John Granville Woolley.

Prohibition: with the people behind it online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryJohn Granville WoolleyProhibition: with the people behind it → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

8061 '12 W Itfd
'A 'N '



With the People
Q Behind It

By John G. Woolley




With the People

Behind It

By John G. Woolley

An address delivered at the National Convention of the American Anti-
Saloon League, December nth, 1911, in Washington, D. C.

At the time has come when a speech against
the liquor business can begin, and must
begin, with a strong, high note of cheer.
Not that the deep, dark pathos and
outrage of the thing havei greatly dimin-
ished ; they have not ; but because the
apathy, the ignorance, the subserviency of decent citizens,
in the matter, is disappearing like the valley mist at sun-
rise; and the sparse and sorrowful prohibition militia of
former clays has grown to an enthusiastic army of in-
vasion, keen and fit for war to the finish.

To those of us who bore the heat and burden of the
movement in the lean, gray years of preparation, this day
has seemed a long time on the way.

When Doctor Billy Clark promoted the first tem-
perance society of modern times, in Saratoga County,
New York, he did not dream of anything so extravagant
as a campaign to stop the trade, that lawfully, respect-
ably, and as a matter of course held out the cup that
curses while it cheers, to all ranks and conditions of
society. Even the expectation of a little human salvage
in his own neighborhood seemed fantastical.
That was in 1808.

It was a forlorn hope of all but ruined men that
formed the Washingtonian society, in the forties. And
in the fifties, when that movement burst into a flame
of righteously indignant legislation, that would have



swept the liquor business from the map of trade and
did in fact abolish it in fourteen or fifteen of the states,
the earthquake of civil war came and engulfed it in a
tidal wave of blood and beer and graft and bossism.

That was in the sixties.

How vividly we can still recall the sound of tears
in Frances Willard's voice when, like a glorified Peter
the Hermit, she went sweeping from state to state, half
angel, half nemesis, pleading, arraigning, inspiring.

That was in the seventies.

The Prohibition Party, with set, sad countenance,
did a great work greatly. It built a road for politic-
al liberty of conscience, from the bi-partisan quag-
mire that followed the Civil War, to the open sea of
actual, ethical, intellectual, effectual, Christian Democ-

If there is any human activity in civil or moral
engineering entitled to be called fundamental and eter-
nal, it is that of casting up highways for the people.
The Roman Empire has been dead for centuries ; but
Roman roads still stretch their brawny arms in full,
beneficient efficiency, untouched by age; for kings may
come and dynasties may go, but roads rule on forever.

A road is an atonement, laid in economics. The
spirit of God is the togetherness of men, in the name
of progress "two or three," or a billion. It was no
accident that Jesus never said, "I am the vehicle, or I
am the organization, or I am the man," but "I am the

The Prohibition Party was the bridge builder of
the great reform ; a rough mechanic, but its work
abides and will abide. It fixed the hated word "prohibi-
tion" in our political language and put its sneering rival
"personal liberty" in deep and permanent contempt. It
drove the tough, straight-grained and seasoned tree
trunks of accomplished knowledge, conscience and con-
viction into the shifting sands of party politics, down to
the hardpan. Its persuasions fell like blows, vexing
and spattering the Christian voters encamped supinely


by the party streams, until for very shame, they stood
erect, at attention, caught the key and rythm of the
pile-driver, enlisted not in the party but in the minute-
men regiments of the Anti-Saloon League, crossed the
rubicon of Christian-democrat belligerency, and threw
their party badges in the stream. So that tonight we
stand before the very gates of victory.

But that means only that we have got a chance
to fight. This is the net achievement of a hundred
years, that we have made the enemy come out from his
distilleries and breweries, his warehouses and saloons,
his clubs and speakeasies, his drug stores and canteens
his gambling houses and brothels, into the open and
into battle form.

And this is why we cheer as we go forward ; not
because the fight is finished, but because, after a baffl-
ing century of challenging and skirmishing, it has

But our present cheers must not shut out the
voices of the future. We shall have hot work, from
now on. Villainy takes naturally to strategy ; cruelty-
dies hard. This cowardly, low-browed, foul-breathed,
cold-blooded, false tongued degenerate of trades, driv-
en farther and farther into a corner, will fight like hell.
That is to say, will strangle with the brimstone fumes
of slander, will mine the thoroughfares with murder,
will trap and torture with the flying cavalry of lies.

