The Praying Band.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Though not a political Prohibitionist, Dr. Scudder was always an advocate of temperance in all things, and especially in the use of alcohol. The evil that men do when under the influence of alcohol and the mischief done by the bibulous doctor often furnished topics for his pen. All forms of vice found in him a merciless antagonist. The methods of accomplishing reforms he left to the reformers, provided they were clean methods. To the efforts of the praying crusaders, though he might have proceeded differently, he utters a hearty Amen. The epidemic referred to was the Woman's Temperance Crusade inaugurated at Hillsboro, Ohio, near Christmas time in 1873, by a body of women inspired by a lecture by Dr. Dio Lewis, delivered in Music Hall of that town. The history of this unique movement, which spread to other towns, is well told by Henry Howe in his History of Ohio, Vol. I, pp. 914-917.—Ed. Gleaner.
THE PRAYING BAND.—We are having a new epidemic, and it is well to briefly notice some of its prominent features; though we may be able to properly classify it, we may not want to give it treatment. It is an epidemic of prayer, and has for its object the abatement of the evil of liquor selling in this country.
We do not care now to analyze the psychology of this epidemic, but simply to study the relation of our profession to it. The first thing we notice is, that whilst ostensibly the prayers are to God, they are personally applied to the sinner. The women "put them where they will do the most good," in the drinking saloon, or at its door, and to the whisky seller and drinker. And like the God they serve these women are no "respecters of persons," and they pray for the well-clothed, respectable druggist or physician as well as for the debased "rum-seller." And to all this we say. Amen.
The evil is one of no ordinary magnitude, and involves the entire fabric of society. No good ever came of intoxicating drink, no good ever will or can come from it. It not only destroys its victim body and soul, ruins his family, and wrongs the community, but it is the cause of very much of the wrong-doing, and gives constant employment to the law. If this evil can be removed by prayer—let the women pray.
In our profession the vice assumes alarming features. One would think that the physician, of all other men, knowing as he does that intoxicating liquors are always injurious, and seeing as he must see the untold suffering that follows their use, would himself abstain, and set a good example to the community. But we find our best men yielding to the habit of tippling, and gradually going the downward road to poverty, disgrace, and death. The evil is so widespread that we have occasion to be alarmed, for no man is safe. We see the pleasant, companionable man, of good business and with bright prospects, gradually yielding to his appetite—at first occasional drinks, then regularly two or three times a day, then constantly until he is "unco fou and very happy" from the time he rises in the morning until he goes to bed at night.
Let the women pray for the physicians, none need it more.
But there is a view of the subject that brings it still nearer home to us. Whilst we may have the right to destroy ourselves, we have no right to injure our neighbor, and especially no right to steal away his liberty, or his ability to control his appetites. The doctor is guilty of much of the evil of intemperance. He prescribes liquor in pleasant forms—bitters, elixirs, etc., and thus cultivates the taste for stimulants. We have had a twenty-five years' epidemic of stimulant medication, and God only knows how great a wrong we have thus perpetrated on humanity. Nineteen out of twenty opium eaters can trace their disease and ruin to the physician. How many victims of intemperance can trace their ruin to the same source?
For many years I have refused to use alcoholic stimulants in general practice. No alcohol in "bitters," no "elixirs" that are but liquor disguised. It is possible to get along without running the risk of cultivating this appetite; indeed, I have found that it is far better to dispense with alcoholic liquors in the preparation of tonics and stimulants. In this matter I apply the golden rule, "and whatever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." I should not want you to come into my house and cultivate an appetite for stimulants in my boys, or my husband, or my wife, that may lead them to drunkenness, disgrace, and death, and I will not do it to you.
I know that alcoholic liquors as commonly used in medicine do no good, but great harm, and that even in the exceptional cases of low grades of fever, and in old age, we can get along without them. Let us then to-day set our faces toward Jerusalem, whether we believe in prayer or not, and say from this day forward, I will not put the cup to my neighbor's lips, and I will not set the community a bad example by drinking myself.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1874.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.