Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE ELIMINATION OF THE UNFIT

The general impression throughout the country is, that the criminal class is extremely numerous and dangerous. What are actually the facts? That in no community is there more than one individual in ten thousand in prison or in jail for any offense; that the percentage of criminals, so far as can be estimated, in no instance runs above five in the thousand, and yet we are legislating against a mere one-half of one per cent., as if the whole stability of society was in danger unless we crushed the criminal out of exist

ence.

The situation is one of exaggerated dread and fear. We are afraid of the criminal; we are afraid of the defective; we are afraid of insanity. We think that the race is in danger of going to all sorts of degenerative extremes if something radical isn't done to stop it. We talk about the rapid increase of insanity and the terrible strain in modern civilized life upon the brain and upon the nervous system. The real strain of modern civilized life is upon the lungs and upon the liver ; not upon the nervous system. In no community has the percentage of the insane gone above three in the thousand, or about one-fifth of one per cent. The fear of the community about being overwhelmed by insanity has no logical basis. The number of feeble-minded in any community has probably never gone above one-fourth of one per cent. The number of drunkards -We hear that brought out as one of the besetting sins of the coming generation. Well, it may be; but did you ever happen to notice what was the first pledge of the first temperance society ever formed in this country? It was formed, I think, only a little over eighty

years ago, and the pledge—it was of this compromise, that “We, the undersigned, do hereby solemnly promise and agree that we will not get drunk more than three times in the year, namely :-Fourth of July, Host Day,” and one other. That was the attitude towards drunkenness one hundred years ago. To-day we consider that ludicrous, if not positively immoral. And do you remember about this generation being in danger of being swept off into delinquency by the charm of strong drink? In no instance where the matter

Extract from address of Dr. Woods Hutchinson, delivered at the New Jersey State Conference of Charities, Princeton, February, 1911.

five

1

has been gone into with any care (and I have made a wholesale study of that particular subject, myself, in two or three different communities with which I have been acquainted)-in no instance

I was the percentage of drunkenness more than about two per cent.; and in most cases less than one per cent. of adult males who were in the habit of using liquor, not counting prohibitionists and others." A COSMOPOLITAN'S VIEW OF ALCOHOL What Sir H. H. Johnston has to say about alcohol in The Nineteenth Century and After (April, 1914) carries peculiar weight because of his wide knowledge of men in many lands. He confesses that alcohol in any form is obnoxious to him. Even as a child the smallest quantity of wine poisoned him and now a long residence in the tropics has so impaired his health that total abstinence has become a necessity. He cries out against the tyranny of alcohol which besets him on all sides and asks why it is so difficult to find a cheap, safe and palatable substitute.

Still Sir Johnston is far from being a fanatic on the subject of alcohol. "It would be absurd to say," he writes, "that the mass of Germans should give up beer and Rhine wines, that the French people should renounce claret, burgundy and champagne, or the Spaniards and Portuguese the natural unfortified wines of their own production. The increase in the birth-rate and the patently fine physique of the Spanish people show that wine-drinking does them no harm, and they are to a great extent at the present time still free from the undeniable curse of distilled alcohol. But in Germany it is equally clear, from such statistics as can be obtained, that a portion of the nation is ill-affected by its addiction to strong waters."

He finds that throughout France, Belgium, much of Italy, Germany and Austria, "the tourist who does not drink beer or wine for health reasons, and who is afraid of water because of uncertainty in regard to typhoid infection, is reduced virtually to gaseous and not very wholesome liquids from syphons or bottles, or to perpetual tea or coffee; and tea and coffee drunk to excess are nearly as harmful as alcohol. In Spain, curiously enough, where the native population drinks wine to such a considerable extent, it is far easier to get good, pure, cold water than in most European coun

tries."

In citing examples of the tyranny of alcohol, the writer gives many instances of the ravages of distilled liquors. Russia, of course,

a notorious one. In regard to Ireland, he speaks of the vast injury whiskey-drinking has wrought among professional and middle-class men. While admitting that "conditions in Ireland

provides

[ocr errors]

at the present are much better than they were,” he adds: “The peasant class of later years has abused tea or taken to ether as a stimulant.” In Scotland he finds that whiskey “is a curse which is only beginning to lift"-thanks to the measure of temperance reform passed by the present government a year ago. He finds that "Scandinavia, like Scotland, has now been wrested from the tyranny of alcohol, so convinced have its governments become of the unmitigated harm produced by strong drink."

