Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand
VII — The Churches and the Movement
The Churches and the Movement
The moral and spiritual implications of the struggle against the liquor traffic have provided the dynamic for the struggle. The Churches have always acknowledged the importance of these factors, but have at the same time been cautious of becoming involved in what was considered by many as a political struggle. Gradually the identification of the Churches with the conflict has become closer and closer until in recent years the New Zealand Alliance has been recognized as the Church in action against the liquor traffic. Members of all denominations have been numbered by thousands as supporters of the Alliance and the Annual Assemblies of some Churches have specifically declared their recognition of the Alliance as the organization existing to make effective Church influence in the political sphere so far as the liquor traffic is concerned. From the following notes it will be seen that the Churches have been active in all departments of temperance reform.
(1) The Anglican Church
In the Church of England there were divided counsels from the first in regard to No-License. In 1896 the Bishop of Dunedin and certain of his clergy opposed the reform in Diocesan Synod. In subsequent years the Auckland Church Gazette protested against lax enforcement of licensing laws, the page 156 Christchurch Synod reported favourably on the Gothenburgh System. Bishop Julius of Christchurch, in 1899, advocated No-License, as did the Waiapu Synod. The Otago Synod in 1901 declared Prohibition ‘irrational.’ In 1903, at Wellington, one clergyman was found defending the existing liquor traffic. In 1904, the Bishop of Auckland (Dr. Neligan) expressed himself as unable to approve Prohibition. In 1905 the Nelson Synod expressed its sympathy with efforts to remedy the evil from drink, and the Auckland Synod carried unanimously a resolution in favour of Local Option. In 1908 the Anglican Synod carried unanimously a resolution supporting No-License and Local Option, and at Napier in 1911, Synod again urged members of the church to do all in their power ‘to cope with what cannot but be regarded as a national curse.’ In 1922 the General Synod at Auckland adopted the following resolution:
‘That this Synod expresses its strong conviction, that it is the bounden duty of Christian people, unless they are prepared to vote for total Prohibition, to find some other drastic remedy for an evil which is sapping the morals and efficiency of the community.
The Corporate Control proposals were evolved as ‘some other drastic remedy,’ but despite very vigorous efforts, not a single Synod endorsed these proposals; Archbishop Julius described them as likely to ‘advantage the Trade,’ and ‘do serious harm to the community,’ so that these proposals were not acceptable as a ‘drastic remedy.’ The position, therefore, is that the 1922 resolution stands as the attitude of General Synod on the liquor question.
(2) The Baptist Church
The Baptist Church, both in England and in America, had an intimate part to play in the Liberation Movement. A Baptist missionary from Jamaica thrilled England and paved the way for Wilberforce. A Baptist parson, a rank abolitionist, married Tom Lincoln to Nancy Hanks. Young Abe drank through those lips the hate he ever bore to black slavery. That the Baptists of New Zealand should have marched with the van of the Prohibition movement was to be expected. The immortal ‘Abe’ said, ‘The next snarl we must straighten out is the liquor snarl.’ He was a true prophet. Before the full programme came from dreamland to the statute books, there were two prominent Baptists who mounted the blue ribbon and wore it in all places and in all cases. There were the Hon. Thomas Dick and the Hon. Gilbert Carson. The bit o' blue lost its significance with time, but it was good pioneer work, and these men took shares in it. One of the very early workmen from among the Baptist people was Mr. Justice Adams, who was then a rising young lawyer, looking hungrily for briefs. His eagerness on this issue lost him quite a few, but he never lost his head, or his honour. His elevation to the bench was one of the most thoroughly deserved of all promotions. For many years he startled the country with his annual liquor bill. For many years he was president of this movement, and steered it with rare skill through many political storms. The Party is not likely to forget the rare eloquence of Mrs. A. R. Atkinson. To competent knowledge she joined the orator's charm. She shared the page 158 honour on the women's side with two others who are celebrated elsewhere. In R. S. Gray the prohibitionists had a leader with much personal magnetism, with a fine humour, and a control of crowds, through wit and repartee, such as is seldom met with. He had also a practical side to his life. He was very competent in business matters. When he was minister of Hanover Street Church he was released to lead the Prohibition cause through those great Efficiency Campaigns that went so nearly to the solving of the problem. He wore his invaluable life out in this fight, and left imperishable memories behind him. The Baptists have been strongly represented at each stage of the Movement. The names of Boreham, Hinton, Maunder, Dewdney, Milligan, Nicol, Hoby will awaken memories. They are also well represented to-day. Three young lawyers, F. B. and Herbert Adams of Dunedin, and F. W. Honer of Hawera, are always at it. Of ministers in service J. W. Kemp, F. E. Harry, J. J. Nortn and others are heard as polls draw on. It will never be said of the Baptist Church that she quitted this well-fought field.
