Page images
PDF
EPUB

SPEECH OF LORD CHIESTERFII:ID ON THE GIN ACT, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF LORD3, FEBRUARY

21, 1743.

The bill now under our consideration appears | not be in a very great degree promoted by it. to me to deserve a much closer regard than For what produces all kind of wickedness but seems to have been paid to it in the other House, the prospect of impunity on one part, or the sothrough which it was hurried with the utmost licitation of opportunity on the other ? Either precipitation, and where it passed almost with of these have too frequently been sufficient to out the formality of a debate. Nor can I think overpower the sense of morality, and even of that earnestness with which some lords seem in- religion ; and what is not to be feared from them, clined press it forward here, consistent with when they shall unite their force, and operate the importance of the consequences which may together, when temptations, shall be increased, with great reason be expected from it. and terror taken away?

To desire, my Lords, that this bill may be con- It is allowed, by those who have hitherto dissidered in a committee, is only to desire that it puted on either side of this question, that the may gain one step without opposition; that it people appear obstinately enamored of this new may proceed through the forms of the House by liquor. It is allowed on both parts that this stealth, and that the consideration of it may be liquor corrupts the mind and enervates the body, delayed, till the exigences of the government and destroys vigor and virtue, at the same time shall be so great as not to allow time for raising that it makes those who drink it too idle and feethe supplies by any other method.

ble for work; and, while it impoverishes them By this artifice, gross as it is, the patrons of by the present expense, disables them from rethis wonderful bill hope to obstruct a plain and trieving its ill consequences by subsequect indusopen detection of its tendency. They hope, my try. Lords, that the bill shall operate in the same It might be imagined, my Lords, that those manner with the liquor which it is intended to who had thus far agreed would not easily find bring into more general use; and that, as those any occasions of dispute. Nor would any man, who drink spirits are drunk before they are well unacquainted with the motives by which parliaaware that they are drinking, the effects of this mentary debates are too often influenced, suslaw shall be perceived before we know that we pect that after the pernicious qualities of this have made it. Their intent is, to give us a liquor, and the general inclination among the dram of policy, which is to be swallowed before people to the immoderate use of it, had been it is tasted, and which, when once it is swallow- thus fully admitted, it could be afterward ined, will turn our heads.

quired whether it ought to be made more comBut, my Lords, I hope we shall be so cautious mon; whether this universal thirst for poison as to examine the draught which these state em- ought to be encouraged by the Legislature, and pirics have thought proper to osser us; and I am whether a new statute ought to be made, to se. confident that a very little examination will con- cure drunkards in the gratification of their appevince us of the pernicious qualities of their new tites. preparation, and show that it can have no other To pretend, my Lords, that the design of this effect than that of poisoning the public. 4 bill is to prevent or diminish the use of spirits, is

The law before us, my Lords, seems to be to trample upon common sense, and to violate the effect of that practice of which it is intended the rules of decency as well as of reason. For likewise to be the cause, and to be dictated by when did any man hear that a commodity was the liquor of which it so effectually promotes prohibited by licensing its sale, or that to offer the use; for surely it never before was conceiv- and refuse is the same action ? ed, by any man intrusted with the administra- It is indeed pleaded that it will be made tion of public affairs, to raise taxes by the de- dearer by the tax which is proposed, and that struction of the people.

the increase of the price will diminish the numNothing, my Lords, but the destruction of all ber of the purchasers ; but it is at the same time the most laborious and useful part of the nation expected that this tax shall supply the expense can be expected from the license which is now of a war on the Continent. It is asserted, thereproposed to be given, not only to drunkenness, fore, that the consumption of spirits will be hinbut to drunkenness of the most detestable and dered; and yet that it will be such as may be exdangerous kind; to the abuse not only of intox- pected to furnish, from a very small tax, a revicating, but of poisonous liquors.

enue sufficient for the support of armies, for the Nothing, my Lords, is more absurd than to re-establishment of the Austrian family, and the assert that the use of spirits will be hindered repressing of the attempts of France. by the bill now before us, or indeed that it will Surely, my Lords, these expectations are not

very cousistent; nor can it be imagined that they can purchase nothing else; and then the best are both formed in the same head, though they thing he can do is to drink on till he dies. may be expressed by the same mouth. It is, Surely, my Lords, men of such unbounded behowever, some recommendation of a statesman, nevolence as our present ministers deserve such when, of his assertions, one can be found reason-honors as were never paid before : they deserve able or true; and in this, praise can not be de- to bestride a butt upon every sign-post in the nied to our present ministers. For though it is city, or to have their figures exhibited as tokens undoubtedly false that this tax will lessen the where this liquor is to be sold by the license consumption of spirits, it is certainly true that which they have procured. They must be at I will produce a very large revenue-a revenue least remembered to future ages as the “happy shat will not fail but with the people from whose politicians” who, after all expedients for raising debaucheries it arises.

