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to fail, she persuaded the sufferer to put on his thick
ulster and walk down to a fashionable physician in
the city where they lived and get his learned ad-
vice. The physician in question had an enormous
reputation. He was reputed to be eminently sound
and practical. He was skilled in all pathies, and
had been dubbed by a well-known wit whom
he had "cured," "the eminent Omniopath." He
had a saying, which each day of his life he repeated
to his patients some four or five times at least,
which stamped his soundness. It was a borrowed
saying, but it answered

" Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring ;
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

And of this spring he was believed to drink so
deeply, that some said he sat up all night at the
source of it taking it in like a fish. The sufferer in
the ulster coat had no fear, therefore, though it was



Moderate Drinking. 41

very late at night, of not finding his adviser awake
and ready for an emergency. His expectations
were realized. He found the learned man in his
study, and at his usual exercises connected with
the classical spring. He told the reason of his late
call and related the history of his suffering. The
doctor grasped the case in a minute, explained the
nature of it, summed up the possible dangers, if
the worst came to the worst, and then proceeded
in due form to prepare for the prevention of the
worst by writing a prescription. The prescription
was for one small pilule, which was to be taken by
the patient the moment he arrived at home. All
thanks and admiration the suffering man departed,
and now his next care was to get that prescription
made up. He called, therefore, on his way home
at the house of a chemist and druggist. He was
not so fortunate here. The drowsy owner of
this establishment, caring nothing about classical
springs, had gone to rest and was fast asleep. It
required three or four vigorous pulls of the night
bell to pull him out of bed. At last a window in
the second floor above the shop opened, a head and
shoulders came out of it, and a voice, not very
soothing in its accents, asked what was wanted.
" I want you," said the sufferer in his blandest and
most winning manner, "to be kind enough to come
down and make up a pilule (emphasizing the pilule)
for me. It is only one pilule, and it will not take
you a minute." " Sha'n't come," was the curt re.



42 Moderate Drinking.

ply; "if it's nothing but a pilule you can do with-
out it." " But 1 can't," was the answer. " Then
you must get it somewhere else," were the words
that came back to the sufferer. " Where else shall
I go?" was the imploring inquiry. The answe-
dropped like a shot, and the window went down
with a rattle that was almost terrific. When the
sufferer regained his temper he remembered, by
recalling the maps he once drew at school, that the
place he was directed to go to was somewhere m
the Holy Land. It was clearly too late to go there,
and as the walls of the place had been leveled some
three thousand years or so, the chances were twenty
to one against finding a druggist on the spot, even
if he got there ; so he took* immediately the wise
course of going home to his wife. The wife was
naturally indignant at the conduct to which her
husband had been exposed ; but being a shrewd,
observing lady, she detected that he was very much
better, and by her advice, instead of worrying him-
self any more about the prescription for that night,
he went to bed, slept soundly, and in the morning
woke as well as ever he was in his life.

By arrangement, on going into town next day,
he called on his physician, and joyfully reported a
clean bill of health. The doctor's eyes gleamed
with triumph. "'Drink deep' no, I don't mean
that; I mean 'A stitch in time saves nine.' That
pilule that one little pilule, hardly more than a
globule, saved you all the impending trouble/'



Moderate Drinking. 43

"But," replies the patient nervously, " excuse me
Bir, I never took it," and then he told the sad story
of the drowsy chemist, and the altercation, and the
place he was told to go to, and the advice of his
wife, and the complete story.

You will expect that the physician was abashed.
Not a bit of it. The Empress Josephine was not
more ready at a moment's notice to step into the
carriage of her Imperial Master than that physician
was with his explanation. "You, sir," said he,
" are an idiosyncrasy. You are an exception to all
rule, and by that you prove the rule. That medi-
cine was used by Dioscorides and the other Greek
physicians ; it was used by the immortal Galen and
the Roman physicians ; it was used by Amando
Saneto de Joannes and the other mediaeval physi-
cians ; it was used by the learned Michael Albertus
in the last century ; it was used by all these emi-
nent men in cases such as yours, and in this day I
have myself, with many more, resorted to it iji
hundreds of the same cases to yours, without, I had
almost said, a single failure. You, it is true, got
well without it ; but where would the other suffer-
ers have been if they had not had it? No, sir, the
exception proves the rule, and you are fortunate in
what has happened. Be thankful it is no worse."
The patient listened, as all patients should, with be-
coming modesty, but still astonished and bewil
dered. He was for a moment inclined to ask
whether all the other sufferers might not possibly



