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British Food Journal Volume 28 Issue 9 1926

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 September 1926


The world has just witnessed two of the greatest experiments in social reform ever attempted in history, viz., trying to make Russia free by Revolution, and trying to make America sober by Prohibition; and it is doubtful which of the two is the greater failure! But the strangest part of it all is that while native evidence is coming over by every mail (some of it the tardy admission of the prophets themselves who had hoped to save the world by their reforms), we see in England, from time to time, cranks and fanatics without experience at all who would wish us to “ follow in failure's footsteps.” It would be a pity to miss the lessons of the paradox, chief among which, surely, is the fact that here in England we are always accomplishing more under the principles of toleration than other countries by persecution. Freedom is part of the genius of our constitution, part of the instinct born of long legislative experience, which the younger and more impulsive countries can hardly hope to acquire at once. The New World may dearly love to teach its grandmother to suck the eggs of sobriety, but the New World will have to clean up the awful mess of this first experiment before old Granny Europe can be won over to the new idea. Human nature is much the same in the mass as it is in the individual; the Puritans produced the debaucheries of the Restoration, but it has been reserved for America to show that “ Prohibition is the mother of drunkenness,” though the older nations who have faced the problem for thousands of years could have told her that you can no more make men sober than you can make them happy by Act of Parliament, simply because liberty forms part of the essential psychology of human nature; and it is here that America has done the cause of Temperance more harm than any publican could ever have done had he set out to do harm of set purpose. But the United States has done more than endanger the cause of Temperance, for by bringing the machinery of government into disrepute, and officers of the law into temptation, she has undermined the prestige of civil morality all along the line, just like some stupid parent will wreck his whole authority by some petty act of bigotry. As a matter of fact—strange as it may seem—it is the modern publican himself who is the greatest Temperance reformer to‐day in England, and this for the simple reason that intemperance does not pay, but bootlegging, apparently, does; and, to judge from the latest details, more seems to be made out of alcohol by Prohibition than ever was made by the saloons. The figure was truly appalling when one comes to compare Temperance England with Prohibition America, which spends twice as much upon liquor as we do—some 720 million pounds, for example, are spent on bootlegging in U.S.A., as compared with 315 million pounds on honest drinking here, two‐thirds of which sum, in our case, of course, goes back to revenue, whereas double that sum in U.S.A. goes towards demoralising their Government. Town for town, the statistics all bear the same witness. London, with a population of seven millions in 1925, saw some 30,000 arrests for drunkenness; Chicago, with two millions, over 90,000; Philadelphia, with nearly the same population, had over 58,000 arrests, whereas Liverpool, with about half Philadelphia's population, had exactly one‐tenth of its number, viz., about 5,000, and so the story of the figure goes on, proving, as I say, that there is far more drunkenness under Prohibition than under sane regulation, and similar statistics as to crime are available. No one, of course, would have dared to maintain that this would be the result before the experiment had been made, but the experiment once made, we can only judge by the facts, with the result that all sound temperance reformers may well look with dismay upon the efforts of those who would wreck Temperance by making it into a Prohibition movement, with the effects in England it has had in America. It would be too high a price to pay for the little amount of drunkenness that remains to‐day of that wave of vice which once made it possible to get drunk for a penny and dead drunk for two‐pence. Indeed, in the last ten years the amount of drunkenness punished by imprisonment has diminished by more than 75 per cent., i.e., in 1913–14 the number was 51,851, and in 1923–24 this number had sunk to 11,425. Yet, small as this number is, foreigners coming over from the wine‐drinking countries are often shocked at the amount of intoxication they see over here as compared with their own countries, just as English visitors to New York come back scandalised.


(1926), "British Food Journal Volume 28 Issue 9 1926", British Food Journal, Vol. 28 No. 9, pp. 81-90.




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