Maine, the policy of prohibiting that which did not exist, of protecting the few from temptations which had no attractions to the many, flew on the wings of oratory and became fixed by the edicts of legislation. Into the older community, Essex County, it may be feared that Satan has entered! But the sovereign citizen of the State of Maine still lives on, in comic slavery to its prohibitory liquor law—a law indeed marvelous to behold, and a sight for the nations of the earth; alternately sending its citizens to jail for being free men, and rewarding them for becoming slaves! Under the malign influences of the Essex reform the State of Maine has introduced into its economy a new industry, that of the "smeller." Its extraordinary courts and constables and special magistrates, its bailiffs and petty officers who earn salaries on the pretense of enforcing laws which none of themselves, and probably no officers of the State or of its courts, from chief justice to tipstaff, thinks of observing, are legion. Of the published volumes of its reports the bulk are ponderous decisions on and expounding of its peculiar blue laws, which read between the lines like statutes of the Grand Duchy of Gerolstein! And for all this the intelligent citizens of Maine pay the bills and dodge the laws as well as they can! Sixty years or so ago, when the Essex law crawled into Maine, surely, as I have said, it was a virtuous and an Arcadian State. At present, whether it is more temperate than any of its sister States, whether there is less immorality, drunkenness, and crime therein than in any other State in the Union, the citizens of Maine are not fond of expressing an opinion, and doubtless the less said the better! It is to be added, moreover, that the Essex County letter-writers who thus builded better, or worse, than they knew, did not themselves propose a total prohibition from the sale of wines, ales, and other vinous or malt liquor, but one solely from the sale of ardent spirits, and of this only a mild restriction (a sort of "jug law")—that is, that spirits should be sold only to prevent the public drinking in rums-hops and bar-rooms, and the public spectacle of intoxication and brawling which so often resulted (and that what they sought is desirable to-day, as desirable as then, nobody can deny). But the idea that a gentleman who desired to use ardent spirits could not first purchase them, it is simple justice to the writers of the letters to say, did not present itself to them at all. When the matter got into the Maine Legislature, however, whether because the distinction between wines and liquors was too subtle or from other causes, that distinction disappeared. As the pure and simple prohibition of the sale of any liquor, even of domestic manufactured cider, it became a law; the prohibition has since been written into the Constitution of Maine itself, until that State has become a Commonwealth of law-breakers not only but of constitu-
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/597
ABOLISH ALL PROHIBITIVE LIQUOR LAWS.