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mencement of this short term, we find a certain habit universally prevailing, -making part of every man's daily existence, adopted alike by all classes and conditions, the old and young, the high and low, the rich and poor, — practised on all occasions, sad or joyous, sacred or secular, — as unquestioned in its morality as the eating of bread or the wearing of broadcloth; and finally, as under these circumstances was right and fit, sanctioned and encouraged by the law of the land. But, “ in the fulness of time," a few individuals were endued, by the blessing of God, with wisdom to discern, and courage to declare, that this all-pervading habit was wrong, dangerous, fatal; that, every passing year, it destroyed property, life, character, and virtue, to a frightful and almost incredible amount ; and was, in fact, fast ruining a nation otherwise the freest and happiest on earth. Such a disclosure, involving almost universal condemnation, incurred, at the outset, almost universal ridicule or censure. But it was true ; and never was the maxim“ Magna est veritas et prævalebit” more signally verified, than in the effects which it produced. The same generous spirit, which proclaimed the disease, also devised the remedy; and enough of virtuous sensibility yet remained in the land, to shudder at the one, and eagerly to adopt and diffuse the other. If combined simplicity and power be the true elements of sublimity, never was there exhibited in our world a more sublime moral institution than the Temperance Society. In its original smaller than a grain of mustard-seed, it has spread into a boundless tree, whose branches are for the healing of the nations. At first, obnoxious to all but its founders, as equally intolerant, fanatical, and visionary, it has silently but rapidly extended its triumphs, enrolled under its peaceful banner all sects and parties, and gone far, very far, towards revolutionizing the inveterate opinions, tastes, and habits of a great and free people.
Is this an exaggerated statement ? I admit that it might be so considered, if the temperance reform were confined to that part of the community, which has nominally connected itself with the Temperance Society, and assumed the express obligation of total abstinence. But who does not know, that this is a faint and inadequate view of the change which has taken place in public sentiment; that the efforts, so unremittingly used to spread light and information, have succeeded in laying bare to a nation's eye the deformities of an established and cherished cus
tom, and in awakening a sympathetic desire for its extermination; and, in fine, that at the present moment, whether members of the Temperance Society or not, all respectable, considerate, conscientious men, unless they are blinded by self-interest, from regarding ardent spirits as a necessary or a cordial, have come to look upon them with disgust or horror, as the great bane and curse of civilized man?
That these views are substantially correct, we think any one may be satisfied, who will propose to himself a few simple questions, and answer them from his own daily observation. Within the memory of all of us, ardent spirits were always used at funerals; the decanter of brandy was as invariable an accompaniment to these scenes of woe, as the habiliments of mourning or the minister of religion. But now;- what man, who has the feelings of one,
we say not, what member of the Temperance Society, - but what man, with a heart to bleed for the loss of wise or parent or child, would not be shocked and ashamed to profane with the deep draught and half-suppressed revel the last solemn rites of the dead? Let us run over the list of respectable men whom we are in the habit of meeting in society. How many of them are there that now habitually drink ardent spirits, place them daily upon their tables, and furnish them to their servants and guests ? Of the truly respectable, very few. And
there are hundreds who have never joined the Temperance Society. Who, that is not notoriously wanting in moral principle, at this day, reviles or denounces the temperance cause ; or fails to acknowledge the nobleness of its object, and bid it God speed? Yet, because an individual expresses this approbation, and with perfect sincerity, we neither do nor have a right to infer that he himself has signed the pledge. How many associations are there, which formerly transacted all their business and celebrated all their festivities under the inspiration of the bottle, that now entirely discard it as low and disreputable. Yet many, perhaps a majority, of the members, have thus far withheld their names from the totalabstinence Constitution.
These are a few illustrations, — many more will suggest themselves to every reflecting reader, — of the point in question. The truth is, the temperance reform can in no sense be measured by strings of names and pledges. You might as well limit the light of the sun to the spot visited by his direct rays; or the blessings of a holy religion to the few who minister at its altar. The temperance reform was indeed originated, and has been and must be carried on, by pledged associations ; but, through their influence, the moral atmosphere of society is purified of its deadly elements, and all who respire it are renovated in feeling and principle. Different individuals are restrained by various considerations from taking a conspicuous part in this benevolent work ; but no man, who has even a proper self-respect, will now deny, that the use of ardent spirits as a drink is a heavy national calamity, and that the efforts to banish it from society deserve the warm approval of all who can be touched by the sins and sufferings of their race.
