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Thursday, 16 August 1906

Senator FINDLEY - Selected for what?

Senator Fraser - They are a good lot of men on the press.

Senator FINDLEY - Does the honorable senator imply that the men in theMilitary Forces are not a good lot of men ? I have often heard him hip-hip-hurrah for the soldier and the flag, but he has just made a disparaging statement in regard te* our own men.

Senator Fraser - I did' not.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator said, " They are a good lot of men on the press," implying that the men in the Military Barracks are not.

Senator Fraser - There might be the same results.

Senator FINDLEY - If the results are the same in the Military Barracks as in the Argus office, they are in favour of retaining the canteen. I have never been within the precincts of a military canteen, nor have' I paid a visit to a military encampment, so that my knowledge of the advantages of canteens is very limited.. To the North American Review, for October, 1903, Colonel William Conant Church,, who has occupied a very high post in theAmerican Army, contributed an article, from which I propose to read an extractHe wrote in these terms : -

If we wish to inform ourselves about medicine, we consult the doctors ; if about law, thelawyers ; and none but the ignorant ignores expert opinion. When it comes to reasoning about' our Army, however, and legislating for it, we would appear to think that any woman, old or* young, who can give her testimony in a conference, meeting, or temperance convention, orwrite a letter to her Congressman glowing with the ardour of self-appreciative virtue, is moreto be considered in determining what the Armyneeds than the officers who command it.

Senator Millen - It is a pity that Senator Dobson did not hear that extract read.

Senator FINDLEY - When I' want expert information in regard to a matter, I like to obtain it from an expert. Senator Turley has furnished a great mass of information in regard to canteens : it hasbeen .supplemented bv Senator Neild, and' additional arguments in favour of their retention have been supplied to-day bv the Minister of Defence. It was the desire of' a number of honorable senators that the opinions of the men concerned in the enactment of this Bill should be obtained. A few week's ago Senator Millen suggested' that that course should be taken, the Minister promised that the information would" be forthcoming as soon as possible, and itwas tabled to-day, in the form of a- return. What was the result of the vote taken in each Stare? -


Citizen Forces.

Seven commanding officers state that the noncommissioned officers and men of their command are in favour of the retention of canteens.

Three commanding officers state that in "their opinion the majority of the non-commissioned officers and men of their command would be opposed to canteens.

Western Australia. ' As far as can be ascertained, all ranks are opposed to abolition of canteens."

Tasmania. " Replies from officers and men practically unanimously opposed Canteen Bill, and only eighteen individuals in the district in favour."

It is argued by the teetotallers that the retention of canteens is an inducement to young men who enter the Military Force to indulge in strong drink. But the answer to that line of reasoning is supplied by Major Louis Livingston Seaman, late surgeon of the United States Army, who says -

It has been asserted that the canteen presents the saloon to the recruit in its least objectionable form - that he enters the Army free from the drink and debt habit, and is discharged with both fixed upon him. In reply, it may be said, if the recruit was not in the Army, he would probably have the saloon presented to him in a more attractive and alluring manner, as, for instance, it is to the college boy of the present day ; and if he is not possessed of the moral stamina to resist its temptation in one place, he certainly will not in the other. In the canteen, his commanding officer is directed to see that his credit is limited to 20 per cent, of his pav, which amounts to $3 per month ; and, if he exceeds this amount of debt, his commanding officer, and not the soldier, has been derelict in the performance of duty.

This medical officer of the United States Army is almost a .teetotaller, and it is in order to restrict the consumption of alcoholic drinks that he favours, the retention of the canteen. He goes on to say -

Of course, the canteen is not an ideal institution. Its advocates frankly admit that the total abolition of intoxicants in the Army is a desideratum devoutly to be wished. Personally, almost a total abstainer myself, and after having passed ten years of my life as Chief of the Medical Staff at Blacky/ell's and Ward's Islands, I would gladly have* alcohol eliminated as a product from the face of the earth. Personally, too, I would abolish wars, and therefore armies, and the necessities for canteens; but, unfortunately, this is not a personal matter.

