Baltimore Evening Sun (11 March 1912): 6.


A joiner in New Jersey has recovered damages from his lodging brothers for beating him with a loaded slapstick. The Judge—Call the first case, Mr. Clerk. The Clerk—The super-Mahon vs. Anderson.

If them ex-sheriffs was real sports, they would go to Edgar Ooe and offer to shoot dice for the money.

From one obviously a connoisseur of perfumes:

What do you think of the bouquet of the City Council now?

A difficult question. It has been much worse, but then again, it has been appreciably better. Let us be safe, and put it down as so-so.

Less than three weeks more of clowning and wind music at Annapolis! Then a return to Arcady and the solemn business of fighting jimpson weeds!

Every time one of them stuffers passes the jail he leans over the wall and gives Berney Lee the horse laugh.

As is usual in all public discussions in America, the current local option controversy is bringing forth paralogy and false pretenses from both sides. On the one hand, the local optionists argue that all they ask for is freedom for every neighborhood to decide the saloon question for itself, whereas everyone knows that they would oppose bitterly any effort to substitute local option for prohibition in the neighborhoods now dry by legislative fiat. And on the other hand, the foes of local option argue eloquently that the abolition of the saloon in any given ward would plant a crop of blind tigers, whereas every Baltimorean knows that this has not happened in Roland Park, Woodberry and Walbrook, to cite but three examples.

Again, when it comes to discussing the effects of alcohol upon society and the individual, both sides exaggerate shamelessly. On the one hand, the foes of alcohol blame it for 80 per cent. of all diseases, for 85 per cent. of all domestic discord and for 90 per cent. of all crime, and picture a rumless world as a sort of tinsel heaven. On the other hand, the friends of alcohol undertake the vain task of proving that it is a food, that its effects upon the drinker are beneficial, that it meets a natural need of man.

Both, or course, are wrong. It is not true, as the drys constantly assume, that every man who drinks alcohol is a drunkard, or that, even under the most vicious license system imaginable, any large proportion of sane adults would stand in any danger whatever of so becoming. And it is not true, as the wets constantly assume, that alcohol is necessary to human welfare, or even to human happiness. Thousands of men and women get along without it and are none the worse, just as other thousands consume it and are none the worse.

Any truly honest and intelligible defense of alcohol must be based, first, upon the frank admission that its use is a vice, and secondly, upon the argument that every human being is free to practice that vice if he chooses. An untenable and ridiculous position? Not at all. Once rid yourself of moralistic fustian, once get away from the notion that certain acts are inherently and invariably right and others are inherently and invariably wrong, once put aside all timeworn formulæ and go to the real facts of life, and you will quickly see that a man’s right to choose his vices is just as sound as the right to choose his occupation or his dwelling place.

What is a vice? Merely a device for relieving the monotony of existence, for making life more bearable. So long as the consequences of a given vice are chiefly on the credit side, so long as the enjoyment it produces is not outweighed by the injury it does—just so long it may be assumed to be harmless, and even beneficial. Such is the case with the use of alcohol, in the vast majority of cases. The man who drinks himself to death is, after all, very rare, and the chances are that he would go to the devil in some other way if there were no alcohol to the world. The avevage drinker, the normal drinker, certainly doesn’t drink himself to death. He may get an overdose once in a while, but he always stops short of suicide.

But the foes of alcohol argue that even this normal drinker is injured, that his life is appreciably shortened by his vice. Well, suppose it is? Before that argument can have any weight the drys must first prove that mere length of days in itself is desirable. Most intelligent human beings, whether they say so in so many words or not, are scarcely convinced that it is. They believe that a few months, or even a year or two, at the end of life can be well spared—that it is better to enjoy life while it lasts than to drag it out ascetically to the lean and slippered pantaloon. And even the most bitter enemies of alcohol admit that those who drink it enjoy the drinking.

Mere enjoyment, of course, is not happiness. It is not fair to say that a man with four seidels under his chest is happy, in the sense that Balboa on his Darien peak and Washington at Yorktown were happy. But enjoyment, after all, is a pretty fair substitute for genuine happiness, and what is more, it is the best substitute that most human beings ever encounter. Life, to the average man, is a gray day. His soul seldom soars. He is a stranger to ecstasy. Therefore it is a kindness to him to touch the gray, from time to time, with rose and gold, however bogus the dyes. And that is just what alcohol does. It is the cheapest, safest and most convenient of orgiastics. It produces the maximum of glow at the minimum of cost, either to the pocketbook or to the arteries.

But there are horseshoe nails in its mitt! On occasion it kills! Well, well, so it does. But all other agents of joy have the same defect. To brush one’s teeth gives true pleasure, but to brush one’s teeth 400 times a day would wear them down to the gums and cause death by starvation. And by the same token it is not alcohol itself, but excess in its use, that is dangerous. The normal man does not yield to it: he knows nothing whatever of its alleged tendency to produce an irresistible craving for itself; when he has drunk enough he stops drinking. And as for the man who can’t stop, the weak man, the man whose appetites master him, the natural drunkard—as for him, what philosopher will maintain that the world is not benefited by his exit?

Down goes the tax-rate! Up go water rents, sewer taxes, paving assessments!