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ASHLAND UNIVERSITY

PROGRESSIVISM AND
THE TWO ROADS TO PROHIBITION

A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE


REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ASHBROOK SCHOLARS PROGRAM AND
THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF ARTS

BY JEREMY HORTON
APRIL 29, 2009

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE


AND HISTORY

The years after the Civil War saw not one but two new beginnings in American
politics. The first was to some extent a working and living out of the principles of the
Founding, a resumption of old ways now elucidated and ennobled by the tragedy of
the War and by the triumph over slavery. But very quickly this perpetuation or rebirth
of the old freedom began to give way before the advance of a New. Hope-filled
experiments in American politics began to be conducted, whose character was not
altogether unlike the epochal experiment dared by her ancestors in the garden, while
God was not looking. The same pretension that found its temptation, and purpose,
and the liberation of the passions reached out for knowledge of a new kind for the
wisdom of history that was at once to completion and nullification of the knowledge
of good and evil. The results of that original experiment were not as happy as had
been predicted, but whether these latter-day political experiments portend a similar
disappointment and alike rebuked? remains to be seen. Already they have
proceeded, with occasional interruptions, for more than a century.

-Charles R. Kesler

INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................................................. 2
A CONSTITUTIONAL DISCREPANCY ........................................................................................................................... 2
THE VARIOUS ROADS TO REFORM ........................................................................................................................... 10
DRUGS, ALCOHOL, AND THE COMMERCE CLAUSE ................................................................ 13
GONZALES V. RAICH AND THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT ............................................................... 13
19TH CENTURY LIQUOR COMMERCE AND THE WILSON BILL ..................................................................... 17
THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH ......................................................................................................... 27
TWO CONCEPTS OF CONSTITUTIONALISM ........................................................................................................... 27
THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT .............................................................................................................................. 30
THE PRE-PROGRESSIVE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT .............................................................. 35
AMERICAS OLDEST REFORM MOVEMENT ........................................................................................................... 35
TEMPERANCE, RELIGION, AND LIBERTY ............................................................................................................... 38
THE GREAT LEGAL FORTRESS OF INTEMPERANCE ....................................................................................... 43
THE WCTUS FIGHT FOR A CLEAR BRAIN ...................................................................................................... 48
TEMPERANCE PROBLEMS IN PRE-PROGRESSIVE AMERICA ............................................................................ 52
THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENTS PROGRESSIVE TRANSFORMATION ....................... 58
THE PRAGMATISM OF THE ANTI-SALOON LEAGUE ......................................................................................... 58
WEBB-KENYON AND THE EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT ................................................................................... 61
PROGRESSIVE IDEAS, THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT, AND THE ANTI-NARCOTICS MOVEMENT 63
THE ANTI-NARCOTICS MOVEMENT ............................................................................................... 67
THE SPREAD OF DEMOCRACY .................................................................................................................................... 67
THE ONE-MAN REFORM MOVEMENT .................................................................................................................... 72
THE OPIUM EATERS ....................................................................................................................................................... 77
THE BEGINNINGS OF FEDERAL NARCOTICS PROHIBITION ............................................................................ 83
CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................................... 87

I NTRODUCTION
How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!
Samuel Adams,
Letter to John Pitts, January 21, 1776

A Constitutional Discrepancy
In September of 2002, Robert C. Luisi was convicted in a federal court for
violating the Controlled Substances Act on three separate counts of cocaine possession
and distribution.1 Luisi appealed the initial decision to the U.S. District Court of
Massachusetts where Judge William Young presided. Luisi had admitted to
distributing cocaine, but was basing his appeal on entrapment accusations that he
made against the federal agents who arrested him. Not surprisingly, he was found
guilty once again.2 The Judge stated, Although Luisis entrapment defense at times
lent the proceedings the air of The Godfather, the trial was otherwise unremarkable.3
Except for one incident that occurred, this description was quite accurate.4 Although
the case was not noteworthy from anyones perspective other than Mr. Luisis, a
confrontation took place during jury deliberations that raised a significant question.

Title 21, section 841 (a) (1) of the U.S. Code states that it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute, or
dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.
http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/Controlled Substances Act/841.htm#
2
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online,
http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/ind/DRUGS.Court_cases,_Federal.Convictions.2.html. From 2001-2004, the
percentage of people convicted of a federal drug offense when they were charged was 90.64%.
3
Judge D.J. Young, United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, United States of
America v. Robert C. Luisi Memorandum, July 25, 2008, 1-2; United States v. Luisi, 482 F.3d 43 (1st Cir. 2007), Luisi
was an admitted member of the La Cosa Nostra crime family. One of his superiors was working with the FBI and
instructed Luisi to purchase and sell the cocaine, which was the basis for his entrapment defense. The U.S. Court of
Appeals, First Circuit decided that the original conviction was erroneous because the jury had not been properly
instructed on the entrapment defense, http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/482/482.F3d.43.03-1470.html.
4
According to the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, cases involving drugs are extremely prevalent.
From 2002 to 2004, 38% of cases heard were drug-related. This means that of the 277,968 cases brought into federal
court, 106,554 of them were brought on because of drug charges. Immigration cases are the next most common, but
account for only about 24% of the total federal docket, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm#cfjs.

The law that Luisi was charged with breaking was the Controlled Substances
Act and considering the facts of the case, it should have been fairly easy to get a
conviction. One juror, however, made it unusually difficult. On the first day of
deliberations, an argument broke out between this juror and the judge. According to
Judge Young, the juror refused to accept the legitimacy of the drug laws at issue.5
The dispute began when the judge received a note from the jury that read:
One juror is asking: Whereif two-thirds of both houses of congress voted in
1919 that it was necessary to amend the constitution to give congress the power
to ban mere possession of a substance (prohibition of alcohol in that case)is
the constitutional grant of authority to ban mere possession of cocaine today?

The judge answered this by saying the jury was not permitted to determine
constitutional issues about the law. Thomas Eddlem, the juror who posed the
question, found this to be an insufficient response. He continued to protest the
validity of the case and would not allow deliberations to go on, even though the judge
was adamant that, the laws at issue were constitutional and that those on the jury
were not free to substitute their own views.6 Eddlem was not swayed and cited the
highest law of the land to make his case.
Article I, section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate
commerce among the several states, which means that the federal government has
no right to prosecute anyone for commerce that takes place within a state, argued
Eddlem, including the buying and selling of narcotics. Therefore, Congress did not
have constitutional authority to prosecute Mr. Luisi for selling cocaine since he did not
cross any state lines to buy or sell it. He offered as further evidence the passage of the
Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which granted Congress the power to prohibit the
manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages within the states. The federal
government did not have this authority until one year after ratification of the
amendment.7 This amendment initiated national prohibition, as Congress quickly

Young, 3. The 43-page memorandum was written solely on his handling of this situation.
Young, 3.
7
Young, 4.
6

passed legislation that nearly banned all alcoholic beverages in America.8 Given the
legal steps that had to be taken to enact alcohol prohibition, Eddlem wanted to know
where Congress found constitutional authority to prohibit narcotics.
Since Congress only possesses those powers that are enumerated to it through
the Constitution, Eddlem stated, it was never made clear to me where banning the
mere possession of drugs is authorized.9 Judge Young told Eddlem that the Supreme
Court had interpreted the Commerce Clause, to extend to enacting laws with respect
to contraband, including contraband laws.10 The Commerce Clause, according to the
court, grants Congress the authorization to enact legislation that regulates narcotics
and/or narcotics possession. Eddlem remained unconvinced. Growing impatient, the
judge decided that Eddlem was challenging the validity of the Controlled Substances
Act for moral reasons and was thus engaged in juror nullification, which gave the
Court grounds to dismiss him. Eddlem protested this, saying that he believed the
Controlled Substances Act to be invalid not because of his sense of morality, but
because of the Constitutiondespite how the Supreme Court had interpreted it.
The constitution should not be interpreted, Eddlem said, Interpret is a word I
use with reading a foreign language. The Constitutionis written in English.11 He
did not object to the claim that Mr. Luisi had dealt drugs, but that the trial was being
held in a federal court. This argument did not convince Judge Young, who removed
the rogue juror, and replaced him with an alternate.12 The judge claimed that
Eddlem was removed for disregarding the courts instructions and attempting to
acquit the defendant because of moral opposition to the law in question, which is
otherwise known as juror nullification. Eddlem fought to stay on the jury, but the
judge believed it was clear that Eddlem, was unable to set aside his personal beliefs
8

This legislation was the Volstead Act (1919) which defined the intoxicating liquor that Congress had
the right to prohibit under the 18th Amendment. While not specifically prohibiting consumption the act outlawed
any means by which to obtain it.
9
Young, 4. The precise way that Young quoted Eddlem is that it was never made clear to me where
[banning mere possession of drugs] is authorized.
10
Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); U.S. v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549
(1995).
11
Young, 5.
12
Young, 35.

and apply the law as instructed, which was a kind of juror misconduct that could be
classified as nullification.13 Although he insisted that he did opposed the doctrine of
jury nullification, Young removed Eddlem for acting as if he did. On the day Eddlem
was dismissed, the jury unanimously decided to convict Luisi.
The main focus of Youngs post-trial memorandum was jury nullification and
the dangers it poses to the jury system, and with it the rule of law and judicial
independence.14 Young quotes John Adams in his memorandum, stating that the
impropriety of nullification emanates from the notion that ours is a government of
laws and not of men.15 He contended that people may work to change the laws if
they do not agree with them, but they cannot disregard them.16 Although Young gave
an impressive discourse on the importance of the American jury system, he did not
actually address the question posed by Eddlem.
Eddlem did not give a moral argument against the law that Robert Luisi broke;
he gave a legal argument. He did not say that possessing, distributing, or even being
13

