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Ten lectures on alcohol online

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part of our inquiry. She points triumphantly to
every-day facts in open corroboration of her teach-
ing. She places men engaged in severe labor of
mind in two conditions: one set under the moder-
ate influence, the other out of the influence of alco-
hol, and she declares the difference. She tells from
direct experience that so little as one glass of wine
is often sufficient, in fine intellects, to take away the
sharpness of the intellectual power. She sees that
in all great crises the clear mind of him who is free
of alcoholic taint, is the mind on which dependence

24 Moderate Drinking.

is most readily placed. She sees men who some-
times indulge in alcohol give up the indulgence
during an emergency, that they may be readier for
their work. She sees all classes of mankind making
the first inquiry, in respect to those whom they
have to trust: Are those we want sober men?
Are they free of the feebleness of thought, action,
and character that is induced by strong -drink?

In continued illustration of her teaching, Science
points to men who work with their hands in various
labors, and places, and conditions. In temperate
regions of the earth, she puts to the test men who
march, who ride, who race, who swim, who fight.
She matches those who take alcohol with those
who don't, and she challenges the world to behold
that those who don't are the winners. She takes a
body of men to the arid regions of tropical lands ;
she leads them there, in different companies, on
long marches, and divides them so that one com-
pany takes a measured ration of strong drink, while
the other, content with its ration of simple water,
don't ; and she bids us see how easily, how health-
ily, how certainly those who don't, carry off the
honors of superior marching power. Not satisfied
with this test, she takes another set of men into the
regions of thick-ribbed ice ; the extremes! northern
line where man has trodden. See you, she says to
the brave men she leads there, see you at the dis-
tance only of a few hundred miles, like a journey
from London to Edinburgh in length, or little

Moderate Drinking. 25

more, is the goal of your ambition, the northern
pole of the earth. Set out for it on foot, or in
sledge, and try your way. To some of these she
gives the moderate ration of alcohol, to some she
don't. Now, who will win ? The race is fairly
started, and the men are away. Not one of them
reaches the pole. They toil and toil, endure and
endure. Some fail and fall, and yet they push on.
At last, it is clear there is no hope of reaching
the grand-stand, and that the few who can work
must help the rest back to the ship. Of these few
are some who do and some who don't drink ardent

The experiment is exciting, unexampledly fair in
its method, crucial in its bearing. Who of those
men has been nearest to the pole ? who of them of
those who do and who don't drink alcohol shall re-
turn least injured and strongest to the ship? One
man did both feats easily, and he was of those who
" don't." His name was Adam Ayles.

One step more in her great researches, Science
sometimes puts men who work for her in a posi-
tion which nothing but the most telling ingenuity
could devise. In order to sink coffer-dams, she
shuts up the workers under a pressure of three and
even four atmospheres sixty pounds of pressure
on every square inch of body. In that pressure
the very color of the blood is changed ; the dark
venous blood is made red, like the blood in the ar-
teries. Under these extreme conditions she divides

26 Moderate Drinking.

the workers into those who do and those who don't
drink alcohol ; and again the advantage rests with
those who don't.

Thus far, then, without passion, without preju-
dice, Science tells us many facts. Wine, with all its
allies, is water with something in it. That some-
thing a chemical body belonging to a family of
chemical bodies, not one of which is a food enters
in no way into the grand scheme for the sustainment
of life in the universe enters into no part of the
scheme for the sustainment of human life at the pe-
riod when that life is most helpless, and requires
most urgently every natural necessity. Through all
stages of life, all men can live without this something;
it forms no part of the body of man, nor of any ani-
mal ; it makes no condition of animal organs, except
what is of the nature of disease ; it is not found in the
healthy state within the precincts of the body; it com-
pares with no natural form or standard of food ; it
supplies no means of warmth to the body, but re-
duces the natural warmth. Under every conceivable
extreme condition of heat, of cold, of pressure, it
reduces, under all prolonged and trying efforts,
both the mental and the physical power.


