License or No License – Which?

The Gazette
September 24, 1902

The people of Union Parish will be called upon at the election in November next to say whether license for the retail of intoxicating liquors shall or shall not be issued throughout the parish during the next and succeeding years.

The question is up to the voters of Union Parish to say whether they shall maintain the restriction now put upon the sale of liquor, or whether they shall tear down that restriction and open the doors wide for the establishment of a doggery, with all its attendant evils, at every cross-road, village and town in the parish. This is an issue that concerns every man, woman and child.

Let us see if there is any good reason why whisky should be sold in the parish. In the first place, whisky is not a necessity, as is clothing and food; and statistics on the subject inform us that men who abstain from its use enjoy better health than those who are given to drink; and it follows, without saying, that he who indulges less in it thereby saves more of his earnings.

It is a stock in trade argument with those who  themselves wish to sell whisky to declare whiskey is continually being sold by the blind tiger method and the parish would as well issue license and get the revenues from the sale. It is true that there are blind tigers in the parish, and there have been ever since whisky was voted out; but these tigers, hunted down at all times by the officer of the law and the better class of citizens, are powerless to accomplish the evil that would be done by open saloons. They can only seek patronage from that class of citizens who are willing to go into the courts and perjure themselves to shield the blind tiger man, and the class of people who are thus willing to swear falsely is limited. It by no means includes that large class of self-respecting, law-abiding people who constitute a majority of the voters of Union Parish. Besides, in their most flourishing condition, the blind tigers have never sold the one-hundredth part of the whisky that was sold when we had open saloons. There is, therefore, saves to the people much money that they would expend for strong drink if the saloon was present.

Some weeks ago when a cause was on trial in our district court, a witness who had kept a saloon in Farmerville when licenses were permitted testifies that his gross sales of whiskey for one year amounted to fifteen thousand dollars, and his was not the only saloon in the town. Where did that $15,000 dollars come from that went to pour red whisky down the throats of men, to no purpose except to unfit them for business and to quality them for disturbance and crime? Manifestly, from the toilsome earnings of those who live in this neighborhood. Who can tell what legitimate debts were left unpaid; how many homes failed to improvement; and how much live-stock left unpurchased, by the investment of that sum of money in alcohol? Yes, who can tell how many housewives were deprived of comfortable clothing, and how many little children went barefoot through the winters cold, or whose schooling was neglected, in order that this princely sum of $15,000 might be sacrificed on the altar of the whisky god?

The parish of Union does not need the revenue for the sale of whisky. She is able to meet her obligations and pay them dollar for dollar. Besides, if more revenue were needed it would be far better that taxation be increased and the revenue raised in a legitimate manner, than to resort to a business that breeds crime, for the tax.

But some will contend that if license be granted for the sale of whisky, trade will be attracted and time will be flourishing. Everyone will concede that it would attract trade and make things flourishing for the saloon keeper, but where is the one so idiotic as to believe that such a course would widen our trade territory or attract another single tax paying or property owning citizen to the parish? Where in all North Louisiana is there a town with more enterprise, more progress, more educational development, and more prosperity than our neighboring town of Ruston? And yet Ruston is now, and has been for a dozen years, a prohibition town.

It is claimed that the courts are powerless to prevent the blind tiger evil. This is doubtless true, as it is true of other crimes, such as murder, theft, etc.; but nobody would ask that those who wish to kill and steal be licensed, because these offenses cannot be wholly prevented. But the courts are continually punishing the tiger man, and at the present time there are three individuals in the parish jail serving out sentences for selling whisky without license. One trouble that has stood in the way of checking the evil in the past was that the imprisonment which the courts were permitted to impose on those who committed that offense could not exceed four months. The last legislature has, however, increased the penalty so that the courts may inflict a fine or imprisonment, or both to the extent of $500, and 12 months in the parish jail. This increased punishment will of itself have some deterring effect.

Again, it is contended that the tiger influence has a corrupting effect on the citizen, in that he will swear falsely to shield the man who has illicitly sold to him whisky. Does it ever occur to those who so contend that the man whose conscience will permit him to so swear falsely, would as readily yield to false swearing in any other case where he wished to shield a criminal. On the other hand, the high-minded, truthful citizen, though a lover of ardent spirits, will leave the tiger severely alone, in order that it may not be expected of him that by false swearing he shall protect from just and righteous punishment a violator of the law.

When it was the order of the day in Union Parish to have saloons, there were numerous whisky sots in the parish. Now, however, with a dozen or more years of prohibition, it is doubtless if there is such an individual in all the parish. There are many young men in the parish who have never seen inside of a saloon, and from whom the temptation for strong drink has been almost wholly removed. The great bulk of the people of the parish are pursuing their affairs of life in sobriety and in peace. Will the voter, with his ballot disturb this order of things? The temperance cause is marching on throughout the land, and sobriety is at a premium. None of the great business enterprises of the country will employ a man who is addicted to strong drink nor will insurance companies take a risk upon his life. County after county throughout the country has registered itself on the side of prohibition. Can the people of Union Parish afford to turn back on this question of so much interest to them?

Voter, the peace and welfare of your parish and the morals of your young men rest, to a great extent, upon the manner in which you cast your ballot next November. Let that ballot be cast on the side of sobriety and morality.



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