Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand
The Efficiency Board Campaign
The Efficiency Board Campaign
The period with which this chapter deals begins with the Efficiency Campaign of 1919. The year 1918 was, on the whole, a year of strong emotions and of strong hopes. The effect of American manpower began to be felt as a deciding factor in the European War; the reverses in France which culminated in a tide of victory swept as far as the Rhine; these things produced amongst responsible men and women a tempered elevation of mind which demanded some altruistic outlet. Until the beginning of 1919 it was possible and inevitable, perhaps desirable, that the illusions of hero-worship should subsist. With the immanence of the return page 126 of the whole-fighting force the idea of dealing comprehensively with a business which constituted the most flagrant, as well as the most accessible, of the post-war problems began to take root.
In 1918 legislation was introduced to give effect to the recommendation of the National Efficiency Board for a special poll on the question of National Prohibition with compensation as against National Continuance. The legislation which embodied the provisions for this poll also provided that, in the event of National Prohibition with compensation not being carried, the people should then vote on a ballot-paper providing three issues, namely National Continuance, State Purchase and Control, and National Prohibition without compensation. The provisions as regarded State Purchase fixed a maximum of ten millions as the amount to be paid in taking over the liquor traffic. It was estimated that the amount actually required would be some four and a half millions.
Two polls were held in the year 1919, under the provisions of the 1918 legislation, the first one in April 1919 being the special poll recommended by the National Efficiency Board. The vote which took place on April 10th, was as follows':
|Continuance.||Pro. with comp.|
|Within New Zealand 232,208||246,104|
|Expeditionary Force 31,981||7,723|
The total vote was 518,016, Continuance securing fifty-one per cent, of the votes. Whilst there was a majority within New Zealand of 13,396 in favour of National Prohibition, the votes of the Expeditionary Force turned this into a majority of 10,362 in favour of National Continuance.
On December 7, 1919, the first vote on the three- page 127 issue ballot paper was taken, which resulted as follows:
|State Purchase and Control||32,261|
In order to be carried Prohibition had to secure more votes than State Purchase and Control and Continuance combined, and it fell short on this occasion by only 3,362 votes.
In regard to the April poll it is important to remember that Compensation was inserted into the Act at the instance of a body of men who stood entirely outside the Prohibition movement. This element was organized throughout New Zealand under the name of the ‘Efficiency League.’ It was the Efficiency League which was responsible for the April poll, although it was the Efficiency League and the Alliance combined which conducted both April and December polls. The New Zealand Alliance, while protesting against compensation in principle, accepted the programme of the League, and loyally co-operated throughout the campaign. The Efficiency League employed its own canvassers and provided its own funds. Its attitude is best indicated by its own declarations. ‘There are many things' it was stated, ‘in which we can help the betterment of society, but the drink traffic stands in the way of so many good things, that we will join forces in getting this thing out of the way, and never rest till that is done.’ It was realized that one of the handicaps under which the Alliance had always worked was that of finance. ‘This will cost money,’ continued the League, ‘much more than these temperance people have got to give; we will take this matter in hand and whatever money page 128 can do shall have a chance of being done.’ Such was the spirit of the new allies of the Prohibition movement.
The Second Poll of 1919. There is nothing more difficult than to say with accuracy, or even with conviction, which factors turned the scale in the two historic fights of 1919. It is, of course, clear that in the first it was the soldier vote which decided the issue. Apart from this there is no doubt that a great number of individuals voted solely against a payment of four and a half millions pounds out of the public funds. Many confirmed prohibitionists felt so strongly that such a payment was wrong that they declared they would never vote in favour of the proposal. It is improbable, however, that these were numerous enough to affect the voting substantially. In the second poll it seems clear that the third issue was the deciding factor. It is believed by the Prohibition party that ‘stuffed’ and otherwise ‘unclean’ rolls accounted for sufficient votes to turn the scale. All explanations, however, only emphasize the fact that the voting was extraordinarily close and the issue a doubtful one.
