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which they need. Generally, however, the popular
demand is not for a beer above the standard gravity ;
the desire is for light beers.

In London, the average alcoholic strength of beers
supplied to the public is below 5 per cent., if draught
beers alone are considered. If the trade in bottled
beers is taken into account this figure must be con-
siderably reduced. The bottled-beer trade has
developed enormously during the past ten years, and
to a large extent has displaced trade which formerly
was done through the public -house. The success
secured in this direction is certainly an indication
of the popular demand. Such bottled beers contain
a much smaller amount of alcohol than the old-time
heavy beers and less than ordinary draught beers.
Generally, it may be said that beers which secure the
greatest favour to-day are those in which the alcohol
content does not exceed 3| to 4 per cent.

Compared with whisky, and especially cheap
whisky, beer is an innocuous beverage. The com-
plaints concerning the loss of time by workmen
through drink come chiefly from the district where
whisky is the favourite beverage. Hence an effective
method of dealing with the trouble would be to sub-
stitute beer for whisky in such districts. The men
would still be able to obtain a reasonable amount of
alcoholic stimulant, but they would get it in a more
desirable form than at present. The drunkenness
and other evils resulting from the consumption of
cheap whisky, and especially from the mixed drinks
such as the " half and a chaser," a mixture of beer and
whisky favoured by ship-builders, would disappear.
This could be effected either by the heavy taxation of
spirits, rendering their price prohibitive, or by the
actual prohibition of such drinks. This would
obviously entail heavy losses on the distillers and


other persons dependent on the production of spirits,
but to these some compensation could be made. It
would be costly, but it would be effective. Spirits
undoubtedly constitute by far the greater danger,
and they are consumed only by a minority. Their
prohibition would cut away at least 75 per cent, of
the trouble and it would not cause any considerable
amount of resentment.

It has also been suggested that the Government
should take over the breweries and the control of the
public-houses. The cost of the scheme is estimated
at about 300,000,000, and it is suggested that the
sum should be payable in the form of bonds. It is
claimed that a State monopoly of the drink traffic
would enable several desirable reforms such as the
closing of unnecessary public-houses, to be effected,
and also that the public revenue would benefit largely.
Practical experience, however, does not favour such
a scheme. It was with the very same objects in view
that the State monopoly of the drink traffic in Russia
was instituted, and, as has already been pointed out,
the only results of the monopoly were that the revenue
benefited considerably and that the evils of excessive
drinking increased at an alarming rate.

A further method of dealing with the matter is to
restrict the hours of sale. The restrictions imposed
early in the war have proved beneficial. These
restrictions referred chiefly to earlier closing in some
places the hour being made as early as eight o'clock.
It has been said that such restrictions result chiefly
in quicker drinking and that in consequence they do
not greatly reduce drunkenness. That may be the
effect among a very few men, but there is a limit to
the speed with which liquor can be imbibed, and it is
only necessary to curtail the hours sufficiently to make
it practically impossible for a man to drink more than
is good for him. The times when the average moder-
ate drinker, no matter to what class of the community


he may belong, chiefly desires to consume alcoholic
beverages are in the midday and during the evening.
No man really needs liquor during the morning or
afternoon any more than he needs them at an absurdly
late hour of night. So far, then, as the moderate
drinkers, that is, the vast majority of the nation, are
concerned there would be no great hardship entailed
in the restriction of the hours for the sale of drink
to say, a couple of hours at midday and three or four
hours in the early evening.

