Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The putting down of drunkenness

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century there was a high level of legislative interference in the pub trade. From suppressing drunkenness to reducing the number of licences, government stuck its nose into many aspects of a landlord's business.

That's why organisations like the Licensed Victuallers Central Protection Society appeared. They were the trade's reaction to attacks by temperance groups and politicians sympathetic to them. They spent their time trying to argue against the most restrictive and destructive changes in the law. Of course, the temperance groups wouln't have been content with anything short of total prohibition.

The Romford and District Licensed Victuallers' Association held a special meeting on Thurs day at the Swan Hotel, Romford. Members of the Essex and the Gray's Licensed Victuallers' Associations also attended

Mr. J. W. Braund, who presided, said they were met to consider the new Licensing Act, and also the remission of the taxes on beer and spirits. Most distinctly the principle behind this Act of Parliament was the putting down of drunkenness. He was not sanguine that legislation would do anything towards that end. The Act created a new precedent, and he took it that it would be the duty of a policeman who saw a drunken man entering a public-house to warn the licensee of the fact, as drunkenness was to be treated as a crime. They were more fortunate in Romford than in most districts, as they were happy in the possession of a most fair and upright Bench of magistrates, and in the local police they had a superintendent and staff who could be relied upon to do all tbey could to help licence-holders to conduct their houses properly.

Mr. Johnson, chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Central Protection Society, said there was no one more desirous of doing what he could to prevent drunkenness than the licence-holder. [Hear, hear.] On and after the lst of January next any person would be liabie to arrest for simple drunkenness. Under the new Act there was salutary punishment for drunken persons in charge of young children, and he was sure that would meet with their hearty support. [Hear, hear.] The finding a drunken person on licensed premises would be of itself evidence of an offence, and it would thus be seen that it would be impossible to exercise too much care to detect and prevent the presence of drunken persons on licensed premises. Under the Act a remedy was provided for both husbands and wives who were afflicted with drunken partners. Either husband or wife would be able to plead the habitual drunkenness of their degraded partner as constructive cruelty and would be able to claim a judicial separation. Surely they would say that was a step in the right direction. [Hear, hear.] Under the provisions for identifying habitual drunkards they would have to do the best they could to identify these people. His own idea was that if they treated habitual drunkenness as a crime without a defence they would stamp it out. He instanced tbe difference in the penalties inflicted on the habitual drunkard and the licence holder who served him as showing that those who framed the Act could not get rid of the unjust idea that the drunken person was caused by the licensee.

Mr. Edwin Faox and Mr. Rutherford expressed similar views. The Chairman said the tax they were paying on beer was pressing very hard on every publican. He was decidedly of opinion that any tax that had a tendency to restrict trade was bad all round. In some cases it was a question of 1s., 1s. 6d., or 2s. per barrel. The publicans paid the tax willingly when the war was on, and they alone had had to pay it. Assessments and rates were increasing, and all these thiugs pressed very heavily on the trade.

Mr. Frank Norris said the tax fell heavily upon Romford especially, as publicans paid 37s. a barrel for mild ale.
Essex Newsman - Saturday 08 November 1902, page 1.

I can't help wondering exactly how drunkenness was defined. It would be odd if no degree of intoxication at all were allowed. Making the simple act of drunkenness an offence seems pretty dodgy to me. And giving the police fairly arbitrary powers to arrest anyone they felt like who had been drinking.

"salutary punishment for drunken persons in charge of young children" Shit. I think that one could have got me in trouble. I like to think of my pub expeditions with the kids as character building. And helping them with their orienteering skills. "Take daddy home, please." Just as well Andrew had memorised the whole of the Amsterdam tram network by the age of 2.

The tax they're moaning about is the 1s per standard barrel increase that was introduced in 1901 to hep pay for the Boer War. Obviously, it was never removed. The exact opposite, in fact. Nowadays an increase from 36s to 37s a barrel would hardly be noticed. But that increase needs to be put into context. The price of a barrel of Mild had been constant for 30 or 40 years.

1 comment:

headfreak said...

"Making the simple act of drunkenness an offence seems pretty dodgy to me"

Doesn't sound all that different to current laws in the state of Victoria.
The offence is "Drunk in a public space" and again, there is no actual definition of drunk.
It basically comes down to what the police "think" which is a bit of a worry...