Page images

Among a total of 8,420 inmates of fifty almshouses representing ten States, the Committee of Fifty found the general average percentage of pauperism due directly or indirectly to drink to be 37.05, with 5.03 per cent. of cases unaccounted for. It is stated that this average "simply stands for an approximate expression of the truth."

The divergence between these statistics resulting from special investigations made at various times and in various countries is altogether remarkable and sufficiently illustrates the difficulty of arriving at accurate statements. There is absolutely nothing in any of them to substantiate the views of extremists, and in the light of the more recent investigations of the relation between the drink habit and physical and mental deficiency, it is altogether probable that even in conservative statistics intemperance has been given much too prominent a place as a cause of poverty. Only within very recent times has due weight been given to other causes of drunkenness, with the results cited. The obstacles to an intensive study, with a view to determining the percentage of poverty due to drink, are almost insurmountable. It requires, among other things, an expert diagnosis of mental conditions and a complete history of each case. The conservative inquiries made in the United States lack this basis and have, therefore, in all probability, given intemperance an exaggerated place as a direct cause of poverty.


There is, however, another aspect of the relation of the liquor question to poverty which it is pertinent to notice. If intemperance is, as many contend, the most prolific source of poverty, then one should look for a marked diminution of the rate of public pauperism in territories from which it is alleged that the liquor traffic has been excluded. If this is not found to be the case, then only one of the two conclusions is possible: Either the assumed operation of intemperance as the most direct and prolific cause of pauperism does not exist, or the liquor traffic has not been suppressed.

In support of this view the latest official statistics may be cited. The next table is drawn from the United States Census report on Paupers in Almshouses and shows the almshouse population by States in December, 1903, the number admitted during 1904, and the numbers in both groups per 100,000 of population.

The rate of pauperism in almshouses is, of course, more or less determined by a variety of local conditions, which are unaffected by the liquor trade. The question of administration and of the provisions made for the poor is an important one. In States, with a large urban population, where the pressure of competition is keen, the rate will usually be higher than in purely rural States. For purposes of exact comparison these and many other factors must be taken into account. Here the only question is whether the prohibition of the liquor trade is in any way reflected in the pauper returns, that is, through a diminution of the proportion of paupers. There are only three States that can come under survey, namely, Maine, Kansas and North Dakota.

Maine had in December, 1903, a number of paupers in almshouses equal to a rate of 163.1 per 100,000 population. This may be contrasted with a rate of 148.9 for all the North Atlantic States; of 119.1 for Vermont; of 139.8 for New York, of 94.9 for New Jersey (low license), and. 135.6 for Pennsylvania. In fact, of all the States, only New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Ohio, Nevada and California show a larger number of inmates of almshouses per 100,000 of population than the State of Maine. To dwell in detail on the local conditions and peculiar causes explanatory of the divergence in rates as between different States, would carry us too far afield.

If the number of paupers admitted to almshouses in the course of an entire year be taken as the standard of comparison, Maine shows up better alongside the other North Atlantic States, but it still has a rate in excess of Vermont and New Jersey and very nearly the same as that for Rhode Island. On the other hand, only one of the nine South Atlantic States, namely, Maryland; only one of the eleven great license States of the North Central Division, namely, Ohio; and not one of the States of the South Central group show so large a proportion of paupers admitted to almshouses in the course of a year as the State of Maine. In the far Western States, where conditions are less comparable, we find larger rates in a majority of instances.

The validity of comparing the relative number of paupers in an old State like Maine with that of a newer State having a more youthful population and an undeveloped almshouse system, is open to some question. It has been shown, however, that Maine


[blocks in formation]

exhibits an unfavorable pauper rate also when brought into contrast with States where such differences do not count.

For Kansas and North Dakota comparisons may be confined chiefly to States within the same geographical division. The number of paupers found in almshouses in Kansas on December, 1903, for each 100,000 of population was 52.5. This is considerably in excess of such numbers for the neighboring State of Nebraska 43.5 (high license), South Dakota 37.8 and Minnesota 28.6. tive number of admissions affords figures even less favorable to Kansas, as her proportion is not only larger than that in the States just mentioned, but also larger than in Missouri and practically equal to that in Iowa.

The rela

More striking in some respects are the figures for North Dakota, a new State without a single city of importance, and having a youthful population engaged largely in agriculture. Yet it had in 1903 a relatively larger pauper population than found in Nebraska and in the two neighboring license States Minnesota and South Dakota. What is more significant, the relative number of admissions to almshouses in 1904 was also larger than that in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri, and not much behind Wisconsin. Further comparisons would be superfluous.

Once more it must be emphasized that the ratios adduced cannot be accepted as accurate measurement of the comparative extent of pauperism. Their meaning as bearing upon the general problem of poverty does not enter into the discussion. They do, however, refute completely the notion that pauperism is visibly less in prohibition States than in States under license. Therefore, persons holding to the belief that practically all pauperism is due to intemperance find themselves in this dilemna so far as Maine, Kansas and North Dakota are concerned: Either they must abandon their claims about the amount of poverty caused by drink, or they must admit that the prohibitive legislation fails utterly in one of its most cherished aspects.

A wider application might be made of the same line of argument. Year by year the legalized trade in intoxicants has been excluded from over an increasing territory. Meanwhile, other and more potent agencies for moderation in the use of intoxicants have been at work. But the effect is nowhere shown in constantly diminishing rates of pauperism. Nor is it apparent anywhere that private effort to counteract and relieve poverty can afford


to be relaxed. To attribute this state of things solely to lack of enforcement of law would be as unreasonable as to contend that intemperance is not prominent among the causes of want. truth is that a condition of poverty may exist and the poor may multiply in consequence of economic and other influences quite independent of personal habits in respect to the use of intoxicants.



Those who cheerfully assume that the definite relations of the drink habit to criminality have been established argue ignorantly or are engaged in wilful misrepresentation for purposes of propaganda. That certain offenses are direct products of intoxication is patent to any observer; likewise that other offenses can be more or less immediately ascribed to a mental and physical condition weakened by alcohol. But it is a far cry from such observations to trustworthy general facts purporting to show the extent to which the drink habit causes" crime.

[ocr errors]

Writers on this subject usually arrive at their conclusions in one of three ways: (1) By guess-work, often dictated by what they wish to "prove"; (2) by arguing from so-called criminal. statistics; (3) by special statistical inquiry. The mere guesses or assertions emanating from unduly stimulated imaginations may be ignored and attention directed to the teachings of the other methods of inquiry.

They are usually one of two kinds, namely: statistics of arrests for all offenses or statistics of prisoners, whether of the prison population on a given date or of commitments to prison. Self-evidently, statistics of these kinds do not purport to establish any definite connection between the liquor habit and crime; and can at most have usefulness as a possible illustration of the growth or diminution of criminality in their relation to efforts to repress the liquor traffic. The meaning of statistics of arrests for drunkenness and the deductions to be drawn from them have already been set forth.


The number of persons arrested in a community is not proof positive of the prevailing volume of criminality, but only an indi

« PreviousContinue »