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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Appendix VII. — Abstract of Mr. Goldwin Smith's Views on the Working of the Scott Act

Appendix VII.

Abstract of Mr. Goldwin Smith's Views on the Working of the Scott Act.

In 1878 the Canadian Parliament passed what is commonly known as [unclear: the] "Scott Act," which enables any county or city, through a majority of the [unclear: election] to prohibit the sale of any liquors within the district under a penalty of 50 dollar for the first, 100 dollars for the second, and two months' imprisonment for the thi offence. When adopted, the Act remains in force for three years, after which upon a petition signed by one-fourth of the electors being presented, it may aga be submitted to the vote, and if the majority wish it, repealed.

In Ontario, there are forty-two counties and eleven cities, out of which twenty eight counties and two cities adopted the Act. The other day, ten counties (nine them at once) repealed it, and' eighteen other counties and two cities have petitione or are preparing to do so, for repeal. In Ontario the Scott Act is regarded as dea and advocates of prohibitory legislation are turning their minds to other measure This is a genuine verdict of the people. Druukenness, instead of being diminishe appears to have increased, At Woodstock a memorial signed by 300 of the principal citizens, of whom none were connected with the liquor traffic, says, "The Scott Act in this town, has not diminished, but increased drunkenness. It be wholly prevented the use of light beverages, as lager beer, substituting therefor in large measure ardent spirits, and it has led to the opening of many drinking places where the sale of liquor is continued till hours after midnight." A leading physiciation of the same town says:—" From my own observation, the abuse of intoxicatin liquors is greatly on the increase here, and there is a lamentable increase of drinking among the younger men of the community." At Milton the effect was the same i at Woodstock, for in this place before the adoption of the Act, there were but fi places in which liquor was sold; after the adoption of the Act there were no [unclear: fewer] than sixteen. The Mayor and Chief Constable of Milton signed a declaration the the Act had signally failed to reduce intemperance: and that instead of removing temptation from the young, it had a contrary effect, while cases of juvenil drunkenness had been shockingly frequent. There were scores of petitions t Parliament from County Councils or other municipal bodies declaring the failure c the Act. Wine, beer, and cider may or may not be injurious, but at all events the are not so injurious as ardent spirits; they stimulate less to criminal violence, the evil against which, in dealing with this subject, society is most concerned to guard A natural tendency of Prohibition however, as the evidence cited seems to show, i to substitute ardent spirits, which, containing a great amount of alcohol in a small bulk, are more easily smuggled, for the lighter drinks of which the bulk is greater It is well that the attention of philanthropy, of practical philanthropy at least should be specially called to this point. Not only does Prohibition appea practically to encourage the use of ardent spirits; but the spirits, being sold by the lowest dealers, are apt to be of the most pernicious kind; sometimes they and literally poison. It is true where Prohibition prevails the liquor shop no longe invites the passer by with open doors. But the illicit liquor seller is probably more active than the licensed publican in thrusting his temptation upon those who are most likely to yield to it, especially on the young. A clandestine drinker is sure to be a deep drinker. He is sure to drink, not with his meals, but in the specially page 17 pernicious form of drams. He is sure also to contract sneaking habits, and to lose respect for himself, as well as respect for the law.

Archdeacon Farrar himself, in his controversy with Baron Bramwell, brands as uncharitable and absurd the doctrine that there is anything morally wrong in the use of fermented liquor. He admits that moderate drinking is a perfectly lawful enjoyment, and that multitudes of men indulge in it who are wiser and better than himself. Have we not in the history of the poaching bred by tyrannical game laws and the smuggling bred by excessive customs duties, abundant proof of the danger of putting the moral sense of the people at variance with the law? The prohibitionists themselves never propose to punish a man for drinking a glass of ale, though the drinking and selling being parts of the same transaction both should be criminal or neither.

The results of coercive legislation in the United States are the same. Maine is the "banner state" of prohibition, yet Hamilton, who should know it well, said, in the North American Review, that after trying prohibition for thirty years, the actual result is that liquor is sold to all who wish to obtain it in nearly every town in the State. The New York Sun, after a careful investigation, also stated, "That in no part of the world is the spectacle of drunken men, reeling along the streets, more common than in the cities and larger towns of Maine. Nowhere in the world is the average quantity of liquor sold so bad, and consequently so dangerous to the health of the consumer and the peace of the public. Massachusetts also for a series of years tried Prohibition. The result is embodied in the report of a joint comnittes of both Houses of the Legislature (1887), which ought to be in the hands of all those who wish to be guided by experience in this matter. The report, founded on the best evidences, states that the law, if by its operation it diminishes the number of open places for drinking, does so only to multiply the secret places; that more liquor and worse liquor was drunk; that drunkenness increased almost in the direct ratio to the closing of public places for sale; and there was more of it in Boston than there had been at any previous time in the history of the city. "The mere fact," says the report, in words to which we would call special attention, "the mere fact that the law seeks to prevent them from drinking rouses the determination to drink in many. The fact that the place is secret takes away the restraint which, in more public and respectable places would keep them within temperate bounds. The fact that the business is contraband and liable to interruption, and that its gains are hazardous, tends to drive honest men from it and to leave it under the control of dishonest men, who will not scruple to poison the community with Tile adulteration." In conclusion, the report submits that so long as there is a demand for liquor there will be a supply, licensed or illicit, and recommends regulated freedom as the best policy.

In Iowa again Prohibition has been on its trial. A correspondent of Harper's Weekly recommended as thoroughly trustworthy by a journal itself very careful of its statements, reported that Prohibition in the cities of Iowa meant free liquor. A correspondent of the New York Nation testified to much the same effect, adding that the local organ of Prohibition itself admitted the failure. Dr. Dio Lewis, the Cato of dietists, said that he had touched at several of the large cities on a tour to the Rocky Mountains, and among other things had inquired into the practical benefits reaped from Prohibition. In places where he had been assured that drink could not be procured for love or money he had seen drunkards reeling in the streets. In Iowa city, where prohibition was supposed to be enforced, he saw from 75 to 100 kegs of beer delivered on trucks from a brewery. His practical conclusion was that prohibition was a wild theory, "that as a preventive it had not met the claims of its supporters, and as an aid to the cause of temperance was a failure." In Kansas, the State of Governor St. John, the chief of Prohibitionism, where the post stringent prohibition has been enacted, the result, according to Dr. Gardener, was that the drug stores were little more than rum shops, and that their number was astonishing. In one town of four thousand people, fifteen of them were counted on the main street. It has been proclaimed from the Prohibition platform that there are seven, or even ten thousand deaths from drinking in this country every year. This would be from a third to one-half of the total number of male adult page 18 deaths. But about the time when this fearful announcement was made [unclear: the] mortuary statistics gave the total number of deaths from alcoholic causes in [unclear: eight] of our principal cities and towns as two. In England likewise the evil habit [unclear: of] drinking has been greatly reduced without any restrictive laws or restraint of [unclear: any] kind, mainly by the increasing influence of medical science, and in connection [unclear: with] the general progress of physiological reform. It should be observed that [unclear: voluntary] effort will be weakened by coercive legislation. Prohibition, if universally [unclear: enforced,] would break up teetotal fraternities and Bands of Hope, and unless it was [unclear: itself] successful in extirpating the desire for drink, that desire might any day break [unclear: own] again on a large scale, and find no organisation on foot to resist its sway.

Printed at the Otago Daily Times Officr, High Street Dunedin.