What Shall We Do to Be Saved?
A Statesman's Patriotic Disquisition on the Juice of the Grape
By JAMES D. PHELAN
I recently crossed the Mexican
line, and sojourned for several days at Agua Caliente, in old Mexico, where a veritable
Monte Carlo has been established, in an environment of beauty. There was no restriction
upon the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but, strange to say, no one was inebriated.
So I drew the conclusion that where access to spirituous, vinous and malt refreshment
is free, there is no overweening desire to possess them. In the language of the
Bible "Sweet are stolen waters" (when miraculously converted into wine or otherwise)
and "bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
Or, I might draw another inferencethat the liquor they served in
Agua Caliente is unadulterated. There is no need if people are willing to pay. It
might not unreasonably appear that if the United States Federal Government supervised
the manufacture of beverages limiting quantities, and insuring quality, there would
be no rash and unnatural desire, as there is now in the United States, among all
classes, young and old, to drink indiscriminately, and often to excess. "The doctors,"
represented by the United States Congress, in dealing with the public, as a patient,
have, clearly, been guilty of malpractice. In other words
the treatment is a failure. A doctor was once interrogated on the stand
by an Irish judge. When the professional gentleman admitted that he had prescribed
large doses of a dangerous medicine for his unhappy patient, the judge said, "Would
not that dose have killed the devil himself?" The medical answered: "But your honor,
I have not prescribed for the devil." "Well," said the judge, "the more's the pity,
because he is still alive." Drunkenness lives.
If the object of Congress was to prevent intoxication, it must be surprised
to find inebriety not only thriving, but rampant and defiant.
Mr. Hearst has offered
a great prize for a solution of a problem so grave that it threatens to
undermine public law and private morality. The "long-haired" doctors have
plainly made a mess of it. People left to themselves, except on occasions, are naturally
temperate. The common run of people seek stimulation when they are poorly nourished.
Irregular hours and bad cooking might be at the foundation of the drink habit. If
our young women studied cooking in school, rather than pursuing frivolous courses,
they would make capable mates and promote normal physical life among their husbands
and their children. People of other lands, where private rights are respected, make
wine and beer articles of diet, and perhaps, on the theory of inoculation to prevent
disease, there is, among such people, no craving for hard spirits, which, after
all, do the serious damage.
In the Senate, when the prohibition laws were enacted, I moved that an
exception be made in favor of wine and beer. I was able to show that the manufacturers,
through their chief counsel, had attempted to force a combination between the whiskey
interests and the wine interests, by threatening the delegation from the California
Vitacultural Commission with powerful opposition, provided Bacchus and Gambrinus
did not admit John Barleycorn into their society. John Barleycorn was a disorderly
fellow, and not wanted. The Democratic Caucus one evening agreed with me, and the
next day, when the matter came up on the floor of the Senate, my friends of the
night before reneged. A majority of those good Senators were logically convinced,
and would have spared wine and beer, but the lash of the
Anti-Saloon League whipped the manhood out of them, and caused them (through
fear of losing their next election) to abandon their judgment and desert their principles.
It was a sad spectacle.
If wine and beer were permitted the free people of America, perhaps civic
debauchery, bootlegging, drunkenness and crime would have
When free, the several States in the Union, by the exercise of local option
here and there, regulated the liquor traffic. Down South, while the gentlemen drank,
the negroes were prohibited for perhaps, adequate reasons, peculiar to that section.
The great railroads and other corporations made abstention from liquor a condition
of employment, which was working well, and the moral appeal everywhere for temperance
was taking hold of the youth of the land, and good people, in each sphere, the home
and the neighborhood, were accomplishing, in the very practicable way, the very
objects for which the drastic prohibition law is aimed; but the rigid provision
of this law have made it unworkable.
Our country has been awakened to a realization of these facts, by the
excesses of prohibition enforcement. No decent American desires to accept service
in the army of spies and blackguards, corrupt and violent, now enlisted under the
"glorious banner of the brave and the free!" The State of Rhode Island, one of the
very last to enter the Union, as I recollect, for fear of surrendering its liberties
to a Federal monster, and whose fears have just come true, has instructed its Attorney
General to attack the methods by which the Eighteenth Amendment purports to have
been adopted. It is the bastard child of the anti-Saloon League, the third house
of Congress, unknown to law. It corrupted, by bribery and intimitationprincipally
intimidationthe members of the two other houses, and it carried the same methods
into every State capitol, and at a time when the country was engaged in war, and
its bravest sons were in foreign lands.
It is said that there are three sexesmen, women and clergymen; and
I would add that, at that period in our history, there was a fourth, indefinable
sex, known as "slackers." The country was left in charge of people who were essentially
impractical and wholly sentimental; also, very often, in a broad sense, in view
of the noble structure of the constitution, which should preserve our liberties
against trespass, they were unpatriotic and treasonable. As the judge said, "The
more's the pity."
A prohibition government is, indeed, "a fool's paradise."
San Franciscans Magazine
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