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I have elsewhere stated my own case with but slight reserve, because, out of the mystery of this iniquity, one may not with safety speak positively of another’s. I have described myself as a “congenital periodical” inebriate, and have endeavored to make it clear to the reader as to myself that my torment was inherited.
And yet I am of a family scrupulously abstemious in both sexes for several generations. Here is an apparent contradiction, apt to mislead the common mind, because it overlies a grave fact in our American social system. There is a disease of the nervous organism, almost peculiar to this people, which sprang from seeds of self-indulgence sown in the moral, social, and physical lives of our great- grandparents, and ‘which has acquired fearful aggravations of extension and virulence with each succeeding generation. It assumes a form painfully familiar to the physician and the moralist, in that craving for intellectual and physical “sensation ” which expresses itself; without a blush or a tremor, in the popular performances, displays, and disclosures, of the pulpit and the theatre, literature and art, the press and the criminal courts, the costumes of the women, the prodigality and license of private entertainment, and the graphic eccentricities of popular sports.
It does not necessarily take the direction of rum, – it may find relief in the intemperate, passionate pursuit of a vocation or an agitation. Its form of expression may be determined by the bent of the intellectual twig, or an early peep into “openings.” If God, in his mercy, had not suffered me to escape by the stormy Jordan of rum, I might have been a spasmodic editor, a fanatical demagogue, a champion revivalist, a plug- ugly, a lecturer for the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society, or a – Fenian martyr.
If you would abolish the inebriate, you must begin with his grandmother.