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النشر الإلكتروني

QUARTERLY OBSERVER.

No. V.

JULY, 1834.

Article I.
POLITICAL ECONOMY OF INTEMPERANCE.

The connection between intemperance and the laws of individual and national wealth, has never been very fully or distinctly pointed out. It is to be hoped that a subject of such interest will, ere long, find some able author to bring it before the public mind in a manner worthy of its importance.

The following pages are not supposed to develope or illustrate this connection with much fullness or clearness; but the author of them, hopes that they may stimulate more powerful minds to a pursuit of the investigation therein attempted.*

The first great agent employed in the production of wealth, is physical strength; that power of “ bone and brawn and sinew,” which man calls into exercise in the performance of every kind of bodily labor.

It need only be said, in order to meet with full and hearty assent, that, of two nations, possessing in other respects equal advantages of acquiring wealth, that one will most surely and rapidly grow rich which possesses the greatest amount of active physical power ;—whose laboring citizens are either most numerous, or most vigorous. Is not this evidently and necessarily true? It is no less true of families and individuals than of nations, that superiority of strength occasions superiority of wealth. Look at any two farms in this or any other vicinity, of equal fertility, but one of which is under the culture of twice as many persons, or of persons twice as robust and healthy ; which yields the largest profits ? Look into any scene of labor, the field or the workshop, and you can instantly perceive which one of all employed as workmen, can perform the heaviest task, and command the highest wages.

* We have not yet seen the prize essay of the Hon. Mark Doolittle, on this subject, but are led to expect much in relation to it by the known ability of its author, and his devotion to the temperance cause.

VOL. III.

If, then, an individual or a community, be operated on by any cause which diminishes health and bodily energy, that individual and community are necessarily rendered poorer, and the fact is not varied, let the operating power be what it may :- be it climate, or disease, or modes of subsistence. Within the tropics the action of heat is so debilitating to the race of whites, that on an average, they cannot perform half the labor which constitutes the easy daily task of the blacks, who love the hottest sun. Were half our population diseased, they could not keep pace, in either labor or wealth, with the other and healthy half :-So that a sickly season is always less productive than one of ordinary health ; as we have all been taught by observing with what deadly certainty “famine dogs the steps” of the plague, in countries visited by that terrible pestilence. So, also, the use of such food as contributes sittle to invigorate the system, or which tends to the reduction of its powers, must of course, to some extent, retard the progress of wealth. Let one of our hale, and hard-working farmers, men of broad shoulders, and giant strength, and untiring vigor, abandon his customary diet of animal food, and macerate himself with those thin gruels, and coarse breads, and meagre vegetables which sustain the feeble frame of a city dyspeptic, and we venture to say that his harvests would look as lean and starved, as he himself, at the summer's end !

We all feel ready to allow the truth of this principle, and the force of these illustrations. Let us proceed in the next place to exhibit the connection existing by means of this principle, between the use of ardent spirit and the accumulation of wealth. Physicians inform us that no healthy person is ever benefited by this use. To this declaration, emanating as it does, from the most eminent medical men of our chief cities, we are bound to yield unqualified belief. Now, let us ask, how would a plain, common-sense man reason upon this declaration, supposing that physicians carried it no further? Would he not argue somewhat in this manner : • If ardent spirit be not beneficial, it must be injurious; a fluid so hot and stimulating, which in small doses so strongly affects my feelings, and which, when largely taken, destroys the control of the will over the body, and reduces the body to insensibility, cannot be neutral in its operation; it must be a great good, or a great evil. I know that my physical system is a very delicate piece of machinery :-as Watts so truly calls it “a harp of thousand strings ;" a trifling cause deranges its movements; by a slight change the fluid that fills my veins is converted as it were into fire; the complex system of my nerves is easily shocked, and sometimes, by a single glass, the wonderful chemistry of my digestive functions is disturbed, and apparently converted into a laboratory of poison, instead of nutriment, for my eyes become inflamed, my skin red and ulcerated, my nose lights up like a beaconfire, my sleep is broken, and my whole physical organization seems to be thrown into confusion.'

So would a sensible man reason, and reason truly. He would find arguments in every tremulous hand, and blushing cheek, and reddened eye. Every breath from intemperate lungs would waft the odorous conviction; every carbuncle on his nose would urge its silent eloquence; every hiccough would speak aloud the indisputable truth.

But physicians further inform us that alcohol contains no nutriment. Our readers are aware that there is scarcely to be found another substance in the kingdom of nature, solid or fluid, which will not yield some little nourishment if taken into the stomach. We have all read of the shipwrecked mariner, reduced in his hour of starvation to the necessity of eating even his shoes. Amidst the horrors of a siege, the famished garrison have often devoured their leathern belts, and an inch of horse-skin has been quarreled for as a dainty. Of such things can the stomach make healthy food; but not so of alcohol, which defies the power of digestion. Received into the abused system, it is hurried from one organ to another, as an enemy, each rejecting it in turn, until it is taken by “the emunctories, the scavengers of the system,” and excluded from the body, just as it came from the distillery itself. Such being the case, it is manifest that were alcohol absolutely harmless in its nature, its use would be a physical injury. For whatever employs without nourishing the system, occasions a useless waste of its energies, and induces debility. What would be thought of a man who should daily swallow a pint of saw-dust, or a pound of sand? Yet in these substances would be found more nutriment than in all the alcohol distilled.

But we must go still further to learn the extent of the physical damage inflicted by the use of ardent spirit. It not only sets in motion the functions of the body, but, by its fiery stimulus, forces them into the most rapid and furious career. Thus it heats the blood, and, increasing its circulation, drives the severed torrent, like a stream of burning lava, with resistless violence through vein, and artery, and heart, and lungs, and brain ; subjecting them all to a tremendous pressure, such as that which in a steam-engine defies the resistance of the strongest materials, and the control of the greatest skill in the moment of explosion. Under the inpulse of such unnatural excitement, labor is impossible, and strength is a useless attribute. When the pressure of excitement is removed, the system is left exhausted and unstrung, like that of a person emerging from a paroxysm of pain or of insane effort ; so that the hand falls feebly by the side, and the knees quiver beneath their burden. This alternation of languor and stimulus is life's worst enemy. Not more destructive to the verdant banks of a mountain rivulet are the vicissitudes of the frosts of winter and the floods of spring, than is this succession of exaltation and depression to our perishable bodies. By an exhausting process, horrible alike in its rapidity and results, it strips of strength the mightiest frame, and prostrates in the dust the hardiest constitution.

The intemperate, (by which term we would have it understood that we mean to include every person who uses unnatural stimulus, )—the intemperate are always predisposed to disease of every description. Their principle of vitality is so weak that it can make no resistance to the smallest attack. Circumstances which pass unnoticed by men of correct habits, are always inconvenient, and frequently fatal, to those who are in the habit of using intoxicating beverages. A change of the wind unfits thein for labor. A variation in the temperature of the atmosphere stops short the tide of life in mid-career. “Let but the ordinary heat of summer be a little increased, and they melt at their labor, or are thrown into fever. Let the ordinary cold of winter be a

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