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The Temperance Movement

Excerpts from The Moral Condition of Dover: A Sermon Delivered in the Unitarian Church, Sunday Evening, March 19, 1882
By W.R.G. Mellen, Minister of the church

Let me tell you that, according to the very best authority, there are now …in our little city no less than eighty-three well-known dram shops, saying nothing of those in private houses….Eighty tippling houses, one to every 150 persons of all ages and sexes! Surely this is a fact that neither you or I would care to mention to one inquiring into the moral condition of Dover with a purpose of making it a place of residence.

….You know how often and greatly annoyed, your business hindered, your work unfaithfully done, because of the use of intoxicants; but do you know the actual loss which it entails upon you? If so, and you will multiply that sum by the number of persons doing an equal volume of business in the town, you will have a product which I think will be somewhat startling, and very instructive. Then, suppose these 80 dram-shops sell upon an average to the amount of five dollars per day- which I think is a moderate estimate. In a single day this foots up 400 dollars; in a week, omitting the Sunday which ti some is doubtless the most profitable day of the seven, to 2,400 dollars; and in a year ti very near 125,000 dollars!….This is nearly six times the sum expended for the public schools in the year 1880; is more than six times what it costs to support all our churches, and, within about 15,000 dollars, is equal to the entire amount that came into the city treasury the year before last.

…You will not be surprised to hear that of 408 arrests-one to every 300 of the population-made by our police last year, no less than 218, or more than one-half of them, were for "drunkenness", while 51 others were for "violation of the liquor law;" and five more for "habitual drunkenness;" making a total of 274 persons whose offences were nominally due to this one cause. Nor is this all. Of the remaining arrests, 28 were for "assault," 14 for "brawling," 11 for "disorderly conduct," 7 for "keeping shops open on Sunday," as well as others for "profanity," "threats," and "fast driving," nearly ever one of which, unquestionably was largely, if not wholly, due to the use of intoxicating drinks.

….And this state of things I cannot but regard as most deplorable. Four hundred and eight persons arrested in our little city in a single year, nine-tenths of whom are brought into durance, directly or indirectly, by this one vice!

Excerpt from: Rum-seller’s Mirror, and Drunkard’s Looking-Glass
Vol. I No. 7, April 25,1837

Spontaneous Combustion of the Bodies of Drunkards

In the last Mirror, we spoke of giving, in the present number, some more particular descriptions of cases of spontaneous burnings of inebriates. The March no. of the Journal of the American Temperance Union, presents a table from Dr. Lindsley’s prize essay, showing in what Books and Journals the cases which he enumerates are reported; the names of the authors by whom reported; the time of the occurrence; the degree to which the bodies were consumed; the immediate cause; the habit of life and the situation of the remains of the burnt body, when first discovered.

This table presents 19 cases. The oldest of these whose ages are given, was 90, the youngest, 17 years of age. The remains of one was found upon a chair; all consumed but a part of the skull and the last joints of the fingers—another, upon the floor; consumed, except the skull, a part of the fce, and three fingers—another, sitting upon a chair before the fire; all consumed but a black skeleton. In one instance two were burnt together in one bed; of one there remained the skull and a portion of skin; if the other one leg only remained. In most of the cases almost the whole of the body was consumed; in a few cases the combustion was confined to a small part of the body. In one case only one finger was burnt, and this person with one other whose hand and thigh were partially burnt, were cured. In some cases the combustion commenced without the excitement of any artificial heat: in some it was excited by a lamp or candle; in others by the warmth of the fire upon the hearth; in others by a foot stove; and in others by a lighted pipe which the subject was smoking.

On of the most striking cases of this kind ever narrated perhaps, occurred, we think not more than four or five years ago in Upper Canada. It was published by Dr. Schofield, the physician who attended the case, in some of the periodicals about the time of its occurrence. We now copy it from the Journal of the American Temperance Union.

"It was the case of a young man, about twenty-five years of age: ha had been a habitual drinker for many years. I saw him about nine o’clock in the evening on which it happened. He was the, as usual, not drunk, but full of liquor. About eleven the same evening I was called to see him. I found him literally roasted from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He was found in a blacksmith’s shop just across the way from where he had been. The owner all of the sudden discovered an extensive light in his shop as though the whole building was in one general flame. He ran with the greatest precipitancy, and on flinging open the door discovered a man standing erect in the midst of a widely extended silver-colored blaze, bearing, as he described it, exactly the appearance of the wick of a burning candle in the midst of its own flame. He seized him by the shoulder & jerked him to the door, upon which the flame was instantly extinguished.

"There was no fire in the shop, neither was there any possibility of fire having been communicated to him from any external source. —It was purely a case of spontaneous ignition. A general sloughing soon came on, and his flesh was consumed, or removed in the dressing, leaving the bones and a few of the larger blood vessels standing. The blood, nevertheless, rallied around the heart, and maintained the vital spark until the thirteenth day, when he died, not only the most loathsome, ill-featured, and dreadful picture that was ever presented to human view, but his shrieks, his cries, and lamentations, were enough to rend a heart of adamant. He complained of no pain of body, --his flesh was gone. He said he was suffering the torments of hell; that he was just upon its threshold, and should soon enter its dismal caverns; and in this frame of mind gave up the ghost. O the death of a drunkard! Well may it be said to beggar all description. I have seen other drunkards die, but never in a manner so awful and affecting. They usually go off senseless and stupid as it regards a future state!"

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