Nearly twenty years ago the United Kingdom Alliance sounded Lord STANLEY (now Lord DERBY) on the subject of coercive legislation, and invited him to one of their meetings. He declined, but sent the Secretary a letter in which he stated his views on the subject, and it is of this letter the late John Stuart MILL spoke in his work on Liberty when he said, that it "strengthened the hopes already built on Lord STANLEY," who "is one of the few English public men who hold that a politician's opinions ought to be founded on principles." We give the letter and reasons, premising that one or two of the latter -- No. 1 especially - have been modified by subsequent events: --
"I draw a wide distinction between the voluntary temperance movement and that which seeks to attain its end by legislative intervention. Of the first I entirely approve; the second, I regret to say, I cannot support. I have drawn out a statement of my reasons for not supporting the Alliance, which I enclose. If you choose to give it publicity, I do not object. My wish is to point out the objections which occur most forcibly to my own mind, so that if they can be met you may be prepared to meet them."
The following are his reasons: --
"1. Because the law-making power in England, being practically in the hands of the wealthy, while the intemperate class is, generally speaking, the lowest in the scale, the proposed prohibition would be a cutting off by one class of the (supposed) enjoyments of another -- a measure to which the law-makers will not venture, in prudence, to resort; and which, if resorted to, would be regarded by those whom it affected as partial and unjust.
"This objection applies less to the case of the United States, although even there complaint is made that the rich, who can afford to buy liquor wholesale, are virtually exempt from the law which enforces abstinence on the poor..
"2. Because, while the desire of drink is so strong as to lead to an annual consumption of from 50,000,000l to 70,000,000l sterling in liquor, the proposed prohibition, if carried, would be evaded by smuggling to an enormous extent, with, probably, the connivance of many magistrates, M.P.'s, and others, who would regard the law as impracticable and absurd, and would, therefore, not exert themselves to see it enforced. Hence a double evil -- (a) disregard of, and contempt for, law; and (b) less of that practical control which is now exercised over places where drink is sold: the trade falling into more disreputable hands, and a criminal class being artificially produced.
"3. Because, in the present lamentable condition of the labouring class as a body, the labourer has, especially in rural districts, no amusement or recreation whatever, nor any place of social meeting except the publichouse. This state of things is not sought to be defended, nor even palliated, but it exists, and before closing publichouses some better substitute should be provided.
"4. Because the suppression of the liquor traffic -- assuming it possible -- would cause a loss of 20,000,000l of revenue yearly; and though it is admitted that the social aspect of this question is more important than the fiscal, yet it must be considered that so large a deficit can only be made up by the imposition of direct taxes to a vast amount: the discontent produced by which must be added to that directly arising out of a restriction so stringent, and which would be severely felt by so many. This is no argument against gradual diminution of the traffic, but a strong argument against total and violent suppression.
"5. Because a habit of self-control acquired by the individual is, in every respect, a better protection than an arbitrary enactment. In those communities of primitive people where no access has ever been had to intoxicating drink, it is found that the desire for it, when casually introduced, becomes an irrepressible passion; and entire tribes have been, and are being, swept off in consequence of yielding to this passion. Prohibition augments desire, and the absence of temptation cannot confer moral strength.
"6. Because difficulty will arise, if it is meant to be consistent, in defining intoxicating substances. Is tobacco to be included? Is opium? Where the craving for stimulants is strong, these or similar compounds will be substituted for alcoholic liquors. Chemical science will be employed to discover or produce them at small cost. You will only have replaced one form of intoxication by another. Suppose these two prohibited -- a measure which will greatly increase the amount of opposition to be reckoned upon -- new means of intoxication can and will be found, calling for new and further extension of the law.
"7. Because the suppression of traffic in liquor can never suffice, as has been found in America, to put a stop to its habitual use. Apart from actual smuggling alluded to before, the law may be evaded in many ways; e.g., it would probably become the practice for labourers to stipulate for a certain quantity of liquor to be given them in addition to their wages, and abuse which employers are doing their best to put down, but which prohibition of the liquor traffic would render general. Pretended exhibitions would be got up, as was done in the States, where, after paying for admission, the visitor would get his share of liquor gratis. Drinking clubs would be established on the same principle. You can't stop such frauds, unless you declare the possession as well as the sale of liquor illegal, by which enactment every man's house becomes liable to search, and the capital actually invested in private stores of wine and spirits, &c., is destroyed.
"8. Because the exertions of temperance societies on the voluntary system are impeded, and odium is excited against them, by every attempt at forcible suppression of the traffic. To off to employ physical or material force is in itself a confession that moral force is inadequate for the object proposed."