Young, 6. Council for the defense, not surprisingly, argued for Eddlem to remain on the jury since he
stated that he did not believe it was at all right to determine guilt based on ones opinion of the law in question.
14
Young, 8. According to the memorandum, Eddlem referred to jury nullification as the philosophy of the
fully informed juror. This is a reference to a non-profit organization called the Fully Informed Jury Association
(FIJA), which holds the belief that The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense
punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical
abuses of power by government. FIJA believes that it is mans unalienable right to veto or nullify bad and
oppressive laws. They even say that men will be morally compelled to acquit defendants who are being tried for
violating these kinds of laws. "Fully Informed Jury Association." Fully Informed Jury Association, American Jury
Institute. http://www.fija.org/ (accessed August 12, 2008).
Judge Young rightly claims that this idea is dangerous, as Eddlem also stated. Acquitting those who have
broken the law if one thinks the law unjust, or even if it is unjust, undermines the purpose of the law itself. In
theory, if this doctrine were universally accepted, no law would be enforceable. Any defendant could make the case
that the law that he is being tried for violating is oppressive or tyrannical, which would mean that they should not be
punished; putting the citizen above the law.
15
Young, 30. Judge Young explains that this statement is quoted in many Supreme Court decisions: Zuni
Public Schools Dist. No. 89 v. Department of Education; Grupo Mexicano de Desarrollo S.A. v. Alliance Bond Fund, Inc.; and
Patterson v. Shumate, but that the reason he uses it is because it is generally attributed to John Adams, the author of
the Massachusetts Constitution.
16
Young, 32. In arguing against nullification, the judge acknowledged that there have been isolated
instances of benevolent nullification, such as the cases of people being acquitted of violating fugitive slave laws
before the passage of the 13th Amendment, but that these few examples from bygone centuries, are exceptions to
an otherwise abhorrent string of lawlessness. Jury nullification is no longer justifiable in any case for him. His
argument against the practice is convincing, as he clearly makes the case that if it were accepted by the masses as a
sound legal philosophy, jury nullification would completely undermine the rule of law and lead the nation towards
anarchy. He quotes U.S. v Thomas (2nd Circuit, 1997) in his use of benevolent, and says that the majority opinion
added some may regard [this type of nullification] as tolerable.

addicted to cocaine and selling children as slaves to satiate that addiction was morally
defensible. A few months after the incident, he even said, I would not have hesitated
to have convicted Luisi in a state court of possession charges, nor in federal court of
trafficking charges with sufficient evidence. Even if no drugs had actually been
transported across a state line, but there was evidence of a conspiracy to do so, I
would have voted to convict Luisi.17 He did not see how the Controlled Substances
Act could be upheld by the clause in the Constitution that reads: The Congress shall
have power . . . To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several
states. If Congresss powers are enumerated by the Constitution, so as to not have
the power to do anything outside of those enumerated powers then how does the
commerce clause permit the federal government to regulate the possession of drugs in
cases such as Luisis?
Young argued that if a jury acquitted an accused person due to a personal
problem with the law in question would undermine the rule of law completely.
However, given the text of the Constitution, Eddlem wanted to know how the statute
in question did not undermine the rule of law itself. Why was it necessary to amend
the Constitution so Congress would have the power to prohibit the intrastate
commerce of a particular substance in 1919 and such an amendment has not been
required to for the prohibition of other substances? Why is constitutional
authorization not needed for the government to prohibit the intrastate use of other
narcotics?
Judge Young did not answer these questions other than by saying that the
Supreme Court decided that the Commerce Clause had been interpreted to permit
Congress to pass laws relating to drugs that did not cross more than two state lines,
and that Eddlem had to judge the case according to that interpretation.18 The judge
felt that this was the only way a jury could simultaneously exercise its power and
preserve the sanctity of the law. According to Eddlem, this had precisely the opposite

17

Thomas Eddlem. "'Rogues' and Humpty Dumpty Judges." LewRockwell.com.


http://www.lewrockwell.com/eddlem/eddlem24.html (accessed September 13, 2008).
18
Young, 6.

effect, destroying the entire purpose of the law. They both argued that adherence to
the law is required for a free government to sustain itself, but they disagreed on how
the law should be interpreted. Specifically, they disagreed on how a particular law is
determined to be constitutional and what constitutional means. Though not a jurist,
Eddlem was technically correct when he said that the Constitution contains nothing
that explicitly grants Congress the power to regulate the manufacture, sale, or use of
drugs that are not a part of interstate commerce. However, looking at the past century
it is clear that this has not caused many judgesespecially federal judgesto question
the constitutionality of the federal governments policy of drug prohibition.19 Judge
Young defended the federal governments right to regulate narcotics and it is not
surprising that he won that particular battle, but the fundamental question remains
unsettled.
The main issue of the confrontation was constitutional interpretation. Both
argued that the law must have more authority than men, but the inherent difficulty
with this is that manmade law cannot be separated from language and will therefore
always be a matter of interpretation. The judge claimed that the juror was creating his
own law while the juror essentially blamed the judge for doing the same thing. In
describing the quarrel between himself and the judge, Eddlem used a dialogue from
Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking Glass as an analogy:
"When I use the word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it
means just what I chose it to mean neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice," whether you can make words mean so many
different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be the master thats
all."20

19

Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, and Sandra Day OConnor

dissented.

20

Thomas Eddlem. "'Rogues' and Humpty Dumpty Judges." LewRockwell.com.


http://www.lewrockwell.com/eddlem/eddlem24.html (accessed September 13, 2008).

Judge Young instructed Eddlem to judge the defendants guilt only according
to his interpretation of the Constitution, citing a Supreme Court ruling to justify his
stance.21 Eddlem, on the other hand, cited the Eighteenth Amendment to validate his
claim, but the judge did not think it necessary to explain why the prohibition of
narcotics was not preceded by a constitutional amendment like the prohibition of
alcohol was. It would perhaps be unreasonable to accuse the judge of not fulfilling his
duties by failing to answer the question posed to him, but the question, nonetheless,
deserves an answer. Why was the Constitution amended to prohibit alcohol but such
action was not necessary to prohibit narcotics?
In describing how Judge Young would only define the Constitution in such a
manner that it supported his own opinion, it is somewhat fitting for Eddlem to have
used a passage from Carrolls Through the Looking Glass as an analogy.22 Redefining a
word so that it can be reconciled with a particular proposal was a very successful
tactic used by the progressives during the early part of the 20th century, with
Woodrow Wilson arguably being the most prominent to do so as both a progressive
scholar and politician. In his 1913 work, The New Freedom (as opposed to the old
freedom), Wilson also used a passage from Lewis Carrolls book, but in this case to
explain why he was forced to be a progressive.23 In the passage, the Queen grabs
Alices hand and they begin to run incredibly fast. After doing so for about as long as
they can, they stop abruptly. Alice looks around and says, Why, we are just where
we were when we started! The Queen replies to this by saying, Oh yes, you have to
run twice as fast to get anywhere else.24

21

Young is a Reagan appointed judge and Eddlem described him as doing a better than average job at
explaining the law in the case. According to Eddlem, Young even agreed that courts have gone too far in
stretching the Commerce Clause to apply to things like firearms, citing the U.S. v. Lopez case.

23

Wilson,Woodrow,The New Freedom, The Essential Political Writings. ed. Ronald J. Pestritto [Lanham:
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005], 117. Wilson does not quote the book accurately but sufficiently
paraphrases it. Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, University of Virginia Library,
Electronic Text Center [1993]
24
Wilson, The New Freedom, The Essential Political Writings, 117.

Wilson called this, the parable of progress, which expressed his sentiment
that the United States was stuck in the past and did not have the political tools
necessary to improve. The progress that Wilson and other progressives believed in
required an expansion of the governments powers and the government itself. This
required that a new notion of governments purpose be adopted. Wilson explains
further:
The laws of this country have not kept up with the change of economic
circumstances in this country; they have not kept up with the change of
political circumstances; and therefore we are not even where we were when we
started
I am, therefore, forced to be a progressive, if for no other reason, because we
have not kept up with our changes of conditions, either in the economic field or
in the political field. We have not kept up as well as other nations have. We
have not kept our practices adjusted to the facts of the case, and until we do,
and unless we do, the facts of the case will always have the better of the
argument; because if you do not adjust your laws to the facts, so much the
worse for the laws, not for the facts, because law trails along after the facts.
Only that law is unsafe which runs ahead of the facts and beckons to it and
makes it follow the will-o'-the-wisps of imaginative projects.

In order for the progressives to adjust the law to the facts, the theory of
constitutionalism that the American founders had designed the Constitution
according to would have to be altered. Such a change would remove the obstacle that
the progressives faced in trying to implement their desired reform ideas, but it would
have to come slowly. As Wilson himself asserted, Wherever regard for public
opinion is a first principle of government, practical reform must be slow and full of
compromises.25 The progressive movement caused such a gradual transformation to
take place in the theory and practice of American government, which greatly
influenced the development of federal policies regulating alcohol and narcotics in the
early 20th century.

25

Woodrow Wilson, The Study of Administration, [November 1, 1886]


http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=465, (accessed April 3, 2009).

