Ravages Of Rum
( Originally Published 1909 )
I BELIEVE that in the very nature of things there will be issues between men always, but I like a man; year in and year out, up or down, straight or crooked, let him be a man. As a speaker I must take sides. Now you needn't ask me which side of the question I am on; just slip up and get the great ear of God Almighty, and ask him which side He is on, then you needn't come back to me at all; just put me down on the side God says he is on. If you want to know which side I am on, you go to any good mother in this town and ask her which side she is on, and then you needn't come back to me; just put me down with that good mother. If you want to know which side I am on, you go to that sweet, old mother, that many of us have in this world, and whisper up in her ear, and ask her which side of this fight she is on, and you may put me down on her side with-out asking me any questions at all.
Now if I take the side that God is on, and every sweet, good wife is on, and the old mothers that have gone over into the better world are on—if I am on their side, I can't be very wrong, can I?
Now let us talk like good neighbors and friends. Which side are you on? I wish you could see every fellow in God Almighty's world that is on the side of liquor, and see them march out into line, and if you will march with that gang, I want to tell you, you aint fit to associate with a buzzard. Now that is the truth. Now if you will just look at your crowd that is lined up with you ; there ain't a dirty old bum saloon-keeper, there ain't a crooked old devil that wants to make money on liquor, there ain't a dirty, disreputable negro in town that ain't on your side; and when you march out with your gang, then I want to tell you, you ain't fit for sausage—you ain't fit for bologna; you are eleven-tenths dog, all the animal in you is dog, and the human has turned to dog, and that makes the other eleventh, and you are eleven-tenths dog. There are some fellows living here in this town, that if they had some note hair and a tail they would go to running rabbits to-night. Now, I don't mean any reflection on a decent pointer dog when I am talking about that, and making the comparison ; I don't want you to think that I have let down at a respectable dog when I compare some fellows to him, and I want us to stay in a perfectly good humour, because I want to tell you whiskey fellows you won't get any fight out of me; I won't fight you at all.
I want to say to you gentlemen, I came to you just like I go everywhere else. I have got no ill will or unkindness towards any man on this earth; there aint a man in the county, of any name and age, that I would not go down on my knees at his side to-day and pray God to give him as good a home in heaven as I would ask Him to give me, or my wife or children. I never fight men, never fight anything, except the thing that hurts men, and breaks the hearts of good women, and brings sadness to the human race. Those are the only things I fight in the world; and if any of you are offended at anything I say, if you will come up to me like a man, when I am through, and beg my pardon, I will forgive you, because I never bear malice towards anybody, and we ought to make it up before we go out.
Now there are three ways by which whiskey is dispensed in this country. You are listening to a man that is fifty-eight years old; gentlemen, I have gone over this great country of ours for thirty-five years, from ocean to ocean, and from lake to gulf; I have gone with both eyes open, with both ears open, and I have seen and I have heard, and I know what I am talking about. The worst thing this side of the gaping gates of damnation is the wide open saloon in a town. That is the worst thing that God or man ever tackled, and the best institution that the devil ever inaugurated—a wide open saloon.
Now the next worst thing to a saloon is a dispensary. I mean in its influence and effect. Now I know all about the dispensary. You fellows up here do not, be-cause you haven't been around them like I have, and seeing the thing.
Now I know where the question gets the biggest crowd of us poor fellows. There are men in this city—and I want to say they are respectable men—who say if we are obliged to have liquor, let us get the license and the tax money out of it; it aint right to have it sold here and get nothing in return. Well, now, I want to talk to you a little about that. You know Judas Iscariot is put down in the Bible as a pretty bad egg. He sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. You know the more I see of some fellows the more I think of Judas Iscariot. Old Judas was the treasurer of the apostles, and money got pretty low, and they walked up to him and said, " If you will point Him out to us we will give you thirty pieces of silver." I think now that Judas said in his heart, " That money will help us out mighty well ; if I point Him out He will withdraw Himself as He has done in times past, and He will not be hurt or harmed by them. And he took the money. And when he saw them mock his Lord, as they platted a crown of thorns and thrust it on his Lord's temples, when he saw them spit on Him and buffet Him, Judas went back and dumped the pieces of silver at their feet, and said, "Take your money back, I have betrayed innocent blood." And they said, " We won't take it back, see to it "; and Judas left the money lying at their feet and went out and hung himself. You know that I think when a man sells himself, and his wife, and chil dren, and town to these damnable saloons and dispensaries, I think there is only one thing for him to do, and that is, go out and hang himself. What do you think about that, old red nose? Judas had some conscience in him, but you want to put this town and county in the attitude of selling the most sacred things that God's eyes ever looked at, and instead of taking the money back, you want to take it and invest it, to lighten your taxes and fix up your roads; and you tell me, " Why, Brother Jones, wouldn't you rather have open saloons than blind tigers?" Why don't you ask me which I had rather have, smallpox or yellow fever? I don't want either one. Why do you want to have either one?
