and in Support of Herbert Hoover
Sept 7, 1928 — Methodist Episcopal Church Conference, Springfield OH
Mrs. Willebrandt made reference to the fact that all but two States ratified the 18th Amendment, then noted that there remained in the nation many “willful sections” in which the local sentiment was largely against prohibition.
The worst of these spots was in New York City. The Empire State as a whole achieved the ‘will to unselfishness’ which ratification of the 18thAmendment typifies. But Manhattan is ruled by Tammany, an organization that for underworld connections and political efficiency is matched no place else in America
Scattered over the United States were members of the intelligentsia who organized the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. They worked along more or less futilely through 1921, 1922 and 1923. In 1924, ad the Democratic convention in Madison Square Garden Tammany tried to capture the Democratic Party.
Tammany didn’t then realize that it could not sweep that party off its feet by typical Tammany methods. Screaming whistles and brass bands failed to win Southern leaders. Tammany’s candidate was the man who had just abandoned the policy of cooperation between State and National Government, provided for in the concurrent clause of the Eighteenth Amendment.
He was the one Governor in all the American States who, notwithstanding his oath to support the Constitution of the United States, pulled down one of the forty-six pillars the people had erected for its support. New York had ratified the amendment. That ratification was a pledge to concurrent effort. But the audacious Governor was unconvinced by such reasoning. Tammany wanted the least possible prohibition. Tammany had reared him; gave him his power. Tammany’s desires were his convictions.
Certain leaders in the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment saw the importance of securing as spokesman of their case so powerful a leader as the Governor of New York.
Thus the wealthy groups of anti-prohibitionists and Tammany, symbol of predatory politics, and Governor Smith were found in early alliance.
They have prepared well for this critical hour. Newspapers in rural and Sothern communities were bought by New York money and have switched from a long-settled dry policy to preaching the doctrine of ‘It can’t be enforced. At the same time there have been insinuated into strategic positions in dry enforcement men who were members of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. They have left office proclaiming from the lecture platform and through the press one general chorus that ‘prohibition can never be enforced.’ . . .
Anti-prohibitionists have never won against united drys. It is clever strategy, therefore, to divide their forces. That is what is attempted in making prohibition a party issue . . .
You did not make it a political issue. Your adroit Tammany foe has done so. You can do nothing else but follow wherever defense of the Eighteenth Amendment leads.
It is not abandoning your non-partisan policy of not discussing politics or letting your organization be torn by political dissensions to make a stand against the Democratic nominee and for the Republican national ticket this year. In fact, there is no choice. The Republican Party platform and both its candidates are, by declaration and record, committed to the principle and the enforcement of prohibition . . .
It is reasonable to assume that the Governor’s oath promising to ‘support the Constitution of the United States’ binds him to assist in the letter and spirit of enforcement of the Federal Constitution, but New York since, through Governor Smith’s leadership, the enforcement of the act of the State was repealed, has become the centre, not only of lawlessness and disregard for the Constitution of the United States and Free and open distribution of liquor, but it has also become the centre of the dissemination of the false doctrine that the law can’t be enforced.
That statement could be received with more conviction if it emanated from a State where Federal Government and State had joined hands and worked valiantly to do the job. In New York State there are between 2,000 and 3,000 State police; there are more than 16,000 city policy; there are 113 Supreme Court State judges and sixty-two County Prosecutors.
All of these agencies might be enlisted to reduce the crime and lawlessness that is alleged to flow from disregards of the prohibition law, but they are now and have been inactive as to prohibition since New York repealed its enforcement act.
As a consequence bootlegging has vastly increased; liquor running over the Canadian border has multiplied, blind-pigs that used to operate secretly and with some degree of shame operate openly with bars and brass rails; hundreds of night clubs in Manhattan are just a new form of the old-fashioned saloons that Tammany used to protect. These night clubs have open bars, and yet they can exist only so long as they get license from the City Administration.
Of course the law is not being enforced in New York; it is being evaded and nullified; a few hundred Federal agents and thirteen Federal judges with four United States Attorneys cannot along cope successfully with so much lawlessness.
There are 2,000 pastors here. You have in your churches more than 600,000 members of the Methodist Church in Ohio alone. That is enough to swing the election. The 600,000 have friends in other States. Write to them. Every day and every ounce of your energy are needed to rouse the friends of prohibition to register and vote.
The Eighteenth Amendment is new in politics. You did not put it there. The Republican Party did not put it there.
Neither did the rank and file of the loyal constitutional Democrats. Neither did the National Democratic Convention put it there> It was put there by its enemies; and Governor Smith by a formal act as ruthless as was ever recorded in American politics became their leader. You have a chance to prove by electing Herbert Hoover that obedience to law can be secured and that America does not retreat before organized crime.
Source: Willebrandt, Mabel Walker, A Documentary History of Religion in America Since 1877, Ed. Edwin S. Gusted, Mark A. Noll, et al. (Eerdmans; Fourth Edition), 2018, pp. 264-266.