This Curse Could Reach Us – 1886

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Phebe Lippitt Pollock

Phoebe Lippitt Pollock

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A Few Thoughts

Although I may not be able to say anything this evening that will interest you, I am willing to try. Glad indeed if I can help even a little – this good cause. I am proud to belong to such a noble band of temperance workers. I think the W.C. T. U. is the best organization for temperance work there’s ever been started.  That it is going more than all other organizations combined and I hope the good work will go on.  That the time is not far distant when every good women in our land will be a member of the Woman’s Christan Temperance Union and if every good man would become an honorary member it would be an honor to him certainly and would help the good work along.  Just think what a grand army that would be marching on to victory.  Well might old King Alcohol tremble on his throne for with such an army in the field, I think his reign would soon be ended.

And now while I try to point out to you some of the evils of the liquor traffic, I hope your own minds will suggest a remedy and your own hearts prompt you to apply that remedy when you have an opportunity as I expect some of you soon will.  I say tonight as I have said before, what we wish to do is to awaken in the mind of every one a feeling of personal interest in this matter.  A feeling of personal responsibility, a realization of personal danger.

Too many there are who wrap the mantle of selfishness around them, sit down in their happy homes, and say this is no affair of mine.  I am not interested in this subject, I am in no danger from this evil.  I tell you this is a subject that ought to interest every man, woman, and child in these United States.  It is a subject of the most vital importance to us as a nation, to us as a community, to us as individuals.  Our welfare and prosperity, perhaps our very existence as a nation depends on how this question is decided.  Whether rum or right prevails, our own safety depends on this decision.

Do you think any of us would feel very safe if the inmates of all the insane asylums in the country should be turned loose to do as they pleased?  Don’t you think there would be some awful work done and yet there are thousands of raving maniacs, made so for the time by drink, who are allowed to go where and do as they please.  If you wish to know what such are doing for the country, read the newspapers, visit our jails and state prisons.  The number and magnitude of their crimes is simply appalling and we read of them from day to day and from week to week with as much indifferences as we read other news.  Why is this?

I have had old soldiers tell how bad it made them feel when they first went into battle to see men falling dead around them and to see a dead body lying by the road side as they passed along.  But after being engaged in active service for some time such things became so common that they ceased to move them and they could look at the dead body of a man with as much indifference as they would look a log of wood.  I suppose it is on the same principle that we read of the crimes of drunken men we are so accustomed to hear of such things.  We expect such things will happen.  But is it necessary, is it right, is there no remedy for such a monstrous evil?

The man who through misfortune loses his reason, is shut up in an asylum for safety, but the man who deliberately makes himself insane with drink is allowed his freedom till he commits some awful crime then the poor wretch is punished.  That looks to me about like locking your barn door after somebody has stole your horse.  As the minions of the liquor traffic served the Reverend George Haddock on the streets of Sioux City as few months ago, so they would be glad to harm every friend of temperance in our country who opposed them in their work of ruining the souls and bodies of men that they may enrich themselves and if possible rule the nation.

There are so many ways in which this curse can reach us.  So many ways in which the innocent can be made to suffer with the guilty.  Let no one think he standeth lest he fall.  To illustrate my idea of this I will tell a couple of stories which I remember reading in the papers.  They are not exceptional cases as similar events are constantly occurring.

Something over a year ago in our own state of Illinois.  A little girl, 7 or 8 years old, was romping and playing in her father’s yard when the stagecoach came along.  In the coach were two men.  They were brothers and they were drunk.  The whisky was in and the sense was out.  As they came opposite the child they saw her through the window.  And one of them thought he would have some fun.  He carried a revolver in his pocket (as such men usually do).  He drew the weapon from his pocket and pointed it out of the window at the child intending to frighten her.  A sharp report is heard and the merry romping child is lying on the green grass in her father’s yard.  Her heart pierced by a bullet from that revolver that he said he didn’t suppose was loaded.  How do you think the parents of that child felt as they lifted the little dead form and carried it into their darkened home.  Don’t you think they felt that the curse of intemperance had indeed reached them?  Although a few moments before they might have felt very safe.

My second story was very extensively published in the papers at the time and was so sad.  So pitiful that it made a deep impression on my mind.  Before telling it, I will say that I don’t pretend to know more than all the doctors.  I presume most any of them know more than I do.  At least they had ought to.  I don’t think they prescribe liquors for medicine near as much as they used to a few years ago.  I remember a friend of mine who was out of health.  Went to a very prominent physician for a prescription.  Said he, “you get some whiskey and every morning take a drink and it will strengthen you.”  “Why,” said I, “doctor you will make a drunkard of him”.  “Well,” said he, “might I not better do that than to let him die.”  “No,” I said, “I think it would be better for any one to die than to become a drunkard.”  Some time after that I went to the same doctor for a prescription for myself.  Said he, “you need some beer.  Just get a keg of good beer and set it behind the pantry door and…” (end manuscript)

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