Such a drastic curtailment of the hours, and, of
course, to be effective it would have to be imposed
on off-licence premises and clubs, would doubtless
necessitate some measure of compensation for the
trade. In this connection, however, it is well to
remember that the war has caused a great many people
other than brewers and publicans to suffer a heavy
reduction of profits without compensation. To meet
the emergency the authorities have taken over the
control of the railways and innumerable workshops
and factories. There was no question of compensating
the railway companies for the amount of income they
have sacrificed in the interests of the community.
In a time of national emergency such sacrifices are
inevitable and are generally borne ungrudgingly.
There is, therefore, neither need nor precedent for the
full compensation of the trade. On the other hand,
the trade is not the unpatriotic monster which its
opponents would make it out to be. Ever since the
beginning of the war the trade has been willing to fall
in with any measures which may be necessary for
the efficient conduct of the war, and has assisted and
co-operated with the authorities in many ways.

There is one point in connection with the drastic
curtailment of the hours of sale which must not be
overlooked. Now that workshops, shipyards, and
railways are w r orking at full pressure day and night a
great number of men would be inconvenienced if


they could only obtain alcoholic beverages at midday
and the early evening. The men who are working on
night-shifts have as much right to a glass of beer at a
reasonable time as those who are working at ordinary
periods. This difficulty might be met by the intro-
duction of canteens in the workshops, subject of
course, to proper safeguards and regulations being

A number of other suggestions have been made,
but few of them are feasible. It has been proposed
that drink tickets should be issued on the plan of the
German bread tickets. To be carried into effect,
however, this scheme would necessitate an army of
officials, and it is doubtful whether the nation would
appreciate being prussianised.

The most satisfactory way of dealing with the
matter would, therefore, seem to be (1) to prohibit
the sale of spirits, especially whisky; (2) to restrict
the hours of public-houses and other licensed premises
to two hours in the morning and three in the early
evening; and (3) make some satisfactory provision
for those workmen who are employed on night-shifts.
Such measures would undoubtedly be sufficiently
drastic to deal with the trouble effectively. The
question remains whether the nation is ready to accept
them ungrudgingly. This, of course, is essential to
the success of any scheme. If the working classes
believe that the measures are an unwarranted inter-
ference with their liberties, or that they are an attempt
on the part of the temperance reformers to rush
teetotalism on the nation, the condition of affairs will
not be improved in the slightest.

There can be little doubt that the nation is prepared
to make the sacrifice entailed by the measures indi-
cated. The speeches of the Chancellor and such
evidence as has been allowed to filter through has
caused the nation to realise that this is not the time
for half measures. But what has chiefly prepared


the people for this curtailment of their liberties is
the action of the King in ordering that all alcoholic
drinks be banned from his table during the con-
tinuance of the war. His Majesty's example has been
followed by Lord Kitchener and thousands of other
influential people. Thus it has been brought home
to the workers that the present is a time when all
class distinctions are in abeyance. We are all Britons
now and all are willing to share in the sacrifices which
may be rendered necessary by the war.

What will be the permanent results of these
temporary measures ? In Russia and France men
are talking of the blessings of the war because it has
rid them of the evils that lurk in alcohol. Will it be
the same in Britain ? In any case public opinion
cannot fail to be deeply impressed. The war has
already brought home vividly to men's minds the
evils of intemperance ; it now seems that it will also
emphasise the virtues of sobriety. But for the war
the nation would never have had this experience, or
if it had, the measure would have had to be forced
upon it. As it is, the experience will be voluntarily
undertaken. Nothing teaches more effectively than
practical experience, and it may be that the war will
do more towards settling the drink question than a
whole century of legislation. War has caused us to
realise that the liquor trade in this country is far too
big and far too powerful for the best interests of the
nation. When once this becomes fully appreciated
by all classes then the liquor trade will shrink into
its proper position in the national economy and the
liquor evil will die a natural death.




