Two prints from the hand of William Hogarth would lead to the Gin Act in 1751. This act was an attempt by the British parliament to reduce the consumption of spirits. The prints were accompanied by two poems, referring to the streets of London. Instead of drinking spirits, people should drink beer.
About the prints
The prints came out at a time when London (and other major cities) was facing a crisis. This crisis is called the Gin Craze. Ironically, it was the parliament itself, who was responsible for this crisis. As from 1689 the government encouraged British people to buy more spirits made in their own country. This would help the industry flourish. At the same time, the import of French wine and spirits was prohibited. Thus said, the people started drinking brew from their own country. This lead to disturbing scenes. You might say that alcoholism was one of the major crises to be defeated.
The prints were a protest against the way people used spirits. On Beer Street, there was a sense of happiness, while on Gin Lane the situation got out of hand.
Beer, happy Produce of our Isle
Can sinewy Strength impart,
And wearied with Fatigue and Toil
Can cheer each manly Heart.
Labour and Art upheld by Thee
We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee
And Water leave to France.
Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste
Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast
With Liberty and Love!
Meanwhile in Gin Lane…
Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.
Virtue and Truth, driv’n to Despair
Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
Theft, Murder, Perjury.
Damned Cup! that on the Vitals preys
That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it thro’ the Veins.