From The True Temperance Quarterly.
WHAT bitterness and sorrow has the question of alcohol produced in recent years! There are many good people, whose judgement in matters of great importance may be thoroughly reliable, who look upon alcohol as a deadly poison even in the smallest quantities.
Many are unaware that when necessity arises the medical attendant supplies the necessary stimulant in the form of tinctures or other combination containing alcohol in appreciable quantity. To those more level-headed people who fortunately form the large proportion of the population alcohol is a great boon used reasonably. We must remember that anything that is good in moderation is always bad when taken in excessive quantities.
Take for instance opium, which is one of the most important and valuable means that we possess for the alleviation of pain and suffering. That it is harmful in excess is well known by all. Again, a small quantity of opium served as a ration to some of our native troops enabled them to perform tasks and to endure strain in a manner no white soldiers could equal. To the medical man it affords a means of saving life more effective perhaps than any other drug.
On one occasion, when I was addressing a large number of the women of the working class in a London suburb, I told them that I had saved more lives with brandy than with all the drugs in the Pharmacopoeia, and that when their children refused milk two or three drops of brandy in each bottle would not only ensure its being swallowed with avidity but would also obviate much of the vomiting or regurgitation consequent on the indigestion from which so many of their infants suffered.
It was immediately reported to Lord Snowden by one of those fanatics, who was intensely antagonistic to the use of alcohol. Lord Snowden was greatly shocked that anyone should recommend the administration of alcohol to young children and immediately wrote asking for his name to be removed from the New Health Society of which he had been by his name, much honoured and respected in Great Britain, a valuable associate. Nevertheless, what I stated was true, as it was the result of experience extending over very many years in the greatest and most important childrens hospital in England.
How often has the medical man save the life of those in imminent danger of death, by a medicine which is always readily accessible. Every experienced doctor knows the value of alcohol, in such circumstances only too well. As a food, alcohol is the most economical imaginable and I have known many lives sustained during a severe and prolonged illness by brandy and egg in small doses at frequent intervals.
In Society, where it is never taken in excess at the present time, one realizes what a wonderful ambassador alcohol is. To those who have experienced a teetotal dinner party, the depression of such a function is only too conspicuous. To the man who has spent long hours, probably in a confined atmosphere, doing his utmost at the expense of much mental effort to provide food for his family, and to the woman whose day has been occupied in endeavouring to provide for her family such comforts and pleasures as their means can afford, a very small amount of alcohol enables them so to digest their food that they forget their troubles and anxieties and enjoy each others society and look hopefully on the future.
People dining together gradually realize what is best in one another. Their controls are off for the time being and they are more natural, more friendly and less critical of one another.
What amazes the foreigner when he comes to England is the limitation of the hours in which he can obtain food and refreshment. One has no doubt that the English are regarded by those in authority in much the same manner as are children by their nurses. Everything they do must necessarily be wrong, and a state of affairs comprised under the heading of “Mrs. Grundy” exerts an influence which fortunately is becoming less conspicuous and less harmful.
Those who travel in France compare the arrangements there to the great disadvantage of those in England. The Frenchman looks upon wine, which he can obtain at any time of the day, as a necessary part of his meal and he takes it with pleasure and enjoyment. He has, fortunately for him, a supply of the most delicious wine in the world, a beverage that cannot be equalled in any other country. He drinks it with no idea of taking it to excess and usually dilutes it freely with water.
The Government of that country, knowing the value of alcohol in moderate quantities, recommends and praises its use strongly, giving it as a ration to the soldier.
In Napoleons war on Russia, which ended so fatally for him, Baron Larrey observed that the natives of the wine drinking countries stood the intense cold and privation which was endured by his army in that terrible retreat better than the inhabitants of the North of Europe, whom one would have expected to bear cold better. He found wine invaluable in the treatment of such illnesses as Napoleons troops were so often exposed to.
It is an idea fix which is at the basis of the mentality of so many of those who virulently and inconsiderately oppose the use of alcohol, and education alone can free their minds from such a bias.
How much the working people appreciate music, however poor and inefficient it may be, is shown by the amount of money they will frequently give the itinerant musician who hangs about the door of the public house. If every public house were made more comfortable and commodious, provided with games of backgammon, draughts, darts, etc., and also a wireless, the men and their wives would share their evenings happily, and like Frenchmen or Germans would not drink to excess.
Perhaps nothing is more striking than the reduction in the amount of alcohol drunk by the citizens of Germany, where exercises and games have become a very prominent part of the life of the inhabitants. As in Germany, so in Italy: those great nations have determined to improve the health and efficiency of the inhabitants, replacing a degenerate body by one full of vitality, energy, and pride of race and country. Can we learn nothing from their dictators?.