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popular. Partly, however, through hostility to France, and partly in order to encourage the home distilleries, the Government of the Revolution, in 1689, absolutely prohibited the importation of spirits from all foreign countries,' and threw open the trade of distillery, on the payment of certain duties, to all its subjects.2 These measures laid the foundation of the great extension of the English manufacture of spirits, but it was not till about 1724 that the passion for gin-drinking appears to have infected the masses of the population, and it spread with the rapidity and the violence of an epidemic. Small as is the place which this fact occupies in English history, it was probably, if we consider all the consequences that have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the eighteenth century-incomparably more so than any event in the purely political or military annals of the country. The fatal passion for drink was at once, and irrevocably, planted in the nation. The average of British spirits distilled, which is said to have been only 527,000 gallons in 1684, and 2,000,000 in 1714, had risen in 1727 to 3,601,000, and in 1735 to 5,394,000 gallons. Physicians declared that in excessive gindrinking a new and terrible source of mortality had been opened for the poor. The grand jury of Middlesex, in a powerful presentment, declared that much the greater part of the poverty, the murders, the robberies of London, might be traced to this single cause. Retailers of gin were accustomed to hang out painted boards announcing that their customers could be made drunk for a penny, and dead drunk for twopence, and should have straw for nothing; and cellars strewn with straw were accordingly provided, into which those who had become insensible were dragged, and where they remained till they had sufficiently recovered to renew their orgies. The evil acquired such frightful dimensions that even the unreforming Parliament of Walpole perceived the necessity of taking strong measures to arrest it, and in 1736 Sir J. Jekyll brought in and pherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 639.

1 Parl. Hist., xii. 1212.
* Ibid., xii. 1211-1214.


carried a measure, to which Walpole reluctantly assented, imposing a duty of 20s. a gallon on all spirituous liquors, and prohibiting any person from selling them in less quantities than two gallons without paying a tax of 50l. a year.1 Such a scale, if it could have been maintained, would have almost amounted to prohibition, but the passion for these liquors was now too widely spread to be arrested by law. Violent riots ensued. In 1737, it is true, the consumption sank to about 3,600,000 gallons, but, as Walpole had predicted, a clandestine retail trade soon sprang up, which being at once very lucrative and very popular, increased to such an extent that it was found impossible to restrain it. In 1742, more than 7,000,000 gallons were distilled, and the consumption was steadily augmenting. The measure of 1736 being plainly inoperative, an attempt was made in 1743 to suppress the clandestine trade, and at the same time to increase the public revenue by a Bill lowering the duty on most kinds of spirits to 1d. in the gallon, levied at the still-head, and at the same time reducing the price of retail licences from 50l. to 208.2 The Bill was carried in spite of the strenuous opposition of Chesterfield, Lord Hervey, and the whole bench of Bishops, and, while it did nothing to discourage drunkenness, it appears to have had little or no effect upon smuggling. In 1749 more than 4,000 persons were convicted of selling spirituous liquors without a licence, and the number of the private gin-shops, within the Bills of Mortality, was estimated at more than 17,000. At the same time crime and immorality of every description were rapidly increasing. The City of London urgently petitioned for new measures of restriction. The London physicians stated in 1750 that there were, in or about the metropolis, no less than 14,000 cases of illness, most of them beyond the reach of medicine, directly attributable to gin. Fielding, in his well-known pamphlet On the late Increase of Robbers,' which was published in 1751, ascribed that evil, in a great degree to a new kind of drunkenness, unknown to our ancestors;' he declared that gin was the principal susten

19 Geo. II. c. 23.

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2 16 Geo. II. c. 8.

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ance (if it may so be called) of more than 100,000 people in the metropolis,' and he predicted that, should the drinking of this poison be continued at its present height during the next twenty years, there will, by that time, be very few of the common people left to drink it.' It was computed that, in 1750 and 1751, more than 11 millions of gallons of spirits were annually consumed, and the increase of population, especially in London, appears to have been perceptibly checked. Bishop Benson, in a letter written from London a little later, said there is not only no safety of living in this town, but scarcely any in the country now, robbery and murther are grown so frequent. Our people are now become what they never before were, cruel and inhuman. Those accursed spirituous liquors, which, to the shame of our Government, are so easily to be had, and in such quantities drunk, have changed the very nature of our people; and they will, if continued to be drunk, destroy the very race of people themselves.'1

