Link to Ferris Homepage
Print this window
Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act: Prohibition and the Youth of America.(Speech delivered in US Senate. 4 May 1926.)

Mr. President, sixty or more years ago I was a boy on a hill farm of one hundred acres in Tioga County, New York. During haying and harvesting father was obliged to employ several helpers. I can recall, without any special effort, hearing those prospective helpers ask my father this question: "Do you furnish good whisky to your helpers regularly?" By the way, all whisky in those days was good. There was not the slightest temptation to adulterate it. Here and there a farmer would not agree to furnish whisky and he always found it more or less difficult to secure helpers. My father always answered in the affirmative, and fulfilled his promise.

His instructions to me were very specific. He said: "Bring the jug into the hay field at ten o'clock and give to each man whatever he sees fit to drink. Then hide the jug. At three o'clock bring forth the jug and furnish the men with more whisky." No drinks were given to helpers in the morning, or at noon, or at the close of the day.

In order that the picture may be complete, permit me to say that all the grass was cut with a hand scythe spread with an ordinary fork, raked with a hand rake and drawn to the barn on a long sled.

The whisky was brought at the grocery store for twenty-five cents a gallon. This was before the Civil War was well underway, before the Government put a tax upon liquors. There were no saloons because there was no opportunity for making a profit on whisky that could be purchased at the grocery store for twenty-five cents per gallon. Even the dry goods store kept a barrel of whisky for those customers who felt they needed that kind of refreshment. When the preacher called, father never failed to extend to him the courtesy involved in offering him a drink. Not all of the preachers indulged, not all of the members of the community indulged. At barn raisings and logging bees, whisky was an essential to the success of the undertaking.

No doubt some of the listening Senators will ask, "Was there a large amount of drunkenness at that time?" This is an exceedingly difficult question to answer with any degree of certainty. My observations aroused in me- a boy- a wholesome fear of the consequences of using whisky as it was then used. I soon learned that among the neighbors were those who indulged to excess, and that among the young people at dances and celebrations drunkenness was frequent. My father for twenty or thirty years was an advocate of moderate drinking. He said that any man who could not take a drink of whisky and then let it alone was a fool. To use a modern term, he was an anti-prohibitionist. Notwithstanding his positive declaration, I concluded to let the stuff alone. Even my boyhood observations taught me that there was no particular benefit to be derived from the use of intoxicating liquors. Its use, as I saw it, was fraught with danger. With me this was not a mere Sunday school sentiment; my attitude grew out of my actual observations.

Mr. President, I do not need to go into details as to the origin of the American saloon. The story is familiar to every Senator. The saloon yielded large profits, like bootlegging. It was a money-making scheme, and so long as human nature remains what it is, money-making will be indulged in, whether it is in conformity to law or in violation of law. The liquor traffic grew to such magnitude that it commanded not only the attention of the common people, but aroused the attention of the great industries. So far as I know there is not a man living in the United States today who would deliberately advocate a return to the American saloon.

It is worthwhile to very briefly consider some of the reasons for banishing the American saloon. For half a century the preachers, church workers, and teachers fought the American saloon. I wish to call the attention of the Senate to their chief objective. There was no question as to the hardships that were imposed on mothers and children. Again and again the picture was painted in vivid colors of how homes were devastated; of how women and children were deprived of the necessaries of life because of the dissolute habits of the head of the family.

In this great battle there was another question raised that was of supreme importance, namely the affects of alcohol on the system. The medical profession made valuable contributions. It was maintained by some advocates of the moderate use of alcohol that alcohol had a food value. Today many physicians believe it has a food value, but it is of comparatively little importance except in the treatment of certain diseases. These same physicians do not recommend alcohol in the daily food consumption. I am also quite safe in asserting that alcohol is classed with the poisons.

