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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/596

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

call for a conference in the meeting house after singing school, might appear in the choice of a selectman, or in the election for the Assembly member, and so speedily become "practical politics," especially in a State where a Governor is chosen every year, and so which lives in a state of perpetual gubernatorial canvass! If laws preventing the sale of liquors should be demanded in a petition of those who used and habitually purchased liquor, but who desired to be relieved from the temptation of purchasing it, a wise public policy might have decreed that the petition prevail. Or, if the best sense of the most enlightened citizens of a community (and it is usually its most enlightened citizens who best appreciate the value and understand the judicious use of liquor) had felt the need of a law prohibiting the sale of cheap and poisonous adulterations of liquor to those who were unable to buy the pure article and whose healths were being deteriorated thereby—in any one of these cases these laws might have wisely been forthcoming, under a general pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number. But for the non-users and non-purchasers of liquor, finding themselves in a majority, to resolve on their own motion that the minority of their fellow-citizens needed a protection, for which they had not asked, from temptations against which they had not protested, but which were not temptations to the majority, savors rather more of what old Butler characterized as "compounding sins one had a mind to by damning those ones not inclined to," than of legislation for the greatest good of the greatest number; of paternal rather than of popular government!

Once originated, however, the history of the paternal prohibitive liquor law is invariable—namely, its appearance in local politics, then in State politics, and so on, up to the dignity of a balance of power, where the numerical insignificance of the supporters became a tower of strength, and the supporters themselves grew to have fat things at their disposal. The earliest liquor law I can find, for example, grew out of some letters beginning on February 15, 1832, in a local newspaper[1] in Essex County, Massachusetts; certainly at that time one of the soberest, most law-abiding and church-going communities in the world; whence it was carried by one of the letter-writers, who became a member of the Maine Legislature, into that learned and economic body. If there was a State in our Union of States, at that date almost Arcadian in its innocence, where the foot of the tempter and the setter of snares, or the sybarite, or the debauchee were unknown, that State was Maine! And yet from the immaculate vicinage of Essex County, Massachusetts, to the virtuous State of


  1. The Salem Gazette.