In 1751, however, some new and stringent measures were carried under the Pelham ministry, which had a real and very considerable effect. Distillers were prohibited under a penalty of 10l. from either retailing spirituous liquors themselves, or selling them to unlicensed retailers. Debts contracted for liquors not amounting to twenty shillings at a time were made irrecoverable by law. Retail licences were conceded only to 10l. householders within the Bills of Mortality, and to traders who were subject to certain parochial rates without them, and the penalties for unlicensed retailing were greatly increased. For the second offence the clandestine dealer was liable to three months' imprisonment and to whipping; for the third offence he incurred the penalty of transportation. Two years later another useful law was carried restricting the liberty of magistrates in issuing licences, and subjecting public-houses to severe regulations.3 Though much less ambitious than the Act of 1736 these measures were far more efficacious, and they form a striking instance of

1 Fraser's Life of Berkeley, pp.



2 24 Geo. II. c. 40.
3 26 Geo. II. c. 13.

the manner in which legislation, if not over-strained or ill-timed, can improve the morals of a people. Among other consequences of the Acts it may be observed that dropsy, which had risen in London to a wholly unprecedented point between 1718 and 1751, immediately diminished, and the diminution was ascribed by physicians to the marked decrease of drunkenness in the community. Still these measures formed a palliation and not a cure, and from the early years of the eighteenth century gindrinking has never ceased to be the main counteracting influence to the moral, intellectual, and physical benefits that might be expected from increased commercial prosperity. Of all the pictures of Hogarth none are more impressive than those in which he represents the different conditions of a people whose national beverage is beer and of a people who are addicted to gin, and the contrast exhibits in its most unfavourable aspect the difference between the Hanoverian period and that which preceded it.1

Something also was done to secure the maintenance of order, but there was still very much to be desired. The impunity with which outrages were committed in the ill-lit and illguarded streets of London during the first half of the eighteenth century can now hardly be realised. In 1712 a club of young men of the higher classes, who assumed the name of Mohocks, were accustomed nightly to sally out drunk into the streets to hunt the passers-by and to subject them in mere wantonness to the most atrocious outrages. One of their favourite amusements, called tipping the lion,' was to squeeze the nose of their victim flat upon his face and to bore out his eyes with their fingers. Among them were the sweaters,' who formed a circle round their prisoner and pricked him with their swords till he sank exhausted to the ground, the dancing masters,' so

'Heberden, Observations on the Increase and Decrease of Different Diseases (1801) p. 45.

2 See on this subject the Gentleman's Magazine, 1751, pp. 136, 282-283, 321, 322; 1760, pp. 18-22. Short's Hist. of the Increase and Decrease of Man


kind in England, p. 21. Coxe's Life of Pelham, ii. 182. Maty's Life of Chesterfield, p. 209. Walpole's George II. i. 66-67. Smollett's Hist. Fielding's Increase of Robbers. Parl. Debates.

called from their skill in making men caper by thrusting swords into their legs, the 'tumblers,' whose favourite amusement was to set women on their heads and commit various indecencies and barbarities on the limbs that were exposed. Maid servants as they opened their masters' doors were waylaid, beaten, and their faces cut. Matrons inclosed in barrels were rolled down the steep and stony incline of Snow Hill. Watchmen were unmerci

fully beaten and their noses slit. Country gentlemen went to the theatre as if in time of war, accompanied by their armed retainers. A bishop's son was said to be one of the gang, and a baronet was among those who were arrested.' This atrocious fashion passed away, but other, though comparatively harmless, rioters were long accustomed to beat the watch, to break the citizens' windows, and to insult the passers-by, while robberies multiplied to a fearful extent. Long after the Revolution, the policy of the Government was to rely mainly upon informers for the repression of crime, but the large rewards that were offered were in a great degree neutralised by the popular feeling against the class. The watchmen or constables were as a rule utterly inefficient, were to be found much more frequently in beer-shops than in the streets, and were often themselves a serious danger to the community. Fielding, who knew them well, has left a graphic description of one class. They were chosen out of those poor decrepit people who are, from their want of bodily strength, rendered incapable of getting a livelihood by work. These men, armed only with a pole, which some of them are scarcely able to lift, are to secure the persons and houses of his Majesty's subjects from the attacks of gangs of young, bold, desperate, and well-armed villains. If the poor old fellows should run away, no one, I think, can wonder, unless it be that they were able to make their escape."2 Of others an opinion may be formed from an incident related by Horace Walpole in 1742. A parcel of drunken constables took it into their heads to put the laws in execution against disorderly

1 Swift's Journal to Stella. Gay's Trivia. The Spectator, 324, 335, 347. 2 Amelia, bk. i. ch. 2.

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