When you find blind tigers, you will find a blind mayor, a blind council, and a blind sheriff ; everything is blind. You can't run them without having everything blind. You know a pup will get his eyes open in nine days, but there are officers in this town fifty years old that have never got their eyes open yet. Why don't you go to electing pups? They will get their eyes open sooner.
Now hear me, with all the lights before you, listen : When I look around over this great State of Georgia—you know this is a good State, and if God Almighty was ever good to any people, he is good to us, there aint no doubt about that—I want to say to you, when I look up and see the merciful goodness of God, and the immense blessings He has bestowed upon us fellows, and then see how we will lie out with the devil to debauch one another, I am the most astonished man on this earth; and whenever Sam Jones puts in a vote for saloons or dispensaries, you can disfranchise me like a negro, and never allow me to vote any more, and I believe you will have done a good thing for my country. You hear, Bud?
Now hear me : The saloon is the worst thing that ever opened for business any-where on the face of God's earth. The dispensary is more debauching to the sentiment of the community than the saloon, because you take it out of the hands of the bull-necked, white-aproned devil that stands be-hind the counter and dishes it out at ten cents a drink, to put the money in his own pocket, and you put it in the hands of your council, and your church members, dishing it out to help pay the taxes; and my God, what worse shape can you get liquor in than to have it in the hands of the best people in your town? You say, " Why, Brother Jones, don't you think a dispensary will do less harm? " I say it will do more harm, by debauching the sentiment of your community. The most debauched State in this country to-day is South Carolina, where they are debauched in State, and county, and ballot; and the State of South Carolina is shoveling the dispensaries out of existence, and they say, we will tolerate you no longer.
Then your blind tigers. For you know a blind tiger cannot run in this town without the consent of the people that live here. I will tell you what is the matter. You needn't jump on your mayor and council. When you march out like men and say this thing has got to stop, it will stop, mayor or no mayor, council or no council.
You hear me? You know the biggest thing in this country? We talk about combines and corporations and trusts; the biggest thing, thank God, on earth is the people, and whenever they wake up you have got a moral cyclone that will straighten things out. You are laying around here waiting for the officers to do it, when any twenty of you can get in a hack, and drive around to these fellows, and tell them to clean out and get out of business, or you will not guarantee the consequences—it will straighten things out. You go around saying, blind tiger this, and blind tiger that in the town. The trouble is that you have got no men here; if I were you, sister, when I got my little husband home to-night, I would make the children catch the little daddy and bring him in, and I would pull the baby out of the cradle, and put the little daddy in there, and make the children rock the little daddy, and if he didn't get a move on him, I would knock his teeth out and nurse him till you wean him. Anybody can go around talking blind tiger this and blind tiger that, when all you want on God Almighty's earth is some respect-able, reputable, real genuine citizens. You say the thing has got to stop, and it will stop any day you say so. You say, " Brother Jones, don't you think we had better have some money out of it? " Now look here, I want you fellows to hear every word I say to you, and if any of you don't like anything I say, if you will go outside the corporation and wait till I come we will settle it; but God bless you, I aint coming, you hear?
Now I am not here to abuse your mayor and council. They are just about average fellows of the town, and I could not abuse them without abusing the whole business. There never was a fellow mayor of this town that you did not elect; there never was a councilman that you did not elect; there never was a sheriff that you did not elect; there never was an officer in this county that was not a matter of choice with you.
Now listen to me. When you come up as a good citizen, considering this question of opening your doors and taking the saloon-keeper into your town, to debauch our boys, and wreck our homes, and break the hearts of our wives, you have got up the biggest question that intelligent citizens ever got up in this world.
