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Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on National Prohibition - 1926

April 5 to 24, 1926


April 5 to 24, 1926


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Washington, D. C.

The subcommittee met at 10.05 o'clock a. m., in room 224, Senate Office Building, pursuant to adjournment on yesterday, Senator Thomas J. Walsh presiding.

Present: Senators Walsh (presiding), Harreld, Goff and Reed of Missouri.

Present also: Representative Hill of Maryland.

Senator WALSH (presiding), The committee will come to order. It has been represented to the subcommittee that in accordance with the program of the hearings that was a reed upon the representatives of the opponents of the measures before us were to be heard on Monday next, apparently the chairman of the committee (Senator Means) having given a somewhat definite promise that they would be heard at that time. It has so happened that the subcommittee has found it impossible to carry out the program as it was originally planned. It was planned to proceed with the hearings four hours each day, so that the proponents of the measure here would have completed their testimony during this week, and the opponents would then be heard. The business of the Senate has been so exacting and our duties have been so imperative that we have been unable to do that.

Now, I am told that a large number of witnesses are here who are expecting to be heard on Monday and are insistent, naturally, that the promise that was made to them should be carried out.

Mr. Codman, would it interfere seriously with your program if some of them be heard on Monday?

Senator HARRELD. Mr. Codman, I understand they would be willing, if given one day, Monday, then to let us resume your side of the case again. But they want Monday.

Mr. CODMAN. Mr. Chairman. of course this has come somewhat suddenly on me, and with no chance to confer except over the back of my chair with Captain Stayton. I have had no chance to confer with either people who are interested vitally in these bills; I have had no chance to confer with witnesses whom I have here or expect on Monday, and should prefer very much to be allowed to confer with my people who are interested in this matter, and make a statement to the committee a little later in the day as to our position.

Senator WALSH. Well, let me suggest, Mr. Codman, that some gentlemen who are associated with you confer during the morning's

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proceedings, and then we will give you 10 minutes when we conclude, to confer with them.

Mr. CODMAN. That will be satisfactory. I might wish to suggest possibly some slight modification of that arrangement, because to interject one day might so interfere that it would even be better to let their case be put in and then let us finish afterwards. I should like to confer, because there will probably be some difference of opinion on this matter that will have to be adjusted.

Senator WALSH. Very well.

Mr. CODMAN. I wish now to call Mr. John Sullivan, who is the president of the New York State Federation of Labor, and who will conclude the oral testimony of the representatives of labor. The other statements will be filed.

Senator WALSH. Mr. Sullivan, you do solemnly swear that the evidence you will give in this matter now in hearing before this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?



(The witness was duly sworn by the acting chairman.)

Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I am instructed to come here by the New York State Federation of Labor, the largest single unit in the American labor movement.

Ever since this prohibition legislation went into effect it has been a continuous subject of discussion at every convention of the New York State Federation of Labor. And it has been becoming more acute year after car. The New York State Federation of Labor has gone unanimously on record, without a dissenting voice, at every convention held within the past five or six years, asking its representatives to do everything that lay within their power to ask the Congress to modify the Volstead Act, and because the membership of the New York State Federation of Labor are of opinion that nothing that has ever transpired has so set back true temperance in America as the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act.

I have had occasion to travel quite extensively, not alone in the State of New York but throughout the United States, and I have seen things in that time that, if they had been seen prior to prohibition the people of this country would have been dumbfounded.

In New York City, and in the several cities of the State of New York, I have had occasion to attend parties such as banquets, dinners, and social gatherings. And I have been invited to practically all of them, I might say, and I have never seen one yet that you could call dry. They have the most peculiar concoctions that I have ever seen.

The last one I attended presented this situation: That there was laid in front of everybody's plate a little doll dressed up on a bottle, with a card, and it contained 2 ounces of liquor. I do not know, of course, whether that was done with the knowledge and consent of the hotel at which it was held, or was under the auspices of the party that held the affairs, but nevertheless I have not heard any protest,

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and I did not see any bottle left empty, because I tried to get one full as a souvenir, and I could not get it, and I wish to add that there were quite a number of ladies present at that affair as well.