He mentions that a friend of his - also a military gentleman - penned the following statement at Pekin on 19th July, 1901 : -

The W.C.T.U. would have no fault to find with the post here. The men go outside and get drunk on sam shut in town, and go to sleep in back yards or other worse places, but the sanctity of the Government reservation is maintained. The Germans have a Bier Halle on the wall at Hartaman Gate. The Japanese have their canteen. The British have one in their grounds, and bring their beer to their tables. The French soldier has his little bottle of wine at dinner. We alone are virtuous. We are the advocates of reform. We are the great hypocritical hippodrome - none like us.

The writer of the article continues -

Some time ago it was my pleasure to read a paper on this subject before an association composed exclusively of Army Medical Officers, and after a free and full discussion, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted by them : - " Whereas the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, now in session at St. Paul, recognises that the abolition of the Army Post Exchange or Canteen has resulted, and must inevitably result, in an increase of intemperance, insubordination, discontent, desertion, and disease in the Army, Therefore be it " Resolved, that this body deplores the action of Congress in abolishing the said Post Exchange or Canteen, and in the .interests of sanitation, morality, and discipline, recommends its reestablishment at the earliest possible date."

A week later, at the meeting of the American Medical Association, representing the 6,000 leading medical men of this country and Canada, I presented the same resolution, and it was adopted without a dissenting voice.

This is a gentleman who is almost a total abstainer himself. Further testimony is forthcoming in regard to the advantages derived from the canteen system in the United States. I will quote a Chaplain representing the Protestant Church attached to the Military Forces in America. Chaplain H. A. Brown, of the United States Army, says : -

The plain simple fact is, that I can see no logical reason for the abolition of the canteen, except from the stand-point of the absolute Simonpure prohibitionist, who believes that all drinking, use, or sale of liquor is wrong in itself. While all drunkenness is wrong, it by no means follows that all drinking is wrong. The soldier should have exactly the same liberty and privilege he would be allowed as a citizen, so far as is consistent with his duties as a soldier. Therefore, on the ground that the privilege of drinking is conceded to a civilian, and on the ground, as shown by overwhelming testimony, that the canteen reduces drunkenness, disorder, and demoralization in the Army, notwithstanding it appears to be doomed, I am opposed to the measure which abolishes it.

The Rev. William Dalton, a Catholic priest, of Kansas City, Missouri, who Has devoted much attention to the habits of soldiers in the United States, declares : -

No one can enforce total abstinence. That is only a theory. We can restrict the liquor trade, which the canteen did, but we cannot wipe it off. I am a knight of Father Mathew, a total abstainer, and would see every one in the world belong, but I know it is impossible, and I do not join these crusades. All the good the women want to do they undid, but all the good that was being done without them they have utterly ruined.

The testimony of the Public Health Association, which met at Washington, 30th October, 1903, is very strongly in approval of canteens -

Declaring that it had proved itself the most efficient prophylactic measure for the suppresion and diminution of vice and drunkenness, and that its abolition by act of Congress, approved 2nd February, 1901, on purely sentimental ground, 'was deeply to be deplored by all interested in the prevention of physical and moral diseases. The Association unanimously accepted the report of its Committee, to which this subject had been referred, recommending the presentation to the Senate and the House of Represenatives in Congress of the following resolutions adopted by the American Public Health Association in September, 1901 : -

Resolved - " That this body deplores the action of Congress iri1 curtailing the operation of the Army canteen or post exchange; and, in the interest of general and military sanitation, recommends its establishment on its former basis at the ealiest possible date."

Resolved - "That this body, in- the interest of temperance and humanity, cordially invites the intelligent co-operation of a very large element of good citizens, who have been active in securing legislation against the sales in the military service of alcoholics of any character, in taking successive steps toward the betterment of existing conditions, and thus assist in controlling and largely curtailing an evil which it is powerless at present to prevent."

I should think that the members of a Public Health Association, having the best information at their disposal, and being of an inquiring turn of mind, would not unanimously pass .such a resolution without very good ground. Such testimony should carry far greater weight than letters written by well-meaning persons belonging to temperance organizations, who have had no practical experience of whether it would be wise or unwise to abolish military canteens.

Senator Fraser - Could that opinion carry more weight than the view of Congress? Surely not.

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