Page images

would venture to suggest to them that they should give up using the word Temperance in connection with societies which demand, in conformity with their fundamental principles, a pledge for total abstinence from every member, and which also demand that the State shall carry out a policy of total abolition of the sale of alcoholic beverages. The battle of the true temperance party can only be won by rational means directed towards the uplifting of the whole moral and social life of the people--be volutionary and not by revolutionary measures."


An excellent illustration of this intemperate policy of temperance advocates to which Dr. Duncan alluded is furnished by one of the latest of the many Temperance leaflets which have come my way since the publication of my book on "The Mortality of Alcohol." The 32-page booklet in question bears the title of "The Effect of Alcoholic Drinks upon the Human Mind and Body," was prepared by the Scientific Temperance Federation, of Boston, was published by the Anti-Saloon League of Maryland, and, as its title-page announces, was intended "for the use of the Public School Pupils of Baltimore in competing for the 400 prizes offered for the best essays on the above subject." Under the heading of "The Prize Offer" the details of the proposed competition are recited at length, and in part read as follows:

"Three gentlemen especially interested in the scientific and health aspect of the temperance question offered $1,000 each through the Anti-Saloon League of Maryland for a fund for prizes for the best essays written by pupils in the Baltimore Public Schools on the subject: "The Effect of Alcoholic Drink upon the Human Mind and Body.' The offer is as follows: The AntiSaloon League of Maryland hereby offers a cash prize of $3.00 for the best essay on the above subject written by a pupil in each of the five highest grades in each of the approximately 100 elementary schools of Baltimore City. The League further offers four district prizes of $10 each for each of these five highest grades, and a citywide prize of $50 for each of the five highest grades, making five $50 prizes, twenty $10 prizes and from 350 to 360 $3.00 prizes for the elementary schools. The League also offers a prize of $10 for the best essay written by a pupil in each of the four regular annual classes in each of the five secondary schools, and a city-wide prize of $50 for the best essay from each of the four yearly classes in the

secondary school system, making twenty prizes of $10 each and four prizes of $50 each for the secondary schools."

The pamphlet further states that agreement was made by the League with the Scientific Temperance Federation, of Boston, to prepare and furnish "a 32-page pamphlet devoted entirely to the scientific and health aspect of the question and containing no mention of the Anti-Saloon League or any other temperance organization, of local option or Prohibition, of the saloon as an institution or any other political or controversial phase of the subject," copies of this pamphlet to be furnished free to the 30,000 pupils in the grades open to the prize contest. The pamphlet so prepared, it is announced, was approved by a sub-committee of the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore, but by a vote of 5 to 4 the Board refused to accept it, and "the Anti-Saloon League, therefore, because of the great public interest manifested, has determined to place a copy of this pamphlet in every one of the more than 100,000 homes in Baltimore City."

The utter lack of scientific promise in this offer of $3,000 for a prize-competition of 30,000 school children with essays on "The Effect of Alcoholic Drinks upon the Human Mind and Body" is so self-evident that any analysis of its elements of absurdity would be needless. There are comparatively few men in the world who are competent to handle in illuminative and judicial fashion so profoundly complicated a subject; and of course for children scarcely in their teens the subject prescribed for the essays would be a very bottomless abyss. All competent educators are agreed on not only the uselessness but undesirability of calling on children to write on subjects obviously without their mental reach, and the propriety of holding before the eyes of public school children the glittering inducement of considerable cash prizes for concentration of their youthful energies on one detail of physiology, or any other one phase of their school work, would seem extremely dubious. These, however, are matters within the educators' domain, upon which my judgment is merely that of a layman, but I venture to believe my study of the subject has qualified me to some extent to pass upon certain phases of "the effect of alcoholic drinks upon the human mind and body." And I must emphatically dissent from my Prohibitionist friends as to the scientific value of many of the alleged facts and figures cited by them in their anti-alcoholic literature in general, and in the pamphlet intended for the school children of Baltimore in particular.