God bless you country folks. You country fellows, you know what they want to do with you? They want you to come in, and sell you liquor, and you get drunk, and they will lock you up; they will get your money for the liquor to pay their license, and then lock you up. A country man that would vote for liquor ought to be bored for the hollow head, and bled in the frog of the foot. The town gets the money for the license, the saloonkeeper gets the profits, and all the poor country fellow gets is to be locked up, and when the council meets they will get you up before them, and then fine you for getting drunk, and your poor wife has to pay you out. Will a man vote for a tricky set like that?
I love my wife and children, boys, and I would rather walk down to that railroad track, and lie down on it and let an engine grind me into mincemeat before I would walk up to the ballot box and vote for liquor, and wreck my home, bring disgrace to my children, and break my wife's heart. You can have your saloons, but I will fight them every day God gives me to do it; you can have your dispensaries, but I will say to the tax gatherers, you can count it out as far as I am concerned, and I will give my part of it to the orphans' home; if I have to send my children to the orphans' home to live I will fight it.
I will tell you another thing, and it is the truth, if a preacher ever uttered the truth : If any man will deliberately walk up to the polls and put in a vote for the saloon, he deserves that every boy he has got dies a drunkard, and every daughter of his home has to live in the embrace of a cruel, drunken husband. In the name of God, if the saloon is debauched then why not debauch the son of every man that votes for them?
Now hear me; my boys may both die drunkards, but they shall say at the bar of God, and say it amid the sufferings of hell, " My father fought liquor as long as he had a fist to strike it, and kicked it as long as he had a foot, and bit it as long as he had teeth, and then gummed it till he died." If there aint but one man on God Almighty's earth that will fight liquor any-where and everywhere, by God's grace, I will be that man ; and you fellows stand around and say, " I will lick him and beat him to death for what he said down there." You may take me and beat me to death, and when you go home to your wife you will say, " We beat Sam Jones to death." And she will say, " What for, husband? " And you will say, " Because he was standing up for the women and children and for God-fearing, sober, upright men, and I will beat any-body to death who will speak in the interest of my wife and children." Wouldn't that be a nice tale to tell your wife? But if you start that beating business around here we will feed the buzzards on you. My God, a man that would vote for a saloon ! It is bad enough to lie for them. You know a fellow can't help but lie when he is for the saloon. You can put any old whiskey devil in an ash hopper and pour water on him and he will drip lies—he can't help it.
Now I will just take this thing and look you in the face to-day, and I say it aint any debatable question. Are you a father? Yes. So am I. Are you a husband? Yes. So am I. Are you a citizen of Georgia? Yes. So am I. Are you endeavouring to do the best you can for your wife and children? Yes. Then there aint any use talking about it, and if you are not for your wife and boys I won't discuss it with you; I aint got no time to waste on you. I like to encounter a brave, true man, ever ready to use his tongue, or lift his hand or pen in defence of women and children, and whenever a fellow strikes a blow, or puts in a ballot that will bring sorrow to a woman's heart he unmans himself on the spot.
Some of the cleverest fellows in this town are for whiskey, but it is the devil in you. I have seen the devil get in a hog, and you couldn't drive him through a gate. I have seen the devil get in a horse, and he can't pull a hen off the roost; I have seen the devil get in a man, and the devil was in him ; I have seen the devil get in a woman, but I never stayed to see what happened.
I want to tell you about that blind tiger. A blind tiger can't live in this town unless you patronise them, and any one who will patronise blind tigers will go into the court house and swear a lie about it. If I were you I would tuck my tail and go home right now, for Sam Jones fixed your clock right then. Now he is afraid to lick me about that, because the grand jury would get him sure, and get a bill against him, because that would be an open confession to the world, like the fellow that said he done it. You know I didn't call any names, but every fellow knows his number.
I want to say to you coloured people, you just look around and see who are your friends, and if you are going to let the saloon gang vote you for liquor, then I want to tell you, you deserve to be debauched and then taken out and lynched, and it is the gang that debauches you that lynches you every pop. You have got some as good coloured people as there are on earth, and there aint enough money in whiskeydom to buy them, and you are going to stand right on this question. You hear this, you coloured men out there, if there is a man on earth that ought to let whiskey alone it is the coloured man. God bless you, you will need all the sobriety and manhood you can get, and whiskey cuts that grit from you every day you live. You may be as black as the ace of spades, but be a black MAN, and not a black DOG, and don't vote with these whiskey devils.
