[THE PUBLISHERS append, on their own responsibility, the following excellent philosophical and argumentative Essays, by R. T. TRALL, M.D., and by Hon. HORACE GREELEY, which have been printed, and may now be had, in tract form.]
PHILOSOPHY OF THE TEMPERANCE REFORMATION, OR, THE RELATIONS OF ALCOHOL AND
THE HUMAN ORGANISM, CHEMICALLY, PHYSIOLOGICALLY, AND
A PRIZE ESSAY;
TO WHICH THE PERMIUM OF $100 WAS AWARDED, BY THE GENERAL TEMPERANCE
BY R. T. TRALL, M.D.
THE cause of Total Abstinence from all that intoxicates, is destined, I firmly believe, to lead the way to a greater moral renovation and physical regeneration in all the essential elements of human nature, than even its warmest friends dare now anticipate. Temperance reform, in its present aspect, has, probably but a single, serious obstacle in the way of universal and complete success. It is not yet well understood by the mass. True science, history and experience have shed their floods of light on the subject, yet, still, in many quarters the cloud of ignorance site deep; still there are thousands of our fellow men, intelligent on nearly every other theme within tire range of human thought, grossly benighted on this. Indeed, it is but a few years since the progress of knowledge developed those principles which point as to the true philosophy of this matter.
It is also true that innumerable spectacles of wo--ten thousand sights of horror --countless scenes of human degradation and misery--and all the blackening train of vice, and crime, beggary, devastation and undistinguished ruin, that follow in the wake of the dram-drinking fashion and folly, have brought this subject home, in all its frightful phases, to our thoughts and feelings! We have all heard the sounds of drunken revelry mingling with the night winds; we have all heard the wail of suffering woman borne on the breeze; we have heard the unprotected orphan's cry echoed from a thousand barren tenements of want and wretchedness; we have seen the outcast offspring of the inebriate running wild and wo-stricken through our streets, thinking of nothing but a morsel of food or a rag of raiment, and feeling nothing but the delirious desperation of outraged sense;--and O ye virtuous makers and merciful administrators of the laws!--is it crime for the poor, tattered, starved, shivering wretch, maddened with nature's every want unsatisfied, to take unlawfully the tempting garment, or fuel, or food! We have listened to the maniac's scream upon the burdened air! we have beheld the human form divine, despoiled of nearly every humanizing attribute, and transformed to a loathsome demoniac condition of beastliness, and we have said, truly, all this is the work of the alcoholic bane. And many of us have said, with this foul thing we will no more! This blighting fiend of desolation shall rule over us, and ravage among our vitals, no more forever!
Yet with all these terrible evidences before their eyes;--with all this tremendous tide of consequences rolling from the records of the past, there are those who have not said, from this fell demon we will be free! Why cling so many to the intoxicating cup, as though therein dwelt strength, and health, and life, instead of debility, disease and death? And why are there yet so many among the great, the reputable and exalted ii life, spell-bound by the infernal charm of Intoxicating poison, and who either damn the cause of teetotalism with faint praise, or stand entirely aloof from it, or absolutely oppose it? Alas! they know not what they do. They know not what they sacrifice to fashion!
I fully believe that if every person in the community could be made clearly to understand the nature and properties of alcohol, its relations to the human constitution, and its chemical and physiological effects on the animal organism, we should have no further occasion to talk temperance; license laws would no longer trouble us; liquor, venders would turn away in horror from their unblessed vocation, and spirit-makers would cease to pervert the works of God, to converting the wholesome food he has made to sustain us, into the nefarious poison to destroy us; at any rate, there would nobody be found willing to swallow that burning depravity, "whose ingredient is a devil."
I believe if these truths could be written on the human understanding, that man, so enlightened, would turn away from all that intoxicates, as from a murdering basilisk! and he would teach his children, he would tell his brother, be would exhort his fellow man to avoid strong drink, through all its extended variety of many-colored beverages and elegant fashionable disguises, as they would a scorpion's sting which inflicts certain disease and probable death.
To present this subject, in outline, to those who have never critically investigated it, as plainly and philosophically as my very limited space will allow, is the task before me.
Let me commence by indicating two important principles, as laws of nature, which I desire the reader steadily to keep in mind.
1. Every thing that it useful or proper, either as food or drink, for man or animals, is produced naturally by same process of growth in living, organic matter.
2. Every substance proper for animal sustenance, either as food or drink, is such only while it remains in the same organic state and chemical condition in which nature produced it.
