Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/603

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587
ABOLISH ALL PROHIBITIVE LIQUOR LAWS.

laws are dangerous to the community—namely, they might prevent the purchase of enough liquor to save a human life. As it is, there are rural communities, not a thousand miles from the metropolis of New England, where the apothecary will refuse (and in my own experience has refused) to sell the mother of a sick child enough alcohol to light a spirit lamp to warm the little sufferer's sustenance on a summer night at a strange hotel, where no other artificial heat could be procured! This same apothecary could sell Paris green by the pound for the destruction of alleged potato bugs, or morphine, or arsenic, or any other poison on presentation of a scrap of paper beginning with an "℞," and signed by any scrawl which the writer might choose to affix, and call it the signature of a physician. Our apothecary that night was illogical and dangerous to the community, not by instinct or by choice, but by the virtue of the laws of his State—by the laws, as it happened in the case I have in mind, of the noble old Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

But we have not closed the catalogue yet; there is still another, and this by no means a slight, evil, which is caused to the community by prohibitive liquor laws, which might be called, perhaps, the intellectual evil which they work. This is the begetting of the very general horror of wines, spirits, malt liquors, and other drinkables of more or less vinous character, which is allowed to prevail, not only, but is sedulously and perpetually cultivated in certain communities, until very young people are apt to consider themselves as virtuous paragons surrounded by alcoholic demons seeking their destruction, whose fault, and not their own, it will be if they tumble. This idea and sentiment are enormously prevalent, thanks to those industrious people the "temperance" reformers (though they insult one of the cardinal virtues by so calling themselves). I can indeed instance no severer proof of it than to narrate that, having been so fortunate, in the case of some special investigation then on hand, as to unearth the diary kept by an officer of the Revolution during the march of Arnold's and Wooster's commands through the snows of the terrible winter of 1775-'76 to relieve the army in Canada, and the subsequent retreat in rags, hunger, freezing, and wretchedness, I intrusted its copying to a worthy lady, a descendant of the officer who kept the diary. In due time she returned the copy, but wrote me, "I have omitted all references to brandy and eggnog, as not part of our country's history." And yet to me, and I fancy most of us, it was "history"—ay, and the "history of our country" too! How those patriots lived through and managed to survive at all the terrors of that winter, certainly was history; and I for one am thankful that, at least, if there was no food betimes, there were brandy, and an occasional egg-