"Foot Free in God's Country." by Mrs. Marie Antoinette Nathalie Granier Dowell Pollard (1840-).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 293-295.
|MRS. MARIE ANTOINETTE NATHALIE POLLARD.|
Intemperance has in it crimes darker than murder, and a deep more hopeless than despair. It is as wide as the habitable earth, began with the birth of man, and may not cease until his race perishes from the globe. Strangest of all strange things in human conduct, man created it himself, fosters, nourishes, extends and builds it up of his own eager, voluntary effort, without which it would perish in a day. Bringing to him no semblance of good; bringing none to anything that he loves, values or cherishes; blasting, burning and consuming his best and proudest moments; consuming him in his form, his mind, his heart, his hope, his health and home, in his soul and in his hope of Heaven. If this visitant from another world should recover from his astonishment, he might inquire further: "Why does not the government prohibit its production and sale?" Well, it derives a profit by permitting it to be made and sold; and besides, the government receives every year $75,000,000 for the manufacture and sale of liquors. The states receive $25,000,000 for licenses, making $100,000,000. As there are one hundred thousand men who die drunkards every year, this is equal to $1,000 to the government for every man who dies a drunkard–a sort of partnership with the devil, you know. Yet this does not pay one quarter the cost for caring for criminals? Besides, the majority of our people think it would be wrong to prohibit it."
"What good comes of it?" "None at all. It never did any good." "Did it always produce evil, as now?" "Always, everywhere; just as we see it here." "Explain, then, why all men do not agree to prohibit it?" "I can not." "How can [Page 294] men be found so abandoned as to sell it?" "They are not the worst men among us. They only supply a common want of our people, which our laws permit." "Why do men drink it?" "Because many of them have an uncontrollable appetite for it; many because it is a mere fashion, a common custom." "What, a fashion to drink this dreadful liquid?" "Yes." "I do not understand that." "Nor do I." "Are men born with this uncontrollable appetite?" "A very few inherit it." "How is it formed?" "Simply by drinking." "Explain this." "Well, a natural appetite in a healthy nature of this world, when it is fed, lies down like a full animal and goes to sleep until awakened by its own voice. This appetite for drink is created by that which feeds it, and the more it is gratified the more ravenous it becomes. It can never be allayed or gratified, but goes forth roaring and devouring, until the unhappy wretch whom it inhabits perishes." "Is there danger that every man who tastes this may thus create that appetite?" "Very great danger." "And yet, among you mortals of this wretched world, your laws encourage the production and furnishing of this diabolical fluid, and your fashions and customs compel its use."
Its evil lies in the passion and will of man, and away below the reach of law and written constitutions, but within the grasp of a power that alone can control heart and soul. The evil burns deeper, its fiery breath blasts wider. There seems no power in man's effort to stay it.
How beautiful the work of woman comes in. God has called you my sisters. Will you heed His voice? Will you stand up and say, as David did, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart; I will set no unclean thing before my eyes?" Remember, it is line upon line and precept upon precept. Remember that intemperance deprives men of their reason and fosters and encourages all kinds of immorality. It destroys the peace and happiness of millions of families. It takes a boy of beauty and makes him a bloated, loathsome, worthless man. It takes a young girl, lovely and lovable, and makes her a degraded being, at whom passers-by point with the finger of scorn. You remember these lines: "Hated and shunned, I walk the street, hunting for what? For my prey, 'tis said. I look at it, though, in a different light. For this mighty shame is my daily bread, my food, my shelter, the clothes that I wear. Only for this I might starve or drown. What made me the guilty thing I am–for I was innocent once, you know? It was drink–that horrid word says all. What had I to gain by a moment's sin to weigh in the scales with my innocent years, my womanly shame, my ruined name, my father's curses, my mother's tears? The love of drink. Was it worth it? The price was a soul paid down. Your guilt was heavy, the world will say; and heavy, heavy your doom must be, for to pity and pardon woman's fall is to set no value on chastity."