Now what is alcohol! Does alcohol grow! Is it found a constituent principle in anything that has life? Never! Go search creation through. Examine all the structures and fluids of that being whom alone God has taught to laugh or weep and of all the tribes of animated existence that "roam the wood, or wing the sky, or roll along the flood,"--you find it not. Look through all the vegetable kingdom; analyze the alimentary grains, the nutritious seeds, the esculent roots, and the luscious fruits; it is not there. Then go down to the mineral regions; search through all the strata of earth and explore the depths of old ocean; it is not there. Nature, throughout all her domain of things animate and inanimate, has not produced it. Whence comes it then? Human art, led on by the solicitation of depraved instincts, has produced it;--not by any process of growth and development, but by a process of destruction and retrogradation. Many persons, even at this day, think alcohol is a constituent of vegetable matter. I read not long since, in a work evincing much greater metaphysical than chemical knowledge,
[p. 80]that, alcohol existed naturally in sugar, from which it was merely separated by fermentation and distillation, and this was given as a reason why it is so natural for us to love it. Natural! There never was a man, or animal, that did not find it disgusting in every shape and abhorrent to every sense, unless his or its nature had become changed from its pure and pristine condition. This error has had a most disastrous effect on the popular mind.
Let us try to understand this matter. There are among those vegetables which the beneficent Creator has caused to grow for our sustenance, various proximate principles which are nutritious; as water, sugar, starch, gum, gluten, fibrin, albumen, and others, which are called, in dietetic works, alimentary principles. Now so long as these proximate principles maintain their natural state, or chemical condition, so long are they salutary food and drink, but no longer. They are all composed, mainly, of certain proportions of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen, which constitute their primitive or ultimate elements. It the proportions of these ultimate elements become changed, in any way, the whole nature of the substance is altered, and the most healthful aliment may thus be converted into the most virulent poison. To illustrate. The air we breathe is composed of about one part of oxygen, to three of nitrogen; but by combining a greater portion of oxygen we make aqua fortis, a powerfully corrosive liquid that will decompose the animal structures like fire. Water is composed of definite proportions of oxygen and hydrogen; but unite those elements in any other proportions and there to water no longer. A sound potatoe is wholesome food; but when it rots, its organic state, or chemical constitution is changed; it is no longer food, and, if you eat it, you will get poisoned. The juice of an Apple, or Grape is salutary drink; but let those juices rot, change their natural state, or in other words, ferment, and they are nature's beverage no longer.
Now in making alcohol, the nutrient vegetable principles undergo fermentation. And what is fermentation? In plain language, it is simply--a rotting process. The proximate, organic, vegetable principles putrefy, become decomposed, and are physiologically destroyed; but, being subjected to certain circumstances of air, temperature and moisture, some of their ultimate elements, set free by the process of decomposition, recombine in new forms and produce new substances, one of which is alcohol. The fermentation of leavened bread converts a portion of the sugar into carbonc acid gas, and if the fermentation is carried too far the gluten is destroyed and acetic acid developed--or, as the women say, their bread is sour. Hence fermentation in the best of bread diminishes its nutritive qualities. If food ferments in the stomach, instead of digesting, various acid, acrid and irritating compounds are formed, as the dyspeptic well knows--greatly to his cost! and all fermentation, whether panary, saccharine, vinous, acetic, or putrefactive, is simply the transformation of matter from its organic or proximate, to its ultimate or elementary conditions, in different stages of the process of retrogradation and destruction.
Thus we see that alcohol, so far from being a product of growth and organic formation, is exactly the contrary, a result of decay and destruction; and it has, clearly no more place among man's beverages than arsenic has among his foods. The virus of the rattlesnake, when taken into the human stomach, has a pleasant, nervine and exhilarating effect, and is, in fact, thus used, a less deadly poison than alcohol. But if this virus be inserted under the skin, it proves rapidly destructive.
[p. 81]Alcohol inserted under the skin produces only a slight inflammation, but if swallowed, its destructive influence over the whole nervous system is rapid and powerful. Now one is just as veritable a poison as the other, yet each operates in its own peculiar way. Such is alcohol in itself considered, and such the analysis of its ravages on man.
But dram drinkers should notice another thing. The alcoholic beverages of commerce are even worse than the alcohol itself. They do not get the alcoholic poison pure; but it is further dragged with still other poisons. Read a part of the long catalogue of pernicious agents to common use; namely, Essential Oils, Cocculus Indicus, Logwood, Brazil Wood, Alum, Green Vitriol, Oil of Vitriol, Capsicum, Opium, Tobacco, Aloes, Bitter Oranges, Henbane, Nux Vomica, Sugar of Lead, Oil of Bitter Almonds, India Berry, Poke Berries, Elder Berries, Poison Hemlock, Guinea Pepper, Laurel Water, Prussic Acid, Dragon's Blood, Lamb's Blood, Gum Benzoin, Red Sanders, Burnt Sugar, Salt of Tartar, and so on. Here are some of the most deadly vegetable and mineral agents in the world, with which nearly all the liquors, wines, ales, and beers in the world, and often cider, are drugged and adulterated. A late work on Chemistry enumerates forty-six articles commonly used in making beer alone; and almost every species of the light and sweet wince, such as ladies sometimes think delectable, is extensively adulterated.