taxes had been employed, discovered a new meth. Our ministers will therefore have the same od of draining the last relics of the public wealth, honor with their predecessors, of having given and added a new revenue to the government. rise to a new fund; not indeed for the payment Nor will those who shall hereafter enumerate of our debts, but for much more valuable pur- the several funds now established among us, forposes ; for the cheering of our hearts under op-get, among the benefactors to their country, the pression, and for the ready support of those debts illustrious authors of the Drinking Fund. which we have lost all hopes of paying. They May I be allowed, my Lords, to congratulate are resolved, my Lords, that the nation which no my countrymen and fellow-subjects upon the endeavors can make wise, shall, while they are at happy times which are now approaching, in its head, at least be very merry; and, since pub- which no man will be disqualified from the privlie happiness is the end of government, they seem ilege of being drunk ; when all discontent and to imagine that they shall deserve applause by isloyalty shall be forgotten, and the people, an expedient which will enable every man to lay though now considered by the ministry as ene. his cares asleep, to drown sorrow, and lose in mies, shall acknowledge the leniency of that the delights of drunkenness both the public mis- government under which all restraints are taken eries and his own.

away? Luxury, my Lords, is to be taxed, but vice But, to a bill for such desirable purposes, it prohibited, let the difficulties in executing the would be proper, my Lords, to prefix a preamlaw be what they will. Would you lay a tax on ble, in which the kindness of our intentions the breach of the ten commandments? Would should be more fully explained, that the nation not such a tax be wicked and scandalous; be- may not mistake our indulgence for cruelty, nor cause it would imply an indulgence to all those consider their benefactors as their persecutors. who could pay the tax? Is not this a reproach If, therefore, this bill be considered and amend. most justly thrown by Protestants upon the Churched (for why else should it be considered ?) in a of Rome? Was it not the chief cause of the Ref-committee, I shall humbly propose that it shall ormation ? And will you follow a precedent be introduced in this manner : “Whereas, tho which brought reproach and ruin upon those that designs of the present ministry, whatever they introduced it? This is the very case now before are, can not be executed without a great numus. You are going to lay a tax, and consequent- ber of mercenaries, which mercenaries can not ly to indulge a sort of drunkenness, which almost be hired without money; and whereas the presnecessarily produces a breach of every one of the ent disposition of this nation to drunkenness inten commandments ? Can you expect the rev- clines us to believe that they will pay more erend bench will approve of this? I am con-cheerfully for the undisturbed enjoyment of disvinced they will not; and therefore I wish I had tilled liquors than for any other concession that seen it full upon this occasion. I am sure I have can be made by the government; be it enacted, seen it much fuller upon other occasions, in which by the King's most excellent Majesty, that no religion had no such deep concern.

man shall hereafter be denied the right of being We have already, my Lords, several sorts of drunk on the following conditions." funds in this nation, so many that a man must This, my Lords, to trifle no longer, is the have a good deal of learning to be master of them. proper preamble to this bill, which contains only Thanks to his Majesty, we have now among us the conditions on which the people of this kingthe most learned man of the nation in this way. dom are to be allowed henceforward to riot in I wish he would rise up and tell us what name debauchery, in debauchery licensed by law and we are to give this new fund. We have already countenanced by the magistrates. For there is the Civil List Fund, the Sinking Fund, the Aggre- no doubt but those on whom the inventors of gate Fund, the South Sea Fund, and God knows this tax shall confer authority, will be directed how many others. What name we are to give to assist their masters in their design to encour. this new fund I know not, unless we are to call age the consumption of that liquor from which at the Drinking Fund. It may perhaps enable such large revenues are expected, and to multithe people of a certain foreign territory (Hano- ply without end those licenses which are to pay ver) to drink claret, but it will disable the peo- a yearly tribute to the Crown. ple of this kingdom from drinking any thing else By this unbounded license, my Lords, that but gin; for when a man has, by gin drinking, price will be lessened, from the increase of rendered himself unfit for labor or business, he which the excessations of the efficacy of this

the

law are preiended; for the number of retailers your Lordships upon having heard from the new will lessen the value, as in all other cases, and ministry one assertion not to be contradicted. lessen it more than this tax will increase it. It is evident, my Lords, from daily observa. Besides, it is to be considered, that at present tion, and demonstrable from the papers upon the retailer expects to be paid for the danger table, that every year, since the enacting of tho which he incurs by an unlawful trade, and will last law, that vice has increased which it was not trust his reputation or his purse to the mer- intended to repress, and that no time has been cy of his customer without a profit proportioned so favorable to the retailers of spirits as inat to the hazard; but, when once the restraint shall which has passed since they were prohibited. be taken away, he will sell for common gain, It may therefore be expected, my Lords, ha and it can hardly be imagined that, at present, having agreed with the ministers in their fundahe subjects himself to informations and penalties mental proposition, I shall concur with them in for less than sixpence a gallon.

