men who carry on the trade with effrontery, and many instances are given where they have been forced by the law, with public opinion to support it, to give up the trade altogether, at least for a time. One case mentioned by Mr. M'Carthy is worth recording. In Rutland, Vermont, drinking was carried to such excess that the authorities forbade the sale of drinks in the bars of the hotels. The hotel keepers "struck," and closed their houses; but the inhabitants turned their houses into hotels, and met travellers at the railway station. This checkmated the regular innkeepers, who were glad enough to reopen their houses and submit to the law. Mr. M'Carthy adds, that a fortnight. afterwards he obtained brandy at an hotel in Rutland; a fact which proves that it is possible to evade the law, and which is not calculated to raise Englishmen in the estimation of the Americans.


Another author, already quoted, says that wherever the cause of temperance is strong enough to get the Maine Law passed, it is strong enough to force the 2 Prohibitory Legislation, p. 174. 4 Ibid., p. 169.

1 The Maine Law Vindicated, p. 7. 3 Ibid., p. 176.


liquor traffic to withdraw from public gaze. "In desperate cases," he says, "it has to reduce itself to the exhibition of Greenland pigs and other curious animals, charging twenty-five cents for the sight of the pig, and throwing in a gin-cocktail gratuitously." And it is most remarkable, he adds, how this encourages the study of natural history, for the same persons have been known to go over and over again to study the habits of the "Greenland pig!" But it is unnecessary to cite authors. In these days of rapid locomotion, every reader must have frequent opportunities of conversing with men of different nationalities who have. resided or travelled in the United States, and if he takes the trouble to inquire for himself, he will find the following to be the facts in regard to American temperance legislation. So far as entire prohibition is concerned, it has failed in the large towns, but has been successful in many small towns and country villages. In places where public opinion has demanded, or cordially supported, any form of repression or restriction, it has made the traffic disreputable; has removed temptation out of the way of those who would, if they could, control themselves, and has reduced the habitual, callous drunkard, as well as the man who supplies him, to the position of a law-breaker and a sneak. It has raised the whole moral tone of society and the material condition of the masses. The failure has been where the law has tried to force prohibition upon an unwilling community; the success where a reforming or reformed public opinion has found the law ready to aid it in enforcing sobriety for the benefit of all. In short, the legislation which has succeeded best in the United 1 The Americans at Home, vol. ii. p. 315.



States is that which gives the option to localities to have liquor sold in their midst or not as they choose,"permissive legislation," and that has indeed been an inestimable boon to the citizens of the Great Republic.

And now we must say a few words, and they must be very few, concerning that new development of the drink question in America, "inebriate asylums." Attempts have been made to establish them in England,1 but so far only to a very limited extent, and they are not recognised by the State. In the United States there are at least four such institutions. The "Washingtonian Home" was opened in Boston as far back as 1857; the "New York Inebriate Asylum," at Binghampton, was founded the following year; the "Sanitarium," in Philadelphia, started in 1867; and an asylum at Chicago in 1868. These institutions are aided by the State legislatures, and it is calculated that in the one at Boston, out of 3000 inebriates who have been received in nine years, 2000 have been completely cured. They are all voluntary asylums, that is to say, the "patients" are never detained against their will; and those who seek refuge there pay part or the whole cost of their maintenance. Very interesting but painful accounts have been given by visitors of the condition of the inebriates, some of whom are brought by their relatives or friends completely intoxicated; and those who have conversed with the inmates, and with the medical men under whose care they are placed, tell us that there are certain canons of intemperance, if we may call them so, which are quite stable and undeviating. First, it is impossible for a drunkard ever to be

1 Third Report of the Lords' Committee on Intemperance, p. 3; Evidence of Rev. R. M. Grier.

come a moderate drinker. Secondly, there is no hope for an inebriate until he thoroughly distrusts his own. resolution, and excepting as a total abstainer for life. Thirdly, he must avoid on system and on principle the occasions of temptation, such as places where liquor is sold, and persons who will urge it upon him. Even the wine given at the communion table should be avoided. "That sip might be enough to awaken the desire; the mere odour of the wine filling the church might be too much for some men.” 1 This is the deliberately expressed opinion of one of the most experienced "inebriate" doctors in the States. As we have said, at present the American institutions are voluntary, but it is expected that there will one day be an asylum for incurable drunkards who will be forcibly detained, and compelled to earn their own livelihood.

This, then, is the position of the drink question in America. The contest between the sober portion of the community on the one hand, and the drink-sellers and their depraved customers on the other, a contest in which the state very properly sides with the cause of temperance, has successfully reached a stage far in advance of that which it has attained in Great Britain, and the people are devoting their energies and their inexhaustible resources to arrive at a practical solution of the problem which has hitherto puzzled all men and all ages.

1 The Great Country, by George Rose, M.A. (Arthur Sketchley), Tinsley. A very graphic account of a visit to an inebriate asylum, extracted from the "Atlantic Monthly," will be found in this work, pp. 385-401.

( 229 )



Up to the present time we have been chiefly engaged in recording the facts of history, and in describing various phases in the social life of nations, but in the present chapter we shall have to deal with theories and opinions of a more or less debateable character. This it will be our endeavour to do, as heretofore, in an impartial spirit; but whilst we examine the views of others without prejudice, we shall not hesitate to avow openly the convictions which have been forced upon us, by a careful review of the experience of the past and by personal observation of the social changes now in progress.

What, then, have been the causes of intemperance in the human race? and are those causes still in operation? These are the questions to which we must first seek satisfactory replies. Some persons hold the view that climate has much to do with the inordinate love of intoxicating drink, and they point to the intemperance of Northern nations of the Russians, the Swedes, the Norwegians, and the English-as examples in favour of their theory, comparing them with the Mohammedans and the

« PreviousContinue »