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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/805

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THE UTILITY OF DRUNKENNESS.

saturnalia of animal exaltation, which they enjoy so heartily that every new raving outbreak only whets their appetite for a repetition. While sober they actually arrange and prepare for a forthcoming holiday booze; work and save money for the avowed purpose of purchasing the drink and its consequent ecstasies, which constitute the chief delights of their existence. When a professional criminal has "served his time," and is about to be released from prison, his faithful friends club together to supply him with the consolation of an uninterrupted course of intoxication; the longer its duration the greater his happiness, and the deeper his obligations of gratitude to the contributing "pals."

We know that such indulgence has swept away the Red Indian savage from the American Continent, and prepared it for a higher civilization, as the mammoth and grizzly bear have made way for the sheep and oxen; and this beneficent agent, if allowed to do its natural work, will similarly remove the savage elements that still remain as impediments to the onward progress of the more crowded communities of the Old World. If those who love alcoholic drinks for the sake of the excitement they induce are only supplied with cheap and abundant happiness, our criminal and pauper population will be reduced to a minimum.

It is commonly supposed that, because nearly all criminals are drunkards, therefore drunkenness is the chief cause of crime. This is a confusion of cause with effect. Crime and drunkenness go together because they are concurrent effects of the same organization. Alcoholic stimulation merely removes prudence and brings out true character without restraint or disguise. The brute who beats his wife when drunk would do so when sober if he dared and could; but what we call the sober state is with him a condition of cowardly depression and feebleness due to the reaction of intoxication. If a number of quarrelsome men assemble and drink together, they finish with fighting. If a similar number of kindly disposed men drink together, they overflow with generosity, profuse friendliness, and finally become absurdly affectionate. The citizen who would have subscribed but one guinea to a charity before dinner will give his name for five after the "toast of the evening."

My general conclusion is that all human beings (excepting the few dipsomaniacs above-named), who are fit to survive as members of a civilized community, will spontaneously avoid intemperance, provided no artificial pressure of absurd drinking customs is applied to them, while those who are incapable of the general self-restraint demanded by advancing civilization, and can not share its moral and intellectual refinements, are provided by alcoholic beverages with the means of "happy dispatch," will be gradually sifted out by natural alcoholic selection, provided no legislative violence interferes with their desire for "a short life and a merry one."—Gentleman's Magazine.