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From the Panoplist.
ON THE RUINOUS EFFECTS OF ARDENT SPIRITS.
Strong drink is raging.-SOLOMON.
THE friends of religion and humanity throughout our country, have long seen, and deeply lamented, the intemperate use of intoxicating liquors. They have, also, long been convinced, that something ought to be done to effect a reformation; to cure, if possible, such as are already infected, and, if not, at least to prevent the further spread of the deadly contagion. Nor have the wise and good, in time past, altogether contented themselves with unavailing regrets and good wishes. A kind of desultory warfare has been carried on against the common enemy, with various success.
Legislators have interposed their authority, to arrest the triumphant and desolating progress, of the evil in question. Laws against tippling and drunkenness, armed with severe penalties, have been enacted, in perhaps, every state of the Union. Informing officers have been appointed, occasional presentments have been made, and the laws have sometimes been executed. Ministers of the gospel, in the mean time, have not been wholly inactive. They have attacked the foe, with the weapons of their warfare, which when skilfully used, are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Here and there a church, also, has done something to resist the progress of intemperance, while here and there an individual has attacked it, with a resolution which cannot be too highly commended, or too generally emulated.
During all this time, however, the great destroyer has been steadily gaining ground. Every grog-shop is at once an achiever and a monument of its victories. Our taverns, and our grave-yards are filled with its trophies. Not content with extending its ravages, and multiplying its triumphs, among the refuse of society, it has invaded all ranks, and made awful havoc of property, genius, learning, reputation, and happiness. It is an enemy, which sparing neither high nor low, seems in this country, to be waging a war of extermination. Thousands of husbands has it already torn from the bosom of their families; thousands of sons from the embraces of their parents. Like the "croaking plagues of Egypt," it has found its way, into the very bed chambers of the rich and the poor, the public officer and the private citizen.
Even magistrates themselves, the appointed guardians of the laws, have not always escaped. Nay more, this auda
cious and deadly foe to the bodies and souls of men, has leaped over the pale of the church, polluted the sanctuary, and, (how shall it be spoken?) has numbered among its victims ministers of the Gospel.
To change the figure, intemperance which was scarcely known in this country, till long after its settlement by our ancestors, has within the last twenty or thirty years swollen to a mighty flood, not confined like our great rivers, to a particular channel, but spreading over the face of the whole country, threatening to sweep away, in its course the strongest bulwarks of religion and government, together with the sentinels that should guard, and the arms that should defend them; and bearing on its fiery surges, a huge and frightful mass of wreck and desolation. So wide and impetuous has this overflowing scourge at length become, that almost every body is retreating before it. Even the most courageous are astonished and dismayed at its progress. They not only hear its portentous roar; but witness and tremble at its deadly ravages,
Intemperance is certainly, at the present time, one of the most demoralizing, loathsome, heaven-provoking abominations of this country. Every body, who has either eyes, or ears, must admit that here, at least, strong drink is raging. The experience of thousands proves, that it is like a fire shut up in the bones. It allows its votaries no ease. It consumes the best estates, often with a rapidity resembling that of a conflagration. It rages like a burning fever in the body, like a fallen spirit in the head, like a wild beast in the family, and like a sweeping pestilence in the community. Profaneness, gambling, lewdness, poverty, disgrace, lawsuits, brutal stupidity, raving distraction, despair, murder, and suicide, march in its train. Many years ago, an eminent physician of Philadelphia gave it as his opinion, that more than four thousand of our citizens were annually hurried to an untimely grave, by the hand of this ruthless destroyer. That the evil has increased, instead of diminishing, since that time, there can be no doubt. Already, there is good reason to believe, have intoxicating liquors cost the United States more lives than their independence; demoralized more persons, broken more hearts, beggared more families, and sent more souls to perdition than any other single vice.
