Our Slavic Fellow Citizens - 1910

Slovak Emigration
Chapter VI

Intemperance

As to intemperance, all the powers that be seem to favor rather than to restrain drinking.

The large landowner, who is the local great personage, is interested in marketing the products of his distillery. The Jew who pays for the exclusive right of sale and keeps the drinking shop where the rank potato brandy of the countryside is sold, is often the only intelligent man in the little community, the only one who can help in a money difficulty, translate a legal document (always in Magyar), or assist with advice in an emergency.

He often controls not only the drink traffic but practically all the retail trade, and is the only man who can supply goods or buy produce. For all these reasons it is essential to stand well with him, and his goodwill must be won by buying his wares, especially his liquor.

The government also, I am told, is opposed to temperance agitation as likely to lower revenues, and some years ago actually put a stop to a series of mission services that the Redemptorist fathers were proposing to hold throughout the Slovak counties in the interest of temperance. The local priest is not likely to be a total abstainer, and too often has neither the desire nor the courage to take a decided stand on the question, though there are honorable exceptions.

Public opinion, while not so low as in eighteenth century England, or colonial New England, is much below what it is at present in the more advanced countries. One of the most frequent comments of returned emigrants, in regard to the United States, is in the first place that beer is cheap and abundant in America, and in the second place that men are arrested there for being drunk. "And rich men as well as poor ones; that could not happen here."

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