44 Moderate Drinking.

have got well as he did without the pilule But
he stood in the presence of a tremendous autnority.
Moreover, he had got the prescription for that re-
markable pilule in his pocket ; and, what is more,
he had paid for it. So silently he went his way,
mingled once again with the crowd, believed in the
pilule after all, swore by it, and was never tired of
descanting on his own singular constitution, which
put him even beyond the necessity for the exercise
of an experience that well-nigh had descended from
^Esculapius himself.

You smile at this illustration of the post hoc et
propter hoc. Science does not smile. You think
that physician knew better than what he said.
Science says probably not. To err is human, and
the narrative is supplied for one purpose only in re-
lation to our subject, and that is to suggest to the
minds of those who so readily and confidently as-
sert that this great man and that great man would
not have been what he was had he not taken wine,
the self-question is not that post hoc et propter hoc.
How can any one tell what the great man would
have been if he had abstained from wine alto-
gether ?

In the writings of some men of genius there are
passages obviously written under the influence of
wine, which passages, for the sake of those men of
genius and for the world, we would we could blot
out forever. If under some better influence the
inspiration of these men had been in those mo.



Moderate Drinking. 45

ments of writing devoted to purer and finer
thoughts, would the result have been less worthy?
Science replies on this point by inference only.
The men perhaps thought so themselves in their
sober hours. Nor wrote they anything, nor did
they anything, of. truly noble character under wine.
In the whole history of man, find, if you can, a
truly noble deed done under the excitement of the
wine-cup.

CONCLUSION.

And thus are we brought to our last step on the
question before us. The past history of mankind
yields no demonstrable proof that nations and men
have owed their power and their ability to wine or
any strong drink, moderately or immoderately
taken. Suppose we leave the verdict there as
something wanting proof. No one can say that is
unfair.

From this position we may turn to modern life,
and test anew for the truth. If those who say that
wine moderately used, is, in spite of all its dangers,
necessary to the sustainment of current power, in-
tellectual and physical, then it follows, as plain as
night follows morn, that we who abstain are intel-
lectually, physically, morally inferior to those who
call themselves moderate drinkers. Is it so? The
proof lies with those who make the proposition
and who by inference declare in face of day their
own superiority. Let them I say it with my



46 Moderate Drinking.

whole heart let them by their superiority prove
it. For my part, I am content to leave the prool
with history.

To conclude. From my readings of Science she
gives no countenance to the use of strong drink in
any sense, except medically and under scientific
direction. She faithfully records its evils ; she hon-
estly exposes its dangers ; she exposes the gross
and vain fallacies by which it is supported ; and if,
in her absolute fairness, she admits it under certain
arbitrary restrictions as a luxury, she condemns it
as a traitorous evil.

It were pleasanter far to apologize through
Science for indulgence in alcohol than to speak
through her as I have done to-day. But my busi-
ness in this world, in the short time I have to live
in it, is to dare to speak what I believe to be true,
irrespective of all personal pleasures and of all per-
sonal penalties to dare to speak as a votary, rather
than a follower, of fashion in scientific service.
Thereby, in speaking on the subject that has now-
engaged us, I may unintentionally offend some nat-
ures. I hope not, but this I fear is the fate of all
votaries, and must be accepted as such. I recall
one votary, who, in introducing the light of a new
and purer faith into the world, in the course of his
career once exclaimed : " If an offense come out of
truth, better is it that the offense come than the
truth be concealed." With all gratitude to its au-
thor, that statement deserves to be echoed and re-



Moderate Drinking 47

echoed by every one who represents the cause I
have ventured to plead, and never more in this
country than now. It requires no depth of diag-
nostic skill to detect how serious is the diseased
condition of this country at the present time how
dangerous are the combinations of afflicting causes.
Luxury blindly fattening itself for easy prey ; want
eagerly watching how it may rush to relieve its
misery; and both fed by an agent which, with
equal facility, ministers to the slothful indifference
of one and the sleepless passion of the other. In
such a time as this, is it an offense to attempt to ex-
orcise from our midst an agent so maddening, so
devilish, so deadly? If it be, let the offense come;
for then also is it an offense to wish that the future
history of our still self-enslaved land may be a his-
tory of soberness sanity, health, happiness, and
spotless freedom.



