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No temperance legislation is recorded during the reign of Henry VIII., and drinking appears to have grown apace. His son, Edward VI., has the credit of establishing the existing licensing system.
Licensing Established. It was enacted by 6 Edwd. VI., cap. 25, in the year 1552. "Forasmuch," says the preamble of this Act, as intolerable hurts and troubles to the commonwealth of this realm doth daily grow and increase through such abuses and disorders as are had and caused in common alehouses and other houses called tippling houses," therefore it was enacted that the justices should have direct control over the said houses by means of licences.
The artistic and literary talents of the Tudor period found an outlet even in Acts of Parliament, and one is almost inclined to surmise that excuses were invented for passing and repassing these Acts in order to afford the opportunity for composing their picturesque and graphic preambles. Anyway, in 1554, less than two years later, a new law was enacted, " for the avoiding of many inconveniences, much evil rule, and common resort of misruled persons used and frequented in many taverns newly set up in very great numbers in back lanes, corners, and suspicious places within the city of London and divers towns and villages within this realm." The law provided that no wine should be sold without a licence and that no licence should be granted except in cities, boroughs and market towns. Moreover, in no case was any wine sold to be drunk on the premises. The distribution of these licences is interesting. No place was to have more than two, except Bristol, which had six, York eight, Westminster three and London forty. It would appear that this legislation was not without effect; for, according to Camden, who wrote in 1581, Englishmen were "of all the northern nations the most commended for their sobriety," and in the reign of Elizabeth drunkenness was regarded as disgraceful. The only liquor Act of Parliament in her reign which need be recorded is one forbidding Irishmen to distil whisky in Pembrokeshire !
But it seems certain, according to several authorities quoted by Lecky,* that the wars in the Netherlands taught Englishmen a habit of, and admiration for, excess in drinking. And the great Queen was scarcely buried when Parliament undertook a new attempt at repres
ive legislation. The preamble of this Act, passed by the first Parliament of James I. in 1603, is worth quoting :
"Whereas the ancient true and principal use of inns, alehouses, and other victualling houses was the receipt, relief, and lodging of wayfaring persons travelling from place to place, and for such supply of the wants of such people as are not able by greater quantities to make their provision of victuals, and not meant for the entertainments and harbouring of lewd and idle people, to spend and consume their money and their time in lewd and drunken manner," it is enacted that a penalty of 10/- shall be paid by any publican suffering "an inhabitant to stay and tipple in his house," and a fine of 40,- shall be paid to the
History of England in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 476, etc. Other statements in the icxt are derived from this source.
poor if the constables and churchwardens are negligent of their duty in enforcing the Act.
James I. assumed to himself the right to grant monopolies, and amongst others the monopoly of licensing. Mr. Alford, M.P., speaking of the operation of this monopoly in Bath, said that "instead of restraining the number of innkeepers where there were wont to be but six, and the town desired Sir Giles Montressor there might not be more, yet he increased them to twenty."
The King soon had to give way, and left the duty of issuing licences to the Justices as before. And in 1606 Parliament passed another Act“for the better repressing of alehouses whereof the multitude and abuses have been and are found intolerable.” For the next few years the Acts appear to be numerous and various, and the language of their preambles is almost too vivid to quote in polite society. But as one of them states, “Notwithstanding all laws and provisions already made the inordinate vice of excessive drinking and drunkenness doth more and more prevail."
Of Cromwellian legislation the authorities give no record, and we next come to 1665, the year of the Plague, when regulations were made closing taverns at 9 o'clock “in accordance with the ancient law and custom of the City of London." And about the same the excise duties were granted to the King in exchange for certain feudal dues.
I mentioned before that the English were said to have learned from the Dutch to drink to excess. In 1688, Dutch William ascended the throne, and next year, as part of the policy of war against France, the importation of spirits was prohibited, and the distilling trade was made free to all, subject only to certain duties. "Small as is the place which this fact occupies in English history," says Mr. Lecky, is it was probably, if we consider all the consequences which have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the eighteenth century.”
What, then, were the consequences ? Before this Act, in 1684, only 527,000 gallons of spirits were distilled. By 1735, the amount had grown to 5,394,000.
