« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE TEMPERANCE REFORMATION.
Fifth Report of the American Temperance Society. Pre
sented at the meeting in Boston, May, 1832.
By GEORGE B. CHEEVER.
The friends of Temperance are connected with a cause on which God has smiled. In 1826, the American Temperance Society was formed at Boston. Dr. Beecher's celebrated Sermons on Intemperance were preached in that same year. At that time there were probably 400,000 drunkards in the United States, and between three and four millions of persons drinking ardent spirits, and in the way to ruin. In 1824, the quantity of ardent spirits imported into the United States amounted to 5,285,000 gallons. In 1830, it was 1,195,000. In 1832, more than 1,500,000 people in the United States were abstaining from the use of ardent spirit, and from furnishing it for the use of others; there were formed more than 4,000 temperance societies, embracing more than 500,000 members; more than 1,500 distilleries had been stopped; more than 4,000 merchants ceased to traffic in ardent spirit, and more than 4,500 drunkards ceased to use it. Probably more than 20,000 persons are now sober, who, had it not been for the temperance reformation, would have been sots; and 20,000 families are now in ease and comfort, with not a drunkard in them, or one who is becoming a drunkard, that would otherwise have been in poverty, or cursed with a drunken inmate; and 50,000 children are saved from the dreadful influence of drunken parents; and 200,000 from that parental influence which tended to make them drunkards. These facts, gathered from the late reports of the American Temperance Society, show that it has God's special blessing. It stands on a vantage ground it has never occupied before. Demonstration of its utility has been so forced upon the public, that men have ceased to ridicule it, even where they hate it. Its success is regarded as one of the wonders of the world. The path of its exertions has been followed by other nations. Testimonials in its favor
have been poured in from every quarter, at home and abroad, from men of every occupation and profession, from farmers and mechanics and merchants, from men of literature and science, from overseers of manufactories, from naval and military officers, shipmasters, and agents of every description, from physicians and lawyers, from representatives, senators, and judges on the bench. A few years of labor on the part of this society have brought such conviction to the public mind, that state and town temperance societies are institutions which the public opinion demands.
The enterprise is one of great moral sublimity. Whatever tends to restore or confirm man's government over his passions, whatever in any degree breaks the thraldom of sense and raises him above it, whatever prepares him for the spiritual life and the activity of his immortal part, is an unspeakable blessing to the individual. Whatever does it for a nation, is of a good that cannot be computed. In this view, the temperance reformation is not inferior in moral grandeur to any other enterprise, saving the regeneration of the world, ever undertaken by mortals. It aims to give to a whole great nation the perfect command over an appetite to which it has been chained in despotism, and by which its energies have been greatly withered, diseased, and prostituted to a career of crime. It enlists the intellect as well as the heart of the people, and makes a demand upon it, and calls it into exercise. And it is a voluntary undertaking. It was entered on and has been prosecuted under the patronage of no sector state or empire. The arm of power does not support it; nay, in the form of license laws, legislative power is arrayed against it. It shows, in a very sublime manner, the irresistible energy of voluntary associations and united effort in benevolence. It is an enterprise vitally connected with every thing good, and frowning upon every thing bad. It is frightful to think what would shortly have been our condition under the despotism of the vice of intemperance, had not this great moral barrier been thrown up to arrest its progress. It was weakening, corrupting, and preparing us for destruction daily.* Our strength from this reformation is already incalculably greater than it was a few years ago. When, by the gradual power of this moral enterprise, enlisting the whole nation among the number who totally abstain, the poison we have so long been drinking shall have passed from our veins, then will the hand of this nation be steady, its eye clear, its courage cool, its judgment unperverted, its union strengthened, its intellect powerful, and its spirituality increased, beyond example. This vice will not pass away alone. Even now may be seen retreating in unwilling and sullen array a mighty train of crimes and diseases, that, through the influence of ardent spirit, have lived and rioted among us. Intemperance stalks at their head. Behind him follow, with unwilling pace, murder, thest, obscenity, consumption, fever, apoplexy, epilepsy, delirium tremens, gout, rheumatism, palsy, pleurisy, cholera, and a host of haggard inferior diseases attendant on the progress of this horrid army. Such a train as once appeared to Adam, the predicted consequence of intemperance in meats and drinks.
