Prohibition

Prohibition

Was the Prohibition amendment in the United States a failure. This broadcast discusses the distortion of this act and demonstrates that the positive effects of prohibition on society were not brought out.
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One of the most distorted subjects in all the world is that of prohibition years in America. When reporters and writers refer to those years between 1920 and 1933, they always use some sort of derogatory terms in describing it. The idea that those years were a dark period in American life, a disgraceful time that no one would wish to see repeated, is practically a universal idea and opinion. Since the 18th Amendment of the Constitution was repealed, a new generation has grown up under the delusion that most undesirable conditions prevailed during those thirteen years because of the Federal Prohibition Law.

Now, friends, Hitler worked ruthlessly on the principle that if you tell a lie, make it big and repeat it often, the majority of people will believe it. Representatives of the liquor industry have adopted this method, also, and have been as ruthless in repeating it. The youth of America have been thoroughly brainwashed with this propaganda which has been spread by every medium of mass communication from public speeches, radio and television, the theater, to the press, all of them. Prohibition was a failure, they say over and over again. They declare that it was a product of hysteria at the time of World War I, and that it was sprung on the nation suddenly before people realized what it would mean.

Was prohibition really a failure, friends? Was American life made worse by that regime? If so, was the failure moral, social, economic, or political? Authentic records available to everyone reveal what conditions really prevailed during those years. Some are government departmental reports on file in the vaults; others are in libraries all over the land. From these records we find that prohibition was not a sudden result of war hysteria. Although not in favor of prohibition, Supreme Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote these words: "It is sheer caricature to convey the impression that the 18th Amendment came like a thief in the night. Prohibition was a culmination of fifty years of continuous effort." All right, friends, that's what he said, and after many years of temperance effort by individual states the movement for a Federal prohibition law gathered momentum about 1917. Before April of that year, 26 states had adopted prohibition laws. This wave of prohibition victories began with the people's conviction that whatever is contrary to general welfare should not be licensed by the government. The United States Supreme Court supported this conviction in a long series of decisions. Among them we find this declaration: "There is no inherent right in a citizen to sell intoxicating liquors." That's what the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Crowley vs. Christianson. Also, the repulsiveness of the saloon was turning public sentiment against the liquor traffic. Those who entered saloons did so at the risk of their reputations.

Reports from various states of increasing prosperity and a substantial rise in the standard of living under state prohibition led to a feeling that a policy as beneficial as that ought to be made a national benefit. The revelation of corruption in the nationally organized liquor trade created a feeling that since the traffic would not accept local control, the control should be made national. Five months before the United States entered the war, and more than a year before any American boys were at the front, a resolution prohibiting the sale, manufacture, transportation, importation, and exportation for sale of intoxicating liquors was passed by the lower House of Congress. On the day this Amendment was submitted to the Senate, Senator Sherman of Illinois made a speech in which he said, "A business whose system is lawlessness and whose finished product is a drunkard ought to have no lawful abiding place in this republic." That's in the Congressional Record, by the way. The United States Congress elected in 1916 had a dry majority long before this country entered into the first world war. The Prohibition Amendment was submitted in a tide of enthusiasm and adopted by a majority vote of more than two-to-one in the House of Representatives and by three-to-two in the Senate. Twenty-six states readily ratified it. Now these facts are adequate to answer the charge that prohibition was a product of war hysteria put over on the American people while the boys were away. There is an abundance of further proof which anybody can obtain.

Whether or not it proved to be a failure may also be determined, friends. Many people declare that prohibition increased crime and did not decrease drinking. Any law that imposes a penalty for its violation increases crime in that category, of course, for there are always law breakers in varying numbers. Because the law against murder is often broken, should it be repealed? The prohibition law displaced regulatory measures affecting the liquor industry, no doubt about it. These measures had been violated; consequently, law violation was nothing new to brewers and liquor sales people. The effect of the prohibition law upon general crime may be found from both government records and the testimony of eminent men and women whose word is unimpeachable. The 1923 Census Volume, Prisoners, shows the commitments per 100,000 population in 1912 compared with 1923. After three years of prohibition, total commitments for all offenses showed a decrease of 37.7%. For drunkenness, 55.3%; disorderly conduct, 51.5%; vagrancy, 51.5%; assault, 53.1%. Now friends, that's what happened three years after prohibition went into effect. There was a significant drop in the number of offenders committed to prison.

