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“ 2. Christmas day is generally understood to be a day of good cheer; and, in the humble walks of life, whoever calls upon his friend to wish him the compliments of the season,' expects to find the plum bread, and the cheese, and the beer, and the spirits, awaiting his acceptance.
“We love hospitality; but we hate its appropriation to moral mischief-to promote vice-to lead men to intemperance; and we do not hesitate to say, that, in connexion with these usages, often are the father and the son, the mother and the daughter, led into drunkenness; and the very foundation is laid for the misery and ruin of families, the multiplication of paupers, and for every form of profligacy and crime, which disgraces our streets, or crowds our prisons.
"3. The evils of such practices are not confined to one day. All classes of artisans,—indeed almost all kinds of people whom you employ, or are employed by, --come, in the course of the week, to beg a Christmas-box. In these perambulations many a glass of gin is distributed; and often before the groups of collectors have finished their short day's work, they are scarcely able to give you a sober answer to a common question. But this is not all; what becomes of the money thus bestowed? Does it go to feed poor hungry children, to clothe destitute people, or to add to the real comfort of the poor man's household? Ah, no! it is usually spent in a merrymaking
;-a drunken bout at a public-house; where, if more is not spent at the time than has actually been received, many a poor infatuated wretch prolongs his debauch, till it is well if the very bread and clothing of his wife and children be not sacrificed to the insatiate cravings of this demon which he worships. And all this is done at a time professedly set apart to celebrate the birth of Him who came to destroy the works of the devil, and who went about doing good' to the souls and bodies of
“4. But, it must be inquired, are vicious Christmas customs confined to the humbler classes, in regard to station in life? We wish they were ; but sincerity forbids us to allow this to be considered as our opinion-we know it to be otherwise! The same principle prevails throughout all classes—that the day is to be marked by good cheer, and that the free drinking of intoxicating liquors is part of this cheer. It is the givings of the middle and upper classes which are prostituted in the manner thus described. Not only are the bounds of christian moderation often far outstepped at the master's table, but the kitchen (with a consistency which in itself we admire) partakes
of the free cheer; and the strong old ale and the ardent spirits flow freely down the throats of its occupiers, from the butler to the stable-boy, and from the housekeeper to the scullery girl. Merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers, all follow the same course.
We heard of a tradesman, the year before the last, who employs a considerable number of young men, taking a pride in making them all drunk on the night of Christmas-day.
“We may fairly put the question, Are these practices consistent with our boasted civilization ? Are they not relics of ancient barbarism? Does not reason herself cry shame of this monstrous admixture of sensual and holy things? But even considering the occasion as one only of hospitality, have we no mental resources but those which spring from the bottle, and no expressions of friendship, but in pressing the stimulating draught to the lips, and crying, Drink, drink ?"
Payment of Wages.- In too many cases throughout the empire, the foreman or other person appointed by the employer to adjust the payment of the men's wages, is in some kind connected with a public-house ; either as its landlord, or as having a premium on the consumption he can induce by his patronage. A most cruel and barefaced robbery is frequently practised on the men in such a case. They are desired to come to the public-house to receive their wages, at seven or eight o'clock on Saturday night. They are welcomed by the host or hostess with the utmost kindness. A large, well-fired, well-aired room, is afforded for their accommodation. Of course they must begin with ordering half a pint for the good of the house, or to settle a previous bet with a fellow-workman; this temple of Belial being the “ Tattersall’s ” of the working classes.
They are treacherously informed that small money is difficult to be got: that the foreman has not yet procured the whole amount necessary, though every exertion has been made. All the time, the change has been, in point of fact, lying ready in the coffer of the publican ; but it is his interest, and that of the foreman, that as much delay as possible should intervene; and that as much temptation to drink as possible should be thrown in the way of the men. Hour after hour elapses in this state of longing expectancy; the men call for one pint after another; the wives and children begin, some of them, to collect, round the door, to try to rescue a portion of the wages, before it is utterly swamped. This procedure sometimes produces family altercations that do not end here.
The 'foreman or clerk at length arrives; he is shown up stairs to a small room, where a fowl and ham neatly cooked, and tumblers of hot rum and water await his arrival, and that of a companion. He is so much engaged in urgent business with this gentleman, that he cannot commence the small affair of dividing wages as yet. The men are detained the better part of another hour. Every scheme of excitement to drink is set on foot by the landlord and his associates. The men sip and drink; the nervous excitement commences; some jokes are offered, and a line of a song is sung by itself, and prudence and reflection gradually disappear; and the landlord and his associates are saved further trouble, the drink fire is kindled. At ten, eleven, or half-past eleven, the wages are divided : the week's drink scores, and the bets are first deducted. A few go home with the balance to their craving, trembling, hungry, or angry wives and children. Many remain to drink most part of the night, unless some merciful regulation of the ace makes that inconvenient or impossible. In most cases the wives and families have to make their market that night, and take the refuse of meat and vegetables, phrased by them the "kag mag,” which has been handled and pulled about by the public since the morning; or perhaps they must seem to break the Lord's-day by marketing on Sunday:
Respectable women who do not choose to leave their children locked up to be burnt, perhaps, or otherwise injured, carry the children about with them, however late it may be; and these young hearts are habituated to improper scenes from an early age.