THROUGHOUT its history Parliament has been
endeavouring to settle the drink problem by means
of legislation. As early as 1327 an Act was passed
for limiting the number of alehouses. In 1553 it
was decided that no town or city should have more
than two liquor shops, except London, which might
have four, Westminster three, York eight, and Bristol
six. But the difficulty in raising the necessary
revenue has nearly always caused such drastic mea-
sures to be repealed. The removal of the restrictions
resulted in every case in a vast increase in the revenue
and also a vast increase in the evils due to drunkenness,
which have eventually led to further restrictive
legislation. But for the fact that the liquor traffic
is the surest and most prolific source of revenue, there
can be little doubt that restrictive legislation, if it
had not actually prohibited, would at least have
kept the traffic down to very narrow limits, with the
result that the vast interests which are now the
greatest obstacle to the settlement of the question,
would never have been allowed to take their rise.
Although admitting that it was an iniquity that the
finances of the nation should depend upon a trade
which is responsible for the greater part of the
nation's crime, disease, lunacy and poverty, Parlia-
ment has been unable to afford the luxury of national
sobriety. Over four hundred Acts have been passed
for regulating the drink traffic. That they have



failed in their object is obvious from the fact that at
the present time when the nation needs every ounce
of its strength the authorities have to expend their
energies upon devising some means of ensuring
sobriety. The reason of the failure is obvious. The
measures have all been half-hearted. Primarily
intended to promote sobriety, and reduce the evils
consequent upon drunkenness, they have all been
framed with more than half an eye on the revenue
and the pockets of the trade. One of the greatest
drawbacks of the party system is that governments
have to try to please every section of the community.
In ordinary times none could brave the full force of
the liquor trade's resentment with any prospect of
success. As the present Government learnt to its
cost in 1908, the trade is one of the most powerful
forces in the country when it is fully roused. After
their experience over the Licensing Bill it is not to
be wondered at that the Government is acting warily
in the present instance.

Very few people are acquainted with the great
progress which the temperance movement has made
during the past few years throughout the British
Empire. The various colonies provide examples of
many legislative methods for dealing with the liquor
problem, and those who are anxious to see the problem
satisfactorily settled in the Mother Country would
do well to study the results of the experiments made
by their fellow Britons. It is, of course, impossible
to deal fully with the subject in the present work,
but the following sketch of the progress of the move-
ment throughout the Empire may prove useful.

The licensing law at present regulating the liquor
trade in England and Wales is that of 1904. The
chief feature of this Act was that it introduced the
principle of compensation. The holders of those
licences which are considered to be redundant by
the justices, and are abolished, are compensated out


of a fund provided by the trade itself. In a mild
way the Act has met with a fair amount of success,
a large number of licences having been suppressed.
But the Act has accomplished very little in the direc-
tion of diminishing drunkenness. In 1908 the present
Government introduced the famous Bill. This was
the most advanced legislation ever proposed for
dealing with the problem in England, and it roused
a storm of opposition. It passed the House of Com-
mons by the record majority of 237, but was thrown
out by the Lords.

On the rejection of the measure Mr. Asquith ad-
dressed the following words to a deputation :
" I am here to tell you, and I do it in the simplest
and plainest language, that in the opinion of His
Majesty's Government, the Licensing Bill, in its
main provisions, represents not the most but the
least measure of reform in regard to this great and
growing evil with which you and we and the country
ought to be content. We have not abated one jot
of our interest or of our determination in regard to
this matter, and when the time comes and it cannot
be far distant when we join issue and come into
the open field there is no measure in regard to which
we shall appeal more confidently to the people of
this country to determine between its own elected
representatives and an irresponsible body, than this
measure of Temperance Reform ... I cannot doubt
that one of the firstfruits of the victory will be that
the measure will take its place upon the Statute Book,
and that we shall be emancipated once and for all
from the thraldom of this dominating and paralysing

In spite of these words, however, no steps were
taken by the Government for dealing with the traffic
until the war forced the question into prominence.

