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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

Definition of Terms, Etc

Definition of Terms, Etc.

The substance known as alcohol is thus defined by Webster:

Pure or highly rectified spirit, extracted by simple distillation from various vegetable ices and infusion of a saccharine nature, which have undergone vinous fermentation; the spirituous or intoxicating element of fermented liquors.

Fermentation, the process by which alcohol is first obtained from organic substances, but combined with much larger quantity of other matter, is thus defined by the same authority:

That change of organic substances by which their starch, sugar, gluten, etc., under the influence of water, air, and warmth, are decomposed, usually with evolution of gas and heat, and their elements are recombined in new compounds. Vinous fermentation converts sugar into alcohol.

Brewing is the preparation of alcoholic liquor from malt and hops, and from other materials, by steeping, boiling, and fermentation.

Distillation, or rectification (to make straight or pure), is a process subsequent to fermentation, by which alcohol in a highly refined and most powerful form is obtained from fermented or brewed liquors. It is thus defined by the eminent lexicographer before cited:

The act of falling in drops, or the act of pouring or throwing down in drops. The volatilization of a liquid in a closed vessel by heat, and its subsequent condensation in a separate vessel by cold, as by means of an alembic, or still and refrigeratory, or of a retort and receiver; the operation of extracting spirit from a substance by evaporation and condensation; rectification.

Distiller: One whose occupation is to extract spirit by distillation.

Alcohol for commercial purposes is obtained by distilling wine and other liquors that nave undergone vinous fermentation; carbonate of soda is sometimes added to keep back acetic acid, and fusel-oil is removed by charcoal. The alcohol of the London pharmacopoeia contains about 82 per cent, of alcohol and 18 of water. Its specific gravity is required to be 838, water being 1,000. It has great affinity for water, absorbing it from the atmosphere.

Professor Brande found from 1 to a per cent, of alcohol in small-beer; 4 in porter; 6 to 9 in ales; about 12 in the light wines of France and Germany; from 19 to 25 in port and sherry, and other strong wines; from 40 to 50 and occasionally more in brandy, gin, and whisky. The strength of these liquors is ascertained by various expedients: but the process is sometimes complicated by reason of the different ingredients intermixed to color, sweeten, or flavor the liquor, or fraudulently added to alter the specific gravity, or to substitute a cheaper material.

See the New American Cyclopaedia, Alcohol.

The discovery of distillation of wine has been attributed to Albucasis, or Casa, an Arabian chemist and physician of the eleventh century, but many centuries elapsed before the process of distillation was applied to produce those stronger drinks which, under the name of "spirits," are now in such common use in daily life. Brandy is a late term in European literature. Gin was unknown two hundred years ago. Rum is an American term applied to an American invention: and whisky, a Celtic we rd—uisgt—water—has not been anglicized more than a century and a half. Neither rum, brandy, gin, or whisky have been in common use as spirituous drinks, nor any alcoholic drinks of anything like similar destructive power, until comparatively recent modern times.

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See first lecture in "Course of six Cantor lectures delivered before the Society of Arts, on alcohol, by Benjamin W. Richardson, M.A., M.D., F.R.S." Dr. Richardson is known as one of the ablest scientific men of the age, and these lectures are the most recent and valuable contributions to the subject of "alcohol" that I have been able to obtain.

Distilled alcoholic liquors, the forms now in common use embraced by the first section of the proposed amendment, comprise brandy, rum, gin, and whisky.

Fermented liquors in common use are wine, cider, ale, and beer. The latter are alcoholic, but are not mixed with alcohol obtained by distillation, and are far less powerful and destructive to mankind. These are not included in the first section, but are left to the action of local laws, as is now the case, by section 2 of the amendment proposed.

In treating the subject, I wish first to invite attention to the nature of alcohol and its effects upon the human system, as established by chemical and medical science. I shall then cite facts and statistics from other sources, tending to show the necessity of legislation upon the subject. Then I shall explain the adaptation of the proposed amendment to the removal of the alleged evil, and endeavor to show that the powers of government are inherent and ample, and should be exercised in the premises.