Baltimore Evening Sun (31 May 1913): 6.
Eight cents cash for the name and address of any anti-suffragist spell-bindress who can so darn a sock that it will not produce urticaria.–Adv.
From the resolutions passed on Thursday by the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Maryland:
That this convention expresses its conviction that the ultimate and completed elimination of the saloon, as it now exists, is a necessary step toward the cure of the drink evil. * * *
An honest opinion intelligibly expressed--but what of ways and means? How is the thing to be done? It will be easy enough, of course, to abolish the licensed saloon. A simple act of the Legislature will do it. But will the taking away of the license actually abolish the saloon? Has it done so anywhere else? In Maine? In Georgia? Even here in Maryland? And if it won’t, in what respect will the unlicensed saloon be superior to the licensed saloon?
I ask these questions in perfectly good faith and would be expecially delighted to hear a discussion of the point by the Rev. Dr. Charles Fiske, one of the members of the committee which framed the resolution. Dr. Fiske has contributed signed editorials to The Evening Sun in the past–on May 5, for example, there was an excellent article on the social work of the church. He is an earnest and level-headed man, with nothing of the fanatic and crusader about him. His views on this difficult and vexatious subject would tend to lift the whole discussion to a rather plane than it has occupied in the past, and might conceivably lead to valuable practical results.
The objection to the propaganda carried on by the Anti-Saloon League and by the somewhat noisy clerks associated with it is that it has created bitter animosities without doing anything to meet the genuine difficulties of the problem. No sane man, I take it, maintains that the saloon, as it exists, is perfect. All of us see its evils and most of us would be glad to see them remedied. But it must be plain that the Anti-Saloon League does not offer a practicable remedy. All it proposes to do is to turn saloons into speak-easies–i. e., to make them even worse than they are today. And all the argument it offers in support of that plan is to denounce its opponents as atheists, sots and scoundrels.
In other words, the game of the Anti-Saloon League has been to create the impression that its own spokesmen are all archangels, and that the spokesmen of the opposition are all devils. This, of course, is not argument, and what is more, it is not true. From time to time, in an effort to demonstrate that fact, I have been under the lamentable necessity of showing a strain of sin in the virtue of various eminent moralists--how one of them, for example, has got rich by selling an alkaloid no more necessary to man than alcohol; how the Hon. Charles Levister is densely ignorant of the commonplaces of Holy Writ, and a disgrace to his Sunday-school teacher, and how the Hon. William H. Anderson, for all his feats of moral derring-do, is yet an utterer of counterfeit statistics, and hence not chemically pure.
But all this effort, of course, has left the main question untouched. The shameless crimes of the Hon. Mr. Anderson do not justify the crimes of the kaif. The fact that the mazuma of the Levering brothers, derived frankly from one drug, is launched piously against another drug, is no excuse for the sellers of that other drug. Mr. Adolphus Busch might start an anti-coffee crusade with the profits of Budweiser, and yet that would not detract from the genuine and appalling evidence against coffee. No; all such charges and counter-charges get us nowhere. The only thing they accomplish is to break up the doctrine that the Prohibitionists are a superior genera of man, with none of the human feelings of journalists, bartenders, Congressmen, the judiciary and the other sects of bibuli. They are, indeed, nothing of the sort. And even if they were, it would not matter, for the validity of an idea is to be judged by its essential reasonableness, and not at all by the police records of its advocates.
It is my notion that if Dr. Fiske, or some other man of his sense and dignity, will undertake a public discussion of the saloon, the attention of the public will be taken away from the puerile yawping of these matadors of bogus piety, and that the effect of this will be a better and saner understanding of the questions at issue. If Dr. Fiske believes that the “complete elimination of the saloon” is possible, then he must have some sound reason for his belief, and so it will be interesting to hear what that reason is. And it will be interesting, too, to hear how he proposes to deal with the weeds which commonly spring from the saloon’s grave, and how far he proposes to go in his campaign of reform. Does he plan to stop the use of alcohol entirely, or does he merely attack its excessive use? And if the latter, how is he going to draw the line, and how is he going to keep free citizens from occasionally overstepping it?
No man has less to say in favor of of drunkenness than I have. I do not maintain, true enough, that it is immoral or unchristian, for it is perfectly possible to be both a good Christian and drunk, just as it is possible to be both a good Christian and full of morphine, caffeine or fried chicken; but I do freely admit that it is injudicious, stupid and swinish, and an offense against civilized peace and security. This, however, is certainly not saying that alcohol, in itself, is wholly evil. A man may use it all his life and yet take no harm from it. What is more, he may actually get a lot of benefit out of it, psychically if not physically. Would it be fair and honest, then, to prohibit its use absolutely? More important still, would it be possible?
And if not absolutely, then how far? How is the use of this potent drug, admittedly dangerous, to be regulated? Has Dr. Fiske thought of any way that is better than the present imperfect way? In particular, does he think that the way proposed by the Anti-Saloon League is better? And if so, onwhat ground, on what reliable evidence? In brief, is the present campaign of the Anti-Saloon League an intelligent effort to remedy a genuine evil, or is it merely a holy war run by gentlemen who think (quite erroneously) that they are more vtrtuous than the rest of us, and who yearn to raise us to their own high level by performing on our caputs with the policeman’s espantoon?
Boil your drinking water! Watch McCarthy slip in somewhere else! Get ready for prohibition!
Meanwhile, the Hon. Sunday-school Field and his 29 assistants continue to expound the old-fashioned theology.