Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/404

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

sented and secured the adoption by the National Assembly of a law against intoxication; and about the same time, too, the Academy of Medicine commissioned me to prepare an Advice to the People on the dangers of the abuse of alcoholic drinks; and that the lamented Lunier, seeking to carry out practically a conclusion of my Report on Vinage, organized the French Temperance Society. But the law against intoxication, executed leniently from its promulgation, soon fell into desuetude;[1] the Advice to the People has been a dead letter; and I am obliged to confess that the Temperance Society, which decorated me after two years of presidency of it with the title of honorary president, in spite of the zeal and talent of its general secretary, M. Motet, drags on a precarious and obscure existence, and has, I believe, accomplished to the present time nothing more than to reward a few brave men who have remained sober, without diminishing by a single individual the number of drunken men.

The state has attempted to intervene in the struggle against the progress of the evil no further than to raise the taxes on alcohol to an amount which seems exorbitant, but is still much lower than the tax the English consumer pays; but this increase has exercised no influence on the consumption, which, on the other hand, has not ceased to advance, as it has also done in England since the establishment of the new taxes.

We might apparently base great hopes on the reduction of the taxes on the substances entering into the preparation of hygienic drinks, such as coffee and tea, and of the sugar tax. Indeed, I think that these are excellent measures, and of advantage to sober persons accustomed to these salutary drinks to the exclusion of intoxicating liquors; but I hardly believe that they are of such a nature as to cause drinkers of alcohol to give up their favorite beverage, or to secure youth, workmen, or others from the attractions of the inn, where more alcohol and distilled liquors are sold than wine.

The consumer can not be induced to use coffee and tea instead of alcohol, unless he can find in those hygienic drinks the excitation which alcohol and all the mischievous preparations of which it is the base will procure for him. Now, this excitation of the brain is the source of all the harm. To beginners, who as yet use alcoholic drinks with moderation, they give the agreeable sensa-

  1. In the first years following the promulgation of the law against public intoxication, there were drawn up annually from eighty thousand to ninety thousand indictments for violation; since 1885 the number of prosecutions has fallen off one half; it varies between forty-five thousand and fifty thousand; and it is to this relaxation in repression that we should attribute the diminution in the number of indictments, and not to progress in temperance, for the ravages of alcoholism keep on increasing.