National Prohibition Act
April 1926 — Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, US Senate, Washington DC
You have listened to testimony of shocking conditions due to corruption of officials, and lack of enforcement, some of which suggested no remedy except a surrender to those who violate t he law, while the propaganda of all these organizations is encouraging continued violation. Permit me to show another side of the picture, and propose that instead of lowering our standards we urge that the law be strengthened, and in that way notice be served on law violators that America expects her laws to be enforced and to be obeyed . . . .
Enforcement has never had a fair trial. Political patronage, leakage through the permit system, connivance at the violation of law, and spread of the propaganda that it is not obligatory to obey a law unless you believe in it, and to the effect that the responsibility for the enforcement of law rested with the officers alone, when it should be shared by the individual citizen, have materially hindered the work of enforcement — all this within the result that the United States has not derived from prohibition what it would have derived had all the people observed the law and had there been hearty cooperation of the press and the people . . . .
It is not easy to get at the facts about the effect of prohibition on health, morals, and economic life because they are interwoven with other causes, and partial statistics may be misleading. But the elimination of a preventable cause of poverty, crime, tuberculosis, the diseases of middle life, unhappy homes, and financial depression brings results in so far as the law is observed and enforced . . . .
The closing of the saloon with its doors swinging both ways, an ever‐present invitation for all to drink — men, women, and boys —i s an outstanding fact, and no one wants it to return. It has resulted in better national health, children are born under better conditions, homes are better, and the mother is delivered from the fear of a drunken husband. There is better food. Savings‐banks deposits have increased, and many a man has a bank account to-day who had none in the days of the saloon.
The increase in home owning is another evidence that money wasted in drink is now used for the benefit of the family. Improved living conditions are noticeable in our former slum districts. The Bowery and Hell’s Kitchen are transformed.
Safety‐first campaigns on railroads and in the presence of the increasing number of automobiles are greatly strengthened by prohibition. The prohibition law is not the only law that is violated. Traffic laws, anti‐smuggling laws, as well as the Prohibition Act, are held in contempt. It is the spirit of the age.
Life insurance companies have long known that drinkers were poor risks, but they recognize the fact that prohibition has removed a preventable cause of great financial loss to t hem. The wonderful advances in mechanics in the application of electricity and in transportation demand brains free from the fumes of alcohol, hence law enforcement and law observance contribute to this progress . . . .
Your attention has been called to the failures. We claim these have been the result of lax enforcement. The machinery of enforcement should be strengthened.
Source: Hearings Before the Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, US Senate, Sixty‐ninth Congress, First Session (April 5‐24, 1926), on Bills to Amend the National Prohibition Act, Vol. 1, pp. 649‐651; pp. 1068‐1071.