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The White Swan Four

In 1915 regulations on drinking were introduced on a town by town basis up and down the country. These regulations included restricted opening hours and the banning – I kid you not – of buying a round. The ostensible reason was to get munitions workers to show up for work on time.

One of the very first – if not the first – hostelry to fall foul of the new regulations was The Swan in New Lane. Annie Hives, the landlady and three customers were all charged and found guilty of various breaches of the regulations. She had committed the heinous crime of serving alcohol after 9.30pm – without demanding payment, I might add – and they, the heinous crime of drinking it. Mrs Hives was fined 35 guineas in total which by my reckoning was about half a year’s pay for a working man on a good wage.

New Lane is now known as New Row and The Swan appears to have been renamed The White Swan. That’s good enough for me and it’s good enough for Michael Jennings. We’ll be revisiting the scene of the crime to toast the memory of the White Swan Four – as they weren’t known – at 9.31 (or thereabouts) on Monday. Please feel free to join us.

The Times 8 January 1916 p3

The Times 8 January 1916 p3

14 comments to The White Swan Four

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    I will try to be there.

    It will be interesting to see if the people running the White Swan now know anything about this vile episode. If not, it will be fun telling them.

  • CaptDMO

    Gosh, in the US, (some) employers were BANNED from offering higher competitive wages to ensure
    a productive workforce. “Fairness”…or something.
    And so the employer “health care” meme, now obligatory by Gub’mint in SOME circles, was born.
    (as WELL as “minimum” wage, regardless of merit/liability)

  • Paul Marks

    Demented regulations – but Patrick is telling the truth, the regulations were as stupid as this.

    It was an odd cross between general statism (on the rise everywhere in the world – with the war as a excuse, excuse as statism had been on the rise before the war) and a twisted form of nonconformist religion.

    The old voluntarist tradition of the early 19th century (the Leeds Mercury people and so) had long collapsed into statism – to the imposition of morality by force.

    A total contradiction – as if something is forced (if it is not a matter of choice) it can not be moral.

    “The Bondage Of The Will” by Mr Luther (which claims that we have no choice over our actions) being nonsense.

    And evil nonsense at that – the sort of thing that had become very fashionable in Germany by 1914 (although stripped of a lot of its religious content). Mr Kant (who did not like determinism) was out of fashion – apart from in a socialist form.

    Britain had adopted a view of the state (and had been gradually adopted it long before the war) more in line with that of Frederick the Great.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course, being Britain (especially England) we adopted statism in a confused and muddled way.

    The one true doctrine in Mr Luther’s war of words with Erasmus is that one can not adopt things half way (being half in and half out of a house is potty).

    Mr Luther’s target was the Roman Catholic Church – with its acceptance of Augustine but failure to accept the determinist consequences of Augustine (and Mr Luther was quite correct – one either accepts Augustine or one does not accept him, determinism and all).

    But it is just as true of statism.

    The random interventions of the British government did not even achieve the short term gains that statism can achieve (at the expense of the long term).

    The Germans destroyed all freedom during the war (the elite had hated freedom even before the war) – War Socialism was all the rage.

    Of course if Germany was to LOSE the war this would leave Germany utterly destitute and starving. As it had bet everything on winning – and being able to loot Europe.

    But that could be blamed on the British blockade – Rothbardians are still blaming Britain for the consequences of German statism. Thus ignoring such works as Ludwig Von Mises’ “Nation, State and Economy” which showed the folly of German statism – at least if one has a time perspective greater than one battle or campaign.

    If one takes the war as a whole it is French industry that has good performance – astonishing considering that many of the traditional industrial regions of France were occupied by the Germans (the people being used as slave labour).

    I do not believe the French really went in for detailed regulations on regulations – but I may be mistaken.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way the random interventionism of the British government continued AFTER the war.

    For example the British government (almost on a whim) destroyed many aircraft companies – with retrospective “war profits taxes”.

    There as no plan to this – no real objective.

    It was just random interventionism – as interventions are on this island.

    The Germans at least have a plan (an objective) when they do terrible things.

  • Veryretired

    While I am in awe of Paul’s remarkable ability to trace these cultural currents back through the swirl of historical trends, let’s not forget that these “social improvement” types were very much in the mainstream of the progressive movement, which never saw any problem with minutely focussed ordinances to improve the less enlightened.

    The Prohibition movement in the U.S was one of the earliest campaigns in which the political and religious arms of the social reformers joined together to legislate a better life for all, whether you wanted it or not.

    For most of the last century, the main church groups enthusiastically supported the state taking over the various charitable, medical, and educational functions that churches had performed for centuries, until now they are faced with an overtly hostile state, which no longer has to pretend to any consideration of their doctrinal limitations, and half empty, listless congregations, many of whom desert them for some more rewarding religious experience.

    One of the major reasons so many Christians are born again is that traditional churches committed spiritual suicide decades ago, when they became little more than cheering sections for the latest state program to save whoever needed to be saved from something that week.

    People talk about how money corrupts politics, or religion corrupts politics, as if politics were some virgin stream, and these other social elements were the toad in the lunch basket.

    In fact, and it is a painfully obvious fact to anyone not willfully blinded, it is the venality and power lust inherent in politics which corrupts anything and everything it touches.

    In any case one can imagine, less political interference equals a better, cleaner, more efficient process leading to genuine solutions, instead of the endless political tinkering over any so-called “crisis” which only enriches and empowers the corrupt and incompetent pols and their cronies.

    (Extra credit for the movie reference, even if it’s pretty obvious).

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Gee, Capt., didn’t Ford start up by offering higher wages to his workers? Wouldn’t he have been fined by the state for running a successful business?

  • Mr Ed

    ‘Position under the new order”, a far-sighted article!

