Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mob Law

In the United States around the end of the 19th. century, saloon-keepers and their customers in the state of Kansas were kept on the edge of their barstools by the activities of a more than usually aggressive temperance zealot. Six feet tall and weighing in at 175 pounds, Carrie Nation pursued her cause with an exceptional enthusiasm, reducing many a bar to matchwood with her woodsman’s axe. Along with her followers, chanting temperance slogans, she decimated a number of drinking establishments and consequently accumulated repeated fines from the courts for her activities, who felt that this was taking temperance a little too far. She paid the fines by charging for her speaking engagements and, more imaginatively, by auctioning off the hatchets she used in this alcoholic mayhem to her followers.
There was, perhaps, some cause for concern with the drinking habits in general of the population of the country which with good reason had become known as the “Alcoholic Republic.” Not for them was the delicate bouquet of a fine wine sought after, American liquor was normally bottled at a robust 80% proof and designed for immediate and profound effect. Prior to the Civil War, the per capita consumption of what was virtually raw alcohol had been calculated at an astounding 7.1 gallons per year per person. Allowing for the fact that relatively few women and no slaves would have been included in this computation, the whole manhood of the nation must have been staggering around in a state of permanent alcoholic bliss. Rather similar to Britain today.
The country could now seem to be in need of a few Carrie Nations as it becomes a Hogarthian experience for anyone foolish enough to walk the streets of its cities at night.
Nothing can surely point up the depths to which this nation has fallen than the advice from the police to some churches to bring their midnight mass on Christmas Eve forward to “avoid trouble.”
So in the eyes of the law, the mobs now rule.
During prohibition Al Capone may have rubbed out a few associates rather unpleasantly but at any rate the citizens of Chicago could walk the streets at night – and go to Midnight Mass.


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