Out of this controversy grew the educational movement for the nonuse of alcohol in any form, except possibly as a medicine. It is true that physicians use poisons as constituting one group of their remedies. This educational program was inaugurated in all of the States of the Union. The laws of the different states required that textbooks on physiology and hygiene should contain a certain amount of information concerning the effects on the human body of the use of alcohol and other narcotics. Year in and year out, in connection with the anti-saloon movement and other movements against John Barleycorn, the educational movement was very important.

Mr. President, there is not any question about the wonderful influence that this educational movement had upon the minds of American citizens. It is safe to say that the majority of them were convinced that there could be no valid argument for the use of alcohol in any form, except for medicinal use, and I maintain that at this particular time the question of the effects of alcohol on the human system should be revived. I have yet to find any change in the attitude of scientists and conservers of health on the effects of alcohol on the human system.

I do not maintain that this educational system was the only factor in eliminating the American saloon. Heads of industry were not slow to discover that the American saloon was the arch enemy of their enterprises, and thousands of employers who used alcoholic liquor, either moderately or immoderately, voted dry in the antisaloon movement because they believed that the prosperity of their enterprises would be conserved by banishing the saloon. They preferred to have employees who were sober five or six days in the week, in fact, they insisted upon it. It would be exceedingly difficult to estimate the tremendous power exerted by this influence in making the United States dry. There is not a Senator present who has not made observations along this line and has been forced to recognize the power of industrial influence. Even the railroad managers of this country and of Canada were obliged during the reign of the saloon to make certain rules and regulations with reference to their employees. They recognized the fact that if the production of life and property was to be maintained they must have sober engineers, sober conductors and sober brakeman. The industrial world recognized the vital importance of employing men who could exercise sufficient self-control as practically to let liquor alone. Mr. President, these are not idle speculations, they all come from within the experience of the majority of our citizenry.

For several decades prior to the enactment of the 18th amendment the question of "Why narcotic?" occupied the consideration of the best men and women in America. Some of the so-called wets have, consciously or unconsciously, declined to give this question any consideration, because narcotics have been in use for centuries by almost every nation on the face of the earth. They assumed, as did John Fiske, the historian, that there is a natural demand of narcotics. They unhesitatingly assumed that human nature can not be changed. This is an exceedingly dangerous assumption. If we accept the scientists' account of man's rise from savagery to barbarism and from civilization, we must admit that human nature has changed. If human nature can not be changed, the function of the school, the college and the university is seriously limited. The American citizen is the last man on earth to admit that the story of his own country does not prove conclusively that human nature can be changed.

In this wonderful age, when there is practically no limit to man's inventive power, no limit to his manipulation of things, that he should be so helpless in the matter of self-organization, self-control and individual progress is not a logical assumption.

For two or three decades prior to the enactment of the eighteenth amendment scientists, sociologists and educators have made a careful study of the effects of alcohol on the human system. It was demonstrated to their satisfaction that the best interests of the individual were not conserved by the use of alcohol, even in small doses. Eugene Lyman Fisk, in 1917, in his book entitled "Alcohol: It's Relation to Human Efficiency" says:

In a strictly scientific sense, of course, no drinking is moderate that causes any injury to the body, however slight, or that in any way impairs the efficiency of the mind or body. If alcohol in the smallest dose usually taken produces injurious effects and in any way lessens the efficiency of the body, then there is no such thing as moderate drinking. The question, Does moderate drinking shorten life? is a contradiction in terms. The logical form of the question is, Does alcohol in the smallest quantities used as a beverage shorten life, impair the efficiency of the human body, or in any way adversely affect the mind, character or career of the user?"

Eugene Lyman Fisk appealed to the information that life-insurance companies have to offer. Just how the wets can disregard the overwhelming testimony of the life-insurance companies is a mystery to me.