Yet we do well to cheer, in celebration of the sim-
plified conditions of the conflict. After all the cark-
ing years of tricks and bribes and betrayals and com-
pounded political felonies, the liquor trade, hemmed in
by mountains of public sentiment and rivers of popular
knowledge, turns at bay, takes up our gage of battle
and with satanic, idiotic impudence, proposes a "cam-
paign of education."

This itself is victory, and the beginning of the end.
And if democracy is not a failure our complete tri-
umph is assured.

All the signs are auspicious. In the first place,

a finer braver spirit runs through our own ranks. The
critical attitude among ourselves is dying out. It was
excusable and inevitable in the boom days of mere agi-
tation, and did little harm.

Looking back, we see abundant justification, and
even abundant credit, for us all. Every move, how-
ever roughly made, was well worth while. Every riv-
alry promoted zeal and sharpened the focus of the
public mind. But the period of mere agitation has
passed, and the methods and manners of the mere agi-
tator should pass with it. The accent has shifted
from salvage to conservation, from agitation to con-
struction, from zeal to efficiency, from benevolence
to business. And looking* forward, we see that divis-
ions would be illogical and hurtful. Cooperation is
the key-note for the future. The right hand of fellow-
ship among ourselves is the best formation we can use
against the enemy. A man that can't fight beside an-
other man who differs from him incidentally is not a
good soldier now.

Shaking-hands is good training for the grip and
heart muscles, and these are what we shall use mostly.
With hearts of oak, we must close our ballots, the
white fingers of our Christian citizenship, on the
throat of the liquor traffic and squeeze its accursed
gullet till it quits forever.

There must, of course, be a few cavilers where so
many are engaged. They are hard to understand. They
are impossible to reconcile. But we who compose the
great free, untrammeled working body of the move-
ment ought to adopt and are going to adopt as a great
working commandment, "Thou shalt not whine at the
success of a comrade."

In the second place, we have learned slowly and
reluctantly, but surely, that economics is the bones of
public morality : clothes, shelter, food, efficiency, di-
version, justice, man to man. Moral muscles and
religious nerves that do not articulate to these pro-
duce mere political hysteria. The present turn of the


tide, in this long war, came when the Blucher of "busi-
ness" brought its burly reinforcements of argument
into action. And now at length, we are as willing as
\ve are able to meet the economic argument where it is,
without any show of condescension or affectation of
superior virtue.

The economic argument is on the ground, on the
counter, on the bench, on the desk, in public service,
not public services. The organized liquor trade is base
and crooked to the core; but many a citizen who
knows that, is yet dimly but honestly persuaded that
the license system, poor as it is, is all the prohibition
that is practicable at present. Such men are not now
to be belittled, or railed at. They must be met and
brought into our camp with facts.

In the third place, the height and the length of
our endeavor, no longer blind us to the breadth of it.
The variations of local sentiment and local symptoms
have come to be recognized as clearly, and taken as
seriously as the great central purpose. County-man-
ship is seen to be as worthy in its way, as statesman-
ship, and primarily more necessary in a democracy.
The doctrine of the parable looms large in reason and
experience, as well as authority, that the faithful over
a few things is in the true line of honorable service
and promotion.

It is a pity that the charge may yet be heard,
sometimes, that local option is immoral. For one
thing, the statement is rank nonsense unless democ-
racy is immoral ; and for another thing, some of the
best work in the world is of the masonry of honest mis-
takes corrected ; and the sure and inevitable correc-
tion of the weaknesses of local option is state and
national prohibition. The critics of local option as-
sume a false definition of the term. They take "local"
to mean "little." They have no warrant for that. Lo-
cal option means progressively town democracy,
county democracy, state democracy, and federal sov-
ereignty. The key-note is union, one and indivisible.


There are no state, county or town lines dividing the pur-
pose of the people. But the John Brown days are past
and gone. This is the Lincoln period of our reform,
and the Lincoln breadth and charity should pervade it.

