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Experiences of a Backwoods Preacher
Chapter XI. Traces of the Traffic

FEW and far between are the individuals in this country who can claim complete exemption from the effects of the liquor traffic. In no direction can we turn so as not to cross the slimy trail of this monstrosity. It draws itself over the threshold of the peaceful, happy home, and peace and happiness flee from its presence. It drags itself into the workshop, and blows its foul breath into the face of the mechanic, and he exchanges his tools for the drunkard’s maddening bowl, and barters his workshop for the drunkard’s dishonoured grave.

It goes to the cultivator of the soil and whispers to him of gain and gold, and he turns his acres into sources of supply to the man with the capacious abdomen, the brewer, and the red-faced and blear-eyed distiller.

It sneaks into the grocery store and points its proprietor to the largeness of the profits of the traffic, and he places the whiskey cask in the cellar beside the pork barrel, and the butter firkin, and puts the brandy bottle on the same shelf with mottled soap and friction matches. It gets to the ear of the man who keeps a boarding house and a travellers home and persuades him that his house and his business will go to ruin unless he connects a bar-room with his dining-hall, and mixes the sale of poison with the sale of food.

It shakes its brawny fist in the face of the politician, and, like Peter in the “judgment hall,” he dare not tell nor act the truth. The lawyer is made to believe that his case is made clearer when he wets his brief with whiskey. The doctor is told that his patient has a better chance for life with alcoholic medication than without it. Thus in all directions has it spread its delusions and in every locality has it placed its snares.

This Moloch has set up its shrines upon the hilltops and in the valleys. They are to be found along the country roads and beside the city streets. Everywhere they are to be found. And to these places people go to pay their homage to this deceptive and deceiving demon, and to caress and hug their destroyer.

The mind of a philosopher would fail to grasp, and the imagination of a poet would fail to describe, the dark catalogue of woes that lie concealed in the secret recesses of some of these temples where the rum-god is worshipped.

We will stand awhile and watch the door of one of these inviting places and see who enters. We see that old man of seventy or eighty years, bending upon his staff as he moves along with tottering steps to the bar, were he has often been before. He has become so familiar with the place that he seems like a fixture there more than like a visitor. Poor old man! he will soon go where bar-rooms cease to be a snare. But will the old drunkard be at rest?

Next goes in a man just in his prime. He has a wife and family at home. He loves them. He would shudder at the very thought of harming them. But he has made an entrance in the way that leads to the drunkard’s doom. He tarries long and late at night; he then comes out and goes staggering to his home. A dark shadow henceforth hangs over that home for a few years. Then it is broken up. The mother dies with a broken heart. The children are scattered, to find a home among strangers. A few years later the father goes down to the drunkard’s and the pauper’s grave.

Next there comes strutting up the street a fast youth. He has between his teeth the stump of a cigar at which he is sucking away as if his very life depended on a certain number of draughts per minute.

He swings himself with his cane and cigar into the bar-room. While he dawdles around the tavern he gets the finishing touches to a dissipated character and learns some lesson in vice and uselessness that he did not know before.

He goes from this out into the world to find a thoughtless girl who will be silly enough to link her destiny with his; and when he finds her he will blight her prospects in life, crush all hopefulness out of her heart, drive the roses from her cheeks, turn her cheerfulness to sadness, and send her, as a mere wreck of her former self, to a premature yet welcome grave.

But here comes a woman. See how wistfully she looks into the face of every one she meets. She is seeking some one that she dreads to meet. See how she peers into that bar-room. Some absent one is weighing heavily upon her heart. Who is it? Is it husband, son or brother? We do not know. Or perhaps she is a member of the “Woman’s Christian Temperance Union,” seeking to save the idol of some other woman’s heart.

