Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/244

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ous questions concerning the drink problem, and the remedies offered, many new facts and conclusions will appear. From this point of view, the accumulation of facts and their comparative accuracy is required, with indifference concerning any possible conclusions they may indicate. Wherever personal feelings and self-interest enter into such inquiry, the value and accuracy of the results are impaired. As in a law court, the question is simply one of facts and their meaning. Some of the facts may be grouped and studied!

In a general way it may be stated that the physiological action of alcohol on the body is practically unknown. Theories of its value as a food, as a nutrient, and as a force-producer, and its usefulness as a beverage, when examined, are found to be unverifiable or untrue. Evidence of its value in health and in moderation rests on theory and superstition, and is not sustained by appeals to facts.

The question of its value as a medicine is by no means settled. Men eminent in science, and fully competent to decide, express doubt, or deny its value altogether. Leading physicians and teachers of medicine prescribe less and less spirits, and the extent of its use in disease is becoming more limited every year.

The evidence of its value as a beverage is doubtful, to say the least, while the disastrous effects of alcohol can not be questioned, and the accumulated evidence of years brings this fact into increasing prominence.

A historical retrospect of the legal efforts to control and restrict the use of spirits suggests an evolution and growth that has not been considered before. Outside of biblical literature, whose teachings and laws are so often quoted, a remarkable chapter of legal enactments and restrictions can be traced. Beginning with the fragmentary inscriptions found on Egyptian papyri and monuments, and extending to the codes, philosophies, and enactments of the greatest philosophers, rulers, and judges of Grecian and Roman civilization, there is a continuous record of prohibitory laws and restrictions concerning the use of spirits and drunkenness. The laws of the Spartans were far more absolute than any modern enactments, and were also remarkable for the clear comprehension of the nature of spirits and their action on the body. These laws were active for many years, and were highly commended.

English history contains many records of prohibitory, restrictive laws, some of which were very prominent for a time, then fell into disuse. Laws of similar import have followed the path of civilization from the earliest dawn and wherever spirits have been used. They have been urged and defended by the greatest philosophers, teachers, and leaders of civilization.