ABUSES OF THE COMPANY SYSTEM
ON the subject of the abuses which have arisen from time
to time in the ' company' system of licensing, I quote the
following from an article on ' The Liquor Traffic in Sweden
and Norway,' by Mr. W. E. Johnson, published in The New
Voice (Chicago), April 12, 1900:
When it became noised abroad that one could not sell spirituous
liquor unless he was a ' philanthropist,' a great crop of
this species sprang up all over Sweden. In a multitude of
cases these gentlemen were nothing but old-time rum-sellers
or local politicians. This philanthropist nuisance has been
threshed out over and over again in the Swedish Diet ever
since the year 1873, when the Bolag was just coming into
notice. Finally, the scandal became so unbearable that,
in 1893, the Diet adopted an address to the King, asking
that he advise measures to check the multiplying abuses
of the philanthropists. But the difficulty lay in the fact
that the King was a philanthropist himself, and had a big
grog establishment in his own cellar.
On May 4, 1894, the doings of the philanthropists were made
the subject of a committee report in the Diet, in which
the chairman, Baron Bonde, reviewed some of the cases of
A number of philanthropists had been (as a company) renting
property from themselves (as individuals) at an exorbitant
In some cases the Bolag had rented the cellars of town halls
or other unused municipal property, in order that the town
could swallow up a disproportionate share of the profits.
The philanthropists at Skofde were paying 9,000 kronor for
property which they did not want, and which they sublet
for 50 cents on the dollar.
According to the investigations made by the committee, some
of the Bolags consisted of but a single philanthropist;
while in other cases the good man took in his book-keeper
or bar-tender as a partner, so that he would not be lonesome.
Fourteen of the Bolags had but three shareholders, one of
which was the Bolag at Gefle, a city of 25,000 inhabitants.
Of the eighty-seven Bolags then in existence, twenty-one
were joint-stock companies, while the other sixty-six were
ordinary trading companies under the Swedish law.
Of these trading companies, one-third was composed of not
more than three philanthropists, and two-thirds of them
had less than eight.
The directors of the Bolags at Kalmar, Oskarshamn, and Karlshamn
were being paid a commission of from 6 to 10 per cent, on
At Ronneby the chairman of the board of directors of the
philanthropic Bolag received 800 kronor per year, and a
commission of 2 per cent, on all sales.
At Stromstad the chairman got 500 kronor per year and 5
per cent, of the net profits.
At Skara the manager was given a comfortable salary of 2,000
kronor and 10 per cent, of all net profits exceeding 20,000
At Marstrand the manager was paid a certain amount on each
The manager at Vestervik received a salary and commission
based on the cost of liquor sold.
Some of the directors had arranged to pay for the
liquors with their private cheques, and were receiving a
' discount,1 or ' commission,1 or ' interest.'
Some of the companies retained a part of the profits, which
they used as capital stock, and then collected a dividend
on the capital stock.
Forty-seven of the Bolags were renting their premises from
the municipality at an exorbitant rental.
Corrupt juggling of rentals by the philanthropists were
developed at Sodertlege, Norrkoping, Vexio, Skara, and Vimmeroy.
The philanthropists at Norrtlege, Enkoping, Ljungby, Eslof,
Kongelf, and Lund peddled out to saloon-keepers all their
licenses, thus becoming merely monopolist brokers of permits
to sell liquor.
One of the Bolags was found to be renting all of its premises
from one of the shareholders.
Some of the companies compelled the manager to provide his
own premises and recoup himself by a commission.
Thirty-four of the Bolags had peddled out all their bar
licenses, retaining only the bottle trade.
Different Bolags paid different prices for the same stuff.
' Commissions' and ' rake offs' were openly discussed.
The Bolag philanthropists were sending agents and canvassers
into the Prohibition districts to dispose of their goods.
Some of the philanthropists sold liquor cheaper at Christmas-time
in order to stimulate trade. . . .
The crookedness of the philanthropists in the operation
of their Bolags resulted in the law passed by the Diet in
1895, in which the town councils were forbidden to entrust
their liquor business to Bolags having less than twelve
stockholders. The dividends were limited to 5 per cent.,
the sending out of agents and canvassers was forbidden,
the payment of commissions to managers was prohibited, and
the practice of renting premises from interested parties
was legislated against.