Look, look! Do you see that little bundle of rags coming up the street ? Those rags are intended to cover the person of a little girl, but in this they are only very partially successful. See how she shrinks from those she meets; she pulls up the old rag of a shawl that she wears so as to hide her face from the rude gaze of the men and boys who are idly standing on the sidewalk in front of the bar-room. See again how she tries to conceal that bottle, in which she is forced to carry to her thrice wretched home the devilish stuff that poisoned with its offensive odours the first breath of air that ever entered her lungs, and by its Satanic influence has embittered every moment of her life from then to the present time.

When I think that the poor little creature before us may grow up to be a woman under all the bad influences of a drunkard’s unblest home, it makes me sad of heart. But, dear me, where am I getting to? I did not start to write a temperance lecture, but simply to gather up a few pebbles from among the hard rocks that lie along the trail of the rum traffic.

No. 1.—He Wanted a Fiddler.

I was once sitting in a barber shop enjoying a shave when a young man entered. He was very tipsy, as we used to say when I was a boy. I think that the word used now to convey the same idea is “tight.” Well, we will say he was “tight.” As I said, he came in and began to stagger about the shop, coming once very near where I was sitting. I shoved the barber’s hand aside and said to him, “My friend, it makes me nervous to have that sharp razor about my face under existing circumstances.” He took the hint, and told the party to sit down and keep quiet. He sat down for a short - time; then he began to walk the floor and sing,

“I will eat when I am hungry,
I will drink when I am dry,
And if whiskey does not kill me,
I will drink it till I die. ”

Then, turning suddenly to the barber, he called out, “I say, Bob, what will you charge to go to McMurchy’s on Wednesday night and fiddle? We are going to have a regular old Virginia breakdown, minus the curly heads and black faces. What will you take and go?” “Well,” said the other, “I will go for six dollars. Is that too much?” “No; come along.”

He started out, but at the door he turned about and said to me, “I say, mister, do I look like a man that has spent one thousand dollars in six months?”

I answered by saying, “When a man drinks whiskey as you seem to do, it is not easy to say how much he will spend.”

“Well, six months ago, I had one thousand dollars in cold cash, and to-day I have not one little dime left.”

After he went out the barber said, “That fellow has one of the best mothers that the Lord ever gave to a young man, but he is breaking her heart by his dissipation. He has two beautiful sisters who have no superiors in the town, but they are almost distracted about him, their only brother. His father is a good man, too. Six months ago the young scapegrace offered to go to Dakota and take up land, and go to work on it, if he could get the means to do so. His father, taking his words as truth, counted him out the money that he told you of; but he did not go West, and now his money is gone and he is a nuisance to the place. Before I would do as he has done I would hire, some big man to tie a stone to my neck and then put me in a wheelbarrow and trundle it to the end of the wharf and dump me into the lake.”

No. 2.—She did not Know what Ailed the Baby.

While passing a house one Sabbath my attention was arrested by hearing my name called with much vehemence. I stopped until a woman came out and said, “O, mister, will yes plase come in and see if you can tell what is the matter wid me darlint of a baby.” Now, I knew that this house was one of the lowest kind of groggeries, kept by a man who prided himself on being a Protestant. He could curse the Pope by the hour, and sing about “ William of immortal memory,” until he was hoarse. He knew as much about the Boyne and William and the Pope as a goose knows
about driving a baker’s cart, and not much more. I tied my horse to a post and went in to see the “baby.” In an old rickety cradle was an infant of a few months old, lying in a stupor. The poor little thing had every appearance of being drunk. In the room were two or three other children, whose pinched and starved appearance was enough to make one’s heart sick to look at them. “What do you think is the matter with the babe?” I said to the mother. The father was in a corner sleeping off the effects of an all-night carouse with some companions in dissipation.

In answer to my question the woman said, “We do not know what is the matter with the little dear. It will lay sometimes for hours just as you see it now. Thin it will wake up and act as if it was wantin’ somethin’. Thin it will pull away at me bosom until I have no more for it. Thin it will turn sick at its stomick and throw up all that it took, and after a little it will cry, and I give it some more of the doctor’s stuff, and in a little while it goes into one of the ‘spells’ again.”