(3) The Congregational Church
The Congregational Churches of New Zealand have made a valuable contribution to the temperance and Prohibition movement in New Zealand. They have done the work in the way of supplying outstanding leaders in the movement rather than in the way of organized work on the part of the churches as a whole.
The names of Joseph Newman and Wesley Spragg at once occur as Congregationalists who page 159 took a foremost part in the establishment of temperance societies in the Auckland District. Mr. Spragg is fortunately still with us and taking a very keen interest in the Prohibition movement. For more than fifty years he has been an outstanding leader in the work. He served as president of the New Zealand Alliance for the years 1908 to 1914. His wise counsels and his generous contributions have been great factors in the progress of the movement, and a great inspiration to his fellow workers.
Sir George Fowlds, a leading Congregationalist, also of Auckland, and also happily still alive, must be included in any list of members of the denomination who have been of signal service to the Prohibition cause. In addition to his personal generous financial support, he has in company with Mr. Spragg exerted most valuable influence in obtaining large support to the finances of the movement. It is, however, as a recognized leader, an influential and trusted public man, a wise counsellor, ready at all times to serve, that his value has been felt.
Mr. J. W. Jago, of Dunedin, was for many years one of the foremost champions of the work in New Zealand. He was associated with some of the pioneers of temperance in Glasgow, Scotland, as a young man, and carried his enthusiasm for the cause with him to New Zealand, where he continued to work steadfastly throughout a long life.
Mr. H. G. Maunder, of New Plymouth, was a notable worker and merits remembrance for the persistence with which he urged the need for temperance teaching in our public schools.
During the past forty years, many of the ministers of the Denomination have borne an honoured part in the fight for Prohibition. Without minimizing the work of others, the name of the Rev. page 160 W. H. J. Miller stands forth as that of an earnest and effective fighter for the great reform. His two ministries in New Zealand were exercised at Onehunga and Napier, and in both towns temperance sentiment was greatly promoted by his continuous activity. His fiery eloquence was responsible for winning converts and stimulating workers in many parts of New Zealand. His death at a comparatively early age was a great loss, not only to Prohibition, but to the cause of righteousness in New Zealand. The Rev. Lionel B. Fletcher, of Auckland, by his forceful and impassioned advocacy of Prohibition, is maintaining the splendid traditions of the Congregational Church.
(4) The Catholic Church
Though the Catholic Church in New Zealand does not support that phase of the Prohibition movement which aims at the total abolition of the legalized sale of intoxicating liquors, the principles of total abstinence have been impressed upon its adherents; especially have temperance truths been taught the young people. Pledge-signing missions have been held during which the evils of intemperance have been condemned.
The visits of ardent Catholic prohibitionists from other lands have helped the Prohibition movement. Father Hays, who is one of the stalwarts in the ranks of the temperance workers in England, and Father Zurcher, of America, who, by his saintly character and able advocacy won the hearts of his hearers, helped the cause considerably by their visits.
W. D. Hunt
Leadina business man; Member National Efficiency Board; Chairman Finance Committee N.Z. Alliance
Rt. Rev. Bishop Cleary. D.D., O.B.E.,
Bishop of Auckland and editor of the Catholic journal, ‘The Month
ex-Presidens N.Z. Alliance; prominent for his efforts to win supoort for the prohibition cause amongst members of the Catholic Church
Dr. O'Brien, who has studied the effects of alcohol upon the human system, has repeatedly appeared upon the Prohibition platform as an able and ardent advocate.
