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other men who said they could find two women who had overheard a man say
that he had seen a man who had seen me with two men that had a bottle of
something which he felt pretty sure was Robinson county whisky. Therefore
B. was drunk!

These things had the effect on me that this account will probably have on
the reader - they annoyed me exceedingly at times. At times the falsehoods
were more malicious still, causing me many sleepless hours. At the end
of ten months of complete sobriety, during which I never tasted any
stimulant - ten months of constant struggle and determined effort - I fell.
Alas, that I am compelled to write the sad words! I had broken down my
strength; my mental and physical energies gave way, and my appetite had
wrapped itself as a flaming fire about me, consuming me in its heat. I
commenced drinking at Charlottsville, Henry county, and went from there to
Knightstown on a Saturday evening. On the following Monday I went to
Indianapolis drunk, and there got "dead drunk." My friends in Rushville,
hearing of my misfortune, came after me and took me with them to that
place, where I remained utterly oblivious until the next Sunday, when, by
some means - I have no knowledge how - I got on an early train that was
passing through Rushville, and went as far as Columbus, where I got off,
and soon succeeded in getting a quart of liquor. Between the hour of my
arrival at Columbus and night I drank three bottles of whisky.

That night I returned to Rushville, and while mad with liquor, made an
attempt on my life by cutting my throat. Well for me that my knife was dull
and did not penetrate to the jugular artery. The wound self-inflicted was
an ugly but not dangerous one. I kept on drinking for a week or more, until
I found that it was utterly out of my power to resist drinking so long as I
remained in a place where I could see, or buy, or beg whisky. I finally
went to the sheriff and asked him to lock me up in jail, which I finally
persuaded him to do. Once in jail I tried in vain to get more liquor. I
remained there until the fierce fires of my appetite smouldered once more,
and then I was released. I lay in bed sick several days at this time, sick
in mind, soul, and body. I felt that for me there was nothing left. I had
descended to the lowest depths. I was forever ruined and undone. Many who
had said that I would not or could not stop drinking seemed to be delighted
over my terrible misfortune. The smile with which they would say, "I told
you so!" was devilish and fiendish. But many friends gathered about me and
cheered me with hope that by renewed effort I might rise again. Well and
truly did a great English poet, Campbell, I believe, say: -

"Hope springs eternal in the human heart."

I determined once more that I would not give up, I would fight my tireless
enemy while a breath of life or an atom of reason remained in my being.

It was now July, 1874. An exciting political campaign was coming off, the
main issue was "local option." I took the side and became an advocate of
local option, and until the election in October, averaged one speech per
day, frequently traveling all night in order to meet my engagements. That
campaign broke me down completely, and on the first of November I again
yielded, after a prolonged and desperate struggle, to the powers of my
sleepless and tireless adversary. So terrible were the consequences of this
fall that in the hope of preventing others from ever indulging in the
ruinous habit which led to it, I wrote out and published a full account of
it under the title of "Luther Benson's Struggle for Life." Inasmuch as this
book will be incomplete without it, I will embody that brochure in the next
chapter, so that those who have never read it may now do so, if they


Struggle for life - A cry of warning - "Why don't you quit?" - Solitude,
separation, banishment - No quarter asked - The rumseller - A risk no
man should incur - The woman's temperance convention at Indianapolis - At
Richmond - The bloated druggist - "Death and damnation" - At the Galt
House - The three distinct properties of alcohol - Ten days in
Cincinnati - The delirium tremens - My horrible sufferings - The stick that
turned to a serpent - A world of devils - Flying in dread - I go to
Connersville, Indiana - My condition grows worse - Hell, horrors, and
torments - The horrid sights of a drunkard's madness.

