1923 News on the State of Worldwide Prohibition
PROHIBITION of alcohol is as far advanced today for the entire world as it was a quarter of a century ago in the United States. Stating the matter in terms of millions of square miles and millions of human beings, there is a dramatic exactness in the comparison between the conditions then and now.
It is this: Twenty-five years ago only one-seventeenth of the area and one-sixteenth of the population of the United States were under laws demanding complete prohibition. In this year, 1923, one-seventeenth of the area of the world and one-sixteenth of all the people of the earth are living under such absolute laws, which they have imposed upon themselves.
Again, twenty-five years ago only a very few enthusiasts, then called fanatics, dared to believe that such a thing as the Eighteenth Amendment of the American Constitution would ever become an actuality. But the enthusiasts of twenty-five years ago were right, and their breed has so increased throughout the world, because of the American example and because of new, inexorable demands for sobriety in other countries, that the enthusiasm and prediction of 1923 are for an entire globe free of alcohol.
It has become a question of "When?" just as it was really nothing but a question of "When?" all through the nineteenth century in the United States. To answer this world-wide question of "When?" with a "Never!" is to make the most foolish guess of all the guesses that may be made.
To go to the other extreme and predict with preciseness that the world will be dry in ten, twenty or thirty years from now would be as unjustifiable perhaps as were those cocksure declarations from all men in all countries, on Armistice Day of 1918, that this earth was on the very eve of peace and the orderly resuming of its affairs.
But the question as to universal prohibition is no longer fantastic. The ultimate answer is feared fully as much by those who live by the world's liquor trade and are now banded together in a world conspiracy to keep it alive as the answer is expected as a matter of course by those who are working in all nations of the earth to make an end of that trade.
The Leaven of Temperance at Work
IT IS no exaggeration to speak of "all nations" as being enrolled in this greatest moral fight of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Work for the same end is making real progress on all five continents. Sixty-six countries were represented at the first international convention of the World League Against Alcoholism held in last Thanksgiving week at Toronto, Canada. Even in those countries where the chief industry is the making of wine, the leaven of temperance is beginning to work.
Anna A. Gordon, President of the American and the World W. C. T. U. organizations and one of the United States delegates at Toronto, greeted the hundreds of representatives from those sixty-six countries as "fellow travelers on the road to a dry world."
There is not a country on any continent today that has not entered into the first or the second of the three stages in the evolution of prohibition. Those three stages, as outlined by E. H. Cherrington, the General Secretary of the World League Against Alcoholism, are, first, the creation of temperance sentiment; second, the organizing of that sentiment into public opinion; and third, the crystallizing of that opinion into law. The process of crystallization has gone on to complete prohibition in the United States and in all of her overseas possessions except the Philippines, in all of the provinces of Canada except two, in the Republic of Finland, in four of the states of Mexico. In the Mexican state of Sonora the legal penalty for selling liquor is death. Iceland, too, was a country of complete prohibition, but now is under compulsion to buy wine from Spain in order to avoid the starvation and ruin of her scant population. So far as the principle is concerned, Iceland is in the position of a decent young woman abducted into the back room of a saloon and held by her captors while one of them forces liquor down her throat.
I will tell more of the details of that outrage later, for it is bound to become eventually what the diplomats call an international incident.
Restrictions on alcohol
NORWAY, by popular plebiscite, has declared for prohibition; but the Norwegians cannot yet express their own sentiment in their own laws because they are forced, under threat of commercial and financial strangling, to buy a certain amount of wine each year from Spain and France. On two occasions Australia has voted by large majorities for prohibition, but has just missed each time because of the constitutional requirement for a three-fifths vote.
So these countries, Iceland, Norway and Australia, so far as the will of the people is concerned, properly belong in that list of states in which the third, or crystallization, stage has developed to the point of complete prohibition.
There is practically no country in which crystallization has not reached the state of partial prohibition. European nations, both those that were belligerent and those that were neutral, are strengthening rather than weakening the restrictive liquor legislation which the war forced them to adopt.
France not only has adhered to her law against absinthe, which went into effect at the outset of the war, but within the past year she has enacted new legislation prohibiting all the various pernicious substitutes which the distilling interests had devised to nullify the effect of the absinthe law.