The Rev. Dr. Cleary, Bishop of Auckland, has, by voice and pen, helped the cause of Prohibition. He was not a Local Optionist, having doubts whether electoral No-License would be a success owing to the facilities for securing liquor from adjoining districts. Though holding the views that the use of light wines and ales of a very moderate alcoholic strength might reduce the liability to abuse, he has advocated Prohibition, believing that ‘National Prohibition offers the hope of a remedy for the intolerable evils of the traffic in alcoholic drink.’ Replying to the insinuation of vested interests that the Catholic Church was in some way tied to the liquor trade, he said, ‘The Church of the Living God is built on a Rock, and not on a Vat,’ and that she was no more tied to the liquor traffic than she was to the sale of Fuji silk or bone-dust fertilizers. His advice to persons of every age has been to ‘mount the water wagon and stay there.’ He has been emphatic in impressing upon the members of the Catholic page 162 Church that they were absolutely free to vote according to the guidance of their conscience. He possesses gifts of the highest order as a journalist, and has repeatedly sent out statements which have been reprinted by the Alliance and doubtless have been of considerable help in past campaigns.
(5) Associated Churches of Christ
It needs little courage to-day in any of the above Churches to advocate the Prohibition of the liquor traffic though that has not always been the case, despite the fact that from the earliest days of the Association, a keen interest was taken in the educational work, and especially so amongst the young people.
With the coming of one of our evangelists from the United State, S. W. Houchins, who, I believe, was one of the earliest speakers, if not the earliest, in New Zealand, for National Prohibition, a deeper interest began to be manifested in this question.
Running through the early history, I find the names of M. W. Green, Charles Watt, T. J. Bull, and F. G. Greenwood, men who, in their prime, were men who had to be reckoned with. Away in Sunny Nelson the battle raged between Prohibitionists and State Controllers. The name of J. J. Franklyn stands out prominently in debate and lecture work.
Undoubtedly, the interest taken in the movement by the Churches is due to the fact that the Band of Hope played a very conspicuous part in the life of the young folk. There have been many bands page 163 that have had fine records, but the honour must certainly go to the Christian Standard Band of Hope, Auckland, that, for forty years, has kept going, with Mr. E. A. Perkins as secretary for thirty-eight years. What that has meant for the cause of temperance, only those who work at the job can really appreciate. It is no little boast our Auckland Band makes when it claims to have provided in Sir William Fox the first president of the New Zealand Alliance. Honoured names associated are those of the late W. J. McDermott and the late John L. Scott, for many years a pastor of Ponsonby Road Church. Realizing that co-operation with all those of like mind meant advancement for the cause, we welcomed such fellowships, apart altogether from creed or caste. Sufficient for us to know that the ultimate object was the banishment of strong drink. The late Frank Isitt once said, ‘If all the Churches had stood so loyally to “No-License” as the Churches of Christ, the cause would have been won long ago.’ That may or may not be so, but we are certainly proud that in the early days we had men in our ranks like R. A. Wright, now the Hon. R. A. Wright, and other equally honourable men, who stood nobly by their principles right through the darkest days of persecution and terrorism by the liquor men, and that the younger men of to-day are no less determined and heroic, not forgetting the many splendid women represented by Mrs. Duxfield, of Wanganui.
In the early days of this movement there were some amongst our business men who held bottle licenses with their provision businesses, but, realizing as they did, how inconsistent it was, they gladly and willingly made the sacrifice. Amongst such was the late A. F. Turner, who later gave his page 164 life to the ministry of the Word loved and respected by all.
Naturally, the question of observing the communion came up, but an examination of the Word of God showed that there was no necessity whatever to use fermented wines, and it soon became the custom to use the fruit of the vine unfermented, as a true symbol of the life's blood of the Saviour, and what is true of our churches in New Zealand, is true throughout the world.