the consequence which they draw from it; and The specious pretense on which this bill is having allowed that the present law is ineffect. founded, and, indeed, the only pretense that de- ual, should admit ihat another is necessary. serves to be termed specious, is the propriety of But, my Lords, in order to discover whether taxing vice; but this maxim of government has, this consequence be necessary, it must first be on this occasion, been either mistaken or per- inquired why the present law is of no force. verted. Vice, my Lords, is not properly to be For, my Lords, it will be found, upon reflection, taxed, but suppressed ; and heavy taxes are that there are certain degrees of corruption that sometimes the only means by which that sup- may hinder the effect of the best laws. The pression can be attained. Luxury, my Lords, magistrates may be vicious, and forbear to enor the excess of that which is pernicious only by force that law by which themselves are con. its excess, may very properly be taxed, that such demned; they may be indolent, and inclined rathexcess, though not strictly unlawful, may be er to connive at wickedness

, by which they are made more difficult. But the use of those things not injured themselves, than to repress it by a which are simply hurtful, hurtful in their own laborious exertion of their authority; or they nature, and in every degree, is to be prohibited. may be timorous, and, instead of awing the vi. None, my Lords, ever heard, in any nation, of a cious, may be awed by them. tax upon theft or adultery, because a tax im- In any of these cases, my Lords, the law is n ). plies a license granted for the use of that which to be condemned for its inefficacy, since it only is taxed to all who shall be willing to pay it. fails by the defect of those who are to direct its

operations. The best and most important laws During the course of this long debate, I have will contribute very little to the security or hap. endeavored to recapitulate and digest the argu-piness of a people, if no judges of integrity and ments which have been advanced, and have con- spirit can be found among them. Even the most sidered them both separately and conjointly; beneficial and useful bill that ministers can pos. but find myself at the same distance from con- sibly imagine, a bill for laying on our estates a piction as when I first entered the House. tax of the fifth part of their yearly value, would

In vindication of this bill, my Lords, we have be wholly without effect if collectors could not licen told that the present law is ineffectual; be obtained. .nat our manufacture is not to be destroyed, or I am therefore, my Lords, yet doubtful wheth. aot this year; that the security offered by the er the inefficacy of the law now subsisting necpresent bill has induced great numbers to sub-essarily obliges us to provide another; for thoso scribe to the new fund ; that it has been ap- that declared it to be useless, owned, at the proved by the Commons; and that, if it be sarne time, that no man endeavored to enforce found ineffectual, it may be amended another it, so that perhaps its only defect may be that session.

it will not execute itself. All these arguments, my Lords, I shall en- Nor, though I should allow that the law is a. deavor to examine, because I am always desir- present impeded by difficulties which can not be vus of gratifying those great men to whom the broken through, but by men of more spirit and bdministration of affairs is intrusted, and have dignity than the ministers may be inclined to always very cautiously avoided the odium of dis- trust with commissions of the peace, yet it can affection, which they will undoubtedly throw, in only be collected that another law is necessary, imitation of their predecessors, upon all those not that the law now proposed will be of any whose wayward consciences shall oblige them advantage. to hinder the execution of their schemes.

Great use has been made of the inefficacy of With a very strong desire, therefore, though the present law to decry the proposal made by with no great hopes, of finding them in the right, the noble Lord (a member of the Opposition) for I venture to begin my inquiry, and engage in laying a high duty upon these pernicious liquors. the examination of their first assertion, that the High duties have already, as we are informed, present law against the abuse of strong liquors been tried without advantage. High duties are is witaout effect.

at this hour imposed upon those spirits which I hope, my Lords, it portends well to my in- are retailed, yet we see them every day sold in quiry that the first position which I have to ex- the streets withont the payment of the tax re. amine is true ; nor can I forbear to congratulate Iquired, and therefore it will be folly to make a

[ocr errors]

second essay of means, which have been found, | destroy, or very much impair, the trade of disby the essay of many years, unsuccessful. tilling, is certainly supposed by those who de. It has been granted on all sides in this debate, send it