Belgium had two hundred and fifty thousand saloons before the war, in all of which distilled liquors as well as wine and beer were sold with-out restriction. Because of temperance legislation during and after the war Belgium now has only a hundred and forty-one thousand five hundred saloons, and none of them can sell anything except wine and beer. The sale of spirits is limited to grocery stores, which may sell only a minute quantity at a time, not to be drunk on the premises. Because of this restriction the country's consumption of spirits has dropped from ten liters to two liters per person annually. The Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium by unanimous vote now demands that the grocery-store provision be annulled and that prohibition of the sale of spirits in Belgium be made absolute. The physicians of the Royal Academy put themselves on record in an appeal to the government, declaring alcohol to be "a poison, totally alien to normal nourishment, a social pest and a terrible factor of physical and moral decadence, of poverty and crime."
The appeal of these Belgian physicians has the indorsement of Cardinal Mercier, the general body of the Catholic clergy, the rabbis, the military authorities, the university and school men and all prison officials. The statistics of Belgian asylums and hospitals show a decrease of 75 per cent in cases of mental breakdown due to alcohol since the consumption was cut from ten to two liters.
Denmark has long since waived all restrictions put upon her people during the period of the war except the restriction on alcohol. A government commission of fifteen, appointed to investigate the results of partial prohibition, recommended by a vote of thirteen to two that the temperance laws be continued in force. The Danish parliament voted unanimously to adopt the recommendation. The result is that no beer containing more than three per cent of alcohol may be sold in Denmark. The country's consumption of brandy has been reduced from twenty-eight million liters a year to less than three million.
Women Laughed Last
POLAND, under its new regime of complete independence, prohibits all beverages containing more than 12 per cent of alcohol. In other words it is on a light wine and beer basis, and to get that far is as much of an advance in Poland as a wine and beer modification in the United States would be a retreat. The fight for the enactment of this temperance legislation by the Polish parliament was led and won by the five women members of that body. It all has happened within the last two or three years. Those five Polish women at the outset of their campaign were laughed at, just as Americans used to laugh at the pioneers of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
In India and other parts of Asia where, by tradition and custom of centuries and by the teaching of the great Eastern religions, the people are naturally total abstainers, there is a new movement to get rid of the liquor trade and habits introduced by the commerce of Christian countries in the last century. England introduced liquor into India in 1837. The first attempt of the natives to rid them-selves of the traffic was made in 1882 under the leadership of Keshub Chunder Sen. But it made little headway against the determination of the British liquor interests to use government influence for the development of this vast prospective market for the distillers and brewers. The weakness of the Chunder Sen reform was that it was based exclusively on caste lines. Only the educated were considered worth saving. No effort was made to keep liquor from the masses. The present Indian temperance movement, which began as a part of the Ghandi program, is more hopeful. It includes the masses, from whom 85 per cent of the liquor revenue comes, a vast revenue despite the fact that the average pay of the laborers is six cents a day.
Now there are two hundred and eighty-one total abstinence societies in India with branches in every province and with five hundred thousand enrolled workers engaged in the campaign of preaching temperance. In the last seventeen months the amount of liquor sold in India has fallen off two-fifths, according to J. Niyogi, organizer of the Calcutta Temperance Federation and leader of the Indian delegation to the recent international convention at Toronto, Canada, of the World League Against Alcoholism. In Bengal three hundred and sixteen out of two thousand places have been closed. In Behar there has been a still better showing with the closing of sixteen hundred out of twenty-six hundred and eighty sources of liquor supply. In every province except Madras the temperance movement has made headway.
"In new faces we have saved 70 per cent," Niyogi told me at Toronto. He meant, of course, that there had been that much decrease in the number of beginners in the habit of drinking.
Local Option Begins in Scotland
TO JUMP again from the East to the West, thirty-one parishes of Scotland have availed themselves of the new local-option law of the country to become bone-dry. Other parishes have restricted the trade in part. And Scotland with her whisky seemed until very recently to furnish the one joke on prohibition that would never die.
Scotland is much farther along today than was the United States early in the last century, when, according to the ancient records of churches still standing, the cost of rum was an important item in the ceremony of laying the corner stone for a new meetinghouse in New England.
The case of Sweden is not so clear as that of the other Scandinavian countries. Its liquor interests, with their influence in government, devised a new way of nullifying the will of the people and giving to outsiders the impression of a popular victory for temperance.
Thirteen years ago there was a temperance movement among the working people, the upshot of which was a petition circulated from house to house by the labor unions tor signatures of men and women, to be presented to the government. There were one million, eight hundred and sixteen thousand signers, all men and women over eighteen years of age. One million, eight hundred thousand of them signed for national prohibition. Sixteen thousand signed for the continuance of the liquor traffic.