Mr. President, in 1922 the New York Life Insurance Company issued a study of life-insurance statistics prepared by Oscar H. Rogers, medical director. Life insurance copies are cold-blooded in their choice of risks. Sentiment is never a factor in their considerations. I quote the following:

Besides this valuable information, we have another group of facts brought out in the so-called medico-actuarial mortality investigation, 1909-1914, which was participated in by the principle life companies of the United States and Canada. These companies, forty-three in number, carried on their books during the period under investigation, 1885-1903, inclusive, more than ninety per cent of the total old-line insurance in force in these countries. There were not far from six million lives subjected to analysis in this investigation, and the results obtained probably give a quite accurate picture of the facts as they apply to various categories of insured lives. In addition to these sources of information, several important contributions on the subject have appeared, notably those of Doctor McMahon, of the Manufacturer's Life, and Doctor Dwight, of the New England Mutual, in 1911, of Doctor Lounsberry, of the Security mutual, 1913 of Doctor Porter, of the Mutual Life, in 1915, of Doctor Weisse, of the Mutual Life, in 1921. To all of these we shall have occasion to refer."

I am not going to worry Senators with a detailed report of the different insurance companies, but, in order that senators may understand clearly that these studies are not superficial and uncertain, I do wish to state that the experience of the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution for a period of forty-five years; the Sceptre Life Assurance Company, twenty-seven years; the Scottish Temperance Life, twenty-five years; the Manufacturers' Life, nine years; and the New England Mutual Life, sixty years. The study of these statistics show clearly what it costs to insure free drinkers. I quote further from this report:


With regard to the group of the free, daily users of the medico-actuarial, it will be noticed that the members of the class, 11,323 in number, showed in the period under observation 698 deaths where 374 deaths were expected, an excess of 324 deaths and a probable loss to the life companies of about $650,000. These risks were, no doubt, presented to the companies in such favorable terms as to overcome in the minds of the selectors the well-founded prejudice against risks of this sort. As to the conservatives or quite moderate daily users, there were about 30,700 of these with 1,460 expected deaths and 1,725 actual deaths, an excess of 265 deaths and a probably financial loss of about $530,000.

Mr. President, I also quote the cost of insuring excessive users:

We have still to determine from our statistics whether the occasional excessive use of alcohol has any effect on longevity. Classes seventeen, nineteen and twenty of the mortality investigation are of the utmost value here. A glance at the tables is sufficient. Here are 13,500 lives of persons who used alcohol to excess occasionally. The excesses were neither frequent nor prolonged. In some cases a number o years had lapsed since the excess and yet, as a rule, the mortality was as high in one group as in another, among those who had been reformed for a number of years as among those who had only recently discontinued the use of alcohol. It is as if the drug had permanently damaged those lives. It is noteworthy that the attempt of the companies to insure those 13,500 lives was financially not very successful. There were 535 expected deaths and 745 actual deaths, an excess of 210 deaths, a loss of about $420,000.

The discussion of the effects of alcohol upon longevity would hardly be complete without some reference to the mortality experience among persons engaged in the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages. The medic-actuarial mortality investigation in its study of occupations included some of those engaged in the trade in alcoholics. There were rather more than 60,000 of these lives investigated with expected deaths, 3,179, actual 4,495, and excess of 1,316 deaths, a mortality of 141 percent. The probably financial loss from insuring those 60,000 lives must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500,000. This loss occurred in spite of every effort on the part of the companies to prevent it. It was well known when these persons were insured that the occupations were unhealthful and accordingly, the risks must have been selected with the utmost care. Fortunately, all of the losses referred to above were borne by many companies and spread over a good many years. If this were not so, the financial results would have been a very serious matter. As it is, they are only mentioned to give a clearer idea of the extent to which attempts to insure risks have proven a financial burden to the business of life insurance.

Mr. President, I also quote from a conclusion arrived at through these investigations;

The evidence before us is conclusive that the so-called Anstie's limit of one and one-half ounces or three tablespoonfuls of alcohol a day is far too liberal. Indeed, there appears to be no limit within which alcohol may be entirely harmless. It is as if there were a direct relation between the amount of alcohol used and the amount of damage done to the body. The evidence is strong also, that the damage done persists a long time after it has been discontinued. Anyone who uses alcohol now, or has used it in the past, is a less desirable risk, all other things being equal, than a total abstainer and his undesirability is in properties to the freedom with which he used the drug.

