Gin Act 1751
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2008)|
|Chapter||24 Geo. II c. 40|
|Amendments||Sale of Spirits Act 1862|
|Repealing legislation||Administration of Justice Act 1965 (c.2), section 34 and schedule 2.|
The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (commonly known as the Gin Act 1751) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 24 Geo. II c. 40) which was enacted in order to reduce the consumption of spirits, a popular pastime that was regarded as one of the primary causes of crime in London. By prohibiting gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants and increasing fees charged to merchants, it eliminated small gin shops, thereby restricting the distribution of gin to larger distillers and retailers.
First imported from the Netherlands in the 1690s, gin began to rival beer as the most popular drink in England. In 1689, the English government opened the distilling trade to all English people who paid certain taxes. Over the next sixty years, however, the government regulated the sale of gin with an inconsistent taxation policy. The ready availability and low cost of gin led to the a massive rise in consumption known as the Gin Craze; by the 1730s, consumption in London had risen to the equivalent of 2 pints per week per Londoner.
Politicians and religious leaders argued that gin drinking encouraged laziness and criminal behaviour. In 1729, Parliament passed a Gin Act which increased the retail tax to 5 shillings per gallon. With the Gin Act 1736 the government imposed a high licence fee for gin retailers and a 20 shillings retail tax per gallon. These actions were unpopular with the working-classes and resulted in riots in London in 1743. The license fee and tax were lowered significantly within a few years.
The Gin Act of 1751 prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants, restricted retail licenses to substantial property holders, and charged high fees to those merchants eligible for retail licenses. To offer the masses another invigorating (and non-alcoholic) beverage the import of tea was also encouraged.
- Can Legislation Prevent Debauchery? Mother Gin and Public Health in 18th-Century England (Warner, Her, Gmel & Rehm) American Journal Of Public Health, March 2001, Vol. 91, No. 3