Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Prose

Country Journal and Poughkeepsie Advertiser
To the Justices and Supervisers of Dutchess County
Mar 14, 1787; by R

To the Justices and Supervisers of Dutchess County.

AMONG the several classes of public bodies who have it greatly in their power to promote the general good, permit me gentlemen to rank yourselves. The alone business of regulating and determining the number of taverns in the country, and which is altogether left with you, is in its consequences, a matter of important magnitude. However trifling this circumstance may appear in the eyes of dignified statesman or the unobserving vulgar, the supernumerary tipling houses in the country are certainly a fruitful source of a multitude of enormous evils. It is in vain our leislative bodies spend a third of a year, and twelve or thirteen thousand pounds of the public money at each session enacting salutary laws - In vain we support an expensive executive - In vain are officers of different denominations thick scattered through the land; if our youth are corrupted before they know the duties of citizens, and citizens are dispoiled of their reason and dignity, at the abominable temples of Bacchus; which every half mile exhibit the bowl or the glass, to tempt those, whose frailities require but too little allurement.

The design of inns, were to accomodate the way-faring stranger with a temporary home, where, for a reasonable consideration, he may enjoy those essential domestic comforts, without which his situation would be painful. To such, the more an ordinary partakes of the quiet, neatness, and simplicity of a well regulated family, the more agreeable.

Now gentlemen look around! and you must speedily decide, that three fifths of the taverns in this country are by no means comportable with this definition of an inn. Instead of holding out to the wearied traveller the comfort of a home, they generally echo the noise of rude riot, and present him at his entrance, with the ungracious greetings of drunkards. Indeed it is almost impossible that there should be many very good public houses when their number is so great: For the profit accruing to individuals cannot compensate for extraordinary expense and attention - Hence people of property and decorum, generally decline a business, which the practices of needy sharps, and idle profilgates, have rendered more or less infamous. This excessive number of inns, also gives rise to as excessive an extortion: it is but little each one can procure, where so many step in for part, therefore, each one will fleece the unhappy sojourner, in proportion as there is a deficiency of guests.

What the profits generally are on the spiritous liquors they retail, I do not know; but those upon oats and hay, are certainly beyond all the bounds of decent profit. Three coppers for a quart of the former, which is about seven shillings a bushel (the price of wheat,) and six-pence for a small handful of hay, is an extortion too monstrous to be endured.

As a sincere well-wisher to my fellow citizens, I ardently gentlemen, recommend this momentous concern to your attention. Erase from the list of innkeepers at least one half of the names, at your next sale of the excise; and let those you retain, be persons, as noted for their probity and morality, as for their competency of fortune; and impress upon their minds the impropriety, as well as illegality, of demanding prices for articles of absolute necessity, beyond the bounds of moderation.

Believe me gentlemen, by a due exertion of that authority the law of the land has clothed you with, you will render essential services for your country; services great and important in proportion as the morality of the people, and the tranquility of families are secured or advanced. R--.


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