Mr. President, the statement of Doctor McMahon, of the Manufacturers' Life, is unequivocal;

Doctor McMahon concludes his paper this way:

What is more significant than anything else is the fact that a critical examination of the experience of every company, separately classifying its risks, reveals the fact that in every year and at all ages, wherever, a considerable number of lives are under observation, the mortality is much lower among abstainers than it is among nonabstainers.

So far as I know, there is not a reputable old-line Insurance Company that does not discriminate against excessive users. No man, young or of middle age, ever contemplated becoming a drunkard. The moderate drinker when he begins the moderate use of alcoholic beverages has a righteous contempt for the drunkard. The truth of the matter is thousands of moderate drinkers are playing with hell fire. There is no escape from this conclusion.

To my mind this settles the question conclusively as to whether light wines, beers or alcohol in any form can, under normal circumstances, improve the health and vigor of the user. Many of the so-called wets advocate the moderate use of alcoholic beverages. If the insurance companies are correct in their conclusions- and they are, beyond a shadow of a doubt- than any program for permitting even the moderate use of these beverage is detrimental t the public welfare.

I wish to be absolutely fair in my use of life-insurance statistics. On April 20, 1926, I received a letter from Louis F. Dublin, statistician for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, together with bulletin number 1, bearing date of January 1926. Instead of quoting from the bulletin, I quote from Mr. Dublin's dictated statement.

'During the first quarter of this year one hundred sixty-eight deaths from alcoholism were recorded among 17,000,000 industrial policy holders of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. This is equivalent to a death rate of three and nine-tenths per 100,000 which is the highest registered for this disease during any three months' period since 1917. These figures may be compared with 121 deaths and a death rate of three during the same quarter of last year. This represents a rise of thirty per cent. For the first three months of 1925, the rate was two and nine-tenths.

Deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, which is closely associated with alcoholism, numbered 314, with a rate of seven and three-tenths per 100,000. This may be compared with 278 deaths and a rate of six and nine-tenths for the corresponding quarter of 1925. For the same three months of 1924, deaths numbered 241, and the rate was six and four-tenths.

Since January 1, 1922, a period of four years and three months, 1,825 deaths were charged to alcoholism among Metropolitan policy holders. Of these, 1,804 occurred among approximately 16,000,000 persons residing in the United States and only twenty one among approximately 1,000,000 Canadians insured in the company's industrial departments.

There were five deaths from wood and denatured alcohol poisoning, which is the same number recorded during the first quarter of last year.'

Mr. President, while this enforces the contention that our prohibition laws are not enforced, it only confirms our conclusion as to the disastrous effects of the excessive use of alcoholic beverages.

Millions are spent annually in the attempt to improve sanitary conditions. We boast of having conquered yellow fever; we boast of having conquered the ravages of the smallpox; we boast of having increased the longevity of the American people. It is conceded, however, that the mortality rate for diseases in middle life has not been lessened to any large extent but millions of babies have been saved, and thus the general average has been radically changed. Just because prohibition laws are violated, as loyal American citizens we cannot afford to disregard the future welfare of American youth. The advocates of moderate drinking, consciously or unconsciously, make a ruthless attack upon the physical welfare of American youth.

Mr. President, why do the wets invariably deplore the former existence of the American saloon? No doubt they are willing to recognize that the destruction of the physical man was one of the dire consequences of the American saloon. The nation-wide educational movement for temperance had to do primarily with the welfare of youth.

