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elective government boards as well as of appointive excise commissioners, charges the courts with the duty of issuing liquor licenses. Arkansas utilizes the county courts for this purpose, and selling privileges are only issued in cities and towns. Kentucky likewise employs the county courts as licensers. Various restrictions and conditions are imposed, among them that due consideration shall be given the needs of a "neighborhood" in which a license is applied for, but it is left to the courts to define the neighborhood. With the exception noted above, Missouri law makes the county courts the licensing body. New Jersey, as we have seen, utilizes the courts of common pleas in part. Pennsylvania requires the courts of quarter sessions to deal with liquor licenses, and no longer excepts certain localities by special statute as in former times when the city of Philadelphia, for instance, had its own excise board. In Virginia, all licenses are issued by the circuit or corporation courts. Texas relies upon its county courts, and requires that all applications shall be rigidly scrutinized by the State comptroller of public accounts. Maryland takes a partial step toward court regulation of licenses by conferring the authority upon the clerk of the circuit court (for Baltimore the clerk of the court of common pleas).
There is no space to enumerate the different kinds of licensing bodies that may exist under special city charters. It should be remembered, however, that with the advent of the commission form of government a new species of licensing authority has come into the field of whose doings for good or evil there is as yet little evidence, but which offer an interesting field of study.
I have dwelt at some length upon the subject of license authorities, not only to show the variety of expedients resorted to, but because it is the crux of the situation. One many fairly assert that as a rule the liquor traffic takes its color from the body which exercises the licensing power. If this is inefficient or caters to unclean interests, the traffic surely sinks to lower levels, and vice versa. It matters, under certain circumstances perhaps greatly but is not so fundamental, by what devices State or local laws attempt to hold a licensing body to a performance of its difficult task through specific prescriptions. The essential thing is to have authorities of the right caliber and trusted character. The most carefully elaborated regulations in licensing and supervising the sale of intoxicants may become a dead letter unless executed by persons endowed with broad
views and plenty of backbone and who set a just performance of duty above aught else. This is a truism as old as the history of liquor legislation.
There is, then, throughout the United States, a bewildering array of methods designed to work out the knotty questions of controlling the liquor traffic in the interests of the whole community. Some may contend that here and there current methods have passed the experimental stage, yet it is an unsafe generalization when applied widely, for although some of the licensing authorities themselves are above the thought of suspicion, the conditions of law under which they labor may prevent them from making their dictates wholly effective. The ideal system of licensing is perhaps still to be evolved. Meanwhile it is too patent that in numerous cases, probably in most. the licensing machinery is working badly or has already demonstrated its inherent unfitness.
The origin of these utterly different methods of licensing, which relate not only to the choice of excise authorities but to the legal provisions that govern their functions, it is not difficult to trace. Most license legislation has as its foundation ancient fragments of law upon which the statutory structure has been reared by slow degrees. The usual method has been to pass new laws to meet specific evils, as they arise, pinning faith on restrictions and penalties with little effort to search out sound principles. Ordinarily two parties are busy about liquor legislation! The persons whose sole conception is to surround the traffic with a multitude of prohibitions, since they cannot wipe it out altogether, and, opposed to them, the trade interests, who fight for their own. Outside stands the great public with little voice in the final outcome and too often disposed to accept with meekness the hodge-podge legislation handed them.
Is there no better way? Surely out of the experience with many licensing systems, with legislation embodying a multitude of experiments, it must be possible to extract some guiding principles of the utmost value to future legislation. The ancient method of fabricating liquor laws solely on a theory, or entrusting the process to those whose aim is obstruction rather than sane regulation, has gone by. To those whose philosophy in dealing with the liquor question, as with other complicated social problems, is summed up in the word "experimentation," it should be said, Experiment by all means, but; for goodness sake, base your efforts upon careful study of the results experience yields!
Although the liquor problem engages the attention of our law makers year by year, and is constantly in the public eye, there has been a pitiful lack of competent study of its legislative phases. The fulminating literature against abuse of liquor and the vociferous demand for sumptuary laws do not meet the issue. In fifteen years or more not a single far-reaching investigation has been made of the subject. Meanwhile our legislative mills have turned out a varied assortment of grist, and some significant changes have taken place which must not be ignored.
The question of regulative liquor legislation has largely ceased to be one of supreme importance to the rural district and the village. It has emphatically settled down to be, what it once was not-a municipal problem. Those who are entitled to speak for the trade have of late reiterated again and again that their interest lies altogether in maintaining the traffic in the municipalities, and there is evidence enough to warrant our taking them at their word. The liquor question as a municipal problem certainly looms large enough. In 1910 (the latest available figures are for this year), there were only 28 cities of over 30,000 population out of a total of 184 in the United States which were not actively concerned with the business of regulating the legalized liquor traffic, not to mention the large number of smaller communities that have to face it. Of course one may assume that not all of these 28 municipalities were exempt from the troubles arising from an illegal traffic.
