( Originally Published Late 1800's )
A certain form of club life has grown very popular of late years in our towns and cities. Men organize themselves into clubs for the purpose of conviviality and social enjoyment. Rooms are fitted up and furnished to suit the taste and wealth of the members. With fine apartments and costly furniture these club-houses are made very attractive and pleasant, generally much more so than the homes of those who gather there. The club is organized for the ostensible purpose of providing a suitable place in which the members of the organization can spend their leisure hours. To the outside world the members pretend that their meetings are for social improvement. The real purpose, however, of these expensive club houses is to furnish a shield for certain forms of dissipation and bad conduct.
The relation of the members to society would not allow them the ordinary convivialities of the saloon and gambling den. They, therefore, transfer the saloon to the club room, and do their drinking and gambling away from the eyes of the world. The plea for "sociability," "discussion," and "literary exercise," with which wife or mother are deceived, are simply outrageous shams. The chief employment of club hours is found in cards, drink, and carousal. The gambling table is the chief attraction, the ribald song and oath the principal literary exercises of these dens of iniquity. A broad and deep foundation for a life of infamy and crime is laid, far too often, in the convivial clubs of our towns.
These organizations which are growing more and more popular are a great evil in society. In the first place, they are a means of wasteful extravagance. The elegant furnishings and appointments of the club room are a considerable cost in themselves Then, the money spent upon liquors and at the gambling table has destroyed many a fortune and utterly ruined the financial prospects of many a young man. Men with families upon their hands, struggling to get a start in life, are sometimes drawn into these clubs. In such cases the family is often denied the necessaries of life to keep up the extravagance of the club room. In other cases the men are hopelesly ruined and the family life destroyed by the excesses and losses at the club. We cannot see a redeeming feature in this form of club life. It is a source of senseless and useless expense from which no return is ever received except that of bad habits and a tendency to immorality.
In the second place this form of club strikes a blow at home and the family. A man who has been drawn into a club before marriage, will hardly ever leave it after marriage. His evenings and hours of leisure are then spent at the club and not at home with wife and children in the family. Home seems a little restricted and narrow in comparison with the elegant apartments at the club. The society of wife and child, dear as it is to a man, who is not the incarnation of selfishness, suffers in comparison with the ribald jest and maudlin swagger of half drunken fools at the club; and so the heartless wretch pleads "business engagements " or "pressure of work at the office" or tells some other abominable lie to satisfy the mind of a fond wife, while he goes to his gambling and drink. Oh, if there be any beast in our modern society unfit to pollute the sanctities of home life with his ungainly presence, it is that man who wastes in rioting the wealth that belongs by right to the family, and who spends his leisure hours in the company of boon companions and steals home, late at night, to sleep and get his meals. If there be any beast in our modern society that ought to receive the execration of humanity, it is that man who lies to his wife and leaves her to keep a lonely vigil at the hearthfire.
In the third place, this form of club life strikes a blow at the moral character of the man. He may never pass beyond the point of moderate drinking and he may never take great hazard at the gaming table ; but, he associates continually with the men who do, and the whole force and influence of his associations tend in the direction which we have already described. We have a sincere conviction that the integrity and character of few men can stand the shock of three years of club life among the convivialities of loose and immoral men. The whole tendency of this form of club life is to utterly destroy all taste for intellectual pursuits and all love for moral goodness. It is to put dissipation in the place of recreation and to consume in wastefulness those hours which should be devoted to rigorous self-culture. The total failure of the entire enterprises of life, in thousands of instances has begun and ended in the club associations of the town and city, and it is marvelous how many men in the community, and perhaps connected with the christian church, are led into these clubs and have an active association with the evils that are practiced there. It is marvelous how many men are satisfied to indulge themselves in the covert sins of the club and assume the moral role of a servant of God in every day life. We look upon this form of association as a stupendous social evil, whether it be engaged in by men alone or by men and women as is sometimes the case. We cannot discover a single trace of genuine benefit to arise from such associations. The whole tendency of the thing from beginning to end is one of evil and evil only. It is only a skillfully contrived scheme to enable men and women to practice those indulgencies which society condemns, and which they know to be wholly wrong. The whole tendency of these associations is toward the degradation of the home, the belittling of the family relations and the destruction of moral excellence. Vice is exalted ; virtue is dethroned ; stupendous wickedness is cultivated ; strength of intelligence and moral rectitude neglected. Men become more and more confirmed in intemperance, gambling, wastefulness and ruin. The influence of convivial clubs is evil and only evil.