Popular Science Monthly/Volume 25/September 1884/Correspondence
WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH.
WHILE this discussion about the great ascendency given the study of the classics in all of our institutions of learning is going on, we beg to offer the following facts: Here we have the great University of Michigan, the pride of the State, with its fourteen hundred students, and schools of literature, science, and the arts, dentistry, law, pharmacy, music, medicine, political and sanitary science, and one can graduate and take the coveted degree of A. B., receive the commendation of his teachers, then study in a post-graduate course and receive the degrees of A.M. and Ph.D., and be an educated fool so far as knowing anything of elocution is concerned, or having acquired any knowledge of the structure and composition of his own body or of the laws of health.
To the credit of the university, it may be said that many courses of study are offered and a wide latitude given for choice; but, ¦while four years of study in Latin and two in Greek are required in the preparatory schools and about one and a half year each in Latin and Greek in the university, nothing is required in the fitting schools or university in either elocution or physiology and hygiene, and there is absolutely no provision made in any department for teaching the former, and nothing in the latter is required or offered candidates for the degree of A.B. worthy of the name. It still seems to be considered of vastly more importance to have a smattering of Latin and Greek than to know anything about one's own body and how to care for it, or to speak well our own tongue.
THE QUALIFICATIONS OF LEGISLATORS.
After reading what Herbert Spencer says of the "Sins of Legislators," I am impressed with the idea that it would be a step in the right direction to make it a necessary qualification for a member of Congress or State Legislature that he shall pass a satisfactory examination before some university board, and get a certificate showing his attainments in the studies of political economy and civil government. This would at least compel candidates for those positions to devote some time to the study of those branches—a thing they now seldom do. I see no reason why they should not be compelled to prepare themselves for their work as much as common-school teachers do now.
"AN EXPERIMENT IN PROHIBITION"
FROM ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW.
The May number of "The Popular Science Monthly" contained an article entitled "An Experiment in Prohibition," some of the statements in which were so one-sided and inaccurate that they can not be allowed to pass without challenge. Among those statements were assertions that in the State of Vermont the prohibitory law is "an absolute dead letter"; that the returns of the United States revenue officers show that there are in that State four hundred and forty-six places where intoxicating liquors are sold; that "in the city of Burlington there are about 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, at least one such place"; that "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"; and that prosecutions of liquor-sellers, on whom persons arrested for intoxication have disclosed, are "very common," but are confined to "the lowest class of liquor-dealers" and are "invariably for a first offense."
Two of these statements contradict each other. K prosecutions, though only for first offenses and of the lowest class of liquor-dealers, are "very common," it can not be correct to say that the law is an absolute dead letter. Most certainly it is not an absolute dead letter.
The statement of the number of places in Vermont where intoxicating liquors arc sold was obtained from a newspaper compilation, from the returns of the United States Collector of Internal Revenue for the year ending April, 1883. The same returns show that, of the 446 persons paying the United States tax as dealers in intoxicating liquors, about three hundred were druggists, who must use, and keep, and sell, alcohol and spirits for purposes recognized as legitimate. While some of these undoubtedly sell liquors to a greater or less extent for other than "medicinal, mechanical, and chemical purposes," their shops can not, as a class, be called "dram-shops"—and many 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 decade after decade, against the bitter opposition of an elsewhere powerful interest, among a not particularly visionary people, among a people, in fact, of more than the average independence of judgment and practical hard common sense, must amount to something. This inference I assert to be a correct one. The people of Vermont have sustained the prohibitory law for over thirty years, and will continue to sustain it—not as a lovely theory or a "barren ideality," not as a panacea for all social evils, not as necessarily the best thing for all States and all communities, in their existing conditions:
but as the system which is better for them than any other they know of; as a system which in spite of the hindrances, detects, and perversities which largely obstruct all moral effort and must be expected, especially, to hinder an effort to curb the gratification of an appetite as general and powerful as that for strong drink, does practically, here in Vermont, restrict the liquor-traffic to a greater extent, and so proves itself a better ally to moral effort to resist intemperance than any other method of restriction they have ever tried, or seen tried elsewhere.
George Grenville Benedict.