The New Zealand Evangelist
Local Intelligence — Wellington.
The Magistrates and the New Licenses.—
On the 16th ult., the Magistrates met for the purpose of granting Publicans Licenses. As it was known that an unusual number of new applications for licenses were lodged on this occasion, and as it was also reported that some of the Magistrates were favourable to the almost indiscriminate granting of licenses, the friends of sobriety, morality, and good order were greatly alarmed at the threatened danger. Besides several petitions against particular licenses, a Memorial, signed by eight Ministers, several Medical men, and a large number of the most respectable inhabitants of Wellington, was laid before the Bench.
In the face of all these remonstrances, and amid the general conviction that increased accommodation page 393 for drinking was neither wanted nor called for, our patriotic Magistrates, in the exercise of their paternal wisdom, out of nine new applications granted six; thus increasing the number of public houses in and around Wellington from eighteen to twenty-four, “in the hope of securing to the public the benefit of competition.” Were the public making any complaint on this subject? Was it felt as a grievance that the competition in this trade was too little? Surely eighteen establishments furnished a fair security against any serious monopoly. It is well known that the public in this settlement are accustomed to use great liberty of speech when any grievance presses heavily upon them; but through all their organs, the public have been perfectly silent on the subject; neither the press nor the platform has ever whispered a grievance on this point; not a single petition, so far as we know, did the public in any form address to the Magistrates for an increase of public houses; personal cupidity and private gain were the only suitors that appeared for an extension of the traffic. The public, so far as their voice was raised, protested against any more competition. The representatives of every religious denomination in the community, expressing, we are confident, the sentiments of nine tenths of the church-going population, remonstrated in the most respectful, but in the strongest and most earnest manner that they possibly could. And had the entire community been polled, we are certain that the signatures of three-fourths of the inhabitants would have been obtained against this measure. So that the Magistrates purposely set themselves in the face of public opinion, they could not have acted otherwise than they did.
Nothing is more fully established, all the world over, than that, as you increase public houses, you increase intemperance. The history of the gin palaces and beer shops in England furnish abundant and melancholy evidence of this. In Scotland the duty on spirits was materially reduced in 1822, page 394 and in 1829 the consumption of spirits had increased three-fold.
We are told by some who advocate the competition plan that the only way to put down drinking is to educate the people. We yield to none in the value we attach to education, and our efforts are at least on an average with others to forward it; although we would infuse more of the principles of the Bible into it than some of the Educationists. But does not education languish under the influence of intemperance as vegetation withers before an east wind? The means of religious and secular education, and the houses for the sale of intoxicating drinks, are in strange and striking contrast in this settlement. In the Lower Hutt, there are three public houses; but five places of worship, and a fair proportion of education. In Karori, there has never been a public house; but the chapel,—the first built in the rural districts—has been twice enlarged, and education has always been attended to. There is at present a flourishing Sabbath School, a girl's school, and a day and evening school has lately been opened under very promising circumstances. And there has neither been a death, nor any fatal accident from drinking in Karori, since the commencement of the settlement. In Kaiwarra and Wade's Town there is neither a school nor a place of worship. Why? The inhabitants have to support two public houses; and after July next the Magistrates have decreed that they shall be saddled with four, between Kaiwarra and Iakawai. If it be said that the people can come into Wellington for education and religious ordinances; may we not ask, Could they not, like the people of Karori, come into Wellington for their intoxicating drinks also? Is drink there prized so much more than education and religion? It may be so by some, but it is not so by all. In the district of Porirua there is neither a school nor a place of worship, but there are three houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating drinks, (these are not included in the twenty-four referred to page 395 above) and what is the effect of these houses? It was only a few weeks ago that a poor man was drowned in the bay in a state of intoxication, and another along with him narrowly escaped the same fate. But these are such ordinary occurrences that no one notices them. In this case, if we mistake not, neither was a coroner's inquest held, nor the matter reported to either of the newspapers.
In Wellington what is the state of things? Our teachers, laboriously training our rising youth, and intrusted with the most precious treasures of the community, are pressed with poverty from their ill requited labours. The schools are feeble and struggling for existence; the taverns are flourishing and evince a high degree of prosperity. The teachers are toiling away in obscurity, uncheered with any smile of royal favour; the publicans are the great men of the land,—those whom the elect of the Queen delight to honour.
Educate the people by all means; but to do so effectually, the schools of intemperance must be reduced to the lowest possible number. The revenue of an ordinary public house would support a grammar school of the first order.