Depraved and wretched is he who has practiced vice so long that he curses
it while he yet clings to it; who pursues it because he feels a terrible
power driving him on toward it, but, reaching it, knows that it will gnaw
his heart, and make him roll himself in the dust. Thus it has been, and
thus it is, with me. The deep, surging waters have gone over me. But out of
their awful, black depths, could I be heard, I would cry out to all who
have just set a foot in the perilous flood. For I am not one of those who,
if they themselves must die the death most terrible and appalling of all
others, would drag or even persuade one other soul to accompany them. But
as the oblivious waves are surging about me, and as I try to brave and
buffet them, I would cry to others not to come to me. When but just gasping
and throwing up my hand for the last time, it would not be to clutch, but,
if possible, to push back to safety. Could the youth who has just begun to
taste wine, and the young man his first drink - to whom it is as delicious
as the opening scenes of a visionary life, or the entering into some
newly-discovered paradise where scenes of undimmed glory burst upon his
vision - but see the end of all that, and what comes after, by looking into
my desolation, and be made to understand what a dark and dreary thing it is
for a man to be made to feel that he is going over a precipice with his
eyes wide open, with a will that has lost power to prevent it; could he see
my hot, fevered cheeks, bloodshot eyes, bloated face, swollen fingers,
bruised and wounded body; could he feel the body of the death out of which
I cry hourly, with feebler and feebler outcry, to be delivered; could he
know how a constant wail comes up and out from my bleeding heart, and begs
and pleads with a great agony to be delivered from this awful demon, drink;
could these truths but go home to the hearts and minds of the young men of
the land; could they feel for but one single moment what I am compelled to
live, and battle, and endure day in, and day out, until the days drag
themselves into weeks that seem like months, and months that seem like
years, striving all the time, a living, walking, talking death, and cares,
pleasures, and joys, all gone, yet compelled to endure and live, or rather
die, on; could every young man feel these things as I am compelled to feel
and bear them, it seems to me that it would be enough to make them, while
they yet have the power to do it, dash the sparkling damnation to the earth
in all the pride of its mantling temptation.

At the very threshold of blooming manhood I found myself subject to all the
disadvantages which mankind, if they reflected upon them, would hesitate to
impose upon acknowledged guilt. In every human countenance I feared to find
an enemy. I shrank from the vigilance of human eyes. I dared not open my
heart to the best affections of our nature, for a drunkard is supposed to
have no love. I was shut up within my own desolation - a deserted, solitary
wretch in the midst of my species. I dared not look for the consolation of
friendship, for a drunkard is always the subject of suspicion and distrust,
and is not supposed to be possessed of those finer feelings that find men
as friends. Thus, instead of identifying myself with the joys and sorrows
of others, and exchanging the delicious gifts of confidential sympathy, I
was compelled to shrink back and listen to the horrid words, You are a
drunkard - words the very mention or thought of which has ten thousand times
carried despair to my heart, and made me gasp and pant for breath. Thus it
was at the very opening of life, and thus it ever has been, and thus it is
to-day. I have struggled, and with streaming eyes tried to wrench the
chains from my bruised and torn body. My weary and long-continued struggles
led to no termination. Termination! No! The lapse of time, that cures all
other things, but makes my case more desperate. For there is no rest for
me. Whithersoever I remove myself, this detestable, hated, sleepless,
never-tiring enemy is in my rear. What a dark, mysterious, unfeeling,
unrelenting tyrant! Is it come to this? When Nero and Caligula swayed the
Roman scepter, it was a fearful thing to offend the bloody rulers. The
Empire had already spread itself from climate to climate, and from sea to
sea. If their unhappy victim fled to the rising of the sun, where the
luminary of day seems to us first to ascend from the waves of the ocean,
the power of the tyrant was still behind him; if he withdrew to the west,
to Hesperian darkness and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not
safe from his gore-drenched foe. Rum! Whisky! Alcohol! Fiend! Monster!
Devil! Art thou the offspring in whom the lineaments of these tyrants are
faithfully preserved? Was the world, with all its climates, made in vain
for thy helpless, unoffending victim?