One serious delusion that the wets cling to is the delusion that we are in dire straits in the matter of law enforcement and that we are justified in tearing down the walls that have been erected for the purpose of protecting American youth. Their claims are wide of the mark; they have attributed the tremendous increase in crime, if there is such an increase, to the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act. Any careful study of crime will reveal the fact that the attempt to enforce the Volstead Act is only one of the crime-producing factors. I could listen with some patience to the advocates of light wines and beer if their policy were not involved with the making of better citizens and, in my judgement, with the question of whether alcohol in any form is beneficial to the human system or even harmless, and when I say this I am not condemning the use of alcohol by physicians in the treatment of disease. Alcohol is a narcotic, and physicians use several narcotics in the treatment of disease; but even the medical profession is free to acknowledge that even before the eighteenth amendment was adopted physicians are using much less alcohol in the treatment of disease than in former years. The best physicians realize that most narcotics when used have a tendency to arouse a morbid appetite, having a tendency to carry the user into the maelstrom of destruction.

Mr. President, I wish it were possible to force into the open the real backers of the wet movement. There are many conscientious citizens who are advocating light wines and beer. They are so disappointed over the results of the Volstead Act that they are angry and ready to back a retreat. Question. Can the American people knowingly adopt any policy that has a distinct tendency to lower the health and vigor of the American people? It seems to me that the position of the wets is that "I want what I want and it is not my business to worry over the nature of my neighbor." That has been the policy of many men and women all the way down the line of development of civilization.

The wets would have us believe that home brewing is to be prevented by permitting the use of light wine and beer. What real evidence can they offer to verify this prediction? Home brewing has been carried on all along down through the history of the American people and no doubt will continue, to a greater or less extent, to the very end of this Republic.

Mr. President, I will be recognized as a schoolmaster and consequently the plan I make for education will not command the attention it should command. During the last fifty years and prior to the enactment of the eighteenth amendment the American people had carried on a campaign of education that produced results. The days are to be censured severely for having laid down on their job. When the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act were passed, it was thought by many of the drys that their work was done. They trusted too much to law, which without enforcement is of little or no value. If there was occasion for a campaign of education in 1900, 1905, 1910, 1915, there is even greater occasion for it now, because in our crime problem we have the cry that light wines and beer is one factor involved in the solution of it. If anything will save the American Republic or any other nation on the globe, it is education, and I refer to the kind of education which begins in the American home and then is wedded to the public school.

The kind of education that is now going on through the propaganda of the wets is pernicious and destructive in the extreme. In education personal contact has a magnetic value. If men who claim to be law-abiding citizens are ever ready to ridicule sane living and total abstinence from alcoholic liquors and to violate the law themselves, then the force of sane education is nullified. Possibly the west are bent on illustrating by their own conduct that the moderate use of alcoholic liquors is beneficial to the health of mankind. In my judgement, the majority of the wets know better. The truth of the matter is that the wets are angry and are practicing a selfish and destructive policy.


I quote from A Manual of Pharmacology and its Applications to Theraputics and Toxicology, by Torald Saliman, M.D., professor of pharmacology and materia medica in the school of medicine of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, second edition, 1922 as follows

A still more potent objection to considering alcohol as a generally useful food lies in its toxic action, especially its psychial effects. Alcohol should, therefore, be employed as a food only when a sufficient supply of energy can not be obtained from an ordinary dist; as, for instance, in digestive disturbances, or when the demands on the organisms are unusually large, as in fever.

Concerning the habitual or moderate user of alcohol, the same author says:

It may be considered as probably that a certain amount of alcohol (variable to individual cases) may be taken daily without any demonstrable permanently injurious effect. But it stands equally certain that it is as indispensable to the organism as nicotine or caffeine, and that it must be looked upon purely as a luxury. The injury done by such use of alcohol lies chiefly in the fact that it is so apt to load the use of immoderate amounts.

Mr. President, I further quote from a Textbook of Pharmacology and Therapeutics or the Action of Drugs in Health and Disease by Arthur R. Cushny, M.A., M.D., Ll.D., E.R.S., professor of materia medica and pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, formerly professor of materia medica and theraputics at the University of Michigan, and later at the University of London, eighth edition, 1924.

