Baltimore Evening Sun (7 February 1914): 6.
The first Liquor License Board under Home Rule will be appointed by Mayor Jacobus Hook, K. T. A guarantee that it will be good, but not too good.—Political Adv.
My estimable friend the Rev. Dr. Carlton D. Harris, with whom I have engaged of late in various courteous exchanges upon the theological aspects of wine-bibbing, takes all the wind out of my sails in the current Southern Methodist by practically admitting my whole case. That is to say, he grants without reservation that “the attitude of the Bible to alcohol” is “a mooted question, upon which learned theologians disagree,” and that experts of the highest sagacity and respectability hold that “the Bible does not condemn alcoholic drinks in themselves, but simply their abuse, resulting in excesses and drunkenness.” This, of course, brings us into complete accord, for I have constantly admitted that the Bible discountenances drunkenness, and that it even sounds a warning against certain forms of alcoholic beverage, without regard to the amount ingested—for example, red wine and mixed wines.
The Rev. Dr. Harris is thus reduced to defending his antipathy to all alcoholic beverages, regardless of their color or composition, on the ground that the Bible shows “an uncompromising hostility to all evil,” and that wine-bibbing is as much an evil as “slavery or any similar wrong.” Here, unluckily, he wanders into a logical morass and is presently completely immersed. If all wine-bibbing is actually on the same footing as slavery in the Bible, then why is it that special forms of wine-bibbing are singled out for denunciation? Is there any such differentiation in the matter of slavery? Is one form of slavery denounced, and another form passed over in silence? Is there any special attack upon red slavery or mixed slavery or excessive slavery, with an implied approval of other forms? Is it recorded that Christ ever converted a freeman into a slave, as He converted water into wine? Is slavery recognized by any Christian sacrament, as wine is recognized?
Nothing more need be said, I take it, to prove the essential absurdity of Dr. Harris’ analogy here. He is equally shaky when he seeks to show, on other grounds, that the use of alcohol as a beverage is evil in itself. Here, indeed, his own argument is against him, for he is ready to admit that its “manufacture and sale * * * for medicinal, scientific and other legitimate purposes” is wholly free from sin. If he admits so much, then he necessarily admits that the evil in alcohol resides, not in the alcohol itself, but in the manner in whicj it is used. And going so far, he must inevitably give assent to the doctrine that I have maintained, both on logical grounds and on theological grounds—to wit, that the use of alcohol, in itself, is not and cannot be a sin, but that the only imaginable sin lies in its use for improper ends.
If a man uses it for the purpose of reducing himself to a hoggish state of coma, or for the purpose of nerving himself to beat his wife or kill his enemy, then it is obvious that his sin begins with his first drink. But if he uses it for the purpose of dulling the sharp edge of care or for the purpose of augmenting his good-will to man or merely for the purpose of obtaining that subtle post-prandial comfort which coffee also gives, and if he stops short when he has accomplished these purposes, then, I maintain, he is not only guiltless of sin, but he has even contributed something to the general good of the world. In brief, he has made himself a better man by indulging harmlessly in a human relaxation.
This conclusion, thus reached by a logical process, is borne out by empiric observation. All of us know, indeed, that teetotalers as a class are less charitable and gentle than moderate drinkers as a class. It is the teetotalers who besiege the Legislalure for new and harsher laws, and who dream ecstatically of jails gorged with sinners; it is the moderate drinkers who have pity instead of hatred for the erring, and who hold out a helping hand to them. It goes without saying that such a merciless and unchristian band of huntsmen as the Society for the Suppression of Vice is dominated by teetotalers. And it goes equally without saying that such an organization as the Masons, for example, is not.
I speak here, of course, in general terms. It must be plain, indeed, that there are individual teetotalers who are anything but bloodthirsty. Dr. Harris himself is an excellent specimen, and the Rev. Dr. Charles M. Levister is another. And by the same token there are very heavy drinkers who are still humane and kindly men, with nothing but good deeds to charge against them. But such exceptions merely prove the rule, which holds good in the middle ground. It is the error of Dr. Harris and his friends that they accuse moderate drinkers of crimes that are only committed by drunkards and teetotalers, and so violently do they persist in that error that it tends to take on a lamentable likeness to a downright and deliberate sin. In brief, if it is a violation of the Ninth commandment to call a man a thief or a murderer without evidence, it is equally so to call him a souse and wife-beater without evidence.
This is the central objection to prohibition: that it tells untruths about the effects of normal doses of ethyl alcohol and worse untruths about the habits and character of the multitude of persons who take such doses. Another and worse objection is that, even if these untruths were truths, prohibition would still be an ineffective remedy. But upon that objection I have discoursed with sufficient copiousness in the past, and shall doubtless illuminate it further in future. At the moment, all I desire to do is to thank Dr. Harris for his frank concession that my theological diatribe of last Saturday had merit in it. With appropriate blushes I quote his very words: “He has done remarkably well—we did not know it was in him. He has done great credit to his sponsor, Dr. Levister.” Generosity could no further go. Such a man doesn’t need Pilsner.
From the estimable New York Mailpaper of yesterday:
Florence Barbara Lawlor, the pretty Brooklyn high school girl who vanished last Monday, was located this afternoon at the Young Women’s Christian Association in Chicago.
Alas, alas, another good “white slave” story gone to pot! A painful sensation among the “moral” element!
The betting odds in the Highlandtown gambling houses, as reported by the Boy Snouts:
10 to 1 that all four blackmail bills go through with a bang.
Come, gents, where is that denunciatory resolution? Can it be that last week’s private advance notice was only a bluff? Permit me to hope not!—Personal Adv.