Meanwhile, laws were passed and repealed with feverish activity. In 1691, Parliament approved an Act avowedly to encourage distilling, and eight years later the curious Act of Elizabeth against distilling was repealed; but in the following year it was found necessary to prohibit excessive distilling because of the high price of corn. After this the Acts alternate. In 1702, encouragement; in 1709, repression ; in 1713, encouragement once more, with such success that by 1724 in London and Southwark one house in every seven was a gin shop, and liquor was hawked about the streets and sold at 6d. a quart. So, in 1728, hawking was prohibited and high licence tried. This was so successful that in 1732 the Act was repealed because the distillers were suffering from diminished consumption.
The Gin Act. At last, by 1736, things had reached a climax. Gin-drinking had grown to an excess hitherto unparalleled in England. Retailers had notice-boards hung out with the inscription "Drunk for one penny. Dead-drunk for twopence. Clean straw for nothing.'* In fact, cellars with abundant straw were provided in which customers could sleep off the effects of drink. Crime and disease grew apace. Grand juries in the one case and doctors in the other denounced gin as the cause of the growing evils. The country was aroused to enter upon the most dramatic anti-liquor crusade in English history. Parliament, in 1736, passed the Gin Act, which imposed a duty of 2os. per gallon and a licence fee of £ 50 on retailers. This was something like prohibition, and in one year consumption fell from 5,394,000 to 3,600,000 gallons.
For the moment severe measures proved successful, but the victory was short-lived. First came riots; then illicit selling. By 1743 things were worse than ever, and no less than 8,203,430 gallons were consumed. Then came a sudden change of policy. Clandestine drinking and the consequent prevalence of false informants proved to be a worse evil than the old system, and in order to repress them the duty was in 1743 reduced from £ i to id. a gallon, and the licence on retailers from £ 50 to £1. But lawlessness once introduced died hard. In 17419 over 4,000 persons were convicted of selling without a licence, and the private ginshops within the bills of mortality were said to number 17,000. By 1750 and 1751 the net result of partial prohibition, followed by almost free trade, was an annual consumption of 11,000,000 gallons, or double the amount of the Gin Act year; and a new outcry arose that robbery and murder and disease, all due to drink, were destroying civilized society. Parliament had learned by experience that heroic remedies for social evils often do more harm than good. The legislation of 1751 was moderate, and it was successful. It was a collection of details. Distillers were prohibited from selling retail, or to any but licensed retailers. Debts for liquor incurred in amounts of less than 20/- at a time were made irrecoverable. Retail licences were rendered less easy to obtain, and unlicensed selling was punished more severely.
In 1758, with a duty of 1/- per gallon, less than two million gallons were consumed, and this amount remained the average consumption from 1762 to 1780. It is not necessary here to trace the history of licensing legislation any further; the alterations in the last hundred years have not been of great importance. It remains to point the moral.
First it is to be noted that drinking to such excess as to call for parliamentary interference is no new thing in England, and therefore is not likely to be remedied in a decade. Secondly, we find that heroic remedies, hasty repression by high licence and partial prohibition, have created evils worse than those attempted to be cured, whilst moderate reforms have been markedly successful.
Continental Licensing Laws. Having exhausted our ancestors, we turn to consider our contemporaries, and again find an astonishing lack of prepared information. Apparently the doings of most foreigners are matters of which the reetotalers take no account.
• Hogarth's cartoon, “ Gin Lane."
