By Kayleigh Marie DePriest
Legacy: A Journal of Student Scholarship, Vol.9 (2009)
Introduction: An anonymously written broadside appeared in London in the year 1736, written to the “honourable House of Commons,” and entitled Reasons humbly Offer’d (for effectual suppressing the excessive drinking of the liquor commonly called GIN, or Compound Spirits). The author writes:
That the Drinking these Liquors is now become a Custom throughout the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, as well as in most other Cities, Towns, and Villages in England, not only by Beggars, but by Servants, Apprentices, and Children, of both Sexes; rendering them Diseased, unfit for Labour, Poor, a Burden to themselves, and to their Parishes and too often the Occasion of weak and distempered Children; who must be, (instead of an Advantage, and Strength,) a Charge to their Country. And the fatal Effects of the frequent Use of these Distilled Spirits are but too visible in the Army and Fleet.
The document continues expanding on the reasons why the use of distilled spirits should be suppressed. This excerpt from the document reveals not only that distilled spirits, particularly gin, was present in England during the first half of the eighteenth century, but that it was being consumed to such an alarming degree that its drinkers were considered ill. Abusers of these distilled spirits, the author reports, were not doctors or politicians; rather they were members of inferior, lower class positions, the “Beggars,” the “Servants,” and so forth. Aside from informing readers that drinking liquor had become a “Custom” and that, according to the author, there was a pattern in the types of people who typically partook in this “Custom,” the evidence presented here also explains the effects liquor had on these people as witnessed by the author. These effects strongly suggest why so many became convinced that gin was evil and why so many joined the fight against it.