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THE PERMISSIVE BILL.

255 and it might be much more successful. On the other hand (still regarding the bill in its inchoate form), it would make the sale of intoxicating drink illegal; and as we are a law-abiding nation, a great many people would give up the trade, and a very considerable number who have hitherto thought it unnecessary to refrain from taking alcohol would feel it to be their duty to become partial or total abstainers. In other words, it would cease to be the fashion to drink and to invite others to do so it would no longer be necessary for a man to imbibe liquor in order to get on in the world, as it is too frequently the case at present. As soon as the trade itself became illegal, it would, as it is now conducted, become very disreputable, and its open encouragement would cease. For it cannot be too frequently repeated that a very large number of respectable and influential men, who would consider it discreditable to keep a public-house themselves, do not hesitate to associate on terms of equality with publicans if they are only in a sufficiently large way of business, and thereby to foster a grave source of national danger.

But suppose the bill were read a second time, which is only an acknowledgment of its principle, does any reflecting reader who has followed the changes in our laws and constitution with ever so little attention, believe for an instant that a real injustice would be permitted against any important section of the community? For, as already stated, no great reform can be accomplished without inconveniencing individuals, who in this case would in all probability be either habitual drunkards, or those who are enriching themselves at their expense. It may be that in the present condition of society the bill aims at too much, and it is quite cer

tain that in its passage through Parliament it would be loaded with safeguards against oppression and the possibility of arbitrary proceedings on the part of total abstainers, by honourable members who would be anxious to prove their devotion to a certain class of their constituents, so that no poor man would be "robbed of his beer," and no legitimate interests would be sacrificed. For permissive legislation, as we have seen, has been found the most effective in that country where the rights of citizens are the most jealously watched. On the other hand, the official sanction which the bill would give to the cause of temperance would make that cause "diplomatically strong;" and the very prospect of its passing into law would have the effect of greatly diminishing some of the evils, and of entirely sweeping away other existing abuses of which it is intended to be the corrective.

Regarded in this light, then, it is earnestly to be hoped that all classes of our readers will carefully weigh the national importance and value of the so-called "Permissive Bill," and that when it is next brought before the Legislature, its promoters may succeed in enlisting for it a larger amount of support than it has hitherto enjoyed. At present the real but partially concealed forces which militate against drinking reform are the bitter hostility of an unlawful section of the trade which it would injure, and the disinclination of fiscal administrators to reduce a very material but a very iniquitous item in the public revenue resulting from the traffic. The statesman has yet to stand forward with the courage needful for initiating what will assuredly be the most important moral and financial reformation of our country.

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CHAPTER XVI.

RETROSPECT-CONCLUSION.

THE hasty survey which has been made in the preceding chapters, of the drinking habits of our race in various lands and ages, will, we trust, have had the effect of modifying some of our theories, based upon preconceived ideas, concerning the causes of intemperance. That climate is not a permanent source of that evil has, we think, been clearly proved. Nor is the popular theory tenable that barbarism and an aboriginal condition of mankind mean purity and sobriety, but that drunkenness is the invariable concomitant of a high state of civilisation. For, at the time when man is supposed to have been in a state of paradisiacal innocence, the standard of his morality was very low indeed, both as it concerned his indulgence in drink, as well as in other respects; and although purity and simplicity of faith appear at all times to have been accompanied by similar moral qualities, yet religion alone, excepting in one or two cases, has not exercised an important controlling influence upon the passion for drink in the human race. On the other hand, however, the superstitious rites and ceremonies with which religion has been more or less encumbered in all ages

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have countenanced if not patronised the use of intoxicating beverages.

It is quite true that every phase and form of civilisation has at one time or other been debased by its association with intemperance, and has frequently ministered to man's self-indulgence. Music and the arts have not disdained to become the handmaids of debauchery; poetry has been degraded by its influence; the artifice of politics and the designs of priestcraft have found it a convenient tool. And as to science, she has consented in a hundred different ways to multiply man's opportunities for self-debasement or to furnish him with palliatives for mitigating the evil. effects of his dissoluteness. But, on the other hand, if we can trust our imperfect knowledge, we see already that the wave of intemperance has invariably reached its highest point, not when nations have been the most highly civilised (if any nation can be said to have attained that condition), but either before it was fairly educated, or during the national decadence.

Nor is the expression "waves of intemperance purely imaginative, for they have had a real existence in the history of the past. One or more such waves rose high in ancient China, and probably overwhelmed dynasties, and yet modern China is not reckoned amongst inebriate states.

Another reared itself in India, where it broke against the barriers which were opposed to it by Buddha and his disciples. The pure descendants of the Indian and Persian races, the Hindoos and Parsees, who are the best educated, are at the same time amongst the most temperate of the Eastern races. In ancient Rome, on the other hand, the wave of intemperance reached its

RETROSPECT: CONCLUSION.

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greatest altitude when the arts were languishing, when her military prestige was waning, and when the barbarians whom she had subdued were becoming in their turn her conquerors. That wave was never broken, but for the time being it helped to wreck the civilisation of a large section of the human race over which it passed. Another smaller wave travelled from Central Asia towards the south-west, and there Islamism was the rock upon which it burst. This is, perhaps, the most conspicuous instance in which religion, aided, however, by the sword, has offered an effective resistance to the spread of drunkenness. The same tide which had submerged the Roman empire rolled on with undiminished force, and nearly overwhelmed the empire of Germany. But there, for the first time, we clearly apprehend the fact that drunkenness does not run side by side with true civilisation, at least if the latter is represented by all that is noble and refined in æsthetic. tastes, all that is enlightened in literature, science, and philosophy. For the Germans were the greatest drunkards at the time they were mere fighting men; not, perhaps, when they faced the legions of Germanicus, and certainly not when they stood opposed to those of Napoleon III.; but whilst they were still a nation of uncultivated boors, submissive followers of a band of robber-barons, whose highest conception of human greatness consisted in feats of arms and deeds of chivalry. But with the extension of commerce and intercourse with surrounding peoples came habits of temperance and frugality, in which the nation was soon confirmed by the spread of knowledge, by intellectual culture in the upper classes, and by the education of the great mass of the people.

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