THE



ALCOHOL*



THE

MEDICAL PROFESSION AND ALCOHOL

AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS

BY BENJAMIN WARD RICHARDSON, M.D., F.R.S.,
President of the British Medical Temperance Association^

" Be stirring as the time ; be fire with fire ;
Threaten the threatener, and outface the brow
Of bragging horror. So shall inferior eyes,
That gather their behavior from the great,
Grow great by your example."

OUR national poet made these lines address
themselves to a living power he had in his mind
which he wished for his dramatic purpose to excite
into vigorous action. The words meant an instiga-
tion to sharp, decisive, and real warfare against an
armed threatener. To-day in relation to actual
war no such words are necessary ; but there are
struggles warfares, if we like to call them so to
which the words, and the thoughts expressed by
the words, wondrously apply. The civilized world
is just now in open hostility to a threatener which, of
all others, has, time out of mind, been most deadly
ruinous, cruel, and devastating. A threatener,
grafted on to a superstition, self-inflicted by man
on man, that he, out of the whole circle and chain
of living creatures, must have for his life and
sustainment a thing to drink so foreign to his na-
ture that he must learn to endure it before he likes
it, and then suffer endless penalties for the liking
he has acquired. In the fifty years which I have
lived this superstition has been, by direct and in-



4 AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS.

direct means, the cause of death to at least two
millions of human beings in our country alone.
What war, what conqueror in the histories of the
histories of the world, ever destroyed forty thou-
sand persons a year in one country every year for
forty years ; what plague, pestilence, or famine
ever committed such havoc ?

Nor is it a question only of death that is to be
considered. There are the consequences also to the
survivors. There are the diseases, the griefs, the
shame, the disgrace, the helplessness, the homeless-
ness, the poverty, the crime, the whole of the
domestic anarchies incident to the mortality.
These must be added to the triumphs of the
merciless threatener, the Juggernaut of civiliza-
tion.

I am by profession a healer of men. I solemnly
swore on entering the splendid profession to which
I belong, I solemnly swore as my brethren of the
same calling have each and all solemnly sworn,
that I would consider it a part of my holy duty, as
long as I lived, as a capable rational being to prac-
tise it, to respect, of all things, life ; to relieve pain
and disease, to alleviate, and to the very height of
known skill, according to my gifts, to stave off
death from my fellow-men. Can I, in conscience,
in the remembrance of so solemn an obligation, be
anything else than a foe to so mortal a threatener as
that which slays forty thousand of my countrymen
per year, and accompanies the act with all the ac-
cessory ferocities and evils attendant on such
wholesale destruction? I ask any member of the
body of Medicine, \yho is under the same obliga



THE MEDICAL PROFESSION AND ALCOHOL. 5

tion, if he can reconcile the tolerance of this prac-
tical and merciless threatener with the conscien
tious fulfillment of his binding obligations ? What
men of any class are so encompasssd with an ob-
ligation touching the lives and interests of their
brother men ?

One of the objects ^yhy the society of medical
men which meets together now has been formed,
is to threaten the threatener, and, as the poet
would continue

"To outface the brow
Of bragging horror."

For this superstition is, of all superstitions, a brag-
ging horror of the truest kind. No man at table
lifts his glass defiantly to his neighbor to encour-
age him to the same, or to laugh at him for non-
compliance, without having the consciousness that
the act is simple bragging, and that the end of it,
as a lesson, is, in the strictest sense of the practice
of it, mere horror, which he could not look at
were it put before him in all its wholesale woe.

