Images de page
PDF
ePub

injurious, when taken habitually, even in moderate quantities. They are in consequence less used at times of labor, and less frequently offered as a mark of hospitality. In Boston the consumption of spirits has sensibly diininished within a few years, and the same is no doubt true of other parts of the country. The number of licenses in this place, which in 1822 amounted to 675, was in 1827 only 562, notwithstanding the great increase of population in the mean time. This is certainly a very encouraging result, and, though creditable to the government of the city, is chiefly to be ascribed to the change which has been taking place in public opinion. *

It may also be considered as an encouraging circumstance that societies have become common, throughout the country, of which the chief condition of membership is an entire abstinence froin ardent spirits. Such associations must act powerfully on the morals, not only of the members themselves, but of all persons within the sphere of their example; and we hope to see them multiplied, particularly among the laboring classes, who are exposed to peculiar temptations from the present habits of society.

The causes of the excessive use of ardent spirits in the United States are well stated in the Report of the Massachusetts Society.

'It seems now to be generally admitted, by those who have had an opportunity for observation, or have made themselves acquainted with the various facts which have been collected with regard to intemperance, that we are to attribute much of the prevalence of immoderate drinking, to the erroneous opinions and practices of society with regard to moderate drinking. No man, probably, ever became at once a drunkard. Drunkards have all once been moderate drinkers, and have only gradually and insensibly become immoderate drinkers. It would seem, then, that there must be something wrong in this habit of moderate drinking, since it leads, in so large a proportion of cases, to so deplorable a result.

• What then is the origin of this custom of moderate drinking, which has prevailed so universally among the people of this country? Is it merely the cheapness of ardent spirits and the facility with which they may be obtained? These causes no doubt contribute most powerfully to convert moderate drinkers into drunkards; but not altogether to originate the custom of moderate drinking itself. Opium is a stimulus, to most persons very pleasant in its effects, not so dear as spirituous liquors, as easily obtained, and less injurious to health. Yet an opium eater is com

* The following table shows the number of licenses granted in the city of Boston, during the last six years. 1822 1823 1824 1825

1827 Innholders Victuallers Retailers

17

17 Confectioners

2

33 556

39

1826

31 516

513

57 496 113

9

501

33 530 103

8

65

3

5

[blocks in formation]

paratively rare, whilst the majority use spirits in some form and to some extent. "If it be not the cheapness which has made the use of spirits on ordinary occasions so common, to what are we to attribute it? ' Principally, it is apprehended, to the opinion so generally entertained, that, when used in moderation, they are innocent or even salutary ; that they are a necessary support during labor, and a protection against exposure to the inclemency of the weather and to bodily hardship of every kind. It is remarkable, to recur again to the illustration derived from opium, that those persons who have become persuaded that the moderate use of this drug is necessary to their health, their preservation from disease, or to the support of their sinking spirits, are liable to fall into its excessive use, exactly as moderate drinkers fall into the excessive use of ardent spirits. It is also to be remarked, that in those countries where opium is used as a stimulant, where it is as cheap, or cheaper than spirit with us, and as accessible to all classes of society, still opium eating does not become so common a vice, because the drug itself never ceases to be held in common opinion as a medicine or a poison.

• This tends to show that the real ultimate difficulty lies in the estimation in which spirits are held, and in the custom which prevails with regard to them. Could we be taught to look on distilled spirits in the same light that we look upon opium, or even that the Turk looks upon opium, it is obvious that it could no longer be an article of common use, and it would in consequence cease to be abused by intemperate indulgence.'

pp. 5-6.

But it is not our present purpose to investigate the causes or nature of the disease under which our country is suffering, but merely to consider a few of the measures which have at different times been proposed to alleviate or remove it. Among these the diffusion of correct opinions, is among the most important, and is thus recommended in the Report from which we have just quoted.