Not alone the organized labor movement but the unorganized, and I have had occasion to come in contact with them for four years in a general manner, and I would say that the organized labor movement of the State of New York, and I will take in the United States as well, is in favor of temperance as much as any other class of citizens in the United States. We are preaching it.

But before I come to the unorganized question, I want to state one thing: In the meetings of our local unions, if a man appeared before prohibition, if a man dared to appear under the influence of liquor prior to this legislation, why, he would be ostracized. He would be a man they would not care to associate with. But what is the situation now? He is a hero if he comes in.

It is nothing new now to see them passing the flask around at union meetings, something that was never done before, and something that would never have been tolerated before prohibition. But now the question is asked "Where did you get it?" And they will say "How good is it?" And so forth and so on.

During the past four years I have had charge of the municipal employment bureau run by the city of New York. It occupied three large floors, of possibly 150 feet deep by 200 feet wide. One department was set apart for women, girls and children; and the others were for men and boys. The ground floor was entirely given over to common labor. Things have come to such a state there that on several occasions they have had to send for the ambulance to take away men apparently that would come in the morning perfectly sober and within about an hour or so I would get a telephone message from one of my men downstairs to the effect that "A man dropped on the floor, and we do not know whether he had a fit or what was the matter with him." That was not occasional.

Well, if you were to see the number of flasks that our porters take out of that floor every morning it would be astounding.

Now, gentlemen of the committee, 1 want to conserve the time of this committee as much as possible, because I think many features connected with the labor situation were properly gone into by other witnesses, and so I do not want to take up any more of your time than I think necessary. I realize that there are other witnesses who are to be heard.

I want to say this, that at least the labor movement I think beyond any question, and unorganized labor I feel sure, and I want you gentlemen to view this as it is, because I again repeat that labor is temperate and wish to be temperate, but views the situation with some alarm particularly because of the influence the situation has on the younger generation, our children. I have been to places where it was not an unusual occurrence at all to see a young girl take out her pocketbook flask of whisky and hand it around to her chums and associates. I have seen this on more than one occasion. And I belong to an institution in New York that we organized, and we were in a first-class hotel at a gathering, and I had occasion to go to the lavatory, the gentlemen's lavatory and I was astounded to see there three young girls with three men, and they were drinking out of a flask and handing it around.

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Nobody wants to see that. I am the father of a large family myself, and I have always preached temperance since the first day I came into this labor movement, and I shall continue to do it, but I believe most honestly, it is my firm conviction, that the Volstead Act and the eighteenth amendment has set back, as I said before, temperance in America at least 50 years.

And what does it tell us? It is only a case of history repeating itself. As I stated here before a committee on another occasion we had this same thing back under the administration of President Madison. Conditions were exactly the same. The people were all indulging in the use of highly alcoholic liquors, which caused alarm at that time, so much so that it caused President Madison to appoint a commission to visit European countries to study the liquor question over there.

The mission went abroad, and they brought back a report. They were more impressed by the conditions that existed in Germany than anywhere else. The result was that the President of the United States sent, a Special message to Congress advocating that German capital be invited to come to America, and given land free of charge, and exempted from taxation for a period of one year; and it was with the one object in view, which was to encourage temperance in America. And here we are back again to the same old game,

Gentlemen of the committee I repeat again on behalf of the men I represent that I hope this committee will do everything within their power to reestablish temperance In America, and by doing that you will advocate a modification of the Volstead Act.

Mr. CODMAN. Mr. Sullivan, will you just state about how many men you represent as the head of the New York State Federation of Labor?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Approximately I,000,000 men.

Senator REED of Missouri. You spoke about girls carrying flasks of whisky and passing them around to their companions at social gatherings. Were those girls the class of girls that before prohibition, and speaking of them as a class, would have indulged in anything of that kind?

Mr. SULLIVAN. They would never have looked at it. They were the daughters of respectable families, and they would never then have dared to attempt it.

