Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/601

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the author and supporter of many prohibitionist statutes. As the standing chairman of a committee in the Legislature of a certain State to report annually as to the value and the operation of these statutes, his reports are invariably enthusiastic as to their great value, as to their effect in closing liquor stores, and in making drunkenness almost unknown. And this in the teeth of the facts, which everybody else admits, that these statutes are stupendous failures, that they have multiplied the number of liquor shops, and added to whatever harm they are capable of by disguising them as "pharmacies," "groceries," or other sorts of shops, and that they have enormously increased, almost squared, the number of inebriates reported before their passage! Nobody impeaches or dreams of impeaching the statements of this dear old gentleman, nameless here for evermore, who, foolish and fond and lovingly proud of his statutes, can see nothing but utility and salvation in them! But, all the same, it is an actual wrong, and in time it will be surely an actual damage to the Commonwealth that its intelligent citizens can so deliberately misstate facts. If its best citizens can not tell the truth on public matters, what can the Commonwealth expect of its masses?

But everybody knows that drunkenness is a curse, and if we abolish all prohibitive liquor laws how shall the curse be removed? To enact a law compelling every man, woman, and child to drink a pint of whisky—or its equivalent in other spirits, or in vinous, or malt liquors—daily, might indeed do it. But such a law would probably be impossible to propose in a legislative body—certainly impossible to pass to a final reading. The question can not probably be answered at present. Most things, however, have their limit of value. And it might be a question whether even the soul of a drunkard were worth saving at the expense of the liberty, the morals, and the health of an entire community. But something very near to an answer can, I think, be approximated. Let us enforce the common law we have, and make it "common" indeed; and forbear to pass statutes against which the sense of justice of the enlightened community rebels, and which can not be enforced, or whose enforcement is only, and can in the nature of things be only, a sham. Let us wipe out forever from every statute-book in America those prohibitive liquor laws which an experience of sixty years has proved to be worse than worthless, and even worse than useless, because they not only can not be enforced, but enlarge, by stimulating, the alleged evils they pretend to abolish! These laws emphatically have not lessened the manufacture, sale, or consumption of liquor. There are not to-day ten times as many people in the country as there were on January 15, 1832. But, unless figures are as unreliable as the temperance orators themselves, there are many hundred times as