J. R. Fow, J.P.,
Mayor of Hamilton; notable Good Templar: President South Auckland Prohibition Council
J. McCombs, M.P.,
Thirty years member Christchurch Prohibition League; City Councillor, Member of Parliament, and undaunted fighter for the prohibition cause
Chas. H. Poole,
12 years a champion of prohibition in Parliament; notable platform lecturer and speaker
Church Co-operation. In the year 1922 the Methodist Centenary Conference, by unanimous vote, resolved as follows: ‘That the September Quarterly Meetings be urged to release the ministers so far as possible for special work in the Anti-Liquor Campaign, and that our ministers be requested to keep the Prohibition question in view in their pastoral work.’
During the poll held in 1922 a number of the page 130 churches erected hoardings on their properties which were placed at the disposal of the Alliance for the exhibition of posters. In 1924–5 a very large number of the Nonconformist churches afforded the New Zealand Alliance the opportunity to address their congregations for the purpose of placing the aims and objects of the Alliance before the congregations and securing promises of financial support. A considerable proportion of the campaign funds were secured through this agency. During the year 1924–5, 577 such field day services were conducted in churches of different denominations. The total amount raised from these appeals was £12,968. During the 1925 campaign, the Conferences of the Baptist, Congregational, Church of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Seventh-Day Adventists Churches, all were in support of the movement for the abolition of the liquor traffic, and the Salvation Army co-operated to the fullest possible extent. At the Annual Meeting in 1926, a special report dealing with the matter of Church co-operation, and containing suggestions for the formation of a temperance committee in connexion with each Church, as well as the development of Temperance Education by the church itself through the medium of Bands of Hope, &c., was brought down and ordered to be circulated for report at the following Annual Meeting. As a result of this, at the 1927 Annual Meeting the Constitution of the New Zealand Alliance was amended to provide for direct representation of the Christian Churches on the executive of the New Zealand Alliance. In that year also, the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches adopted resolutions authorizing the release of a certain number of ministers from each denomination for engagement with the New Zealand Alliance for page 131 two or three months prior to the poll in 1928. These resolutions were given effect during the poll year.
The Year 1920. The Prohibition forces regarded the insertion of the State Purchase and Control issue as merely a device to side-track a certain number of votes, which, in the absence of the third issue, would have been definitely cast either for or against Prohibition. It was alleged by the liquor traffic that the Alliance had agreed to the insertion of the third issue on the ballot paper. This allegation had no foundation in fact, being totally untrue. Upon learning from a perusal of the draft Bill that three issues were to be submitted, the New Zealand Alliance, in 1918, entered a protest to the Prime Minister. The legislation nevertheless was enacted. Subsequently, by resolution at its Annual Meetings, the Alliance demanded the removal of this issue from the ballot paper. It has already been pointed out that at the Annual Meeting in 1920 a resolution was adopted in connexion with the determination to ask the Government to remove the third issue from the ballot paper, calling for preferential voting in the case of three issues being allowed to remain. In 1922 the Annual Meeting placed on record as follows: ‘That this Annual Meeting declares that the issue of State Purchase and Control ought to be eliminated from the ballot paper, but that in view of the uncertainty of the legislative position the Executive be authorized to exercise its discretion in regard to any developments that may call for action.’
Following reorganization in 1923, special attention was given to the question of the political policy page 132 of the Alliance, the following being adopted at the Annual Meeting held May 8 and 9, 1924.
Special Parliamentary Committees to study the licensing questions sat in 1922, 1923, and 1924, and their final report consisted of twenty-six clauses of recommendations, some of a very reactionary character. These were stoutly opposed by the New Zealand Alliance, the Standing Committee issuing the following declaration: ‘The Standing Committee declared its opposition to Clause 1, providing for re-distribution of licenses; Clause 7, suggesting a four years' interval between the carrying of Prohibition and its going into effect; Clause 8, providing for a nine-year interval between polls; Clause 11, providing for extended facilities for the consumption of liquor in clubs, hotels and restaurants. The Committee expressed its indignation that even the most outrageous and ridiculous demands of the Trade should have been solemnly and slavishly echoed in the Report, and that the reasonable desires of 300,791 Prohibition voters, and the rights and interests of the people should have been completely ignored.’