Now, fellow citizens, hear, me : The worst thing you can open on God Almighty's earth is a saloon. The next worse thing is a dispensary, that debauches your sentiment, and puts your best people in control of the liquor traffic; and the next worse thing is the blind tiger. There aint a saloon-keeper that ever opened a saloon, but that he was as good as the saloon; there never was a saloon opened in a town that wasn't as good as the law that opened the way for it; there never was a law that opened the way for it that wasn't as good as the voter that went up to the ballot box and voted for it.
Now there is the saloon-keeper, the saloon, the law and the voter, they all belong together, and, before God, do you want to hook up with such a gang? We have pounded them with argument on argument, logic on top of logic, ethics on top of ethics, and said to them, " One man makes liquor, another man sells it, another man votes for it to be sold, another man rents the house for it to be sold in, another man dies drunk on it, all these make each, a link in a chain." We have put the drunkard, the end link, at one end, and the old deacon that votes with the party that licenses it at the other end, and we have talked to them like this, " Drunkard, where are you going? " He re-plies, " I am going to hell." " How do you know it? " He replies, " The Bible says no drunkard shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." We walk back to the other end of the chain, and say to the old deacon, " Where are you going? " " I am going to heaven." We ask, " How do you know it? " He replies, " I was converted to God way back yonder forty years ago, and once in grace, always in grace." We replied to him, " You old fool, when the other end of this chain goes into hell, chook, the old deacon will go in with the balance of the links,-and ought to go, and will feel absolutely at home when he lands. He will be with the gang that he runs with here, how-ever much he may outclass them in pretensions."
The temperance people of the United States may be divided into two classes. First, the Prohibitionists, and, secondly, the Local Optionists. The Prohibitionists advocate the extermination of the traffic. The Local Optionists say, "Let the people of every county and hamlet in the United States settle it for themselves."
The first class stand at the very source of the river of dissipation, and stand saying to the liquor traffic, " If we can prevent it, you shall not push or throw another boy or man or woman into this river." The other class of temperance people, good-hearted, good-natured, backboneless crowd, are standing away down the stream of dissipation, and try to get busy pulling out the poor drunkards, and trying to save them from a drunkard's grave. The first class pray and vote Prohibition. The second class can al-ways be found in the ranks of the Demoeratic or Republican parties, and that class of temperance people had rather see whiskey flowing ankle deep all over the United States, with a dipper hanging on a limb of every tree, and all America floating to hell, than to see the Grand Old Democratic Party defeated at the polls. They vote one way and pray another. They are all right for temperance three hundred and sixty-four days in the year, and then take a furlough on election day, and do all the devil wants them to do to perpetuate the traffic, that he may debauch the country.
There are three classes upon which the guilt of this traffic rests. First, those who favor the license; second, those who deal in the traffic, and, thirdly, those who drink it. The first class are rascals, the second class, hypocrites, and the third class are fools, and when you ring up that whole crowd, you have got a combination of rascals, and hypocrites, and fools, in spite of the fact that they are nearly forty to one as they stand upon the voting list of America.
If the Prohibitionists of this country could go to the United States Congress, and ask for the prohibition of the traffic, the politicians would reply, " We can't do without the revenue we get from that direction." Go to the Legislature, and they reply, " Our educational fund comes largely from the liquor traffic." Go to the municipality, they say, " We need the money the liquor traffic supplies."
It is the last retreat for a pusillanimous coward and scoundrel to want to jerk his tax money from the heart's blood of the women and children, the best that God ever made. When I can't pay taxes on the last piece of property I have got, I am ready to go to the poorhouse of my county and die an honourable death. You talk to me about you want the money out of it. Your money perish with you ! On the day you go up to the ballot box and put a vote in for the saloon you have unmanned yourself, be-cause you have said, " I think more of the liquor traffic and the money it will bring than I think of my wife, than I think of my children." Away with your money, if I have to run the wheels of the liquor traffic over my wife and children.
