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- From Wealth to Poverty - 30/45 -
so-called respectable temperance men and moderate drinkers. I know the Act is far from perfect, because the liquor party in Parliament succeeded in introducing clauses that somewhat weaken its effectiveness, and they now attack it because of these very defects. But with all its defects, we would succeed in working it if we had the sympathy and hearty support of all its professed friends; without this, though it came forth with the stamp of the Infinite, it would fail."
"You think we have too many of the genus mollusk in the temperance ranks, Mr. Gurney? These creatures, with, no backbone, infest and curse the Churches of to-day, and I have no doubt they will prove the greatest curse to the temperance cause. A half-hearted friend in the citadel is more to be dreaded than a foe without."
"Yes, Mr. Brown; more to be dreaded, and generally more to be despised."
"I understand, Mr. Gurney, the liquor party are jubilant over the result of the trial. I heard Captain McWriggler expatiating upon it this morning, and he said the Act and all sumptuary laws of similar character are a humbug."
"I have no doubt he will say so," answered Mr. Gurney; "and so will all unprincipled demagogues. They are willing to pander to the liquor interests, or anything else--no matter how low and demoralizing it may be--if it only helps them to power. I understood what he was at. He said to Mr. Martin, 'I told you it would end in a fizzle;' and then continued talking to him in a similar strain for some time: and when he was through, the latter said 'he thought he was about right.' But you know as well as I do, Mr. Gurney, that Martin is weak, and easily influenced."
"Yes, I know it, Mr. Brown; and all such men as he is will be approached, and, if we keep them on our side, it will be by making the Act a success from the first. In regard to yesterday's trial, I am willing to admit it was a great failure of justice, or, to use McWriggler's classic language, 'a fizzle.' But he knew, as well as we do, what led to that result; for, as I remarked a few moments ago, the whole proceedings were a farce. Between the vexatious objections of Murdon, the pettifogger, who had charge of the defence, and of Sealy, who, I believe, had entered into a conspiracy with the former to defeat the ends of justice by browbeating and cajoling the other two magistrates, the trial was made a complete fiasco."
"And there was some rather crooked swearing done there, was there not, Mr. Gurney?" asked Mr. Brown.
"Swearing! I should think there was! I shuddered as I listened to the evidence of some of the hotel-keepers and the miserable creatures they had degraded by their traffic. I was always aware that whiskey was a fearful demoralizer, and I have seen some striking illustrations of the fact before; but the swearing done yesterday by men whose word a few years ago would not have been questioned, has demonstrated, as nothing else could, its power to deprave. Why, they twisted, and quibbled, and tried in every possible manner to evade the questions put; they swore they were not certain the liquor they drank was intoxicating, when it was evident to all who heard them that the statements they were making under oath were untrue."
"Are you not now more dubious as to the result than you were before the trial?"
"Yes; I am willing to admit I am not so sanguine as I was," Mr. Gurney replied. "What with weak or else utterly profligate and unprincipled magistrates; with opponents of the lowest and most vicious instincts, who have poor creatures that are completely under their control, and seem so lost to every vestige of honor as to be willing to swear to anything in order to screen those who furnish them with liquor; with a large percentage of the press prostituting its power in assisting our enemies; and with timid and vacillating friends to help meet this determined and unprincipled opposition, I must confess I am somewhat troubled. But the thought of such men as Ashton, Morris, and Dr. Dalton, with their stricken and despairing families and friends, nerves me for the conflict, and makes me resolve that, trusting in God, I will fight it as long as He gives me strength to do so; and, when I die, God will raise up those who will take my place and the place of those with whom I am associated. I am certain, in the end, our cause will succeed. It may not be during my life. It may be long, long years hence, when the cause of temperance shall ultimately prevail--but it will prevail some time. We must remember that 'one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day;' and, though this prevalence of evil and the triumphing of the vicious may cause us to be impatient and cry out in our anguish, 'How long, O Lord, how long?' yet God will sweep away the scourge from our land, like He swept away slavery from our mother and sister lands. It is for us to pray, and watch, and work, and leave the rest with God; and some day there will be a great shout, and we will cry, some on earth and some in heaven, 'God has gotten us the victory?'"
