The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12
Though I look old, yet am I strong and lusty
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood.
—As you like it.
In my previous letter I alluded to the enormous outlay expended annually in this Colony on alcoholic liquor, with the view of drawing attention to the importance of the subject. I also referred to the origin of Temperance societies, and pointed out the danger arising from the daily and habitual use of intoxicants as an article of diet, as an additional reason for careful consideration of our social arrangements affecting alcohol. I now proceed to point out the evils which flow from the use of stimulants. These are universally acknowledged. It is an undoubted fact that three-fourths of the crime, lunacy, and pauperism which exist have their origin in intoxicating drink. It was this fact which led to our restrictive legislation. Two hundred and seventy years ago an Act was passed by the English Parliament (4 James I c. 5, 1606), intituled "An Act for repressing the odious and loathsome sin of drunkenness." Its preamble sets forth in such plain English a black catalogue of the consequences of over-indulgence in liquor that it is worth quoting verbatim. It is as follows:—"Whereas the odious sin of drunkenness is of late grown into common use within this realm, being the root and foundation of many other enormous sins, as bloodshed, stabbing, murder, swearing, fornication, adultery, and such like, to the great dishonour of God and of the nation, the overthrow of many good arts and manual trades, the disabling of divers workmen, and the general impoverishment of many good subjects, abusively wasting the good creatures of page break [unclear: God]." Many will say this is all true; but because some are guilty of the abuse which [unclear: seads] to such direful consequences, are we [unclear: to] be denied the use and comfort of a lass of generous liquor in a moderate decree? It must be admitted that the [unclear: Moderate] use of wine or beer is not a [unclear: nalum] in se—that is, a breach of the [unclear: noral] law in itself. But, at the same time, [unclear: test] must also be admitted that the abuse [unclear: lows] from the use—the immoderate from the moderate drinking; and it is deserving of consideration whether, in order to check the abuse, some limits should not be placed on the use. I have already pointed out the positively injurious effects physically Which follow from the continued daily use of alcoholic liquor; but I will go further and maintain that such use, even in moderation, has a deteriorating mental effect. It saps the intellectual energies; it weakens the judgment; it distorts the perception of right and wrong; it lays caution asleep; it creates an intense selfishness, and warps every noble attribute of the human mind. What meanness and jealousy does it not produce?—what slander and uncharitableness? I give an advice, without hesitation, to every man who believes strong drink is to him a daily necessity, that if he will only try a change of living for a month or two, he will experience so agreeable an improvement in his tone of health, mentally and bodily, that he will rejoice in his liberty as that of an emancipated slave. Then, although this were not the case, is it not worth while practising a little self-denial, with its inherent reward, for the purpose of stemming the flood of misery which flows from excess in intoxicating liquors? Heave every man's conscience to answer this, contenting myself with urging grounds to justify legislative interference. It is not generally known that a vast under-current of social wretchedness pervades society through the moderate use of alcohol, going by slow degrees, beyond the limit of safety. Clergymen, and more particularly medical men, could give [unclear: starthng] informatian if they were to publish their experiences. One fact speaks volumes to the thoughtful. During the years 1875 and 1876, there have been in Dunedin alone 108 protection orders granted to wives against their husbands, almost wholly through drinking. The average is fully one weekly. What an appalling revelation it is, that, in a small community, one hundred families have been wrecked from this cause in two years. This is only the known outcome, after months of patient suffering and hopes of amendment. Who can tell how many hundreds more there are of heart-broken women, bearing their sorrows in silent affliction, often driven themselves for false comfort to the cause of the ruin of their domestic happiness? Is such moral wreckage to continue on its present average, with the probability of increase, without some effort being made for its abatement? Surely not. Another fact in our Courts is, that 2,145 cases of public drunkenness and disorder have teen tried in our Police Courts in Otago, in 1876. No one can be surprised at the zeal and extreme views of some total abstainers, when they have such facts to impel them to cry—"Woe is me, if I do not give myself, body and spirit, to do everything in my power to mitigate such evils, and to save my brother, born in the image of God, with potential capacity of intellect for good, from degenerating into worse than the beast of the field."
