A Tale of a Keg

I REALIZE that in writing against the abolition of prohibition I am placing myself in opposition to the best thinkers of our nation, and that I am aligning myself with such unsavory persons as self-constituted Boards of Prohibition, Temperance, and Public Morals, but certain hitherto neglected considerations led me to take this stand.

In the first place, prohibition is completely in accord with our most cherished traditions. What could be more thoroughly American than the theory of state aid to successful industries? When patriotic citizens like Andrew Mellon and Senator Moses stand firmly in defense of the theory of protection for the large capitalist, what right has the less wealthy and therefore less intelligent man to contradict them? Our last national election and our present Congressional tariff revision both indicate clearly the complete acceptance of this doctrine of aid to healthy industry.

And does not prohibition have the same relation to the alcoholic industry that tariff has to the aluminum or to the steel industry? That the liquor business is a large and successful one, no one will deny. In Philadelphia alone it had over $10,000,000 in the banks. Think what an industry like that means to the community! One needs only to look at the opposite picture.

Farming has long been moribund. Look at the communities that depend on this industry — see the bank failures, the lawyers without clients, and the merchants overwhelmed with uncollectible accounts. A weak industry like that is a menace to the whole nation, whereas a strong one like Mr. Insull’s power trust, or the brewing business, brings prosperity and happiness to thousands.

In New York City alone there are said to be 32,000 saloons and speak-easies. Each one of these employs several persons. Think of the thousands of prosperous families, of the well-dressed children in school, all supported by this great industry.

Now picture the condition of this business if the support of the government in the form of the Eighteenth Amendment were removed. It is universally admitted that the liquor business had been going downhill for a long time before a thoughtful government stepped in to aid it. It was hampered by taxes, by rules and regulations about closing hours, about selling liquor to minors, and so forth. The latter branch of the industry alone has grown by leaps and bounds since the removal of hampering legislation. Formerly prices were too low to permit just profits, but now prohibition, like the tariff, has brought high prices and prosperity.

This prosperity is in turn reflected in other phases of our national life. The modern ’bootician’ drives a high-priced motor car. This has in turn benefited the automobile industry; figures show that more cars are sold now than ever before. He builds an expensive house, with the consequent aid to the building profession.

Another article in our American creed is that successful industry which has been aided by the government should in turn lend its support to its benefactor. Fair play is ever the keynote of our actions in the United States. Witness the contributions of Mr. Sinclair to the Republican campaign funds. (And is not money given to the Republican Party in reality money donated to the government? It was no less a person than Mr. Coolidge who implied in his discussion of the critics of his Nicaraguan policy that the ruling party is the government.) Mr. Mellon himself has always been most open-handed with the party that has done so much for his industries.

Yet what industry has been most lavish with its purse to government officials and party campaign chests? Is it not the liquor business past and present ? It even goes so far as to add to the emoluments of large numbers of police officers. This most necessary group of men has always been notoriously underpaid, yet it remained for the business man to remedy this defect. Recent surveys in Philadelphia and other large cities have revealed the great extent of the benefactions of the alcohol producers and merchants for the protection of the public. And yet with what a modest air it has all been done! The bartender has not posed as a philanthropist — he of all benefactors has obeyed the injunction, ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’

And, as usual, other groups have profited by the prosperity of one. Policemen have opened large bank accounts, bought motor cars, and built homes. They are no longer a sore spot in our economic structure, like teachers or postmen.

A third article in our American creed is the preservation of the home. We have blocked every un-American effort toward socialistic schemes, like old-age pensions, that might destroy the solidarity of the home. For what is more beautiful than the picture of the younger members of the family supporting those worn out by years in the industrial world? Mr. Hoover in his campaign addresses continually dwelt upon the sanctity of the home, and the way in which modern conveniences were preserving it. Yet what single agency in recent years has drawn the family together like a well-stocked cellar? No longer does the father leave his family in the evening, to seek out some public retreat. Instead he remains within the wholesome atmosphere of his family, sharing his pleasures with them. No more does the son need to leave home to have his drink with low persons in a corner saloon. Rather he brings his school friends with him to share his cup and fireside.

To-day, when so much of the old coöperative spirit of the family has been destroyed by modern economic conditions, one pauses with pleasure over the picture of the whole family working together in the kitchen, brewing cheer for the days to come. Mother tends the kettle while Father works the siphon, and Brother John reads the directions to him. Even little Willie has a part; he can run to the store for more yeast, or help to bring bottles up from the cellar. And in this cheery atmosphere of mutual helpfulness Willie gets the rudiments of an art that will be useful in later life. What at the time seems like play to him is in reality education.

Can anyone contemplate such a picture and then suggest that we destroy the foundation of it all? Can we doubt that if prohibition were to go our home life would go, too? If those reformers who pose as intellectuals, and advocate the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, would take these matters into consideration, I feel certain they would pause in their rash course. For in advocating such a step they are striking directly at three articles of the American creed: government aid to successful industry, industry’s support of government, and the sanctity of the American home. Once we realize this, does it not seem probable that such persons are in the pay of some hostile government, perhaps Russia? We do not like to believe that true Americans would strike at the very heart of our nation — its prosperity.