France, Belgium and Germany appear to have very simple licensing systems, almost approaching the type of the automatic sweet. meat machine. In France, you put 6d. in the slot, and a licence is forthcoming forty-eight hours later. By a law of 1887 licences are limited in Austria to one for five hundred persons.• Elsewhere in the empire a local high licence system obtains, under which teetotal crusades result. in communal bankruptcy. Holland has had for fifteen years past a maximum of spirit licences per population, and the local licensing authority has, within limits, the power of varying licence fees. But the law only cancels licences spontaneously relinquished, and thus it acts mainly by way of preventing an undue increase. The maximum fee is usually exacted. Trade in beer is free. In Russia, the State has recently assumed the monopoly of spirit retailing in the greater part of the empire. The object of the government is said to be benevolent, officials are told that promotion will follow small rather than large sales, and the quality of the liquor sold has improved. As no liquor is sold for consumption on the premises, an illicit traffic is growing up, spirit being served in tea-pots in establishments which we should call coffee-houses. Curiously enough, the most democratic of countries has a similar monopoly, this time in the wholesale trade only. Switzerland is unhappily cursed with a written constitution; and the new constitution of 1874, guaranteeing freedom of trade, prevented restrictions on the sale of liquor. The consumption of drink, and the degradation of the people rapidly increased; and with a view to checking both it was proposed and carried by a two-thirds vote on the referendum that the Federal Government should assume the monopoly of the distilling trade. The new law came into operation in 1887, when all domestic stills and 1,400 distilleries were closed with the exception of about 68. These distilleries sell their whole product to the Government department at a fixed price for re-sale to the retailers. The result is a much better quality of spirit and a magnificent revenue to the State. In 1896, the last year for which the figures are available, the gross profit was £255,204 on a turnover of £ 528,580. The annual net profit (after providing for sinking fund of debt and for depreciation) has averaged £209,072. When the distilleries were closed compensation was paid to the amount of £140,000 for the minimum value of the plant, but not for the goodwill. 'As this works out at little over £100 apiece, it was clearly not an excessive amount; but the case is worth noting, as compensation is a very rare phenomenon. The consumption of spirits has fallen 30 per cent. since the introduction of the State monopoly; but this is said to be made up by an increase in wine, beer and cider.t
The Gothenburg System. The Scandinavian system demands fuller treatment, because it is quite the most instructive example of drastic and successful licensinglaw reform. In the early decades of this century, Sweden had free
*C. 5253, 1887, p. 2. The explanation of the law is obscure, but the effect appears to be as given above.
+ F. O. Report, 1925. C. 8277, 143, June, 1897.
trade in spirits. Every farmer on payment of a few shillings could establish a still and sell spirits retail; and in 1829, the date of maximum, the country contained 173,124 stills. The results of the enormous consumption which ensued were disastrous to the health and prosperity of the country. After a prolonged agitation led by temperance reformers, and finally supported by King Oscar I., a series of strong laws was passed in 1855. Small stills were closed, an the number was thus reduced from 33,342 in 1853 to 3,481 in 1855. Rural local authorities were empowered to forbid retail sales: that is, were given local veto. Towns were allowed to fix the number of licences, to sell them by auction, or to sell them to a company. The country districts quickly adopted prohibition, but in the towns little was done till 1863, when the Municipal Reform Act came into force; and in Gothenburg a committee, appointed to consider the excess of drunkenness, reported in favor of handing over the licences to a philanthropic company. This was done. The company agreed to take no more than the then legal rate of interest on their paid-up capital (£5,500), but, strange to say, no capital has ever been used in the business. The sales are for cash, and although purchases are only on a week's, or, for foreign goods, a month's credit, all the capital used was a loan of £1,100, repaid in a fortnight. The profits are therefore practically all paid over to the public, 70 per cent. going to the municipality, 10 per cent. to the County Agricultural Society, and 20 per cent. to the Treasury, the exact percentages varying somewhat according to the conditions and locality. One thing must be remembered in discussing the Gothenburg system and its relative the Norwegian system. Both deal exclusively with spirits. But in both countries spirit is the national drink, and in 1894 the average Swede consumed four and a quarter gallons of spirits and six and a quarter gallons of beer, whilst the average Englishman drank twenty-seven gallons of beer and only nine-tenths of a gallon of spirit. The consumption of beer is, however, rapidly increasing, and to this is attributed the recent increase of drunkenness in Gothenburg, especially amongst women.t
Briefly the Swedish system is as follows. The municipality is the licensing authority and fixes the number of licences, which are granted for three years. The regulations, byelaws, and proceedings of the company are subject to municipal control; and the council controls also the selection of sites and appointment of officials. In Norway a similar system arose, owing to the fact that when,
by a new law, licences were offered for sale at auction, companies in fifty-one out of fiftyfour towns offered the highest price and so secured the monopoly. The three excluded towns are small, and five others do not issue licences at all.
In Norway, the municipal council—besides as in Sweden controlling the byelaws and all the operations of the company-now, in most cases, also appoints representatives on the managing committee. The Norwegians make a great point of the fact that the profits are spent in subventions to voluntary charities. In both countries the system has proved, in the opinion of the people, a great success. In
•C. 7,415, of 1894, quoted in Nat. Temp. Ann. † The Gothenburg and Bergen Public House System, by J. Whyte, Sec. U.K.A.; 1894