A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 131

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THE CONTROL OF DRINK


The political veteran, M. Georges Clemenceau, dared to defy the censorship, which retaliated by simply suppressing L’Homme Libre, in which newspaper he exposed without mercy the faults of the government. It is true that the paper reappeared on the following day under the new title of L'Homme Enchainé. But more than once there was left of the indefatigable fighter's article nothing but the title and the signature! No newspaper escaped the vigilance of the censorship, which showed itself as inflexible towards the strong as towards the weak. Certainly it was guilty of slips, and even of glaring mistakes; it's severity frequently gave rise to violent protests and was the object of rather spirited debate in Parliament, but the government had never much trouble in obtaining a large majority to approve of its measures.

The military authority also attacked the sacrosanct "bistro" —that is, the wine seller, café proprietor, the vendor of apéritifs, of adulterated liqueurs, and other alcoholic poisons. The hours of opening were rigorously fixed. The sale of fermented liquor and of spirits to soldiers was forbidden except at certain times—to wit, meal-times—while to women it was forbidden altogether. For the last 40 years Parliament had shown culpable weakness in its relations with the drink trade; it could not have been otherwise, since the drink sellers, or "bistros," both in the towns and in the country, were influential electoral agents, to whom the majority of parliamentarians owed their election. It may be granted that the manufacture and sale of alcohol were scandalously protected by public powers.

The most violent and convincing campaigns against the dangers of invading alcoholism never succeeded in obtaining from Parliament the least restriction of the advantages attached to the drink traffic. On the contrary, the liquor sellers obtained all they washed in the way of shameful concessions from those elected by universal suffrage. But the military authority was under no obligation to what was derisively called the bistocracy, and unceremoniously wrenched awaiy its privileges. Soon it even attacked one of the most violent of alcoholic poisons—absinthe. By a single decree of the military governor of Paris—then General Galliéni—the sale of absinthe was strictly forbidden in Paris and thoughout the whole territory over which military government extended. Identical measures were enforced. A popular movement arose

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