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PROHIBITION BY LEGISLATIVE ENACTMENT THE ONLY LOGICAL SOLUTION OF THE
SALOON PROBLEM Even from a purely legal standpoint, legislative prohibition is the only logical solution of the saloon problem. A strenuous and persistent effort has been made by liquor journals and saloon advocates, for a year or more, to create the impression that the position of the writer, that the saloon is inherently and consitutionally unlawful and a nuisance, would completely withdraw and entirely remove the subject from the realm of legislative action. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Murder is unlawful in the absence of any legislation whatever, but the fact that it is, does not, in any sense, nor to any extent, remove it from the province of legislative consideration.
Its inherently unlawful status is a most persuasive reason for the infliction of just penalties, and this can be done only by and through legislative provisions. For years the Supreme Court of Indiana consistently held "bucket shop" gambling to be unlawful at common law, but those engaged in the business could not be punished for the offense, because the legislature had provided no penalty.
So, the fact, that the saloon is within itself unlawful, is an invitation, a call to the legislature to act, and prescribe the penalty for its operation, and that is all that is meant by prohibition.
Murder, stealing and burglary are prohibited, that is, persons committing the acts are liable, under the criminal law, to punishment therefor.
To prohibit the beverage liquor traffic means merely to make it a criminal offense to engage therein.
Every state has some degree of saloon prohibition now. In seven of them, it is a crime to sell for beverage uses at any time. This is absolute statutory prohibition. In all of the other states, it is a criminal offense to sell on certain days and during certain hours, and this is partial or limited prohibition. But, if the saloon be a nuisance within itself, why prohibit it by direct and specific enactment? For the very purpose of determining once and forever the question.
Many things are specifically outlawed that might be outlawed under a general statute, and this is in keeping with the spirit of the criminal law. The courts declare that brothels and gambling dens are within themselves unlawful and public nuisances, and yet the legislature has not provided for the punishment of offenders in these evils under the nuisance statute, but by special, specific provisions.
There is no good reason for giving the saloon legal recognition and countenance, any more, nay, not so much, as there is for the legal approval of the lottery, the brothel and the gambling den, and there is not a shadow of an excuse for the legal sanction of any ane of them. They all infringe upon the rights of citizens, and, as it is the duty of legislatures to provide for the security of the rights of the people, it is incumbent upon such bodies to prohibit all of them, and especially the saloon, which is the prolific mother of all the others. Many objections are urged to the prohibition of the saloon, but no public objection is heard against the prohibition of the other evils named. The reason is very apparent. The saloon has been given the sanction, encouragement and protection of legislative enactments, and has thereby been given a semblance of decency and respectability, which for many years has protected it from the assaults of the moral and righteous forces of society. It has made the most, or, perhaps, the worst of this entrenchment, 'for, upon the single platform of greed, its rapacity has run rampant, until the moral forces of society are now in open revolt against it everywhere. It can scarcely find a defender anywhere. In fact, it does not even defend itself. It is confessing, but it is not confessing that it has been obeying the law and respecting the rights of society. It admits that it has been bad, and it is promising to be good. Its hope is to gain another lease of life by this subterfuge.
The saloon has become so odious and the revolt so ominous that Bonfort's Wine and Spirits Circular, a liquor journal, confesses as follows: "The average saloon is out of line with public sentiment. The average saloon ought not to be defended by our trade, but it ought to be condemned. In small towns the average saloon is a nuisance.
It is a resort for all tough characters, and in the South for idle negroes. It is generally on a prominent street, and it is usually run by a sport, who cares only for the almighty dollar. From this resort the drunken man starts, reeling to his home; at this
resort the local fights are indulged in. It is a stench in the nostrils of society, and a disgrace to the wine and spirit trade. How, then, shall we defend the average saloon? We answer, don't defend it; condemn it.”
This confession is a fair definition of the saloon. It is a moral leper and social reprobate in any community. It is gross, obscene, vulgar and profane. It is the home of gamblers and other criminals and the resort of prostitutes. Its decorations immodest, indecent and suggestive. With these facts before us, there is no middle ground; no room for sentimentalism; no basis for a compromise. It is a place of unadulterated evil; it can not be made respectable; it must go. The so-called ideal saloon does not exist; it is merely an imagination. The decent, respectable saloon is as impossible as a virgin prostitute.
Speaking of the saloon along this line, the Rev. Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, of New York, said: “I know what these saloons are. I have visited them at all hours of the night, and on all nights of the week, and there is not an extenuating word that deserves to be spoken in behalf of them. They are foul, beastly and swinish, the prolific hot-beds of vile politics, profane ribaldry and unspeakable sensuality.
* I am talking now of the saloon as we know it here in New York, licensed swilling places, a combination of Tammany caucus, whisky sewer and bawdy house. There is no use in trying to improve them or to convert them; there is no convertible quality attaching to