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THE INEBRIATE MOTHER.
BT UR8. LIARIA 0. TRACT.
"who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions r Who hath wounds without causer"—SoLOMOtr.
Is presenting to the readers of these pages the following truthful narrative,—selected from the Journal of a Tract Visitor in this city,—we are conscious it is no strange tale of suffering, degradation and zin which we offer for their perusal. So multiplied, indeed, are the cases, similar to this in their cause and details, every day witnessed in all parts of our pleasant land, that their name is properly and emphatically "Legion." Every year, in these United States, thirty thousand individuals, the victims of a legalized traffic in intoxicating drinks, go down to the drunkard's grave. Nor does even this number approximate that of the families, the tablet of whose daily history, if presented for perusal, would be found, like the prophet's roll, to be "written within and without with lamentations, and mourning, and woe;" the constant and teeming fruits of the habitual use of the fiery beverage.
"Were it possible to concentrate and present in one comprehensive, panoramic view, the euffering, sorrow, shame, degradation and crime which make up the history of the multiplied families in our land where the alcoholic stimulant is in daily use; could our eyes behold and our hearts appreciate, in all their intensity, the blighted hopes, the blasted confidence, the sickness of broken, bleeding and despairing hearts; the wasting anxiety, the weary watchings, the days of anguish, the nights of weeping, the shame, the fear, the pains, the toil, the self-denial, the abject poverty; the loss of self-respect, the extinction of all the sweet and tender affections, of conjugal, filial and fraternal bonds; the dethronement of reason; the transformation of the rational to the animal, the sensual, the brutal; the loss to society of the physical, intellectual, and moral power which would otherwise be contributed, and the actual injury inflicted by taxation, mischief and crime;—could all this aggregate of evil be portrayed to our natural and mental vision, the spectacle would be too appalling for contem
plation. Human sensibilities could not endure the sight.
Yet all this untold, unimagined misery exists; not the less, because it is divided, and often lurka in secret, seeking to conceal its shame from the public eye.
This, too, is but the first scene in the drama of woe. All this is but of the earth, temporal in its duration, though terrible in its reality. In contemplating the wretchedness that clusters around the drunkard's home, we do but enter the vestibule that opens into that eternal abode over whose portal, in lines of living light, is written, "JTo drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God I" But here we pause. We shrink from lifting the curtain to contemplate the retributions of eternal death!
The question arises, Is there no remedy I "Shall the sword devour for evert" Is there no power sufficient to stay the arm of the destroyer, as, feeding, unsatiated, on the woes of humanity, he stalks through the land, gathering together his heaps of slaughtered millions as an eternal sacrifice to the demon of despair I
Various remedial instrumentalities have been adopted by the benevolent and philanthropic without success. For many years the hopes of reformers rallied around the pledge, hoping that in this union of strength and effort a wall of public sentiment would be reared for the protection of the uninitiated; and that moral suasion, joined with beneficent action, would save those already in the downward road. These hopes, as regards the masses, have proved illusive as the idle wind. Partial legislation, seeking to throw restraints around the traffic in ardent spirits, has proved alike fruitless; and still the tide of desolation rolls on over our goodly heritage. Such attempts at restraint have seemed but to put in requisition more alluring temptations, and to excite to deeper excesses those who had previously been left to the sway of their own voluntary inclinations. There is yet one remedy to be fully tested, and 132
THE INEBRIATE MOTHER.
we have faith in its efficacy. The success that has attended the total prohibition, by legislative enactment, of the traffic in alcoholic liquors, as a beverage, iu those limited localities where it has been tried, furnishes ground for confidence that its universal adoption will be followed by universal similar results.