I said to her, “Show me some of the doctor’s stuff.” She went to a little cupboard and brought a bottle and handed it to me. When I smelt of it, I said “Why, this is only whiskey!”

“Shure, and that is all, sir!” was her answer.

“And do you give this to your baby every time it cries?” I asked.

“Yes; I make it nice and swate for the little darlint.” “Well, my good woman, do you not know that you are killing your baby with this stuff. If you were to strike it on the head with a hammer and knock out its little brains, it would be sure to kill it. But to feed it with this whiskey, as you say you do, will kill it just as surely, though more slowly.” The little one died in a few days, and people said, “Poor little thing, it was never strong, and it is well that the Lord has taken it.”

No. 3.—A Baby in the Snow.

In a certain locality there lived a farmer who had a drunken wife. Do what he could he could not keep her sober if she could get liquor.

One day they went to town. She had an infant of a few months old in her arms. When they were ready to start home, she had managed to get enough of her favourite to make her tipsy. The man put her and the baby in and wrapped them nicely up in the sleigh robes, and charged his wife to hold on to little Nellie as he had to look after the horses. The snow was deep and the wind was drifting it up in heaps. They had ten or eleven miles to go.

When they got home the man went to help his wife out and found her fast asleep. But worse than that, there was no baby to be found. It had slipped out of its mother’s arms and was lost somewhere along the road. The man got one of his neighbours to go with him and they started out to hunt up the lost little one.

After scanning every rod of road for six miles they saw something that looked like the corner of a shawl flopping above the snow. There they found the baby all buried under, but one corner of the wrap that was around it. When he took it up and shook off the snow, the child looked up at him and cooed and laughed as though it was being taken out of its cradle.

No. 4. As good a farm as could be found in the county was the one left to No. 4 by his father. He had learned to drink in early life. Sometimes he would take too much. But not much was said about it. But the habit grew upon him. At fifty-five years of age his farm was gone, his wife was dead, and he was homeless and penniless and almost a vagrant. All through rum!

No. 5 had a good farm given him by his father. He married a good wife. For some years he was a leading man in the Church. Then he lost his wife and took to drink. He married another good wife. He got along for a few years pretty well. But the drinking habit increased. He became reckless about his business; got to horse-racing and other bad ways. He mortgaged his farm for money to spend foolishly. He died while still comparatively young, leaving his wife with his first wife’s children and her own to provide for as best she could.

No. 6 kept a hotel on a splendid farm that his father and mother had hewed out of the solid wilderness. He married into a respectable family. He took to drink, and in middle life died a raving maniac, requiring three strong men to hold him in bed while whiskey and delirium tremens did their terrible work.

No. 7 was a school teacher without wife or family, He was a man of large intelligence. He was a member of a Church. He gave way to the appetite for drink. He joined the Sons of Temperance to try and get the mastery over this habit. He broke his pledge after having kept it for a year or two. He got on a drunk and never sobered off until deliriums took hold of him. He died, shouting at the top of his voice, “O take away these snakes!”

No. 8 owned a good two hundred acre farm and kept a store. He was a very clever man. He stood high in the estimation of his neighbours. He was county warden for a number of years. He was a candidate for parliamentary honours, and would have been a very useful man if he had kept sober. He became more and more the slave of drink, and finally died, leaving a large property so involved that his family could not redeem it. His wife in a few years, as I am told, followed him to an untimely grave through strong drink.

No. 9 was a doctor, said to be well read up in medical science. He took to drink. Lost his wife; he married another. She would not allow him about the place when he was drunk. He lost his practice. He became discouraged, and in a fit of despondency he went into a hotel stable, cut his jugular vein, and was found by the hired girl when she went out to milk the cow. He had died alone.

No. 10 was a druggist, and a man of many fine characteristics. He was honest, kind-hearted and truthful ; but drink got the mastery over him, and he died before the frosts of age had begun to bleach his hair, leaving a noble woman to lament his untimely end.