The Alliance also presented its protests and demands formally to the Government, these covering both the licensing and legislative aspects of the matter.
The Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey, Prime Minister, died in 1925, and was succeeded by the Hon. J. G. Coates, who had promised to deal with licensing legislation and was returned with a big majority at the elections in 1925.
On August 24, 1926, the Prime Minister introduced a Licensing Bill, which need not be described in detail since it did not go to a second reading. page 133 The principal items were a referendum to be taken on the question as to whether the period between the polls should be three years or six years, and provisions for a National Restoration Poll which, if carried, would have been favourable to the liquor trade. On September 6, the Hon. W. D. Stewart, as Leader of the House in the absence of the Prime Minister, who had gone to England to attend an Empire Conference, intimated that the Bill would be withdrawn, and that ‘the Government will, before next Session, carefully review the whole question in the light of the various amendments put forward, with the intention of introducing a Bill next Session, in the hope that finality may be reached.’ On the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Alliance, held in Wellington on June 17, 1927, a deputation two hundred strong waited upon the Prime Minister and again urged the introduction of licensing legislation incorporating the desires of the New Zealand Alliance. A Licensing Bill was introduced on November 8, 1927, and the second reading was taken on November 15. The Bill, as introduced, contained provisions for extending the period between the polls and for the substitution of a fifty-five per cent, majority instead of a bare majority. The Bill contained other proposals which were regarded as concessions to the trade. On the other hand, it incorporated a two-issue ballot paper. In the committee stage in the House of Representatives, the main proposals in the Bill were vitally altered. Instead of the six-year poll proposed by the Bill, the triennial poll was reinstated by fifty-one votes to twenty-three; the elimination of the third issue of State Purchase and Control was sustained by fifty-three votes to twenty-one. The bare majority was substituted for the fifty-five— page 134 forty-five per cent, proposal by forty-three votes to thirty-two. The third reading of the Bill was carried by thirty-nine votes to thirty-two. When the Bill was sent to the Legislative Council, that body made certain alterations, substituting 52 ½– 47 ½ per cent, for the bare majority by twenty-one votes to eleven, and substituted six-yearly polls for the triennial poll by eighteen votes to thirteen. The third reading of the Bill as amended was carried by twenty-one votes to thirteen. A conference between the managers appointed by the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council having failed to come to any agreement with regard to any of these changes, the 1927 Bill was dropped.
At the Alliance Annual Meeting, May 24, 1928, a very large deputation once again waited on the Prime Minister (Hon. J. G. Coates) and renewed the demand for legislation on the lines previously indicated. On this occasion the Prime Minister indicated that he would again introduce licensing legislation. The Bill was introduced on September 11, and was much along the lines of the 1927 Bill, providing, as it did, for six-year polls and a fifty-five per cent, majority. When the Bill got into committee, the proposal to extend the time between the polls was defeated by thirty-seven votes to twenty-six; the two-issue ballot paper was carried by fifty-one votes to twenty-two; the bare majority was carried by forty-two votes to thirty; a proposal to provide for a poll in the King Country to enable licenses to be issued there was defeated by forty-eight votes to twenty-one. Upon the third reading, however, the vote for the Bill was thirty-three, against it thirty-four, the Bill thus being lost by one vote. It was asserted that this defeat was accomplished by the manipulation of pairs, and the page 135 facts as recorded in Hansard certainly demonstrated that if the pairing had not been either deliberately or innocently bungled, the third reading of the Bill would have been carried. This would have again placed the responsibility of passing or rejecting it on the shoulders of the Legislative Council. However, as the Bill was defeated on the third reading in the House of Representatives, the inevitable result was that the poll in 1928 was taken under the same legislative conditions as the poll of 1925.