But at that time these workers were not voters and their petition was denied. The government, the aristocracy, the state church and the commercial interests were all against prohibition. They saw in the overwhelming demand of the workers, who eventually were to be voters, a warning that could not be disregarded. So Dr. Ivan Bratt devised the "mot book" scheme, whereby licenses were issued to individuals, not to sell but to buy liquor. They were available for anybody not considered a drunkard. And anyone possessing such a card was entitled to one gallon of liquor a month. By laying stress on the supposition that drunkards could get no more liquor the advocates of the Bratt system tried to make it appear to be a great temperance reform. It was and is just the opposite, and is so recognized by the people of Sweden who want real prohibition. So many of them want it now that a recent referendum vote on the question was lost by only fifty thousand. With the women voters the majority for prohibition was a hundred and fifty thousand. The majority of the men was two hundred thousand against. However, the start has been made. The state church, which was opposed to prohibition ten years ago, is now for it, and a Swedish Anti-Saloon League has been organized on the model of the league in the United States.
Education in the Philippines
DR. DAVID OSTLUND, of the Swedish delegation at the Toronto convention, predicts that his country will be completely dry in 1930. He was one of four delegates who ventured to fix the time within which the fight will be won in their respective countries. Robert B. S. Hammond, of Sydney, president of the Australian Alliance Prohibition Council, claims that the entire continent of Australia will be under absolute prohibition within ten years. Niyogi, of Calcutta, is confident that the work will be complete for India within the next three years. He bases that prediction on three things:
The temperance movement on the part of the Indians themselves, the growing temperance sentiment in England, and the increasing political necessity that the British Government exert itself to the utmost to comply with the wishes of India.
Miss Leodegaria Sapao, of the Philippines, was the fourth delegate with a prophecy definite in terms of time. She is sure that the islands will be dry in the course of five years. At the present time they are the only territory under the American flag to which the prohibition law of the United Stales does not apply. By special provision the Philippines were left to the mercies of local option, and the liquor traffic has grown there faster than it ever did in the United States. There were 25,969 saloons in 1910 and 86,941 in 1918. But in spite of that the temperance workers who have organized throughout the islands are confident, and Miss Sapao bases her prediction on the hold that the new education is taking on the people. So sure are the anti- liquor workers of results that the Philippine Government's Bureau of Labor is now formulating its program for administering the industrial affairs of the islands on a dry rather than on a wet basis.
Another point which Cherrington em- phasizes in his handling of this world-wide fight against alcohol is that the work in all three stages of prohibition evolution must go on simultaneously for years to come and in all countries—the creating of temperance sentiment, the consolidating and organizing of it, and finally the crystallizing of it into law. Reaching the third stage does not do away with the necessity of the work in the first and second. And this is no truer in any part of the world today than in the United States, where reenforcements of new sentiment and new workers must be received year by year to hold what has been gained. The plea of delegates from the sixty-six nations and self-governing parts of nations represented at Toronto was that the United States, which the whole world has taken as its model in temperance, should not slip back a hair-breadth from the advance marked by the Eighteenth Amendment and the Federal enforcement laws. For most of these other countries are fighting against a bitter opposition, the chief weapon of which is false propaganda concerning the result of prohibition in America.
There are more striking and significant similarities between the state of the rest of the world in 1923 and that of the United States, a quarter of a century ago, than are to be found in the accidental fact that the proportions of area and population under complete prohibition are the same.
Twenty-five years ago we were, tor the most of the country, not beyond the state of organizing sentiment which for the previous quarter century the W. C. T. U. had been creating. That is where most of the other countries are today. Their end and motives are the same as ours, but their emphasis on the various motives has been different, and some of them have advanced in a decade as far as we had got after generations of pleading by American women. In America the appeal for reform through many years was based entirely on religion and the emotions. Its political success began with the widening of its appeal to include economic and industrial conditions.
In other countries, with very few exceptions, the temperance movement is a new thing. They have been rushed into it by conditions arising from the war, by the economic and industrial necessity rather than by emotional or religious appeal, although such appeal is rapidly becoming a great factor.