To me the sun brings no return of day. Day after day rolls on, and my state
is immutable. Existence is to me a scene of melancholy. Every moment is a
moment of anguish, with a trembling fear that the coming period will bring
a severer fate. We talk of the instruments of torture, but there is more
torture in the lingering existence of a man that is in the iron clutches of
a monster that has neither eyes, nor ears, nor bowels of compassion; a
venomous enemy that can never be turned into a friend; a silent, sleepless
foe, that shuts out from the light of day, and makes its victim the
associate of those whom society has marked for her abhorrence; a slave
loaded with fetters that no power can break; cut off from all that
existence has to bestow; from all the high hopes so often conceived; from
all the future excellence the soul so much desires to imagine. No language
can do justice to the indignant and soul-sickening loathing that these
ideas excite. A thousand times I have longed for death, and wished, with an
expressible ardor, for an end to what I suffered. A thousand times I have
meditated suicide, and ruminated in my soul upon the different means of
escaping from my load of existence. A thousand times in wretched bitterness
I have asked myself, What have I to do with life? I have seen and felt
enough to make me regard it with detestation. Why should I wait the
lingering process of an unfeeling tyrant that is slowly tearing me to
pieces, and not dare so much as die but when and how the marble-hearted
thing decrees? Still, some inexplicable suggestion withheld my hand, and
caused me to cling with desperate fondness to this shadow of existence, its
mysterious attractions, and its hopeless prospects - appetite, fiendish
thirst, a burning, ever-crying demand for a poison that is death, and for
which a man will give his body and soul as a sacrifice to whoever will
satisfy his imperious cravings. Let this appetite entwine itself about a
man, let it throw its iron arms about his bruised body, and he will curse
the day he was born. But some one says, Why don't you quit? Just don't
drink! In answer I would say, O God, give me poverty, shower upon me all
the hardships of life, turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, so
I be never again the victim of rum. Suffer me to call life and the pursuit
of life my own, free from the appetite for alcohol, and I am willing to
hold them at the mercy of the elements, the hunger of beasts, or the
revenge of cold-blooded men. All of these, rather than the poison of the
accursed cup.

Solitude! separation! banishment! These are words often in the mouths of
human beings; but few men except myself have been permitted to feel the
full latitude of their meaning. The pride of philosophy has taught us to
treat man as an individual. He is no such thing. He holds, necessarily,
indispensably, a relation to his species. He is like those twin births that
have two heads and four hands, but if you attempt to detach them from each
other, they are inevitably subjected to a miserable and lingering
destruction. If a man wants to conceive a lively idea of the regions of the
damned, just let him get himself in that condition that he is alone with an
enemy while he is surrounded by society and his friends - an enemy that is
like what has been described as the eye of Omniscience pursuing the guilty
sinner and darting a ray that awakens him to a new sensibility at the very
moment that otherwise exhausted nature would lull him into a temporary
oblivion of the reproaches of his conscience. No walls can hide me from the
discernment of my hated foe. Everywhere his industry in unwearied, to
create for me new distress. Never can I count upon an instant of security;
never can I wrap myself in the shroud of oblivion. The minutes in which I
do not actually perceive and feel my destroyer are contaminated and blasted
with the certain expectation of speedy interference. Thus it has been, and
thus it is to-day, and with every returning day.

Tyrants have trembled, surrounded by whole armies of their janizaries.
Alcohol - venomous serpent! robber and reviler! - what should make thee
inaccessible to my fury? I will unfold a tale! I will show thee to
the world for what thou art, and all the men that read shall confess
my truth! Whisky - abhorrer of nature, the curse of the human species! - the
earth can only be freed from an insupportable burden by thy extermination!
Rum - poisoner! destroyer! that spits venom all around, and leaves the
ground infected with slime! Accursed poison-makers and poison-dispensers! -
do you imagine that I am altogether passive; a mean worm, organized to feel
sensations of pain, but having no emotion of resentment? Did you imagine
that there was no danger in inflicting on me pains, however great;
miseries, however direful? Do you believe me impotent, imbecile, and
idiot-like, with no understanding to contrive my escape and thy ruin, and
no energy to perpetrate it? I will tell the end of thy infernal works. The
country, in justice, shall hear me. I would that I had the language of
fire, that my words might glow, and burn, and drop like molten lava, that I
might wipe you from the face of the earth, or persuade mankind to turn away
and starve you to death. Think you that I would regret the ruin that had
overwhelmed you? Too long I have been tender-hearted and forbearing.
Whisky, whisky sellers and whisky makers, traffickers and dealers in tears,
blood, sin, shame, and woe! - ten thousand times you have dipped your bloody
talons in my blood. There is no evil you have scrupled to accumulate upon
me! Neither will I be more scrupulous. You have shown me no mercy, and you
shall receive none.