* The men now upon the stage remember, from their childhood till within the last ten years, to have seen distilled spirits, in some form, a universal provision for the table at the principal repast, throughout this country. The richer sort drank French and Spanish brandy; the poorer, West India, and the poorest, New England rum. In the Southern States, whiskey was the favorite liquor; and the somewhat less common articles of foreign and
domestic gin, apple brandy and peach brandy, made a variety which recommended itself to the variety of individual tastes. Commonly at meals, and at other times by laborers, particularly in the middle of the forenoon and afternoon, these substances were taken simply diluted with more or less water. On other occasions, they made a part of more or less artificial compounds, in which fruit of various kinds, eggs, spices, herbs and sugar were leading ingredients. A fashion at the south was to take a draught of whiskey flavored with mint soon after waking; and so conducive to health was this nostrum esteemed, that neither sex, and scarcely any age, was exempt from its application. At eleven o'clock, while mixtures, under various peculiar names,--sling, toddy, flip, &c.,-solicited the appetite at the bar of the common tippling shop, the office of professional men, and the counting room, dismissed their occupants for a half hour to regale themselves at a neighbor's, or a coffee-house, with punch, hot or iced, according to the season; and females and valetudinarians courted an appetite with medicated rum disguised under the chaste name of Huxham's tincture, or Stoughton's elixir. The dinner hour arrived, according to the different customs of different districts of the country, whiskey and water, curiously flavored with apples, or brandy and water, introduced the feast; whiskey, or brandy, with water, helped it through, and whiskey or brandy, without water, often secured its safe digestion, not again to be used in any more formal manner than for the relief of occasional thirst, or for the entertainment of a friend, until the last appeal should be made to them to secure a sound night's sleep. Rum seasoned with cherries protected against the cold; rum made astringent with peach-nuts concluded the repast at the confectioner's; rum made nutritious with milk prepared for the maternal office; and, under the Greek name of paregoric, rum doubly poisoned with opium quieted the infants cries. No doubt there were numbers who did not use ardent spirits; but it was not because they were not perpetually in their way. They were an established article of diet, almost as much as bread, and, with very many, they were in much more frequent use. The friend who did not testify his wel. come with them, and the master who did not provide bountifully of them for his servants, were held niggardly; and there was no social meeting, not even of the most formal or sacred kind, where it was considered indecorous, scarcely any where it was not thought necessary, to produce them. The consequence was, that what the great majority used without scruple, large numbers indulged in without restraint. Sots were common, of both sexes, various ages, and all conditions.-Encyclopædia Americana.
Diseases dire, of which a monstrous crew
Paradise Lost, B. xi.
This moral enterprise is removing one of the most dreadful obstacles ever yet opposed to the spread of the gospel. Selfdenying and holy men have almost fruitlessly devoted their lives to this blessed object, because along with every supply of that word which conveys the gift of eternal life, there has been sent to the perishing nations the gift of intoxication, the sure producer of death temporal and eternal. Preach to the heathen that spiritual gospel which commands the denying ungodliness and every earthly lust, and at the same time place in their hands and put to their lips the provocation to every sort of crime that can be named!
Appeal to the reason and the conscience, and at the same time give them to drink what debases reason, and stupifies the conscience, and makes the whole being earthly, sensual, devilish! temperance reformation go hand in hand with the Bible, and the Sabbath school, and the tract in its distribution among the poor and wretched, and truth will have power, and the world's regeneration will be speedily accomplished.
Any attempt to enumerate and compute the evils of the use of ardent spirit, is at once baffled by their extent. Intemperance is a grand cause of all the wretchedness that exists on earth. It has filled the creditor's book with bad debts, and the gaols with poor debtors; the law docket with criminal cases, and the prisons with criminals. It has dam
med up the channels of legislation, corrupted its very fountains, and contributed not unfrequently to make it a system of perplexity, chicanery and abuse. It has mingled with the reasoning of the pleader at the bar, and corrupted the decision of the judge upon the bench. It has obstructed the progress of business, and crippled the energies of commercial enterprise. It has impeded the growth of new settlements, or mingled death with their youthful life, and it has degraded the whole character of the oldest towns. It has filled the streets with brawlers and begging impostors, the alms house with paupers, the hospitals with wo. To detect its influence in religion, and show in how many ways it has opposed, prevented, or blasted its power, would of itself demand a volume. It is the natural ally of infidelity, scoffing profaneness, and resistance to the Holy Spirit. It has entered the social prayer-meeting, disturbed the worship of the Sabbath, stupified the conscience of the hearer, destroyed the convictions of the inquirer, and mingled its damning influence even in the sermons of the preacher. It has turned houses of gentleness into habitations of anger, scenes of domestic bliss into tragedies of anguish, the cheerful fireside into a place of gloom and wretchedness. The house where that demon enters is no longer a home. He sits at the fireside, and the fire goes out on the hearth. He sits at the table, and want and contention preside at the board. He enters by day, and there are sunken eyes, and dreadful faces, and oaths and poverty, and filth and raggedness. He enters at night, and there are moaning infants, and broken-hearted mothers, and sleeplessness, and shivering, and cold, and hunger, and nakedness. The storm whistles through broken windows, patched with rags; but there is worse strise within, than that of the elements without. He makes home hell, and there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in every part of it.
Wherever man has set foot upon earth, this curse has been found. It is the grand source of murders, robberies, rapes, riots, mutinies, profaneness, impiety, lying, stealing, Sabbath breaking, and crimes of every description ; of conflagrations, shipwrecks, and dreadful accidents by sea and land; of wasted fortunes and broken hearts; of disgrace, poverty, want, disease and death, in this world and forever. More than one half, probably three fourths of all cases of insanity are produced by drinking ardent spirit. More than eight hundred out of every thousand