And In France Too
TEMPERANCE work went on in the United States for a century before the great railroads became its powerful allies with their prohibiting the use of liquor by employes, merely as a safeguard for lives and property. But in France, where temperance work was unknown by the masses of the people before 1914, the railroad corporations are already giving it serious attention as a vital matter concerning their own business. The great P.,L. and M.—Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean Railroad Company—one of the biggest systems in Europe, has set a body of experts to work on the problem of what to do with the product of the French vineyards, now that the world is narrowing the market for wines, and the French people are beginning to think seriously of drinking less.
Two of the new temperance organizations in France are those of railway employes and government postal employes. These men have agreed voluntarily to be total abstainers from liquor. And the movement is beginning among workers in other industries.
In Paris today there are forty-two public restaurants for women in which no alcoholic beverages of any sort are sold or allowed to be brought in. Several of them are in the Latin Quarter. A few of them are so prosperous that they can pay rent on the boulevards.
Fully as significant is the recent recognition by the French Government of the Blue Cross Society, the principal temperance organization of France. The government has awarded to it the official certificate of " Reconnaissance d'Utilite Publique." Although the Blue Cross was organized in 1877, nobody in France, except the few inevitable "fanatics," ever heard of it until war compelled the saving of soldiers and factory workers from absinthe. Now, with its recognition as a public utility, it has become a factor in education, with the teaching of school children the physiological and economic truths concerning alcohol. These children, not a majority of them yet, but many thousands of them throughout France, have their junior branch of the Blue Cross called the Band of Hope—a striking reminder of the early days of temperance organization work in the United States.
This generation of French children is not growing up under the delusion that theirs is only a wine-drinking country which needs no reform. They are learning through the schools, and their fathers are learning through their trade temperance organizations, such facts as these:
The people of France are now spending on hard liquors more than half what they are paying for wine. The figures from current French government statistics show that the annual expenditures now are 4,061,638,800 francs for hard liquors, 7,678,209,600 francs for wine, 852,888,100 francs for beer, and 680,825,180 francs for cider. A total of 13,273,561,680 francs a year.
Soon They Will Ask Questions
ANOTHER set of figures goes with this drink account. The total annual French expenditure for education is 1,200,000,000 francs, for agriculture 166,000,000, and for hospitals and hygiene 320,000,000 francs. Total, 1,686,000,000 francs.
There is an absurdity about such totals which French thrift will detect. They will soon ask why only a seventh of a billion is spent on agriculture, which is the business of 60 per cent of the population, while over four billions are spent on liquor, which is the chief detriment to the business of all the people.
They will begin to wonder whether if the figures were reversed some great constructive agricultural plan might not be worked out for adapting the products of French vineyards to the new uses of a world that is going dry.
The main purpose in France at the outset is of course to get rid of liquor. " It will be a long lime before France will stop growing and drinking wine," says G. Gallienne, secretary of the Blue Cross Society and delegate to the world convention at Toronto; but even such a time is not completely beyond the horizon of French temperance workers. It will come, they say, primarily as an economic measure, because with the use of wine abolished in North America, in all the Scandinavian countries, in Russia, Australia, New Zealand and India—which is the clear prospect of the near future—France will be forced to change her crops or find a hew use for them. Because of soil and climatic conditions, and because of the small separate holdings of the vineyard owners, the finding of a new use for the grape is more feasible than the substitution of other crops for the vines. Hence the research work of the French railroads and other business corporations and the educational program of the temperance societies. "We want," says Gallienne, "some American manufacturers to come to France to demonstrate to our people how the grape juice may be used on a large scale in a product that is nonalcoholic. When we make and sell such a product to the rest of the world the French themselves will gradually begin to drink it instead of their wine."
In Italy, slower in getting under way than France in this matter, a beginning has been made by scientific groups in Rome and Naples to study the effect of daily wine drinking upon the mental and physical welfare of the people, and a campaign of education is on to convince a new generation that a change will better equip Italy for the new industrial life of the present and future.
Even in Spain and Portugal, the two most backward of the wine-growing countries, there has been a beginning in the creation of sentiment for restriction, and in Spain this first stage of the work has gone so far that the anti-alcoholic groups of the country had their delegates at the Toronto convention.