Such, Ladies and Gentlemen, are some of the detestable poisons you who drink strong drink, are occasionally taking into your blood, to course through your veins, and, by mingling with the currents of life, to mar and deform your bodily structures. Would to God that every lady in the fashion-forming circles of society, as she sips the ruby wine, and relishes the taste, and tosses her high head in dignified disdain, saying, "Oh! if I could not be temperate without signing a paper," could see all the foul drugs mingled is the draught she takes into her beautiful mouth!
I come now to the relations of alcohol to the human constitution.
We are accustomed to say that alcoholic drink ruins the mind and destroys the body. This is true figuratively or practically and in effect. We cannot say, in strict philosophy, that it affects mind directly in its nature or essence. We must mean therefore, that the medium through which that mind manifests itself to us, is changed, so as to suppress or modify that manifestation. Mind--what is it? We see its operation as perfect in the young child as in the educated adult, yet of more limited powers, just as its organism is less developed. It is the same in the degraded sot of brutal visage and idiotic countenance, as in the sober man of angel aspect. Why then is mind, in the child and the adult, in the drunkard and in the sober man, apparently so different? Look at the condition of their bodies and you have the answer.
Put into the bands of Vieux Temps, a well-made, full-toned, tour-stringed violin, and give to Ole Bull a broken, shattered, ill-fashioned, two-stringed fiddle;--while one would "discourse most eloquent music," the other would only grate out "horrible discord," and yet both are good musicians. This body is the instrument on which the mind plays; and if the instrument was always kept in good order, the performer, would always produce such "concord of sweet sounds" as angels would delight to hear.
The particular organ that manifests the mind is the brain. Those channels through which it receives and transmits impressions, from and to all parts of the
[p. 82]vital domain, are the nerves. Now it is true among all human beings, that those persons who exhibit the greatest mental ability--other circumstances being equal-- possess the most exquisite and perfect organization of brain and nerves; and among the different races of men, we find those inferior in strength and variety of mental powers, coarser also in bodily conformation, the hard, the bony and earthly structures prevailing over the more fluid and delicate tissues. In flue, there is a natural if not a necessary connection between physical contamination, mental imbecility and moral depravity, and whatever contemplates human improvement is closely allied to physiological integrity.
If these views are correct, it follows deductively, that, whatever injures man's bodily structures, and deranges his organic functions, will just in that ratio deteriorate his whole nature, whether we call it physical, or mental, or moral; and, conversely, whatever improves his organic condition tends to exalt his whole nature, and elevate and ennoble all his powers, feelings, thoughts, affections, and attributes.
The brain is the most exquisite arrangement of organic matter that exists; so fine, soft, and delicate as to be almost fluid; indeed, it is composed of nearly nine-tenths pure water. Now whatever affects, in any way, this brain, and those nerves which run to and from it, affects in a corresponding degree, not the mind, but its operation through that brain and nervous system. If a blow is received on the head, and this delicate organ materially disturbed, the person is senseless and thoughtless; he feels nothing and knows nothing. Yet his mind is not essentially altered. If this brain is deprived of its due supply of blood, or if that blood is thrown upon it in undue proportion or force, its structure is deranged and the manifestation of mind is different. The man who has taken a large draught of intoxicating liquor, sees one object in two places at the same time; he imagines the sidewalk is rising up to knock him on the head; he thinks the lamp-posts are making threatening gestures; he fancies his friend looks insultingly awry to provoke him to combat; he concludes everything around him is misplaced, distorted, or in unwonted commotion, and he judges that moons and stars are dancing antics and fantastics over his head. His mind operates through a disordered medium. There is no mystery whatever in that illusion of unbalanced faculties which transforms wife, children, friends and fellow creatures, into spectral devils, demons, fiends and damned spirits! And is it strange, that, in this state of perturbed sense, he perpetrates acts of folly, and crime, and outrage?
The principles I have thus far considered, demonstrate, beyond all peradventure that alcohol is, to every shape or form, chemically incompatible with every fluid and structure, and physiologically incompatible with every function, of the human economy; yes, with every vital process of every living thing, animal or vegetable. Things chemically incompatible are those which cannot maintain their separate conditions when brought into contact. They act upon, neutralize, and destroy each other. Acids and alkalies afford familiar examples. When brought together, they destroy each other, and form third substances different from either. But acids and alkalies are natural constituents of our bodies, and, therefore, are rendered physiologically compatible by forming third substances which are also natural constituents. Alcohol is not, and cannot become, with any proximate principle, a natural constituent of the animal organism, and hence it is wholly and unqualifiedly a chemically destructive agent. The vital fluids counteract the influence of the alcoholic poison to a certain extent, but they are neutralized in turn; the contact is mutually destructive; and the contest is only prolonged indefinitely because
[p. 83]the vital powers are constantly creating new energies and new materials to oppose it This is the reason why some men of originally powerful constitutions will carry their "quart a day" without staggering, for ten or twenty years, while others will succumb in as many mouths. Remove this influence of vitality, and all the phenomena become very different. Then alcohol forms with various animal tissues, fixed, chemical compounds, which resist the ordinary atmospheric agents of decomposition. In other words, alcohol as a poison will deprive the living structure of vitality, and then, as an antiseptic, preserve the dead part from putrefaction. So does arsenic, when taken or administered with suicidal or homicidal intent, often deprive the stomach of life very speedily, and afterwards preserve it for weeks and months from chemical decomposition.