There is a source of danger in the slowness with which the destructive process sometimes takes place. It blinds the victim until it is too late. Like the switch on a railway, the point of safety and danger is at the same place. Once leave the safe road, then the other path widens out gradually, until the unfortunate sufferer sees, to his horror, how far he has gone astray from the right path. This induces me to quote special and trustworthy authority in reference to the use of stimulants as food. It is a truth too often ignored, that many ordinary ailments, such us colds, sore throats, headaches, bilious complaints, have their direct sources, in the quiet sapping of the springs of health in the daily glass of beer, or nightly tum- page break bler of something hot. It is only in exceptional circumstances that alcoholic liquor is of any use as a remedial or restorative agent. In every case where health is enjoyed, the constant use of alcohol in driblets is slow poison. Dr. Edmond Smith says (Foods: International Scientific Series, 2nd Ed. p. 417):—"The whole class of alcohols disturb the vital actions, and prevent a uniform course of change, and have much more the character of a medicine than a food." Again (p. 412):—"In the state of the body in which alcohol has reduced muscular contractility, all the vital functions temporarily languish; and so far the action of alcohol is opposed to food, and it is not a food." As it has been proved by experiment, "Alcohol, whilst in in the system, is not transformed, and does not enter into new combinations, but leaves the body as it entered it, its nature cannot be that of a food." He quotes from Dr. W. B. Richardson, in the 'Popular Science Review,' (April, 1872): "Alcohol is a narcotic agent less fatal than chloroform as an immediate destroyer. Its method of killing is slow, indirect, and by painful disease." "The well-known fact that alcohol, when it is taken into the body, reduces the animal temperature is full of the most important suggestions." It has been proved in arctic voyages, in the Napoleonic-Russian campaign, and by the monks of St. Bernard, that a "wee drop" does not keep out the cold, but the contrary, death from "cold" is accelerated by alcohol. The stimulation or excitement which is felt "is in absolute fact, a relaxation, nearly a paralysis, of one of the most important mechanisms of the human body—the minute, resisting, compensating circulation." "The temporary excitement alcohol produces is at the expense of the animal force, and the ideas of its being necessary to resort to it, that it may lift up the forces of the animal body into true, and firm, and even activity, or that it may add something useful to the living tissues, are errors as solemn as they are widely disseminated. In the scientific education of the people no fact is more deserving of comment than this fact, that excitement wasted force, the running down of the animal mechanism before it has served out it time of motion."
The use of alcoholic liquors was not, [unclear: in] early times among the mass of society, [unclear: s] general as it is now. It was usually [unclear: only] to be found in inns, as a refreshment to the weary traveller. Hence the trade has been always an exceptional one. Even in it limited condition it was early [unclear: discovered] as I have already mentioned, to be [unclear: pregnant] with mischief socially, and upward of three hundred years ago, when our [unclear: lave] was but in an imperfect state, it was [unclear: found] necessary to regulate it by statutory [unclear: enactment]. The first Act of Parliament on [unclear: the] subject is of the time of Edward the [unclear: Sixth] (5 & 6 Ed. VI., c. 25, 1552). The [unclear: pre] amble being, "Forasmuch as [unclear: intolerable] hurts and troubles to the commonwealth [unclear: o] the realm doth daily grow and [unclear: increase] through such abuses and disorders as [unclear: are] had and used in common Ale-houses [unclear: and] other houses called Tipling - houses," [unclear: i] was therefore enacted that the [unclear: common] selling of ale and beer should be [unclear: prohibited] and that the Justices should grant [unclear: license] and bind the keepers of licensed [unclear: house] by recognizance to keep good order [unclear: and] rule therein. Fifty years later more stringent enactments were found to be necessary. The principle of the bona fide traveller was stated, and the inhabitants [unclear: o] towns were forbidden to frequent inns [unclear: a] any time. In King James the First' reign (1 James I. c. 9, 1604), an Act was passed intituled, "An Act to restrain the inordinate haunting and Tipling in Inns Ale-houses, and other Victualling-houses,' The preamble is very suggestive. It leads to the question, how is it that inns and hotels always degenerate into drinking shops? There is no good reason why this should be the case, and it will afterwards be considered whether such houses of entertainment should not be restricted to their more legitimate functions. The Act commences, "Whereas the ancient, true, an principal use of Inns, Ale-houses, and Victualling houses, was for the receipt page break relief, and lodging of wayfaring people, ravelling from place to place; and or such supply of the wants of such people as are not able, by greater [unclear: quantities], to make their provision of victuals, and not meant for entertainment and [unclear: harboring] of lewd and idle people, to spend and consume their money and their time in [unclear: lewd and] drunken manner;" and it was therefore enacted that no innkeeper, [unclear: victualler], or alehouse-keeper should permit [unclear: r] suffer any inhabitant of the town to [unclear: remain] and continue drinking on the [unclear: premises].
Two years later (4 James I., c. 4 and 5), two statutes were passed. The first is entitled: "An act to restrain the utterance of beer and ale to alehouse-keepers and [unclear: tiplers] not licensed." In this enactment, here is a provision which, if enforced now, [unclear: Would] destroy sly grog-selling. Cases [unclear: often] come before the Courts, where [unclear: orewers] and others seek to recover from [unclear: unlicensed] persons amounts due for liquor [unclear: supplied] to an extent far beyond the [unclear: personal] wants of the defendants. Such [unclear: actions] should be unlawful, and brewers [unclear: should] be prohibited, as they were by this [unclear: old] Act, from selling to any unlicensed [unclear: person], ale or beer, except for family use. I am not aware that this Act has been [unclear: repealed]. The second statute has been already referred to. From that day to this, [unclear: there] has been a continued stream of [unclear: legislation] on the subject, amounting in this Colony to sessional experiments. There is [unclear: apparently] room (or amendment in the law, and suggestions in that direction will afterwards be made.