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In Eighteenth century England a general rise in the sale of Gin was occurring. Gin was becoming more and more popular. Some English citizens approved and supported the sale of Gin while others did not. Some English people just wanted to stay neutral and produce a compromise between the two. Various reasons and purposes account for the difference in opinions but the Gin Act of 1751 formulated debate from all groups in society.
Some citizens approved and supported the sale of Gin in England. England at that time had already gone through the extraordinary Agriculture Revolution. The new technologies brought by the Revolution had tripled England’s wheat supply and had forced the sale and demand of wheat to plummet. People supported gin because it could help them as well as their government by providing relief from the over production of wheat. This remedy would in turn produce more demand and improve sales. (Doc 1) Even England’s climate aided in the sale of gin. Englishmen and women at that time worked very long hours either in their home or working for another family. When it came time for the weekend or a holiday gin was considered relief. Since England’s weather was often foggy, cold, and damp it would make peoples actions and spirit supine. (Doc 8) A very serious problem lay for Gin distillers and merchants, the Gin Act of 1751. The Gin Act had done 3 things to restrict the sale of Gin.
The first thing was that it prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants which hurt the distillers because some licensed merchants charged very high prices for their services and if a distiller could sell to a unlicensed merchant he could save money. The Gin Act also restricted retail licenses to substantial property owners. Some wealthy landowners wanted to have retail licenses so they could sell the gin for much higher and make substantial profit. The Gin Act also charged high fees to merchants eligible for retail licenses. The governments aim at this tax was to make sure some distillers or merchants would not drain some of the profits that had originally gone to them. This fear had caused them to gradually keep increasing the tax on gin. This restriction met with different views in all classes. Some members of Parliament and the government supported gin and did not support the Gin Act of 1751. Some members supported gin because it had been around for a very long time and had been encouraged by Parliament before.
They also supported gin because some of the King of England’s subjects had entered the gin business. Some people believed that gins influence was felt by everybody in any part of town and that people should fully support gin because a lot of the money gin made was meant to help the people. For these reasons people could not support the Gin Act. (Doc 4) Other people could not support the Gin Act because they thought that the power the government showed by putting an extremely high tax on gin was not a only a fear for gin distillers but also property owners. If the government could just slap a tax on gin they could also do the same to property. (Doc 5) Some people were against the production and sale of Gin in England. People who did not support gin thought it was here for only one purpose, the destruction of society and normalcy. People compared the effects of gin and relatively how easy it was to become intoxicated. They thought that beer was much better then gin because it would take a lot more glasses of beer then it would gin.
Since a majority of people in England worked long and hard weeks gin was considered harmful because people would work so many hours then when the weekend would come up they would waste all of their money on gin instead of supporting the family. (Doc 3) The Enlightened ideas of a better society made many citizens go against the sale of gin because they thought that gin destroys people by making them unable to work efficiently. They also commented on how gin lowered people’s morals and made their behavior more atrocious as well as destroying some of the Kings men. (Doc 7) Another popular attitude toward gin was that not only did gin make you intoxicated but also since some of the effects cause people to be mean they make people act badly and produce crime. They also thought that gin was harmful because if a woman indulged in drinking gin while she was pregnant the baby could be born mentally disabled. (Doc 9)
This was a major reason why the government wanted to keep gin taxes high. Artists also shared their interpretations of the effects of gin on society. William Hogarth, in his painting Gin Lane showed parts of buildings falling apart and displayed people’s negligence toward each other and property. He also produced a painting opposite to that of Gin Lane called Beer Street, which showed a better work ethic and displayed beer as a good force on society. (Doc 11+12) There were people scared when they saw that the price of gin had gone down because of increased production. Since there was more gin and it was cheaper more people would be able to afford it and then that would produce more drunken people. (Doc 13) The Gin Act of 1751 was like a savior to the people who did not like gin because it made the sale of gin harder as well as make distilling it far more expensive.
There was also some English citizens who were neutral to the sell of gin and wanted a compromise more then anything else. People tried to stress that the Gin Act was neither good nor bad. These members in society used the king as an example to prove that they needed a compromise. They said that the Gin Act was harmful because it will make the king lose money because nobody will have enough to pay the tax. (Doc 6) The neutral citizens of England were more concerned with keeping the government running efficiently then by quarreling over how gin was bad or good. The Gin Act of 1751 just made their concerns for the government and the nation increase.
In England many views of gin were shown. Some supported while others did not. Whether it was the church or they’re next door neighbor people did pretty much what they could afford to do. As the Gin Act of 1751 made the sell of gin more expensive and more restricted people still bought it. The neutral group of society kept looking for a compromise between the two groups and tried to look for a way to improve the situation.