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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12

No. I

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No. I.

I drank: I liked it not: 'twas rage, 'twas noise,
An airy scene of transitory joys.
In vain I trusted that the flowing bowl
Would banish sorrow and enlarge the soul.


I am not a Good Templar, nor a Teetotaller, nor a member of any special organization having for its object the repression of drunkenness, or the promotion of the practice of total abstinence. My daily duty has brought me into contact with the sad consequences which arise from the abuse of intoxicating liquor, and being persuaded from what has come under my own eyes, that some more expedient statutory regulations are required for the proper conduct of the traffic than those at present in force, I have ventured to put on paper the result of my enquiry into the subject, and to offer a few suggestions in the hope that our legislators may see fit to carry through the requisite amendments of the law. I approach this question in no dogmatic spirit. I do not allege that all who may not draw the same conclusions from the premises which I do, are guilty of mortal sin against themselves and their fellows, I will state nothing but acknowledged facts, or such propositions as are capable of instant proof. We are all more or less like the ostrich which hides its head in the sand, and sees not its pursuers. Many good men pay no attention to the destroyer amongst us, because its blasting operations do not come within the immediate ken of their own observation. I am hopeful that their attention may [unclear: be] drawn to the matter from the [unclear: statement] about to be put forward, and that an [unclear: enlightened] public opinion may grow [unclear: un]bearing leaves for the healing of many [unclear: of] our social sores.

There are few occasions more painful [unclear: to] a Magistrate than pronouncing [unclear: sentence] upon some inveterate drunkard, [unclear: especially] a female, for the twentieth or [unclear: thirtieth] time. One great object in [unclear: punishment] its remedial effect, on the prisoner, [unclear: is s] utterly hopeless that the proceedings [unclear: care] only be characterised as a mockery [unclear: o] justice. The brief imprisonment [unclear: where] by the wretched victim acquires [unclear: fresh] health to enter again upon a career [unclear: o] debauchery, again for another time to [unclear: be] brought before the bar of the [unclear: Police] Court—almost amounts to [unclear: prolonged] torture—to an outrage on humanity. [unclear: It] reminds us of the dark times in [unclear: our] civilisation when an unfortunate [unclear: accused] after being disjointed by the rack [unclear: was] carefully nursed until he was able [unclear: to] undergo a renewal of his agonies. [unclear: To] set. the miserable dipsomaniac free [unclear: to] endure the mental and physical [unclear: suffering] she must encounter, is to condemn her [unclear: to] a lingering death, from which there is [unclear: n] escape. It would be more charitable [unclear: to] end her days at once by the gibbet, or [unclear: by] chloroform, or some other more [unclear: humane] method, than that by which [unclear: malefactors]; are ordinarily put out of existence. [unclear: The] sensitive mind must shrink less from [unclear: pronouncing] doom on some Cain who [unclear: has] shed his brother's blood, than in [unclear: being] page break [unclear: instrumental], by a short incarceration, [unclear: an] continuing the miseries of a poor [unclear: creature] with the ultimate certainty of a [unclear: painful] death, whose proper place would [unclear: be] an asylum, if necessary, for life. The [unclear: whole] state of the law concerning drunk-[unclear: wards] is a blot upon our escutcheon. We [unclear: are] proud of our advances in refinement, an art and science, but there are black [unclear: shadows] in our progress, which rob our [unclear: higher] attributes of their brightness and [unclear: glory]. The subject demands careful [unclear: inquiry], and the importance of the matter [unclear: is] becoming increasingly urgent. The [unclear: use] of alcoholic liquor is becoming daily more prevalent. The recent increase in wealth in the middle classes has diffused extravagant, luxurious, and often sensual tastes, to a degree unknown to their more simple-minded fathers; while in the colonies the ease with which a working man can earn his two pounds a week, has led to an improvident and often profligate expenditure, impossible to his parents. New Zealand has no aristocracy. Her best sons are only accomplished commoners. The population is wholly middle class, and those below them; and yet, although limited in numbers to 350,000, they contrive to spend annually the alarming sum of two millions sterling on alcoholic liquor. The declared value of liquor imported is £475,000; the amount of duty paid thereon is £430,000, making a total of £905,000, before it gets into the retailers' hands. The wholesale and retail profits cannot be under 100 per cent. Estimating the value of the work of 1069 persons in the Colony engaged in the manufacture of stimulants, at the sum of £200,000, this added to the £1,800,000, makes £2,000,000, and it is believed this is under the mark. This estimate is confirmed by Mr. Robert Stout in his able paper in the 'New Zealand Magazine,' and these estimates have been arrived at quite independently. The average annual expenditure of the adults (male and female) is £12 each. In the case of many men, it is £50 a-year. We may groan over our load of taxation, but what is it to the amount of voluntary and destructive burdens we impose on ourselves? Then to the direct outlay of two millions must be added our indirect expenditure. Our police, gaols, and lunatic asylums cost us £150,000 per annum. Three-fourths of this is chargeable to the abuse of intoxicating drink, which is an additional outlay of £112,500. Who can estimate the remaining indirect expenditure: the days and nights of sickness, the doctor's bills, the loss of time and reputation, and the children bearing the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generations'? It is within the mark to say that drink costs New Zealand at least three millions a year. This plain fact, shewing the pecuniary cost, should quicken our senators to the imperative necessity of a serious consideration of the question as to the manner in which further misexpenditure may be mitigated or avoided.