America's best known criminologist at the time, Dr. George Kirchwey, who had been president of the American Institute of Criminal Law, Director of the National Society of Penal Information, and by the way, warden at Sing Sing Penitentiary, had this to say: "Let us take courage from the official record covering the 18 years, 1910 to 1927 inclusive, which shows a marked decline of from 35 to 40 percent in the general crime rate in the United States, and this notwithstanding the new crimes from liquor, drug, and traffic laws enacted since 1910." Now, friends, he said that the offenses of assault, fraud, vagrancy, prostitution, and larcency, the last and most common of serious offenses, had fallen off by 50% or more, and burglary by 10% or more. The U.S. Statistical Abstract for 1926 shows that commitments for drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and vagrancy dropped by 45 to 50 percent or more. In Connecticut, the arrests for assault and breech of peace dropped to less than one-third of what they had been, and those for vagrancy almost ceased entirely. In Kansas, jails in 68 counties were empty, and 73 counties had empty Alms houses.

Henry M. Lealand, President of Lincoln Motor Company during prohibition years, declared: "In Detroit the favorable effects of prohibition are apparent even to a blind man. And this is despite the fact that we are but across the river from wet Canada and have a large population accustomed to drinking liquor." House Document 722 records the words of a distinguished social worker who said the first six months of prohibition were like day after night, and the whole standard of living was raised. After those first months the condition was not so happy, because some of the people had begun to make moonshine liquor; but even so, there was not the general drunkenness seen before that time. A supervisor of nurses in Chicago said there probably was one-tenth as much drinking as before prohibition.

Well, prohibition was blamed for everything, everything undesirable, that is. Even the depression was dishonestly and shamelessly said to be the result of the 18th Amendment. The fact that was overlooked, of course, was that the depression was worldwide, and it came earlier to England and other countries that were not afflicted with prohibition. Neither was there any mention of the unprecedented prosperity during the earlier ten years of prohibition. Consistency was forgotten in the mass of accusations. Unemployment was blamed on prohibition, with the argument that if this law was repealed, the liquor business would give employment to a million men. At the same time, these propagandists said repeatedly that more liquor was being drunk than before the law was enacted. If that were true, more men must have been employed in producing and selling it.

One writer published the statement that more liquor was being consumed in America than in Europe. Then in the next paragraph stated that Europe was full of Americans who had fled from this dry Sahara to get liquor over there. Well, the wets argued that legalization of liquor would bring moderation in drinking and that attractive taverns would encourage respectability and refinement. However, one important fact was not mentioned, the intoxicating effect of alcohol is always the same regardless of where it is consumed. Well, the people grew tired of the political struggle and the constant fighting over the matter. The majority of those who had supported prohibition now acquiesced, but did not approve repeal. They stayed away from the polls. They had not lost faith in prohibition, they had lost faith in the purpose of the Federal government and its power of consistent enforcement.

Now consider the records of conditions since Repeal. Sanford Bates, Director of Federal prisons in 1935, told the House Appropriations Committee that in the first year of Repeal prison population increased by 25% and the increase of crime was beyond any estimate. Federal Judge Hopkins declared that Repeal appeared to have increased bootlegging to a scale hitherto unknown. In 1950 the Chairman of the Special Senate Committee to Investigate Crime made the following statement to a section of the American Bar Association: "Without fear of contradiction I say that the evil influences and corruption brought about by the racketeers of today in many of our large cities made the corruption of prohibition days look like kindergarten play."

Well, friends, the proportion of individuals who drink alcoholic beverages has increased substantially in the past five years. Sixty-eight percent of the American people drink. A three-state survey discovered that 45% of fourth graders were current users of alcohol. Dr. George Thompson of the University of Southern California School of Medicine says: "Alcoholism is a growing problem, not because Americans are drinking more, but because more Americans are drinking."

The American annual expenditure for alcoholic beverages is now over 46 billion dollars. The number of alcoholics produced here in one year is 600,000, and the total number as far as can be ascertained is about 10 million. Caring for these alcoholics costs our society about 43 billion dollars a year, which is far more than all liquor revenues put together. Racketeers and bootleggers are numerous. Massachusetts alone takes in more than one billion dollars annually, according to a report by the State Crime Commission.

An issue of the journal, TAP AND TAVERN, stated that in one year 10,000 illegal stills were confiscated, and illegal operators sold nearly one gallon of bootleg spirits to every four legally purchased. Arrests for drunkenness are now at an all time high. Crime has increased 11 times faster than our population, and people still think that prohibition was a failure. My friends, Dr. Thompson informs us that some judges maintain alcohol is directly or indirectly behind as much as 90% of the crime in this country. The National Safety Council reports that drink-involved traffic fatalities now are the highest in our history. Special studies of drinking-driver accidents show the alcohol involvement figure at about 65% or higher.

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