Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/595

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579
ABOLISH ALL PROHIBITIVE LIQUOR LAWS.

tion to answer, it is difficult to find a legal or logical origin for a prohibitory liquor law. Publicists assure us that all salutary laws and statutes which, have proved to be for the general good are found to have invariably come from a demand for protection, or for warrant from an individual or a class asking either for protection or for franchise to benefit the state and himself by carrying on some useful business, art, or trade; or they have been enacted for the raising of revenue, or (as I have said above) for the conservation of the public peace. But not of such have been the origins of the various statutes against the selling of liquor which are borne on the statute-books of a great many, indeed of most of, our American States. These laws, when not copied verbatim or adopted substantially from other States—as the Kansas law was copied from the Maine law—have originated, not with a class of citizens who asked for protection, but with a class who proposed to protect some other class against its will. I fancy it would be difficult to find a prohibitive liquor law which was not in the first instance proposed by one who was himself either a teetotaler by preference, or one without himself any taste for anything stronger than water, and therefore without the slightest practical experience of the evils of intoxication; or by one whose knowledge of the terrors of liquor-drinking came at second hand from the description of the itinerant "temperance" orator; or possibly by witnessing the effects of the abuse of liquor upon some weaker-minded brother. In other words, it was exactly as if all the persons who preferred to go to bed at nine o'clock should revive the old law of curfew and get it back upon the statute-books; or, as if all those who loved to go to Sunday school should legislate to make it criminal not to go to Sunday school. So far as the records go (and I consult only those published by the prohibitionists themselves), not one single proposition for the policy of prohibiting the sales of liquor has originated from a demand for protection, or from cause of necessity, or even of expediency; or in a locality where the evils of such sales were apparent or largely experienced, or indeed experienced at all. In a rural community, however, absolutely without amusements, where personal liberty resembles, as somebody has well said, "the desolate freedom of the wild ass," and so becomes absolutely irksome—where a man with a theory or a crank with a hobby is welcome as a diversion—it is necessary to burrow in unusual paths for a relaxation. In such a precinct as this, a proposition to forbid somebody something, to prohibit something—it might be the wearing of crinoline or of birds in ladies' hats, or card playing, round dancing, Sunday newspapers, or the eating of animal—food anything, so long as it is something any one enjoys—will become fortuitously popular. Any one of the above would furnish a topic for conversation, a