THE TEMPERANCE REFORM
It is a singular peculiarity, attending all the great discoveries, and all the large and imposing operations of human kind, that they have without exception, sprung from very small beginnings and have frequently been so insignificant in their inception as to be considered altogether accidental. We may add another circumstance which seems peculiar to our own age, and is full of consolation. Every enterprise having in view the good of mankind; fastens itself so immediately and so powerfully on society, that its effects reach beyond the utmost hopes of its most ardent friends, and almost startled by their magnitude, those who first projected it. I presume it could not have entered into the conjectures of those who formed the first Temperance Association, on the principle of entire abstinence, that they were setting on foot a project, which was destined in its full accomplishment, to influence the habits of not less than one fourth of the whole human race, and to change the direction of a third part of the labor and capital of the world.
It is only within a few years, that the statistics of intemperance have begun to be seriously attended to; and it is only for three or four years past, that particular information on this subject have been extensively disseminated in our country. As knowledge has increased astonishment has increased, also, until the body of facts in possession of the public gives an appalling and nearly incredible view of the extent of the evil of intemperance.
As early as the year 1805 duties to the amount of $3,026,696 were paid into the United States Treasury, on 2,604,611 gals. wine, and 7,641,297 gals. ardent spirits, imported in a single year. That mount of spirits and wine were worth nominally 600 tons weight of silver dollars. Besides the amount imported, we had then, according to the most accurate estimates, 30,000 registered distilleries engaged in making spirits.
In the city of New York, in the year 1808, there were found to be 1700 licensed taverns and dippling (sic) houses. And in a population of about 70,000 one seventh are maintained themselves by selling ardent spirits to the remainder.
In the year 1810, according to the returns of the Marshals of the United States, 25,500,000 gals. of spirits were distilled in the United States, of which only 134,000 gals were exported. The same year 8,000,000 gals. of rum and other distilled spirits were imported; which gave us nearly 33,500,000 gals for home consumption, during a single year. Our population was then 7,389,314, which was at the rate of 4 1/2 gals. a year to every man, woman, and child in the nation. The mere hogsheads to hold it must have cost $600,000: it would require 125,000 wagons to haul it all at once; and they would reach in a compact line, over 1200 miles, the spirit itself would have fitted a canal 21 miles long, 10 feet wide and 41 feet deep.
In the year 1815 there were 35,000 distilleries in the United States
There are now produced in this country more than 50,000,000 gals. spirits a year, to which add the amount imported, and it is found that not less than 50,000,000 gals are annually used by our people. This is nearly 5 gals. to every person in the nation; and is about 38 gals. to every legal voter. It is retailed for at least $22,000,000. 10,000,000 gals molasses and 9,000,000 bushels of rye, besides other grain, and exclusive of cider, are stilled up one year with another. The rye alone would keep 100,000 horses fat a whole year; and the whole food for men yearly expended in this way in the United States, would sustain about 2,000,000 or people a year in comfort.
There are in the United States 40,000 distilleries and 100,000 vendors of spirits.
This vast army of men, and this enormous amount of money must have a corresponding effect on the state of the country. Accordingly we find from the most minute inquiries directed with the utmost candor, in various parts of the United States, that the results are absolutely horrible.
One out of every 100 persons is found to be a common drunkard, and the fate of occasional drunkards is far larger; and that among the best portions of our country. One out of every 25 persons, who arrive at 30 years of age is found to be intemperate. There must be therefore 130,000 common sots, and 370,000 occasional drunkards among us; which is nearly one-twenty-fifths part of the population of the republic, and amounts together to 500,000 drunkards. This is an army large enough to decide the fate of the earth; and if they were real soldiers, might maintain the glory of our banner against the world in arms. If they were all ministers of the cross, they would be enough to supply 600,000,000 of heathen with missionaries at the rate of 1 to every 1200 souls.