In the Big League
ALL of these significant facts, and many more of similar import, were revealed at that convention, which offered the world the first opportunity it had ever had of taking account of stock and really measuring its progress. The measure is an encourag- ing thing. Not the least satisfactory thing about it was the fact that the world was ready for such a convention. The list of countries participating makes the most impressive and comprehensive roll of nations ever assembled under one roof. Here it is:
Australia, Argentina, Albania, Assyria, Austria, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burma, Brazil, Canada, Czecho-Slovakia, Costa Rica, Caucasia, Colombia, China, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Egypt, East Africa, Esthonia, Finland, France, Formosa, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Holland, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jugo- slavia, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania. Liberia, Mexico, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Poland, Philippines, Peru, Porto Rico, Russia, Rumania, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Syria, Siam, Sierra Leone, Salvador, South Africa's British Union, Serbia, Siberia, Turkey, Ukrainia, Uruguay, United States of America and Wales.
That is a much more complete roll call of the world than was the list of states represented at the great Paris Peace Conference or at the assemblages of the League of Nations in Geneva.
At Toronto there was one common desire— prohibition, with no conflict that subordinated the main purpose of all to the special or national interests of any one country.
Two women of the United States, as members of this American leadership personnel, were sought by representatives of every country of Europe, Asia and South America for instruction. They were Mrs. Lenna Lowe Yost, national legislative superintendent of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and Miss Cora Frances Stoddard, executive secretary of the scientific Temperance Federation. From Miss Stoddard's teachings the delegates of the world have gone home determined to teach millions of children of all races the evils of alcohol. Men and women delegates representing countries in which diplomacy and political intrigue were national arts before America was discovered sat as pupils before Mrs. Yost, the expert of Washington, as she told them of the American methods by which Congress was finally prevailed upon to submit the constitutional amendment to the people.
Ernest H. Cherrington is the citizen of the United States who stands out as the international prohibition leader of leaders, and the little Ohio town of Westerville, where the World League Against Alcoholism has its American headquarters, has become in a very real sense a world capital.
It is, at any rate, a very real place in the opinion of Paris, and Lausanne, Switzerland, the two European cities from which the international liquor interests are now directing their fight against prohibition in the United States and elsewhere.
The Case of Iceland
IT WAS at a conference of the wine-and-liquor men at Lausanne that the abduction of Iceland from the prohibition ranks was conceived and the Spanish Government selected as the moral kidnaper of that island. Iceland voted for complete prohibition in 1908. It was an immediate success, for most of the islanders were total abstainers long before the sentiment became crystallized in law. The law stood enforced and unquestioned either by Iceland or by outsiders until last summer, when the Spanish Government sent notice to Iceland that unless the island abolished its prohibition law and imported Spanish wines Spanish people would be prohibited from buying Iceland's fish. This was a threat of absolute ruin for the island. Its only product is fish, about five million dollars' worth a year, and for generations three-quarters of that product has been sold in Spain. The Icelandic fishermen have not the facilities for curing or packing their fish in a way that would make them marketable in any country other than Spain. There is, for example, not sufficient timber on the island to make it possible to pack the fish in wooden boxes, but all the countries except Spain demand that the fish come in boxes. So the decree of Madrid was fatal either to Iceland's prohibition law or to her only source of income.
It is important to know that before she became a prohibition country in 1908, Iceland had never bought Spanish wines, so Spain has not even the lame economic excuse of trying by coercion to get back a trade which she had lost. She is simply guilty of coercion, at the behest of the liquor crowd, to destroy prohibition in a country which had unanimously adopted it. England, Denmark, Norway and Finland all protested to Spain in behalf of Iceland, but to no avail. Iceland was forced to suspend her prohibition law for one year. She is now buying Spanish wine which her people do not want and will not use. The island government is paying for the stuff and putting it into pharmacies for prescription purposes. It is not commerce. It is blackmail. A resolution protesting against the outrage was introduced in the American Congress by Senator Junes, but it was pigeonholed. Prohibition America has made no protest in behalf of prohibition Iceland. International records show similar brutalities in the case of Finland and Norway, with both Spain and France as the offending states; but there is nothing so rotten as the case of Iceland.
The resolution introduced in the American Senate is not going to stay forever in that pigeonhole. It will come out probably at the end of Iceland's year of subjection, when Spain renews her threat. It is a vital item in the list of things soon to be attacked by the new group of statesmen for prohibition in the final international phase of the fight against the world-wide liquor conspiracy.
1920's PROHIBITION RESOURCES
Speakeasies in Detroit - 1929
10 - 20,000 Speakeasies created strong competition and lowered profitability
Keeping Prohibition out of Party Platforms - 1927
Article discussing problems of Political Parties in relation to Prohibition
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
Prohibition Increased Alcohol Related Deaths
Increased deaths caused by drinking bootleg beverages