Oh, women, who have suffered as only a woman can suffer, who have felt as only a woman can feel, who have hoped as only a woman can hope, come forth! Come without law! Come without man's help! Come in defiance of both, and kneel down on the cold, bare stones, if need be, amid hearts harder and colder than marble, and lift your voices and souls in undoubting faith to the God of Heaven, and men will feel their hearts thrill as if under the touch of His finger.
Stay thou, O, Lord! the tide of death!
Rebuke the demon's blasting breath,
And speed, O speed, on every shore
The day when strong drink slays no more.
The clouds and storms of life are lessened by our love of God, and the nearer we live to Him, the lighter our burdens seem. Next to God man believes in the goodness and purity of woman. He believes that God does and will hear her prayer, and when she comes to Him in his haunts of sin, in her purity and faith, and asks God to touch his heart and change his will and power, God does touch and change him. There is not a living man, save some abnormal or diseased wretch, who can and will hold out against this persistent pleading and imploring. Man may be affronted and [Page 295] talk of his constitutional rights of property; but the constitution written by God on the hearts of men is the paramount law. We are told that the public sense of decency is offended by the appearance of processions of praying women on its streets. Let it be offended. The public sense of decency always was and will be when the public vices and crimes are rebuked by plain truths spoken according to the Scriptures. Popular religion veils her decorous face, and pulls her skirts away, and fears that the cause of religion will suffer from such scandalous proceedings on the part of pious temperance men and women in the name of God. Poor thing! Let popular religion not be alarmed, for God is quite equal to the management of His own affairs.
This temperance movement is one of the deep throbbing movements of the human race; with unanimity and persistency, faith and prayer, on the part of the women of this land this huge evil can be dealt with as an offense against law and private morals.
I would ask you to sum up, if you can, the amount paid in a single day for drink alone. Now let the mind go out, extend the vision and the sum to all the cities, towns, villages, hamlets and waste places in the republic, and put the sum total in figures and multiply it by the days in the year, and you have a sum greater than the revenue of the United States Government. And paid for what? For that which is related to no good and which is wholly and utterly bad.
Add the yearly waste for drink of all the years of human life on this continent and, if the mind can carry it forward, estimate the cost of drink for all the years of modern Europe, and you reach a sum which can hardly find expression in words and figures.
Give me what is thus expended in fifty years, with wisdom to rightly use it, and what would I not do? I would feed and clothe, nurse and house every wretched child of wretched mortal man and woman on the broad earth. I would build up schoolhouses on all hillsides, in all the pleasant valleys, on all the smiling plains known to man. I would hire men to do good until they should fall in love with goodness. I would banish that nameless sin, for every female child should be placed above want and be made mistress of herself, to be approached only for her purity; and man should come to seek and love woman for that alone.
Drunkenness should be no more, for I would buy up the art and wish to produce that which could cause it, until the appetites and habits of men were healthy and pure. Men should be taught the science and art of self-government, and their labors and energies taxed alone for their self-good. Then, indeed, would fair opportunity come to all the sons and daughters of men unwarped and unfettered by starvation and want; uncrippled by crime and unstained by vice; with healthful, vigorous natures, pure desires and passions; with the broad, peaceful, beautiful earth opening its paths to their innocent feet without snares and pitfalls to go and do as they will.
This is a dream, you will say. I know it is. Such boundless wealth is not to be placed at the disposal of any mortal born, nor will mortal ever be endowed with such wisdom in its disposal. But could the fatal waste of these unknown millions of human beings at once and forever be stayed, and the little streamlets and drops of this waste turned and converted even to the ordinary means known to human advancement, my dream would be no longer a dream, but a hope of wondrous inspiration, leading the races of men to its happy realization, and then, and not until then, can we be foot free in God's country, America.
Mrs. Marie Antoinette Nathalie Pollard, Lecturer, Poet and Authoress, was born in Norfolk. Va. Her parents were the Countess de Boussoumart and Col. Pierre Joseph Granier. At Norfolk. Vs., Mrs. Pollard received her training under the careful guidance of a governess. At the age of fourteen she married James R. Dowell. After the close of the Civil war she married Edward Albert Pollard, author of "The Lost Cause." Her postoffice address is Safe Deposit Company, East Fourteenth Street, New York, N. Y.
This chapter has been put on-line as part of the
BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.