It was 100 years ago on January 17, 1920 that Prohibition officially went into effect. It was the day the production, transport and sale of alcohol became illegal in the United States though the Amendment never made consumption illegal. The only way for consumers to acquire legal alcohol was via a prescription written by their doctor.
Prohibition never really stopped the production of alcohol it just drove it underground to the bootleggers, gangsters and organized crime. As the nations supply of legal spirits dried up the bootleggers became heroes to those looking to buy booze.
As the dry years went by and the country fell into the great depression it was clear the Noble Experiment was a failure. One of the most notable failures of Prohibition was the considerable tax dollars that were once being legally collected suddenly dried up and went into the pockets of the mobsters. The politicians of the day knew there was one sure way to get votes. Support the repeal of Prohibition, get people back to work and get legally made spirits and tax dollars flowing again.
While running for president of the United States in 1932 then Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt made it clear, he supported the repeal of the 18th Amendment. At the same time, the Prohibition Party made it clear that liquor was still the root of all evil and should never return to the open market. Watch this video to hear what several of ‘The Drys’ of the day had to say about distilled spirits.
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The 1932 Prohibitionist Party Convention Video Excerpts
Here are the transcripts from portions of the Dry Convention of 1932.
William D. Upshaw 1932 Presidential Candidate for the National Prohibitionist Party
“I charge the wets with being unfair and anything but square shooters on this proposition. If they want, if they wish, to repeal the 18th Amendment to the Constitution the way is clear. Let them do like we drys did when we put the 18th Amendment in the Constitution.” Shout out from the crowd, “Now you’re talking”.
“I was honored four years ago by being offered the presidential nomination of this party but declined it in order that I might not divide the dry vote in pivotal states. But now, since both the Republican and the Democratic conventions have betrayed the 18th Amendment which was wrapped in prayer and enacted in constitutional majesty, this convention of real Drys is an absolute necessity in honor that we may keep prohibition conscience on top.”
Canon William Chase, Champion of Prohibition
“The issue before this country is moral. That immorality has affected the economic and the political system. The trouble with the 18th Amendment is not that it cannot be enforced. But it is that there has grown up and alliance between organized crime and the corrupt political system.”
Clinton N. Howard Chairman of the 1932 National Prohibition Convention
“Least they tell us Mr. Chairman that they do not want the return of the saloon. What do they want? They say we want beer. My friends if you bring back beer you bring back the bar. If you bring back the bar, you have the saloon. The same old institutions with the flag over the door, with the license on the wall, with the sawdust on the floor, with bar lines of the boys and the bums spending their money, debauching their characters, rotting their bodies and jeopardizing their immortal souls.
The curse of the cradle, the nightmare of the marriage alter, the vulture of human society, the populator of the cemetery, the wild beast of our boasted Christian civilization, untamed and untamable, unwashed and unwashable, uncivilized and uncivilizeable, unmuzzled wherever licensed upon the highways of city, state and nation scattering physical mental and moral hydrophobia among the people. Leaping upon our little children. Driving its poisonous fags into the heart and brain and blood of our young men. Stealing the roses from the cheeks and the virtue from the hearts of our daughters. Disappointing the hopes of our fathers. Breaking the hearts of our mothers. Destroying our homes. Corrupting our politics. Making cowards of our policemen and perjurers of our public officers. And spiting with the lepers that perdition at the gate of every city and the foundation of every state. That’s what it was and that’s what it will be again.”
What is Hydrophobia?
hydrophobia[ hahy-druh-foh-bee-uh ] – An irrational or abnormal fear of water, to drink or to swim in.
Miss George Nye the Quaker Evangelist of Madison, Wisconsin
“The great people of the United States of America are out exhibiting their menagerie. The Republican Party has paraded the elephant around the ring and fed him so much booze that already his stomach is contracting and he’s about to lie down with a belly ache.
The Democrat Party is parading the jackass around the ring and fed him so much booze that he’s liable to lie down in a drunken stupor.
The Prohibition Party has always fed the goat on pure green grass and cold water. And now my slogan is, ‘Fire, fire, fire, I smell smoke. Get on the water wagon, hitch the hoes to the goat’”
Prohibitionist Party Candidate 2004 and 2008
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder than Miss Nye. While doing a little research for this story I discovered that in 2004 there was a revival of sorts of the Prohibitionist Party. Yes, it turns out that in the Washington state, the home to more than 100 distilleries there lives a man on an island that was running for President of the United States in 2004 for the Prohibitionist Party.
Gene Amondson – The Face of Prohibition Party in 2004 and 2008.
“I’m going to fight booze until hell freezes over, and then I’m going to buy a pair of ice skates and fight it some more,” he boomed in a lyrical staccato. “Men and women, I challenge you! Get on the water wagon and let’s fight this dirty business!”
The candidate’s platform: “Vote Dry!” His slogan: “Prohibition was America’s best 13 years!” His chances of winning the presidency as the candidate of the new breakaway faction of the Prohibition Party: about as good as a repeal of Repeal.*
Roosevelt Elected President in a 1932 Landslide
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in November 1932 by a landslide garnering 57.41% percent of the vote. Once in office in 1933 President Roosevelt was quick to move on his promise to get the U.S. economy moving again which included the repeal of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition became the law of the land on December 5, 1933.
And with that, let’s raise a glass. Responsibly of course. Cheers!
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*Source: New York Times October 1, 2004