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Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on National Prohibition - 1926

April 5 to 24, 1926


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nuisance, but you do not propose to go into a man's home and tell him what he personally shall do; that is your point, is it not?

Mr. FREY. That is my point, Senator.

Senator HARRELD. It is not just as reasonable that the law should step in and say that a man shall not put his money on a horse race or on a gaming table? I mean to ask this: Is it not just as reasonable to say that a man shall not violate the rights of others by drinking liquor to excess as it is to say he shall not go into a gambling house and gamble his money away!

Mr. FREY. The law always did provide for those who drink to excess. Now, Mr. Chairman, I should like to leave with the committee the official action of the last convention of the International Molders' Union?

The CHAIRMAN. That may be made a part of the record.

Mr. FREY. Shall I read it?

The CHAIRMAN. No, I take, it that is unnecessary. Just put it in the record.

Mr. FREY. Here it is for the record, and I will say that it was adopted by the unanimous vote of the delegates coming from all parts of the United States and Canada:

Believing that the Constitution of the United States is the chart and compass of our rights as well as our form and structure of government, and should not become under amendment a. code of criminal law, and believing further that the cause of true temperance as well as proper respect for law, and government by law, has not been advanced by the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act, we therefore declare ourselves in favor of the enactment of a law by Congress which will provide for the lawful manufacture and, the sale of light wines and beer.

Signed by the resolutions committee.

Herbert L. Wright, No. 17; Ray Dorgan, No. 139; Peter Jacobs, jr., No. 182; C. McKee, No. 296; William Sherry, No. 222; Ernest Derflinger, No. 305; William L. Rapier, No. 27; William Boyle, No. 23.1; F. W. Felker, No. 413; G. W. Boswell, No. 164; Jerry Galvin, No. 181; James Campbell, No. 84; Joseph Hansman, No. 232; Herbert F. Cole, No. 359; A. Mahoney, No. 66; Noble B. Grimshaw, No. 219; Herbert J. McCartney, NG. 103; J. Sy. McKay, No. 135; John F. Schmid, No. 47; M. Cartnoy, No. 103; R. J. Skehan, No. 167; Daniel S. Callahan, No. 106; R. H. Curran, No. 11, chairman; John F. Dunachie, No. 22, secretary.

Mr. C0DMAN. Mr. Henry F. Hilfers, the secretary of the New

Jersey State federation of Labor.

(The witness was duly sworn by Senator Walsh.)


Mr. Hilfers. I am the secretary of the New Jersey State Federation of Labor, and I have been such for the last 17 years.

The New Jersey State Federation of Labor, representing about 80,000 workers in the State, at their annual convention, ever since, the eighteenth amendment has. been adopted, has passed resolutions declaring in favor of the modification of the. Volstead Act.

We men of labor, and in using this term I mean the vast majority, comprising at least 90 to 95 per cent, are opposed to the Volstead Act in its present form in the State of New Jersey.

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Not that they want the return of the saloon as it was in the past; not that they crave for the return of strong alcoholic drinks, but because they feel that the Volstead Act is a factor that has created disrespect not alone for the eighteenth amendment but for all law.

That the law is unenforceable; that it has created more crime than there ever was prior to prohibition; that the morals of our Nation are worse by far than prior to prohibition; that it has forcibly illustrated that you can not change habits of centuries by laws without creating contempt for that particular law and also for all laws in general; that the average working man feels that the Volstead Act only benefits two classes–––

1. The fanatic who wants to reform and regulate everything by law.

2. The second beneficiary is the bootlegger.

The workingman further feels that he is being discriminated against; that the rich man can afford to purchase liquor without any trouble and have it at any time. The workingman, on the other hand, would like to have a wholesome glass of beer, which he can not get at the present time, And what is the result?

The workingman feels that something has been put over on him; he is dissatisfied, and a great many of them who had never touched hard liquor before are drinking it to-day.

The Volstead Act has been the direct result of creating more crime in the State of New Jersey than there ever has been before.

It has endangered the life and limb of those using the public streets, through autos being operated by drunken drivers; it may be that there were just as many auto drivers that drank before prohibition, but what they drank did not affect their ability to run an automobile with safety. To-day one or two drinks create a menace to life and limb to those who use our streets and highways.

Statistics have shown that drivers of automobiles arrested for drunkenness have increased 100 per cent in the last few years. Some one may ask where do they get it?

If some one would ask the question: Where can't you get it? It would be more difficult to answer.

I realize full well that to stop the making and selling of bootleg liquor entirely is out of the question, but it can be minimized.

That is absolutely feasible, and can be done, by permitting the making and selling of a wholesome beer or ale under proper restrictions through the modification of the Volstead Act.

It will in my opinion reduce the demand for bootleg liquor, satisfy the average worker, and create more respect for law and order.

