Baltimore Evening Sun (18 November 1913): 6.
All the Anti-Saloon League’s preposterous rumble-bumble about the physical effects of alcohol is blown up in the current issue of American Medicine. The editor of this paper, facing the fact that the per capita consumption of alcohol is increasing in the United States, while the death rate is steadily falling, boldly casts aside all sophistical explanations, and proceeds to the truth—i. e., that the damage suffered by drinkers, provided they exercise a reasonable discretion, is vastly less than the virtuosi of virtue, or even than the majority of physicians, have hitherto assumed. Says he:
We are driven to the conclusion that alcohol is not as bad as we have painted it. We physicians * * * ought not to be ashamed to confess that we have been mistaken. We have long acknowledged that we were wrong in blaming alcohol for all the hardened livers and arteries and kidneys we saw, and we have even confessed that healthy, heavy drinkers may have less of these conditions than abstainers with bad digestions. So we ought not to be afraid to tell the world that our increasing consumption of a alcohol is not an indication that the people are going to the demnition bow-wows. They are getting healthier, happier., wealthier and more moral every year. Could a little alcohol have contributed to this end? There now! We have made the awful suggestion.
The writer goes on to show the small value of the discovery, so vociferously touted by the boozehounds, that alcohol is not a stimulant, but a depressant. Suppose it is? What of it? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that a depressant may have quite as much value as a stimulant? I think so. When I have finished a hard week’s work and foregather with my friends to relax and expand, it is certainly not a stimulant that I want. I am stimulated enough already; my nerves are on edge; I am tired of reacting to stimuli. What I want is a gentle sedative, something conducive to good humor, a mild soothing syrup. That thing is to be found in small quantities of very dilute ethyl alcohol.
A drug? True enough. But is the use of a mild drug an act of immorality per se? I deny it. The discreet use of drugs is one of the greatest arts of civilized man. It he limited himself to actual foods, his feeding would still show the primal simplicity and unimaginativeness of that of hogs in a pen. Instead, he adds useless but pleasant drugs to the fundamental mineral salts and carbohydrates—to wit, such things an alcohol, caffeine, tannic acid, acetic acid, piperine, theobromine, eugenol, myrosin, allyl iso-sulphocyanate and a muldtude of other terpenes, ethers, aldehydes, ketones and phenols. Not one of these substances is nourishing; not one of them is necessary to life. And yet they are all used incessantly by civilized men.
There is no evidence whatever that the ingestion of small quantities of alcohol is dangerous to the healthy man. On the contrary, all the evidence that is worth hearing—for example, that of Sir William Osler–is on the other side. The current balderdash upon the subject is based upon loose reasoning, chiefly by medical men whose pious enthusiasm is greater than their talent for ratiocination. On the one hand, they make the capital error of assuming that whatever large quantities of alcohol will do small quantities will also do, and on the other hand they merely shoot in the dark, blaming everything on the nearest bystander.
It is time for that sort of booming sophistry to be halted, and the editor of American Medicine seems to be qualifying for the job. It is also time for a protest to be made against that moral buncombe which seeks to make the use of alcohol an act of immorality. In point of fact, it is no more an act of immorality, in itself, than the act of drinking coffee. A man may make a swine of himself by the use of either drug, but that is no argument against him if he doesn’t. The science of morals deals with acts, and not with mere possibilities. A man might conceivably make a pauper and a public charge of himself by taking 50 baths a day, but certainly no sane man would argue thereby that he is to be eternally damned for taking one bath a day.
The whole alcohol question has fallen into the bands of quacks and mountebanks. Like the vice question, it is discussed endlessly by self-constituted “experts” who know nothing whatever about it and whose logic would shame a Christian Scientist. That there are conditions of disease in which any amount of alcohol, however small, is dangerous to life is easily demonstrated, and that large quantities are highly deleterious, even to the perfectly healthy man, goes without saying; but to say that the drinking of an occasional glass of wine, or even of hard liquor, is an act of suicide or of immorality is to say something so preposterous that it scarcely deserves a polite answer.
The Hon. Woodrow Wilson seems determined to neglect the advice so freely tendered him in this place: he refuses to recognize the Hon. Victorine Huerta. The Hon. Mr. Huerta, it appears, is not virtuous enough for traffic with the great and moral republic. The fact that he is the actual head of the Mexican Government is not sufficient: he must prove that he is pure in heart before we will have doings with him. It is our bounden duty to see that all of our neighbors live up to our own standard of righteousness. Such is the new national morality, the grape-juice diplomacy.
Alas, the worst is yet to come! Wait until the Hon. Martyr Sulzer is President of this fair republic, and the Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte, LL. D., is his Secretary of State! What a salutary cleaning up the dominions and principalities of Europe will get! One longs impatiently for the Hon. Mr. Bobaparte’s order that the French shall set up a vice crusade, that the Italians shall put fig leaves on their statues, that the Germans shall abandon conscription and the kommers and shut down the Berlin Palais du Dance. England is another country that needs the attention of a moral expert: the English are a licentious race and give orchestra concerts on Sunday afternoons. Let us elect Sulzer in 1916 and proceed to this solemn business of world purification. A curse falls upon the virtuous nation that is stingy with its virtue.
A DAILY THOUGHT.
It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition that he will abuse it.—Oliver Cromwell.
The estimable Hot Towel on a current unpleasantness:
Mrs. Pankhurst reached New York today, prepared to look after the rights of her daughter, Christabel, whose novel on the social evil has been suppressed by Anthony Comstock.
“Novel” is exactly the right word. To find the match for such astounding fiction one must go to the immortal work of Baron Munchausen.