« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
saloon and its issues cost the country this vast sum ; that is, waste it, and worse.
We seem to live in a period of contradictions. It is a period of productive enterprise in nearly all directions ; the world was never so busy, never worked so hard, never earned so much. But suffering increases. We need not go theorizing to find explanations; $900,000,000 wasted for drink ; as much more lost through the results of drink ; these are not leaks in a dam, they are crevasses when the Mississippi is at high flood. Inundations follow. In these facts is explanation enough of hard times, suffering and discontent, in a period when labor gets better wages than it ever got before, when money can buy more good things than it could ever buy before. If what wage-earners alone waste in saloons were used to buy useful commodities, hard times would cease. Business would have in it such life, health and equilibrium that the desperate gamblers of Wall Street could not organize a panic. Not every wrong that pinches labor is due to the saloon ; labor has a just complaint against exacting and oppressive monopolies, but if labor were free from the saloon tax, every other evil could be borne, or remedied. The statistics of crime, pauperism, ignorance and lunacy, in every state of the Union and in every civilized country, sustain and enforce these conclusions.
THE RELATION OF THE SALOON TO POLITICS is a large theme. It is only custom that makes the existence of the saloon possible in a free country. If from the beginning our nation had been free from the saloon in politics, and it should come down upon us in a day, it would convulse the people with indignant and expulsive energy. Every country neighborhood would rise in wrath against the mortal foe of good government. A million foreign soldiers, landing at Hampton Roads and marching on the Capital, would not shock or stir the people more profoundly. If done for the first time, no community, great or small, would recognize or submit to the issues of any election for any office conducted under the auspices and determined by the power of the saloon. But we do submit to such things—submit without a word.
Through the generations we have been growing used to the saloon in politics. It has come to be like a life-long lameness—a part of the cripple's life. He does not mind it; he can hardly get on without it; soundness of limb would bereave him. All along in our nation's history, as in the history of other countries, there has been a feeling of unrest in society, in relation to the liquor traffic. There has been an instinct apprehending peril, and vaguely and often blindly seeking to protect itself. This is the meaning of all the restrictive and regulative legislation from 1636, when Plymouth Colony enacted a feeble statute, licensing and seeking to hold in check a trade that even then was felt to be hurtful. Very much in the spirit of the old colonists, society has gone on for two hundred and fifty years, gravely piling up little sand-heaps, imagined to be dykes, against a rising and angry sea. .
To-state fully the evil power of the saloon in our politics, requires a knowledge of the evil thing and its ways that no good and honest man can have. The saloon people understand their power, and use it to the utmost. Some years ago, a bar-keeper in Richmond, Va., heard some talk of a reform movement in municipal politics. He laughed it to scorn, and declared his faith in his god: “Any barroom in Richmond is a bigger man in politics, than all the churches in Richmond put together.” A leading senator, who was not a Prohibitionist, but who had voted against the insolent demands of the whisky ring, said to me in this city three winters ago: “Men talk of the power of banks, railroads and other great corporations in Congressional lobbies; I tell you, the hardest ring to stand up against is the liquor ring." Seeing what the liquor power has accomplished in national and state legislation; how it challenges the respectful attention of the great parties, and has always done it; how it manipulates municipal governments, whether in great cities or interior villages; how it packs legislatures, town-councils and juries; how it subsidizes what newspapers it wants, or, when it cannot hire, sets up its own; seeing how desperately hard it is to resist, and how often and completely it wins—there seems to be reason in the senator's conclusion.
It may well be so. The liquor power has vast resources, and its profits are so great it can well afford a lavish use of money. It is directed by shrewd men, ripe in evil wisdom, and they know how to put their money where it will do the most good. They are unscrupulous, and hesitate at nothing they dare. Conscious of their power, they will dare most things.
As long as men are weak or wicked, the liquor power endured
will buy or compel what it wants. Our tyrant has every opportunity; the universal diffusion of the saloon secures an active, interested, potent ally, in every precinct. Elective affinities bring to the saloon, and into the circle of its despotic influence, the very men it needs—the men who cast their ballots with the least intelligence, the least conscience and for the lowest price. A pauper drunkard who can stand up long enough to deposit his ballot, counts as much as the Chief Justice. This statement does not revile our principle of universal suffrage, but it does show how necessary it is to guard so great a power from perversions so easily accomplished.
