Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 17 - The Respectable Poor - Intemperance

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No one who is at all acquainted with the rookeries of London, or indeed of any of our large towns, can help coming to the conclusion that intemperance lies at the root of most of the evils which characterise such places - poverty, misery, and crime. No one can read the annals of our assizes and police courts without assenting to the opinion expressed over and over again by all our judges and magistrates, that most of the offences and crimes tried before them have been caused by drink, and that it is drink which fills our gaols and keeps the hangman constantly employed. All this goes without saying. But it is not enough to discover the existence or even the cause of the evils around us. Nor is it of any use merely to deplore them. We must find a remedy for the disease, and apply it.
    Now, the obvious remedy for intemperance is temperance, which, we are told, means moderation, not abstinence. If, therefore, we could only get [-107-] all the men and women in the world to act upon this principle of moderation, the world would undoubtedly be much improved, and we should have no need of total abstinence societies or pledges.
    But unfortunately it has been found impossible to persuade the great mass of the people to observe that fine principle of moderation in drinking. Most people acknowledge that it is a very fine thing, but they go and get drunk all the same.
    "Bring religion to bear upon them - convert them Then they will no longer get drunk; they will be temperate."
    This is what we are constantly told by some well- meaning people; and this advice is excellent in itself. But unhappily it is not always practicable. how are we to bring religion to bear upon people who never enter a church ? How is religion to be brought to bear upon people who are never really sober?
    I venture to think that the first step in the conversion of the intemperate is to make them sober; and that, until that is done, there is but little use in talking to such people about religion.
    The second step is to keep them sober. But the only sure way to do that is to bring them under the influence of a higher power than that of man. Now therefore is the time to take them to the Pool of [-108-] Siloam, and mayhap they will now allow themselves to be led thither. But before they can hope to benefit by its waters, they must at least be sober, whatever other ailments they may have besides intemperance.