The investigations of physiological science have fully demonstrated the truth, that the effect of alcohol on the tissue of the brain, and through this on the mental organization, is such as to deprive the individual addicted to its use of his free moral agency. His judgment is perverted, his self-control becomes a nullity, his moral power' is gone: and thus he is rendered the helpless and almost hopeless victim of temptation. This conclusion is abundantly proved by the illusory belief, always attending the first deviations of the wanderer from the path of sobriety, that he possesses the ability to refrain from indulgence, resist temptation, and even retrace his steps; while his conduct is ever giving the lie to his confidence. The moderate drinker is unwavering in his assurance that he shall never pass the limits prescribed by reason and common sense. He knows how much is beneficial to him, and that he shall never be guilty of the folly and weakness of becoming a confirmed inebriate. But here his judgment is utterly at fault. His tempting Delilah has already shorn him of his strength. The "strong man" has come upon him and insidiously taken from him his armor wherein he trusted. The guard in the citadel, his self-controlling principle, has submitted to the enemy; yet he is insensible to the humiliating fact, and knows not that he is left, helpless and defenceless, a prey to the tender mercies of the wicked. The resolution, oft renewed, "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther," is as often violated; the restraints of early instruction and of society become daily weaker and more inoperative; the influence of domestic ties becomes feebler with each repeated indulgence in the Lethean draught; till at length the effort and even the wish to refrain becomes but a memory of the past; and if left to his own unaided strength, he is lost; lost to his friends, to society, to himself and to God. Ere he is aware of his danger or conscious of his peril, the prospect of his escape from the snare into which he has suffered himself to be beguiled is beyond the bounds of probability. This continual conflict between purpose and action, which invariably marks the beginnings of the drunkard's progress, this readiness to resolve and constant failure to perform, furnishes convincing proof that however
he may choose, and however strong may be hi« desire to break away from the chains which the tempter has thrown around him, and to turn from the dangerous path on which he has entered, his power to do so has departed. And so evident is this fact to all who with observant eye have watched the downward course of the inebriate, that any attempt at conviction by physiological detail and argument is in their case but a work of supererogation.
This one fact being admitted, it furnishes a weighty and irresistible argument in favor of prohibitory law; an argument which no eloquence can refute nor sophistry weaken; and which renders the duty of legislators on this subject plain and imperative. For, if it is within the province of civil power to confine within prison walls those whom poverty or moral depravity leads to the commission of crime against the right, the peace, and the safety of society; if the preventions of forcible restraint are justly and wisely adopted in the case of those who by reason of mental derangement are liable to endanger by violence their own life or the life of others; it surely is no less the part of wisdom and justice to remove from him who has lost the controlling, governing power of the will, those temptations which tend inevitably to his own self-destruction, and to the misery and ruin of those dependent on him; and which operate no less certainly and injuriously against the peace and welfare of community than the insanity of the maniac or the depravity of the robber. If the man who sells poisonous drugs, or instruments of death, with the knowledge that the buyer intends to use them for the destruction of himself or others, is amenable to law, as accessory to the crime committed; by parity of reasoning and with equal justice, should the restraints of law be imposed on him who furnishes distilled liquor to his neighbor, knowing as he does that, though more tardy in its operation, it will as surely, if habitually partaken, destroy the life of the victim as the poisoned drug or the assassin's knife; nay, more, infinitely more; with the destruction of the body, it occasions also the eternal death of the soul!
Public moral and religious sentiment, though now ready for the measure, has long held aloof from advocating the adoption of stringent legal measures for the suppression of intemperance. This has been done partly from conscientious though unfounded scruples in relation to the right to interfere with man's liberty to choose his own business and means of gain, where those who are liable to injury from such business possess
THE INEBRIATE MOTHER. 1S3
the natural and moral power to avoid it. Bat especially has it been argued, that the gotpel presents an efficient and abundant remedy for all the evils attendant on this fallen state; and that to this agency must we look for arresting the progress of self-degradation, destruction and woe which follow in the footsteps of the vendor of alcoholic drinks.