I am confident that the medical profession holds Arthur R. Cushny in high esteem, in fact, if there is an authority in materia medica and pharmacology Cushny is that authority. He states with reference to the influence of infection:

Persons addicted to the use of alcohol are known to show less resistance to acute disease and in operations accompanied by chock than more temperate individuals, and in very intemperate cases the prognosis must be guarded in an attack which would ordinarily be accompanied with little danger. This has been confirmed by a large number of experiments on animals which were subjected to large doses of alcohol and then inoculated with pathogenic germs.

Under "Theraputic Uses" I quote the following:

The action which lands alcohol its value in theraputics is not the stimulant but its narcotic action which allays the anxiety and distress of the patient, promotes rest and sleep and thus aids toward healing or at the worst renders illness more tolerable. Small quantities of other narcotics might be substituted for alcohol, but none of them excel it in producing that spirit of hopefulness and restful confidence which contributes so much to recovery.

Mr. President, I could quote from many other authorities. My primary object is to make it clear that alcohol in any form is a dangerous narcotic; and in discussing the merits of prohibition we can not, as rational Senators, disregard the evidence furnished by the medical profession. I am sure I can state, without fear of contradiction that these quotations are fairly representative of the views of the medical profession. I am aware that physicians still differ widely in the matter of prescribing alcohol in disease. After all, the medical profession is not unmindful of the tremendous danger involved in even the moderate use of alcohol in any form.


Mr. President, the several wet bills now pending are an attempt to repudiate the Constitution of the United States. I do not maintain that this is the intention of the framers of these bills. I do maintain, however, that the passing of these bills would be in effect a repudiation. In my judgement, nothing more dangerous could be undertaken by the United States Congress. The framers of these bills have a perfect right to ask that the eighteenth amendment be nullified and it can only be nullified in the way it was enacted. Why not be frank about the matter and meet the real demand squarely. I can do no better than to quote from the recent speech of the senior Senator from Idaho (Mr. Borah):

Mr. President, it is no part of the duty of a citizen to ferret out means by which to escape from the terms of the Constitution. It is no part of good citizenship, in my judgement, when citizens find in the Constitution a provision which they do not like, to see how far they can possibly go toward evading it or nullifying it without getting within the inhibition which the courts might lay upon them. So long as the provision is there, instead of seeking means to evade it, it is the duty of the citizens of the United States to find means to enforce it. If the means do not exist at this time, if the law is not sufficient and efficient, and if the power behind the law is not sufficient to enforce it, then, instead of finding means by which to evade it, it is our duty, and the obligation rests upon us, to find more effective means by which to make the Constitution effective. Change it if you will, rewrite it if you may, but so long as it is there it is the duty of every loyal citizen to see its enforcement.

Of course, the constituency for which they were politically speaking understand Light wine and beer mean intoxicating liquor. All this disturbance and all this debate are not for the purpose of securing nonintoxicating liquor. The people who are instituting upon this change are not insisting upon the change for the purpose of getting more nonintoxicating liquor. What they understand is that they are to secure intoxicating liquor; that wines and beer such as will give them their intoxicating drinks are to be allowed. We have a great political party, one of the dominant parties in the country, actually passing resolutions petitioning the Congress of the United States and doing it for sheer political expediency.

What we are seeking to do, as I understand it, is to readjust the situation so as to satisfy, if possible, the country against persistent insistence upon a change of prohibition law. If we fix it at a percentage which does not give intoxicating, it will solve nothing. On the other hand, if we do fix it at a percentage which will give intoxicating drinks, we will have violated the Constitution.

Mr. President, in my judgement there are two classes who are eager to have the eighteenth amendment repealed and the Volstead Act nullified. Prior to the enactment of the eighteenth amendment the manufacturers of beer and distilled liquors were a power in politics. They constantly violated the laws that were then enacted. Again and again, as the antisaloon sentiment made progress, the saloonkeepers and brewers were warned that they were on the road to self-destruction. The best citizens of this country were condemned their disregard for law and their utter lack of civic morality. There was hardly any mentionable crime that they would not indulge in in order to increase the traffic. The same class of men are now untiring in their efforts to destroy the Volstead law. They do not constitute any considerable portion of the citizens of America. They entertain the same motives, the same purpose that the bootlegger practices. Nothing can be said in their favor. They contribute to immorality and crime day in and day out; they also influence our legislation and corrupt the political farces in our cities and states. They have not been converted; they are the same vultures in 1926 that they were in 1910.

