The legal environment of Salmond’s time
What was the legal environment in New Zealand in 1906? What might John Salmond have found he needed to learn to appreciate the changes in New Zealand legal culture since he had departed for Adelaide in 1897? We can approach these questions by examining the number of different and sometimes interlocking aspects of the legal scene in the first few years of the twentieth century in New Zealand. However we need first to consider the New Zealand to which he was returning. This was a New Zealand which was enjoying renewed prosperity after the long depression of the 1890s, with very substantial population growth through migration and natural increase, and not a little proud of its status as a laboratory for social and political reform. It is the era of Richard Seddon – “King Dick” and the beginning of “God’s own country” – but even more it is the country working through the effects of great social and political experiments – female suffrage, inaugurating a system of industrial conciliation and arbitration, and the being the first state to grant to its older citizens [at least those not of Asian descent] an old age pension. These developments all reflect a strong belief in many quarters of society in an activist state rather than individualism. Other social issues remained in contention – especially the question of control of the liquor trade and whether majorities of citizens should be able to enforce prohibition within their districts. These issues took up a substantial space in both parliamentary and judicial agendas.