The Various Roads to Reform


The temperance movement began long before the progressive movement
emerged in the late 19th century. The anti-narcotics movement was much different in
this manner, as it was born in the progressive movement. This was one of the key
reasons that the anti-narcotics movement and the temperance movement had such
different outcomes regarding the two prohibitory policies of both substances. The
temperance movement, which caused the Eighteenth Amendment to be adopted, was
completely separate from the movement that resulted in the first federal legislation
used to prohibit narcotics.26 The different paths taken by the anti-narcotics movement
and the temperance movement, and the reasons why such divergent paths were taken,
explains why alcohol prohibition was enshrined in the Constitution but narcotics
prohibition was not.27
Both of the movements against narcotics and alcohol fell within the broader
progressive movement, which also desired to reform social concerns such as
prostitution, child labor, pure food laws, and others. Each of these movements had
preferred means of addressing their respective issues, which usually fit into one of
three categories: abolition, regulation, or reformation. Movements that wanted to
enact reform on the federal level were limited in their options, as they hung their
proposals on certain constitutional hooks.28 The Constitution identifies five federal
powers that could be used by these reformers: territorial, postal, treaty, taxation, and
the commerce power.29
Prostitution-related legislation was first passed in 1910 with the Mann Act.
This prevented the interstate trafficking of women for immoral purposes, but after a
series of Supreme Court decisions, it was eventually used to regulate prostitution
26

Deets Pickett; Wilson, Clarence True; Ernest Dailey Smith, Cyclopedia of Temperance, Prohibition, and
Public Moral, [New York, The Methodist Book Concern, 1917 ed.], 150. This is not to say that temperance
supporters were not antinarcotics reform supporters, but that the legal and social paths of the movements were
completely separate, as the Cyclopedia states that Through the efforts of temperance reformers, Congress was
induced to pass an antinarcotic bill taking effect March I, 1915.
27
Richard F. Hamm, Shaping the 18th Amendment [Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,
1995], 135.
28
Hamm, 9.
29
Hamm, 4.

10

almost entirely.30 The movement against child labor worked to achieve statewide bans
due to its failure to enact federal legislation based on the taxing and commerce power.
The Pure Food and Drugs Act was enacted in 1906 as a regulatory measure over
adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and
liquors.31 Each reform movement of the progressive era carved out a distinctive
niche of interaction within the law as it then existed, according to Hamm.32 This was
due to the means used to enact the reform legislation. The different ways in which the
antinarcotics and temperance movements interacted with the American regime as it
was being transformed by the progressive movement accounts for why alcohol
prohibition was preceded by a constitutional amendment and narcotics prohibition
was done by statute alone.
The anti-narcotics movement caused the passage of legislation that would
result in narcotics prohibition to be gradually imposed across the United States. This
legislation, the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act, was passed in 1914.33 It paved the way
for the 1970 enactment of the Controlled Substances Act, which was the law that was
questioned by Mr. Eddlem, and used to frame this study. As will be seen in the first
section of this paper, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act as an extension
of the prohibitory policy that had been in place since the progressive era as a result of
the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act. The modern constitutional defense of the Controlled

30

Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917). While the Mann Act was aimed to prevent white
slavery, outlawing the transport of women across state lines for prostitution and human trafficking, this decision
now regulated other immoral acts such as debauchery, adultery, and polygamy. This broad intrepretation of
statutory power which would further prostitution, in this case, will resemble the understanding of narcotics
legislation discussed later in this study.
31
Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906 (The Wiley Act"), 59-384, 34 STAT. 768 (1906), 21 U.S.C. Sec 1-15
(1934).
32
Hamm, 3-4; Kurt Hohenstein, Just What the Doctor Ordered 252. This caused early scholars to try
classifying them as autonomous entities, which weakened the notion that there was a singular progressive movement
that connected all the reform movements of the era. Theodore Roosevelt termed what all these movements had in
common as the gospel of morality and the gospel of efficiency.32 What he meant was that all progressive
reformers were trying to improve the nation (gospel of morality) and had to determine the best practical way to do so
in consideration of their particular reform goal (gospel of efficiency). .
33
The possible exception to this may have been the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which will be briefly
addressed but it is important to observe that although this legislation was the first major federal law addressing
narcotics in a certain fashion, the primary purpose of it was not to deter the use of illegal drugs. Its purpose in
regulating drugs was to ensure that the consumer was aware of what was in medicines.

11

Substances Act, which constitutes the federal governments current narcotics policy,
will exhibit the reasons why the progressive era must be investigated in order to
determine the reasons why narcotics prohibition exists by statute alone and alcohol
prohibition was added into the Constitution.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the Controlled Substances Act was a
constitutional exercise of government power in the case of Gonzales v. Raich. It stated
in the ruling that the federal government ushered in a new era of federal regulation
under the commerce power" at the end of the 19th century and that the Constitution
began to be interpreted so that the federal government would have enough power to
deal with the nations changing social and economic circumstances.34 The progressive
movement, which helped initiate the new era, instigated a political transformation
that has been described as being, as radical as the American Revolution.35 It is this
transformation that must be examined to explain why the federal government felt that
a constitutional amendment was necessary to prohibit alcohol, but not narcotics.
By understanding how the fundamental principles of the progressive
movement were slowly implemented into the political culture of the United States;
how these ideas were the same that provided the theoretical foundation for the
movements to prohibit alcohol and narcotics; and that the two movements used
divergent means in pursuit of their ultimate goals, it can be determined why narcotics
prohibition had a different legal outcome than alcohol prohibition. This will thereby
reveal that the political change in America that was caused by the progressive
movement indicates that both the judge and the juror were rationally justified in their
contrasting views of the constitutionality of narcotics prohibition in effect today.36

34

Roger Pilon, Chapter 3: The Illegitimate War on Drugs, After Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug
Policies in the 21st Century, [The Cato Institute, Washington D.C., 2000], 7. There is an answer that could have been
given to Eddlem, although the judge could not have given it in the situation, which is that the opinion that the
federal government must have specific constitutional authority before doing something is, for the most part, not
taken seriously anymore. As Pilon has noted, [T]o listen to recent State of the Union Addresses, one imagines no
problem too personal or too trivial not to be a fit subject for federal attention.
35
Thomas West and William Schambra, "The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American
Politics," First Pinciples Series, no. 12 [July 2007], 1.
36
This does not mean, however, that both were right.

12

D RUGS , A LCOHOL , AND THE


C OMMERCE C LAUSE
Gonzales v. Raich and the Controlled Substances Act
The Harrison Narcotics Act and the Controlled Substances Act were both
enacted so that the federal government could regulate certain substances whether or
not they directly entered the stream of interstate commerce, or at least whether or not
those substances ever crossed a states border. The authority to do this is found in the
modern understanding of the Commerce Clause, which has been adopted by Congress
and, with few exceptions, the judiciary.37 It contends that Congresss regulating power
is not limited to that which takes place among the several states,commerce that
crosses state linesbut extends over all commerce that may directly or indirectly affect
interstate commerce. This was the interpretation used by the Supreme Court in
deciding the 2005 case of Gonzales v. Raich, which was the case referred to by Judge
Young in his explanation to Mr. Eddlem that the federal government has determined
that it possesses the constitutional power to regulate all narcotics activity within the
United States. In the courts decision, the majority stated that the Courts
understanding of the reach of the Commerce Clause, as well as Congress assertion of
authority thereunder, has evolved over time.38 This statement is of vital importance
to this investigation, and the rest of the courts decision will illustrate why

37

Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936). In one the of few exceptions, this decision limited federal
power over the commerce of the coal mining industry. The court ruled that Congress was attempting to regulate the
production of coal, through a tax measure, and not affect its commerce. The commerce of coal mining only has the
potential to become part of interstate commerce after being mined, but during its production is only subject to local
authority. The regulation of coal was key to Franklin Roosevelts New Deal policies and the decision in this case
triggered FDR to attempt raise the number of justices on the court to 15 attempting to gain the power to appoint
one more justice for each one over 70. His proposal was not enacted and the case stood, its main impact being that
the federal government could not regulate local evils (in this case coal mining) but only national evils, as well as
being one of the few limits the court rules on Congress commerce power. See also note 49.
38
Gonzales v. Raich (2005).

13

progressivism and the progressive era must be focused on to explain why alcohol and
narcotics prohibition have been given different constitutional treatments.
The defendant in Gonzales v. Raich was arrested for violating the Controlled
Substances Act due to possessing medicinal marijuana, which was legal in his home
state of California. He argued that the Controlled Substances Act was
unconstitutional because the narcotic he possessed had not entered the stream of
interstate commerce, as the marijuana had been grown and used within Californias
borders. Actually, his marijuana was never even a part of any commercial activityit
had not been bought or sold by him. The court, nonetheless, justified its decision
finding the defendant guilty with the commerce clause maintaining that, Congress
can regulate purely intrastate activity, if the activity has an effect on interstate
commerce. In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the
Controlled Substances Act and the federal policy of drug prohibition, and it admitted
to doing this because of how the commerce clause has been interpreted for the past
century. The interpretation of the commerce clause that was used for one hundred
years after the Constitutions ratification no longer applied, and this began to be
recognized at the end of the 19th century. It was at that time, according to the court,
that Congress ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce
power, laying the groundwork for the modern understanding of constitutional limits
on federal power.39 The statements made in the Raich decision concerning the shift
that took place around the turn of the 20th century are crucial in order in answering the
question posed to Judge Young by Mr. Eddlem.
As the court states in Raich, the way the Constitution is to be interpreted has
evolved over time, and the modern interpretation is drastically different than the
one held more than two centuries ago. The court seems to recognize that there have
been two stages in this evolutionary process that stand out in American political
history. Both stages ushered in a new era, and there have only been two stages in this
evolutionary process that stand out in American political history. The first era began
39

United States v. Lopez (93-1260), 514 U.S. 549 (1995). William Rehnquist opinion of majority.
<http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1260.ZO.html>

14

with the Constitutions ratification and ended around the turn of the 20th century, and
we are living in the era that succeeded it. As the court makes clear, the main concept
separating the eras is the different understandings of the federal governments
constitutional limits. Of course, both eras had many disputes over the precise nature
of these limits, but in general the federal governments power during the first century
of the Republic was limited by the text of the Constitution, while this was not the case
in the 20th century. In his dissent of the Raich decision, Clarence Thomas made an
argument concerning marijuana similar to Mr. Eddlems argument regarding cocaine,
saying that, In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that
Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of
marijuana. Given the rationalization for its decision, it is clear that the majority
would not have disagreed with this statement although they undoubtedly disagreed
with Thomass view that this should be a significant factor in the decision. To
understand the Constitution in this way, wrote Justice Thomas, meant that Congresss
power would have no meaningful limits.40
In upholding the Controlled Substances Acts constitutionality in Raich, the
court based its decision on case law that had been established during the new era of
constitutional interpretation. It claims this new era, which now spans more than a
century began as a reaction to rapid industrial development and an increasingly
interdependent national economy, that was emerging in the late 19th century.41
Constitutional scholar Christopher Wolfe has dubbed the period lasting from the
1880s until the 1930s as the transitional era, which describes the way in which the
commerce clause was beginning to be interpreted during those years. This affirms the
courts statement that the manner in which the Constitution was interpreted in the
early Republic changed by the 20th century, however, Wolfes use of the term
transitional indicates that the break from the old understanding was not as clean as

40

United States v. Lopez (1995). Clarence Thomas, Dissent


<http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZD1.html>
41
The court identified the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 as the exact starting point of
this era.

