The attack of the citadels of liquordom : A study of the prohibition movement in New Zealand, 1894-1914.

by Anthony R Grigg

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Record ID: 1304643
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5481


In 1893 the Liberal Government in New Zealand under R.J. Seddon introduced and passed the Alcoholic Liquors Sale Control Act. This marked the beginning of a new era in New Zealand's liquor licensing system and encouraged through its provision for triennial liquor polls the development of a highly organised and widely supported prohibition movement. This thesis examines the progress of this movement from the first liquor poll in 1894 to the poll of 1914 in an attempt to understand the social and political significance of the prohibition issue. The ideology of prohibition was an expression of a late nineteenth century middle class society which adhered to particular values drawn from a puritan philosophy and adapted to a capitalist and laissez-fairs economic outlook. Such an outlook placed considerable emphasis on the values of sobriety, thrift and industry as the means to self-improvement and respectability. Expenditure on alcohol was considered a major cause of poverty, disease, crime and waste which hindered a person's progress towards economic independence and social respectability. It was not surprising, therefore, that as a result of the social and economic difficulties occasioned by the long depression of the 1880s and early 1890s a large section of the dominant social, economic and political group, the middle class, should espouse such a reform programme as prohibition. This programme appeared to provide considerable economic and social advantages, especially for the working class, without necessitating any fundamental changes in New Zealand's capitalist economic and social system. Prohibition was thus a middle class ideology, supported and led by the pietistic and non-episcopal churches and aimed at helping the unregenerate working class. It did, nonetheless, attract considerable support from the working class, especially from skilled workers aspiring to middle class respectability. The connection between the prohibition movement and the working class was thus complex throughout the 1894-1914 period. The prohibition movement increasingly opposed the developing social and political divisions which appeared to be the result of the socialist philosophy of the growing labour movement, while the labour movement became increasingly suspicious of the prohibitionists' motives and their effect on labour unity. The emphasis within the prohibitionist ideology on the importance of the home and the mother in shaping society's values as New Zealand developed from a frontier society into a mor8 complex, civilised and sophisticated society at the beginning of the twentieth century stressed further the middle class nature of the movement. The resulting assumption that women would be particularly interested in supporting the movement eventually had to be modified, however, as the woman's vote appeared to follow a pattern similar to that of men. Politically the prohibition movement was believed to have considerable effect, though the nature of this effect was not understood at the time. The incessant legislative…