Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/713

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697
CORRESPONDENCE.

of them guard their sales rigidly. The 446 also include the large manufacturing and wholesale druggists, dealing in alcohol and spirits in large amounts in their trade, yet who are so far from being keepers of "dramshops," that not only do they not sell spirits to be drunk ou the spot, but no one not in the trade, high or low, can obtain alcohol or liquor from them in any quantity, large or small, for individual use, or even for cooking or other family purposes. The 446 include the hotels, some of which have no bars, and are careful how thoy sell to any bat their guests. It is to be remembered also that the man who opened a saloon, sold whisky on the sly, and was visited by the United States revenue officer and compelled to take out a license, was included among the 446, although his alcoholic stock in trade may have been seized next day by the sheriff, and himself sent to the house of correction. These deductions would reduce the number of "dram-shops," properly so called, to a smaller number in proportion to population than in any other civilized community of equal numbers, with the possible exception of the State of Maine.

Bat if all concerns paying the United States tax were to be called dram-shops, then it is to be noted that the number is much smaller in Vermont in proportion to population than in any State which licenses the sale of liquors. Thus in Massachusetts, which has a "rigid license law," 8,476 persons held United States licenses to sell liquor last year, being one to every 202 of the population. In Connecticut 3,357 persons paid the United States tax, being one to every 187 of the population. In Vermont it appears that 446 paid the United States tax, being one to 744! In other words, more than three times as many persons were selling liquor in Massachusetts, and four times as many in Connecticut, in proportion to population, as in Vermont! And, could the amount of liquors sold where the dealer is free to advertise his business and sell all he can be compared with the amount sold where the traffic is under the ban of a prohibitory law, it would doubtless be found that each United States license in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, or any other non-prohibitory State, represents a vastly greater sale of liquors than in Vermont.

It is to be noted, further, that the number of persons paying the United States tax in Vermont shows a noticeable decrease in the last ten years, the number returned for the year 1873 being 684. Here appears to be a decrease of some thirty-five per cent in ten years. During the same period the number of United States licenses issued in Maine increased by 73; in Massachusetts, by 208; in Connecticut, by 573; in Rhode Island, by 436. Something, evidently, is checking the liquor traffic in Vermont to a considerable extent, and the universal and strong opposition to the law, on the part of those who consider it to be for their interest to have more rather than less intoxicating drinks consumed, shows clearly that they attribute a good part of the restriction to the prohibitory law.

The number of places where liquor is sold in Burlington is overstated. The number in April, 1 883, was not threescore, but 49.

It is not the fact that in every village there is at least one such place. Many Vermont villages have no such place, and have not had for twenty years. In more than half of the towns of Vermont, the United States revenue collectors could not find, in the year ending April 12, 1883, any one selling liquor. There are 240 towns in Vermont, and in 127 of these no drug-store, hotel, or dram-shop was found that could be required to pay the United States tax. The statement that there is no concealment or attempted concealment of such illegal traffic as is conducted in the State could hardly be made wider of the truth. As a general thing, the traffic is everywhere concealed from public view. No placard, sign, advertisement, or open bar attracts men to drink. The liquors kept for sale are kept under lock and key, or in dark rooms or cellars; and even then seizures are frequent and fines numerous, and often ruinous to the business, and prosecutions are by no means confined to first offenses, or to liquor-dealers of the lowest class. The law is one which enables the citizens of any town to do what they choose as regards illegal traffic in liquor. If they choose, they can banish it. If they do not care to banish it, they can restrict it, if they will, to almost any extent. In point of fact, in Vermont, as a whole, the law exercises a steady and increasing pressure upon the illegal traffic, and makes it a very risky and disreputable business. To this extent the law is no failure.

Prohibition has been for over thirty years the settled policy of Vermont. The law has been changed by successive Legislatures only to perfect and strengthen it. As the State is admitted to be "a moral and God-fearing community," and its people are not considered specially lacking in intelligence, the fair inference from such extraordinary support and popularity would seem to be that the prohibitory system must have merits for a community like that of Vermont, and that it must have measurably answered its purpose. It is idle to say that this support and popularity are factitious. Bubbles do not last for generations. It might be possible, with effort enough, to manufacture a sudden sentiment for such a system, that might last for a year or two. But it is safe to say that a measure like this, which stands firm year after year, and