The many well authenticated cases on record of spontaneous combustion, afford, also, couclusive evidence of the chemical incompatability of alcohol with the entire animal organism. This strange phenomenon has never occurred except with hard drinkers. This process is a merely rapid decomposition of all the bodily fluids and solids, so strongly impregnated with alcohol as to be absolutely combustible, yet precisely analagous to that slower process of destruction always going on with all dram-drinkers, and which may break out into a consuming flame, literally, whenever any adequate exciting cause is applied, at any moment after the influence of the alcoholic agent has rendered the vital energies weaker than more chemical affinities.
I say alcohol is also incompatible with the living organism, physiologically. By this I mean that it excites natural emotions to an inordinate intensity, or suppresses healthy actions, or disturbs the balance of action between several organs. This is too plain to need illustration. Bat I cannot forbear here alluding to the strong chemical affinity that exists between alcohol and the brain and nervous structures as is evinced by its hardening effects upon, and its frequent presence in, the brain. Now the strength of chemical affinity is in ratio to the opposite nature and physiological incompatability of substances; hence the nervous tissue suffers more from this inimical agent than any other. This seems to explain the more peculiar influence of alcohol on the brain as the organ of the mind; and deplorable is the error of those who mistake the vital resistance--that rapid expenditure of the fund of life the excitement of that exhausting warfare between the living organism and the unnatural foe, because in that preternatural commotion brilliant scintillations of intellect are sometimes emitted--for an exaltation of all the mental energies.
There are many who, still harping on the oft-exploded sophism, that alcohol may be used or abused, may say the best bread and the purest water are great evils when excessively or improperly used. Very true; but these men entirely overlook the radical difference. We may take too much food and drink, or that not of the best quality, or preparation, and suffer from it. Here we get some good and some evil. Those articles still contain useful and nutritious properties. The material is right, but the application is wrong; here is use and abuse. Alcohol contains nothing useful or nutritious; consequently all such employment is abuse. Again, the best aliment is that which nourishes our bodies with the least excitement. Alcohol only produces excitement without a particle of nourishment. Its whole character as a drink is unmitigated evil.
To those who contend for its dietetic use as a medicine, I have only to say, first, tell me what is your disease, and, second, show me that you procure it and use it after the manner of other medicines, and if I am obliged to charge you with mal-practice,
[p. 84]I will exculpate you in motive. If you cannot do this, I am compelled to suspect that there is already existing in your case, a lurking friendship between this all-potent, all-curing, all-killing, remedy and a morbid appetite; and general precedent authorizes me to believe that such friendship will by and by ripen into love, and that love may eventually lead to a union of fortunes--not "for better and for worse," but for worse only and altogether.
If you go to medical records to learn how alcohol affects the human system, you learn there that it inflames the coats of the stomach, disorders the liver, excites the blood-vessels, poisons the blood, vitiates the secretions, renders the bland juices of the body acrid and irritating, paralyzes the nerves, hardens the brain, produces dropsy, dyspepsia, jaundice, marasmus, consumption, gout, rheumatism, eruptions, ulcers, tumours, carbuncles, leads to imbecility, insanity, and delirium tremens, and so on through nearly the whole catalogue of human maladies. The fact is, it diseases the whole constitution, taints every fluid, and poisons every solid, and it depends upon mere casualties what particular form the general disease may assume. One man of phlegmatic temperament may be more liable to dropsy, or asthma; another, of active habits and excitable brain, will have delirium tremens; a third, whose vital organs are weak, consumption; a fourth, whose organization was originally defective, palsy; a fifth, of full habit and sedentary pursuits, gout, apoplexy, and so forth. Thus the dram-drinking individual is always diseased--all over--everywhere; and whenever any incidental exciting cause is applied, so that the general morbid condition is thrown with disproportionate violence upon a particular organ or part, we call it a specific disease, and name it accordingly. Conclusive on this point is the fact, that nearly all pathological authors have noticed that dram-drinkers of all sorts, from brandy-topers, rum-suckers, gin-swiggers, whiskey-tipplers, to wine-bibbers, ale-soakers, and beer-guzzlers, and even cider-bruisers, are ever liable to severe and fatal consequences from slight wounds, cuts, and injuries, which in water-drinkers are scarcely objects of solicitude.
