The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
The present relations of the State, in this country, to the traffic in alcoholic liquors is an inheritance from much older countries, where it grew up in rude stages of society; where its social influence was modified by other causes; where the aims of government itself were but poorly analyzed amid the conflict of encroaching powers; and where the necessities of revenue Were the first requisite, and a levy on so-called luxuries gave the largest return to impecunious dynastic governments. In this manner the public thought of European countries touching the license system has so perpetuated itself that it now claims a prescriptive right to pass unchallenged as the common sense of mankind, and those who question the soundness of that thought either in financial, social or moral aspects are apt to be denied a hearing. This, it will be found, is especially the case with populations coming amongst us from abroad, who, having long held such licenses as liberties conferred by the supreme authority, or franchises commuted in taxes, are prompt to defend accustomed usages as inalienable rights. When they dwell longer with us however, they become more tolerant, both of discussion and amendment in this behalf. It is only their philosophers who never learn anything, or forget anything. But America, with its free government, coming from the people and caring for the people, is destined to revise this as well as many other social problems, and the existence of a chronic idea upon the banks of the Rhine, or the Po, or the Danube, that the traffic in liquor should be licensed for revenue, and not repressed, no more sanctifies it in our eyes than does the commercial treaty of England forcing opium on the Chinese commend that barbarism for imitation.