A GENERAL REVIEW AND A FEW CRITICISMS.
"So long as an immense body of citizens of all orders and sorts choose to use alcohol, think it right to do so, and cannot be shown to offend their neighbors whilst doing bo with moderation, it would be tyrannical to punish or forbid the consumption of any food which an orderly adult thinks it desirable and right to take."—Frederio Harrison.
During the past three weeks there has appeared under the above heading a mass of evidence, gathered from unimpeachable sources, on the unwisdom of any civilised, professedly Christian community embarking upon a policy of the national prohibition of the importation, manufacture, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Tho evidence, it will be recalled, has been largely left to speak for itself. It consisted of quotations from official documents, and the opinion of eminent scientists, reformers, physicians, divines, and publicists. Wo think that, to many, this evidence has come somewhat in the nature of a surprise. It has shown beyond reasonable dispute that experience, whether collective or individual, is against the banning of alcoholic liquors by law; that the evils following their forced suppression are greater than those that preceded them ; and that, whether regarded from the economic, the moral, the social, or financial standpoint, their legal prohibition would be as unjust and tyrannical as it would be unwise and disastrous. There are many things that majorities have no right to do, and the dictation of what a man shall or shall not drink in the way of approved liquors is one of them. Wo believe that the greater number of thinking people will agree—(l) That the temperate use of alcoholic liquor is not injurious, but benoficial.
(2) That to prohibit tho importation, manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic liquors in this Dominion, and by law to deny their use to the many thousands of God-fearing citizens who would scorn to abuse their right, is both anti-democratic and unjust.
(.3) That it is neither logical nor reasonable nor just, because the abuse of alcoholic liquor causes a small percentage of men and women to lose their self-respect, that tho traffic should be prohibited. (4) That the abandonment of a policy of Education, in Temperance in favor of one of National Prohibition is a confession of failure and a policy of despair.
WHY A THREE-FIFTHS MAJORITY? The justice of the Moderate's position and tho injustice of that of the Prohibitionist is recognised by the institution of the above. It is admittedly unfair and unjust that a scratch majority secured at the polls as the result of a campaign of hysterical unreason (we except that of Mr Snowden from this category) should he permitted to destroy an industry of such vital importance to the nation. And the principle of some such majority is recognised even by Prohibitionists when it suits them.
It has been pointed out.— (1) That the three-filths majority was established to prevent any sudden and violent change in legislation affecting very seriously the commercial, industrial, financial, and social condition of the country.
(2) That the three-fifths majority acts as a check on hasty and ill-considered legislation, and is in no sense "contrary to justice," as is proved by the fact that similar large majorities are required by law to secure stability in the administration of commeitial companies and the finance of local hudus; also in the management of Labor organisations and tho direction of their policy, both in England and the colonies.
(8) That the Prohibitionists themselves have shown that they attach some importance to it in the maimgi ment of their own affairs: hi HUO, when the famous "compact" was iv jeered by the New Zealand Aili.inc Conference, it was upheld by a sun stantial majority—the division being 7t. to 6'o in its favor—but the Couferetic. declined to carry out the agreement because tho majority in its favor, though far more than a bare majority, was, in their opinion, not large enough to guarantee that the, party as a whol. would give it sufficient support. WHO IS TO PAY THE COST? In round numbers, £1,000,000 of n wniie will be bet by this Dominion should the Prohibitionist policy b.'corn law. Who is to find the money to tak its place? Not the Prohibitionist. R. member, ho pays next to nothing t<. wards the upkeep of the State, hj neither smokes nor gambles, nor drink alcoholic beverages. He has contract, himself out of paying one penny pic< more to the State than he can _ hoi] That greatest social reformer of his d and generation, the present Chancil.c of the Exchequer, .Mr Lloyd Ceoi.u knows this individual only too web Speaking in the House of Commons o November IS on the question of ho to raise money to meet the enormoi expenditure nece.-.sitated by the \\\. that has been precipitated upon mankind by a " Prohibitionist Kaiser," JNII George said : " Besides the beer duty, lie was devoting his attention to th 3 CIUS!V2 teetotaller, who was as difficult to caich as the Emden, but ho thought he had got him by taxing tea. Great Britain used more tea than any country in the world except Australia and New Zealand." No one—not even a Prohibitionist extremist—will venture to question Mr Lloyd George's right to be regarded as a statesman on the side of temperance. His word stands. By way of contrast, wo reprint the utterances of a local Prohibitionist (the Key. W. Walker), made at a lodge meeting on September 30 in this City, as reported in tho ' Evening Star ': — " At a suitable interval the Rev. Bro. W. Walker delivered a patriotic address. He said tho word ' patriotism ' had a much wider meaning than was generally attributed to it. For his own part he would have preferred to have hoard of a disaster to British arms than to read the news last week that the New Zealand Parliament had passed a Gaming BUI at one sitting increasing the number of racing permits. He knew of men who opposed the South African War, but they were nevertheless true patriots. He believed Britain was in tho right in the present trouble, and that she would ultimately conquer. There were, however, other evils which threaten our nation. He contended that the liquor traffic and the gambling evil were infinitely more dangerous than other evils which threatened us." A FINAL AYORD. We have sought in these articles to make clear that "Drunkenness is not the sin of the drink, but of the drunkard " (Cardinal Manning); that to penalise a nation for the sins of its unfortunates is a reversion to barbarism, not an advance along the path of social betterment; and that no cause which is based on injustice can be for the permanent well-being of the nation. Our plea, in short, is one for the exercise of reason in the interests of temperanco and of moderation and freedom in thought and deed. It is not a demand for an impossibility ; all that is asked is that the desires of the truly temperate element in the community shall prevail.
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NATIONAL PROHIBITION, Evening Star, Issue 15670, 8 December 1914