15

the court suggested. As he put it, there is no area in which the break with the
constitutional interpretationof the traditional era is very sharp.42 This time period,
the progressive era, must be investigated in order to determine why narcotics can be
prohibited by federal statute while alcohol prohibition required the enactment of a
constitutional amendment five years later. This is not only because the constitutional
theory used to justify the federal governments current narcotics policy emerged
during that era, as the court recognized in Raich, but also because the federal
government first began regulating narcotics during that time.
The Controlled Substances Act constitutes the nations current narcotics policy
but as the court recognized, it was not Congress first attempt to regulate the national
market in drugs; it was simply the first campaign of the war on drugs declared
by Nixon.43 The court says that the initial efforts at control were labeling regulations
stipulated by the Food and Drug Act of 1906, but:
Aside from these labeling restrictions, most domestic drug regulations prior to
1970 generally came in the guise of revenue laws, with the Department of the
Treasury serving as the Federal Governments primary enforcer. For example,
the primary drug control law, before being repealed by the passage of the CSA,
was the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914.44

Until being repealed in 1970 due to the Controlled Substances Acts passage,
the Harrison Act had been the primary drug control law in the United States, which
makes it the focus of our question investigation.45 If it was necessary to amend the
constitution to give congress the power to ban mere possession of a substance
(alcohol) in 1919, Eddlem asked, where is the constitutional grant of authority to ban
mere possession of substances classified as narcotics today?46 The Harrison Narcotics
Act provided the framework for the federal governments drug control policy until the
42

Christopher Wolfe, The Rise of Modern Judicial Review: From Constitutional Interpretation to Judge-Made Law,
Revised Ed., [Rowman and Littlefield, 1994], 164. Wolfe asserts that the transitional era began with the passage of
the 14th Amendment in 1868 because Certain rights previously left to state protection were brought under the
protection of the federal government. Ibid., 124.
43
Gonzales v. Raich (2005). http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZO.html
44
Ibid. Emphasis added.
45
Gonzales v. Raich (2005). It was not as comprehensive or strict as the Controlled Substances Act, but it
was the first time that the federal government attempted to strictly regulate the possession and sale of narcotics.
46
Paraphrased from Eddlems quote in introduction, see page 1.

16

more comprehensive Controlled Substances Act replaced it over half a century later.47
The specific regulations laid out by the Controlled Substances Act are stricter and
more comprehensive than those found in the Harrison Act, but both the same
progressive principles can be seen in both.
As is evident by the Supreme Courts decision in Raich, the Commerce Clause is
currently interpreted in such a way that it restricts all commerce related to narcotics,
even when a particular state loosens its own regulations of them.48 The court
interpreted the Constitution in the exact opposite way during the 19th century in
regards to liquor commerce, which essentially nullified any prohibitory laws that were
passed by an individual state. After a series of rulings that invalidated state laws
regulating or prohibiting liquor, the movement came to believe the ultimate success of
the cause depended on ensuring the eventual adoption of nationwide prohibition. By
using the federal commerce power to nullify state prohibition laws before the 20th
century, the court set the temperance movement on a course towards a constitutional
amendment. Once the new era of federal regulation had begun; Congress, as well as
the Supreme Court, aided the temperance movement on its course towards its
ultimate goal.

19th Century Liquor Commerce and the Wilson Bill


Since the Commerce Clauses effect on drug policy framed the central question
of this investigation, it must be determined how the clause was applied to questions of
earlier substance regulation, in this case alcohol regulation leading up to the
Eighteenth Amendments passage. As we have seen, the Supreme Court has ruled the
Controlled Substances Act to be within Congresss power to regulate

47

Gonzales v. Raich (2005). The Controlled Substances Act was enacted to consolidate various drug laws on
the books into a comprehensive statute, provide meaningful regulation over legitimate sources of drugs to prevent
diversion into illegal channels, and strengthen law enforcement tools against the traffic in illicit drugs.
48
Vince Reighard, The Necessary and Proper Clause in Gonzales v. Raich, paper submitted for
Constitutional Powers, Ashland University, Spring 2007. Reighard says of the courts ruling, This conclusion
which suggests the states are like children who need the supervision of the National Mother Government is repugnant to
our federal system of government in which states are given the authority and trust to see their own affairs within
their borders.

17

commerceamong the several states. Because it defines the regulatory power of the
federal government, this phrase is traditionally referred to as the Commerce Clause.49
However, it is not the only part of the Constitution that mentions the power to
regulate commerce. Rather than restricting the federal governments power as the
traditional Commerce Clause does; Article I, section 10 restricts the regulating power
possessed by the states, reading: No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress,
lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely
necessary for executing it's inspection Laws.50 This passage played a major role in the
temperance movement during the 19th century. It was applied in such a way that it
harmed the temperance movement; at least, in the short term. This was a key factor in
making alcohol prohibition a national issue.
Before the Civil War, many state laws restricting the use and/or trade of
alcohol were challenged on constitutional grounds as violating the federal
governments power to regulate interstate commerce. During this era, however, the
state laws were held up by the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice Taney, who said
that there was nothing in the constitution of the United States to prevent [a state]
from regulating and restraining the traffic, or prohibiting alcohol within the borders
of that state.51 After the war, the Supreme Court began to interpret the Constitution in
favor of the liquor trade and against states trying to restrict it. In the same way that
the Commerce Clause is today used to nullify the narcotics policies of individual states
which are more lenient than prescribed by the Controlled Substances Act, in the late
19th century; Article I, section 10 was used to essentially nullify any efforts made by
individual states to prohibit alcohol.
From the point of view of many 19th century temperance reformers, the federal
governments policy on liquor commerce asserted that an individuals right to drink
took precedent over a states right to regulate its own commerce. Although this

49

Article 1, section 8.
U.S. Constitution art. I, sec. 10.
51
License Cases, 1847. There were six separate opinions upholding the state prohibition laws in
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island; Cyclopedia of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals, 158.
50

18

seemingly should have outraged all temperance reformers, and it did for many, many
in the movement used it as an opportunity. To the radical prohibitionists, drinking
was unquestionably evil and therefore completely unacceptable anywhere in the
United States. Allowing it in some states but not others blurred the line between good
and evilnational prohibition was the only acceptable policy.52
In addition to their disdain for states having the power to choose between right
and wrong, reformers were also not too keen on the varying degrees of regulation that
states implemented reform, as not all chose total prohibition, nor were they completely
supportive of local option laws, which were state laws that gave towns the power to
determine alcohol regulations. The nullification of these laws was a victory for the
liquor industry in a sense, but it also caused the temperance movement to raise its
sights. In 1890, immediately after the Supreme Court handed down the ruling in Leisy
v. Hardin, which was the last to nullify a states alcohol prohibition, one of the leaders of
the United States Brewers Association told leading temperance publication, The Voice,
its a blessing to you in disguise.53 The journals writers and other radical
prohibitionists understood what he meant by this. This ruling helped to fuel a crisis
over the Constitution that had long been brewing over the federal governments
proper role in controlling the liquor commerce among the states.
The precedent that the Court had used to shape liquor laws throughout most of
the 20th century was found in John Marshalls ruling of Brown v. Maryland in 1827. The
case concerned a tax that the state of Maryland was levying on importers and
wholesalers of foreign goods. The court unanimously ruled that Maryland was
violating the constitution by doing this, saying that as long as the item remained in its
original form or package in which it was imported, it was still federally protected
commerce and beyond the regulating powers of the state, until it had been sold once
inside the states borders. This became known as the original package doctrine and it
helped to shape the federal governments stand on alcohol regulations almost until the

52

Hamm, 36-38.
Hamm, 69. August Thomann, Director of Publication for USBA, in an interview with the Voice, a New
York based temperance publication.
53

19

20th century. Another precedent set forth by the Supreme Court known as the
freedom of commerce doctrine was established nearly fifty years after Brown v.
Maryland and was equally important in shaping federal alcohol policy in the midst of
the temperance movement.
The freedom of commerce doctrine was articulated in the 1876 case Welton v.
Missouri, and declared that a state could not impede commerce by imposing taxes or
regulations without having express permission from Congress to do so. The specific
restriction found unconstitutional in Welton was a Missouri law that taxed merchants
who sold goods produced outside of the state. The court cited Brown v. Maryland in its
decision, saying that both of the cases contained a similar difficulty in drawing the
line of distinction between the restriction upon the power of the States to lay a duty on
imports, and their acknowledged power to tax persons and property.54 Also like the
Brown decision, the court took the position in Welton that it would be premature to
state any rule which would be universal in its application to determine when the
commercial power of the Federal Government over a commodity has ceased.55
Though being largely based on the original package doctrine established by Marshall
in Brown, the Welton decision rejected the Marshall courts opinion of the dormant
commerce clause. Congress had not said anything about the Missouri tax being
questioned in Welton, voicing neither disapproval nor support of it. This was a major
departure from Marshalls decision in Wilson v. Black Bird Creek Marsh Company, which
argued that Congress in deed possessed the power to regulate interstate commerce
and that any state regulation conflicting with this federal power was void, but also
that if there was no federal act that the state was in conflict with, then Congresss
power to regulate was in its dormant state, and any state regulations not affecting
interstate commerce were legitimate.56 Missouri had interpreted Congresss silence as

54

Welton v. Missouri (1876). Majority opinion delivered by Justice Field.