Sacred Scripture, however, informs us that the gospel seed will not vegetate on the rock, nor by the wayside, but only in a well-prepared and fruitful soil. The business of the man who retail* ardent spirits as a beverage, is hardening, petrifying, initatendenciesonthehumanheart. Accustomed to view his victims in all stages of intoxication, of mental incapacity and moral insensibility; accustomed to draw from the helpless captive of his toils the last pittance which should furnish food for himself and his wretched family, it cannot be otherwise than thatall the sensibilities of Mb nature should become blunted, his moral sense vitiated, his conscience seared, all the avenues of feeling obstructed, and, in a word, the heart rendered callous and obdurate, and utterly incapable of receiving impressions from gospel truth. Similar also is the condition of the man who habitually indulges in intoxicating drinks. All his moral perceptions perverted or obscured, and his whole nature imbruted, any attempt to pour the light of truth on his benighted soul seems hopeless; and if, by the energies of the allpowerful Spirit, through the agency of human effort, one such individual is reclaimed and saved, he is regarded by all as "u brand plucked from the burning;" and Bo little confidence is felt in such instances of apparent reformation, that months and even years of abstinence are often insufficient to banish the apprehension of a return to the soul-destroying indulgence.
It is evident, therefore, that in this matter the arm of civil power is necessary to prepare the way for the operation of gospel principles. Temptation must be removed from the poor, weak inebriate; so that reason may have opportunity to resume her sceptre, the sweet affections of our nature regain their legitimate influence, and the moral sentiment again exert its controlling power. And in the case of him who traffics in that which destroys the bodies and souls of his fellow-men, the " fallow-ground" must be broken up by the disciplinary process of legal restrain^ ere we can hope the heart will open to those blessed influences that shall teach him to love his neighbor as himself, and to regard every man as a brother. But not longer to detain the reader from our
narrative,—we simply premise, that a prominent object in presenting it, is to encourage the pious female in her labor of love among the degraded, abandoned victims of intemperance and vice. Imbued with the spirit of the blessed gospel, and panoplied with faith, patience, energy and perseverance, she may save many a soul from death that in human estimation is beyond the bounds of hope. Though, in the language of the most practical and effective female writer England or the world has ever produced,
Woman was bom to dignify retreat,
it is within her appropriate sphere to alleviate suffering, comfort the sorrowful, heal the broken heart, instruct the ignorant, and save the lost, wherever her benign and gentle influence can reach.
March, 1, 185-.—How often is the tract visitor tempted to exclaim, "I have labored in vain, and spent my strength for naught!" Such is my feeling this afternoon after a visit to a poor woman whom I have endeavored to aid, temporally and morally, for a few months past. She is a young woman of English origin, and was educated in genteel boarding-aobools in her native land. But in an evil hour she suffered her affections to become engaged to an unworthy man, and at the age of fifteen, man led him against the injunctions of her parents. For a year or two, they obtained a livelihood by engaging in low theatrical exhibitions; wbeu, her husband dying, she married an American sailor and came with him to this country.
I became acquainted with her by her application to my husband for pecuniary aid; her residence being in his district as visitor for the City Association for the Relief of the Poor. Previous to this, she had been a very intemperate woman, but now had signed the pledge, and seemed resolved to lead a better life. She was the mother of three little children; and so brutal and degraded had her habits of intemperance rendered her, that her husband had not dared to go to sea, fearing that in her fits of intoxication she might cause the death of these helpless babes.
She received aid from the visitor, and also from a fund appropriated by the Legislature for the relief of destitute female relatives of seamen. He accompanied her to several pawnbrokers, and redeemed her moat necessary articles of clothing, bedding, dec., telling her never to pledge them again, but to apply to him, should her necessities require.
But a shsrt time elapsed before we were in! formed that she had returned to the mire from
THE INEBRIATE MOTHER.
which she had been washed, and that she, with other families in her vicinity, disturbed the neighborhood with their nightly bacchanalian revels, not unfrequently requiring the interposition of the police. Her things were again all in pawn, and want staring them in the face, she again applied to the visitor. Confessing her fault with many tears, she said she had renewed the pledge, and earnestly begged for more assistance.