We, as a society, are a small body. We number
a hundred at most, all told ; so that I am, by the
pleasure of the members, as their captain, a mere
centurion in the army of medicine. Still it is a
notable fact that fhere should be one hundred
medical men joined together with the rest of the
abstaining community to make war against the
threatener. We assume at this moment to exist
only as a nucleus. We wish chiefly to exist that we
may attach all othc/s of the same profession to join
with us. We would that every man who calls him-
self a healer were " stirring as the time " were



6 AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS.

"fire with fire," and that his example, so potent for
good or evil, should be stamped for good in this
great contest.

And this, I think, is indeed a point to win even
beyond the winnings of science through him
that, whenever a medical man is fairly and fully
brought over from the fanatical superstition of this
Juggernaut of civilization, he is at once an exam-
ple of examples to all around him. The example
of the clergyman is, no doubt, of the greatest mo-
ment ; but that, even, is not like the example set
by the doctor. The clergyman is open to chal-
lenge from hour to hour, on the doctrine of neces-
sity. He may urge all that he can on the moral
side of the question ; he may appeal in the most
fervid and eloquent terms to the sympathies of his
auditors; but when they approach him on the
ground of necessity, when they say to him that
they cannot exist without the aid of alcohol, when
they, as intelligent persons, reason with him on
scientific grounds, then they are, or may be, a
match, or more than a match, for him. In like
manner, the head of a family or of an establishment
may declare his own views, set forth his own ex-
ample, insist on his command being obeyed, and
even enforce those commands ; but he will have a
diminished influence when he comes to close quar-
ters in argument with those who are of the same
standing and right as himself; while he is liable to
be branded as a mere opiniated man, and a tyranni-
cal man, by those who obey because they fear, and
do not believe.

Moreover, there are times when all who may be



THE MEDICAL PROFESSION AND ALCOHOL. ?

staunch believers in total abstinence see cause for
doubt in their own minds. Some one near to them,
some one for whom the} 7 feel they hold a responsi-
bility, declares that, in a pressing emergency, the
stimulus of strong drink is necessary ; and what is
*hen to be done? How can the unlearned man
ieal, even with a drunkard, under such circum-
stances? He hesitates in the crisis; and gives
way, it may be, to a good-natured impulse, which
is as likely to be ruinous as it is likely to be useful
in its after-effects.

But when the medical man is brought on the
field he is in a different position altogether. It
really is not necessary for him to enter on the
moral side of the question at all. It is hardly
necessary for him to appeal to any sympathetic
argument. On that side of the Temperance ques-
tion he finds the battle won for him. There is no
one whose opinion is worth considering who
doubts the morality of perfected temperance ; no
one who hesitates to admit that, under the absolute
reign of temperance, poverty, crime, disease, would
lessen, and happiness increase. The medical man
may, therefore, stand with effect purely on his own
ground. He speaks with authority on the ques-
tion of authority; he reads with precision the
pleadings for the supposed sustaining ^agent, and
detects without hesitation whether they be real or
the mere unnecessary desires of a perverted and dis-
tempered brain. How strong his position ! in pro-
portion, how solemn his duty! Other men may
laugh, he cannot; other men may sigh, he need
not. He is there the wise man, the arbiter who is



8 AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS.

educated to know, and who is referred to as know
ing. Just a word from him in the right direction
how it may save those who are deceiving them
selves, and, in that self deception, deceiving others
more determinately. If our society, as a nucleus,
could get the whole of the profession to proceed
with it so far, in the exercise of the legitimate in-
fluence of medicine, and no further, what an aid it
should bring to the work of the great reformation
that is in progress I need not tell to those who,
with anxious minds and hearts, are watching the
professional tone and sentiment for the slightest
breath of its sympathy. The act of all medicine
thrown into the scale of perfected temperance ;
the example, of which the poet speaks, thrown
into the scale of perfected temperance ! It is one
of those aspirations so much to be hoped for;
there seems to be no labor too great to realize it
no honest prize too heavy to win it.