Welton v. Missouri (1876). In the Brown decision, John Marshall used fairly vague language, stating that it
would be premature to make a ruleuniversal in its apllication.
56
Willson v. Black Bird Creek Marsh Co., 27 U.S. 2 Pet. 245 245 (1829). The Black Bird Creek Marsh
Company was incorporated by an act of the Delaware General Assembly and built a dam across a creek adjacent to
their land. The commerce conducted by way of the dam was in question but the dam was ruled as not affecting
55

20

approval for the enforcement of their tax. The court stated that Missouri would have
lost this case anyways due to the original package doctrine, but it went a step further
by completely nullifying the tax and declaring it to be unconstitutional.
This introduced America to the freedom of commerce doctrine. If Congress did
not take any action regarding a regulation that a state imposed on imported goods, it
was equivalent to a declaration that inter-State commerce shall be free and
untrammeled. The power to regulate interstate commerce was vested in solely the
federal government and if it did not regulate commerce in a particular instance, then
that commerce was to be free from any interference.57 If Congress did not approve of
a specific tax levied by a state on particular imported goods then the Court determined
the state to be infringing on the federal governments commerce power. This
interpretation of state regulatory power raised questions of how the courts would treat
state prohibition laws, and whether or not they would be a viable option for the
temperance reformers to pursue.
The precedent set by the court in the Welton decision nullified taxes that states
imposed on imported alcohol, which did not necessarily mean that state prohibitory
laws would also be found unconstitutional.58 The freedom of commerce and original
package doctrines applied to the specific situation in the Welton case, but did not
establish a hard and fast rule that clearly distinguished between federal and state
commerce. The court had stated in both the Brown and Welton decisions that they did
not want to establish a universal rule that would be applied in all cases. This gave
the liquor industry and law enforcement officials some gray area in which to operate
until the court ruled on how these doctrines would apply to state prohibitory laws.
interstate commerce and the court ruled that the incorporation of the company by Delaware was not repugnant to
Congress Constitutional authority to regulate commerce between the states because the creek did not flow into or
over anything under federal statute. It was therefore a state issue of Delaware and did not fall under federal power
to regulate interstate commerce.
57
91 United States Reports (1876) 275. As quoted in Hamm, 61.
58
Hamm, 61. Until the Welton ruling nullified it, Michigan had a law that taxed liquor sellers who
imported their liquor from outside the state and had no place of business in the state. The courts during the
Reconstruction saw that a Congress that was dormant in commerce did not permit the state to levy taxes on out-ofstate trade, this regulation was still reserved to the federal government. These were viewed as barriers to free
commerce and infringements on the federal commerce power. This raised into question the viability of state
prohibition laws and how they would be interpreted by the court.

21

Until the court addressed this in 1888, liquor traders largely ignored prohibition laws,
using the freedom of commerce and original package doctrines to justify importing
their product into the dry states. The merchants used the railroads to ship liquor into
the dry portions of the United States and they did it successfully.59 Some law
enforcement officials, like the mayor of Atlanta, understood the federal power to
regulate interstate commerce as restricting their ability to enforce certain alcohol
regulations. Other officials did their best to enforce their states liquor laws. These
men did not believe that any doctrine superseding a states police powers was
legitimate even if the nations highest court opined that it was. Up until 1888, these
vigilante-like officials were engaged in a fierce contest with the liquor merchants. The
Supreme Courts decision in the case Bowman v. Chicago and the Northwestern Rail Road
was handed down in 1888, siding with the liquor men. Although seemingly helping
the alcohol business, it also created a new problem for it by.
The Supreme Court makes prohibition a national question, The Voice declared
after the 1888 ruling in Bowman v. Chicago and Northwestern Rail Road. The Bowman
brothers were brewers based in Iowa, which had laws prohibiting anyone from
shipping liquor into the state or within its borders if they did not have the specific
authorization to do so.60 These brothers challenged the constitutionality of this
regulation on the grounds that it violated their ability to participate in free and
unrestricted commerce, and the Supreme Court supported their argument. The court
ruled the law unconstitutional despite the fact that they agreed with a major aspect of
Iowas argument, opining that the law functioned as an element of a general design
of protecting the health and morals of its people, and the peace and good order of the
state, against the physical and moral evils resulting from the unrestricted manufacture
and saleof intoxicating liquors. However, they ruled that the Iowa law affected
commerce of other states and was a barricade to trade that Commerce did not desire.

59

Ibid., 61. In 1886, the Atlanta Constitution estimated that 20,000 gallons of liquor were imported into
the dry counties of Georgia in one month. Atlanta Constitution October 19, 1886
60
Jerry Harrington, Bottled Conflict, Keokuk and the Prohibition Question, 1888-1889, Annals of Iowa
46 (Spring 1983): 596-600. As quoted in Hamm, 63. Professional druggists were the only ones who whe were
granted authorization.

22

The attorney for the Bowman brothers stated that the effect of this ruling was to
render nugatory prohibitory law. Those within the temperance movement agreed
with his assessment and intensified their calls for national action.
The prohibitionists believed that national prohibition [was] the most direct
road to state prohibition since the Supreme Court had invalidated state prohibitory
efforts. The federal governments power to nullify state regulatory laws of alcohol was
reinforced in the aforementioned ruling in the case Leisy v. Hardin, which flooded the
dry states with liquor.61 The Bowman decision ensured that a state could not restrict
the importation of liquor across its borders from another state, but it left open the
question concerning a states ability to regulate liquor once it had crossed its borders
and had been sold, which definitively made it the states commerce.62 The Leisy
decision made it so that state laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages within its
own borders were invalid if the alcohol had not yet become a part of the states
commerce. These laws had been used in efforts to sidestep the courts ruling in
Bowman by making it illegal to sell any liquor that had been legally imported, but
these laws were now nearly obsolete. The states could now only regulate liquor that
had already been sold within its borders, meaning that it could virtually regulate
nothing at all, because it would have most likely been consumed after the first sale.
The opinion put forth by the majority in Leisy was initially seen as a serious
blow to the temperance cause, but it also provoked it. The court had based its decision
on the original package doctrine, saying that the states could not regulate the sale of
liquor that had not entered the stream of intrastate commerce without congressional
permission. This gave them a plan of action. The use of the phrase, without
congressional permission, instilled within the temperance movement a belief that
Congress could grant this power to the states and that the court must uphold such
authorization.63 In response to the Leisy decision, Congress enacted the Wilson Act,

61

Hamm, 70.
Ernst Freund, The Police Power, Public Policy, and Constitutional Rights, [University of Chicago Press, 1904],
http://books.google.com/books?id=6AMKAAAAIAAJ, 217.
63
Hamm, 70.
62

23

which was the first major piece of federal legislation to somewhat restrict the liquor
traffic in the history of the United States.
The Wilson Act gave states the power to regulate all liquor commerce that took
place within their own borders; whether or not the liquor had been imported, become
part of the states commerce, or remained in its original package. Though a victory for
the temperance groups such as the Womens Christian Temperance Organization and
the Prohibition Party, neither of these organizations made an effort to get this law
passed because it had been authored by James Wilson, a Republican described as no
temperance fanatic, who wrote the bill in the attempt to remove

64

Wilson and the

Republican Party proposed this legislation because it feared the possible consequences
of the Leisy ruling, which had been compared to the Dred Scot case by the Union Signal
and evoked similar rhetoric by the Washington Post, which stated that if the ruling
was not reversed by the Court or nullified by an act of Congress, the battle of states
rights will have to be fought over again.65 Most prohibitionists and temperance
organizations did not take any significant action to ensure passage of this bill, nor did
they rejoice when it was ratified into law.
While ensuring that states had the power to regulate liquor, the law also
seemed to lessen the need for federal prohibitory legislation in the view of the
temperance movement. This was exactly the goal of the Republicans who wanted to
confine the prohibition issue to the states and keep it away from the national stage.
While the bill was seemingly written to preserve states rights, there were many who
saw it as doing the opposite. The legislation caused questions to be raised about the
extent of federal power as well as the future of traditional state regulatory power. The
progressive movement was in its earliest stages and the federal governments power
and scope was just beginning to evolve.
Not surprisingly, it was Southerners who protested the loudest over the
Wilson Bill, saying that it only appeared to be a measure in favor of states rights but
actually granted the federal government additional power. One congressman stated
64
65

Hamm, 79.
Washington Post, June 26, 1890; Union Signal, July 31, 1890. Quoted in Hamm, 73.

