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Sly grog selling: a very common practice

The Geelong Advertiser criticised liquor laws: ‘Sly grog selling is a crime in the bush, but the same practice, differing only in name, is respectable and honourable enough in town and city’.

13 November 1852
Published Source
Australian National Dictionary Centre, The Gold Rushes and Australian English: a resource for researchers, teachers and students, Australian National University, 2005, http://www.anu.edu.au/andc/res/aus_words/gold/index.php. Details
This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.


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EDITORIAL SLY GROG SELLING, is a very quaint appellation for a very common practice, engendered by bad laws, cherished by prospects of great gain, and undeterred by summary conviction and heavy mulcts. Regarded by the law as illegal, it is looked upon by the many as a necessity, fraught with much evil, yet administering crookedly to the public wants. Its slyness is a characteristic forced upon it by the anomaly manifested by the present regulations for the sale of spirituous liquors. Sly grog selling is a crime in the bush, but the same practice, differing only in name, is respectable and honourable enough in town and city, where bricks and mortar consecrate the calling which is stigmatized and made punishable among stringy-bark and gum trees. A locality creates a crime, and is supposed to transmogrify wants and appetites—the inhabitants of a town, surrounded with comfort, may drink to his heart’s content, but the denizen of the bush, battling with every discomfort, and exposed to the vicissitudes of weather, must be debarred the use of spirituous liquors. Sly grog selling! What hypocrisy must have existed in the god-fathers and god-mothers who gave it that name. I wonder if those who made the law to punish the crime of its own erection ever drank. Some of the legislators of old—if books tell truly—were mighty wine bibbers, and some of our modern legislators in this colony are present admirers of "Martell’s best." Several of our justices of the peace can, and do take their "cold without," like peaceable Christian men. Our commissioners can crack a bottle right merrily, and smack their lips with a loving gusto. The police do take their nobblers, after the current colonial custom—that is, rapidly and without winking. All are permitted to drink except gold diggers, whose avocation and nature are supposed not to require it, and who, as a class, are to be drilled into tee-totalism, and water men, by act of Council, so that they may become a pure, model race, and an example to all other classes of the community, illustrative of morality and heavy taxation. Sly! the law makes it so. The grog seller in the bark hut pays as much to the Government as the retail spirit merchants of the town—true, he charges enormously, but then, his calling is doubly hazardous,{"} and he insures himself against the £50 fine and seizure. A sly grog seller is an enterprising bush spirit merchant, a purveyor of comforts to a tabooed race—and the best and only means to suppress it, is to legalise the traffic, and afford to the diggers the same facilities for the procuration of comforts, as those which are enjoyed by townspeople, which could be done by leasing a few stores on the diggings, for the sale of spirituous liquors, or permitting the erection of an inn in the locality. Without a change of this sort, sly grog selling will be as rife as ever—informers will flourish, and grog-shops be cherished by the very men paid to suppress them, but who regard them as a source of revenue, and luxuriate in the prospect of participating in fines and seizures. A great risk for la arge [large] profit is incentive enough to induce many to embark in the trade, which, if legalized, would be openly carried on, and the obloquy being removed, the business would pass into other hands, and be trausacted [transacted] like any other occupation, and thus a healthy reform be worked in a trade which neither fine or [sic] imprisonment can suppress. Geelong Advertiser, 13 November 1852