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Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand

1911 — A Literature Campaign


A Literature Campaign

The 1911 Campaign was marked by an output of literature which has never been equalled for quality and quantity during any other Prohibition fight in the Dominion. The defenders of the reform excelled with their pens.

Professor Salmond published a pamphlet of sixty-eight pages, entitled Prohibition a Blunder. His book showed how weak was the cause he was page 107 defending, but his name and position gave weight to his words and the liquor advocates made all possible use of his production. His pamphlet was of benefit because of the replies it brought forth. Mr. A. S. Adams wrote his famous reply of one hundred pages, Professor Salmond's Blunder, Prohibition an Effective Social Reform. The production is a classic among New Zealand Prohibition literature. The same may be said of Mr. A. R. Atkinson's The Drink Traffic a Blunder, A Reply to Professor Salmond (100 pages). Mr. Atkinson wrote with zest and thoroughness and the two books have supplied matter and arguments in favour of Prohibition which have been most helpful to workers. Mr. J. Harris visited the No-License areas and afterwards wrote a striking pamphlet, Is No-License a Success? Another able reply to Professor Salmond was written by ‘A Presbyterian Minister.’ Two other pamphlets by Mr. A. R. Atkinson on the revenue question supplied helpful matter which removed the fears of timid souls. New Zealand Doctors on Alcohol, produced by Drs. Orchard and Whetter, was a valuable collection of scientific argument against the beverage use of alcohol. Mr. G. Dash produced a most helpful New Zealand Alliance Handbook, Rev. A. Doull wrote a pamphlet on Political Action against the Three Fifths, and Mr. J. McCombs followed with What the Three Fifths Means. These productions were of considerable educational value. Mr. H. Curran was an evangelist among the Plymouth Brethren, and his pamphlet, Should Christians Vote Against the Liquor Traffic, was read by a section of the community not easy to reach. Separate books were also published, dealing with several No-License districts. The Alliance, as the result largely of page 108 the labours of Mr. R. G. Denton, produced twenty-seven handbills which were very effective. Through the generosity of Mr. J. M. Leigh there was a free distribution of leaflets. The Home Journal was again published monthly, and 360,000 copies were circulated, chiefly by post. Special campaign papers were circulated in provinces and electorates, arousing local interest. The papers of the Churches took up the fight with enthusiasm and issued special editions. The pamphlets published by the liquor side contained 150 pages, but those issued in favour of Prohibition make a volume of 360 pages. The Prohibition writers made an able and brilliant defence of their principles.

Much platform work was done by visiting and Dominion speakers and the public meetings were largely attended. A striking feature was the fine work of the Young Men's and Young Women's National Prohibition Guilds. Some of these Guilds had a large membership. The Christchurch Young Women's Guild had a membership of six hundred, and the Young Men's Guild numbered three hundred. The members of these Guilds helped at open air meetings at which thousands attended. They secured pledges from persons to vote for Prohibition and No-License, assisted at large public meetings, acted as canvassers, raised money, and were advertising agents. These bands of young men and women, full of enthusiasm, gave additional life to the movement. The founding of these Young Men's Guilds was almost the last work accomplished by Mr. T. E. Taylor. The W.C.T.U. commenced a Women's Crusade which was a great stimulus. This noble army of women, led by Mrs. H. H. Driver, Mrs. Lee Cowie, Miss Anderson Hughes and Mrs. Barton (Glasgow), created an page 109 effective fighting army. Included in their good work was a series of great children's demonstrations which were successfully carried out in many places.

The vote taken in 1911 was a double one and the issue to some voters was confusing. The National Vote was more popular than the one for No-License. 234,656 votes were recorded in favour of electoral No-License, but 237,025 were given against it. Many more cast their votes for Prohibition, the figures being: For National Prohibition 259,943, against 205,661, the majority for National Prohibition being 54,282. In sixty-seven out of seventy-six electorates there were majorities for Prohibition, and in thirteen of them there was more than a three-fifths vote in its favour.

The figures showed that the Dominion Prohibition vote had appealed to the people and it seemed probable that victory would be secured at the next poll, especially as there was a possibility of the undemocratic three-fifths handicap being removed. No one could foresee that before another poll was taken the Dominion would be engaged in the great World War and that the attitude of many persons towards moral reform movements would be changed. The war spirit is not helpful to religion or those reforms which have for their object the moral uplift of the people.

The year 1911 was successful financially. The Leagues previous to and during the fight raised £20,000. There was also a large amount of voluntary service. The income of the Alliance was £600 in excess of the expenditure.

At this election the rolls were in a deplorable condition. There were many adults who were not entitled to have their names on the electoral rolls, page 110 such as aliens, occupants of gaols, asylums, and persons who had too recently settled in the Dominion. There were those persons who could not take steps to have their names placed upon the roll because they were temporarily absent from the Dominion, and others again were too indifferent to enrol. Added to these were persons who had religious scruples against enrolling. Yet, though the registered number of adults in the Dominion was 585,000, the number upon the rolls was 590,042, or 5,000 more names were upon the voters' roll than there were adults in the country. Probably the rolls had been worse. Mr. R. French, in the columns of the Auckland Star in 1899, stated that at the 1896 election there were 12,000 more men's names on the rolls than there were men in the colony. The prohibitionists have learnt by experience the importance of having a clean roll.