Strong drink may be denominated the grand Moloch of this proud republic. If children are not caused to pass through the fire, they are reduced to rags and starvation. If its devotees are not crushed to death by the wheels of a stupendous car, they are consumed by the slow flames which it kin
dles in their vitals. If it is not worshipped on every high hill, and under every green tree, it has its shrines on the banks of almost every brook, in the midst of every village, and by the side of every road. Think of four thousand self-devoted human victims, immolated every year upon its altars. Where, in this wide world, is there a graven image, or any false god, that demands more? Melancholy as is the account given by Dr. Buchannan of the sanguinary rites at Juggernaut, and the vast adjacent plain, paved with human bones, it does not ap pear, that four thousand lives are sacrificed there, within the short period of a single year. While, therefore, every benevolent heart is wishing and praying for the emancipation of the infatuated Hindoos from that abominable idolatry, it surely becomes every one to deplore the tyrannical sway of this monstrous vice, in this Christian land; and, if possible, to devise ways and means for overthrowing its empire.
If nothing more were necessary, than a general statement of the evils of intemperance and the importance of a reformation, the preceding remarks might suffice. But it would be doing the subject great injustice to dismiss it here, especially as in that case, many would, probably, look upon the foregoing dreadful picture, as very much overdrawn. The writer is confident, that every thing which has been advanced can be more than supported, without a very extensive or minute investigation. To this end he solicits a candid hearing, while he proceeds very briefly to specify more particularly some of the evils, which are produced by ardent spirits in this country.
1. Look at their deadly effects upon the bodies of their infatuated victims. Physicians all agree, that intemperance has a direct tendency to destroy health, and shorten life. In a vast multitude of instances, it is the legitimate parent of fevers, dropsies, consumption, gout, palsey, and apoplexy. "Ardent spirits," says Dr. Rush, (and so says almost every other physician,)" dispose the body to acute diseases in every form, and excite fevers in persons predisposed to them from other causes. Thus, when yellow fevers have visited the cities of the United States, hard drinkers have seldom escaped, and rarely recovered.”
The same remark has been made concerning the most alarming and fatal diseases, which have within a few years past, prevailed in different parts of the country. The writer has been assured, that hard drinkers have been remarkably singled out by the destroying angel; and that, in some places, not an individual of this class has recovered from an attack. Go then to the bed-side of a neighbor or a friend,
who has long been laying up, in his system, the fuel of ardent spirits to feed the fever that now consumes him. Perhaps he was never called a drunkard. It may be that he was never completely intoxicated. But he drank regularly and freely. Now behold him on the brink of eternity. His tongue is parched. His brain is disordered. His disease, which he might have escaped by temperance, or which, had he been temperate, would have yielded to the power of medicine, is now incurable. His eye grows dim; he struggles; he gasps; he expires; and in him you behold the fate of vast numbers, who follow the same course.
Shall we proceed further, and point you to ten thousand shadows of human existence in the last stages of various other diseases brought on by excessive drinking? Shall we undertake to count the miserable creatures, who, in one place and another, are every year tortured to death by this Promethean vulture? Shall we press physicians to tell us how many names, on our annual bills of mortality, are inseribed there by the hand of this fell destroyer? Shall we go from grave to grave, in the fields of the dead, and ask tombstones how many victims of ardent spirits lie beneath them? Ah! if tomb-stones might tell the truth, how affecting would be their report!
Let us take another view of this subject. It will not be questioned, that health and life are often destroyed by strong drink, in many ways which have not yet been mentioned. Who saith the royal preacher, hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Hard drinking is the parent of almost every crime that can be named, and exposes its votaries to dangers and deaths wherever they go. How many have been dragged from the grogshop to prison, and from prison to the gallows? How many in fits of drunkenness, have had their limbs broken, and been miserably crippled for life! How many, in attempting to return from the tavern, have reeled from their horses into eternity! How often, how very often, is the drunkard found stretched by the way side on the cold and damp earth; exposed to the wheels of the hasty traveller; wet with the dew of heaven; shivering under the piercing blasts of winter, or, perhaps, lying stiff in the iron slumber of death! It is needless to enlarge. Every reader must be convincel, by his own observations, and a little reflection, that ardent spirits are making terrible havoc in our country,
Z. X. Y