End of Prohibition in the United States.
NATIONAL Prohibition has less than three weeks to live. On Tuesday, December 5, the thirty-sixth State convention will ratify the Twenty-first Amendment, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment, which came into effect less than fourteen years ago, on January 16, 1920.
Repudiation of national Prohibition, since Congress submitted repeal to the States, has been amazingly swift, but the unexpected strength of drys in North and South Carolina on November 7 revealed in convincing manner that liquor sentiment in the United States is not completely wet, despite the headlong rush of thirty-seven States on the repeal column. The repeal fight was safely won, however, with the elections of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah and Kentucky on November 7.
The Definite End to Prohibition
The pathway to national repeal is now clear. Speculation and forecasting is over. It has been ruled that not even a formal proclamation from Washington is necessary to bury the Eighteenth Amendment. All that remains is for Pennsylvania, Ohio and Utah to put their final seals on the pending amendment on December 5, and the first American experiment of national Prohibition is definitely ended.
Only eight and one-half months—288 days—will have elapsed between the submission of the Twenty-first Amendment to the States by Congress and its ratification by thirty-seven conventions. This does not set a record for speed, however, for the Twelfth Amendment was proposed and ratified in seven months and eighteen days.
But all is not so clear after national repeal. For one thing, the United States will still be comparatively dry on December 5, for twenty-nine States have kept intact their own statutory or constitutional Prohibition. Repeal becomes effective for less than half the nation's total population, and then only under State regulation. Also, the status of liquor among a majority of the States is a crazy-quilt of laws that will require months and even years to unravel. Only eleven States have adopted new liquor-control laws effective December 5, and no new Federal-control laws can be expected until after Congress convenes on January 3.
What repeal does do is to close definitely an era of experimentation with national prohibition of alcohol, and to open a new era of experimentation with State regulation. The responsibility that was shouldered upon the Federal Government in 1920 has been thrown back upon the forty-eight States to share individually. The John Barleycorn that was buried with such solemn obsequies in 1920 comes back next month—but in changed appearance and new form. Fourteen hectic years of bath-tub gin, cocktails, speak-easies, and new tastes and habits developed by the radio, movies, automobiles and foreign travel, have wrought significant changes in the American attitude toward drinking. Regulation on a high plane has become the order of the new day.
The repeal movement gained such momentum during the summer that both wet and dry leaders were swept off their feet. The swiftness with which State after State ratified the amendment surprized even the most optimistic of the wets, who, a year ago, thought they were being unduly reckless by predicting the end of Prohibition by 1935. A few weeks ago it began to appear doubtful that even one State would put up a dry protest. Actually, while there is no question of the certainty of repeal, it is by a rather slim margin that it becomes effective in the calendar year 1933. Two more dry States out of the thirty-nine would have blocked ratification for this year, as no other States have elections scheduled until well into 1934.
How the temperament of the American public has changed since the breakdown of national Prohibition became apparent is shown in the following facts:
Thirty-seven States have voted for and two States have voted against repeal since April 3, when Michigan began the roll-call with a heavy wet majority. Each of the thirty-seven repeal States will have formally ratified the Twenty-first Amendment by December 6, the date of the last State convention.
Twenty-nine States will still be dry, sixteen because of statutory Prohibition and thirteen because of constitutional provision, altho last-minute action by some States before December 5 may alter this alinement.
Less Than Half
Approximately 57,000,000 persons, less than half the total population, reside in the nineteen States which will have liquor after repeal.
The nine States which have not yet voted on repeal contain only about 14.500.000 persons. The thirty-seven repeal States contain approximately 105.000.000 persons, or more than 80 per cent. of the total population. The two dry Carolinas represent almost 5,000,000 persons.
Seventy-seven per cent. of the States have voted repeal, and three more States, Nebraska, Montana, and South Dakota, will definitely vote on national repeal in 1934.
The approximate total popular vote for repeal in thirty-eight States has been 14,663,547 for and 5,269,131 against. (In Nevada, delegates were chosen at precinct mass meetings and county conventions, with no popular vote recorded.)
It is a significant indication of the intensity of American feeling concerning alcohol that the very amendment that was ushered in with a greater percentage of ratifying States than for the Constitution itself, should be decisively repudiated less than fourteen years later with an overwhelming expression of opinion. By the end of 1934 it is probable that the roll of States for repeal will in some measure approach the record number of forty-six States that ratified the Eighteenth Amendment.
The Constitution, it may be recalled, was ratified by 85 per cent. of the States; the Eighteenth Amendment by 96 per cent. The next highest constitutional vote was for the Fourteenth Amendment, with 83 per cent. ratifying. It would appear that liquor has unquestionably provided the livest constitutional topic since the formation of the Federal Government. This is the first time in American history that an amendment has been abrogated.
Up to the date of publication of this issue of THE LITERARY DIGEST (Nov 18, 1933), thirty-one States have both voted for repeal and ratified the pending amendment by conventions. As far as these States are concerned, national Prohibition is a thing of the past.
Six more States, including the four that voted on November 7, have voted for repeal, but have yet to ratify by convention. They are, with the dates of conventions: Texas and Kentucky, November 27; Pennsylvania, Ohio and Utah, December 5; Maine, December 6.