Thus to gain a little extra salary for the foreman, and to save the drowsy unconcerned employer the trouble of adjusting these all-important concerns, the Working Classes of the three kingdoms are half ruined.
Such seem to be the principal drinking usages of the workshop, and the customs of business and professions as respects drinking in England. I have also collected some notices of drinking customs among professional men, coroner's juries, and other departments; and at bargain and sale, at funerals, fairs, and merry-makings in town and country. Various points of information have been tendered me regarding the drinking practices at marriages, baptisms, and at New-year's day, and
Whitsuntide ; but none of these are so full as I could wish, so I shall for the present pass them over.
I do not pretend to be able to prove that all and every usage I have mentioned does exist in all or each workshop, trade, and establishment of England: but there is no doubt that compulsory and artificial drinking usage is very, general, and may be considered in the light of a great national disadvantage and misfortune.
And I hope it only requires the subject to be examined and attended to, in order to start such plans for the suppression of these practices, as will issue in the destruction of the compulsory system, and in the restoration of the Briton to that freedom of conduct and behaviour to which he considers himself by birth entitled. The full triumph of slavery is where it has so blinded the mind, as to be unfelt as galling and debasing. The people of Great Britain and Ireland are slaves, as if in fetters, to drinking usage, and they know it not; they think themselves free, and do not even suspect their state of bondage. Or if some minds, more enlightened than others, have of late begun to see and bewail the inexorable tyranny; yet even they seem to be stunned and confounded at the strength and incredible multiplicity of the compulsory drinking practices; and are too apt to regard them as necessary evils, like thunder and lightning, dearth and earthquake, which we may deplore, but for the averting of which no means have as yet been discovered.
With regard to the general characteristics of the modes of inebriation of England, as distinguished from those of Scotland, I dare scarcely at present venture to do anything more than hazard a crude and hasty opinion. It appears that so far from England being unfettered altogether from similar handicraft, workshop, or business usages as obtain in Scotland, as was for a time contended, there are fully more usages of this description in South Britain than in the North : and the penalties for non-compliance with these seem to be more multifarious and more severe. On the other hand, the practice of drinking in connexion with courtesy and complaisance; the constituting liquor the instrument of politeness and civility, and domestic usages in general, seem to be in vogue in Scotland even to a greater degree than in England; and therefore, I apprehend, it will be found that in Scotland there is comparatively more inebriation and family use of liquor at funerals, marriages, christenings, merry-makings, dinner, and supper, and in some cases, breakfast parties, and in ordinary forenoon
visits, than what takes place in similar circles in South Britain, where many forenoon visits, supper parties, afternoon, and even dinner parties occur without the use of wine and spirits
As I have found business drinking more easily suppressed than family usages, I should be inclined to suppose that the universal English customs would give way to a new state of things sooner than the Scotch ; and that South Britain would, in this matter, take the lead of the North, were it not that I have also found that my own suppositions and surmises on such subjects, with defective data to go upon, have more frequently turned out to be erroneous than the reverse.
GENERAL, ARTIFICIAL, AND COMPULSORY DRINKING USAGES,
WHICH ARE COMMON TO THE THREE KINGDOMS.
Besides a vitiated Appetite, a metaphysical Enginery at Work-Case of
Negroes and Hindoos contrasted-Usages of other Lands-Ladies and Gentlemen-Conventional Connexion of Courtesy with strong Drink-Drinking of Healths and Toasts—Public Dinners.
From the above deduction, it appears that there is in the United Kingdom, besides the physical craving of appetite, a vast moral enginery at work in favour of intemperance, greater by far than in any other nation; so much so, that, although an individual in this country is considered in the last stage, when he drinks solitarily, yet a nation whose individuals drink in solitude is a much more hopeful case for temperance reformation, than one whose whole rules, etiquettes, courtesies, and complimentary usages, are impregnated with the give and take of spirituous liquors. In the one case, we have merely a corporal indulgence to get rid of; in the other, we have, over and besides, a most incessant metaphysical agency to combat at every point. Among the other nations of Europe, drink is not often the instrument of compliment and courtesy, and very seldom in America; at the same time, it is not meant to affirm that this difference between our country and others is altogether one of kind, for it is doubtless one of degree only. The secret cause, however, of Americans holding faster to temperance obligations once engaged in, than is usual with us, may