24

that, if passed, the Wilson Bill would infer that Congress had the ability to both limit
and expand the powers reserved to the states. Echoing Alexander Hamiltons
argument of Federalist #84, Texas Democrat David Culberson declared that the
Wilson Bill indicated that Congress assumes to become a grantor of power, rather
than a protector of rights.66 Culberson and those like him presented substitute ideas
for restoring the states police power to regulate liquor commerce. Those who
supported the bill criticized these alternative proposals as well as those excellent
gentlemen, who they claimed, always find a constitutional objection in the way of
right action.67 Defeating their critics, the Republicans passed the Wilson Act on
August 8th, 1890.
Thirty years before the Eighteenth Amendments ratification to prohibit liquorrelated commerce within states, the Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitution
in such a way that it nullified any laws passed by individual states that prohibited or
heavily taxed alcohol imported across their borders. While these rulings initially
appeared to be a major setback for the temperance movement, they also helped ensure
passage of the Wilson Act, which was enacted so that state prohibitory laws could be
enforced. This law set the course for the temperance movement for the next thirty
years, as it was the first time that the federal government had acted to support the
prohibitory policies of the states.68

66

Hamilton, Federalist 84, as quoted in Hamm, 84. "For why declare that things shall not be done which
there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained,
when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer
a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretence for
claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason, that the constitution ought not to be charged with
the absurdity of providing against the abuse of an authority, which was not given, and that the provision against
restraining the liberty of the press afforded a clear implication, that a power to prescribe proper regulations
concerning it, was intended to be vested in the national government. This may serve as a specimen of the numerous
handles which would be given to the doctrine of constructive powers, by the indulgence of an injudicious zeal for
bills of rights.
67
Hamm, 85.
68
Hamm, 90-91; The text of the Wilson Act reads: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
the United States of America in Congress assembled, that all fermented, distilled, or other intoxicating liquors or liquids
transported into any State, or territory or remaining therein for use, consumption, sale or storage therein, shall upon
arrival in such State or territory be subject to the operation and effect of the laws of such State or territory enacted
and in the exercise of its police powers, to the same extent and in the same manner as though such liquids or liquors

25

The Wilson Act was enacted during the first few years of the progressive
movement.69 The enactment of the Wilson Act, as well as the Supreme Courts
unanimous decision upholding it upon a constitutional challenge, indicated that the
progressive movement was beginning to have some effect in America. Congress began
to somewhat involve itself in the regulation of commerce by using its powers to aid
the states in enforcing their laws. The Wilson Act laid the groundwork for the WebbKenyon Acts passage in 1913, which was followed in 1919 by the enactment of the
Eighteenth Amendment. In between the ratification of those two laws, the
government had passed the Harrison Narcotics Act and was gradually implementing
a policy of narcotics prohibition. All three reflected the principles of progressivism
and were a result of the progressive movements success in the early 20th century.70 .

had been produced in such State or territory, and shall not be exempt therefrom by reason of being introduced
therein in original, packages or otherwise.
69
The Wilson Act was challenged in the case In Re Rahrer on account of the courts rulings in Leisy and
Bowman that the state prohibitory laws were unconstitutional, which meant that there were no state laws prohibiting
the sale of alcohol. Rahrer, the defense claimed, had therefore been arrested under a state law enacted by a
national Congress. The court dismissed this argument, saying that they had merely ruled that state laws prohibiting
alcohol could only be enforced against property strictly within the jurisdiction of the state.
70
James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progressive Movement : 1900-1920 [Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1963, 148; Hamm, 122, 263.

26

T HE O LD O RDER C HANGETH
Progress! Did you ever reflect that that word is almost a new one? No word comes more often or
more naturally to the lips of modern man, as if the thing it stands for were almost synonymous
with life itself, and yet men through many thousand years never talked or thought of progress.
They thought in the other direction. Their stories of heroisms and glory were tales of the past.
The ancestor wore the heavier armor and carried the larger spear. "There were giants in those
days." Now all that has altered. We think of the future, not the past, as the more glorious time
in comparison with which the present is nothing. Progress, development, those are modern
words. The modern idea is to leave the past and press onward to something new.

--Woodrow Wilson
It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had
new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that
day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more
modernIf all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights,
that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is
final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny
their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not
forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual,
no rule of the people.

--Calvin Coolidge

Two Concepts of Constitutionalism


In the case earlier discussed, U.S. v. Luisi, the argument between the juror and
the judge signifies more than contrasting opinions concerning whether or not the
federal government has the constitutional authority to prohibit narcotics. They
represent two understandings of the American system of government that are
fundamentally opposed to one another, but somehow manage to coexist. The theory
espoused by Eddlem was akin to the older understanding of American

27

constitutionalism and closely parallels that which was prevalent in the first hundred
years of the American republic. Judge Youngs interpretation of the Constitution was
representative of the modern notion of constitutionalism, which emerged as a result of
the progressive movement in the early 20th century and forever altered the theory and
practice of American government. The progressive understanding of the Constitution
holds that it is a living document and its meaning is not fixed but evolves with the
times. According to Woodrow Wilson, this progressive understanding of
constitutionalism juxtaposes the founders understanding, which held that the
Constitution had a fixed meaning and was comparable to a machine, not a living
organism.71 The dissonance between these two constitutional conceptions is ultimately
irreconcilable as both are based on deep-seated premises that go beyond the text of the
Constitution.
Since the Constitution does not specifically enumerate to Congress the power to
prohibit narcotics, and by the fact that alcohol prohibition was preceded by a
constitutional amendment, scholars such as Roger Pilon have called narcotics
prohibition constitutionally illegitimate. 72 Nothing could convince men like Eddlem
or Pilon that narcotics prohibition is a legitimate, constitutional exercise of federal
power. The understanding that they have of the Constitution prevents them from
accepting federal narcotics prohibition as a constitutionally justifiable policy. Coming
to any other conclusion would require them to alter the premise of their argument.
The premise of Eddlems argument permitted two responses that the judge could have
given: dismiss the case or uphold an unconstitutional law.73 I suspect [Judge Young]
didnt make the legal argument, he later said, because there was no legal argument
to be made. His argument was based on the notion that the Constitution imposes

71

Wilson, The New Freedom, The Essential Political Writings, 121.


Pilon, The Illegitimate War on Drugs, 23.
73
Eddlem indicated that he would have only accepted this sort of answer by writing a response to a
statement that Judge Young made in his memorandum, which read: The Court spent several minutes attempting to
explain how Congress had the authority to ban drug possession but continued to receive evasive responses.
Eddlem, of course, fervently disagreed with Youngs recollection of the dispute since he did not feel that he was
given any argument for the laws legitimacy. http://dangeroustalkblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/judge-for-yourselfjudge-william-g.html
72

28

strict limits on the federal governments power. If one accepts this as true, then it is
nearly impossible to dispute Eddlems conclusion that federal narcotics prohibition is
unconstitutional.
However, Judge Youngs argument is similar to Eddlems in this way; if one
accepts his premise to be true, then his conclusion almost certainly follows and the
federal government can constitutionally prohibit narcotics. The judges argument was
based on the notion that the Constitution does not impose strict limits on the federal
governments power, but rather that the Constitution can be broadly interpreted. In
their quarrel over the Constitution, these two men illustrated the two concepts of
constitutionalism that have shaped, and continue to shape, the theory and practice of
American constitutional government. These two opposing concepts are engaged in a
battle for America's soul, which was initiated over a century ago, [and] is still
raging.74
The founders wrote the Constitution to establish a government that would
operate in a mechanized manner and according to the self-evident, immutable truths
found in the Declaration of Independence. Wilson said that they, constructed a
government as they would have constructed an orrery,to display the laws of nature.
Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. He dismissed this and criticized
it by saying, The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a
living thing. It had to adapt and evolve with the circumstances of modern society.
The Constitution was written on the theory of natural rights, which was why Wilson
and the other progressives found it to be problematic. The idea of eternal and
immutable rights, according to Frank Johnson Goodnow, a contemporary of Wilsons,
did not permit of their amendment in view of a change in conditions. The
progressives rejected the founders idea of constitutionalism, but did not want to
completely rewrite the Constitution. However, they wanted it to be acknowledged
that, as Wilson said, Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of
mechanics; it must develop. Furthermore, he said:
74

Thomas G. West, and Schambra, William, The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of
American Politics, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Thought/fp12.cfm.

29

All that progressives ask or desire is permissionin an era when


"development," "evolution," is the scientific wordto interpret the Constitution
according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that
a nation is a living thing and not a machine.75

The progressives wanted to abandon the fundamental principles that the


Constitution was founded on, but this would have to be done gradually. As Wilson
recognized, you cannot tear up ancient roots and safely plant the tree of liberty in soil
which is not native to it. I believe that the ancient traditions of a people are its ballast;
you cannot make a tabula rasa upon which to write a political program. The
progressive movement, therefore, had to respect the institutions set up by the
Constitution and go very slowly and very carefully about the very dangerous task of
altering them.76 Redefining the notion of governments purpose that had been
postulated by the American founders was necessary before they could efficiently
implement the types of reforms that they felt the circumstances required. According
to Frank Johnson Goodnow:
The tremendous changes in political and social conditions due to the adoption
of improved means of transportation and to the establishment of the factory
system have brought with them problems whose solution seems to be
impossible under the principles of law which were regarded as both axiomatic
and permanently enduring at the end of the eighteenth century. That law was
permeated by the theories of social compact and natural right, which in their
turn were based upon the conception that society was static rather than
dynamic or progressive in character.77

The Purpose of Government


The founders believed that the purpose of government was to secure mens
natural rights of life, liberty, and property. The progressives completely rejected such
a notion of rights. John Dewey mocked the idea, saying, Natural rights and natural

75

Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom [New York: New York and Garden City Doubleday, Page & Co.,

1913], 32.

76

Wilson, The New Freedom, 30.


Frank Johnson Goodnow, Social Reform and the Constitution, [Mcmillan Company, 1911],
http://books.google.com/books?id=zgxJAAAAIAAJ&output=text, 1.
77

30

liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.78 Governments


purpose for the progressives was therefore extraordinarily different from the notion
held by the American founders. As Pestritto has written, the founders had posited
what they held to be a permanent understanding of just government, and the
progressives countered that the ends and scope of government were to be defined
anew in each historical epoch.79 In regards to the relatively static idea of
constitutional government designed for the purpose of protecting peoples natural
rights, Wilson said:
That was the idea that obtained in Jefferson's time. But we are coming now to
realize that life is so complicated that we are not dealing with the old
conditions, and that the law has to step in and create new conditions under
which we may live, the conditions which will make it tolerable for us to live.80

The government that was set up in Jeffersons time had its powers carefully
hemmed in due to the fact that the founders had just thrown off tyranny, Wilson
argued, and the government that they set up following the Revolution and the failure
of the Articles of Confederation only properly fit those circumstances. The founders
did not attempt to dictate the aims or objects of any generation but their own, he
said. He implored Americans of the 20th century to disregard the doctrines and
principles of their nations founding documents: we have come to a new age and a
new attitude towards questions of governmentnew definitions of constitutional
power, new conceptions of legislative object, new schemes of individual and corporate
regulation.81
The progressive movement caused a gradual transformation not only in what
the purpose of government was understood to be, but also in the function of American
institutions, such as: federalism, checks and balances, and enumerated constitutional

78

John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action, [Southern Illinois University, 1991], 17.