Each one of these 500,000 drunkards, has, no doubt, upon any average four or five near relations who feel a deep interest in his fate, and who are personally affected by his ruin. These added to the drunkards themselves, make a mass of 2 1/2 or 3,000,000 of souls.-that is one-fourth or one-fifth of our whole population. Now no one is so cut off from society but that there are 5 or 6 persons so intimately connected with him, by some tie or other, that whatever affects any of them, will also affect him. But every 5th or 6th person has been shown to be a drunkard or a member of a drunkard's family wherefore, it follows that scarcely one human being amongst us is totally exempt from the inroads of this monster, whose name is Legion.- And herewith corresponds the personal experience of us all; for it may be asserted, with great certainty, that there is hardly one individual in the community, whose peace has not been marred by it; and that there is hardly a single family that has not experienced shame and sorrow by the ill conduct of some relative, connection, or friend, growing out of the intemperate use of ardent spirits.
Every rank and condition of men, both sexes, and all ages, furnish victims to swell the ranks of this vast company of drunkards. With a hand as unrelenting and as impartial as that of death, the spirit of intemperance strikes at the door of the hovel and the palace. While he takes, in his yearly visitation, 50,000 of our people to the bar of God, he lays his heavy fated hand on 30,000 more by way of admonition, to be ready against his sure return; and the leprous spot on the forehead of the doomed Israelite, was not a more visible nor a surer mark of ruin.
We see the extent-now let us examine some of the fruits of intemperance. Here again the mass of facts in our hands, reveals a desolation so dreadful, that this demon might say with far greater truth than the relentless Goth, no verdure returns to the spot over which my footsteps have passed.
The nation looses 30,000 citizens every year by drunkenness; and at the present rates there are 2,000,000 adult persons in the United States who will die miserably in the same way.
Two-thirds of all the paupers in the Union, which costs us $10,000,000 a year, is produced by intemperance.
Out of 2,000 prosecutions for crimes in one of our large cities, 800 proceed from intemperance. Of 800 complaints in the police court of Boston, in one year, 400 were against common drunkards.
Two-thirds of all the inmates in our penitentiaries and alms houses, being more than 150,000 persons were according to their own showing, brought there in consequence of drunkenness.
The prison discipline society ascertained that there were 50,000 cases of imprisonment for debt, yearly produced by drunkenness.
Public cases produced to the law to be punished, as to charity to be relieved of debt, suffering no crimes, from drunkenness, over 250,000 a year.
The committee for superintendence of the poor, for the City of New York, for the year 1817, say that two-thirds of the poor of the city became so by drunkenness; and that the poor spent for whiskey, during the year, what would amply provide for their wants during an inclement winter. They assert moreover that the immoderate use of ardent spirits are the cause of seven-tenths of the poverty existing in that city. A similar inquiry in Maine showed that seventh-eights of the poverty resulted from drunkenness. A report on the public charities of the City of Charleston made in 1820 shows that three-fourths of the inmates of their Marine Hospital, two-thirds of all persons assisted by the Benevolent Society, and three-fourths of the orphans in the City Asylum, had been reduced to dependance on public charity for a miserable subsistence in consequence of drunkenness.
One-third of all the cases of madness which have existed in the hospitals of New York and Philadelphia have resulted from drunkenness. And this is no doubt a fair rate by which to class all such cases. Every one maniac, therefore, has destroyed all reason by alcohol.
Drunkenness costs the people of the United States an almost incredible sum of money. If we omit entirely such items as cannot be readily valued--such as the lost labor of 90,000 criminals, in consequence of their depravity-the destruction of from 20 to 50,000 persons annually-the shame and loss sustained by two million of persons, the relations of drunkards-the loss by the negligence, and so on, drunken servants, agents and others and it appears that there would be maintain annual tax upon the council of considerably more than on hundred million of dollars. All subh calculations present to approximate the truth. But suppose they only do so to a reasonable degree, and here we have an annual amount wasted for spirits, four times as large as the revenue of the Federal Government. This sum is large enough to build 12 such canals as the Erie, and Hudson Canal every year. This sixty thousand is as much as the aggregate income of all societies in Europe and America. It would supply every family in the world with a Bible; or it would support a missionary among every two thousand persons on this globe.-----Brackinridge's Address