(6) The Methodist Church
Fifty years ago there were individual ministers and laymen of the Methodist Church who dreamed of a day when the liquor traffic should no longer be found in the land. But they were generally regarded as being more visionary than practical by those who rather prided themselves on their ‘moderation,’ and had little sympathy with ‘extremists.’
At a time, happily now many years distant, when there were four branches of the Methodist Church in New Zealand, the Wesleyan, the Primitive, the United Free and the Bible Christian, they stood shoulder to shoulder in the cause of temperance. The Primitive Methodist especially, which was next in priority of settlement to the Wesleyan, produced from its ranks some of the most prominent temperance workers. It is to the credit of that Church that its pioneer missionary, the Rev. Robert Ward, who arrived in New Zealand in 1844, was himself a total abstainer, and all through his life was deeply interested in the temperance movement. The same may be said of his two sons, the Rev. Charles Ward page 165 and the Rev. Josiah Ward, and indeed of all the ministers of the Primitive Methodist Church. Not only did they pass resolutions at their conferences denouncing the drink evil, and pledging themselves to aid every effort to abolish the liquor trade; they were among the most active in their endeavours to reach the desired end.
Mention has already been made of Mr. David Goldie, the most prominent Primitive Methodist layman, who was among the earliest of the pioneers of temperance work in Auckland, and who never slacked his hand up to the day of his death. Outstanding, too, in the same honourable connexion are the names of Mr. C. M. Luke of Wellington, Mr. C. E. Bellringer, M.P., of New Plymouth, Mr. H. Holland, M.P., of Christchurch, Mr. W. King of Dunedin, and Mr. G. Froggatt of Invercargill.
In the United Free Church the Rev. Slamuel Macfarlane was a valiant in the cause by speech and pen, and the Revs. H. B. Redstone, R. Taylor, E. O. Perry, A. Peters, J. W. Worboys, and C. Penney, could always be found well forward in the fighting line. Auckland supplied sturdy lay supporters in James Coupland, Samuel Parker, A. J. Booth, H. D. Major and R. T. Wheeler, and Christchurch Messrs. J. Hanan and W. Flesher.
The outstanding name in connexion with the Bible Christian Methodist Church is that of the Rev. John Orchard. His advocacy of anything was always of the robust and the vigorous type, and he found ample scope for his zeal in attacking in the most practical way the evils of intemperance. He brought out from England a young minister named the Rev. William Ready, who had strong personal reasons for attacking the liquor traffic, and for the forty years of his life in this country, Mr. Ready page 166 did attack it with a wealth of gripping argument, of fiery eloquence and of ringing appeal that won for him a place in the front rank among the leaders in the crusade. The Rev. John Crewes is also worthy of mention among the valiants. Mr. Edward Reed, the lay pioneer of the Church in New Zealand, like all the laymen and all the ministers in the Church, was ardent in the cause of temperance reform.
The earliest official reference I can find to the Prohibition cause is in a resolution adopted by the Australasian General Conference in 1876, and endorsed by the New Zealand Conference in response to a deputation which waited upon it the following year. In it the Conference stated that it regarded intemperance as amongst the most serious moral and social evil and urged the Methodist people to discountenance the customs which fostered this vice, and to promote all legislative measures which aimed at the restraint or extinction of the liquor traffic. There was nothing revolutionary in this pronouncement, but it was safeguarded in such a way as to deal gently with those who were afraid of temperance having too large a place in the work of the Church.
A new impetus had been given to temperance work by the Licensing Act passed in 1881. This provided for the election of committees by the ratepayers of local areas, and these had large discretionary powers which enabled them to cancel licenses which they considered unnecessary. It was the election of a ‘Prohibition’ Licensing Committee for the Borough of Sydenham which brought L. M. Isitt and T. E. Taylor to the front as Prohibition advocates. In 1893 L. M. Isitt sought permission to be released from ordinary Church page 167 Work, in order to devote himself to the promotion of the temperance work in New Zealand. The Conference acceded to his request, and in doing so, expressed its sympathy with the work which was to occupy him during the year. Thus began Mr. Isitt's long and effective career of temperance advocacy, not only in New Zealand, but also in Great Britain and the United States of America.