No. 11 was a woman and a wife and a mother. Her husband was a very fine man and an intelligent manufacturer, doing a prosperous business. She took to drink through taking liquor from a doctor as medicine. Everything was done that loving solicitude on the part of husband and friends could prompt or devise to save her. But all to no purpose. Respect for her sex forces me to close the story and draw a veil over the scene.

No. 12 was a man who long took a leading part in everything that was good. But he never could be made to see anything wrong in taking a glass of liquor. As he grew older the love of drink increased so that he was frequently intoxicated. One day while drunk he fell out of his waggon and was killed. The man who, as a class-leader, had formerly often pointed others in the way to heaven, came to his end through drink.

No. 13 was a hotel-keeper. He owned a corner house in a town where I once lived. He took no pains as to what sort of house he kept. He was hardly ever found sober. He became one of his own best customers. One day he became speechless while drunk. He lay in this condition two or three days and then died.

No. 14 was said to be worth twelve or fifteen thousand dollars. When he was getting old he married a widow much younger than himself. He became a hard drinker. He got careless in his business. He would lend his money without security or vouchers. At length he was never sober. He was stricken with paralysis one day and never spoke any more. He died and left his widow to unravel the tangled skein of business as best she could with the help of two or three lawyers. They were quite willing to help her, but somehow it seemed that the most of the ravellings got into the wrong pockets, as usual, and the widow’s share was not very much.

No. 15 was a mechanic. He was an honest man generally, but he was given to drink. One night he went home from work and he took with him a jug of whiskey. He asked his wife to drink with him ; on her refusing to do so, he produced a bottle of laudanum and commenced to take it. His wife, seeing the word poison on the bottle, sprang forward and took it from him. But he took it from her again after a desperate struggle, in which he scratched her hand at a fearful rate to force her to let go the bottle. He swallowed the poison in his drunken madness and died before anything could be done, as no doctor could be got.

No. 16 was a veterinary surgeon. He was a man who would have been a good and useful citizen only for drink. But his appetite controlled his judgment and overruled his conscience. He struggled with his enemy for a while and then fell a victim to this destroyer of thousands. He died, while still a young man, leaving a wife and family to weep over a drunkard’s grave.

No. 17 was a medical doctor. He was a man of great skill, and at one time he had a very large and lucrative practice, but he became dissipated in his habits. He lost much of his prestige and patronage. He went on from bad to worse until he died at the age of fifty, leaving a family behind him.

No. 18 was the wife of a doctor. When I commence to write about her it seems to me that I can hear the whispers of a sainted mother and two sisters, and three daughters, now in glory, saying, “Spare our sex. Don’t write bitter things about them.” My heart refuses to dictate, and my hand declines to pen the sentences that portray a woman’s sins and sad, sad fate through drink. She died, and that is enough to say.

No. 19 was a capitalist and money-lender. He was one of the most manly men I ever met, but alcoholism was his weakness and his bane. And all the influence of a kind wife and lovely children and every consideration that pointed to domestic felicity and financial success failed to check his downward course. His sun of life went down at noon, and the grave received its victim from the hands of the rum-seller ere the hand of age had made a wrinkle upon his brow.

No. 20 was a lawyer who stood well in the profession, with as fine a little woman for a wife as ever presided over a peaceful home. He was trusted and honoured by his fellow-citizens. He was successful in his business until the great giant that has conquered so many noble men got him in his grasp. That grasp was never relinquished until the poor victim died. Then weeping friends and mournful neighbours carried him to the grave. Everybody knew that the lamp of his life had been blown out by the foul breath of the rum-demon.

