“Let me treat you to a drink”


February 16, 1909

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

On  February 16, 1909 the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on a sermon given by Archbishop Michael Francis Howley, the Catholic Archbishop of St. John’s.  The newspaper account reported that “Archbishop Howley occupied the pulpit in the Cathedral” and spoke about establishing a League to be called the “Anti Treating League.”

The name chosen for the organization refers to the established practice and “habit of inviting each other to drink which is called “treating.”  We know it today in the expression “let me treat you to a drink.”

It was Archbishop Howley’s hope that this new organization

 “will have the practical effect in preventing excesses in the use of intoxicating drinks and encouraging sobriety and moderation, and the practice of the virtue of Temperance.

Archbishop Howley proposed that members of the Anti Treating League would pledge themselves “not to take from anyone a drink of intoxicating liquor in a place where such liquors are sold.

In short you could drink but no treating!!

The attempt by the Archbishop to curb drinking was not the only attempt to address the issue of excessive drink.  At The Rooms Provincial Archives records establish that as early as 1675 the  government  was keeping an account of the names of suppliers of liquor and wines to the inhabitants of Newfoundland.

The  Anti Treating League was established but many were deaf to the message of the Archbishop.  The year following the establishment of the League the number of Roman Catholics confined to the Police Station for being drunk was 430.  The number confined for being drunk and disorderly was 299.  He was not amused!

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese:  Howley’s Circular Letter – December 27, 1908: The Anti Treating League.

Recommended Reading: Rumrunners: The Smugglers from St. Pierre and Miquelon and the Burin Peninsula from Prohibition to Present Day.  J. P. Andrieux; Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2009.