,In the fourth place, the ugly old phrase "whisky
party," in its time accurate enough, has gone to the
scrap heap. There 'is a whisky party, but it has now
no relation to the political parties save that of a high-
wayman to the stage-coach to hold them up and rob
them. The political parties are very disappointing,
mixed and human, but they are fundamentally patriot-
ic. Human weakness and selfishness abound in them,
but strength and loyalty much more abound. I am no
good friend of either party. But I am ready to certify
to the general deep down honesty of both. And to call
either a "whisky party" in the light of Anti-Saloon
League history is baby talk. At any rate, party lines
are fading out, in the light of the new national moral-
ity, and we have outgrown the period for wounding
men to win them.

In the fifth place, the lampooning of Congress is
going out of fashion. It is high time. To keep it up
would be to advertise our ignorance, or malice, as well
as to obstruct our progress. Congressional action is
absolutely necessary in aid and recognition of the
police power of the states. The Internal Revenue law
and the interstate commerce law are in effect ac-
cessories of the organized treason to everything from
the cradle to the flag. To bring them to our side, or
shame them into standing up for fair play, is the most
important work we have on hand.

Meanwhile Congress has become friendly toward
our work. Any reasonable statute that is surely con-
stitutional, in aid of state prohibition will pass the sen-
ate and the house, by a broadly and splendidly non-par-
tisan majority, once it can be got on the floor for pass-
age. The bill noAv pending for prohibition in Hawaii,
and the bill amending the Interstate Commerce law so
as to honor the popular will and judgment in prohibi-


tory states will pass congress and be signed by the
president. The peril to such bills is in committee,
where unfriendly minorities may be powerful for de-
lay. I speak from personal and recent knowledge
when I say that we can look to Washington with confi-
dence, if only we are sane enough and just enough to
be patient with the slow turning of the great federal
millstones that have to work on such enormous crops
of public sentiment and grind the grist so fine.

Finally, we realize better a fact selfcevident, but
often overlooked by reformers, that we scouts and cap-
tains of the movement can go no faster than the people.
They are interested in many things, and different
groups place the accent of precedence differently ; but
they have taken up the subject; and the prohibition
movement, now, has no warrant to demand the right
of way and a clear track. It must simply take its place
with the rest and put its trained and mighty shoulder
to the wheel of general progress.

One still hears, now and then, that we must have
"prohibition with a party behind it." That, I think, is
precisely what we must not have. Parties, while not
intrinsically unrighteous, are the weakest engines of
righteousness. They run by weathercock power.
Their cardinal doctrine is "Thou shalt follow the mul-
titude to do whatever will round it up in the party
corral." "Thou shalt first observe the wind and then,
sow." Their message to their young men is : "My son,
if enough sinners entice thee, consent and be quick
about it."

Minority parties are exceptions. But when they
begin to come to majority the Delilah of dalliance with
power crops their hair. So party government is always
weak government ; and no weak government will ever
stamp out the liquor banditti.

This, I think, is the rationale of the present situa-
tion. We have won our fight to get our question to the
people. The liquor trade has lost its fight to keep it
away from the people. The party boss, our enemy


and the liquor dealers' friend, has been Jonahed over-
board by the insurgent crew of the ship of state, and no
political whale appears to have the stomach for a proph-
et of that flavor. The party constituencies are running-
together upon issues of vital morality. Government of
the people, by the people, and for the people, that is to
say, clean, strong government, has begun to arrive.

In the present forward movement we have every
advantage cf equipment. The breath of victory is in
our nostrils.' The truth of history is with us. The
voice of science is heard in our camp. The sanctions
of religion gird us for battle. The press corroborates
our message. The daily walk and conversation of the
business world slant to\vard us. And the license sys-
tem is itself a plea of "guilty," both on the part of the
trade and the people.

In the past, until the advent of the Anti-Saloon
League, we scorned the critical study of the construc-
tive value of methods. Our work was not education
but appeal. "Stand up and be counted for the good
you know and have published" was what we said and
all we said. Drunkards and drunkenness were the self-
evident proofs we offered, and our whole demand was
made upon the Christian voter, not to think, but to do.

We won that fight, and that brought us to the
present point of departure.

