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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36



Second, the time when the first clause shall take effect is so far in the future that vested rights will not suffer at all; certainly not essentially. Notice of a quarter of a century is sufficient to every manufacturer to turn his attention to other and less harmful pursuits. It is longer than our fathers gave to the merchant marine of the country to remove its capital from the slave trade, even if ratified at once, and ten years are given whenever ratification may take place. This will enable every man to wear out his still or convert his machinery to some beneficial purpose. It will cover the average period of business life for this entire generation, and I doubt whether there is a distiller in the world who desires that his son should follow the pursuit in which he himself feels compelled to remain, and the immediate destruction of which would reduce his family to beggary. Capital invested in the wholesale and import trade could be very easily diverted in other directions at much shorter notice, while the retailer only requires time to sell out his stock on hand.

I am persuaded that great injustice is often done in public discussions of this subject by the wholesale denunciations and uncharitable, page 28 not to say unchristian and even brutal, epithets which are hurled at the large number of American citizens who are engaged in one branch or another of the liquor business. They are men like ourselves, oftentimes better than those who assail them, and nothing is gained by the effort to reform individuals by lectures which would disgrace a fish-woman, or to carry great public measures by scurrilous attacks upon men who follow an avocation which, however hostile to the interests of mankind, is yet entrenched in the Constitution of our country—a Constitution sanctioned by the names of Washington, Franklin, and Madison, and by virtue of the broad provisions of which we derive the power to attack our fellow-men with a license of the tongue almost as pernicious to the public welfare as the license of the traffic in rum. I am satisfied that very large numbers of men whose interests are bound up in the liquor traffic would themselves gladly cooperate, if they were not repelled as criminals, with the most ultra advocates of the temperance cause in some broad measure which, while it will enable them to avoid pecuniary ruin, will, at the same time, protect the coming generations from the storm of fire and brimstone which is pelting ours like that which fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah and left them at the bottom of the Dead Sea.