Dbq- Gin Act of 1751

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  • Topic: William Hogarth, Gin Act 1751, Beer Street and Gin Lane
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  • Published : January 16, 2013
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DBQ- Gin Act of 1751

In mid-eighteenth century England, Parliament passed the Gin Act of 1751, which restricted the sale of gin through increased retail license requirements and higher taxes on such liquor. This measure was enacted to reduce the consumption of spirits and the subsequent crime it engendered. Indeed, gin production increased nearly 500% from 1701 to 1751. However, the general populace became engaged in a fierce debate for and against the new legislation. While authors, artists, and religious leaders argued for the act, economists, businessmen, and landowners argued against it with equal fervor. Meanwhile, politicians were torn amongst themselves over the situation at hand. Each group held the position it did for either intrinsic or extrinsic reasons, usually but not always to serve their own best interests.

Authors, artists, religious leaders, and certain politicians all supported the Gin Act of 1751, but each for individual motives. For example, one anonymous author described gin drinkers as “poor ragged people, cursing and quarreling with one another”, in clear correlation with his book’s title, Distilled Liquors: The Bane of the Nations (1736). His passion against gin was predictably conceived from painful firsthand experience in the London city streets. This sentiment is echoed in a different author’s similar observation. From a 1747 excerpt of The London Tradesman, he laments that society is caught in a vicious cycle of drunkenness, impossible to break. Both authors derive concern from a genuine desire to improve the human condition. However, the same cannot be said for artist William Hogarth in his opposing pictures, Gin Lane (1751) and Beer Street (1750). Because he was commissioned to create this anti-gin propaganda, his motives were purely business-oriented. Nonetheless, people in Beer Street are portrayed as happy, healthy, and prosperous, while those in Gin Lane are scrawny, lazy, and careless. Another anti-gin...
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