But let no man fool himself with the thought that
we have whipped the liquor traffic. I know the splen-
did gains that we have made, and to my own heart I
boast about them. But I know also, all too well, that
we have made little difference in the volume of the
liquor business.

We recall how General Braddock, able, brave,
proud of his country, loyal to his King, marched with
his little army into the Western wilderness against the
French and Indians at Fort Duquesne. The Indians
met him first. From every British point of view they
were contemptible. He could have wiped them out
before breakfast if he could have laid hands on them.


They were there but he scarcely caught sight of them,
in one respect they were anything but contemptible
tenacity and singleness of purpose. They knew noth-
ing about honor. They knew nothing about military
form. But they knew the value of a lawless wilderness,
to savages, and they were there to defend, possess and
enjoy it. They were not too proud to crawl like snakes
in the grass. They dodged from tree to tree. They ran
like hares but they came back like flies. They shot
straight. They staid by the stuff. And the general
got into history as the author of "Braddock's defeat/'

Our enemy is like that. But we are not like that.
The advance guard of the liquor trade are moral, in-
dustrial and political savages. They are lawless and
pitiless. They get their pleasure out of the pain of
others. Their profits are the losses of others. They
crouch like cats upon the bosom of society and suck
the gasping lips of failure for their breath of life.
They are out for pelts and scalps and plunder. They
sneak; they crawl; they burrow; they murder while
they run ; they torture the captured, they rob the dead.

But ours if not better soldiers than our kinsmen
at Fort Duquesne knew their enemy better. Baffled
and checked by treachery, they kept right on. Shot in
the back they fell forward, and we stepped over them,
and sounded the advance ; until by sheer devotion we
have torn the blanket savages of the liquor trade from
their cover. And now, at last, they form in the open,
under the walls of their twin citadels, the brewery and
the distillery, where the sleek and epauletted field mar-
shals of the business are in council and command. And
now these heroes of hops, these moralists of malt, these
sour mash patriots with their feet in the fountain of the
public right, have set up a bureau of fake statistics and
ordered "a campaign of education." It is a dirty battle,
for clean-fighting men, but we have no choice but to
accept it.

So then, at last and finally, after all the chasing-
and cross-firing, after all the camp-fever and discontent,


we face the issue and the enemy, and the ancient, eter-
nal general orders for righteousness run along the line,
"Say unto the children of progress that they go for-

Prohibitionists in Bands of Hope and Loyal Le-
gions, with gentle -insistence getting little boys and
girls to sign the pledge of total abstinence. Go for-
ward !

Prohibtionists in Rescue Missions, throwing the
life-line to half-dead derelicts of the saloon, Go for-
ward !

Prohibitionists in the Woman's Christian Temper-
ance Union "doing everything" to save and build up
womanhood, Go forward !

Prohibitionists in leagues and federations, mar-
shaling the troops of trade and health and order against
exposed positions of the enemy, Go forward !

Prohibitionists in bureaus at Washington carrying
ammunition for the heavy ordinance on Capitol Hill,
Go forward !

Prohibitionists in press and pulpit keeping watch
over the springs of civic righteousness and justice, Go
forward !

Prohibitionists at large, enlisted but voteless home-
makers, bearing the ark of the covenant of liberty and
democracy, Go forward !

Is that all? Yes that is all. Heaven is only a di-
rection forward. Hell is an adverb "back." For-
ward ! Everybody ! That is good politics. That is the
law and the gospel. That is knowing God. That is

Now, what are the branches taught in the liquor
dealers' campaign of education? I shall take that up
presently. What is not taught is most instructive.

Who teaches that a saloon, a brewery, a distillery,
a liquor store, is a good thing for any community?

Who teaches that the liquor seller grades up to
the level .of the baker or the carpenter, in the scheme
of business life?


Who teaches that it is a hardship that the saloon
must pay a thousand dollars a year for the mere priv-
ilege of showing its painted harlot face among the
decent stores?

Who teaches that it is a short-sighted social policy
to forbid the sale of liquor to men below the age of
twenty-one ?

. Who teaches that the best patron of the saloon
acquires the best judgment for such buying?

Who teaches that in advertising the attractions
of a community saloons should be set down with
churches, schools and factories?