"Well, Mr. Gurney, I, like you, believe that temperance will ultimately prevail; but I do not believe it will be in the near future, and I am afraid this attempt will be a failure. If we try to push legislation faster than public sentiment will warrant us in doing, we will defeat our object and help the enemy. In my opinion, there will have to be years of agitation; and the great masses, who are either indifferent or antagonistic, will have to be enlightened, and their sympathies enlisted, before a law like the present can be run successfully. I have to-day conversed with men who professed to favor our side, and yet they expressed great sympathy for Rivers because he was fined, and some of them gave it as their opinion that the Act would end in failure. I believe the farmers are very much annoyed because the tavern-sheds are closed against them; and some say, if they had to vote again it would be to reverse their former one. The fact is, there must be a strong public sentiment in our favor if we successfully cope with those men who have their capital invested in the business, and who will fight with the vigor that selfishness and desperation ever impart. To-day's trial indicates we have desperate and unscrupulous foes to meet, and that they can find miserable and degraded tools in attendance to do their dirty work, and help them defeat the ends of justice."
"I am more sanguine than you are," said Mr. Gurney; "and while I am willing to admit that the imbecility of the magistrates who professed to be our friends, the coldness on the part of a great many who, I expected, would give us enthusiastic assistance, and 'having done all, would still stand;' and the manner in which both the tavern-keepers and their degraded tools, as I believe, perjured themselves, have made me a little less confident than I was before yesterday's exhibition. Yet I am still of the opinion the Act can be made a success. I, at least, am determined to do all I can to make it such."
"I, like you, Mr. Gurney, was astonished at the reckless manner with which some gave evidence yesterday, for while I was certain the defendant in each case was equally as guilty as Rivers, he was the only one who was fined, the others clearing themselves by equivocation, and what, at least, appears to me very much like perjury. And that miserable Grogson evidently was posted to swear straight through. I was amazed at his flippancy and his evident willingness to swear to anything that would screen those who had received him."
"I am not surprised that you were, Mr. Brown; for we know that Dr. Dalton and Ashton had no reason to swear to anything that was untrue, and we do not believe they would be capable of doing so, if they had, and they both swore that Grogson, and, in fact, the whole party, drank liquor on the night in question. So the latter actually perjured himself to screen a man who has taken hundreds of dollars from him, and is, more than any one else, responsible for his being the degraded wretch he is at present, and for his wife and children being in the most abject poverty."
"I remember him when he was in comfortable circumstances and considered a respectable man," said Mr. Brown, "and rather a fine young fellow. He was illiterate, of course, but possessed good native talent and a fund of humor which seemed almost inexhaustible. He was a good business man for one whose early opportunities were but limited; and his tact and shrewdness largely compensated for what he lacked in other respects. He married an estimable young girl from the neighborhood in which I was raised; but he took to drinking, and from that time degenerated very rapidly, until he is the degraded creature you saw yesterday. His cronies have very appropriately given him the sobriquet of 'Whiskey Jemmie.' I understand his wife and children are existing in utter poverty--brought, by his abuse, to be abject specimens of squalor and rags."
"Yes, Mrs. Holman and my wife were to his shanty the other day, and found them actually in need of the necessaries of life; and some time ago, when Mr. Mason took them some food, Grogson waited until he was out of sight, and then meanly ate up what had been brought for his starving wife and little ones, and though Mrs. Grogson was ill at the time, and part of what was brought was prepared especially for her; yet the brute devoured every morsel. And I heard they were laughing at Porter's, because, as they put it, he had 'sold the parson.'"
"I believe Rivers has appealed, has he not, Mr. Gurney?"
"Yes! on the ground that the law is _ultra vires_. It is appealed until next month, when the case will come before Judge McGullet, and, as he is entirely in sympathy with the antis, I have no doubt he will decide in their favor. Then we will have to carry it to a Court of Appeal, when we hope to obtain justice."
"I have no doubt but you will," said Mr. Brown; "but, in the meantime, they will continue selling liquor, and, having no license to pay, they will endeavor to have a perfect carnival of drunkenness. When they think it is time to strike, they will circulate a petition to have the Act repealed, and the great majority, who will only look at the effect without stopping to consider the cause, will be in sympathy with them, and they will carry the appeal by an immense majority. Do you not think so?"
Mr. Gurney remained in an attitude of deep contemplation for a few moments, and then answered:
"Such may be the case; but we will have to throw our best energies into the work, and leave the rest to God. If we do our part and remain faithful to each other and the cause we have espoused, we will have done what we could; and if our efforts are for the present fruitless, we shall, at least, have no reason for regret."
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