It may be assumed as true, for it is supported by the most abundant evidence, and by the almost unanimous opinion of those whose pursuits give them the opportunity of observing, and whose profession the power of judging, that ardent spirits are not necessary to any individual even when undergoing the most severe bodily labor, but that on the whole they have rather a tendency to enfeeble him and unfit him for his task; that they are not necessary to protect him from the consequences of exposure to wet, cold, wind, &c., but that, on the contrary, they render him more liable to be unfavorably affected by such exposure ; that, so far from being salutary when used in moderation, they are not even innocent, and that no man habitually indulges even in their moderate use, who does not, at some period of his life, suffer from their ill effects on his health and constitution. Now, could these truths be firmly fixed in the minds of men; could they in particular be firmly impressed upon the mind of every young person, so that he should grow up with them, and enter into life with them, it would almost follow of course that the custom of moderate drinking would gradually cease, and that of immoderate drinking, as a natural consequence, cease also.

•The most distinct object, then, which presents itself to the minds of those engaged in the suppression and prevention of intemperance, is the dissemination of these opinions as widely as possible. If they are founded in truth, it can be made to appear so to the satisfaction of intelligent and respectable men, and gradually to the satisfaction of all. Not perhaps in this generation, not perhaps in the next; for men seldom can be entirely divested of opinions and prejudices which they have acquired in their youth—but in the course of time it may be accomplished and will be accomplished.

*These opinions are to be impressed on society by addressing the various classes of which it is composed, in a manner and form adapted to their different education, modes and habits of life. Strong and convincing statements should be made, for instance, of all the facts which tend to show that ardent spirits are not necessary to men engaged in labor. This is a point which lies at the very commencement of the undertaking. It is very difficult to convince even very temperate men, who have been brought up from boyhood, to labor, supported by ardent spirits, that it is possible for any man to labor hard without them; or even if they become convinced that they are not originally necessary, they still cling to the belief, that habit has made them indispensable to them. Still a thorough impression can be made upon some and a partial one upon many. If men can only be convinced that their sons will be the better for not drinking, though they may continue to believe that they themselves still require it, it is something gained. This impression is to be made by the circulation of publications, in tracts, newspapers, periodical works, &c., setting forth in various ways the groundlessness of the common opinions on this subject; showing that ardent spirits can communicate no strength; that the excitement they produce is followed by a corresponding exhaustion; that other kinds of drink, although they exbilarate less, enable the body much better to bear fatigue; stating the most striking cases in which hard labor has been endured, and great hardships encountered by those who have used no spirits, much better than by those who have, and contrasting the character and health of those who drink, with that of those who do not.

In connexion with statements of this kind, it should also be shown, that, while this practice is of no service to the laborer during his labor, it is, in the end, actually injurious to his health, by proving, as may be easily done, that intemperance in the use of ardent spirits is not necessary to their bad effects upon the health, spirits, and character; that the moderate drinker often brings upon himself disease and suffering, and falls a. martyr to his habits; that no man can habitually use ardent spirits even in moderate quantities, without feeling sooner or later their sad effects, even though he may not be himself aware of the origin of those effects. The manner, also, in which ardent spirits produce such consequences might be dwelt upon; the symptoms by which the body is affected and disease indicated, detailed, and every man made to feel, in his own person, the consequences of indiscretion. pp. 6–8.

It is in the power of the medical profession, more than any other class of men, to diffuse correct information with regard to the effects of the use of ardent spirits on the human frame. And, though the opinions of physicians on this subject have been long known, still we think that the votes which have lately been passed by several medical societies, to discourage the use of these liquors, will have a great influence in correcting popular prejudice and practice.

The power of societies in spreading correct opinions is great,

* The votes of several medical societies may be found in the Annual Report of the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance. pp. 38–40.

but the power of individuals is perhaps not less so. The most humble individual can always do something, by setting a good example. And those who have the direction of numbers of men and boys, as masters of vessels, superintendents of manufactories, and master mechanics, can do good to an extent which they would hardly believe without the experiment. This is very strikingly shown, in the letter of Mr Clowes, superintendent of the Rhode Island Coal Mines, which was published in our last number.