Not a man, drunk or sober, in all the motley mul-
titude of teachers and pupils in the "campaign of edu-
cation" was ever heard to claim one atom of virtue or
patriotism or righteousness for the business.

Call up the grocery and challenge it, "What right
have you to live?" "The right of being honest and
useful and helpful. By so much as my merchandise
goes out into the homes of the community, it is made
a better place to live in."'

Call up the saloon : "Why should we not tar and
feather you and ride you out of town upon a rail?
Why should we not hang you by the neck at the edge
of the city as a warning to others of your kind?" And
it answers solely and finally : "My license." Year after
year it shuffles to the city hall and buys a permit to live,
like a dog, by virtue of the tag of bloody gold upon its

Affirmatively, the liquor "campaign of education"
includes about a dozen propositions. They are mere
effigy epigrams set up to look like arguments ; and
every one a lie.

"Prohibition is sumptuary legislation ; it violates
personal liberty ; it hurts business ; it increases taxes ;
it attacks vested rights ; it causes "blind pigs ;" it makes
men sneaks ; it discriminates against the poor; it creates
a demand for drugs ; it is unscriptural ; it does not pro-
hibit ; yon cannot make men sober by law."


Where is the proof in support of these proposi-
tions? There is none. They are not set up to be
proved. They are not meant to be studied, but to be
swallowed holus bolus. They are not meant to instruct
but to stultify. They are mere iteration directed at
weakness, prejudice and ignorance. Who are the iter-
ators? Simply the advertising agents of the trade,
garnished with a handful of unfortunate preachers who
have lost their bearings.

The liquor trade's own classification of itself is
with the brothel, the rat-pit, the faro bank, the prize
ring and the race course, as a necessary evil a safety
valve for native, and incorrigible brutism.

But let us surprise these new educators by taking
them seriously as seriously as possible.

And first: What is a sumptuary law? It is, or
was, a law directed at the buyer, attempting to regulate
his conduct, in matters of mere indifference, without
any good end in view. For instance, in the reign of
Edward IV a statute was enacted prohibiting anybody
"under the degree of a lord," from buying shoes having
points over two inches long at the toes. The idea was
to discourage habits of luxury among the common
people, but it was manifestly unjust and foolish.

A prohibitory liquor law is directed at the business
of selling poison as a beverage and of maintaining a
rendezvous for temptation, dissipation and disorder.
It says to no man : "Thou shalt not buy nor drink"-
though it may, and may well, come to that. It is in
the nature of a quarantine regulation, which never
says : "Thou shalt not catch yellow fever," but : "Thou
shalt not spread yellow fever." Incidentally a law that
restrains a man from selling liquor to his neighbor di-
minishes the neighbor's liberty to spend his own mon-
ey and experiment with his own body, but that does
not make it a sumptuary law.

Prohibition rebukes personal selfishness. But how
does it violate personal liberty? Personal liberty, ac-
cording to Judge Cooley, our greatest writer on con-


stitutional questions, is simply that condition in which
rights are established and protected by means of such
limitations and restraints upon the action of individual
members of the political society as are needed to pre-
vent what would be injurious to other individuals, or
prejudicial to the general welfare. That is to say:
"Obedience to law is liberty," and the liquor dealer is
incorrigibly a traitor in the camp of law.

Absolute liberty exists only where the person pos-
sessing it is powerless to injure others. A shipwrecked
man, alone on a raft in mid-ocean, has it, but would
give the whole world to swap it for the limitations,
that is to say, the enlargements of civil liberty the
only kind of liberty that anybody but a fool or a villain
counts worth having. In short, absolute liberty is only
the obverse side of vital bankruptcy.

The liquor business is injurious to everybody, in-
cluding the owner, and prejudicial to every public in-
terest. Nobody denies that. Prohibition is not tyr-
anny, but protection for all men, women, children and
domestic animals.

Does prohibition hurt business? Yes, all the busi-
ness that tends to ruin brothels, gambling dens, the
white slave trade, vagrancy, begging, pawning, divorc-
ing. But it helps every business that makes for "more
abundant life."

There is plenty of answers to the complaint that
prohibition increases taxes. In the first place, there is


Online LibraryJohn Granville WoolleyProhibition: with the people behind it → online text (page 1 of 2)