Mr. President, to my amazement we now have this group of vultures supported, consciously or unconsciously, by a class of men that occupy prominent positions and who see nothing but the violations of the Volstead Act. They utterly ignore the fundamentals of health and the human tendencies that are as old as civilization. It is a deplorable fact that so-called good men have joined this dangerous army of antiprohibitionists, who speak of alcohol and other narcotics as necessities of life and promoters of happiness. In my judgement the man who advocates a surrender to one's instincts is on dangerous ground; yes, on perilous ground. Every fair-minded man knows that every human being possesses instincts, or the remnants of instincts, which, if allowed to run wild, would destroy the individual and human civilization. The truth of the matter is, nearly all narcotics are indulged in for the purpose of shunting mental and physical irritations. It is the lazy man's way of trying to rid himself of the disagreeable. The advocates of light wine and beer recognize the fact that they are to be used for the purpose of producing a fictitious escape from legitimate life responsibilities. There is no more harmful philosophy expounded today than the philosophy of self-gratification.

The anti-prohibitionists have gone crazy over what is called personal liberty, personal freedom. None of these anti-prohibitionists want to see the return of the American saloon. Why not? If the light wine and beer had the virtues they so strenuously advocate, why not give the utmost freedom to their use? The truth of the matter is the very fact that they oppose the saloon is the conclusive argument that they recognize the dangers of this particular narcotic called alcohol. They know very well that a beer or wine that is not intoxicating will not satisfy the craving that they maintain exists for securing ease and peace of mind. They seem to forget that even when they had the American saloon there was a certain amount of bootlegging. They forget that the saloon that tried to obey the laws of the State could not secure its share of the spoils. In my judgement the conscientious in their attempt to destroy the Volsted Act, unhesitatingly violate the Volstead Act and rejoice in it.

American youth is influenced quite as much by public opinion and example as by the laws of the State. I charge them with aiding and abetting lawbreaking in this country. I am not come to any other conclusion. I think I was not unlike other boys. For the outstanding citizens I had the profoundest respect and, consciously or unconsciously, imitated them. How any American citizen who has pledged himself to support the Constitution can violate and rejoice in its violation is more than I am capable of understanding. Furthermore, it must be clearly understood that the wets are not presenting a program that will benefit the morals of youth, that will elevate citizenship, that will work for higher regard for law enforcement. The truth of the matter is the whole philosophy of the wets is contained in the statement "I want what I want."

Mr. President, the drys are not free from criticism. In my judgement at the time of the enactment of the eighteenth amendment temperance had reached its maximum point. For fifty years and education campaign had been carried on, and the youth had some appreciation of the dangers involved in alcohol in any form. They could look about them and see neighbors and friends who entertained the same regard. When the eighteenth amendment was adopted the dry forces lessened their enthusiasm. They thought that their problem was solved. But the problem of self-control, of regulating one's instincts and impulses, can never be solved entirely by law. The educational process in the home, in the school, in the church and in the State must ever be kept in mind.

The wets seem to forget that there exist other influences than the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act in the matter of law violations. This is a prosperous age; this is the age of money-making. This is the age in which the impulses of man are driving toward ease and comfort and moral laxness. Some statesman or philosopher will yet make an analysis of crime and its causes in America. Even Great Britain, with her free use of alcoholic liquors, is floundering in the same ditch that we are in. Other countries might be cited. The consequences of the World War have not yet passed. The destruction of life and property was not the only disaster that the world suffered. We had four years of emotional debauch, and as a consequence the attitude of men and women toward life has been changed. It will take centuries to overcome the emotional convulsions that the nations have gone through.