Senator REED of Missouri. Do you think that these conditions you have spoken of were confined to just a few cases or is that growing generally?

Mr. SULLIVAN. It is general. It is becoming worse day after day.

Senator REED of Missouri. And do these girls and boys drink together out of the same flask?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Absolutely.

Senator REED of Missouri. You say that is becoming general?
(The witness nods his bead.)

Senator REED of Missouri. You nod your head is giving an affirmative answer do you?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes, Sir.

Senator REED of Missouri. What effect is that having outside of drinking, generally on the morals of the people as you observe it?

Mr. SULLIVAN. it does not have any good effect, Senator. It has in my judgment a demoralizing effect.

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Senator REED of Missouri. What is the effect now with reference to whether the laboring element, with which you come in contact, both organized and unorganized, as to whether they are drinking more or drinking less of hard liquors than they did before prohibition?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Why, they are drinking a good deal more, because I knew hundreds of our men in the labor movement who never touched hard liquor but who are drinking it now.

Senator REED of Missouri. Why do you say if you had beer and light wines- - and that is what I take it you are advocating?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes, Sir.

Senator REED of Missouri. Why do you say that that would have a deterrent effect upon the consumption of hard liquors?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Because every man that I have come in contact with has stated that if they only had their glass of beer back, the same as they were used to heretofore, they would never dare to take this stuff because they know it is injurious to their health.

Senator REED of Missouri. Your thought, then, is that if the hard liquors are prohibited, and if all that these people could get would be this doubtful stuff that is sold by bootleggers, and yet the people could get a mild stimulant in the form of a mild beer or wine, that they would take that in preference to buying this bootleg stuff?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Why, absolutely that is true, Senator. There is no question about it. That is the unanimous opinion of everybody I have come in contact with.

Senator REED of Missouri. You think a modification then would be in the interest of temperance and morality?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Absolutely. It would be nothing else in my judgment and in the judgment of the men I come in contact with, who are as a matter of fact advocating temperance.

Senator WALSH. With no purpose whatever of expressing any doubt about the conditions of which you speak among the young people, let me say this; I remember that about the time of the breaking out of the World War, and before we had the eighteenth amendment or national prohibition, my daughter and I were dining at one of the hotels in this city, and she called my attention to several young girls at an adjacent table who were drinking cocktails. So that the drinking of hard liquor by girls to my certain knowledge antedates the national prohibition law, and as to drinking in public places that occurred then.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Well, I want to tell you, Senator Walsh---

Senator WALSH (continuing). I deplored it then as I do now, and it may have been increasing, but it was certainly coming upon us before prohibition.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Well, Senator I will say that seldom have I ever seen girls drink in the open before national prohibition.

Senator WALSH. It was so rare then that my daughter called my attention to it.

Senator HARRELD. It is not a rare thing now, but---

Mr. SULLIVAN (interposing) I should say not.

Senator HARRELD. Is it not largely true by reason of the fact that 25 or 30 years ago the most of these women who drank liquor drank it in the red light district where people like you and me did not see it?

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Mr. SULLIVAN. Well, I can not answer that, Senator, because I never patronized those places.

Senator HARRELD. We have no such places now.


Senator WALSH. Let me call attention to this: Now we see very young girls in all the public places of this city smoking cigarettes. That would have been regarded 10 years ago even as a horrible offense. I recall very distinctly that when the Princess Eulalie of Spain was invited over here to represent her country at the Chicago Exposition in 1893 she was caught, actually caught, mind you, smoking a cigarette in her room in the hotel, and it was then seriously debated in the public press of this country as to whether the President of the United States ought not to recall the invitation to her to come to this country. You see we have undergone some change.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes; a considerable change, because now it is the common practice in all European countries for every girl to smoke.

Senator WALSH. Well, it has become the custom in this city, if I judge rightly what I see.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Well, I should not like to see my young daughter smoking.

Senator WALSH. Neither would I.