"I cannot come to you,'' she said, with faltering accents, and with humility and self-abasement in every look and tone, "I cannot come to you with the confidence I did before. I have lost all confidence in myself; I have learned my weakness. But I have been deeply injured. With the appetite for liquor yet strong within me, I was sorely tempted to drink by one who was vexed by my taking the pledge, and envious of the favors I received from those who rejoiced in the prospect of my reformation. Thus tempted, is it strange that I fell? But, oh, Sir, I trust my experience in this respect will prove a defence in the future; and hopeless as it may seem to you, let me implore you to take my word, the word of a drunkard, that I will never indulge again."
It was indeed a pitiable sight to see that young woman, only twenty years of age, stand, and with language and address that would not have disgraced the most refined and intelligent lady in the land, plead her injuries and her wretchedness; while she still clung to the hope of reformation, like the drowning mariner to the spar that buoys him up from the engulfing wave!
Thinking my husband did not seem inclined to aid her, I requested him to try her once more; when ehe seconded my request, weeping bitterly as she said: "Oh, Sir, allow Mrs. L. to intercede for me: trust me once more, and I will try with all the strength I have not again to disappoint your hopes.''
He gave her the desired order; and we conversed with her faithfully, seeking to strengthen her good resolutions, and directing her to the only source of strength in the hour of temptation. He particularly urged her to remove from the neighborhood of the porter-house where she lived, from the influence of her evil companions, and to seek a residence in some respectable place; which she promised to do.
After a few days she came to inform me that she had taken a basement in a house oecupied by a respectable family; that ehe had kept the pledge; and that her husband, encouraged by present hopeful appearances, had gone to sea. "And, oh I Mrs. L." said she with tears of joy, "I will try not to betray his confidence; I do hope
I shall yet retrieve my character, and be indeed a mother to my little ones." With words of encouragement, I gave her a line to the visitor of her district, earnestly requesting hrni to watch over and aid her. Soon after, 1 called on the family in whose house she lived, and sought to interest them in her case.
Some three weeks have now passed since she removed to her new home, during which I have often visited her, and she has called on me several times for advice and encouragement; and though, from the fact that she has no moral foundation on which to build, I have had many fears in regard to her, yet, as day after day has passed, my hopes have preponderated, and I have trusted that she would refrain from strong drink a sufficient time to weaken the power of appetite, and furnish opportunity for moral influences to take root in her heart.
On calling at her residence this afternoon, after knocking several times, as no one bade me enter, I tried the latch and opened the door. The scene presented to my view was paralyzing I and for some time I stood dumb and motionless with astonishment. The room, which I had before found in comparative order, was now a scene of perfect confusion. The bedstead was broken down, the mutilated chairs were in all positions about the room, while, strewed around, and mingled in one heterogeneous mass, were bedclothes, wearing apparel, broken dishes, books, and various articles of food. Had the herd of swine possessed with demons entered the room and done their utmost, they could hardly have produced a scene of more complete riot and disorder.
But what shall I say of the wretched tenants of that miserable room f When I opened the door, my first conscious impression was, that those I sought had removed, and that a family of sick emigrants had taken possession; for on the floor, on a heap of dirty rags, lay a woman, her long, black, dishevelled hair, filled with partieles of straw, nearly covering her face. At a little distance from her lay an Irish girl, some fifteen years of age, with a little infant in her bosom, and another young child within the grasp of her arm. But the most affecting feature of the picture was that of a little boy, not more than four years old, sitting on the floor by a stove in which was no fire, keeping watch, like a guardian spirit, over the scene of desolation I Surely, never, never was portrayed upo» canvas such a representation of the drunkard's home as that before my eyes I
When I recovered from my astonishment, and ascertained by the sight of a few familiar articles