Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/756

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with natural agents, is also doing an immense amount of good. By far the greater portion of those who thus succumb to alcoholization, and to the deadly practices that usually accompany it, are thieves, thugs, prostitutes, gamblers, sharpers, ruffians, and other members of the criminal and quasi-criminal classes, upon whom whisky accommodatingly performs the office of judge and executioner, cutting their careers off at an average of five years, where, without this interposition, they would be extended to possibly twenty or thirty. The certainty and celerity with which it ferrets out and destroys these classes recommends it strongly over the ordinary processes of justice.

It was exceedingly unfortunate for the community that all the leaders in the James gang were strictly temperate men. Had it not been so, their career, instead of extending over twenty terrible years, would have been cut short inside of five. Uncontrollable predilections for whisky and the society of strange women brought about the destruction of nearly all of the band, who from time to time were slain by each other's hands or those of justice. Temperance and chastity in a rascal of any kind mean an immense amount of mischief to the community. Fortunately, they are quite rare.

During the ages of terrible oppression of the European people, which culminated in the French Revolution, the main amelioration of the hardships endured was found in the vices of the oppressors. The sword of the duelist, the picturesque horrors of delirium tremens, and the loathsome mal de Naples, continually swept away hecatombs of tyrant lordlings, and frequently obliterated whole families. In fact, no aristocratic family ever withstood these adverse influences very long. Extinction came as promptly and as certainly as the curculio to the ripening plum.

The student of French and English history is continually astonished at the brief time in which noble names remain in view. They rise to dazzling eminence on one page, and on the next go down to oblivion. One rarely finds a name of a century or two ago mentioned in any of the European news of to-day. Mr. Freeman, the eminent English historian, shows conclusively that, in spite of the perennial vaunt of ancestors who "came over with the Conqueror," and of Tennyson's musical mendacity about the "daughter of a hundred earls," the families who can trace back to even so recent a date as the reign of the Stuarts are quite rare. Idleness, luxury, and more or less flagrant debauchery have done their appointed work in removing the deteriorated forms of human life from the world, that their room might be had for more acceptable growths.

Society has been most aptly likened to a vat of good wine, which is all scum and froth at the top, dregs and sediment at the bottom, and good, pure, clear liquor in the middle. Vice does admirable work in skimming away the supernatant scum, and in drawing off the dregs and settlings. Unceasing fermentation seems to be a condition neces-