80

Wilson, The New Freedom, Ch. 1


Wilson, The Author and Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Woodrow Wilson: The Essential
Political Writings,109-111.
81

31

powers. Redefining governments purpose was only the first step in achieving actual
policy-related reforms. It took time for the progressive theory of government to alter
the structure and practice of constitutional government in America, as Hofstadter
noted; the reforms of the Progressive Era established a basis and a precedent for
further reforms to be passed when the need for them was felt.82 What did the
progressives believe governments purpose was in this new age?
According to Theodore Roosevelt, The object of government is the welfare of
the people. In order to ensure the welfare of the people in a representative
government, according to Roosevelt, the nation must instill the right kind of
character and the right type of good citizenship into the people. The development
of the individual was crucial for societys development, which is why the progressives
thought that government needed to play a bigger role in the citizens life. It must also
have the kind of law and the kind of administration of the law which will give to
those qualities in the private citizen the best possible chance for development.83
Although Roosevelts political rival, Wilson would have agreed with his opinion here,
[T]he individual must be assured the best means, the best and fullest opportunities,
for complete self-development: in no other way can society itself gain variety and
strength.84 For both Wilson and Roosevelt, society was an organization of
individuals who had to cultivate one another, which meant that the citizens would
have to direct their actions for the sake of society; not personal desires.85
Richard Hofstadter describes the progressives in this same manner, saying that
they believed that the people of the country should be stimulated to bring about
social progress.86 The institutions created by the Constitution were a major obstacle
to the progressives; for they did not provide the means necessary to ensure that every
82

Hofstadter, The Progressive Movement 1900-1915, 14-15.


Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism, American Progressivism: a reader, 222-223.
84
Woodrow Wilson, The State, 1273, in Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings, ed. Ronald J.
Pestritto [Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005], 65.
85
Ibid., 63-67.
86
Hofstadter, The Progressive Movement: 1900-1915, [He also says that the progressive movement was, an
attempt to develop the moral will, the intellectual insight, and the political and administrative agencies to remedy
the accumulated evils and negligences of a period of industrial growth, and an attempt to work out strategy for
orderly social change.
83

32

citizen attained social and industrial justice.87 Government had to be made more
democratic so that the federal government would be given a public mandate to take
action in pursuit of universal social justice. They declared that the people had to be
given more direct control over the government, and believed that the threats of faction
and majority tyranny were threats no longer. Separating politics and administration
would make such things idle threats.
The state would determine the way in which to stimulate the people to ensure
that societys general will was always being adhered to. This ideathe doctrine of
directed progresswas universal throughout the various sects of the progressive
movement.88 According to progressives like Wilson, Goodnow, and Herbert Croly; the
doctrine of directed progress required the adoption of a paradoxical policy. The
government had to be controlled by both the people and bureaucratic experts. For
Wilson, as well as all who characterize themselves as progressives, this created a
fundamental problem that had to be reconciled: What role would public opinion have
in the government? Wilson placed a great deal of importance in public opinion, as we
have seen, and answered this question by saying it would play the role of
authoritative critic by expressing the states general will. Goodnow explained the
dichotomy like this:
[T]he study of administration is not taken up exclusively with a consideration
of the rules of administrative action; but a large part of the time devoted to this
study
must
be
given
to
the
subject
of
administrative
organizationAdministration is the function of execution and administrative
authorities.89

87

Roosevelt, Who is a Progressive? American Progressivism: A Reader, 40.


Dennis J. Mahoney, Politics and Progress [Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004], 55. Within the progressive
movement were many disagreements over some of the most important political questions of the era. This should
not be misconstrued to mean that there was not a common ideology shared by all progressives. Specific policy
proposals offered by progressives may have differed, as they often did, but they were all designed for achieving the
same end. Ronald Pestritto and William Atto say that the disputes were differences over particular means, not over
fundamental ideas of what government is or ought to be, and certainly not over the need with which all progressives
identified to revolutionize both the theory and practice of American government. Ronald Pestritto and William
Atto, American Progressivism: a reader [Lanham, Lexington Books, 2008], 2.
89
Goodnow, Politics and Administration: A Study in Government, [New York, Russell & Russell, 1967], 18.
Quoted in Mahoney, 139.
88

33

These progressive political ideas are manifest in the administrative state of


America today. According to Thomas West, the attempt to separate politics and
administration that has occurred in America over the last century renders it
impossible for the government to act consistently with the rule of law, as opposed to
ad hoc rule making, which is the way that government agencies operate. The
progressives saw the rule of law as outdated, Goodnow said, The force of the
principal active rule of law is also being weakened. With the development of the more
complex conditions characteristic of modern life, it has been felt imperitive [sic] to
depart at any rate from the strict application of the principle.90
Accountable only to Congresss budgetary powers, administrative agencies
carry out a wide number of tasks that the federal government only began taking
responsibility for in the last century. Pestritto notes that, while the actual growth of
the administrative state can be traced, for the most part, to the New Deal (and
subsequent outgrowths of the New Deal like the Great Society), the New Deal merely
served as the occasion for implementing the ideas of America's Progressives.91 There
were, however, agencies that were established prior to the New Deal as a result of the
governments early attempts to prohibit narcotics and alcohol. Prohibition was in
many ways the apotheosis of the administrative state, claims Robert Post, for it
deployed a vast governmental apparatus to control intimate details of personal
consumption.92 The ideas that progressives like Goodnow and Wilson succeeded in
implementing in the United States are still being practiced through these agencies.
How and why were these ideas put into practice? An examination of the temperance
movement will reveal the answer to this question.

90

Ibid, quoted in Mahoney, Politics and Progress, 94.


Pestritto, The Birth of the Administrative State: Where it Came From and What it Means for Limited
Government http://www.heritage.org/Research/Thought/fp16.cfm
92
Robert Post, Federalism, Positivism, and the Emergence of the American Administrative State:
Prohibition in the Taft Court Era, William and Mary Law Review, [Vol. 48, No. 1, 2006], 18.
91

34

T HE P RE -P ROGRESSIVE T EMPERANCE
M OVEMENT
A person does not drink to get drunk. A person drinks to have fun.
Richard Nixon

Americas Oldest Reform Movement


Although sometimes thought of as a conservative initiative, prohibition was
written into the Constitution as a part of the progressive reform agenda.93 The
progressive movement did not begin in America until the late 19th century but was the
most important factor in the Eighteenth Amendments passage. However, as David
Kyvig has noted, if the temperance movement had not been successful before the
progressive movement it is hard to imagine that national prohibition would have
ever been adopted as a federal policy.94 The Eighteenth Amendment, he contends
was the product of a century-long temperance crusade, the early-twentieth-century
progressive environment, and a temporary spirit of wartime sacrifice.95 Investigating
the entire history of temperance in America is not necessary for our purposes, but the
history of the movement during the 19th century is vital, as it was during this time that
it became socially and politically relevant.
It can be argued that there were three distinct phases of the temperance
movement in America through the progressive era.98 There had been an organized
movement for temperance reform in the since the early 19th century but nationwide

93

Ibid, 2. William Anderson notes that most modern Progressives are not particularly proud of this
achievement. Taken from "The Progressive Era, Part 1: The Myth and the Reality," The Future of Freedom
Foundation, June 9, 2006, www.fff.org/freedom/Fd0602.asp (accessed August 24, 2008).
94
David Kyvig, Repealing National Prohibition [University of Chicago Press, 1979], Ch. 1.
95
Ibid. He adds that Various historians of the reform have tended to emphasize one or another of these
factors. However, it is hard to imagine national prohibition being adopted without all three interacting.
98
Sinclair,

35

prohibition was not realized until it became a part of the broader political agenda of
the progressive movement in the early 20th century. The movement needed time to
gain some political momentum and patience for the proper circumstances to arise to
be successful. It was able to take advantage of the social and political circumstances in
the first twenty-years of the 20th century because of the momentum it been
accumulating since the nations founding.
The American Temperance Society was founded in Boston in 1826 and it had
2,200 chapters within five years across the nation.99 Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that
such organizations had more than 270,000 members when he visited the United States,
and that they were responsible for decreasing the amount of liquor consumed in
Pennsylvania alone by 500,000 gallons.100 Many similar organizations soon followed
During the 1850s, thirteen states or territories had enacted laws prohibiting the
manufacture or sale of alcohol.101 The first call by one of these organizations to write
prohibition into the Constitution came in 1856 by the Sons of Temperance. A
resolution to adopt alcohol prohibition as a national policy was presented in the U.S.
House of Representatives in 1876 for the first time.102
Alcoholic has been a part of America since the Europeans discovered it, and the
idea of temperance has been around just as long. Liquor was generally considered to
be nutritious in the era following the American Revolution, and it definitely was not
considered to be a social ill then like it was a century and a quarter later.103 However,

99

772.