There are, to be sure, those who strenuously deny that the ultimate problem is one of regulation even so far as municipalities are concerned. Throwing the experience of generations to the winds, they hold with unreasoning faith that by a legislative fiat the whole problem can be solved; and they accept no alternative. Yet, whether one likes to admit it or not, the old question abides, and those who would do more than dream must listen to it: What can be done to secure a saner and safer conduct of a traffic which so vitally affects the order and well-being of our municipalities?
Hitherto there has been a tacit understanding in license legislation that no help or coöperation could be expected from representatives of the trade. Instead the aim has solely been to antagonize and rout them. If at any time this was at all wise it is so no longer. Hateful as the admission may be to some, farsighted men are beginning to realize that future regulative measures must be worked out in coöperation with the chief spokesmen for
the trade, who are persuaded that evil conditions are not conducive to their interests and therefore would welcome whatever makes for stable albeit stringent supervision. They admit the besetting dangers of the traffic as well as the need for housecleaning. Is not an appreciation of this a better guide to action than the spirit of oppression or suppression which invites opposition at each stage and invariably defeats the end sought? There lurks no thought behind this of compromising with patent evils; but of employing effective means of minimizing them. Objection to this view can only be raised by those whose zeal obscures their vision of the attainable.
Although perhaps the largest issue in any regulative scheme is the choice of licensing authorities, it is not the only test of effective liquor legislation. Closely allied to it are questions of delineating the power of excise authorities, whether it should be severely restrictive or made elastic; how far the State should undertake to prescribe minute rules governing selling or whether the local community should have a voice in formulating them; how licenses should be classified not only for purposes of taxation but with an eye to public safety: how far abuse may be prevented by favoring the sale of lighter beverages as against the more alcoholic, etc. These and many other related questions are inseparable from a competent scheme of liquor legislation.
It has already been intimated how diversely our lawmakers answer them, and, one may add, how ineffectively in most instances. The liquor laws of some States are infinitely to be preferred to those of others as making for decent conduct. Yet the statutes of no one commonwealth embody the final wisdom nor do they offer a universal model. But is not one remedy against all this faltering. this blind experimentation which frequently does not live beyond two legislative sessions, patient inquiry, an elucidation of facts and principles and an intelligent comparison of results? The everlasting agitation and heaping up of new measures demonstrates abundantly that there is something amiss. Hitherto we have mostly been concerned-it is an American habit of mind-in casting about for some new legislative expedient with child-like faith in the efficacy of any additional "thou shalt not." It irks us to seek out facts and painstakingly lay bare the results of wide experience that we may build up a safer structure. Yet we admit that to capitalize experience spells progress.
Fully persuaded of some of these things and how intimately the liquor question bears upon the community life, the National Municipal League,* through one of its committees, has essayed to study especially some of the chief legislative phases of the subject. The League has already given it some attention.
It might almost be impertinent to emphasize anew how large a factor the liquor traffic is in municipal affairs. It is a commonplace to speak of the dangers adhering to the traffic. If left uncontrolled, intolerable excesses follow, as all the world knows. It is equally commonplace to regard the traffic as a dangerous element in politics. The story of rum-ridden city governments, of saloonowned police officials, with all its unsavory details, has often been told. No investigation is needed to convince anyone that these things have existed and do now exist, in municipalities under license as well as in those from which the law has formally banished the traffic. But what underlies such manifestations? The existence of abuses of one kind or another argues, in the first instance, lack of proper control or the employment of inefficient methods. It is history that excesses can be done away with. And there is no inherent relation between liquor selling and politics. The business easily gravitates toward it, sometimes from sheer greed, and very often as a matter of self-defense against oppressive and unjust measures. But there is no necessary connection. There are cities in which the traffic has been subjected to legal restraint in the same way as other business, where it has no dominant voice in government and where it is under, not over, the police powers, and where excesses are summarily suppressed. To deny this were to confess to a situation not offering a ray of hopefulness.
*The National Municipal League's committee on the liquor problem consists of Camillus G. Kidder, Orange, N. J., Chairman; Very Rev. Walter T. Sumner, The Cathedral, Chicago; John Koren, Boston; Arthur H. Hall, Minneapolis; President S. C. Mitchell, University of South Carolina; Maynard M. Clement, Albany, N. Y., former excise commissioner of New York; Prof. F. Spencer Baldwin, of the Boston University; and Prof. Augustus Raymond Hatton, of the Western Reserve University, Cleveland.
The National Municipal League, as a matter properly incident to its study of municipal problems, decided to undertake a further research, building upon the foundation of some of the work of the Committee of Fifty; but carrying the investigation much further in certain limited aspects. By diligent and painstaking research, the committee of the League hopes to arrive at definite, practical results which may serve as a basis for legislative