As indicative of a growing determination to carry on its war against the liquor trade, a subsequent Conference urged the members and adherents of the Church to vote for its abolition, gave as its reasons that the ‘traffic stands condemned as the most corrupting, destructive and God-dishonouring factor in our social system. It is one of the chief foes to the best interests of the Church, the home and the individual. It has everywhere proved itself defiant of control, and there is no system under which men can be licensed to sell intoxicating liquors as beverages without being also licensed to make the purchasers drunk.’
But the Methodist Church was not content with passing resolutions. The ministers and members of the Church were encouraged to take an active part in every kind of propaganda work. The Revs. F. W. Isitt and J. Dawson have left permanent marks on the work of the New Zealand Alliance, of which they were at different periods the general secretaries. By their sweet reasonableness, their persuasive eloquence and their self-sacrificing toil, they made a splendid contribution to the cause of Prohibition in New Zealand. Revs. W. J. Williams and J. Cocker, by their work as editors of The Vanguard, have educated and stimulated multitudes in their devotion to the work of Prohibition. Others have edited local ‘Campaign’ papers, others page 168 have undertaken the duties of organizing secretaries in their districts prior to the polls, while both ministers and laymen have taken a very prominent part in propaganda work of every kind. Space forbids the mention of names of the men and women who have given freely of their energy and their substance in promoting the interests of the Prohibition movement.
(7) The Presbyterian Church
Reform movements usually begin with individuals and take shape in small groups of men and women who see the need for fighting some form of evil or of seeking some new method of advance. The older, the larger, the longer established, and the more highly organized a body is, the slower it is in beginning to move. When a body, such as the Presbyterian Church, does move, it is hard to stop.
Men and women of the Presbyterian Church were among the pioneer workers in the early stages of temperance reform. By means of Bands of Hope, Total Abstinence Societies and various forms of moral suasion, much good was done, and the foundation laid for further developments. The conviction that it is necessary not only to encourage personal abstinence but also to work for the abolition of the liquor traffic gradually took shape and gathered strength. The Presbyterian Church to-day stands shoulder to shoulder with the foremost workers for Prohibition.
Among the early workers who prepared the way were the Revs. James Chisholm, J. Christie, James Clark, James Doull, J. K. Elliott, J. Gibb, Wm. Gillies, David Gordon, James Kirkland, John Macky, page 169 Peter Mason, John Ryley, A. H. Stobo, James Treadwell, Dr. Waddell, Messrs. James Adam, J. G. W. Aitken, A. C. Begg, John Lamb, Thomas Peacock, and many others.
Prior to 1901 the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand existed in two branches, commonly spoken of as Northern and Southern Churches. The line of division between them was geographical; there was no difference between them in creed or in practice, and there was none in their attitude towards the liquor traffic. As the movement for the abolition of the traffic by the direct vote of the people took shape the Church stood steadily and firmly behind it, and particularly in crucial times she made her voice heard with no uncertain sound.
In 1889, the Assembly of the Northern Church, led by the Rev. J. K. Elliott (later Dr. Elliott) declared ‘in favour of a direct vote at the ballot box for the suppression of the liquor traffic, and also in favour of granting the privilege of voting to women.’
In 1890, the Synod of the Southern Church, led by Rev. J. Kirkland, urged ‘earnest prosecution of the work till final victory over the ravages of drink is obtained, endeavour to secure the voting power for women on this question, and aim at entire Prohibition as our goal.’
In 1891, the Northern Assembly declared ‘in favour of Prohibition without compensation,’ and in 1892 it ‘renewed its oft repeated testimony in favour of local option by direct vote of the people at the ballot box.’
In 1893, the Southern Synod went further in regard to political action and urged ‘members possessing the franchise to make conscience of page 170 voting in favour of candidates who can be trusted to support the temperance cause.’