, for they proposed it only for that end : nor was it ever denied on any other occasion, and what better method can they propose, when that the consumption of any commodity is most they are called to deliberate upon a bill for the easily hindered by raising its price, and its price prevention of the excessive use of distilled liq. 3 to be raised by the imposition of a duty. This, uors ? my Lords, which is, I suppose, the opinion of The noble Lord has been pleased kindly to in. every man, of whatever degree of experience or form us that the trade of distilling is very extenunderstanding, appears likewise to have been sive; that it employs great numbers; and that thought of by the authors of the present law; they have arrived at an exquisite skill, and there. and therefore they imagined that they had effect- fore-note well the consequence—the trade of ually provided against the increase of drunken- distilling is not to be discouraged. ness, by laying upon that liquor which should be Once more, my Lords, allow me to wonder al retailed in small qnantities, a duty which none the different conceptions of different understandof the inferior classes sf drunkards would be able ings. It appears to me that since the spirits to pay

which the distillers produce are allowed to en. Thus, my Lords, they conceived that they had feeble the limbs and vitiate the blood, to pervert reformed the common people without infringing the heart and obscure the intellects, that the the pleasures of others; and applauded the hap- number of distillers should be no argument in py contrivance by which spirits were to be made their favor ; for I never heard that a law against dear only to the poor, while every man who theft was repealed or delayed because thieves could afford to purchase two gallons was at lib- were numerous. It appears to me, my Lords, erty to riot at his ease, and, over a full flowing that if so formidable å body are confederated bumper, look down with contempt upon his for- against the virtue or the lives of their fellow-cit. mer companions, now ruthlessly condemned to izens, it is time to put an end to the havoc, and disconsolate sobriety.

to interpose, while it is yet in our power to stop But, my Lords, this intention was frustrated, the destruction. and the project, ingenious as it was, fell to the So little, my lords, am I affected with the ground; for, though they had laid a tax, they merit of the wonderful skill which the distillers unhappily forgot this tax would make no addi- are said to have attained, that it is, in my opin tion to the price unless it was paid, and that it ion, no faculty of great use to mankind to pre. would not be paid unless some were empowered pare palatable poison; nor shall I ever contribto collect it.

ute my interest for the reprieve of a murderer, Here, my Lords, was the difficulty: those who because he has, by long practice, obtained great made the law were inclined to lay a tax from dexterity in his trade. which themselves should be exempt, and there. If their liquors are so delicious that the peofore would not charge the liquor as it issued ple are tempted to their own destruction, let us from the still; and when once it was dispersed at length, my Lords, secure them from these in the hands of petty dealers, it was no longer fatal draughts, by bursting the vials that conto be found without the assistance of informers, tain them. Let us crush at once these artists and informers could not carry on the business of in slaughter, who have reconciled their countryprosecution without the consent of the people. men to sickness and to ruin, and spread over the

It is not necessary to dwell any longer upon pitfalls of debauchery such baits as can not be :he law, the repeal of which is proposed, since resisted. it appears already that it failed only from a par- The noble Lord has, indeed, admitted that this tiality not easily defended, and from the omis- bill may not be found sufficiently coercive, but sion of what we now propose—the collecting gives us hopes that it may be improved and enthe duty from the still-head.

forced another year, and persuades us to endeavIf this method be followed, there will be no or a reformation of drunkenness by degrees, and, longer any need of informations or of any rig- above all, to beware at present of hurting the orous or new measures; the same officers that manufacture. collect a smaller duty may levy a greater; nor I am very far, my Lords, from thinking that can they be easily deceived with regard to the there are, this year, any peculiar reasons for tolquantities that are made; the deceits, at least, erating murder ; nor can I conceive why the that can be used, are in use already; they are manufacture should be held sacred now, if it be frequently detected and suppressed; nor will a to be destroyed hereafter. We are, indeed, delarger duty enable the distillers to elude the vig- sired to try how far this law will operate, that Lance of the officers with more success. we may be more able to proceed with due re

Against this proposal, therefore, the inefficacy gard to this valuable manufacture. of the present law can be no objection. But it With regard to the operation of the law, it apis urged that such duties would destroy the trade pears to me that it will only enrich the govern. of distilling; and a noble Lord has been pleased ment without reforming the people; and I beto express great tenderness for a manufacture lieve there are many of a different opinion. so beneficial and extensive.