Is nothing done to the body by alcohol, then ?
say you. Science answers : Yes. Directly the most
appreciable influence from alcohol is felt, a great
deal is done. All the minute blood-vessels that Icl

Moderate Drinking. 27

the blood pass through them into the extreme parts
of the body are reduced in power, so that they fill
with blood, and the face gets flushed, and the brain
gets flushed, and the lungs get flushed, and the
breathing becomes quick, and the heart increases
in its beating some four strokes a minute, or two
hundred and forty strokes an hour, or at the rate
of five thousand seven hundred and sixty extra
strokes in an entire day.

I might tell of much more that would be done
by larger quantities of alcohol in which even moder-
ate drinkers indulge, but I keep to the mention of
this small quantity, because it is the smallest that
possibly can do what is commonly called " good."
All who advocate the moderate use of alcohol, all
who apologize for the use of alcohol at all, would
tell you that they would not recommend any man
or woman to use alcohol beyond the amount that
produces these effects. They are the effects that
would be induced by taking what the late Dr.
Parkas calls the dietetic dose namely, from one
to two fluid ounces of alcohol; the effects that
would follow the taking of one and a half pints of
mild beer, containing five per cent, of alcohol, or
half that quantity of French wine, containing ten
per cent., according to his great authority. To pro-
duce this first effect, all moderate drinkers plead
for alcohol. They ask for no more. They admit
that if more be taken, some worse effects will fol-
low. But for this gentle stimulation, this mild

28 Moderate Drinking.

warming-up surely they may be granted a salvo

This is the knotty point of points. There is not
a sane man :>r woman in the world who has any
knowledge on the subject at all, who would plead
for the habitual use of alcohol beyond this stage of
its action. To carry it a stage further, so as to
get into confusion of thought, with failure of lip,
angry passion, thickness of speech, headache, nau-
sea, a little too free communication of sentiment,
or conversation rather too fast to be perfectly cool
in expression oh, fie! why, that would be passing
into the second degree of alcoholic influence. Not
to put too fine a point on it, it would be an ap-
proach to what is called, not intoxication exactly,
but elevation, moral or physical, I can not say
which, but elevation of some kind, which would be
decidedly wrong and off the board.


I confess there is a great advance of opinion a
concensus of opinion, I think, is the right term on
this part of our subject ; but there is not a sufficient
advance. A man or woman sitting down, or stand-
ing up if you like, to drink wine or other stimulant,
always starts on the way that leads through four
stages toward an. easily realizable destination.
Stage one is that gentle stimulation called moder-
ate excitement or support. Stage two is elevation
whatever that may mean it is not elevation of

Moderate Drinking. 29

character ; of that I"am satisfied. Stage three is
confusion of mind, action, and, deed, with sad want
of elevation. Stage four is complete concatenation
of circumstances : all the stages perfectly matured;
the journey completed, with the traveler lying
down, absolutely prostrated in mind and in body.
The destination is reached, and found to be a hu-
man being dead drunk and incapable.

I repeat, whenever a person begins to take any
portion of alcohol, he starts on that journey ; starts
just as distinctly with the first drop swallowed, as
he would start with the first step he would put for-
ward in a walk from the pure region of Hampstead
Heath into the outfall of that Babylonish sewage
which greets the smiling Thames at Barking Creek.
The knotty question then is this, Ought a person to
start on that remarkable journey of alcoholic prog-
ress at all ? Should he try any stage ? Every one
says, venture not on the last three stages on any ac-
count; but some say, live and go happy, day by
day, through the first; walk the first fourth of the
way, and you will be the better for it. It is a nice
exercise. It makes your heart light; it refreshes
your mind; it quickens your secretions ; it assists
your digestion. The wisest men of all ages have
daily walked this stage on the alcoholic highway
toward the point of concatenation of circum-
stances. In this first fourth of their way, with
an occasional venture a little further when the
companionship was good, the}' have given the

3O Moderate Drinking.

world its wit, its humor, its poetry, its greatness.
Suppose they have lived a little shorter time from
the exercises, the}' have done more work in the
shorter time than they would have done in a longer
time under duller circumstances; so that the ad-
vantage, on the whole, is with this moderate indul-
gence in alcohol. Indulgence just a fourth of the
way on toward danger; never further, except on
rarest occasions ; and then certainly not quite half-
way to the foot of Mount Elevation at furthest,
and no further, for sake of body and mind alike.