Meanwhile the Scottish Temperance Bill was
passed in 1913. The chief provisions of this measure,


which of course applies to Scotland only, are that
on the request of 10 per cent, of the electors in any
area a poll must be taken on the following points :
(1) No change; (2) Reduction of the licences by
25 per cent ; and (3) No licence. A simple majority
is sufficient to adopt the first question. In the case
of No. 2 the majority must constitute 30 per cent,
of the electors; and for No. 3 to be adopted the
majority must be three-fifths of the votes recorded
and not less than 30 per cent, of the electors in the
area affected. The Act also provides that licensed
premises shall not be opened until after ten o'clock
in the morning and imposes various restrictions on the

Before the Act came into force there were sen-
sational articles in the Press foretelling that there
would be riots and all manner of disturbances. The
workmen on the Clyde were supposed to be con-
sidering the question of changing their breakfast
hour in order to make it possible to continue to
obtain spirits. The event, however, passed off quite
quietly, and so far as can be judged the measure is
working well. It is, of course, too soon to pronounce
definitely upon its results. For one thing, the Veto
Clauses will not come into operation until 1920.

One of the most beneficent pieces of temperance
legislation which the world has known was that
enacted by the International Conference at The
Hague in 1887 for dealing with the North Sea Fish-
eries. For a number of years a fleet of liquor shops
known as " Coopers " had been plying their trade
among the fishermen. The spirits sold were of the
worst possible description and had a terrible effect
on the men. The loss of life and property became
so appalling that the Governments interested deter-
mined to hold a conference. At the close of the
conference the six powers concerned viz. Great
Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and


Denmark issued the following statement : " Th
sale of spirits to fishermen is prohibited. Fisher-
men are equally forbidden to buy spirits. The
exchange or barter for spirits of any article
especially the fish caught, nets, or any part of the
gear, is also prohibited." Of course, there was the
usual outcry about tampering with the liberties of
the subject and the ruin of honest traders. But the
results attained by the measure soon silenced all
opposition. The prohibition of alcoholic drink in
the North Sea Fisheries has saved hundreds of lives
and increased the prosperity of the fishermen by thou-
sands of pounds every year since it was enacted.

It has been said of the British Empire that the
Bible and Drink go hand in hand with the Union
Jack. Of no portion of the Empire is that statement
truer than of India. Until the advent of the British
the Hindoos were practically abstainers from all
forms of alcoholic liquors. This was in great measure
due to religious influence. But the example of the
British gradually undermined these influences and
in recent years the evils of alcoholism have been
increasing at an alarming rate. The extent of the
evil is indicated by the reports of the authorities.
Thus, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab says :
" It can only be concluded that apart from the very
serious increase of drunkenness in certain districts,
the number of persons who have acquired the habit
of indulgence in alcohol is steadily increasing through-
out the province." Sir Gurudas Banerjee, a Judge
of the Calcutta High Court, states that : " It is not
only unnecessary but mischievous to take liquor in
India. The crime and wrong caused by intemperance
is enormous and the cost to the State far outweighs
the amount received as revenue."

The vast increase in the traffic is shown by the
revenue statistics. In 1874 the Excise revenue
amounted to 1,564,000, in 1918 it amounted to no


less than 7,907,000. Various methods are being
employed to counteract the evil; amongst others,
the curtailment of hours of sale, the reduction of
the strength of the drinks and the restriction of the
amount allowed to be sold to each customer. But
the matter is complicated by the fact that the trade
is practically a Government monopoly. The authori-
ties are sympathetic, but not inclined to attempt any
bold measures.

One action of the Government is worthy of special
attention. It has called to its aid the recognised
temperance societies. " While fully cognisant of
our own responsibilities, and resolved that they shall
be adequately discharged, we are assured that until
the advantages of temperance principles are reso-
lutely and systematically brought home to the
masses by the independent efforts of non-official
leagues, the natural tendencies in favour of increased
consumption will continue to operate." These words
admittedly contain much truth, but there are many
who hold that an increase of education should be
accompanied by a diminution of temptation, and
there is a large and growing movement, especially
among the influential natives, for the abolition of
the thousands of dram-shops.