Mr. SULLIVAN. But I do not know that there is anything wrong about it if she wants to.

Senator WALSH. I am indicating to you that some change has come over us.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes; quite a change.

Senator GOFF. Is it not a fact that 25 years ago in this country, as Senator Walsh has indicated, women did not even drink light wines in public places?

Mr. SULLIVAN. That is quite true.

Senator GOFF. And did not the practice of women drinking light wines in hotels come into play before this country adopted the eighteenth amendment?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Not very much so, or I never saw it.

Senator GOFF. Do you mean to say that prior to the adoption of the eighteenth amendment you never saw women drink cocktails and wine and champagne in the hotels of this country?

Mr. SULLIVAN. I have never seen them.

Senator GOFF. Did you ever hear of it?

Mr. SULLIVAN. I have heard of it, yes; but I have never seen it.

Senator GOFF. You know it did become quite the common practice, do you not?

Mr. SULLIVAN. No; I do not.

Senator GOFF. Why is it that people are drinking to-day because of the passage of the eighteenth amendment who did not drink prior to that time?

Mr. SULLIVAN. Because they believe that it is an infringement to their personal liberty.

Senator GOFF. Well, people do not violate other laws that might be an infringement of their personal liberty, do they, for that very reason?

Mr. SULLIVAN. I do not know.

Senator GOFF. Well, you must know from your observations and the records of the police courts of the country, that men are not

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committing larceny or other kindred offenses merely because the statutory law of the State says they should not commit them.

Senator REED Of Missouri. Well, the crime of larceny is hardly to be likened as an infringement of personal liberty.

Mr. SULLIVAN. I should say not.

Senator GOFF. Oh, yes it is.

Mr. SULLIVAN. That is not a comparison.

Senator GOFF. I know a great many people who feel it is an infringement on their personal liberty to prevent them from stealing, and putting of them in the penitentiary as the result of it.

Mr. SULLIVAN. Yes; but I never considered it a great offense to drink a glass of wholesome beer.

Now, Senator Nichol of New York, a State senator, who is a Republican, said before a committee last month in Albany--- and Mrs. Bolle, whom I recognize out here as the president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, listened to it--- he said it was making people of the State of New York more resentful, and the reason was that the officer who made the arrest was a violator of the law, the attorney who prosecuted was a violator of the law, and the judge who sentenced the man was a violator of the law. That is a statement made by a State senator, and this lady was sitting right there listening to it.

Senator REED of Missouri. Do you know whether or not--- and I think we all know what conditions were before prohibition, and I think we all know that they used to have banquets, and that at those banquets they served wines, and sometimes served cocktails, and that some women drank along with the men on those occasions, took a glass of wine, and they might take a cocktail, but that was largely confined to the rather elaborate banquets. We all know that. it is not necessary to have any evidence of it. But is this habit of passing the bottle at the table a thing that is confined now--- yet that is a thing that never existed before at banquets, and we all know that--- is this passing of the bottle a thing that is confined now to the elaborate dinners, or is that a general custom that has grown up where young people meet

Mr. SULLIVAN. It is general.

Senator REED of Missouri. Do you know now from--- and I do not ask you to state whether you know from your personal experience, but do you know now whether the custom has grown up in cities where people can step to the telephone, a woman can step to the telephone, and call a bootlegger and have a bottle delivered at the door, do you know whether that is true from what you have observed or what you have learned from talking with the people?

Mr. SULLIVAN. I have heard that but I have not witnessed it. I know, however, that if you have the money there is no trouble in getting it. That is certainly true.

Senator REED of Missouri. That is all.

Mr. CODMAN. The next witness, Mr. Chairman, is Mr. Francis William Russell. This gentleman is a Canadian, of Manitoba, who wishes to address the committee in the line of the matter suggested by Senator Bruce in his speech, and will give you an illustration of how the law is working in the Province of Manitoba, which has tried experiments of various kinds. Mr. Francis William Russell.

(The witness was duly sworn by Senator Walsh.)

92101* 26-VOL. 1---17

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