  • Mr Ed

    the banning – I kid you not – of buying a round.

    I used to work with a bloke who must have thought that was still in force, whenever we went to the pub, he’d find a shoelace undone as he got to the door, if that failed, he’d go and get a table, or pop to the loo. We ended up calling him the Gerbil, as gerbils produce hardly any urine by extracting so much water from their urine that they produce a sort of paste, so you can’t get a drink out of them.

  • The last time I was in Paris, I took the kids (teenagers then) to the boulangerie early one morning to purchase our breakfast croissants. On the way, we passed a bar, at which sat several men drinking wine. The kids, being American, were shocked but amused by the sight, and still more so when in answer to the question, “Have they been there all night?” I responded, “Perhaps, or else they’re just getting a drink in before going to work.”

    I myself have never felt the need for a breakfast cocktail (a single Bucks Fizz for brunch is about my limit), but who am I to deny that other people may need one?

    The only relaxing of the drinking laws that I deplore is that of the recent development of allowing children into bars — Christ, having snotnoses running around my pub is enough to drive one to drink.

  • Richard Thomas

    I only got to participate in lock-ins a few times and it seems kind of sad to see an end to them (unless they live on in some form?)

  • llamas

    @ Richard Thomas – actually, the 1915 Act created the venerable English tradition of the ‘lock-in’. Mrs Hive’s offence was that she served alcohol and allowed drinking to take place on the licensed premises after hours. In theory, under the 1915 and subsequent licensing Acts, it was unlawful to serve or consume any alcohol on licensed premises outside licensing hours, regardless of the circumstances – how obtained, or how paid for, was immaterial, it was the acts of serving and/or consumption that were unlawful.

    The ‘lock-in’ developed in response to this, using various theories that closing the doors and/or not taking payment for drinks served somehow converted the licensed premises to a private club or private home, or that moving drinkers out of the ‘public’ areas of the pub into ‘private’ areas got around the law. Although test cases showed that these various theories would not survive a prosecution, the ‘lock-in’ became a tolerated activity as long as it did not become a nuisance. Back in the day, the licensing mags would consider all police reports regarding licensed premises, regardless of hours, and a publican who allowed lock-ins that became obvious or rowdy would find his license in jeopardy.

    As I understand it, there are no more ‘licensing hours’ a publican can open 24 hours if he wishes, and so the reason for the old-school lock-in has gone away.

    See, I knew law school would come in handy.



  • Paul Marks

    Veryretired is quite correct – as he normally is.

    Prohibition (rightly considered absurd by the French) was not just supported by “Billy Sunday” types (as the left would have us believe) – but by all the leading “Social Reformers” of the time (including the atheist ones).

    As for the “mainstream” Churches cutting their own throats by supporting statism (worshipping the government – rather than God), yes indeed they have.

    This includes the Roman Catholic Church (the largest).

    The proudly independent Church that ran a vast network of its own schools and hospitals (all paid for voluntarily in the United States) has collapsed into cheer leaders for the government.

    Then they wonder why the vast government they supported creating – TURNS ON THEM.

    Collectivism can not tolerant a large independent Church – the Roman Catholic Church should have learned that at the time of the French Revolution, but it seems they did not.

    Or perhaps they have drawn the wrong lesson from previous collectivist movements.

    “Even only we had supported them they would have liked us…..”.

    Senator Rubio is going to have a big problem if the establishment gets its way and he is the Republican candidate.

    One can not be a loyal follower of Pope Francis (a person utterly committed to statism) and be a supporter of the Free Market. Of course I hope that Pope Francis changes his mind and leads a counter revolution in his Church – but till then…..

    This cicle can not be squared.

    And say that with no hostility to Roman Catholics what-so-ever – indeed I am heart broken at the mistake their Church has made by getting into an alliance with Big Government.

    An alliance that Big Government does not respect – hence the way the American government is back stabbing the Catholic Church in so many ways now.

  • Veryretired

    I was going to comment earlier, but I was re-watching Mel Brooks “The Producers”, so any serious thoughts were nearly impossible.

    Marxism, in its essence, and all its many derivative formulations, is basically a Christian heresy pretending to be some kind of secular, scientific social theory for the modern era. One of its most powerful elements is the theocratic nature of its call for absolute equality in a communally sharing utopia that will arise on earth when everyone has joined the collective.

    Progressives formed alliances with churches when it was to their advantage, and the policy under consideration was something charitable, or seemingly to the advantage of the many blue collar immigrant laborers whose families filled the churches and schools. The churches had the moral standing the progressives desired, and the progs promised social legislation that would allow the churches to enact their desires for the poor into law, and pay for it with taxes.

    It is not hard to understand why both sides thought this was a great alliance against social ills.

    As the churches had done for centuries, they assumed they could use moral suasion to control the political forces. What they didn’t understand about this Faustian bargain was that part of the progressive strategy over the long term was to remake the ethical landscape, and by changing the ethical rules society at large based their decisions upon, cast the churches into the unaccustomed role of moral pariahs.

    It is interesting to consider the current progressive dalliance with Islam, including jihadist factions, in light of their past co-option of Christianity’s social role in the west. It is very probable that the international prog elites, having divorced themselves from any but nominal support for Western cultural values, believes it can use Islam to construct a total theocratic entity which it can then control as it has Christianity.

    This fantasy is seriously flawed, and unworkable, as so many prog theories are, but will cause enormous damage before it finally collapses.

    Any of those in Europe or Britain who still believe the welcoming of the ongoing Islamic invasion by the elites is some form of misguided multi-cultural project fueled by true compassion for the plight of refugees will not be able to maintain this magical state of mind much longer.

    You have accepted a viper into your bosom, and Islam is the venom.