Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/599

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
583
ABOLISH ALL PROHIBITIVE LIQUOR LAWS.

the case of the drunkard and of the rumseller who will knowingly make his feeble or hereditarily weak fellow-man a drunkard. But as there is no commandment in the decalogue, "Thou shalt not sell liquor" it is not in the unwritten law, and so can not justly, equitably, or legally be put into written law. That it is ever put there means some ulterior object, or if not an ulterior object always, certainly always it means, because it always has, an ulterior effect.

But prohibitory liquor laws have still another and ulterior effect, to wit: They beget an exaggerated oratory and an appetite for sweeping statements which, by the cultivation of false statistics, becomes absolute dishonesty, and so a burden upon and a reproach to public morals. For it is quite as heinous a sin, in the court of conscience, to lie about the number of persons who have died from using liquor as it is to lie about the amount of one's collections for charity, as did Ananias, or about the value of one's farm to the autumnal assessor. And yet another, more of an economical than a moral consequence, perhaps, might be catalogued. It has become in some communities practically impossible to discuss certain important questions. For example, it is to-day practically impossible in many quarters of this fair land to discuss so important a question as the effect of alcoholic liquors upon the human system. Impossible, I say, for no sooner is such a question broached than the most tropical statements, backed by the glassy fascination of enormous round numbers, would be hurled at the general public until the modest man of science, and science itself, are put to rout. This writer himself heard, in the Columbian year and from a Columbian orator, the following masterpiece of statement, to wit: "The champions of slavery, having declared their purpose to shatter the Union, withdrew from Washington and opened fire from without. Not so the liquor power. It plants its cannon, charged with hell's dynamite (enough of them to stretch in a line from this spot to the homes, the churches, the schools of the people); and there, sheltered and protected by the strong arm of the Government, the work of destruction goes mightily on among Americans; every five years there is an array of dead as a consequence equal in number to those killed on both sides in the civil war." By a coincidence, these words were uttered at a time when the courts of the State of New York had been several months, and at an expense of several hundred thousand dollars' worth of high-priced expert testimony, trying to ascertain whether Mrs. Carlyle Harris died of morphine poisoning, and was beginning to make an equal outlay to find if Mrs. Dr. Buchanan had died from the effect of morphine or atropine. And yet, here and meanwhile, this glowing orator announced that not one more nor one less than a million human beings had, in the