There is another consideration, in my own opinion, of more appalling magnitude than anything else connected with this whole subject, and it is a consideration to which the public mind has been seldom directed; and I would that its truth could be clothed in sunbeams of light, and aped like lightning a flash to the judgment and conscience of every member of the whole family of mankind! I mean the transmission of organism from parent to child. We know that the alcoholic poison diseases and vitiates the whole organization. We know, too, that organization, good or bad, is transmissible. What a thought! for a parent to transmit to his offspring a depraved imperfect, and malformed organization! Have you never seen the fond mother's hopes blasted in an offspring, deformed in some feature of body, by which the symmetry of the whole was marred, or deficient, or disproportioned in some mental organ, by which fatuity, or imbecility, or eccentricity, was stamped on the character! That mother suffers not alone. Her child suffers irremediably; and that child's child perchance suffers, and too future generations suffer. If there is one duty high as heaven, and solemn as eternity, and paramount to all others devolving on parents in this relation, it is to transmit to posterity pure, perfect, and uncontaminated tenements, in which for those spirits to sojourn, which are to animate and actuate them through life's whole pilgrimage! A drunken parent can never be the father or mother of healthy offspring; nor can a habitual moderate drinker be the progenitor of an tone as sound and perfect as it should be. If an immoderately dram-drinking man's organization is injured in a
[p. 85]great degree, a moderately dram-drinking man's organization is injured in a lesser degree, and to look for a progeny, faultless in form and of strict integrity of structure and function, from a degenerate parental organism, is looking for a kind of miracle that never did and never will happen. Think of these things, fathers and mothers, when you see children for whose precocious depravity you have been unable to account, and wonder no longer. True, the use of intoxicating drink by the parent is only one of several causes of impotent and depraved offspring; yet it is a most prominent and perhaps the most prolific one. Think of these things, you who are destined to become the fathers and mothers of the future race. It seems to me that if I could but impress this one truth on your minds--and it is truth, since nature's laws are true--you would one and all resolve, and pledge yourselves, and KEEP THE PLEDGE, never, never, NEVER again to drink the liquid damnation!
Now, granting the premises I have laid down, where are the moderate drinkers going to get their boasted strength of mind to regulate their moderate indulgences? They look at the poor drunkard and say, "What a miserable mind that fellow must have." Yonder is a long array of drunkards, and following close behind them is an equal army of moderate drinkers; and the moderate drinkers call all the drunkards weak-minded, tools, beasts, and every opprobious epithet, yet still follow right on to their footsteps, imitating all their conduct, and meeting the same fate. No; temperate drinker, be not deceiving and deceived! The poor drunkard's mind is exactly like yours. His mind, even now, is just as good and just as strong as yours or mine. True, yon have not yet got your senses so steeped in depravity, so pickled down in contamination as his; but the difference is only in degree, which time is fast obliterating. Soon you may reach the point where he now stands, and then another moderate drinker will take the position you now occupy, and point the finger of scorn at yon, as he repeats your stereotyped argument: "What a miserable mind that fellow must have!" This idea of controlling morbid propensities while you continue to deprave the Organization--of creating artificial appetencies, and then governing them as though they were natural, by some inexplicable process or magic called strength of mind, is a delusion that has led its thousands, yea, its millions, down the rapid stream of moderate indulgence to the murky pool of immoderate drunkenness. You might as well take a viper to your bosom, and, when yon begin to feel the working of its fangs, cry out "O! strength of mind! save me from being poisoned!"
Of all deluded men the moderate drinker is the most deluded. The teetotaler, whose senses are pure, and whose organic sensibilities are natural, as for as strong drink is concerned, if perchance he swallows the baleful draught, he feels it cut-sting, scorch, and burn along the throat and through the stomach; he feels it "flame through, the nerves and boil along the veins;" he notices the clouded vision, the reeling brain, the quivering fibre, the trembling muscle, the staggering limb; he is aware that every animal instinct proclaims to the scat of intellect, the presence of an enemy within the citadel of life, and he knows how it affects him.
And the poor drunkard, whose organization has already passed through, in some respects, the transformations of disease to positive destruction, as the dilapidated house of flesh seems to moulder and crumble around his spirit, and as that spirit recalls him to consciousness in its struggles to unearth itself of its dishonored tabernacle, he feels the premature wreck, and secs the ruined fragments of himself, and he knows how it has affected him.
And the liquor vender, as he looks around his neighborhood and sees his fellow-creatures
[p. 86]fall around him, as he surveys the changing features and waning prosperity of his customers from day to day, and as he observes how rapidly old familiar faces disappear and new victims present themselves, knows how it affects mankind.
And the spirit manufacturer, as he works the healthful food of man into the execrable poison, and as he compounds his villainous drugs to flavor and give additional potency to his commissioned emissary of desolation, and thus augment the presence of the glittering god he worships, knows full well how it will affect those who drink it.