This, in plain language, is the argument of the
moderate school of thought. It is met point blank
by the abstaining school, which calls out with all
its sympathetic might: Take not a step on that
highway. It is the devil's highway ! It is -the
grand model of his engineering skill ; it is wide, it
is open, it is straight, it is smooth, it is filled with
jolly companions every one, it is fenced with pleas-
ures, it is rich in historical reminiscences, but there
is this peculiarity about it, that there is not an inch
of it, not a hair's-breadth of it safe. Therefore keep
off it altogether. It is the devil's highway !

We listen to these opposing voices. The first
are seductive, and sound even as if they were
voices of men of science and knowledge. The
second are fierce, solemn, earnest, but not voices
of philosophic ring. They are pathetic, persuasive
perhaps in some moments terrible; that is all.

What, O Science, say you to this contention?

Moderate Drinking. 31

Be passionless as ever, but speak and tell us your

Listen carefully to the whole argument of Science
as she tells her mind fairly and faithfully. She tells
you nothing whatsoever about the devil and his de-
vices, but that there is, as claimed, a certain degree
of moderation which does not seem to be attended
with much evil if it be closely followed. She grants
that the moderate of the moderates may have a rule
nisi. She says to a man of sound health : If you
are in first-rate condition of body, if you can throw
off freely a cause of oppression and depression, if
you are actively engaged in the open air, if you
have nothing to do that requires great exactitude
or precision of work, if you are not subjected to
any worry of mind or mental strain, if you sleep
well, if you are properly clothed and are not ex-
posed to excesses of heat or cold, if your appetite
is good and you can get plenty of wholesome food
if you are favored with all these advantages, then
you may indulge in Dr. Parkes' moderate potation
of wine, or beer, or spirit. You are strong enough
to bear the infliction, and may, without any great
risk, enjoy it. But these favorable conditions are
all necessary. If you are limited in respect to ex-
ercise, if you are of sedentary habits, if you are
much worn or reduced in mind, body, or estate,
then that small amount of alcohol is adding to all
your troubles, and you will leave it off if you are

32 Moderate Drinking.

I can imagine with what pleasure some of the
world of pleasure may receive such tidings as
these. The salt of the earth, and the salt is good,
can then enjo}^ its luxury, just as it can keep a car-
riage, a livery servant, a horse, or any other unneces-
sary, but pleasant extravagance. It can take wine
in moderation. What more is required ? Science,
in her most Puritanical utterances, gives, so far, her

It is quite true, but take her consent with her
provisions equally true and very solemn.

Science says, you who can afford the luxury may
use it with the perfect understanding that it is a
luxury. Positively, solemnly, it is never a neces-
sity, and if the expression of truth be absolutely
rendered, you are better and safer without even
that moderate indulgence.

What is the danger?

The danger is that attaching to all luxuries : that
they being unnecessary, are apt, first, to lapse into
self-imposed necessities; next, to become tyrants
and bad masters, and to set up bad examples by
which many, who are not fortunate even among the
easy and luxurious, fall.

A learned man, who is, I assume, a man of science,
has, however, bidden us ignore this matter of set-
ting examples. It betrays, he thinks, weakness
and want of logic. If there are a number of weak
creatures male and female, who by first following
moderate example, are led to go further than that

Moderate Drinking. 33

example, and who fall into perdition, let them lall
That is their lookout, and examplers are faultless.
Stint your own enjoyment to save a man from
drink ! As well take your warm overcoat off your
own back to save a beggar from death by cold.
That may be philanthropy, it is not science.