Let us look at the rumseller, that we may know what manner of man he is,
and then ask if he deserves the pity, sympathy, or respect of society, or
any part of it. Viewed considerately, in the light of their respective
motives, the drunkard is an innocent and honorable man in comparison with
the retailer of drinks. The one yields under the impulse - it may be the
torture - of appetite; the other is a cool, mercenary speculator, thriving
on the frailties and vices of others. He is a man selling for gain what he
knows to be worthless and pernicious; good for none, dangerous for all, and
deadly to many. He has looked in the face the sure consequences of his
course, and if he can but make gain of it, is prepared to corrupt the
souls, embitter the lives, and blast the prosperity of an indefinite number
of his fellow-creatures. By the selling of his poisons he sees that with
terrible certainty, along with the havoc of health, lives, homes, and souls
of men, he can succeed in setting afloat a certain vast amount of property,
and that as it is thrown to the winds, some small share of it will float
within his grasp. He knows that if men remain virtuous and thrifty, if
these homes around him continue peaceful and joyous, his craft can not
prosper. The injured old mothers, the wives, and the sisters are found
where rum is sold. Orphan children throng from hut and hovel, and lift
their childish hands in supplication, asking at the hands of the guilty
whisky sellers for those who rocked their cradles, and fed and loved them.
The murderer, now sober and crushed, lifts his manacled hands, red with
blood, and charges his ruin upon the men who crazed his brain with rum. The
felon comes from his prison tomb, the pauper from his dark retreat, where
the rumseller has driven him to seek an evening's rest and a pauper's
grave. From ten thousand graves the sheeted dead stalk forth, and with
eyeless sockets and bared teeth, grin most ghastly scorn at their
destroyers. The lost float up in shadowy forms, and wail in whispered
despair. Angels turn weeping away, and God, upon his throne, looks in
anger, and hurls a woe upon the hand which "putteth a bottle to his
neighbor's lips to make him drunken." To balance all this fearful array of
mischief and woe, flowing directly from his work, the dealer in ardent
spirits can bring nothing but the plea that appetite has been gratified.
There are profits, to be sure. Death finds it the most liberal purveyor for
his horrid banquet, and hell from beneath it is moved with delight at the
fast-coming profits of the trade; and the seller also gets gain. Death,
hell, and the rumseller - beyond this partnership none are profited. Go and
shake their bloody hands, you who will! The time will be when deep down in
hell these miserable, blood-stained wretches will pant for one drop of
water, and curse the day and hour that they ever sold one drop of liquor.

The experience of ages proves that the use of intoxicating agents
invariably tends to engender a burning appetite for more; and he who
indulges in them shall do it at the peril of contracting a passionate and
rabid thirst for them, which shall ultimately overmaster the will of his
victim, and drag him, unresisting, to his ruin. No man can put himself
under the influence of alcoholic stimulants without incurring the risk of
this result. It may not be perceptible at once. It may be interrupted, and
while the bonds are yet feeble he may escape. But let the habit go forward,
the excitement be often repeated, and soon a deep-wrought physical effect
will be produced; a headlong and almost delirious appetite, of the nature
of a physical necessity, will have seized the whole man as with iron arms,
and crushed from his heart the power of self-control.

My whole nature was almost constantly demanding and crying out for
stimulants. During the period that I abstained from them, and for two weeks
before I touched or tasted them the last time, my agony was unbearable. In
my sleep I dreamed that I was drinking, and dreamed that I was drunk. Day
by day my appetite grew fiercer and more unbearable, until in my misery I
walked my floor hour after hour, unable to sleep, and feeling that if I lay
down I should die. One night, about a week before I yielded, I walked my
room until midnight, suffering the torments of hell. I felt that I was
dying, and rushed out of my room and walked and ran across fields and
through the woods, panting and gasping for breath. I felt that my head was
bursting to pieces. My blood boiled, and hissed, and foamed through my
veins. I could feel my heart throb and beat as though it would burst out of
my body. At that time I would have torn the veins of my arms open, if I
could have drawn whisky from them. When light came, I found that I had
walked and run seven miles since leaving my room at midnight. All that day
I was burning up for liquor. Had I been where I could lay my hands on it, a
thousand times that day I would have drank though it steeped my soul in
rivers of death.