I have been told that before prohibition we had a saloon at every corner; since prohibition we have a distillery in practically every home, and only lately, in one of the exclusive suburban towns near Newark they have discovered the so-called community distillery, where all of the people living on one block club together and contribute to the making of synthetic gin, which is then distributed pro rata among those that were contributors to that weekly.

I want to say that in my duties as secretary I come in contact with people of classes all walks of life, but particularly among the workers in different sections of the State. Thousands of them that I have been personally acquainted with, that I knew have

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never touched hard liquor before prohibition, drink it now and make it in their own home, and in consequence they not alone pollute their own home but contaminate their wives and children in that respect.

Regarding disrespect for the law, I want to state to you gentlemen that it is practically universal in the State from the highest to the lowest. A person can not have very much respect for the law when judges on the bench tell you that you must respect the law, whether you are in favor of that law or not, as long as it is on the statute books, that you must see that your people obey that law, obey any restraining order issued by any court; he tells you that from the bench when privately he tells you and kicks about the high prices the bootlegger is charging. These are facts, gentlemen, that I want to bring to your attention. A good many people might speak about a referendum on the prohibition law. In the State of New Jersey I think we have had three or four or five of them in the shape of election for governor. We elected three Democratic governors in succession. We elected one Democratic United States Senator and one Republican Senator on the referendum whether the were wet or dry in New Jersey, and all of them that went on the wet ticket were elected.

Senator WALSH. I think the committee will take judicial notice of the fact that New Jersey is against the amendment.

Mr. HILFERS. Well, I think that they forcibly illustrated it.

I want to say in regard to beer and wine. I do not think that you will find much objection whether you permit wine to be made under the amendment of the Volstead Act, as far as my observation goes. They have got that down to a science. There are men now that are making a comfortable living going from home to home during the grape season and making wine, and looking after the fermentation of it and it is a fact that a good palatable wine can be made in their homes. But you cannot make beer. You cannot make a wholesome palatable glass of beer in your home, no matter how expert a home brewer you are. And that is what the workingmen crave for. If they can get a wholesome glass of beer with their lunch at noon, and before or after they get through a hard day's work it seems to be a stimulant to them. It seems to buck them up. They feel better with their lot. They feel more contented. And they will not crave for liquor and won't touch it.

Senator WALSH. Now, Mr. Witness, you will excuse us. I am due at the Senate at 12 o'clock, and we will have to adjourn now.

Senator REED of Missouri. Senator Walsh, pardon me, what do you say about adjourning these hearings until we get through with this matter in the Senate and we can hold hearings all day?

Senator WALSH. Well, Senator, we ought to occupy the morning hour if possible, it seems to me.

Mr. CODMAN. It would help very much indeed, I think, Senator Walsh, if we could postpone the hearings until we could have afternoon and morning sittings. The difficulty that I am under in keeping absolutely important witnesses here is so great–––

Senator WALSH. I know, Mr. Codman; and we meet with some difficulties ourselves.

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Mr. CODMAN. I have no doubt of it; but I want to keep the difficulties. before the committee, because now I do not know when we are going to have hearings; we do not know when they will be held, and it is difficult to arrange about placing the witnesses, and it is difficult to keep them here.

Senator REED Of Missouri. Perhaps we ought not to do it without consulting our associates. Let us go on to-morrow morning.

Senator WALSH. Very well.

Mr. HILFERS. May present this resolution for the record, Senator? It completes my report.

Senator WALSH. Yes.

Mr. HILFERS. This is a resolution adopted by the New Jersey State Federation of Labor.

Whereas the dissatisfaction and discontent against the drastic and unreasonable features of, the Volstead Enforcement Act is constantly growing throughout the country and is creating a growing spirit of contempt for all laws; and

Whereas many of those favorable to the adoption of the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution were of the opinion that the adoption of this amendment would not bar the use of mild beverages, such as beer and wines; and

Whereas the Volstead law has brought about the wholesale illicit manufacture of ardent spirits and alcoholic concoctions which have resulted in innumerable deaths and cases of blindness: Therefore be it

Resolved, That we, the delegates to the Forty-fourth annual convention of the New Jersey State Federation of Labor declare ourselves in favor of the modification of the Volstead enforcement law, so that wholesome beer may be enjoyed by the toilers of this country; and be it further

Resolved, That we urge upon the members of the labor movement of New Jersey to support for––– election as Members of Congress and other public office only such candidates as will give positive assurance that they will advocate and vote for the modification of the Volstead Act and other measures beneficial to the toiling masses and to the public in general.

Senator WALSH. The committee will adjourn until 10 o'clock to-morrow morning.

(Whereupon, at 12 o'clock noon, an adjournment was taken until 10 o'clock a. m. the next day, Saturday, April 10, 1926.)

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