These shops are the cause of the greater portion
of the drunkenness. Religious considerations pre-
vent any Hindoo or Mohammedan from indulging
in alcoholic liquor except in secret, and the dram-
shops provide every facility for secrecy. After
nightfall thousands who would not dream of drinking
in public or of entering such a place in daylight,
slink into these dens to consume such pernicious
concoctions as toddy and arrack and cheap spirits.
It is well known that no form of drinking has more
harmful effects, both physical and moral, than secret
drinking, and there can be no doubt that if the dram-
shops were abolished, and the people forced to drink


openly, if at all, there would be a vast increase of
temperance in India. On the other hand, there
would be a serious decline in the revenue, a fact which
seems likely to delay legislation for many a day.

In no country has Britain committed worse blun-
ders in connection with the drink traffic than in
Ceylon. Except for a few Mohammedans and
Hindoos the people of Ceylon are Buddhists. No
religion enjoins temperance more strongly than
Buddhism. " Man, already dark with ignorance,
should not add thereto by the imbibing of alcoholic
drinks," was one of the sayings of Buddha. For
centuries the Sinhalese abstained from liquor for
the very good reason that they had not the slightest
desire for alcohol. Then the British brought Western
civilisation and incidentally the drink traffic to the

" Before we were civilised," says a bhikhu, or
Buddhist priest, " or had heard of the Christian
religion, our people were known for their sobriety.
Your Western civilisation has taught us the drink
habit, and unless immediate repressive measures are
taken, we shall become the degenerate descendants
of a noble race."

Between 1876 and the present day the imports of
spirits into Ceylon have increased by no less than
300 per cent. ; and at the same time a large number
of distilleries have been established on the island.
In 1904 the evil had become so bad that the bhikhus
and head-men organised a temperance crusade with
the result that 190,000 natives signed the pledge.
At the same time strong representations were made
to the Government urging that the toddy and other
drink shops should be closed, and protesting against
the official scheme for the establishment of Govern-
ment distilleries. The answer of the authorities to
this appeal for the sobriety of the people was one of
the worst blunders that have ever disgraced British


colonial administration. They had to choose be-
tween temperance and revenue. On the one hand
there were the people whose religion enjoined total
abstinence and who were quite content to follow its
precepts ; and on the other there were some hundreds
of thousands of pounds pouring into the revenue as
a result of the official plan of forcing alcohol on the
people. As one of the leading bhikhus said : " Our
prayer to our Christian Governors is that they should
put their own religion into practice and lead us not
into temptation, so that we may continue to practise
our religion." But religious sentiments could not
make up the deficiencies of the revenue. Already as
a result of the temperance crusade there had been a
marked falling off in the Excise receipts. The move-
ment must be stopped. On May 2, 1913, the follow-
ing General Orders were issued

(1) Any public servant who wishes to join a tem-
perance or total abstinence society must first obtain
the permission of the Head of his Department.

(2) If permission is accorded it will be on the
express condition that the officer takes no part in
the management of the society and that he does not
attend public meetings organised by the society.

(3) Permission to join such societies will not be
given to administrative officers, such as head-men.

Thus were the temperance societies placed upon
the same level as anarchist clubs and other organisa-
tions inimical to the welfare of the State. As might
be imagined there was a great outcry against the
Orders and it was not long before they were with-
drawn. But the mere fact that they were issued at
all shows how little the authorities realised their
responsibilities towards the people they were supposed
to govern.

There are about 500,000,000 Buddhists in Asia,


and it is remarkable that whenever these peoples
come under the influence of so-called Christianity
they are tempted and urged to indulge in alcoholic
drink. An eminent Sinhalese has thus described the
position of affairs : " Buddhist civilisation uplifted
the lower civilisations with which it came in con-
tact ; it is strange that European civilisation has had
a contrary effect. The effect of European civilisation

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Online LibraryMarr MurrayDrink and the war from the patriotic point of view .. → online text (page 10 of 12)