DRUNKENNESS DECLINES: IMMORALITY INCREASES
Dr. Ernst Almquist, Professor of Hygiene at Stockholm, in
a paper contributed to the HygienischenRundschauon the temperance
movement, declared himself in favour of' absolute abstinence,'
but explained that by an absolute abstainer he meant a person
who took beverages which did not contain more than 1 per
cent, of alcohol. In concluding his paper, the professor
said he was bound to admit that, among the various stimulants
which had been indulged in by the human race, alcohol must
certainly be regarded as a ' mild' one, and he thought it
would be in the highest degree unfortunate if alcohol were
to be exchanged for some other form of stimulant, such as
morphia. He continued :
' There are already signs pointing in this direction. Some
persons who leave off alcohol become slaves to other vices
which are no better. The greatest danger which threatens
the Northern people at the present moment is increasing
unchastity. In provinces which have experienced a perceptible
decline in drunkenness there has been a rapid increase in
immorality. The latter, of course, cannot be attributed
merely to a misuse of alcohol, though from the point of
view of health and working power it does at least as much
harm as alcohol.'
'FRUITS OF FANATICISM' IN NORWAY
In an article published in the Munchener Nuesten Nachrichten
in 1905, on the results
of the teetotal movement in Norway, it was stated:
' There is no room whatever for doubt that the shortsighted
policy of the prohibitionists has had the effect of bringing
about, to an extraordinary extent, the abuse, alike in public
and in private, of morphia. An unmistakable indication of
this tendency is offered by the generally recognised fact
that, as the direct result of the stricter administration
of the laws controlling the sale of alcohol among the labouring
classes, there has been a striking increase in the consumption
of ether; and the question has on several occasions been
considered whether greater restrictions should not be imposed
on the dealers holding concessions from the State who sell
large quantities of ether, under the popular designation
of " naphtha," more especially on the weekly pay-days
of the workers. Reflective persons, versed in social politics,
will find here a new proof of the old experiencethat
to seek to overcome national habits by force is, generally
speaking, equivalent to driving out the devil with the help
' In regard, also, to the consumption of morphia, various
measures have been proposed; but it is generally considered
that they cannot be enforced if the people are resolved
not to observe them. No less would be the difficulty of
fighting the evil by administrative action; for in the immediate
vicinity of the shops recognised by the law there are dens
the occupants of which, carrying on the business in secrecy,
know well how to evade the authorities. Some of these individuals
even have a Staff of agents whose sole occupation consists
in pandering to the cravings of the morphia-loving public,
either in the capital or in the provinces. This illicit
business is generally conducted with the help of large wholesale
firms in other countries especially Englandand
those engaged in it vie with one another in the subterfuges
they resort to in order to get the morphia into the country
without attracting attention.'
THE COMPANY SYSTEM IN FINLAND
Some results of the company system in Finland, where local
' philanthropists' have taken charge of the liquor traffic
in the towns on the usual basis of 5 per cent, for the shareholders
and devotion of net profits to public purposes, with an
especially strict control of the sales, are thus described
in an article published during 1904 in the Tageszeitung
fur Brauerei, in regard to the conditions at Tammerfors,
where there is a population of 40,000 persons, including
25,000 who belong to the working class :
' The people drink denaturalized spirit. The very smell
of it should be enough; those who must take it may regard
themselves as put to the rack. Here, in Tammerfors, it is
Consumed in large quantities. Even French polish ("
Politurlack") is resorted to, and this not infrequently,
so that numbers of persons who have drunk either the denaturalized
spirit or the polish go to the hospitals for treatment on
account of severe stomach ailments. But, as I learn from
a medical man, most of the sufferers try to conceal the
fact of their indulgence in such unnatural drinks. Consequently,
there is often much difficulty in diagnosing their condition,
and it happens not seldom that death is the result. When
one hears all these things, one can only deplore in the
strongest degree the rigorous laws by which such difficulties
are placed in the way of obtaining ordinary alcoholic beverages.'