Stop, says Science, not quite so fast there. I saidj
ages ago, by one of my wisest servants, also a phy-
sician, a sentence which another immortal man, who
was not one of my disciples, happily reiterated:
" Be not deceived ; God is not mocked. Whatso-
ever a man soweth that shall he also reap." I really
meant by this sowing, the mere casting into the
susceptible soil the smallest seed that will bring
forth a harvest ; and if you, by your example, sow
perdition, in the purest physical and worldly sense,
you and yours will reap perdition. This is in the
order of nature, from sowing and to reaping ; but,
adds Science, there is apart from such results as
these, another. When you, luxurious man, in your
luxurious resolve, have made a self-imposed neces-
sity, you have created a condition of body which,
being unnatural, is calculated to feed itself. So
you have sown again, your own body being the
susceptible field, and in it you may reap the har-
vest. You have set up within yourself a desire
which nothing but the most zealous exercise of
your discriminating and resolute will can meet and
keep under subjection. You must, therefore, be
ever on guard. Trespass but a iitLs on your reso

34 Moderate Drinking.

.ution, and your false desire gains power with the
most perplexing decision. In this way, continues
Science, some of the very strongest and best of my
own sons have been tried and overcome. She di-
rects our minds to one of these, whose illustrious
name is the boast of this country, and she gives
you his own confession word for word. The case
she explains is that of the great man who first dis-
covered, by experiments on himself, the effects
of inhaling laughing-gas Sir Humphry Davy.
No one can accuse him of want of will, or skill, or
knowledge, or goodness. But he made it a habit,
gradually acquired, to inhale this intoxicating gas,
until at last he declared that he could not look at a
gas-holder, could not even watch a person breathing
without experiencing an all but irresistible desire
to indulge in this form of intoxication. Who are
, you then, she inquires, that can resist these subtle
influences from intoxicating agents? How know
you that you are powerful enough to oppose self-
inflicted necessity ? There was no one who ever
lapsed into danger who did not begin by little and
little to learn, first to desire, and afterward to feed
desire. Wisely, sedately, without the least feeling,
I warn you not to create that desire, and then can
you never be betrayed.

And to this warning Science once again adds her
cautious instruction. It is true, she repeats, that
men who are favorably placed may seem to escape
injury from the moderate use of strong drink. But

Moderate Drinking. 35

still, on this point, she has a word of information.
She proves, from hard facts, that even those who
are moderate, live less longer lives than those who
abstain altogether. She holds up nine years of
actuarial calculations of a provident institution, in
which there were two classes of insurers one class
which drank moderately, another which abstained
altogether. She shows that in the general section,
including those who were moderate drinkers, 2,002
deaths were expected to occur, and 1,977 actually
did occur, or within twenty-five of the expected
number. She shows that in the abstaining section
I, no deaths were, by the same mode of calculation,
expected to occur, but that actually only 80 1 deaths
did occur, or 309 less than the expected number.
Truly, she exclaims again, by the voice of her es-
teemed interpreter, Dr. Parkes, "the difference in
mortality of these two classes is quite extraordi-

Thus you learn that Science, when she comes to
matter of fact, though she admits a possible excuse
for moderate drinking, does not favor it; and when
she brings us face to face with some other figures,
showing the results of the habit that springs
from moderation, she strikes us almost dumb with
the severity of her warning. Lesson upon lesson
is here piled before us from her hard, but faithful
voice. Listen to some few of these.

If a man becomes intemperate at twenty years of
gge, he will only live i$}4 years instead of 44 years

36 Moderate Drinking.

If a man becomes intemperate at thirty years of
age, he will only live 13^ years instead of 36 years,

Amongst men who are engaged in the sale of in*
toxicating liquors, the temptation to intemperance
Ll!s with such force, that 138 of these men die in
proportion to a mean of 100 folio wing, seventy other

Out of every 100 persons who were taken into
Colney Hatch Asylum in one year, forty were
taken from insanity, directly or indirectly produced
by alcohol.

Out of 900 inquests held per year by the coroner
for Central Middlesex (Dr. Hardwicke) on persons
who have died violent deaths, deaths requiring an
inquest, 450, or one-half, are due directly or indi
rectly to the effects of drink.

In England in the year 1876 as many as 1,120
deaths were directly recorded against drink, the
persons dying in drink; while the deaths, direct
and indirect, due to the same cause, recently most
ably calculated by Dr. Norman Kerr or Dr. Mor-
ton, are 14,710 wholly due and 24,577 partially due
to alcoKol ; a total of 39,287, and the lowest pos
sible estimate.

