THE ROOT OF THE DRINK PROBLEM.
By DR.. C. W. SALEEBV. F.R.S. Edin. One student of thp alcohol question, Dr. Archdall Beid, in his book "AJco-1 holisms,"' goes sn far a> to declare, that only one really pffectivp temperance measure i≤ conceivable, —thaf which forbids parentage to thp drunkard. Though it is impossible. 1 believe, to accept T)r. Reid's, argument as the whole truth, undoubtedly it contains n pveat measure of the most important truth. In the first place, we must rpeognise— and thp conclusion is at ortce scientific and charitable —that in a large proportion of cases the drunkard was predestined to his fate. In other words, he has an innate defect of brain upon which his predisposition and fall depend. This defect of brain, being innate, is transmissible, and is frequently, if not always, transmitted, according to the well-known laws of inheritance. Just then, as insanity of congenial origin should disqualify for the parentage of the race that is to inhabit the promised land, so the defect of the brain, which underlies much alcoholism, should disqualify it 3 possessor from the supreme privilege. Its relations to obvious insanity are too intimate to be denied.
In the second place we may bo assur-, ed that chronic alcoholism should dis-1 qualify for parentage evn in cases where we cannot convince ourselves that it depends upon an inherent and original defect of brain. For even though there has been no such defect, and evpn though the modern teaching of heredity denies that an acquired defect of the brain, due to alcoholic poisoning, ran be transmitted, yet to are also empowered to believe that the constant circulation of
J alcohol in thp blood of the individual iis prejudicial to the germ-plasm, poisons J those racial elements of which he or she lis the ephemeral host, and so makes for I future disaster. If we had to choose between prohibiting the parentage for the alcoholic woman, on the one hand, and the alcoholic man. on the other hand, it is of course the woman whom we shoujd disbar, knowing the intimacy of the relations that sub>i.=t between her and her child. Jt has'bnen lately shown, however, that even paternal alcoholism is quite sufficient to produce indisputable degeneracy in the offspring. Lastly, it may be noted that, even apart from any questions of heredity, the environment of the alcoholic home is not such as we can desire for the. coming race, even though the children, were only adopted into it and were born of unpoisoned parents.
"From this point of view, it will be seen' that a new significance attaches to •modern methods of dealing with the chronic drunkard. Tt is to he hoped that we have done for ever with the criminal and outrageous folly of sentencing a Jane Oakebread to short terras of imprisonment for drunkenness on hundreds of occasions. The principle of the inebri-j ate home, must he made universal. It will he pointer] out. and truly, alas, that the "'home" and the "reformatory" almost constantly fail in effecting reformation. This we can the more readily understand if we remember , that the drunkard's vice so often depends upon an innate and necessarily incurable state of the brain. Yet whilst this fact will gravely qualify our expectations for the individual, it incalculably enhances the value of these modern methods from the point of view- of the race.
Ido not think that in common arguments on the .subject this point is at all
adequately realised. People say that re-1 formation is not. effected; they point| out especially (with what truth I know: not)' that reformation of the female; d'unkard in particular is not effected,! and they conclude that the method is! futile and to be condemned. They do' not realise that the method would be beneficent, and indeed absolutely essen-, tial. even if no measure of reform had ever been attained or even were to be attained. We are saving the future all the time. In some remote analogy to this case we may remark in passing, the condemnation often passed upon sanitoria. for consumption—that they fail to cure so many cases. Yes, but they preserve the healthy from the risk of infection, and this alone would be sufficient to justify them, Only indeed by the segregation of the consumptive will consumption be stamped out; only by the segregation of tlie drunkark can we radically interfere with tbeh production of those predestined to drunkenness. , It lias been asserted by some that alcohol is a beneficent agent for race-culture in that it is constantly eliminating inferior stocks. The answer to this ia that, as Dr. Sullivan says: "In the ultimate result alcoholism may be counted on to make a good many more degenerates than it ia likely, to destroy." Wβ i
must endeavour to understand, as so many students of heredity—some of them by no means undistinguished—fail to understand, what is really meant by the j doctrine of the nontransmissihility of ac- | quired characters. This means, for in- I stance, that the chronic inflammation of j the lining membranes of the brain proi duced by alcohol cannot ha transmitted Jto a child; it does not mean that the germ-plasm, the racial elements of the body, are incapable of suffering injury by any poison circulating in the blood j by which they are. nourished. Still less does it mean that the expectant mother is not poisoning her child when she pours alcohol into the blood whereby she nourishes it. Aβ has been already stated, alcohol is beyond doubt capable of causing true racial degeneration, whether through father or mother, and in the case of the mother, whether by its influence upon the germ-plasm or by its influence on the unborn child. It is no longer open to question that ; the amount of drinking by the women of Great Britain to-day is greater than ever heretofore; and to say by the women is, unfortunately, to say by the mothers, present and prospective. Racial poisoning is being practised in Great Britain to- ■ day to an extent w-hich is certainly un- ; prceedented in our history. This is really by far the most serious aspect of the alcohol question. It is also in some ways the most capable of remedy; and the busi- I ' ness of the eugenist is to rouse public opinion on this matter. Drunkenness'on ! the part of the woman of fiO may or may not be a private vice with which it ia I not the duty of public law to interfere; I but drinking on the part of the factory girl who will marry ere long and become a mother, and who will most certainly . continue the habit acquired before mari riage—this concerns not herself alone.
I It may be said, and not without truth, jas we have already quoted, that in a ; few generations alcohol wilf exterminate j the alcoholic stock, leaving the unpoij soned in possession of the field. It may ,' thus be questioned whether the race is injured in the long run. But in any case, i what moral being can contemplate with content the spectacle of this ruin, even if it be comparatively confined and limited in time? And, further, to what ex- , tent is this process to be permitted ? i What if it extends to one-tenth or onefourth or one-half of the productive stocks of the community? Will it not then be thought time to arrest it? We. have to remember the evidence furnished by native races, which reminds us that, sufficiently widespread, the abuse of alcohol makes for race extinction; and its abuse is daily becoming more widespread among the young mothers of what are at present our fertile classes. Palpable drunkenness they may never exhibit: but drunkenness might wholly cense from henceforth in Great Britain, and alcohol yet defeat the aims of raceculture. A woman may well be sober enough and her unborn child intoxicated. T leave these questions to the considera. tion of the reader, and not the least of him who calls himself a patriot or an i Imperialist.
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