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Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand



The1908 Campaign was probably the most successful held up to that date. Never before had there been such an army of volunteer workers. There were thousands of them. Young and old, rich and poor, who with faith in God and in the ultimate victory of the cause, threw themselves into the struggle. Each Prohibition League was responsible for the fight within its own electorate. It employed its own agents and paid for the services of visiting page 98 lecturers. Of the visitors, none was more popular than the Rev. R. B. S. Hammond, from Australia. He has great gifts as a platform speaker and crowds flocked to hear him. He has repeatedly visited the Dominion and has always been welcomed by large audiences. No speakers could command greater crowds than the New Zealand leaders, the Revs. F. W. Isitt, L. M. Isitt, Mr. T. E. Taylor, and Mr. A. S. Adams (now Mr. Justice Adams). Public meetings were popular and were largely attended. Opposition was frequent and this gave interest to the meeting. Many open air meetings were held and often the police were present to secure a hearing for the speakers. Children's demonstrations and processions were effective methods of appealing to the people. Ministers devoted their time and energies to the movement. Special mention should be made of the Rev. Thos. Fee, president of the Methodist Conference, who, during his presidential year, travelled the length of the Dominion and rendered splendid service. Young men and young women rallied to the cause. In Dunedin University students arranged and carried out great gatherings. In Auckland a ‘Band of Business Men’ fought the trade on the basis of the economics and ethics of No-License.

A greater use was made of the press than in past campaigns. A combine on the part of many proprietors of the daily press prevented the making known of facts concerning the liquor trade except on the payment for such matter at advertisement rates. The ‘Trade’ has a long purse, but the generosity of the prohibitionists made it possible to carry on a successful newspaper campaign. The publication in Auckland of the Home Journal under the editorship of the Rev. L. M. Isitt was a great help in the page 99 fight. It was well got up and contained much general matter of an interesting nature besides temperance facts. It was for two years posted monthly to 35,000 homes, and largely contributed to the increase of the vote in the North of New Zealand. Much up to date literature was also circulated which doubtless influenced the people.

In harmony with the Alliance Constitution and Custom, test questions were again submitted to candidates for Parliament.

The results of the poll were most cheering. The consecration of time, talent, and money was bringing its rewards. The tide was with the movement. The outlook was inspiring beyond expression and the leaders were hopeful that victory was drawing near. From 1894 when No-License was carried in Clutha, six electorates had been won for No-License, but in the 1908 campaign victory was secured in six electorates, twice the number gained at any previous poll. These were Bruce, Masterton, Eden, Ohinemuri, Wellington South and Wellington Suburbs. This brought the number of No-License electorates up to twelve out of the seventy-six in the Dominion. The total number of licensed bars closed was 107. Only fifteen electorates had majorities for liquor, while sixty had majorities for No-License, but the votes were not effective because they did not reach the required three-fifths. Fifteen electorates secured a fifty-five per cent. majority. The No-License vote had increased from 198,768 in 1905 to 221,471 in 1908, while the liquor vote had only increased by 5,256. The Dominion majority for No-License was 33,331. A feature of the poll was the great increase of the vote in the four cities. In Auckland, for instance, Reduction was carried and a temperance committee page 100 could have closed fourteen bars, but an unsympathetic bench refused only five licenses. By comparison, it was easy to see that the No-License movement was making progress. In 1893 there were 1,719 publican and accommodation licenses, but on July 1, 1909, there were 1,257, a reduction of 462, being more than one-fourth of the whole number.

The question of securing a Dominion vote by bare majority had been discussed at the previous No-License convention, and the 1908 Alliance Conference unanimously passed the following resolution, ‘The time has arrived when an opportunity should be given for voting on the question of Colonial Option.’ Public sentiment was favourable to No-License. Electoral majorities were recorded in its favour, but there was a desire by many to vote on the larger question. Such persons declared that No-License had been an educational force preparing the way for the Dominion issue and that if the people were given power to vote on Colonial Option they would sweep the traffic away. An Alliance deputation requested the Premier, Sir Joseph Ward, to include the bare majority on both Colonial and Local Option in his next Licensing Bill.