[Letter of William Ballantyne Hodgson to Francis William Newman.]

London
28th March, 1871

THE LIQUOR TRAFFIC.

         You say: "While only five or six thousand persons get employment in the manufacture of this drink." In the first place, I hold this to be a serious understatement of the truth. In the second place, if it were exactly true, I hold it to be to the credit, not to the discredit, of the liquor traffic. Waiving the first point, however, I venture to ask would the case be mended, if it could be shown that not five or six, but fifty or sixty thousand persons were engaged in the manufacture? If the produce of the manufacture is, as (for argument's sake) I will grant it to be, not beneficial, but pernicious to the consumers, then it seems to me that the more the persons engaged in the manufacture so much the worse, and conversely, that the fewer persons thus engaged so much the better. Both positively and negatively it is well that as few persons as possible should be engaged in a pernicious manufacture and withdrawn from really useful and beneficial industry. Were you arguing against war would you contend that one of its evils is that it "employs" so few or so many men? If the former, then the evil would be diminished by an increase of the army and in the ratio of the increase! No; if alcoholic drinks involve a waste of grain, etc., they involve also a waste of human labour (in both cases worse than waste), and the less grain and the less labour are so worse than wasted, the better for the world.

         As to the gap to be left in the revenue by the cessation of receipt from liquor duties, it is obvious that the community so released from a most mischievous expenditure would by that very fact be enabled to bear a vast increase of taxation in other forms; and even the existing abstainers, who now pay no liquor tax, would gain enormously in reduction of poor-rates, and of taxation which defrays the cost of prisons, lunatic asylums, and the whole machinery of criminal justice, not to speak of diminished loss by shipwreck and conflagration and railway collisions and what are called accidents of every kind.