Temperance societies are of comparatively recent origin. They were first suggested by Mr. Calhoun, when he was Secretary-at-War in America. He prohibited the use of spirits wholly in the United States army, in order to counteract the habitual use of them among the people. The first society was projected in 1825. In a few years this social reform spread to Britain, and Father Mathew affirmed that in 1841 he had more than a million of converts to temperance. At first the pledge was limited to the use of ardent spirits, but the ardour of the converts carried them farther, and Richard Turner, an artisan of Preston, Lancashire, about 1831, coined the word "teetotaler," meaning that, while he had been a hard drinker, he then abstained entirely from malt and spirits. Wine, it may be presumed, never came his way.

The views of the original promoters of the movement which was directed against the use of ardent spirits only, can, without doubt, be said to be sound. Spirits are of no use as food, while the occasional use of beer or wine may, in our highly artificial life, be attended with advantage. To a certain but limited extent malt, and the pure juice of the grape, contain elements page 3 of food. Although in sound beer there are substances which in their action are very like good food, still the amount of their action is not equal to that produced from bread and milk. The dangerous elements, the disturbers of the vital force, preponderate, and undoubtedly while it may be admitted that occasional use of stimulants in small quantity may be beneficial, yet the daily use and the acquiring of a strong relish for them, so as to look upon them as a necessary article of diet, is mischievous, and in the long run injurious to the system. The animal economy may become tolerant to the use, and many a man lives under the daily use of alcoholic drink; but, for all that, it is silently doing its fatal work. All the organs of the body are slowly being brought into a state of adaptation to receive it and to dispose of it; but in that very preparation they are themselves undergoing physical changes tending to the destruction of their function, and to perversion of their structure. The anatomist has many instances under his inspection of the waste and devastation in the human organs, caused by the daily use of alcoholic stimulants.

During my experience on the Bench, I have made the various witnesses who have come before me, a subject of study. I have been able at once to detect the habitual user of strong drinks—men never intoxicated, often estimable citizens. These men acquire a puffed up, pasty look about the face. They are apparently in rude health, while their whole system is undergoing a silent deterioration, bringing on an attack of sickness, or, when sickness comes from some other cause, weakening the vital forces, and prematurely surrendering the citadel of life. A man who goes on the burst occasionally, and remains abstinent for a considerable interval, has a better chance of life than the man who lives fully although soberly, and incorporates with his system his daily dose of alcoholic liquor.

It is not only that the daily moderate use of alcoholic liquors of any kind is positively injurious, but the fact cannot be gainsaid, that in many cases the moderate use is the parent of the immoderate abuse. Against the moderate use therefore must be charged] the whole evil of the liquor trade. The pecuniary cost has been alluded to, and the indictment now to be preferred declares the appalling moral and social injuries which spring from it.