No. 21 was a model young man. He grew up under the careful training of a very strict religious mother. At twenty-one lie had never tasted strong drink of any kind. Mothers would point their sons to him as an example of what a young man ought to be. He married a most amiable and excellent wife. The old homestead in which he was born and reared had been put into his hands, along with the care of his aged parents, who were both living. About the age of twenty-five he commenced to drink. At thirty-two he was tippler, a spendthrift, and a rake. At forty his farm was gone, his wife was dead, and the old people had gone in sorrow to their grave. His eldest son died a drunkard before he reached the age of twenty-five. At last accounts the unhappy cause of this wretchedness was still on the road to destruction.

No. 22 was an old man when I first saw him. He had owned a farm, but it had passed out of his hands. He was a very hard drinker. He lived on the outskirts of the town. One terrible night in winter he left the hotel and started to go home ; he never got there. The next spring he was found in a gully on the back end of a farm, nearly a mile from his home. He had gone past his own gate, got lost, and wandered off into the fields and died in a drift.

A poor old man one winter night,
Seeking his home with all his might,
While no kind helper was in sight,
Sank down beneath the snow.
How oft he strove to rise again,
And seek his homeward path in vain;
How lone he lived to suffer pain,
No one on earth can know.
’Tis said that he was fond of drink,
And sellers did not stop to think
How soon their customer might sink
And die beneath the snow.
They seem to have but little care,
If they could but his coppers share,
Where he might go, how he might fare,
At bedtime he must go.

No. 23 was a man of strange history. He married quite young, and went at an early day to one of the back townships and secured three hundred acres of bush land of an excellent quality. He faced the difficulties of pioneer life like a hero; he worked like a slave till he got a large clearing and good buildings. In fact, he had one of the best farms in the county of Grey. At last he took to drinking so hard that he made a complete fool of himself. He was a nuisance in the neighbourhood and a terror to his family. His farm passed out of his hands; he and his wife parted; the children were scattered; he sank lower and lower, and the last that I heard of him he was a homeless wanderer, beloved by no one, and remembered only to be despised.

No. 24 was left with a fine property by his father. He was always fond of drink, and took no pains to conceal or control the appetite. He married young. After a few years of fast living and recklessness in spending his money, he found himself a poor man. He went to hotel-keeping for a while, but in a short time he died and left his wife in poverty.

No. 25 was a genius; he had a good farm, and for a long time got along as well as his neighbours ; but he foolishly sold his farm and bought a hotel in a little village near by. He took to drinking and in a few years died through drink. So far as natural endowments were concerned, this man was capable of becoming anything almost, but the light of intellect and fires of genius were extinguished by the liquid that has darkened so many pages of human history.

No. 26 was an old man when I first met him. He was a general favourite, especially among the children and youths of his acquaintance. He was a slave of the drinking mania. He had neither family nor friends in this country. He was a Frenchman. At length he became a sort of promiscuous helper at two hotels about a mile apart, going from one to the other as necessity or inclination demanded. One stormy night in winter, while in a state of almost helpless intoxication, he started to go from one hotel to the other ; but he never got there. The people where he started from did not know but that he got through in safety, and the people where he was going did not know that he had started, so he was not missed for a week or more. Next spring, when the snow went off, his remains were found in a drift along the fence beside the road. Part of the face had been eaten by the foxes.

No. 27 was an English lady of good social position; but culture, refinement, social standing, womanly dignity, and religious principle were not a safe environment to save her from the allurements of the liquor traffic. She died.

No. 28 was a tailor by trade, and a number one workman. He got entangled in the snares of this deceiver. He lost his wife, then sank lower in his habits. Afterward he married again. In a few months he died calling for drink, and left a wife and family of children to mourn without hope.

No. 29 was a young man, or rather a large boy; but he was fond of drink, and was often intoxicated. In one of his drunken bouts he sat down on the railway track when a train was coming, and he was killed. His career was a short one; but it was long enough to add one more to the hundreds of thousand of the victims of this traffic.

No. 30 was a Canadian woman and the mother of a family. She gave way to drink, and died in a snowbank.