The entire nation will be watching on December 5 to see which State will be the thirty-sixth to ratify and thus make repeal effective. Utah's convention will convene at noon. Mountain time. The Pennsylvania convention is to assemble at Harrisburg at 1 p.m., Eastern time, and the Ohio convention at Columbus at the same hour. It is likely that a matter of mere minutes will decide which State ends Prohibition.
At the moment of writing, no provision has been made for a repeal vote in the States of Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma. Montana and Louisiana, however, will permit liquor to be sold after repeal because neither State has Prohibition. Utah repealed its State Prohibition law on November 7, but a constitutional provision will keep the State legally dry pending further action.
What will happen when repeal comes? Extreme drys, including the Rev. Dr. Christian F. Reisner, Methodist, of New York, and Mrs. Henry W. Peabody, of Washington, long ardent foes of liquor, have predicted wide-spread debauchery and untold harm to the country. Wets point out that repeal will be ushered in orderly, since liquor is legal in only nineteen States and then only by regulation. That there will be wide-spread jubilation is not to be denied, altho it has been admitted that the return of beer, even if it were only 3.2 per cent., has released much of the emotional excite- ment that would otherwise accompany com- plete repeal.
THE LITERARY DIGEST PROHIBITION POLLS
The first authoritative revelation of the strength of anti-prohibition sentiment in the United States was afforded by a nation-wide poll taken by The Literary Digest in 1922. The returns were:
For enforcement. ........... 306,253 (38.46%)
For modification. ........... 325,549 (40.88%)
For repeal. ................ 164,453 (20.66%)
Drys refused to accept the accuracy of this wet strength, for in those early prohibition days it was almost heretical to bring the liquor issue into the open. That the Digest poll was a true reflection of public sentiment, however, was further revealed in a second poll in 1930, the results of which were:
For enforcement. .......... 1,464,098 (30.46%)
For modification. .......... 1,399,314 (29.11%)
For repeal. ............... 1,943,052 (40.43%)
A third poll in 1932, posing the wet and dry question more directly, revealed decisively the anti-prohibition feeling and foretold authoritatively the overwhelming dry defeat of 1933. The results were;
For continuance. .......... 1,236,660 (26.49%)
For repeal. ............... 3,431,877 (73.51%)
Comparing our last prohibition poll with the official vote on repeal in thirty-nine States, we find the following:
Digest poll ...................... OfficialWet 3,166,454 (74.57%)...... 14,663,547 (73.57%)
Dry 1,079,744..................... 5,269,131
In computing the official figures, incomplete last- minute returns were used from the six States that voted November 7. At the time of going to press, however, relatively few precincts were missing. In the Digest poll of 1932, only North Carolina and Kansas were dry. This year, only North Carolina and South Carolina have voted dry, the latter by a slim majority. Kansas has not yet come to bat.
Post Prohibition Expectations
"Funerals" and "wakes" were held for John Barleycorn on the eve of ratification of the Prohibition amendment in 1920. Wets celebrated in subdued manner, while the drys were the ones who were elated. The tables will be turned in a couple of weeks. There will be no evangelists bringing coffins containing Barleycorn into churches (as the Rev. William "Billy" Sunday and others did fourteen years ago), but hotels and restaurants are looking forward joyously to what they hope will be good business. There is admittedly much concern among hotel keepers, however, lest liquor-control regulations will prohibit sales of hard liquor by the glass, thus preventing a return of the popular hotel bar.
Those States which had the foresight to begin studies of liquor control early, and which have already adopted regulations, are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Indiana. Commissions in four other States are at work studying control and special sessions of legislatures of four States are expected to take action before December 5. There will be a diversity of control systems, scarcely two States using the same methods.
Contrary to opinions expressed in some quarters, Attorney-General Homer S. Cummins has given an opinion that the Volstead Law will become automatically inoperative on repeal as far as the forty-eight States are concerned. The Volstead Law will remain in force, however, for the District of Columbia, Panama Canal Zone, Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands and Alaska until repealed by Congress. The only Federal laws applicable after repeal will be those levying import duties and internal revenue taxes, and the only added authority of the Twenty-first Amendment is to strengthen the intention of the Webb-Kenyon Act to protect dry States against interstate shipment of liquor.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspects of the liquor-control battle that is being waged in many States are the intensive efforts to eliminate the saloon and all elements of racketeering and bootlegging. Drastic legislation is being prepared by some commissions to bring liquor under government control, as in the Canadian system, altho the license system, whereby dealers are licensed by State authority, will be used to some extent. Social agencies are directing their efforts toward control of liquor by State monopolies, while both Federal and State authorities are strongly advising against high taxes. It is feared that too strict regulations and high taxes may force the average citizen to resort once more to cheap illicit liquor.
1920's PROHIBITION RESOURCES
Keeping Prohibition out of Party Platforms - 1927
Article discussing problems of Political Parties in relation to Prohibition
Speakeasies in Detroit - 1929
10 - 20,000 Speakeasies created strong competition and lowered profitability
Repeal of Prohibition - 1933
Survey of current state of Prohibition Repeal Votes
World Prohibition - 1923
Most of the World was considering Prohibition in 1923
Prohibition Killings - 1927
Killings by Federal Agents Enforcing Prohibition
Prohibition in Belgium - 1927
A European Approach to Prohibition
Prohibition Category Page at 1920sEra.com
Health Impact of Illegal Alcohol - 1926
Increased deaths caused by drinking bootleg beverages