Alliance Development. The activities of the New Zealand Alliance grew with remarkable rapidity during the decade. At the 1921 Annual Meeting Mr. A. R. Atkinson replaced Mr. A. S. Adams as president. The general secretary, Rev. John Dawson, during that year went as delegate to the Sixteenth International Congress against Alcoholism at Lausanne, in Switzerland, and on his return journey travelled through Canada and the United States. His experiences at the Congress and in the ‘dry’ territory filled with the keenest enthusiasm one who had already had a passion for the Prohibition cause. During this year Mr. Atkinson suffered bereavement in the death of his wife who had for many years been a power in the movement. Her shrewd common-sense, geniality, and great capacity were assets the movement could ill afford to lose. A Publicity Department was created at Alliance Headquarters and Mr. J. Malton Murray appointed to take charge. Reference is made under ‘Church Co-operation’ to the developments in this direction, which had their beginnings in 1921. The poll of 1922 had demonstrated the need for an organization of a continuous and Dominion-wide character. The practice of local leagues lapsing after a poll and re-emerging page 136 just before a fresh poll resulted in unequal activity and effort. It was felt that if continuous work could be done by local leagues in the interval between polls, better results would be recorded when the vote was taken. In 1923 it was decided to aim at such a permanent organization, and Mr. C. R. Edmond was appointed as Dominion organizer, and took charge in October of that year. The new establishment, founded upon the idea of a skilled and salaried staff for the more complete organization of voluntary workers was constructed on a territorial basis. The Dominion was divided into eleven districts with area organizers, as follows: Auckland, South Auckland, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Wellington, Marlborough-Westland, North Canterbury, South Canterbury, North Otago, Otago, Southland. The duties of resident organizers were to establish local leagues and committees, give impetus to the work of these bodies, and secure necessary finance by means of appeals at services and meetings and personal canvass of individual subscribers. During 1925 the staff of the Alliance increased to fifty-eight persons, including organizers and executives thirty-one, lady canvassers five, and office staff twenty-two, the numbers for the preceding year being seventeen, two and eleven respectively.
Among other methods of collecting money, the Annual Meeting, 1924, approved the selling of ‘Liberty Bonds,’ a counterblast to the issue of debenture stock by the New Zealand Breweries Limited. Special emphasis was laid upon the Band of Hope work and upon the Bible-class movement. In regard to No-License districts an investigation was carried out during the year and the result published in the Vanguard. This confirmed the page 137 belief that great and lasting benefit followed in the wake of No-License. The ratio of gallons consumed per head compared with license districts was as one and a half to twelve, and the drunkenness figures were correspondingly low.
Significant Events. The year 1923 had witnessed two events of considerable significance in the development of the anti-Prohibition campaign. The first was the formation of N.Z. Breweries Limited, a merger of ten of the leading brewing companies. The new company offered £1,000,000 of debentures with ten per cent, interest guaranteed on certain conditions for subscription to the public. About £494,500 was subscribed. The brewers, by this arrangement, sought to secure their position in two ways. In the event of Prohibition being carried, they had unloaded a good deal of the loss. The second was more important. There is no vote among the generality of mankind more dependable, more free from adverse currents than that founded upon an interest as solid as ten per cent. per annum. With a three-yearly poll and victory hanging upon one or two per cent, of the voters a solid three or four thousand votes was good and permanent electioneering work.
Corporate Control. In 1922 an ambitious effort to provide a solution was launched by three Anglican clergy and one Anglican layman, under the title of Corporate Control—in effect a species of State Control. This was shrewdly exploited by the liquor interests and advocated as a substitute third issue on the ballot paper in place of the discredited State Purchase and Control issue. The scheme failed to win any material body of approval page 138 either clerical, lay, or political, and was ultimately lost when raised in the House in 1927.
