When by the casting of the lots I became the first chaplain of the Quebec Marine Hospital, I was sure that God had directed this for my good and His own glory, and I was right.  In the beginning of November, 1834, Mr. Glackmayer, the superintendent came to tell me that there was an unusually large number of sick left by the Fall fleets.  In danger of death, they were day and night calling for me.  He added, secretly, that several had already died of smallpox of the worst type, and that many were also dying from the terrible cholera morbus which was still raging among the sailors.

     This sad news came to me as an order from heaven to run to the rescue of my dear sick seamen.  The first man I met was Dr. Douglas who confirmed the number of sick and added that the prevailing diseases were of the most dangerous kind.

     Dr. Douglas, who was one of the founders and governors of the hospital was one of the ablest surgeons of Quebec.  Though a staunch protestant he honored me with his confidence and friendship from the first day we met.  I may say I have never known a nobler heart, a larger mind and a truer philanthropist.

     After thanking him for the useful though sad news, I requested Mr. Glackmayer to give me a glass of brandy, which I immediately swallowed.

     “What are you doing?” said Dr. Douglas.

     “You see,” I answered; “I have drunk a glass of excellent brandy.

     “But Please tell me why.”

     “Because it is a good preservative against the pestilential atmosphere I will breathe all day,” I replied.” I will have to hear the confessions of all those people dying from smallpox or cholera and breathe the putrid air, which is around their pillows.  Does not common sense warn me to take some precautions against the contagion.”

     “Is it possible,” rejoined he, “that a man for whom I have a sincere esteem is so ignorant of the deadly workings of alcohol in the human frame?  What you have just drank is nothing but poison; and far from protecting yourself against the danger, you are now much more exposed to it than before you drank that beverage.”

     “You poor Protestants” I answered in a joking way, “are a band of fanatics, with your extreme doctrines on temperance.  You will never convert me to your views on that subject.  Is it for the use of the dogs that God has created wine and brandy?  No, it is for the use of men who drink them with moderation and intelligence.”

     “My dear Mr. Chiniquy, you are joking; but I am in earnest when I tell you that you have poisoned yourself with that glass of brandy,” replied Dr. Douglas.

     “If good wine and brandy were poisons,” I answered, you would be long ago the only physician in Quebec, for you are the only one of the medical body whom I know to be an abstainer.  But, though I am much pleased with your conversation, excuse me if I leave you to visit my dear sick sailors, whose cries for spiritual help ring in my ears.”

     “One word more,” said Dr. Douglas.  “Tomorrow morning we will make the autopsy of a sailor who has just died suddenly here.  Have you any objection to come and see in the body of that man, what your glass of brandy has done in your own body.”

     “No, sir; I have no objection,” I replied. “I have been anxious for a long time to make a special study of anatomy.  It will be my first lesson; I cannot get it from a better teacher.”

     I then shook hands with him and went to my patients, with whom I passed the remainder of the day and the greater part of the night.  Fifty of them wanted to make general confessions of all the sins of their whole lives; and I had to give the last sacraments to twenty-five who were dying from smallpox or cholera morbus.  The next morning I was, at the appointed hour, by the corpse of the dead man when Dr. Douglas kindly gave me a very powerful microscope.

     “I have not the least doubt,” said he, “that this man has been instantly killed by a glass of rum.  That rum has caused the rupture of the aorta.”

     While talking thus the knife was doing its work so quickly that the horrible spectacle of the broken artery was before our eyes almost as the last word fell from his lips.

     “Look here,” said the doctor.  “All along the artery you will see thousands, perhaps millions, of reddish spots, which are as many holes perforated through it by alcohol.  Just as the musk rats of the Mississippi River dig little holes through the dams and cause the waters to break through and carry desolation and death along the shores, so alcohol every day causes the sudden death of thousands of victims by perforating the veins of the lungs and the whole body.  Look at the lungs and count, if you can, the thousands and thousands of reddish, dark and yellow spots, and little ulcers.  Every one of them is the work of alcohol causing corruption and death all over these marvelous organs.  Alcohol is one of the most dangerous poisons.  It has killed more men than all the other poisons together.