But this thing is all a joke. When the liquor crowd counts up their vote in this county they will tuck their tails, for that settles them for ever, it will never be raised again; we mean business; those fellows won't know what hit them the next morning after the election.
Now hear me, the boys in this county have grown up from boyhood to young manhood, and never saw an open saloon in the county, and now by your vote you want to open them up and show them what they are. God pity a citizenship that wants a thing like that. Now of all men on God Almighty's earth you country men don't want the saloon. The country is where all the boys come from that are fit for anything. You have got a lot of little lobsters in this town, sitting around, playing pool, and living with their mothers, and having their washing done at home. God deliver me from the poolroom gang. There ain't a poolroom gang anywhere that there is not a blind tiger within one hundred yards of it. They said to me in Atlanta, " Oh, the poolroom men were respectable men. That fellow is boarding with his widowed mother and having his washing done at home." Some of them say, " You are impugning my honour! " You little fool, you haven't got any honour.
Talk about the saloons. I would rather see ten mad dogs turned loose than one saloon. If a mad dog bites your child he may die, but his pure spirit will go home to God, while the saloon will damn his soul for ever. If you want to turn loose some fellows that have got to have some money, just inaugurate a set of burglars. They will take all a fellow has got, but cannot hurt his character, and he can make more money; but you turn the saloon loose, and you put him where he can't make any more money, and take all he has. I think the burglar is a gentleman beside the saloon-keeper, who takes all the poor fellow has and sends him to hell at last.
In a county where I was pastor, a good, clever-hearted country fellow, like many of you, drove into town with his last bale of cotton on his wagon and sold it. His little boy had on cotton pants that struck him at the knee; he didn't have any coat. After he had sold the cotton he said to the little boy, " You hold the horses and I will be back in a little while." He went off to the saloon, and after he had stayed an hour, the poor, pale little boy left in the wagon, shivering with cold, crawled down on his poor, feeble, benumbed limbs, went across to the saloon, went in, and up to his father, and said, " Father, please come on and let us go home; I am so cold out yonder." The father set down the glass of liquor, and lifting his strong right hand, struck the poor little fellow on the side of the head, knocking him against the wall with such force that he rebounded from the wall to the floor. The little fellow put his poor little hand to his head and went back to the wagon and crawled in, and some time later his father staggered out to the wagon, and he drove him home. The next morning when the man woke up his wife said, " Get up and go for the doctor; little Johnny has the highest kind of a fever, and the side of his face is all swollen, and since midnight he has been out of his head; get up and go for the doctor." The poor little fellow had never told on his father. He got up and went for the doctor, and the doctor came and examined the child, and said to the mother, " Both lungs are on fire with pneumonia, temperature one hundred and eight; he won't live to see the sun go down." The next morning that man walked into the sitting-room and kneeled down by the corpse of his little boy, and fell on his face, and said, " Oh, my God, is there any mercy for a man that would treat his little boy as I have? "
When the whiskey drinker looks around him and sees that the stuff he is drinking made his neighbour murder his wife, an-other neighbour butcher his children, an-other kill his mother, another shoot down a friend, when he sees that the stuff he is drinking made other men do deeds like these, then he must be an infernal fool to pour the same stuff down his throat.
When I was in New Orleans, a poor woman—the papers were full of it—was living in a little shed-like home, trying to cook the little simple meal one day, and her little baby was playing in the front room, a poor little pale drunkard's child and as it was sitting there, the drunken father came in, and as he walked up to the child it shrank away and screamed, and he lifted his cruel rough shoe and kicked it, and its brains scattered over the floor. He turned and walked out to the saloon across the street. The mother came into the room after he had gone, and there was the little one lying with its brains over the floor. She knelt down by it, pushed her arm under its little form, and went over to the saloon; just as she entered her husband was lifting a glass of liquor to his lips, and the blood gushed from his lungs and he fell dead. She rushed up to the counter, dashed her child on it, and said to the saloon-keeper, " Sir, you have murdered my husband and child, now please, sir, take a pistol and blow my brains out!"
You talk about licensing a thing like that. I would shoot my brains out before I would do it. You look out how you use the sacred ballot. A ballot has got a man behind it, and you have got to answer for it at the bar of God.