Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/593

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MARCH, 1894.


THE creation of crimes by means of statutes providing for their punishment has generally proved itself bad policy. In the days of Henry VIII it was the maxim that "a tinker was a rogue by statute"; and in Queen Elizabeth's time actors and "stage-players" were put into the same category as tinkers. But it came in time to be understood that the soldering of tin kettles was not a crime because a tinker here and there had robbed a hen-roost, and that the profession which had produced a Shakespeare was not, by any salutary public policy, a criminal profession.

The absolute, unqualified, and distinguished failure of all laws for the abolishment of the traffic in liquors is speedily convincing even the most sanguine prohibitionist of the expediency of wiping them from every statute-book in the land. Their failure has not been so much a protest against interference with the personal liberty of the citizen as an illustration of the venerable maxim that no law can exist without, or can survive, a reason for its existence. These laws, indeed, never had any adequate or logical reason for existing at all. They have had their origins always and without exception in sparsely settled communities where personal liberty was so absolute and unquestioned that it became irksome, where liquor was almost unknown and the user of it a curiosity, and where the only knowledge of the horrors of intoxication the village possessed was derived from itinerant temperance orators who dilated upon the terrible consequences of the rum habit to a roomful of tearful old women, none of whom knew the taste of liquor or of anything stronger than green tea. The early Puritans of New England, who enacted the most ferocious of blue