No. 31 was a man of an influential position in his municipality. He had a good farm. He had a superior wife and a very fine family. He was for years a member of the Church, and an office-bearer in it. He gave way to the appetite for drink and became an inebriate. He sold out his farm, left his family, and went off no one knew where, a wicked and ruined man. Where he is, if alive, or where he died, if dead, are things unknown to his friends.

No. 32 was a doctor well read in medical science. At one time had a large practice. He became a drunkard, and died through drink before he was much past middle age.

No. 33 was a man who had but few equals either as a business man or as a citizen. For a number of years he was at the head of municipal affairs in his township. He owned a very fine property, but drink proved his bane. He died comparatively poor. Through the mercy of God, he was led to seek and obtain forgiveness after he had destroyed his constitution and squandered much of his property. He died lamenting the folly of his life.

No. 34 was the wife of No. 32. She was an exceedingly interesting person; was refined, intelligent and amiable in her manner, and good-looking, if not beautiful in her appearance. She drank, and she died.

No. 35 was a farmer. He was a man of more than average intelligence; he was a hard worker; he cleared up his farm, and raised a large family; but he always loved drink. At last it destro}red him in every way, and he died a poor drunkard.

No. 36 was of the same name as No. 35, though their homes were in different counties, and they were no relation to each other. He was a genial, rrood-natured man when sober, but when under the influence of liquor he was quarrelsome; but he broke himself down, and died before he was old. He left a wife and family behind him. He was missed by his neighbours when he died.

I shall close this dark catalogue. I might add many more, who have either been entirely destroyed, or greatly injured by the use of legalized poison ; but I think that three dozen is enough for one list. I could give the name and location of every person enumerated here, if it were necessary to do so; but it could serve no good purpose to give needless exposure to the sins and follies of the departed. Some in this sad list were relatives of my own, and others were relatives of my friends. I would not like to have their names published to the world.

These unfortunate ones are all relatives of somebody who would not like to have their names made public. For this reason the names are withheld; but that does in no way affect the truthfulness of the statements made in the above descriptions. The question that meets us right here is, “Who slew all these?” The only truthful answer that can be given is: these were slain by the legitimate results of a traffic that the Christians of this country have protected by Act of Parliament and licensed for money. The day is coming when the blood of these people must be accounted for. Where, then, will the responsibility rest ? Can all the blame be thrown on the unfortunates themselves, and on their destroyers, the liquor-sellers? No, not all. The man who upholds the traffic by vote or otherwise will have to bear a share. The woman who favours the traffic by her words or by her actions will have to take a part of this responsibility.

Another question comes up closely related to the former. It is this: “What slew all these?” These were all slain by a substance that the Rev. Dr. Carry, and others who think with him, claim to be an indispensable ingredient in sacramental wine. The learned Doctor repudiates the use of any unfermented liquid in the administration of the sacrament. In fact, he seems to think it is almost sacrilegious to use the unfermented juice of the grape in that solemn rite.

Let us examine the position of those who assume so much and prove so little on this important and interesting subject. The only new ingredient introduced into grape juice by fermentation is alcohol. So if wine must be fermented before it is fit for sacramental purposes, it must be the presence of alcohol that imparts to it that fitness. Now, if it be the presence of alcohol that gives the fitness, then why not use any other liquid in which this qualifying ingredient is found.

For instance, “What is fermented wine?”—It is alcohol and something else—mostly water.

“What is whiskey?”—It is alcohol and something else—mostly water.    .
Alcohol is the only indispensable ingredient in sacramental wine. Fermented grape juice contains alcohol, and hence it is equal to the demands of sacramental wine. Whiskey contains alcohol, and it is equal to the demands of sacramental wine. Now, since things equal to the same are equal to each other, it follows that whiskey and fermented wine are equal to each other for sacramental purposes.

Doctor Carry and his friends may please themselves in the selection of what they will or will not use in administering the sacrament, but 1 am happy to be able to say that years ago I gave up the use of alcoholic wine and whiskey for sacramental or any other purposes, only when given as medicine by an honest medical man.

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