     “Alcohol cannot go to any part of the human frame without bringing disorder and death to it.  For it cannot in any possible way unite with any part of our body.  The water we drink and the wholesome food we eat is sent to the lungs, to the brain, the nerves, the muscles, the bones—wherever it goes it receives, so to speak, letters of citizenship; it is allowed to remain there in peace and work for the public good.  But not so with alcohol.  The very moment it enters the stomach it brings disorder, ruin and death, according to the quantity taken.

     Look here with your microscope and you will see every place where King alcohol has put his foot has been turned into a battlefield, spread with ruin and death.  By a most extraordinary working of nature, or rather by the order of God, every vein and artery through which alcohol has to pass suddenly contracts, as if to prevent its passage or choke it as a deadly foe.  Every vein and artery has evidently heard the voice of God: ‘wine is a mocker; it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder!”  Every nerve and muscle which alcohol touched, trembled and shook as if in the presence of an implacable and unconquerable enemy.  Yes, at the presence of alcohol every nerve and muscle loses its strength, just as the bravest man, in the presence of a horrible monster or demon, suddenly loses his natural strength, and shakes from head to foot.”

     I cannot repeat all I heard that day from the lips of Dr. Douglas, and what I saw with my own eyes or the horrible workings of alcohol through every part of that body.  It would be too long.  Suffice to say that I was struck with horror at my own folly, and at the folly of so many people who make use of intoxicating drinks.

     During the four years I was chaplain of Marine Hospital, more than one hundred corpses were opened before me.  It is my conviction that the first thing a temperance orator ought to do is to study anatomy; get the bodies of drunkards, as well as those of so called temperate drinkers, opened before him, and study there the working of alcohol in the different organs of man.  These bodies were books written by the hand of God Himself, and they spoke to me as no man could speak.  But here is the time to tell how God forced me, almost in spite of myself, to give up the use of intoxicating drinks.

     Among my penitents was a young lady belonging to one of the most respectable families of Quebec.  She had a beautiful child, a girl, almost a year old.  Of course that young mother idolized her.  Unfortunately that lady, as is too often the case, even among the most refined, had learned in her father’s house, and by the example of her own mother, to drink wine at the table, and when visiting friends.  Little by little she began to drink, when alone, a few drops of wine, at first by the advise of her physician, but soon only to satisfy the craving appetite, which grew stronger day by day.  I was the only one, excepting her husband who knew this fact.  He was my intimate friend, and several times, with tears trickling down his cheeks, he had requested me, in the name of God, to persuade her to abstain from drinking.  That young man was so happy with his accomplished wife and his incomparably beautiful child!  He was rich, had a high position in the world, numberless friends, and a palace for his home!  Every time I had spoken to that young lady, either when alone or in the presence of her husband, she had shed tears of regret; she had promised to reform, and take only the few glasses prescribed by her doctor.  But, alas, that fatal prescription of the doctor was kindling a fire which nothing could quench.

     One day, which I will never forget, a messenger came in haste and said: “Mr. A. wants you to come to his home immediately.  A terrible misfortune has just happened—his beautiful child has just been killed.  His wife is half crazy, he fears she will kill herself.”

     I leaped into the carriage drawn by two fine horses, and in a few minutes I was in the presence of the most distressing spectacle I ever saw.  The young lady, tearing her robes into fragments, tearing her hair with her hands, and cutting her face with the nails of her fingers, was crying, “Oh, for God’s sake, give me a knife that I may cut my throat!  I have killed my child!  My darling is dead!  I am the murderess of my own dear Lucy!  My hands are reddened with her blood.  Oh! May I die with her!”

     I was thunderstruck, and at first remained mute and motionless.  The husband with two other gentlemen, Mr. Blanchet and Coroner Panet, were trying to hold the hands of his unfortunate wife.  He did not dare to speak.  At last the young wife, casting her eyes upon me, said: “Oh, dear father Chiniquy, for God’s sake give me a knife that I may cut my throat!  When drunk, I took my precious darling in my arms to kiss her; but I fell—her head struck the sharp corner of the stove, her brain and blood are spread there on the floor!  My child! My own child is dead!  I have killed her!  Cursed liquor!  Cursed wine!  My child is dead!  I am damned!  Cursed drink!”