In estimating this success, we are bound, more-
over, to look at it from the negative as well as the
positive point of view. They say, in politics, that
one vote gained is equal to two, because the win-
ning side wins what the other side loses. In the con-
test on which we are engaged to win, one doctor is
a far greater winning : because, if the influence of
the physician or surgeon on our side be for good,
the influence of but one against us is far more po-
tent for evil. A doctor whose example turns the
scale ever so little toward intemperance ; a doctor
who treats this question as a joke ; the doctor, more-
over, who devotes his energies to his calling of sav-
ing life, and who, with forty thousand of his fellow



THE MEDICAL PROFESSION AND ALCOHOL. Q

country folk dying yearly around him from one
cause, and who, toward that cause, exhibits indif-
ference or carelessness, or apathy what preten-
sions has he to be a healer? Where is his honor,
to say no word of his feeling ? Is it honor to swear
fealty and not to obey ? What if some other great
cause of mortality say of consumption were at
work, slaying its thousands annually, and that
cause were as well known to him as this cause
would he toward that be equally indifferent ?
Would he hand it about, partake of it himself, give
it to his children, laugh at those who are wearying
to sweep it away, or tell the afflicted from it that it
is a necessity ? I am sure he would scorn to do
any such thing.

As a society we want to bring these things home.
We know they are not ignored intentionally, but
we feel that they are ignored unintentionally ; and
we hope that, if they can be only canvassed fairly
by our brethren, they will soon be recognized as
truths deserving the choicest judgment. We offer
no reflection on the past, for we admit that in the
past there was a common error pervading medicine
in relation to the physiological action of alcohol,
a common blindness as to the pathological evils
springing from it, and a common misunderstand-
ing or ignorance as to the extent of the evils. We
remember how in our pathological studies our
masters indifferently noticed the lesions admittedly
produced by alcohol as they were observed in the
dead, while they devoted their energies to define
with the utmost nicety the lesions which immedi-
ately caused death. I recall one of those devoted



10 AN INAUGURAL ADDRESS.

teachers, whose memory I shall ever cherish, who,
at nearly every research in the dead-house, would
end the most careful description of the conditions
that were the actual cause of the fatal disease with,
" Gentlemen, there are the usual known other lesions,
with which I need not trouble you, because they
come under one head whisky."

We admit all these past mistakes ; we know how
blind not we alone but all the world has been, and
we come at present purely to review the past with
the intention of improving the future ; of asking
if there be not some common ground on which we
can all work, and, stirring with the time, be indeed
" fire with fire."

There is much already that is uncommon amongst
us, as a fraternity, in respect to the alcohol question.
It is astonishing what we have gained in a few short
years in the way of positive knowledge on the sub-
ject. How, having got into the natural lines of in-
quiry, we have, even in opposition to our prejudices,
found one proof of action confirm and support other
proofs. Fifteen years, or at most twenty years ago s
the true physiological action of alcohol was a specu-
lative discussion unsupported by any reliable ex-
periment, and therefore of the most contradictory
order. Now there is so much evidence of its mode
of action that dispute gives way to accepted fact.
That the ultimate action of alcohol in the animal
temperature is to reduce the temperature that al
cohol relaxes organic muscular fibre ; that alcohol
produces four destructive physiological states of
the body ; that alcohol reduces oxidation ; that al-
cohol interferes with natural dialysis ; that alcohol



THE MEDICAL PROFESSION AND ALCOHOL. II

induces, even taken in small quantities, a series of
morbid changes and diseases which were not
formerly attributed to it; that alcohol prepares
the body for destruction by external shocks and
depressions which are thus made more fatal; that
alcohol belongs to the same class of chemical sub-
stances as chloroform, ether, and the anaesthetic
family; all this is practically now on the accepted
record, with the final admission, when we are
speaking and thinking seriously, that man, like his
lower earth-mates, and like his own children, can,
in health, live and work and play as well not to
put a finer point on it without a trace of alcohol
as he can with it.

" I agree," writes a medical friend to me a
friend who will not go so far as to allow himself to
belong to a totally abstaining society even of his
own brethern " I agree with you that the lower
animals are better without alcohol. I agree that
children and young people are better without al-
cohol. I candidly confess I do not know when a
young person should begin to partake of it, or at
what age of life any person who has never tasted


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Online LibraryBenjamin Ward RichardsonTen lectures on alcohol → online text (page 18 of 23)