Journal of Dr GFW
Thursday, 31 December, 1829
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Have seen occurrences this day producing association of mind on occurrences passed some time in the early part of the month. Just as the light began to chase away the gloom of darkness, I was called to see a most degraded creature, made so by his own misconduct or in other words, by taking the intoxicating draught too freely and was fast decending down to ignominious death. This man, in the course of a few days, say eight, drank at least eight gallons of strong spirits. How is it possible that one individual can consume one gallon per day? It destroys health and happiness. Had the consequences of such conduct been confined to the individual himself, it would not be a subject for much sympathy. But when we come to view his family, a wife, a child, a sister dependent to a great extent on his industry and on him for protection, we must have sympathy for the situation and prospects such as a scene points out. Looking at his almost distracted wife who had confidence in him, sorrowful and mourning. I could not forbear giving the inebriated wretch, after he had become sober, some admonition: "You, Mr. R., are in a deplorable situation, not only as it relates to your immediate self and property, but in relation to your family. You, as a man, have sworn to nourish and support, under all circumstances, your wife and every consideration, both moral and religious, should teach you that the preservation of all your faculties is necessary to be preserved for that purpose and by destroying these you forfeit your oath.·
If you disregard a pledge thus solemnly made, how can you in return expect confidence from her or from any other? Sir, this course of life will effectually destroy every species of happiness in your family and shame and disgrace will assuredly follow you to an early grave. Is not your duty to provide for and protect your family? And how can you expect to do so if you continue to follow a detestable course of life which deprives you of reason, sense, and will end in your death, the destruction of all property, and a breaking up of your family? Are you not sensible that soon you will be deprived of all means for supporting your family, all these possessions the result of the toil of your father, soon will be squandered by you, his prodigal son? Does not this thought in your sober hours disturb your nights of repose? Do you not look upon that child and reflect that you, as the father, should now in its infantile years direct in the path of soberness and propriety? You should teach him to be honest and industrious. And what is your example? Is it not an example that should be shunned? Is yours not a vice which every individual should detest and such is the course you, in your conduct, teach him is right?
What pleasure or satisfaction can your family know while you are intoxicated, which effectually destroys for the time every good feeling, every benevolent desire? How can you expect the least assistance from your companion or sympathy of her in her distress when your strength is destroyed and obliterated by spirits? Will you disregard the calls of humanity and abondon every species of justice, sinking yourself below the beasts of the field just for spirits? Forsake the cup and become a useful member of society.
One thing more I have to say and will then leave you to act as you may think proper, and this is, it is quite useless for me to administer means of relief if you do not refrain from drinking to excess. It will be involving you in debt and be of no durable service to you.You are now recovered from the distressing effects of spirits and can attend to your business hereafter, and I would, as a well-wisher, advise you never to taste any more spirits.
He promised faithfully to make a complete reform in his life. But the history of too many similar cases is not favorable for the duration of such wholesome determinations.
Some time after this, this same individual and his wife came to my house and stayed all night. It happened that the father-in-law, C. Bonner, was in town at the same time. He also came in after dark so intoxicated that he could scarcely articulate a word. When he started to leave, he called me out of doors to speak a few words to me of a secret nature. I accompanied him into the porch when the old man began to express his sorrow at the vicious habit his son-in-law had fell into of late, and he hoped I would talk to him and endeavor to prevail on him to leave off getting drunk, as it would ruin him and his family if continued. Said he would lose all his respect in society and be considered no better than a brute. Said he would have spoken to him on the subject, but he hated to wound the feelings of his daughter in a strange place. But he hoped I would not forget to admonish him, as Cynthia would not mind it, as I was the Doctor. Here we see that we can point out the faults and failings of our neighbors with much more ease than we can acknowledge our own. This old man, who had destroyed his living the same way, still continued to follow the same practice.
I now find the night is far spent and that the close of the year is fast approaching. The expiring moment will soon arrive. A solemn and serious reflection should occupy the mind in reviewing the scenes of the expiring year. Here I am interrupted by the constant intrusion of those who appear to rejoice that a year is on the point of being covered in eternity. I cannot possibly imagine what reason can be assigned for this continual running and noise on this night. Where is the scene recorded in the Sacred Oracle for any such scenes as it is made here a matter of religious necessity? All sorts and sizes mingle together regardless of every consideration, and if any one should refuse admittance, he could ever expect pardon or even a remission of so great a sin. I see among them some beautiful countenances of both male and female, were they in virtuous retirement instead of pacing the streets and in the mud and dark, and crowded in condensed masses on porches filling the air with all sorts of speech.