     I could not speak, but I could weep and cry.  I wept, and mingled my tears with those of that unfortunate mother.  Then, with an expression of desolation which pierced my soul as with a sword, she said: “Go and see.”  I went to the next room, and there I saw that once beautiful child, dead, her face covered with her blood and brains!  There was a large gap made in the right temple.  The drunken mother, by falling with her child in her arms, had cause the head to strike with such a terrible force on the stove that it upset on the floor.

     The burned coals were spread on every side, and the house had been very nearly on fire.  But that blow, with the awful death of her child, had suddenly brought her to her senses, and put an end to her intoxication.  At a glance she saw the whole extent of her misfortune.  Her first thought had been to run to the sideboard, seize a large, sharp knife, and cut her own throat.  Providentially, her husband was on the spot.  With great difficulty, and after a terrible struggle, he took the knife out of her hands, and threw it into the street through the window.

     It was then about five o’clock in the afternoon.  After an hour passed in indescribable agony of mind and heart, I attempted to leave and go back to the parsonage.  But my unfortunate young friend requested me, in the name of God, to spend the night with him.  “You are the only one,” he said, “ who can help us in this night.  My misfortune is great enough, without destroying our good name by spreading it in public.  I want to keep it as secret as possible.  With our physician and coroner, you are the only man on earth whom I trust to help me.  Please pass the night with us.”

     I remained, but tried in vain to calm the unfortunate mother.  She was constantly breaking our hearts with her lamentations—her convulsive efforts to take her own life. Every minute she was crying,  “My child!  My darling Lucy!  Just when thy little arms were so greatly caressing me, and thy angelic kisses were so sweet on my lips, I have slaughtered thee!  When thou wert pressing me on thy loving heart and kissing me, I, thy drunken mother gave thee the deathblow!  My hands are reddened with thy blood!  My breast is covered with thy brains!  Oh! For God’s sake, my dear husband, take my life.  I cannot consent to live a day longer!  Dear father Chiniquy, give me a knife that I may mingle my blood with that of my child!  Oh that I could be buried in the same grave with her!”  In vain I tried to speak to her of the mercies of God towards sinners; she would not listen to anything I could say; she was absolutely deaf to my voice.  At about ten o’clock she had a most terrible fit of anguish and terror.  Though we were four men to keep her quiet, she was stronger than we all.  She was strong as a giant.  She slipped from our hands and ran to the room where the dead child was lying in her cradle.  Grasping the cold body in her hands, she tore the bands of white linen which had been put round the head to cover the horrible wound, and with cries of desolation she pressed her lips, her cheeks, her very eyes on the horrible gap from which the brain and blood were oozing, as if wanting to heal it and recall the poor dear one to life.

     “My darling, my beloved, my own dear Lucy,” she cried, “open thy eyes—look again at your mother!  Give me a kiss!  Press me again to thy bosom!  But thine eyes are shut!  Thy lips are cold!  Thou dost not smile on me any longer!  Thou art dead, and I, thy mother, have slaughtered thee!  Canst thou forgive me thy death?  Canst thou ask Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to forgive me!  Canst thou ask the blessed Virgin Mary to pray for me?  Will I never see thee again?  Ah, no!  I am lost—I am damned!  I am a drunken mother who has murdered her own darling Lucy!  There is no mercy for the drunken mother, the murderess of her own child.”

     And when speaking thus to her child she was sometimes kneeling down, then running around the room as if flying before a phantom.  But even then she was constantly pressing the motionless body to her bosom or convulsively passing her lips and cheeks over the horrible wound, so that her lips, her whole face, her breast and hands were literally besmeared with blood flowing from the wound.  I will not say that we were all weeping and crying, for the words “weeping and crying” cannot express the desolation—the horror we felt.  At about eleven o’clock, when on her knees, clasping her child to her bosom, she lifted her eyes toward me and said:

     “ Dear father Chiniquy, why is it that I have not followed your charitable advice when, more with your tears than with words, you tried so often to persuade me to give up those cursed intoxicating wines?  How many times you have given me the very words which come from heaven:  ‘Wine is a mocker; it bites as a serpent, and stings like an adder!’  How may times, in the name of my dear child, in the name of my dear husband, in the name of God, you have asked me to give up the use of those cursed drinks.  But listen now to my prayer.  Go all over Canada; tell all the fathers never to put any intoxicating drink before the eyes of their children.  It was at my father’s table that I first learned to drink that wine which I will curse during all eternity!  Tell all the mothers never to taste these abominable drinks.  It was my mother who first taught me to drink that wine which I will curse as long as God is!

     “Take the blood of my child, and go redden the top of the doors of every house in Canada, and say to all those who dwell in those houses that that blood was shed by the hand of a murderess mother when drunk.  With that blood write on the walls of every house in Canada that “wine is a mocker.”  Tell the French Canadians how, on the dead body of my child, I have cursed that wine which has made me wretchedly miserable and guilty.”

     She then stopped, as if to breathe a little for a few minutes.  She added: “In the name of God, tell me, can my child forgive me her death?  Can she ask God to look upon me with mercy?  Can she cause the blessed virgin Mary to pray for me and obtain my pardon?”

     But before I could answer, she horrified us by the cries, “I am lost!  When drunk I killed my child!  Cursed wine!”

     And she fell a corpse on the floor.  Torrents of blood were flowing from her mouth on her dead child, which she was pressing to her bosom even after her death!  That terrible drama was never revealed to the people of Quebec—The coroners verdict was that the child’s death was accidental and that the distressed mother died from a broken heart six hours after.  Two days later the unfortunate mother was buried with the body of her child clasped in her arms.

     After such a terrible storm I was in need of solitude and rest. But above everything I was in need of praying.  I shut myself in my little room for two days, and there, alone in the presence of God, I meditated on the terrible justice and retribution which He had called me to witness.  That unfortunate woman had not only been my penitent: she had been, with her husband, among my dearest and most devoted friends.  It was only lately that she had become a slave to drunkenness.  Before that, her piety and sense of honor were of the most exalted kind known in the church of Rome.

     Her last words were not the commonplace expressions which ordinary sinners proffer at the approach of death; her words had a solemnity for me, which almost transformed them into the oracles of God in my mind.

....Is it Thy will, O my God, that I should go and tell my country what Thou hast so providentially taught me of the horrible and unsuspected injuries which wine and strong drink cause to the bodies as well as the souls of men?  Or is it Thy will that I should conceal from the eyes of the world thou has made known to me, and that I might bury them with me in my grave?”

     As quick as lightning the answer was suggested to me.  “What I have taught the in secret, go and tell it on the housetops!”  Overwhelmed, with an unspeakable emotion and my heart filled with a power, which was not mine, I raise my hands toward heaven and said to my God:

     For my dear Saviour Jesus sake and for the good of my country, O my God, I promise that I will never make any use of intoxicating drinks; I will, moreover, do all in my power to persuade the other priests and the people to make the same sacrifice!”

     Fifty years have passed since I took that pledge, and, thanks be to God, I have kept it.

     For the next two years I was the only priest in Canada who abstained from the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks, and God only knows what sneers, and rebukes, and insults of every kind I had silently to bear.  How many times the epithets of fanatic, hypocrite, reformer, half-heretic, have been whispered into my ear, not only by the priest, but also by the bishops.

     But I was sure that my God knew the motives of my actions, and by His grace I remained calm and patient.  In His infinite mercy He has looked down upon His unprofitable servant and He chose the day when my humiliations were to be turned into great joy.  The day came when I saw those same priests and bishops, at the head of their people, receiving the pledge and blessing of temperance from my hands.  Those very bishops who had unanimously, at first, condemned me, soon invited the first citizens of their cities to present me with a golden medal, as a token of their esteem, after giving me, officially, the title of “Apostle of Temperance of Canada.”

     It was the will of my God that I should see with my own eyes my dear Canada taking the pledge of temperance and giving up the use of intoxicating drinks.  How many tears were dried in those days!  Thousands and thousands of broken hearts were consoled and filled with joy.  Happiness and abundance reigned in many once desolate homes, and the name of our merciful God was blessed everywhere in my beloved country. Surely this was not the work of poor Chiniquy!

     It was the Lord’s work, for the Lord who is wonderful in all His doings, had once more chosen the weakest instrument to show His mercy towards the children of men.  He had called the most unprofitable of His servants to do the greatest work of reform Canada has ever seen, that the glory and praise might be given to Him, and Him alone!