Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/57

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
49
AN EXPERIMENT IN PROHIBITION.

threescore places where liquor is sold, and in Rutland, St. Albans, and all the larger towns, a proportional number; and in every village in the State, with the exception of a few inconsiderable hamlets, there is at least one such place. A large proportion of the dram-shops are located upon the principal streets, and there is no concealment or attempted concealment of the illegal traffic conducted within them. As these facts and figures sufficiently indicate, the law, broadly speaking, is not at all enforced. The sale of liquor, it is hardly too much to say, is almost as free and open as though there were no such thing as a prohibitory law. The principal exception to the general rule consists of an occasional spasmodic attempt to enforce the law in the larger places, and the fining of liquor-dealers on what are termed "disclosures." In the latter case, a person arrested for intoxication is compelled to "disclose" the person of whom he procured liquor, and that person is then tried for the offense. Such cases are very common, but as only the lowest class of liquor-dealers is concerned in them, generally speaking, and as the prosecution is invariably for a "first offense," no effective purpose is served in repressing the liquor-traffic. In the larger towns, an effort to enforce the law is occasionally made, but such efforts have invariably proved short-lived, and in almost every instance the people have, at the earliest opportunity, rejected at the polls the officers who have attempted to enforce the law. These are the principal exceptions to the general rule of non-enforcement. Of enforcing the law as the laws against burglary and larceny are enforced, no one dreams for a moment. Such is the unsatisfactory result of Vermont's thirty years' experience of the prohibitory liquor law. One might go still further, and speak of the perjury and subornation of perjury, for which the law is in a sense responsible; of the disregard and contempt for all law which the operation of this law tends to foster and encourage, and of cognate matters which will occur to the reflective reader; but, perhaps, enough has been said in showing the failure of the law to accomplish the object for which it was enacted.

The cause of the failure of the law is not far to seek. It is obviously that the law is not sustained by public sentiment. It is that the world can not be dragooned into virtue. The supporters of the prohibitory law are well-meaning men and women, who are sincerely desirous of benefiting their fellow-human beings and advancing God's kingdom upon earth: but not even by these will humanity suffer itself to be driven to loftier heights of thought and action. The people of Vermont are not singular in this matter; and there would seem to be no reason why the prohibitory system, a failure in a moral, God-fearing community, should be successful anywhere in the United States.

vol. xxv.—4