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Which Whiskey Are We Talking About?

Barry Lorch in his San Diego Union column recently told of a debate on the floor of the United States Senate about 130 years ago. The issue was whether alcohol should be sold in the territories seeking statehood. One notoriously anti-alcohol senator, who, according to one description, was so dry he was a known fire hazard, challenged one of his colleagues to state his position on alcohol.

Supposedly his colleague stood up and said this: "You asked me how I feel about whiskey. Well, here's how I stand on the question. If when you say whiskey you mean that Devil's brew, the poison spirit, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yes, literally takes bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man from the pinnacle of righteousness and gracious living and causes him to descend to the pit of degradation, despair, shame, and helplessness, then I am certainly against it with all my heart.

"But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in an old man's footsteps on a frosty morning; if you mean the drink whose sale puts, I'm told, millions of dollars into our treasury which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, or blind or deaf or dumb, our pitifully aged, and our infirm, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then I am certainly in favor of it. This is my stand, and I will not compromise."

Maybe he was running for president.

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