But the moderate drinker seems not to know anything about it. He cannot feel, and will not see, and likes not to hear any thing about it. The senses of taste and smell seem to be the only avenues through which impressions find access to his thoughts on this subject. Because he is not yet past the season of pleasurable stimulation; because he can yet feel a dizzying satisfaction in the delirious whirl of morbid excitement; because he yet finds some moments of fitful enjoyment in the revelry of debauch, while the confirmed inebriate only drinks to drown the maddening sense of a consuming system; because he still finds an alluring madness in that draught which thrills the domain of life for a moment, and then leaves him, like the blasted trunk of the forest tree, upon which the red lightning of the storm-cloud has expended its rage; I say because of all this, he draws himself up into a state of invincible self-complacency, and says--"I know myself; when I get so that I cannot control myself there is time enough to sign the pledge. I know how I feel, as well as anybody can tell me; and however it may be with others, it does me no harm to take a little occasionally." And if you push the matter into details, you will find he is in favor of taking a little for medicinal purposes, when he is very cold--or very hot--or very dry--or very wet--or very dull--or very bright. After a little further experience, he says, "I am satisfied a little bitters once a day or so is very refreshing;" and further on, "A very small horn morning and evening is first rate;" and still later, "A moderate dram three times a day is really useful; and after a while, "Four or five decent drinks in the course of the day are, in my case, absolutely indispensable;" and as "time rolls its ceaseless course," he declares at length--"I have tried liquor a long time, and I find it agrees with my constitution exactly"--because, ruin and disorder now agree with it!
Now at any stage of his downward progress, were you to admonish him--" Friend, do you not drink a little too mach! Is not the habit growing upon you?" "No!" He feels insulted. "I know what agrees with me. I can command myself as well as ever I could." And if you tell him it has injured you and ruined thousands; if you cite him to sorrowing fathers, to mourning mothers, to weeping wives, to desolated homes and beggared children, to societies ravaged and nations destroyed; if you challenge him to point you to a single instance, himself alone excepted, where that being whom God designed "to walk erect, and wear sweet smiles, with face upturned to heaven," has been benefitted by intoxicating beverages, he still persists that he is no exception to all rules in philosophy, laws of nature, or records of history, or monuments of time; and perhaps stammers out as a clincher to all reasoning--" What's one's meat, may be another's poison."
Here, then, is the philosophy of the teetotal pledge. The dram-drinker can sign that pledge. He is still capable of voluntary action, and he can keep that pledge. Then he bursts the chains of depraved propensity by which he has been led, and binding unnatural appetite fast in firm resolve, is free indeed. Then the energies of his soul beam forth brightly again, like the radiant sun through retiring clouds.
[p. 87]He can look abroad into "the wide unbounded prospect" that lies before him, and say, "To me the perfidious destroyer is no more: for me the accursed bane does not exist at all." By so doing, his system will to a great extent regenerate itself, and his mind, having again a fit instrument, will play those tunes men call deeds of goodness, virtue, sobriety; and the sweet choruses called domestic affection, social happiness, patriotic principle, human weal, will resound through street and lane, and echo from splendid palace and from lowly hovel.
To pursue this subject a little further in its physiological aspect. Alcohol possesses three distinct properties, and produces, consequently, a three-fold physiological effect:
1. It has a nervine property, by which it excites the nervous system inordinately and exhilarates the brain. This property is like that of the pure nervines, as tea, coffee, musk, sulphuric ether, and others.
2. It has a stimulant property, like ammonia, phosphorus, capsicum, and others, by which it inordinately excites the muscular motions, and the actions of the heart and blood-vessels.
3. It has a narcotic property. This is precisely the same is alcohol as in the pure narcotics, as henbane, prusssic acid, deadly nightshade, and others. The operation of this property is to suspend the nervous energies, soothe, and stupefy the subject.
Now any article possessing either one, or but two of these properties without the other, is a simple and harmless thing compared with alcohol. It is only because alcohol possesses this combination of properties, by which it operates on various organs and affects several functions, in different ways, at one and too same time, that its potency is so dreadful and its influence so fascinating, when once the appetencies are thoroughly depraved by its use. It excites and calms, it stimulates and prostrates, it disturbs and soothes, it energizes and exhausts, it exhilarates and stupifies, simultaneously.
The property that is most manifest under its influence depends on the relative quantity taken and the periods of repetition. If a man takes very small doses, and repeats them often, the nervine effect will be most apparent; he acts fantastically smart, laughs very ridiculously, and talks excessively silly, If he takes larger drams at longer intervals, the stimulant operation is predominant; his blood is thrown into irregular motion, his muscles contract spasmodically, his lower animal propensities are lashed to disproportionate intensity, and he feels pugnacious and destructive. If he takes very large draughts, the nervine and stimulant effects soon pass off, and the narcotic is chiefly manifest; his veins becomes turgid, his tongue swells, his muscles relax, his limbs tremble, he becomes stupified and falls to the ground, a senseless mass of blasted humanity, and then he is called intoxicated. The fact is, a man is as truly intoxicated--drunk--with a small dose as with a large one, only in a different manner and degree. You can often see in the habitual dram-drinker all three of these properties manifested from a single dram. When the liquor first begins to operate, he becomes remarkably good-natured and unendurably friendly; he talks, laughs, and sings; he seems to like everything and everybody. Wait an hour; the scowl settles on his brow; the frown distorts his features; and if the most trivial incident strikes his imagination crosswise, the bestial propensities rule; his lower jaw moves and his head shakes with the ferocity of a tiger; he snaps, and snarls, and grits his teeth with the malice of a dog; and
[p. 88]he wants to bite and tear every thing to pieces with the treacherous fury of a cat, Lastly, when the paroxysm of fury is over, he passes into the third stage of senseless stupefaction.
