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New-York Prohibitory Liquor Law, . .
HISTORY OF PROHIBITION PREVIOUS TO THE
We were not aware, till recently, that the idea of prohibiting the liquor traffic by law was entertained by the earlier friends of temperance in this country. The wickedness of the license system was seen by them, and the duty of withdrawing all legal sanctions from the traffic generally urged: but farther than this we had supposed that no temperance man felt it his duty to go, prior to the Washingtonian movement. But in looking over a file of the old Temperance Recorder, we find in the number for February, 1837—more than seventeen years ago--two articles distinctly endorsing the platform of Prohibition; saying, " As this system is universally acknowledged to be a great immorality, why not legislate it out of existence, especially as it has been legislated into existence. We see no impropriety in so doing; indeed, we think it the only safe manner in which the evil can be remedied. We are decidedly in favor of petitioning the Legislature for the passage of an act prohibiting the sale of spirituous liquors as a beverage." In another article notice is given that blank
petitions for this purpose are ready for circulation, and it adds: “Those who feel the importance of the passage of an act by the Legislature prohibiting the traffic in ardent spirits, will, we trust, lose no time in circulating those petitions."
* * * * * * In 1837, a Committee of the Legislature of Maine, after presenting a masterly Report in favor of a Prohibitory law, said :
“Your Committee are not only of opinion that the law giving the right to sell ardent spirits should be repealed, but that a law should be passed to prohibit the traffic in them, except so far as the arts or the practice of medicine is concerned. Such a law is required for the same reason that we make a law against the sale of unwholesome meats or a law for the removal of any nuisance."
In 1838, numerous petitioners in Ohio to the Legislature of that State said:
"Among the scourges which have desolated and are now afflicting our country, no one can be named which bears rivalship with intoxicating liquors. We implore your aid to protect us against this destroyer of our species, this common enemy of the human race. It was to extend protection like this, that government was established.”
In the same year, a Committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts reported a bill in favor of the entire sale of all liquor as a beverage, “because the public good demanded it." And a Committee of the Legislature of New-York reported that
"To prohibit the traffic in ardent spirits as a beverage, was as necessary as to prevent gambling, brothels, and other publicinuisances; and that the voice of the people required certain and present action in the case.".
In 1839, a highly respectable Convention of NewHampshire resolved
"That there should be a final and complete prohibition of the traffic in alcoholic liquors by legislative enactments."
More than 7000 petitioners in Vermont in the same year asked for a prohibitory law. And a large meeting of citizens of Delaware resolved
"That nothing short of an entire prohibition of the sale of liquors, as a drink, can extirpate drunkenness.”
The inhabitants of Lewisburg, Virginia, said the same year to their Legislature:
“If the laws will continue to permit sinks of vice, pov erty, and crime to stand open night and day, the same laws must continue to provide poor-houses and even graves to receive their degraded inmates. Can it be necessary to keep up this state of things for ever? Must we see our parents destroyed, our families ruined, and our children driven into that ruthless tide which overwhelms all who embark on its treacherous waves in unutterable despair? Is there no remedy? There is. Repeal the laws in question and provide suitable enactments against the further
sale of the poison.” - And the same year a Committee of the Senate of Kentucky, in reporting on a petition from Mason and Branken counties, asking for a law which shall make the vending of spirituous liquors of any description as a drink, or the giving of them to evade the law, an offense of no ordinary magnitude, punishable by the State, said:
“There is but one remedy, and that will be effected if our countrymen have the courage, the constancy, and the energy to carry it into complete execution. The remedy is, to attack the evil at its foundation. The practice of retailing alcoholic liquors, except for medical purposes and to promote the arts, must be not only forbidden by law, but completely denounced by public sentiment.”
And in the same winter, 1354 citizens of Michigan presented a memorial to their Senate and House, in which they prayed that