We have advanced now a second step in our
readings of science on the subject of strong drinks.
In our first step she denounced all these drinks as
necessities ; in the second step she permits them as
luxuries; with all due notice of. the consequences
.hat attend the indulsjeRce. In this matter she

Moderate Drinking, 37

does not directly prohibit, because she does not
consider it her province to interfere with the free
will of man, but she issues advice which is true to
the letter, based on facts which are true to the let-
ter; and that advice is practically prohibitory, if it
be honestly followed.


There remains still one other subject for her to
speak upon a subject which is thought by many
to bring out the stronghold of moderation. Let
us have the subject set forth and the answer sup-
plied. It is said that the use of wine and its allies
has been the source of the power of the most pow-
erful nations. It is said that the wine-cup has been
the fountain of that wit and poetry and artistic
wisdom, if I may use the term, which has made
the illustrious men of the world so illustrious and
so generally useful as they have been to the world.
Take away the wine-cup, it is argued, and the
whole intellectual life must needs become flat,
stale, and unprofitable. It were indeed a pity if
this were the look-out of total abstinence. A sec-
ond deluge of water, with not so much as a grace-
ful dove and an olive-branch to cheer the trackless
waste. It were indeed a pity of pities if this were
the final look-out of total abstinence in the intel-
lectual sphere. Can it be that all intellectual en-
ergy and hilarity must die out with the abolition
of the wine-cup? My friend, Dr. Farr mourns

38 Moderate Drinking.

that the very eloquence and fire and soul of a din-
ner of city aldermen, with the mighty Lord Mayor
at the head of the table, and Gog and Magog
bursting with intellectual admiration, would under
such a revolution all go out together

" And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not a rack behind."

At first thought, certainly it makes one's blood run
cold to think of such a catastrophe. Let us see if
things are really so bad. What does Science say
on this awful topic?

Science, ever fair, says that some nations and
wonderful pecples that have lived have been wine-
drinkers at certain periods of their history. But
she draws ^ilso this most important historical les-
son, that fLe great nations were, as a rule, water-
drinkers purely until they became great; then they
took- to wine and other luxuries, and soon became
little. Up to the time of Cyrus, the Persians were
water-drinkers. They became all-powerful, and
then also became such confirmed wine-drinkers,
that, if they had some great duty to perform, they
discussed the details of it when inflamed with wine,
anc. rejected, the judgment or revised it when they
had become sober, and vice versa. Surely this was
the acme of perfection as a test of wine. Curi-
ously it didn't answer. With its luxury, Persia
succumbed fell into hands of less luxurious con-
querors, and, like a modern rake, found its prog-

Moderate Drinking. 39

ress anything but promising in the end. The
Greeks in their first and simple days were clothed
in victory over men and over nature. They grew
powerful ; they sang and danced, and all but wor-
shiped wine ; but it did not sustain them in their
grandeur as it ought to have done if the theory of
such sustainment be correct. The Roman rule be-
came overwhelming out of the simplicity of its first
life. It rose into luxury and made wine almost a
god. But Rome fell. Wine did not sustain it. It
is all through history the same. There is not an
instance, when we come to analysis of fact and cir-
cumstance, in which wine has not been to nations
as to man individually, a mocker. It has been the
death of nations. It has swept down the nations
as it sweeps down men in the prime of their life
and in the midst of their glory.


When we face the question of the influence of
wine on the individual greatness of great men,
Science in candor again admits that there have been
illustrious wine-drinkers. The statement is unan-
sw-erable. But when to that statement is added
the rider, that the men were great because they were
wine-drinkers, she demurs at once. She asks the
man who makes that statement, How do you know ?
How can you know what those great men would
have been if they had never tasted wine or other
strong drink ? You are reasoning, she says, on the

4O Moderate Drinking.

principle of "post hoc et propter hoc" after this and
therefore this a common and convenient plan, es-
pecially amongst physicians and politicians, of
which she gives the following very practical illus-
tration :

A gentleman, well-to-do and happy in his worldly
possessions, having dined rather heavily and very
late in the evening, fell asleep in his chair before
the fire, and woke after a long doze with a severe
pain in his stomach. His wife administered her
simple domestic remedies, but as her skill seemed

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Online LibraryBenjamin Ward RichardsonTen lectures on alcohol → online text (page 17 of 23)