That these resolutions were not words without meaning is evidenced by the fact that where the Church was numerically strong there the people made their will decisively felt. In the Clutha District, the population was, and is, largely Presbyterian. Under the Act of 1881, which gave some measure of control through Licensing Committees, licenses were refused in the Waikaka and Catlins districts. That prepared the way for more drastic action. The Act of 1893 gave the people real control and in 1894 Clutha became the first No-License electorate in New Zealand, No-License being carried by a majority of more than three to one. The campaign by which this result was secured was carried on almost entirely by Presbyterian ministers and laymen of the district. Two outside speakers rendered valuable service, one, Mr. R. McNab (later the Hon. R. McNab), a staunch Presbyterian, the other Mr. A. S. Adams (now Mr. Justice Adams), a loyal Baptist. The example of Clutha was followed a few years later by the adjoining electorates of Bruce and Mataura and by Invercargill and Oamaru. To-day, in strongly Presbyterian Otago, to a larger extent than any other part of New Zealand the people enjoy the benefits of Prohibition.
The Church has not been silent in more recent times, but has repeatedly urged its members to support Prohibition, and it shows no signs of slackening in the fight. Some typical resolutions may be quoted. In 1919, the Assembly ‘urged all ministers, office-bearers and members to use their utmost endeavour to secure the carrying of National Prohibition.’ In 1925 it ‘reaffirmed its page 171 unfaltering determination to fight on with the Alliance for the abolition of the liquor traffic from this Dominion.’
The Assembly, in November 1927, with perfect unanimity and great heartiness authorized ‘an appeal to all our members and adherents to vote and work for the carrying of Prohibition at the next referendum,’ and it also approved of setting free about fifteen ministers for a period of six weeks before the next election to assist in the Prohibition campaign.
Like those of an earlier generation, these resolutions are not mere words, but more than ever they express the settled determination to fight on till victory is gained.
(8) The Salvation Army
1. Every Salvationist is pledged to personal total abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages. No one is accepted as a member of the organization until he has signed a statement to that effect.
2. The Salvation Army, from its inception, has been the friend and ally of all temperance work, and the sworn foe of the drink traffic. It places its influence behind all legislation, exclusive of any consideration of party, that will minimize the evil effects of the use of strong drink, curtail its extent or make total Prohibition possible, and to the degree which the attention necessary to its religious and philanthropic activities will permit, gives active support to such measures.
The Army in New Zealand bases its support of Prohibition upon (1) its general policv towards strong drink; (2) its experience of its benefits to page 172 the extent it has been applied locally; and (3) the reports and supporting evidence of its success elsewhere as submitted by the Salvation Army's authorities in those countries.
3. The War Cry, the Army's official organ, continually points out the evils of strong drink, and when occasion arises, such as prior to the taking of a Prohibition poll, issues special anti-drink numbers.
(9) Seventh-Day Adventists
Absolute Prohibition of the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages is warmly supported by the Seventh-Day Adventists denomination, whose total church membership, now numbering over 300,000, are all total abstainers, total abstinence from alcoholic beverages being one of the tests of fellowship for all those who seek admission to a Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The entire denomination stands for the total abolition of the drink trade throughout the world. With the constant growth of their adherents, comes greater ability to swing more solidly their influence, determinedly militant, against the subtle forces of the drink trade. Seventh-Day Adventists stand ready to help the just and righteous cause for which Prohibition stands, and to promote the noble aims to which it aspires.
The principles of temperance are taught and fostered in all their churches, colleges and schools. Thoroughness in their teachings to abstain from the use of all things harmful and injurious to the body, and the belief that to injure the body knowingly constitutes a sin against the ‘Temple of page 173 the Holy Spirit,’ places then on vantage ground in the right against the blighting curse which the use of alcoholic drinks has brought upon the world.
Interest in the cause for which Prohibition stands, has ever been keen amongst Seventh-Day Adventists, but owing to their entire constituency being total abstainers, there has never been any need for any special efforts to be made among their own church members in order to win them from the power of drink.
Knowing from actual experience the benefits derived from total abstinence, Seventh-Day Adventists have always been most willing to assist in the unequal struggle against the drink, and to engage in any campaign undertaken wherever it lay in their power to do so.