In just this condition I went to Indianapolis to address the Woman's
Temperance Convention. I felt that I would drop dead before I finished my
speech. That night I did not sleep more than an hour, and that was a
miserable hour of sleep, in which I dreamed that I was drunk. I woke up
with a burning thirst, and sharp pains darting through my brain. The very
least noise would send a new pang to my head, and when I attempted to walk,
my own footsteps would jar upon my brain as though knives were driven
through it. The next day and night I fought it like a tiger, but my thirst
only increased, and then one gets tired at last of fighting an enemy all
day, knowing that he must confront that same enemy the next day, and the
next, for one can not live always on a strain, always in fear, and doubt,
and dread. The next day I started for Richmond, where I had business,
intending to go from there to Cincinnati and Covington, and thence East. I
got to Richmond, haunted, every inch of the road, with an inexpressible
longing for stimulants. When I got there, I knew that I was where I could
get a little rest from my intense suffering, for I could get whisky. When
the thought of what would be the result of touching it forced itself on my
mind, my agony was so terrible that I could feel the sweat streaming down
my face, and I could have wrung water from my hair.

If ever there was a man in ruins, a perfect spectacle of utter desolation,
I was that man, as I stood in the depot at Richmond, burning up for whisky.
Had I been standing on red-hot embers my sufferings could not have been
more intense. I feel that I can almost hear some one say, "Why did you not
pray? just go and ask God to help you." I have been told to do that ten
thousand times by good-meaning men and women, who do not know how to pray
as I do, and never will until (which God forbid) they have suffered as I
have. I did pray, and beg, and plead for mercy and help, but the heavens
were solid brass and the earth hard iron, and God did not hear or heed my
prayers. Talk about having the appetite for stimulants removed by prayer!
That appetite is just as much the part of a man as his hand, heart, brain,
or any other part of his body. Every one of God's laws are unchangeable and
immutable. The day of miracles is over. When one of God's creatures
violates his laws, he must pay the penalty; and I think it would be far
better to educate the rising generation that there is no escape for them
from the consequences of their acts, than to preach them into the belief
that they may for years pursue a course of dissipation, violate every law
of their being, and then by prayer have the chains of habit stricken off
and be restored whole.

Then there is another class of individuals who have said to me, "When you
get into that condition, when you feel that you must have liquor, why don't
you just take a little in moderation?" Moderation! A drink of liquor is to
my appetite what a red-hot coal of fire is to a keg of dry powder. You can
just as easily shoot a ball from a cannon's mouth moderately, or fire off a
magazine slowly, as I can drink liquor moderately. When I take one drink,
if it is but a taste, I must have more, if I knew hell would burst out of
the earth and engulf me the next instant. I am either perfectly sober, with
no smell f of liquor about me, or I am very drunk. Some of those moderate
drinkers, who are increasing their moderation a little every day, and also
some pretended temperance people, who are always suspicious of others,
because they are sneaking, cowardly, sly, deceitful and treacherous
themselves, are constantly asking me if I do not drink a little all the
time. And then they say I use morphine and opium. There is nothing that has
made me more wretched, and done more to weaken and drag me down, than the
continued accusation of doing something that it is just as impossible for
me to do as it would be to live without breathing; that is, to take a drink
of liquor without getting drunk. And if there is any one thing that will
make me hate a man - loathe, abhor, and despise him - it is to have him
accuse me of drinking or using any kind of stimulants regularly and
moderately. I just want to say here, now, and for all time, that they who
thus accuse me, lie in their teeth, mouth, throat, and away down deep in
their dirty, cowardly, craven, black hearts.

I walked from the depot in Richmond - or, rather, almost ran - until I came
to a drug store kept by a young man I have known for five or six years. He
keeps nearly all drugs in barrels, well watered, and drinks them regularly,
and, as he calls it, moderately. That is to say, he has not been sober for

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