Now, what rational man would ever pretend, in going through a long course of fever, when his nerves were impaired, his brain inflamed, his blood fermenting, and his strength reduced, that he would be able, through all the commotion and destruction, and change of organism, to govern his tastes, control his morbid cravings, and regulate his thoughts, words and actions. Much less ground has the moderate drinker to calculate on governing himself by and by, when his stomach is inflamed, his blood vitiated, his brain hardened, his nerves exhausted, his senses perverted, and all his feelings changed, and when all the little drafts with which he has been poisoning himself to death piecemeal, moderately, manifest suddenly their accumulated power over him.
What but delusion of the grossest kind could ever induce intelligent, reflecting, enlightened, christianized beings, when they behold with eyes wide open, in the expressive phrase of holy writ, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of their fellow mortals, drinking of the intoxicating bowl, moderately at first, then immoderately, then becoming, as the hard of Avon and of Nature has told the whole in one truthful line, "From now a sensible man, by and by, a fool, and presently a beast," and then living awhile in wretchedness, loathed by the good, despised by the bad, and abused by all, and, lastly, lying down in a drunkard's dishonored grave;--what, I say, but delusion deep as darkest midnight, could induce them to go and do likewise, and suffer likewise, and die likewise! I say again they know not what they do.
These men can swallow the detestable grog; they can appreciate its first excitement; they can feel that unnatural whirl of disordered sense, in which pain and pleasure struggle for the mastery; they can realize the sinking depression that follows; they can view the paroxysm of intoxicated oblivion; and these in their superficial fancies comprise the whole circle of consequences necessarily attendant on the tippler's life. No--No! These are all "trifles light as air," compared with that invisible work of ruin and demolition going on within too domain of vitality. Their limited ken docs not penetrate the interior of this microcosm--this miniature universe--the human being. They see not the minute atoms of organized matter changing their relations and conditions. They do not perceive the little, living, blood globules which nourish and replenish every part broken down and destroyed by contact with the bunting fluid. They do not understand how, as it rushed along the nerves and tears a swift passage to the brain, it destroys the arrangement of those atomic particles which make up their structure; just as the electric stream from the surcharged cloud, behind whose acrial vapors too "thunder holds his black tremendous throne," wending its zigzag way to earth, thrills with deathful energy through the fibres of him who stands in his track, and leaves him to all appearance the same--yet lifeless?
Oh! say not, temperate drinker, that you can clasp the merciless fiend to your bosom, and when its encircling coils are fast around you, rise on the wings of your strength of mind, and fly back to temperance! Oh! forget not that when you corrupt the material organism, you extinguish the influence of the immaterial principle within it. Where, then, is your strength of mind! Say you, that, when you see and feel the danger you will retrace your steps? Alas so reasoned, and so
[p. 89]fell before you, thousands of the greatest and the best of minds. So reasoned myriads of the proudest spirits that ever walked the earth; and rivers of tears have flowed, millions of hearts have bled, seas of misery have rolled over the heritage of humanity, and wailing and mourning has gone up in all directions from the troubled world in consequence? Who knows the force of morbid appetite but those who cannot control it? Look at that accomplished, that once great and good citizen, that strong minded man! How soon has he fallen from that high eminence where all was bright and promising? Now, disgrace and infamy are in every prospect. See him as he stands trembling, ah! staggering on the threshold of eternity. Misery is within him. Wretchedness is all around him. Despair hangs heavily on his heart. The grave yawns before him. Fearful forebodings reach beyond the grave. He knows what has brought him to this. He knows what is hurling him on headlong where "shadows, clouds and darkness rest." But does all this prevent him from taking the death? Look again. See friends counsel him. See parents admonish him. See weeping sisters entreat him. See the tender wife praying by his side. See lovely children hanging at his tattered garments to hold him back. But what of all this? Madly he rushes on, like the charmed bird, that, infatuated by the fascinating glare of the serpent's eye, courses round and round, and approaches nearer and nearer the horrible object of its dread, and, finally, plunges delirious into its devouring jaws!