How much more becoming, how much more deneficial would they all appear were they using some exertion in the paths of improvement. It seems then there would have been a far superior luster eminating from those beautiful faces and far more and superior charms would have been developed had such a course been cultivating the mind which is and must be forever dormant as long as such superstitious notions are inculcated·and such foolish notions are acted on as the grave matters of religion. There can be no enlargement of human happiness result from ignorance. It is efectually by precept and example binding down the minds of the present generation to believe in forms and customs as constituting real Religion and as necessary to gain eternal happiness hereafter.
There is, during the forepart of the night, one meeting after another at regular and stated intervals until twelve o'clock. And there is what is called a watch meeting at midnight and the more ignorant believe that all the domestic animals bend the knee to God at that time as a token of submission to His divine will. This is taught by aged parents to their children. How absurd. How ridiculous. How humiliating to the intelligent is the calculation of such sentiment. To make the infantile mind believe that this day was marked and set apart by the Creator to be so particularly observed, that cattle observe the first day of January more than the first day of December or any other month. I am not aware that any keep vigils for the purpose of seeing this silent worship. One thing is done here which is worthy and of much benefit, and it would be well if all societies would adopt the same. At the silent hour of midnight, all the important occurrences of the past year relating to the society are read, all the births, deaths, marriages, all those that have joined the society, etc., etc., etc. Here these can be found and the dates of each. It is a good chronological history of the events pertaining to the society and is frequently of much importance.
I think that my reverence for pure Religion is as great as any of these professors. I love every species of real goodness and I love and reverence my Creator for his unbounded goodness. But I can now, nor never could, see any such goodness in any or all these ceremonies and practices such as this and many other days have acted on their annual occurrence. Soon I may draw the last sigh that can escape from my breast the present year. The clock admonishes me that there are but a few moments remaining. Soon I bid farewell to all the pains and pleasures, sorrows and disappointments of the ending year and it has fallen to my lot to see and feel many, and judging of the future from the remembered scenes of the present, a gloomy prospect may and is anticipated. But you are going; you are gone. Farewell. You are now in eternity, never more to revisit time and with all that has been done, you are shrouded in endless night. But pleasant thoughts, and yet painful; the mind, the memory that solace and torment of human beings still lives, still survives. That constant and faithful, yet treacherous adherent to mortal creatures, records the deeds that have been performed during your existence. You are gone, yet my diary records every day of your existence, and in that record are many things unpleasant and may, at some future moment, create a tear of sorrow and pain, which even were it not mentioned would have remained among the forgotten transaction of your career. As it regards my own self, it was during your reign on eof the most important moments in my life occurred. Often did I pause and reflect, resolve and re-resolve, to do and not to do. Many hours of deep reflection and painful anxiety did I spend endeavoring to see the probable future. Yet how incomplete, how fallacious have many of the conclusions drawn in these moments of relection proved. When the only true test was applied, even experience is not always a true guide.
So far as a short experience has demonstrated, the correctness of reflection anterior to the occurrence resembles very much an unpleasant morning when the sun, the glorious and effulgent light of day, bursts through the dark clouds and presents a clear sky and all appears animated with cheerful gladness, plesaantly anticipating a deautiful day. Every prospect brightens. All is animation, no dangers are expected; a pleasant breeze seems to fill every sail, and anture appears decked in all her beauty. All seems free from danger. Yet before night's sable curtain be spread; yes, before the sun shall have attained his meridian splendor, some small cloud may be observed in the horizon, gradually increasing in magnitude and moving in different directions, spreading far and wide. Gloom and horror seems gathering round; on every side is heard the distant and mournful sound of the roaring elements. Every prospect darkens and before night usurps her dominion. The tornado breaks the calm and all the expected, wished for, and anticipated pleasure of the morning are hurled to the wind. Nothing left but the blasted, ruined prospects with scarcely a single ray of light to cheer or relieve the mind so pleasantly situated in the time of safety or bowers of reflection. I think, I feel and see the day, yes almost the hour fast approaching that drives peace and contentment, joy and happiness, from my possession. Have I done wrong? Have I deviated from an upright course? No. Or, if I have I do not knoww it. Yet I see it is so. The designing and ignorant will never think or consider. I feel that I have been wronged, yet I cannot arrest the torrent. Time must decide all.