A Warning to Drinkers of Intoxicating Liquors (1854)

These warnings about contaminated alcohol appeared in the May 6, 1854 issue of the Provincial Freeman.

The Provincial Freeman was devoted to Anti-Slavery, Temperance, and General Literature, and was affiliated with no particular Political Party. Its prospectus stated, “it will open its columns to the views of men of different political opinions, reserving the right, as an independent Journal, of full expression on all questions or projects affecting the people in a political way; and reserving, also, the right to express emphatic condemnation of all projects, having for their object in a great or remote degree, the subversion of the principles of the British Constitution, or of British rule in the Provinces.”

To be Meditated upon by Drinkers of Intoxicating Liquors

ADULTERATION OF ALE – If any additional arguments were needed why people ought to abstain from ale and porter surely a sufficient reason would be found in the drugs with which the liquors are so adulterated. In the essay on Brewing, published in the Library of Useful Knowledge, we find, that in the manufacture of beer, sugar, molasses, honey and liquorice, are used for malt. Broom, opium, gentian, quassia, aloes, marsh, trefoil, coculus indicus, tobacco, nux vomica, are used for hops, and the last mentioned are known to be highly poisonous. Saltpetre, common salt, mixed with flour, jalap, the fiery liquid called spirit of maranta, bruised green copperas, live eggshells, hartshorn shaving, nutgalls, potash, and soda, are used to prevent acidity. Coriander seeds, carraways, orange peel, long pepper, casisum, grains of paradise, have been employed for flavour. Coculus indicus, bitter bean, nux vomica, and opium, which are strong poisons, are used for the purpose of producing intoxication. Here the reader will perceive how avarice has studied to enrich itself at the expense of the health, and lives, and morals of the people. – English Publication.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

ADULTERATION OF LIQUORS – Eminent chemists assert that nine-tenths, at least, of all the liquors consumed in the United States are more or less drugged. To say that half of all that pretends to come across the Atlantic is wholly manufactured on this side of it, would be to fall short of the truth.

There are numbers who love and thrive by such nefarious trade. Long practice in the use of sugar of lead, capsicum, acids, aloes, juniper berries, verdigris, logwood, &c. &c., in varying and nicely graduated proportions, has enabled them to bring the art to a degree of perfection that seems almost fabulous. Cheap Monongahela whiskey, brought into their vault by the hogshead, comes out bottled and ready for sale, as “Madeira,” “Cognac,” “Champagne,” “Pale Brandy,” “Cream of the Valley” and “Old Port.” In these the color, flavor, and smell of the original will be so closely imitated that experienced taste is deceived by them. So complete and minute are their operations that not only are foreign brands forged, and the shape of bottles, the devices of seals and corks imitated, but even artificial dust and cobwebs are fabricated, to give them an air of respectable antiquity.

If other proof of this were needed, besides the results of chemical analysis, it might be found in the facts that more Port is drank in the United States in one year than passes through the Custom House in ten; that more Champagne is consumed in America alone than the whole Champagne district produces; that Cognac Brandy costs four times as much in France where it is made, as it is sold for in our corner groggeries; and that the failure of the whole grape-crop in Madeira produced no apparent diminution in the quantity, nor at all corresponding increase in the price, of the Wine. Genuine Brandy, Gin, and Rum are the most costly of all fermented drinks, instead of being as we are accustomed to think, the cheapest. To say nothing of the cost of transportation, they cannot be bought on the spot where they are made at anything like the rates they are sold at in our drinking saloons. Brands that at wholesale bring $3 a bottle, are sold at retail for “three cents a glass!” – Alb. Eve. Journal.

CONSUMPTION OF SPIRITS, BEER, &c. – A return has been made up by the Board of Trade, showing, “as far as can be given” the quantity of spirits, beer, &c., consumed in the United Kingdom annually. In the instance of beer the return has been calculated upon the quantities of malt and sugar used by brewers, deducting the beer exported; there is no account of the beer brewed in private families, and therefore the quantity really drunk must be larger than is here stated. – But, taking this return as the most complete that could be obtained, we have the following account for 1853: – 4,931,639 gallons of foreign and colonial spirits were consumed in Great Britain, and 211,685 in Ireland. Of home-made spirits the consumption was 16,885,955 gallons in Great Britain, and 8,135,362 in Ireland. Foreign and colonial wine, 6,227,022 gallons in Great Britain, 586,809 in Ireland. Beer, 16,443,881 barrels in Great Britain, 640,251 in Ireland. Malt, 40,362,102 bushels in Great Britain, 1,630,076 in Ireland. Sugar, 6,999,884 cwts. on Great Britain, 487,705 in Ireland. Tea, 51,001,851 lbs. in Great Britain, 7,832,236 lbs. in Ireland. Tobacco, 25,940,545 lbs. in Great Britain, 4,024,141 lbs. in Ireland. Taking the population as being much the same in number in 1853 as in 1851, when the census was taken, the average consumption during the year must have been then considerably above a gallon of spirits (nearly nine pints, or about a sixth of a pint per week) nearly a quart of foreign wine (or half a pint in three months), and about 22 12 gallons of beer (not quite half a pint a day). – An individual average, however, is very wide of the mark. It may give a somewhat better idea of the quantity to take the average by families. According to this return, if there had been a Communistic system, and these beverages had been equally distributed, a family of six persons must have had to drink, in the course of the year, 52 pints of spirits (a pint a week), six quarts of foreign wine (a pint a month), and 1,080 pints of beer (not quite three pints a day).

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