If any diminution of the sale of spirits le expect. That a large duty, levied ai the still, would led from it, it is to be considered that this dima

D

men.

aution will, cr will not, be such as is desired for this fund is mortgaged to the public creditors, the reformation of the people. If it be sufficient, they can prevail upon the Commons to change the manufacture is at an end, and all the reasons the security. They may continue the bill in force against a higher duty are of equal force against for the reasons, whatever they are, for which .his ; but if it is not sufficient, we have, at least, they have passed it; and the good intentions of omitted part of our duty, and have neglected the our ministers, however sincere, may be defeathealth and virtue of the people.

ed, and drunkenness, legal drunkenness, estab I can not, my Lords, yet discover why a re- lished in the nation. prieve is desired for this manufacture-why the This, my Lords, is very reasonable, and thero. present year is not equally propitious to the ref- fore we ought to exert ourselves for the safety of ormation of mankind as any will be that may suc- the nation while the power is yet in our own ceed it. It is true we are at war with two na- hands, and, without regard to the opinion or protions, and perhaps with more; but war may be ceedings of the other House, show that we are better prosecuted without money than without yet the chief guardians of the people.

And we but little consult the military The ready compliance of the Commons with glory of our country if we raise supplies for the measures proposed in this bill has been menpaying our armies by the destruction of those tioned here, with a view, I suppose, of influencarmies that we are contriving to pay.

ing us, but surely by those who had forgotten We have heard the necessity of reforming the our independence, or resigned their own. It is nation by degrees urged as an argument for im- not only the right, but the duty of either House, posing first a lighter duty, and afterward a heav- to deliberate, without regard to the determinaier. This complaisance for wickedness, my Lords, tions of the other; for how should the nation re. is not so defensibie as that it should be battered ceive any benefit from the distinct powers that by arguments in form, and therefore I shall only compose the Legislature, unless the determinarelate a reply made by Webb, the noted walker, tions are without influence upon each other? If upon a parallel occasion.

either the example or authority of the Commons This man, who must be reinembered by many can divert us from following our own convicof your Lordships, was remarkable for vigor, tions, we are no longer part of the Legislature ; both of mind and body, and lived wholly upon we have given up our honors and our privileges, water for his drink, and chiefly upon vegetables and what then is our concurrence but slavery, for his other sustenance. He was one day rec- or our suffrage but an echo? ommending his regimen to one of his friends who The only argument, therefore, that now re loved wine, and who perhaps might somewhat mains, is the expediency of gratifying those, by contribute to the prosperity of this spirituous whose ready subscription the exigencies our new manufacture, and urged him, with great earn- statesmen have brought upon us have been sup estness, to quit a course of luxury by which ported, and of continuing the security by which his health and his intellects would equally be de- they have been encouraged to such liberal cori. stroyed. The gentleman appeared convinced, tributions. and told him that he would conform to his Public credit, my Lords, is indeed of very counsel, and thought he could not change his great importance; but public credit can never course of life at once, but would leave off strong be long supported without public virtue; nor in liquors by degrees.” " By degrees !" says the deed, if the government could mortgage the other, with indignation. "If you should unhap- morals and health of the people, would it be just pily fall into the fire, would you caution your and rational to confirm the bargain. If the min. servants not to pull you out but by degrees ?” istry can raise money only by the destruction

This answer, my Lords, is applicable to the of their fellow-subjects, they ought to abandon present case. The nation is sunk into the low- those schemes for which the money is necessary; est state of corruption; the people are not only for what calamity can be equal to unbounded vicious, but insolent beyond example. They not wickedness ? only break the laws, but defy them; and yet some But, my Lords, there is no necessity for a of your Lordships are for reforming them by de- choice which may cost our ministers so much regrees !

gret; for the same subscriptions may be proI am not so easily persuaded, my Lords, that cured by an offer of the same advantages to a our ministers really intend to supply the defects fund of any other kind, and the sinking fund will that may hereafter be discovered in this bill. It easily supply any deficiency that might be suswill doubtless produce money, perhaps much pected in another scheme. more than they appear to expect from it. I To confess the truth, I should feel very little doubt not but the licensed retailers will be more pain from an account that the nation was for than fifty thousand, and the quantity retailed some time determined to be less liberal of their must increase with the number of retailers. As contributions; and that money was withheld till the bill will, therefore, answer all the ends in- it was known in what expeditions it was to be tended by it, I do not expect to see it altered; employed, to what princes subsidies were to be for I have never observed ministers desirous of paid, and what advantages were to be purchased amending their own errors, unless they are such by it for our country. I should rejoice, my Lords, as have caused a deficiency in the revenue. to hear that the lottery by which the deficiencios

Besides my Lords, it is not certain that, when of this duty are to be supplied was not filled

« PreviousContinue »