Much may be done to check intemperance by the mode in which children are educated. The good education, which all classes receive in this country, has no doubt a strong tendency to produce this effect. And though the moral character of individuals, is not always in direct proportion to their intellectual culture; still it may be safely affirmed that a general diffusion of knowledge is favorable to virtue, and that in our own country those classes which are the best educated, are on the whole the most moral. With regard to this particular vice, the best educated classes, though far from being exempt from it, are much less addicted to it, than those whose education is more imperfect. Extending information of any kind among the laboring classes, must proinote habits of temperance. It gives their minds new views, and new employments; and thus the inechanics’institutions which are just beginning to be formed among us, will do much good, not merely by extending scientific information and promoting the progress of the arts, but by affording mechanics a delightful occupation for their leisure hours, and providing them with mental, in the place of sensual enjoyments.

But, although the diffusion of knowledge of any kind, will have a very beneficial tendency, yet much may be done by making temperance a specific object of attention in all places of instruction. The following remarks upon this topic, are from the Report from which we have already drawn so liberally.

“There can be no doubt that the common and free use of ardent spirits in families, by parents and their friends, in the presence of their children, and by children, with the sanction or at least without the absolute disapprobation of their parents, tends very much to keep up, and extend the habit of moderate drinking. The impressions and associations, which are thus formed with regard to the use of these articles, are in their nature peculiarly difficult to remove; and so far as they are concerned, we must trust chiefly to the influence which can be exercised through parents, and persons of adult age, who may become parents. Still there is room for the exercise of some direct influence upon the children themselves, through the books which are put into their hands, and the instruction they receive at school: Children are taught, in this way, that swearing, lying, and stealing, are criminal, and why may they not in the same way

by all.

be taught an early fear of the smallest indulgence in ardent spirits? It is true that this, like all their lessons of virtue, will be only too often counteracted by the examples which they witness at home ; yet it is to be hoped that a strong favorable influence may be frequently exerted, and many saved by these early impressions from the dangers to which they are exposed.

• In no places of education would lessons of this kind have so beneficial an influence, and into none would they seem so properly introduced, as into Sunday Schools. Perhaps the object might be sufficiently answered by their introduction to these schools alone, since they embrace so large a proportion of the children of all classes, and more particularly of those which are most immediately exposed to temptations to intemperance. And it is again proper to remark, that the lessons which are to be thus inculcated, are not to be primarily directed against intemperance. There is absolutely and originally no temptation to this vice, as there is to lying, swearing, &c.; the complete, thoroughly formed vice, is held in contempt

It is against the friendly, convivial, social habit of drinking, and the habit of drinking for refreshment and support, that the young are to be warned, rather than against the crime of intemperance. They are to be regularly and systematically taught the principle that entire abstinence is the only course that is consistent with temperance, and with that moderation which is necessary to a sound body and a sound mind.' pp. 9–10.

We entirely coincide in these views. The strength and efficacy of early impressions, cannot be overrated. In the greater part of mankind they are the foundation of all their virtues. It is not to be supposed, that the child, when first told that he must not lie, and must not steal, feels very strongly the obligations of honesty and veracity. But the injunctions are again and again repeated ; and, as he advances in years, an abhorrence of falsehood and dishonesty grows up with him, becomes the habit of his nature, and is, generally, far more powerful in regulating the conduct of the man, than any principles gained at a later period. In the same manner a love of temperance, and a horror of intemperance, if instilled in early youth, would be far more efficacions principles of conduct than is acquired in mature years. The virtues learned in advanced life, are too often like the frail and feeble blossoms which sometimes appear in autumn ; if they do not fall in their very opening, their fruit perishes while it is yet green and immature.

We should be willing to go further than the Report. The laws of the Commonwealth now make it the duty of instructers of youth to impress on the minds of their pupils, a sacred regard to temperance. But we think it would be advisable to require by statute, that every public schoolmaster should make it a regular part of his duty, once in every week. The mode in which this instruction should be given, might very safely be left to the school committees, and schoolmasters. Though it would not be proper to legislate minutely on this subject, the course

« PrécédentContinuer »