16 FEBRUARY 1895, Page 13


[To THY EDITOR ON THE ". SPECT•TOR."] Sin,—It is often said that lookers-on sometimes see more of the game than the players, and it is that which encourages me to offer some remarks for consideration by those of your readers who are interested in the question of Licensing Reform. Mr. Chamberlain, in his introduction to Dr. Gould's pamphlet, noticed by the Times and other papers on January 21st, recognises the necessity of recalling to mind the principle advocated by the Bishop of Chester and his sup- porters, because attention has been too exclusively concen- trated upon Scandinavian examples of its application ; and the Army Canteen application, which appears to me to run on all fours with the principle, has been left in the shade.

I desire, therefore, to supply a short history of the genesis and the early days of reform in Army canteens, which may be useful to those who, approving the Bishop's principle, may possess the patience and persistence required to promote its adoption in English civil life. In my early days it was the invariable habit of the War Department to lease a building in every barrack of any importance to a civilian canteen. keeper, who had to make his rent and profit by selling liquor to the troops pretty much at his and their discretion,—thus the old Army system exactly resembled that of the present civilian public-house ; and the reform was commenced as follows. About the year 1860, the late Colonel Horne, com- manding the 13th Light Infantry, quartered at King William's Town, Cape Colony, recognising the bad effect of indifferent liquor supplied to his men, obtained leave to try the experi- ment of a sort of co-operative store for their exclusive benefit, with the main object of securing the supply of good un- adulterated liquors at fair prices, with absence of motive on the part of the seller to induce excessive or unhealthy con- sumption of any liquor.

Fortunately, the Colonial canteen-keeper was not supported in his vested interest by "the trade," which would have been'

aroused to resist the proposal of any such innovation at home ; but the War Office dreaded the introduction of the thin edge of the wedge into their old routine system, and hampered Colonel Horne 's philanthropic experiment with stipulations that the General commanding at the Cape should observe and

report on the minutest details, sending copies of financial accounts every quarter to the War Office, and asking its approval for ea h rule of management and smallest expendi- ture, which might be thought advisable as the experiment proceeded. The general officer then commanding at the Cape, Sir R. P. Douglas, Baronet, happened to be a man of great influence with the War Minister, entered into Colonel Home's plans with hearty interest, and supported the move- ment by every means in his power. I feel sure that if that officer, were still alive, the Bishop of Chester would have very valuable supp rt in his project ; and as the duty of auditing the accounts and preparing the quarterly reports for four or five years fell to my lot, as a staff-officer in the com- mand, it behoves me to give my recollections of their tamer for what it is worth.

Three of Colonel Home's officers volunteered to act as a Canteen Committee of Management without interference with their regimental duties, and a sergeant and private were struck off duty for employment as servants paid from the canteen fund. The code of rules originally approved at the War Office was strictly adhered to, and generally found to work well, but the General's reports and the War Office replies were much occupied with the disposition of profits, which accrued far more rapidly than had been anticipated. The demand, however, for newspapers, games, and other purposes, beneficial to the soldiers generally, grew in propor- tion to the supply. But if part only of the profits had been carried to a reserve fund there would, ere this, have accumulated sufficient to buy up the licence of any public- house in England doing a corresponding trade; and therefore I argue that it would be a safe speculation for any munici- pality to start on the lines proposed by the Bishop of Chester, if it could obtain the future monopoly for the public benefit.

After leaving the Cape in 1866 the subject entirely passed out of my mind, until the Bishop's first letter in the Times led me to make inquiries, and then I found our old code of orders for the management of the 13th Light Infantry canteen, slightly expanded, and incorporated on the Queen's Regulations, as of universal application to the British Army. I have since had an opportunity of reading the still more elaborate Indian Regulations, due to the well-known interest which Lord Roberts, the late Commander-in-Chief in India, has taken in the soldiers' welfare, and confess that I am astonished at the revolution which has occurred so quietly daring the last thirty years. I trust that Lord Roberts, General Goodenough, and other officers will support—with their experience of the reformed canteen system, this attempt of mine to explain its origin. "We don't want to be drilled out at our public-houses like soldiers under discipline." Bat in these days of short service, the soldier has hardly time to shake off his civilian habits; he is a man of like passions with ourselves, and, while serving, has his com- forts and gratifies his drinking tastes pretty much in the same way as any civilian does.

In conclusion, I should like to express my belief that reform in civil practice must begin by an unpretending experiment —say, within the area of a District Council—and that if the necessary rules be judiciously framed and carefully enforced by practical men, the experiment will be watched with interest, and if attended by success, the nation will adopt the system for general practice as rapidly as the War Office has done in