“France,” he says, “lies more under the tyranny of alcohol than any other nation in the world; even our own is less dictated to by the great distillers." He quotes Joseph Reinsch as saying that 'the chief harm arises from the complete liberty in the sale of spirits. In France the ratio of licensed houses in which all forms of alcohol, including the worst, can be sold, is one to 82 inhabitants, as contrasted with one to 430 in England, one to 5,000 in Sweden and one to 9,000 in Norway. What is true of France is beginning to be true of her colonies. French administrators in North Africa have been forced to waive their personal objections and allow brandy of a very unwholesome nature to be sold broadcast among the Mohammedan population of North Africa and the negro populations of French West Africa. ... The same mischief is going on in French

. Indo-China and in Madagascar.'

And the reason for this is that the average French administrator and the government under whom he works "are unable to shake themselves free of the tyranny of alcohol, of the odious tyranny exercised over this splendid nation by the French winegrowers and distillers." It is a tyranny which makes itself felt also in England where there exists in the mind of our Foreign Office at the present day a great dislike to opposing French policy in any direction. Consequently, to save our face, we continue to maintain the vicious policy of allowing our West African colonies (all but Northern Nigeria) to be the dumping-ground of distilled alcohol, from the taxation of which we raise the greater part of our West African colonial revenues. Yet anyone who knows the coast regions of West Africa and is not afraid to tell the truth, knows that distilled alcohol of European manufacture is working great harm among the indigenous peoples, a fact which, by the way, is noted and stated by all French explorers of independent outlook in regard to the littoral of French Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Dahomey and Gaboon.” In this connection the author notes that the negro) did not require the modern white man to teach him the attractiveness of fermented drinks—beer from corn and wine from the sap of the palm tree. "He gets drunk, quarrelsome and murderous on his native beverages, where no white man penetrates with whiskey, brandy, rum or gin. But though his alcoholic excesses lead to crimes of violence and disorder, they do not affect his physical soundness or his reproductive powers; whereas in Negro Africa distilled alcohol (whether native or European) leads to diseases of the liver and kidneys and to infertility.”

The writer refers to "a marked increase in alcoholism in Italy, due partly to spirit drinking, partly to abuse of wine.” He does not add, what seems to be well established, that the whiskey habit is something largely imported into Italy by returning immigrants who have contracted it chiefly in the United States. Among the tyrants in the world of alcohol he enumerates the California winegrowers who are pushing their wares in Italy and Great Britain "by advertisements, garnished with the opinions of foreign consuls residing in California as to the wholesomeness of California wines -opinions which may pass current without objection in California itself, but cannot be held to apply to wines that are prepared for the export trade.” For wines which may be comparatively harmless in California are harmful when doctored for export, and like the wines of Australia and the Cape, they will not stand oversea travel unless fortified with a proportion of distilled alcohol.

The tyranny of alcohol he finds to be flagrant under the Gov. ernment of the Cape of Good Hope. It is also noticeable in the Union of South Africa. In Portuguese East or West Africa practically no measures are taken to restrict either the manufacture or sale of alcohol. In regard to the Mohammedans he says: “It is quite a mistake to go on repeating the worn-out falsehood that Mohammedanism does away with all alcohol dangers. . . . Theoretically all Mohammedans are teetotalers, but practically, not so.” Reference is made to the “shocking abuse of spirit-drinking which affects large sections of the Indian population, more especially amongst the Mohammedans.” The Turks of Asia Minor are a fairly sober race, also some of the Tuaregs. “But elsewhere throughout the Mohammedan world drunkenness is as great a bane as in

.. Buddhism is even more strongly “anti-alcoholic' than the faith of Islam; and the Buddhists of Ceylon resent very strongly the opposition of their present government, supported by

[ocr errors]

Christendom.

« PreviousContinue »