Finally, when we present those momentous truths to such persons, with all the train of irrefragable evidences that should commend them to their profoundest scrutiny and conviction, how are we met? They resort to every flimsy subterfuge of evasion and sophistry that might be expected, not from blank ignorance, but from intellect educated wrong, fettered by fashion, trammelled by custom, and blinded by prejudice. When we ask one of these men to pledge his honor as a man that he will not injure or destroy himself; that he will not set the example of suicide for his children to imitate; that he will not do that which encourages the wrong he condemns in others; to throw his influence into the moral scale on the side of virtue and truth; to aid us in annihilating human misery, and elevating man to the dignity and integrity of his prime of days; he answers us, 'Why, if I pledge myself not to destroy myself, though I am fully determined not to destroy myself, I cannot, I shall not, and I will not destroy myself in this disgraceful manner; yet if I bind myself not to destroy myself, I shall sign away my liberty!' Beautiful philosophy, and worthy of a darker age than history has yet recorded! Would not a man, wrecked at sea, and bound around with a noble life-preserver, be deprived, think you, of his liberty to sink! Yes; man, proud, reasoning man, dependent naturally and absolutely on his God, and dependent necessarily on the Character of that society which surrounds him, would be free. And he argues substantially, that independence implies the right to do wrong! He reasons that the largest liberty grants the privilege of becoming the greatest fool; and, that perfect freedom is only compatible with the ability to make one's self a slave, if in some moment of hallucination one chooses to do so! He says he will not become a foolish drunkard. He declares he does not mean to become a miserable slave to alcohol. He should be very much ashamed of himself, if he thought he ever should become so lost to self-respect; but as to pledging himself not to--O! precious liberty!
Such being the consequences resulting from the use of the alcoholic poison, what
[p. 90]language can describe the awful weight of responsibility resting on those, whose chosen pursuit of life is, to manufacture it, or to distribute it, through all the ramifications of society; knowing, as they must know, what sad havoc it will make of human happiness wherever it goes? Is not too position of these men in society most unnatural! In not this traffic most horrible? Is it not morally criminal? Is it not unworthy the name of man? Does it not call for the thunder-tones of reprobation and execration from an outraged community and an injured world?
A great principle of the common law is, in substance, the same with the eternal law of God, the golden law of reciprocity, the glorious rule, alike of equality and benevolence.
Sic utcre tuis ut non aliena laedas. Or, as paraphrased in English, by a friend,--
So use your own, and so your own enjoy,
And not what is another's to annoy.
So use your own, as never to transgress
Another's right, or mar his happiness.
Thus you would have all others do to you;
Then yield to each what in his righteous due.
What moral right has any man to pursue his individual interests in a manner not only regardless of, but absolutely ruinous to the well being of the whole human race? Spirit venders! are you not displaying a devastating and damning fiend in every alluring form that ingenuity can suggest, to entice your brother man to its embrace and an inglorious death? Liquor merchants? you are amassing wealth from the ruin and desolution of all around you. Dealers in this detested trade! you now have an opportunity of doing incalculable good. You have been doing immense mischief! We call on you in the name of humanity, and for the sake of all that is good and lovely on earth, to desist from this unhallowed work; and when you cry out, "liberty and law," as though it were a privilege to slay mankind, do you not hear some whisperings of a monitor within? Or has your unnatural calling so deluded the head, offended and petrified the heart, that your only feeling is to get the almighty dollar? Oh! renounce, at once, and forever, your death-dealing vocation, and seek a useful and honorable business. This you will soon have to do! Public sentiment is the moral monarch of this free country, and not much longer will the nuisances be endured in it. Wait not, we entreat you, till you do that by inglorious necessity, which others have anticipated by wiser determination of their own. The sin, the infamy, the wretchedness of this nefarious traffic, will soon re-act on those who madly persist, against all the signs of the times, to its gainful prosecution.
IN CONCLUSION--THE REMEDY
People do not commence this vile practice of drinking intoxicating poisons because they love them. The error lies primarily, in popular sentiment. Children, young or old, are imitative creatures. A vitiated public opinion has been the grand moving spring of this drinking way the world has got. "There is so much human nature in mankind," that we are strongly prone to do that which our judgment condemns, provided the world will approve of it, rather than do that which our own consciences approbate, if we suspect the world will condemn it. The cure,
[p. 91]then, must be found in revolutionizing popular sentiment. The means to effect this, are argument, exhortation and song; the agent is the Total Abstinence pledge, and the instruments under God, men, women and children. (...) the influence of that pledge, we are constantly accumulating a force that is destined to tell, ere long, with resistlegs impulse on the popular mind. It may seem, for a while, like an up-hill business. It may be slow to roll back the tide of desolation, made up of ignorance, fashion and folly, backed by the false customs of ages, consecrated by the authority of great and reverend names, and, more than all, urged on by the insatiate craving of morbid propensities. Yet the work of renovation will go on. As the list of pledged teetotallers increases within our Temperance Halls, a more purifying influence will pervade the moral atmosphere without. Let us, then, keep the thing before the public. Let us discuse--persuade--agitate--organize. Let brave men argue teetotalism and the pledge, into the public judgment; and let fair women sing teetotalism and the pledge, into the world a affections; and let young children, too, prattle teetotalism and the pledge, till echo shall answer,-- "teetotalism and the pledge," from every tongue of the rising generation. Let the people be often called together, and interchange their thoughts, feelings, and sympathies in the great cause of human amelioration. Let us consider the human mind our medium, and the wide world our theatre of action; and the end, already shadowing forth its coming, in the signs of the times, will be as glorious as the beginning was philantrophic.