The 1925 Poll. The usual methods of reaching the public by newspaper and poster were largely employed. Three issues of a campaign newspaper called Good Luck, were distributed into every home, and this, with the intensive newspaper campaign, combined to produce a publicity effort on a larger scale and probably of a higher standard than ever before. Supplementary specialized literature was extensively and effectively used. An attempt was made to keep pace with the other side by contradicting falsehoods and correcting misrepresentations, but the effort to compete in publicity with an organization possessed of unlimited funds proved very exhausting to the financial resources of the Alliance.
The Results. On November 4, 1925, the triennial issue was decided. The voting was as follows:
|State Purchase and Control||56,037|
The majority over Continuance was thus 19,860, and over State Purchase 263,413, but nevertheless Prohibition was defeated by 36,177. In proportion to population, however, there was a slight decline, as 47.3 per cent. voted for Prohibition, 44.3 per cent. for Continuance, and 8.3 per cent. for State Purchase.
Ohinemuri. One of the most disappointing features of this poll was the vote for Restoration in the Ohinemuri Electoral District. For seventeen years ‘No-License’ had been in force in the page 139 district, with results, so far as these can be tested by criminal statistics, as satisfactory as in the other districts living under similar conditions. The regrettable results of the change are clearly evident from the statistics appearing in the Statistical Section of this book. Restoration has produced not only increased drunkenness, but increases in general crime as well.
The 1928 Poll. The exceptional effort made in 1925, coupled with accumulated liabilities from previous polls, left the New Zealand Alliance in a very difficult financial position. Despite magnificent efforts by prominent leaders and most generous responses by supporters, the position was such that the Annual Meeting of the Alliance when considering campaign matters, resolved not to incur expenditure on newspaper advertising, commercial hoardings, or a campaign paper to go into the homes. The publicity effort was confined to posters displayed on over three hundred small hoardings erected on church properties, the distribution of specialized literature, and a large number of meetings both indoor and open-air. In addition to visiting speakers, a number of Methodist and Presbyterian Church ministers gave their services, chiefly travelling in territory adjacent to their pastorates.
The failure of Parliament to grant a two-issue ballot paper, and retention of the old conditions, were discouraging to our Prohibition forces.
The liquor trade, on the other hand, commenced months before the poll to publish display and ‘reader’ advertisements in the press, to exhibit huge posters all over the Dominion, and to circulate hundreds of thousands of its monthly paper, Cheerio, in all the homes in the Dominion. The page 140 liquor traffic's advertising, as usual, presented the most glaring and deliberate misrepresentation of Prohibition in the U.S.A. The most fantastic and untrue assertions were made to scare the voters in New Zealand. Judged by the claims and references in its propaganda, the liquor traffic was the sole bulwark standing between New Zealand and the most appalling corruption, crime, immorality, and social disaster. This misleading propaganda had perforce to go unchallenged so far as replies through the press and similar channels were concerned. The election of Mr. Herbert Hoover as President of the U.S.A. after a campaign in which the Prohibition issue was definitely prominent, indicated that the people of the U.S.A. were satisfied with Prohibition. But this great demonstration of confidence in the Prohibition policy by the U.S.A. citizens came too close to the New Zealand polling day for its full significance to be able to offset the months of liquor traffic propaganda.
When the figures for the poll, taken on Wednesday, November 14, were announced, it was found that for the first time since 1914 the Prohibition vote had gone back. In 1914 the vote for Prohibition declined some seven per cent, and in 1928 a similar decline was recorded. The figures were:
|Continuance||374,502||51.07 per cent.|
|State Purchase & Control||64,276||8.76 per cent.|
|Prohibition||294,453||40.15 per cent.|
On this occasion particularly strong efforts were made to induce the other No-License districts to follow the example of Ohinemuri and vote for Restoration. In Masterton and Invercargill exceptional interest was aroused and both sides were page 141 unusually active. But in spite of all the liquor traffic could do, the No-License electorates remained firm although the contests were close in Masterton and Invercargill.