Practically all of the Prohibitionist literature which I have examined strongly savors of assumptions and exaggeration from the first page to the last, mere estimates and personal opinions as to the effects of alcohol almost invariably being brought forward in the disguise of demonstrated facts. One of the pre-requisites for scientific research work is a long-continued series of experiments with each tentative formula, and no investigator with the slightest respect for his reputation would be prepared to announce his conclusions as established facts until he had gone through that sine qua non of scientific processes. As to the bad effects upon the human mind and body of excessive use of alcohol, coffee, tobacco, or practically any beverage, food, or other indulgence, of course there can be no question. On this point non-abstainers from alcohol will fully agree with the advocates of total abstinence from alcohol. But a very large percentage of the population of the civilized world vigorously dissents from the Prohibition contention that all indulgence in alcohol, however moderate, necessarily produces bad effects on all men, whatever their ages, habits and manner of living, and declines to accept as proof of that alleged fact the personal opinions and hypothetical estimates of scientific or unscientific investigators who are strongly prejudiced against the use of alcohol. Up to date the scientific investigation of the effects of moderate use of alcohol is in its very infancy, in so far as the deduction of proven and undebatable conclusions is concerned, and as to many phases of the complex subject there are the widest variations of more or less expert opinion. Nevertheless, Prohibition literature almost invariably sets up as positive facts of universal application the assertions and estimates of its sympathizers and spokesmen, and the pamphlet on "The Effect of Alcoholic Drinks upon the Human Mind and Body," which was prepared for the use of the public school children of Baltimore in their proposed prize-essay competition on that subject is no exception.

As to the fairness or unfairness, accuracy or inaccuracy, of that section of the pamphlet which purports to deal with the effect of alcohol upon the human mind, I have no opinion to express. That phase of the subject is one on which only specialists in physiology and psychology can intelligently pass. But with the matter presented under the sub-title of "Drink's Cost in Lives" I am very much interested, especially as at the very outset of that chapter the somewhat startling assertion of "one death every eight minutes due to drink" is made to rest upon the figures presented in my book

on "The Mortality of Alcohol," and the specific statement is made that "alcohol carries off 1,662 adults every nine days all the year round in the United States, 65,897 a year, according to the estimate of Edward Bunnell Phelps based on the estimates of medical directors of three of the large American life insurance companies" (p. 22).

I trust I may not seem to place myself in an ungracious position if I flatly deny my responsibility for this statement charged to me, and herewith cite from my book literal proof that I made no such estimate. In the final tabulation on page 64 of my book I did present the figures 65,897 as the possible number of "deaths in which alcohol may have figured as a causative or contributory factor," but my "Conclusions" began on page 73 with this paragraph which, it seems to me, is incapable of the slightest misunderstanding as to its real meaning:

"In default of proof positive to the contrary, it would therefore seem entirely safe to assume that the total annual mortality of Continental United States in which alcohol directly, indirectly, or even remotely, figures as a causative or contributory factor at last reports did not exceed the 66,000 deaths approximately suggested by this investigation. It should be clearly understood that this figure by no means signifies that alcohol was the direct cause of 66,000 deaths, the number in question presumably including all of the deaths in which alcohol played any appreciably contributory part. Consequently the number of deaths thus computed is not properly comparable with the number of deaths accredited to any particular cause in the annual Mortality Statistics of the Registration Area, as in every case those figures deal with deaths immediately due to the cause named."

I do not see how any person, Prohibitionist or anti-Prohibitionist, could possibly mistake this statement for an estimate on my part that "alcohol carries off 1,662 adults every nine days all the year round in the United States, 65,897 a year." In the case of any death, there may be two, three or half a dozen contributory causes, and surely no one of these more or less remote contributory causes-alcohol or anything else could properly be charged as the cause which "carries off" that particular deceased individual, any more than old age could rightfully be cited as the cause of death in all cases of death at advanced ages. Apparently the compilers of the Baltimore pamphlet allowed their zeal to lead them to a serious misinterpretation of the figures presented in my book.


That mistake, to apply the most charitable of constructions to it, is but one of various mistakes, or mis-statements of fact, which I have noted in the pamphlet in question, among them, for instance, being the following assertion of alleged facts on page 22: "In 8 years, 1900-1908, smallpox carried off 2,214 men 25-65 years of age in the registration area of the United States. Typhoid carried of 22,211 men. But alcoholism, for which alcohol was wholly responsible and the 75 per cent. of liver cirrhosis which may be charged to alcohol, carried off 33,139 men; 10,928 more than typhoid, and more than fifteen times as many as smallpox."

The reference to "8 years, 1900-1908" and "men 25-65 years of age" are somewhat ambiguous (1) as to which of the terminal years of the period is included in the "8 years," and (2) as to the grouping of deaths between ages 25-65, as the mortality statistics for the registration area do not furnish figures for mortality by individual years after age 4, and include the deaths at age 65 in those for the age-group 65-69. Presumably, however, the 8-year period considere was that of 1900-1907, inclusive, and the age-period, 25-64, inclusive, and the figures for those years and that age-period presented in the Mortality Statistics of the Census Office for the years 1900-1907 do not tally with the pamphlet's figures, as this tabulation of the actual returns demonstrates:



[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »