The More Things Stay the Same

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In Sunday’s online edition of The Washington Post, we find this interesting item:

Emmett would probably say, 'well, duh.' Source: The Washington Post

Emmett would probably say, ‘well, duh.’ Source: The Washington Post

The survey doesn’t go back to Emmett’s time, but from what I’ve observed in the contemporary literature and media from his day, social drinking among those in his profession was ‘normal’, expected, typical. A man had a few drinks in his club, or at dinner, with his friends and fellows. A ‘few’ was subjective.

I’ve found several articles from Emmett’s time that were quite honest about the importance of social drinking: If you didn’t drink among your fellows, at your clubs, or at your parties, or at any social gathering where alcohol was served, it stuck out, and not in a good way.

This could be a problem, if you were a freshly minted lawyer wanting to make friends, impress higher-ups, and get accepted into the important social and political circles of the time, and you couldn’t handle the booze safely.

Like Emmett.

Emmett could not drink safely at all, at any time.

From McClure's Magazine, August, 1915. Back then, even without AA (which didn't exist until 1935), the man in this article understood that stopping drinking was the easy part. The hard part was staying sober. Source: Google Books; McClure's Magazine.

From McClure’s Magazine, August, 1915. The man in this article understood that stopping drinking was the easy part. The hard part was staying sober. Source: Google Books; McClure’s Magazine.

But, Emmett knew it was important to be a member of the Pensacola elite, the social select. He knew that was the route to professional success. I don’t know if he liked playing social games all that much; he wasn’t what you’d call ‘the life of the party.’ Emmett was more of a background kind-of guy.

But you can’t stay in the background if you want a career with political prominence.

A.E. Maxwell, who also went by "Emmett;" our Emmett's role model & hero.

A.E. Maxwell, who also went by “Emmett;” our Emmett’s role model & hero. Source: Florida Memory

I am convinced that most of the underlying reasons why he drank had to do with ambition. It was very important for Emmett to make it to the Florida Supreme Court bench; to make his father proud; to best his successful judge-senator-gubernatorial-hopeful big brother (who was always one-up on him); to follow in his beloved Grandfather Maxwell’s footsteps.

But to get there, he had to withstand enormous pressure to succeed. Failure wasn’t something he was comfortable with; so, he threw himself into his ambition. He had poor coping skills when it came to stress and pressure, according to an interview given one of Emmett’s frenemies, who was also a prominent lawyer. So, to deal with the incredible pressures to reach his goals, Emmett drank.


Finally, what I think is interesting in The Washington Post article are the findings that lawyers appear to be mostly pessimists (sometimes by training), tend to be more depressed than the average worker, and, more frequently have ‘pervasive fears surrounding their reputation’ that may stand in the way of getting help with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

In Emmett’s day (just as today), drunkenness or instability, whether factual or rumor, could derail a promising career.

The Washington Post article has given me a lot to think about with regard to Emmett and how he tried to handle the stressors in his life.

Mostly, though, it makes me realize that things have not changed much in 100 years.

 

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