Essay, Pages 3 (717 words)
In mid-eighteenth century England, Parliament passed the Gin Act of 1751, which restricted the sale of gin through increased retail license requirements and greater taxes on such liquor. This procedure was enacted to minimize the consumption of spirits and the subsequent criminal activity it stimulated. Indeed, gin production increased almost 500% from 1701 to 1751. Nevertheless, the general population ended up being taken part in a fierce dispute for and against the new legislation. While authors, artists, and religious leaders argued for the act, financial experts, entrepreneurs, and landowners refuted it with equal eagerness.
Meanwhile, politicians were torn amongst themselves over the circumstance at hand. Each group held the position it did for either intrinsic or extrinsic factors, typically however not constantly to serve their own benefits.
Authors, artists, religious leaders, and particular politicians all supported the Gin Act of 1751, but each for individual motives. For instance, one confidential author described gin drinkers as “bad ragged people, cursing and quarreling with one another”, in clear correlation with his book’s title, Distilled Liquors: The Bane of the Countries (1736 ).
His passion versus gin was predictably conceived from agonizing direct experience in the London city streets. This sentiment is echoed in a different author’s comparable observation. From a 1747 excerpt of The London Tradesperson, he regrets that society is captured in a vicious circle of drunkenness, impossible to break. Both authors derive issue from a genuine desire to enhance the human condition. Nevertheless, the same can not be stated for artist William Hogarth in his opposing images, Gin Lane (1751) and Beer Street (1750 ).
Since he was commissioned to develop this anti-gin propaganda, his intentions were simply business-oriented.
Nonetheless, people in Beer Street are portrayed as happy, healthy, and prosperous, while those in Gin Lane are scrawny, lazy, and careless. Another anti-gin activist was religious leader, John Wesley, who also possessed an alterior motive for his platform. To maintain a positive image for the newly founded Methodist church, Wesley deemed it necessary for its members to be pious, God-fearing, and sober. Additional supporters of the gin act included certain politicians whose government positions were contingent upon their ability to foresee the long-term effects of major legislation, such as the gin act. Such politicians, including county magistrates from Middlesex and Lord Lonsdale, held the opinion that gin was a destructive vice that rendered citizens unfit for any useful purpose in society. By that logic, they concluded the gin act to be a necessary and justified law that posterity would look well upon.
In contrast, economists, businessmen, landowners, and other politicians rejected the Gin Act of 1751, but again for different reasons. Economists, such as Daniel Defoe, represented the anti-gin act platform on the grounds that gin was essential to “support the landed interest” and reduce England’s grain surplus. However, Defoe’s opinion may have differed had he not been a wealthy man untouched by the horrors of city slums. Because of his detachment from common society, Defoe was only able to see the cold, scientific ramifications of decreased gin production. Such was also the case with William Pulteney, a rich landowner who petitioned Parliament for lesser restrictions on gin sale, because gin was a thriving business to which many owed their source of income.
Still others protested the gin act for completely different reasons. In one businessman’s letter to an important gin distiller (1736), he voiced legitimate concern that high gin license fees would violate property rights and hurt the economy. This very issue was also raised by a member of Parliament (1736), who cited vast possible financial losses to the crown as a result of extortionate taxes. Lord Bathurst of Parliament rejected the gin act for yet another reason. He believed drinking in moderation was a necessary evil for the maintenance of sanity. However, he was oblivious to the fact that alcohol consumption of most English drunkards was anything but moderate.
Altogether, the Gin Act of 1751 was a highly controversial piece of legislation among the English demographic. While authors, artists, religious leaders, and some politicians defended its morality, economists, businessmen, landowners, and other politicians attacked its potential threat to political and economic stability. However, the act was not repealed, since it took into account only those opposed to the sale and production of “this great evil”.