The Macarthy Trust. Under the will of T. G. Macarthy, a wealthy brewer, who died in 1906, half the profits from the brewery have been distributed yearly by way of grants to various charities. Application had to be made for a grant. The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches have, by resolution, prohibited their charities from applying. The fund is administered by the Public Trustee. The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Stout, P.C., has twice sought to get Parliament to adopt legislation forbidding the Public Trustee to administer a business so fraught with evil to the community, but without success. Undue prominence is given to these charitable aids in the advertising of the brewery.
The World View. The year 1928, as we have seen, ended with a reverse in New Zealand. As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, however, New Zealand constitutes but one front in a world war, and the story of this decade cannot be understood nor appreciated except in its relation to the struggle as a whole. It is the very magnitude and complexity of the struggle which makes local issues so difficult to place in their setting. Each country has its own special history and conditions, and the effort to bring them all into one line and judge them by one measure, is likely to result in confusion. Prohibition with compensation, which was defeated in New South Wales in 1928, is a different thing from the Prohibition without compensation which was defeated in New Zealand. The war-time page 142 Prohibition of Canada which has suffered a relapse, was never Prohibition in a strict sense at all, and is certainly very different from the ban on manufacture, importation and sale which exists in the United States. The legislative experiments, however, whether complete as in Finland, whether frustrated by vested interest as in Iceland, whether partial as in Sweden, are merely the accumulated results of the spread of knowledge concerning alcohol. Those who regard Prohibition as a desirable legislative objective find their best argument in the fact that every increase in knowledge during the past thirty years has tended to prove ever with greater force that the dire social effect has its cause in a drug which is detrimental to the human organism. In 1897, when Dr. Von Pettenkofer and Professor Bunge appealed to German speaking physicians to sign a declaration concerning the damages of alcohol they received only nine responses. Less than ten years later, practically the same declaration, specifically urging abstinence on scientific grounds, was signed by seven hundred medical names, including over one hundred from Germany herself. On June 12, 1918, the president of the American Medical Association, in his inaugural address, called upon the 126,000 members and fellows to fight for Prohibition and on November 15 of the next year, under the presidency of Dr. Charles H. Mayo, the same Association declared itself as opposed to alcohol as a beverage and discouraged it as a therapeutic agent. There is hardly a year passes which does not add some new evidence to the individual and social value of total abstinence. When that knowledge enters into the public consciousness the passage of legislation will not be long delayed.page 143
Conclusion. The fate of the world struggle is not yet decided, and probably many years will pass before the sword is sheathed. Local victories will be won and lost, but it is safe to say that the strife will continue as long as the liquor traffic survives, whether in the hands of private individuals or in the hands of the State. It is not a question of quality and it is not a question of control. It is a question of freedom to sell a drug which is more fairly described as a poison than as a food, a drug which is dangerous to the individual and a traffic which is a nuisance to the community. Local engagements tend to fill the minds and horizons of those blinded by the dust of battle, but, while success may hasten the end, local defeat is but an incident of the fighting of the whole line. The fight has already lasted for forty years in New Zealand. Forty years ago, when battle was first seriously joined, the very name of Prohibition was a reproach. In the Spring of 1928 only a determined effort and penury lay between victory and defeat. 1928 marked the end of the first decade of Prohibition in the richest and one of the most powerful states in the world. A vast body of public opinion throughout the world has been and is being formed favourable to drastic action. Complete success in the United States would spell victory for Prohibition throughout the world. Such success will not be attained until the greatest social conflict the world has ever seen, is decided. The United States cannot afford to be defeated by enemies within its gates. In the meantime New Zealand may well remember the great despatch of Foch: ‘My centre is giving; my left wing is retreating; the situation is excellent; I am attacking.’