From these considerations it sufficiently appears, that the practicability of legislating for the suppression of intemperance now, is a question which has nothing to do with its practicability at the time when the existing system of laws was adopted. In showing that these laws were untimely, we had occasion also to show that they were, in principle, radically, fatally wrong. They were, in substance as well as name, license laws. Their pecuniary impositions were for revenue, rather than for punishment. That any law can operate to check a vice, which it not only tolerates, but expressly licenses, is a paradox too gross to require refutation. We indeed want laws, but not such as these. Public opinion, instead of licensing, condemns and prohibits the traffic in rum. Let the law do the same. Public opinion, instead of regarding the traffic in rum as necessary for the public good, sees in it nothing but the prolific source of sin, suffering, and death. Let the law do the same. Then, and not till then, if the experiment fail, let it be said that legislation for the suppression of intemperance is impracticable.
II. It is further objected, that such legislation is inexpedient. By “ inexpedient” I understand to be meant unseasonable, or premature; because the question of general, abstract expediency is of course involved in those of practicability, right, and necessity. Upon this understanding of the term, the force of the objection seems to be, that public opinion does not yet, however it may at some future time, call for prohibitory laws against the sale of ardent spirit; that laws in advance of public opinion will be unpopular, create a reaction, and injure the cause which they are designed to advance. The argument has been already incidentally noticed, in considering the question of practicability; but admits and requires a little more precise examination under the present head.
It is important to understand what is meant by saying, that public opinion calls for legislation upon this subject. We understand it to mean, not that prohibitory laws are absolutely and imperiously demanded, but that, if enacted, they will be cordially sustained and enforced by the people. We understand it to mean, that public opinion is so far enlightened, and prevailing habits are so far rectified, that such laws would no longer conflict at fearful odds with either. If so, and if they can be further made out to be proper and necessary, this is all the expediency we want, and all we contend for.
In this explanation, we merely urge the propriety of treating legislators as reasonable beings, and not as downright machines. When a body of men, selected from the community at large for superior wisdom, and specially entrusted with the oversight of the general welfare, suffer a public evil to pass year after year without effectual notice, is it too much to expect, that the people should take their tone of feeling from so respectable an authority, and, although deeply impressed with the importance of efficient action, and ready with their whole heart to sustain the most rigid prohibitions, that they should nevertheless patiently wait for the measures which calm deliberation and enlightened patriotism may dictate ?
The history of legislation furnishes abundant illustrations of this remark. Perhaps none more striking could be found, than the act of Massachusetts, passed at the session before the last, for the suppression of lotteries. Every one will recollect the occasion of enacting that law. An unfortunate young man had become deeply involved in lottery gambling; had exhausted his own resources, embezzled the money of his employer, brought himself to the verge of detection and infamy, and in a fit of despair committed suicide. These circumstances produced a considerable excitement against that which was acknowledged to be the source of so much crime and misery. A few petitions were presented to the legislature, then in session, on the subject of lotteries. They were referred to a committee ; and, after a few days, a bill was reported, and adopted almost by acclamation, which, for strictness and severity, considering the comparatively venial nature of the offence, has hardly its equal on our statute-book. This law prohibits, and punishes, with a heavy fine for the first offence, and imprisonment for the second, the sale, or possession with a view io sale, of lottery tickets; the management, drawing, and advertising of lotteries; and the letting of buildings to be used in conducting them ;- bestows a liberal bounty upon any informer who will procure conviction of an offender; and forfeits all moneys drawn in a lottery to the Commonwealth. Here was no half-way work. The slightest attention to these provisions will show, that it was their object to tear up the lottery system by the roots. Yet no loud and general and continued voice had come up from the people, to indicate that public opinion urgently and vehemently demanded so penal an act. Lotteries, it is true, were generally regarded as detrimental to society ; but they had by no means become decidedly obnoxious; no systematic efforts had been made, no societies formed, no publications issued, to put them down. Respectable men sold, — hundreds of respectable men bought; - lottery tickets, without disgrace or censure. The legislature was borne along by no irresistible current of popular will ; but, under the excitement of a single, solitary event, and upon their own responsibility, passed a law which went the whole length of exterminating an extensive and long established institution. Under these circumstances, so stern a statute might plausibly have been condemned as rash and premature. But what was the result ? The very passage of the act seemed either to create or develope a universal sentiment in its favor. It revealed desires hitherto latent, fixed opinions hitherto vague and wandering, and, sustained by an overwhelming majority, gave a death-blow to lotteries in Massachusetts.
It is worth while, for a moment, to contemplate the calami"tous incident which gave occasion to this sudden and successful burst of legislation, and to compare it with certain others, somewhat analogous, but more peculiarly connected with the vice of intemperance. Some humane lawgiver probably read the story of this tragedy in his daily newspaper, and pointed it out, with expressions of sympathy, to the attention of other members. Let us suppose them to have been advocates of the prohibitory system for which we contend, and, at that very time, to have been laboring for its adoption. They unite with him in his natural emotions of pity and indignation at the narrative ; but, in the same column, show him the account of the man, who but a few days before crazed himself with rum at a grog-shop, went home, and butchered his wife and six children, broiling one of them on the fire of his own hearth; and they take up a file of newspapers, and in 'every one of