Therefore it is no time for advocates of law and order to lie down and surrender their only program of hope. Education is the world's beacon light. If the drys will awaken from their Rip Van Winkle sleep and return to their former methods of educating American youth, we shall have a larger respect for law enforcement. It is to be regretted that they can not have the united support of the wets in scouring the enforcement of the prohibition laws now on our statute books. This is, indeed, a pathetic situation. The so-called progressive wets should unite with the drys in an attempt to enforce the Volstead Act. We do not expect them to do this.

Mr. President, the investigation that has been carried on by the Committee on the Judiciary is, in my judgement, fortunate. I do not deplore the investigation. Let us have more light, but let us try to be rational beings; let us try to consider the welfare of all concerned instead of a class. I believe in the sanity of the American people. I believe that this investigation will awaken the American people to a realization of the critical condition that we are now in. The toil of more than a half century must not be snuffed out. The work of educating American youth in habits of right living is an imperative aim for the home, the school, the church, the State and the Nation.

Mr. President, in summarizing I wish to state that I am in agreement with the wet Senators who have declared the prohibition issue to be the greatest issue that ever came before the United States Congress. I have alluded to the half-century battle in America against the liquor traffic. There can be no difference of opinion as to the terrible destruction wrought by the liquor traffic in the United States. I have attempted to show that the eighteenth and the Volstead Act became a part of our law through a long educational crusade was against alcohol as a narcotic, as being injurious to human welfare. No one denies that if alcohol could bee used in light wines and beer in moderation, of course, the results would be much less injurious. But the medical profession and life insurance companies, and the industries of alcohol leads, in thousands and tens of thousands of instances, to its immoderate use.

I have pointed out that is it is a libel on human nature to contend that there is any natural demand for alcoholic beverages. No form of psychology could be more unscientific and pernicious and more disastrous in its teachings than this doctrine. I have also maintained that human nature does change, and it's the province of civilization to make changes in human nature for the better in every way possible. I have also hinted that liquor traffic is in absolute violation of sound economics. The question of personal freedom is subordinated to the interests of all of the people all of the time.

I hardly think that a wet would give any other answer a dry would give to the questions; When and under what circumstances does the moderate use of alcohol increase the personal efficiency of the user? When and under what circumstances does the moderate use of alcoholic beverages make the user keener in his moral discernment? When and under what circumstances does the moderate use of alcohol as a beverage increase the proficiency of any professional man? When and under what circumstance does the moderate use of alcoholic beverages make for law and order?

You will observe that I have used the expression "moderate use." Every American citizen knows that there is tremendous danger of passing from the moderate use of alcoholic beverages to the excessive use of those beverages. The wets propose a plan for turning the United States Government into one great saloon-keeper. If we are to have light wines and beer somebody must dispense them, and if this is left to the Government we open the way for a final return to the American saloon. Many members of the old-time liquor traffic gang are enthusiastically assisting the so-called respectable wets in making prohibition a political issue. Why not frankly admit that their efforts are for legalizing the liquor traffic? In this conclusion I quote the last paragraph of an editorial from the Washington Evening Star of Sunday, April 25 as follows:

The indictment against the law as the cause of its own defiance and violation is the shrewd device of interests that seek the restoration of the liquor traffic in all its vileness and strength of political influence

No country, no State has found a method of distributing light wines and beers so that the danger of the return of the old time saloon would not face us constantly. Furthermore, I wonder that the wets do not occasionally give a little more attention to the great organization of women, the great organizations of American youth, the great organizations of the churches in handling the matter. These different organizations are exerting themselves heroically to help American youth and why should the so-called patriotic wets hesitate to practice a little self denial and join the drys in battle for the enforcement of law?

I believe that with an enlightened public sentiment the Volstead Act can be enforced. America is potentially and practically the greatest country in the world. America occupies a unique position in the affairs of the whole world. Her position is one of conceded leadership. Will she at this critical hour surrender her power and obligation to make America safe for American youth?

Source: Newton, Roy, editor. Life and Works of Woodbridge N. Ferris. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1960), 243-247.