AN ALARMING EVIL
There can be little doubt of the correctness of the prevailing opinion, that the consumption of ardent spirits has been, for a few years past, an alarmingly increasing evil in our country.
By the marshal's returns in 1810, it appeared that no less than thirty three millions three hundred sixty-five hundred and twenty-nine gallons of spirit were distilled and imported, for a single year's consumption in the United States; and there is little doubt that this estimate is far short of the truth, as there is probably, every year, a considerable quantity smuggled into the country, of which of course no account is given. If from that time, the consumption of ardent spirit has kept pace with the population, it will amount to fifty-six millions of gallons; but from the increase in the consumption, says a distinguished gentleman of our state, in an elaborate calculation, for which the following results are taken, 'we may safely set it down at sixty millions.- This will give to every individual, man, woman, and child, including bond and free, five gallons each. Deducting the slaves and children under ten years of age, it will give to the rest not less than eight gallons each.'
[The writer them proceeds to estimate the cost of liquors to the country, and the expenses occasioned by them, at one hundred millions of dollars a year; and the number of lives lost every year in the same manner, at twenty-five or thirty thousand. He then proceeds.]
How can anything be done effectually to check this mighty evil? I give the same answer to this question which has repeatedly been given within the last few months; change public opinion, make it unpopular, unfashionable to drink spirit. What is the use of applying to Government for a tax upon ardent spirit so large as to place it beyond the reach of the lower classes in the community? Legislative enactments which far outrun public opinion, are worth nothing. Fashion and custom hold men with a stronger arm that Legislative prescription. But how change public opinion, is it not already an overwhelming torrent rolling onward with resistless and increasing power? Man can accomplish wonders both in the physical and moral world, he dares even meditate a canal across the Isthmus of Darien, expecting to lower the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and perhaps to stop the gulf stream, and who that recollects the mighty moral achievements accomplished in the time of the reformation by the efforts of a single man, shall despond at the vastness of the change now contemplated?
Let all good men, all well wishers to social life and family quiet; to health, industry, and the arts; to religion, morals, and good government, unite their efforts; and by all possible means, but chiefly by their example, in rigidly abstaining from ardent spirits, discourage and discountenance its use, among all within the sphere of their influence.- Mussey's Address.