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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/778

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

criminally inclined, and who can not fairly be included in the category of the miserable, it is not true that crime and misery are to any great extent chargeable to the use of alcohol. We said nothing about the number who drink, nor did we refer to the quantity of spirits or beer which may be taken with impunity by the individual or that may be distributed and consumed by the community at large, these considerations being in our opinion quite beside the question. The fact should be sufficiently obvious that the principal evil connected with the use of alcoholic liquors lies in that excess which is commonly known as drunkenness, the marked tendency toward which is one of the most characteristic features of the drinking habit.

Concerning the aggregate of crime and distress that is plainly traceable to this form of indulgence, there is in the absence of full statistics abundant room for a wide difference of opinion, ranging from an almost total disbelief in the vicious effects of alcohol, to an equally undiscriminating claim that it is at the bottom of most human ills. For ourselves, we are not in sympathy with either extreme. But when we see the papers, particularly of our large cities, containing daily numerous accounts of crimes of violence of all grades from simple assault to murder, committed in the frenzy of intoxication, it is useless to shut our eyes to the fact that alcohol is a most potent inciter to this form of crime. Add to this its acknowledged action in the causation of disease even among moderate drinkers, its debauching influence on the lower classes, the poverty that sooner or later is sure to overtake the victims of its immoderate use, and there can be little question that it is also a most important factor in the production of human misery.—Editor.]

 


Editor's Table.

 

THE NATURE OF LIBERTY.

TIME was when John Stuart Mill's little book on the subject of Liberty was thought rather advanced reading. It advocated individualism—the right of every man to think his own thoughts, utter his own views, and live his own life without unnecessary control or intimidation by law or public opinion. It was an attack on every form of bigotry and an earnest appeal to all that is best and most generous in human nature to assert itself and make the world richer and better by doing so. That idea of liberty, however, is to-day to many of our social reformers an outworn mode of thought, quite inadequate, they declare, to the needs of the present time. An eminent writer, Mr. W. D. Howells, has undertaken to enlighten us on the subject in a recent number of The Forum. Part of his article is very much on the lines of certain chapters in Mr. Spencer's Justice, but the rest strikes out from those lines at a wide angle.

Mr. Howells tells us that he was in Venice "during the last years of Austrian oppression," and was a witness of the earnest longings of the people for the liberty which they anticipated from union with Italy. With these longings he strongly sympathized, though his position being an official one, that of consul, he could not venture to express his sympathy openly. He says he had a suspicion that the people were expecting more from "liberty" than they were likely to get out of it; but he assumed that "by and by, when they had been free long enough," they would take the American view of the matter and be satisfied. "They would be able to vote for this one and against that one; to make their own laws or choose legislators to make them; to speak or to print anything they liked; to go and come without asking for a passport; and this would be sufficient, though it was not all they had expected of liberty. It did not," Mr. Howells goes on to confess,