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Courts, Crooks, and the Constitution

July 1, 1926 — Rochester Ad Club luncheon, Rochester NY


[She would secure prohibition enforcement by inserting a full upper and lower set of teeth in the Volstead Law. This cannot be done, however, by defining a minor violation as a felony and sending the violator over the road for long terms or life imprisonment.]

Delay is almost as good to the law-breakers as winning his case. Too many small cases are clogging the federal courts and delaying, and thereby often defeating justice.

There is a rocking-chair attitude on the part of many of our citizens who formerly had a rigorous sense of responsibility for the enforcement of law. They sit back, now that so many functions formerly left to local officials have been put upon the federal government, and say “Let Uncle Sam do it.”

. . .

The suggestion in the coming referendum that the government should pass legislation which would apply uniformly to various sections of the country is entirely foreign to the sentiment and character of the American government. [She gave as an example a change in the income tax that would allow a lower federal income tax in only some states, and not others.]

Can’t you hear the howl that would go up?

I firmly believe the 18th Amendment will remain in the Constitution, and in time it will be enforced throughout the United States. This government would never attempt anything it could not carry through.

[She deplored the lack of co-operation between the local communities and the federal government, stating that New York stat is the worst offender in non-enforcement because there is no attempt at local enforcement. The root of all misgovernment, lawlessness and the increase in crime lies in inattention to the duties of citizenship on the part of the local communities and the failure of these communities to recognize the importance of law enforcement in upholding their own integrity.]

In the work of my department we, again and again, find how large violations are to be traced back to laxity of enforcement in some small community. The patronizing of any phase of lawbreaking spreads crime, because real criminals go into the business for the purpose of supplying the demand that the so-called good citizen creates.

In our investigations we find where money placed in the hands of bootleggers by the private citizens who are their patrons is used in the bribery and corruption of the officials of the government for the support of which these patrons are paying taxes.

It is frequently said that all the ills of government — bribery, corruption and fraud — have arisen since the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. But, listen to this quotation from a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt in 1805:

“All cities re shamefully misgovernment, but in New York the misgovernment is more flagrant than anywhere else because the New York liquor interests have stood high among the profession politicians and the most powerful of the politicians have controlled the police and the city politics.”

As a matter of fact the Eighteenth Amendment has not created crime. It has uncovered crime and the strangulation of government which existed before prohibition but which was buried from the sight of the average citizen.

[Up to the time of the repeal of the Mullan-Gage law enforcement, conditions in New York state were very good, allowing for her geographical position and for he fact that New York city, with its wet politicians and its large foreign population had to be reckoned with. She praised the New York state police for their handling of the prohibition enforcement problems until it was taken from their hands.]

To-day New York state has the worst record of any state in the union for non-enforcement. Even Maryland, which stands second, has a local option law which makes for enforcement in certain counties.

What is needed is local enforcement, beginning with the city and going up through the county and the state. Only in that way can the purpose of the eighteenth amendment be fulfilled. Such subterfuges as New York state is using at present seem to me wholly futile an dishonest. If New York state wants the eighteenth amendment repealed, why not come out and work for its repeal in the open? This would be straightforward, but any attempt to weaken the enforcement act while the eighteenth amendment is still a part of the constitution is not only dishonest, but in a deliberate attempt to break down the sovereignty of the federal government, which is a vital part of the American theory of government.



Source: Elmira Star-Gazette (Elmira NY), July 2, 1926, p. 2.


Also: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Rochester Herald, July 2, 1926, p. 1, 11.