Mr. R. D. Locke (Petroleum V. Nasby), who knows men and the methods of the liquor power better than most observers, states the case with conclusive force and clearness. Some of his strong statements I quote at this point:
“ The loss to the country in the amount of money actually paid for intoxicants, and, consequently, worse than lost, is the least of the evils resulting from it, and consequently the least important reason for prohibition. A far more important reason is the infernal part it plays in politics. In Toledo, with 90,000 population, there are 800 whisky and beer shops. The vote of the city is 15,000. Now, these shops will average two votes each, the proprietor and one assistant, which makes a total of 1,600. This is a tremendous power, especially as it is wielded by one head. All these men belong to the Liquor Dealers' Association, and act together. These men have no principles. They are not divided upon tariff, currency and other questions; politics is part of their business, and their vote is cast as one, that it may be made profitable. They are in a business that everybody looks upon as disreputable; they are in it to make money, and they care not how they make it. In party contests this power nas two points to make. First, to demonstrate that it is a power which is not to be meddled with. No matter whether the candidate aims at the Presidency, a seat in Congress, a school directorship, or a park commissionership, the first question the Liquor Dealers' Association asks, is, Is he a temperance man? If he is, the whole power of the organization is turned against him. They want it understood that no one can be elected to any place of honor or profit without their help. The showing of this power ensures them against such troublesome interference as the enactment of early-closing laws, Sunday closing, large taxation, and above all, prohibition. They aim at the control of the law-making power as well as the law-executing power.
“Secondly, they want their places to be made the center of political management, the places where committees meet, and from whence money used in the elections is to be dispensed. From this money they take their toll, as a matter of course."
Mr. Locke shows that if, to the 1,600 men immediately engaged in saloon-keeping in Toledo, there is added the men who are in collateral trades and who are directly influenced by them, there will be a total equal to nearly half the entire vote of the city. Who can gainsay his conclusion? “ It is a power which can and does control the cities of the country. Parties vie with each other in bidding for the saloon vote, nominations are made with sole reference to it, and this unholy power would become the government, but for the counteracting influence in the country, which is yet, to some extent, free from its dominion.”
Could not every city and large town in the country furnish confirmations of the foregoing statements ?
One illustration, startling and instructive, I offer. It is taken from a recent official report made to the House of Representatives of the Legislature of Tennessee. The committee was “appointed to ascertain the number of liquor dealers in the state, and the amount of revenue due, and the amount paid to the state by liquor dealers." In the introductory statements of the committee, preceding their appalling columns of statistics, occurs this paragraph :
“We have been reliably informed that in a certain district of the state the present Judge and Attorney-General were supported in their election by whisky dealers, with the express understanding that they should not be prosecuted for not taking out a state license to sell whisky, or, if prosecuted, that the fine, if any at all, should be nearly nominal."
The committee naively add : “In this case, as in all others of delinquent payers, the clerk should issue a distress warrant and take immediate steps to collect such tax due the state.” As if the bad thing they discovered was the loss of revenue! What sort of distress warrant should the outraged people issue in such a case ?
THE SALOON AND MORALS. It is enough to name this part of the subject. As well repeat the multiplication table here, as to argue that the saloon fosters vice and breaks down virtue-fosters every vice and breaks down every virtue of which man is capable. The vilest vender of liquor knows this, and, when he speaks truly, does not deny it. The saloon recognizes its evil nature ; it never pleads the good it does as a reason for existence. It has absolutely but one motivemoney-getting ; it lives on men's weaknesses and vices; it makes men weak and bad, that it may extend its trade and increase its gains. Its greed is insatiable and pitiless; it adulterates what it sells with drugs, and makes the thirst of its victims a mere animal rage, that overturns the reason, sears the conscience and paralyzes the will.
We are considering the “Saloon as a Peril” to our institutions. It does not need argument to show that whatever impairs or destroys the morals of the people, impairs and destroys whatever is good in their institutions.
Certain conditions that obtain in our national life at this time increase the power of the saloon to do its work of ruin.
It is not too much to say that we live at a time when opportunity is only equaled by the perils that come with it. History has no parallel for the marvelous growth of our nation in all the elements of material greatness. Ours is a vast country, with resources unmatched in any part of the world.
Our territory is filling up with all sorts of people from all countries. Presently there will be a hundred millions of us—at no distant period, twice a hundred millions. With the immigrants flocking to our shores are many of the excellent of the earth, and they are welcome; among them come thousands who bring us only evil, and every kind of evil. These have no ideas or sympathies in common with the genius of our institutions. There is nothing in them in harmony with those influences and principles of life that have made us a great people; they come with notions and feelings hostile to what is truly characteristic and good in our national life. The worst elements in this foreign life gravitate to the saloon as soon as it reaches our shores. It is in sympathy with the saloon, and, as all men know, in the large cities and towns the foreign element is the surest support of the liquor traffic. In the large