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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/788

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

LIQUOR LAWS NOT SUMPTUARY.
By Rev. GEORGE F. MAGOUN, D.D.,

EX-PRESIDENT OF IOWA COLLEGE.

THE recent article[1] of William A. Hammond, M. D., on Sumptuary Laws and their Social Influence consists of two parts—

(1) an attempt to confound laws prohibiting the common sale of alcoholic beverages with obsolete "sumptuary" legislation, and (2) certain criticisms in the same strain upon such laws in Iowa and Minnesota, and upon the New York and Michigan laws against the selling of cigarettes to minors. As no pretense is made of showing that the latter are "sumptuary," or that it is a tendency to luxury and expense which makes them a dead letter in the city of New York and elsewhere, they may be at once dismissed from consideration.[2] A long-time resident of Iowa has something to say in defense of the stigmatized statutes of his adopted State.

The sweeping assertion of Dr. Hammond is in the following terms:

"The laws which several States have enacted relative to the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors are true sumptuary laws, notwithstanding the fact that it is claimed by their adherents that they are measures which every independent State having a regard for the welfare of society is in duty bound to enforce." The first example given to sustain this is a law of Iowa, referred to (after descriptions of the sumptuary laws proper of Sparta, Rome, and England) thus:

"In our own country the experiment has been tried with as much thoroughness and with practically as little result as has attended the attempt by other nations" [i. e., to forbid the people


  1. Popular Science Monthly for May, pp. 33-40.
  2. The following is credited in the public journals to Science: "In an experimental observation of thirty-eight boys, of all classes of society and of average health, who had been using tobacco for a period ranging from two months to two years, twenty seven showed severe injury to the constitution and insufficient growth; thirty-two showed the existence of irregularity of the heart's action, disordered stomachs, coughs, and a craving for alcohol; thirteen had intermittency of the pulse, and one had consumption. After they had abandoned the use of tobacco, within six months' time one half were free from all their former symptoms, and the remainder had recovered by the end of the year."

    It is certainly supposable that intelligent law-makers could enact a statute to prevent the sale of tobacco to boys from a humane and public-spirited motive without thinking of the pennies saved to the boys; and if the enforcement of the law saved their pennies, so much the better for the boys and no worse for the law. Any good citizen is therefore at liberty to hope for such a law and such enforcement as prevents the sale. As to these and a more recent law in New York, it might be instructive to know from the legislators whether they really enacted them from "sumptuary" considerations.