The Oxford Guide to United States History, Paul S. Boyer, ed., [Cambridge,Oxford University Press, 2001],

100

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, translator and ed. Harvey Mansfield [Chicago, University of
Chicago Press, 2000], 232 fn 1.
101
Whitebread, 991; Cherrington, 135. These were the Oregon Territory, Maine, Delaware, New
Hampshire, Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, Vermont, and Ohio. Many of the statutes were
vetoed, repealed, or found to be unconstitutional by the supreme courts of the states soon after passage.
102
Ernest H. Cherrington, The Evolution of Prohibition in the United States: A Chronological History of the
Liquor Problem and the Temperance Reform in the United States from the Earliest Settlements to the Consumation of National
Prohibition [Montclair, Patterson Smith, 1969], 317. The Representative who did this was Henry William Blair of
New Hampshire, who introduced another prohibition bill as a Senator in 1885. The 1876 bill only would have
applied to distilled liquors and would not have taken effect until 1900; Asbury, 90.
103
David Musto, Drugs in America: A Documentary History [New York: NYU Press, 2002], 3; W.J. Rorabaugh,
The Alcoholic Republic, [ ], 25. Rorabaugh says, At the beginning of the eighteenth century, tradition taught, and
Americans, like Englishman and Europeans, universally believed, that rum, gin, and brandy were nutritous and

36

there were some who foreshadowed the temperance movement, including Benjamin
Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. One of the first prominent political
figures to argue for laws regulating alcohol, he argued for general and state
governments to enact legislation limiting the number of taverns permitted to operate,
imposing heavy duties on ardent spirits, and inflicting a mark of disgrace, or
temporary abridgment of some civil right, upon every man convicted of drunkenness.
He also said that when taken moderately, liquor was generally innocent, and often
[had] a friendly influence upon health and life, but if not done in moderation,
drinking caused poverty and misery, crimes and infamy, diseases and death.104
According to him, these were the societal effects of an individuals excessive
indulgence. He based his argument primarily on scientific evidence, telling of the
dangers alcohol posed to the human body and as a result, society. Rush and his
appeal to science were not the causes of the American temperance movements rise in
19th century.105
As will be seen, many factors influenced the movement, but religion brought it
to the forefront of American politics at the turn of the century. The temperance
reformers founded their own political party in 1869, although they did not consider it
to be a traditional political party since it was only concerned with one issue.
Temperance advocate and historian of the movement, Ernest Cherrington said of it, It
was not a party; it was a crusade.106 The Prohibition Partys establishment was the
first major step taken by the temperance movement on its way to becoming a political
force in the 20th century.

healthful. Distilled spirits were viewed as foods that supplemented limited and monotonous diets, as medications
that could cure colds, fevers, snakebites, frosted toes, and broken legs.
104
Benjamin Rush, An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits upon the Human Body and Mind,
1785. Musto, 27-31. Ardent spirits are meant to include distilled liquor only. He argued that beer and wine were
acceptable to imbibe.
105
Timberlake, 39. Timberlake opines that science would eventually have a bigger role than religion in the
temperance movement with the onset of the 20th century.
106
Cherrington, 165. State Prohibition parties were first organized in 1837 in Michigan and Illionois,
respectively, but neither of them nominated a ticket. 1869 saw the first state Prohibition party to nominate a ticket
when the party had its convention in Mansfield, Ohio during July. The national party was also formed in 1869 and
the first year it nominated a national ticket was in 1872 when John Black ran as the first presidential candidate for
the Prohibition party.

37

Temperance, Religion, and Liberty


Many denominations of the Protestant Church had already spent decades
fighting for temperance reform by the time the progressive movement had emerged in
America in the last two decades of the 20th century. The Methodist, the Presbyterian,
and the Baptist churches were the major religious sects that supported prohibition
efforts. The Protestant, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches are examples of Protestant
denominations that did not aid the temperance campaign. The movement did not
receive support from the Roman Catholic Church either.107 Many of these evangelicals
believed that intemperance degraded mens souls so greatly that it was nearly
impossible for the intemperate to achieve salvation. As the Reverend Lyman Beecher
declared, For drunkards no more than murderers shall enter the kingdom of God.108
Beecher made this statement during a religious revival in the early nineteenth century
known as the Second Great Awakening, which occurred in the midst of the countrys
expansion into the West, and the industrialization of the East.
The temperance and religious movements of the early nineteenth century
coincided with the larger nationwide reform movements resulting from Americas
industrialization and expansion. The rapid growth of the nation was essential to the
strength of first temperance movement. Beecher and other preachers gave sermons
warning of the dangerous consequences widespread intemperance would have an
ever-expanding nation. If those who succumbed to the temptation of liquor were not
saved, the nation would suffer as a result.109 Intemperance is a national sin,
admonished Beecher, carrying destruction from the centre to every extremity of the
empire, and calling upon the nation to array itself, en masse, against it.110 The

107

Timberlake, 5. Sinclair, 64. Timberlake claims that these denominations of Christianity did not join in
the temperance cause because of their greater emphasis on liturgy, confession, creed, and sacraments, rather than
traumatic conversion, as the means of grace and salvation. They therefore, tended to frown upon revivalism and
were far more lenient in matters of private morality, such as drinking. Sinclair states that other religious groups
that supported prohibition were the Disciples of Christ, Christian Scientists, and the Mormons.
108
Lyman Beecher, Six Sermons on the Nature, Occasions, Signs, Evils, and Remedy of Intemperance, [Boston: T.R.
Marvin, 1827), 36. Taken from http://books.google.com/books?id=H0FoK5dwhoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=lyman+beecher+six+sermons&lr=#PPA1,M1
109
Timberlake, 13-15.
110
Beecher, 61.

38

temperance movement of the pre-Civil War generation began to lose its momentum
when the South began to secede, as this event was apparently seen as posing a bigger
risk to the Union than drunkenness. Thus ended the first wave of the American
temperance movement
Sobriety enabled men to accept the Gospel and strengthened their private moral
character, but the religious argument was about much more than just the individuals
use of alcohol. Such was the case during the temperance movement stifled by the
Civil War, and it was the same during Reconstruction when the movement began
regaining its momentum. Protestantism tried to initiate a religious revival resembling
the one in the early nineteenth century with their renewed temperance efforts in postwar America. They believed that temperance was a prerequisite for such a revival to
succeed, and although the results of their religious efforts did not cause a broad
revival across the country as it did during the Great Awakening, the churchs spirit of
social reform began to spread throughout the different sects of Christianity.111 Many
religious leaders saw intemperance as the cause of poverty, which in turn caused
crime and suffering. Some argued the reverse, blaming poverty for intemperance. 112
Whether it was intemperance that caused poverty or the opposite is of little
consequence here. The two were linked in the minds of the religious reformers who
placed the ultimate blame for both on American capitalism. This caused them to
preach a new gospel, the Social Gospel, which stressed social improvement
alongside of individual salvation since the two went hand in hand. This became a
major facet of the Progressive movement in the early 20th century, but before the
progressives absorbed the temperance movement, it had to learn how to exercise the
political power it possessed.
Walter Rauschenbusch was the most influential preacher of social Christianity,
which called for American capitalism to be brought in line with the ethical teachings

111

Timberlake, 18. Sinclair, 64. Sinclair says that the main churches who supported prohibition were the
Methodist, the Baptist, the Presbytarian, and the Congregational churches, aided by the smaller disciples of Christ,
Christian Science, and the Mormon religious groups.
112
Timberlake, 16, 24, 199 (particularly in the south regarding blacks). They especially placed blame on the
liquor industry.

39

of Jesus, and he used the liquor trade to illustrate Americas need for widespread
reform.113 Alcohol is a spirit born of hell, he said, but he is merely a satellite and
tool of a far greater devil, and that is Mammon.114 The liquor industry was too
greedy and not concerned with the wellbeing of the consumer. As long as alcohol was
generating profits then it would be sold to anyone who wanted to buy it, even those
who should not have bought it. Businesses cared about their profits more than they
cared about the overall health of the society. The more people that fell into the pit of
alcoholism, the better off the liquor business was. For the temperance reformer in
America, wealth was achieved through the poisoning of the poor; but it must be done
on large scale or it doesnt pay. This was typical business practice in early-20th
century America according to Rauschenbusch, which demonstrated that businesses
should not be conducted for the sake of profit but should instead be concerned with
the welfare of mankind.115
Many people at the time, including those who referred to themselves as
Socialists, equated socialism with atheism, but he argues that social Christianity is
merely socialism that is found through the teachings of Christ, which makes the
Reign of God on earth its object.116 By itself, achieving socialism in America would
require a multitude of governmental reforms, but to put socialism in place to achieve
such a lofty goal would require a complete political overhaul. This desire to so greatly
improve society that suffering and poverty were eliminated was the inspiration for
both the prohibitionists and for progressivism. The emerging idea of social
Christianity, that Americas moral and legal theories about the rights of the
individual in using the resources of nature and in operating his tools to get wealth, are
based on the assumption of a sparse population and of simple methods of production

113

Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianizing the Social Order, [New York, The Macmillan Company, 1914] 209,
http://books.google.com/books?id=4nAuAAAAYAAJ; Other preachers of social Christianity and temperance were
Josiah Strong, W.D.P. Bliss, and Charles Stelzle; Timberlake, 26-29.
114
Rauschenbusch, 209. In the Bible, Mammon is wealth or greed, and often personified as a deity.
115
Rauschenbusch, 209.
116
Rauschenbusch, 109, 117.

40

which we have largely outgrown.117 As one advocate of the social gospel wrote upon
ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment:
Personal Liberty is at last an uncrowned, dethroned king, with no one to do
him reverence. The social consciousness is so far developed, and is becoming
so autocratic, that institutions and governments must give heed to its mandate
and shape their life accordingly. We are no longer frightened by that ancient
bogypaternalism in government. We affirm boldly, it is the business of
government to be just thatpaternal.118

In the minds of the prohibitionists, the right to liberty did not include the right
to drink and be a detriment to societal progress.119 This concept of freedom, that one
was only free to do whatever was best for society as a whole, was the same as the
progressive concept, which Wilson aptly named The New Freedom. In many ways,
the progressive concept of liberty was predated by the prohibitionist concept. For the
prohibitionists of the 19th century and the progressives of the 20th, the old
understanding of liberty that deemed a citizen could basically do anything he wanted
so long as he was not depriving any others of their liberty, life, or property was too
extreme, permitting too many to suffer. The American founders understanding of
liberty was too broad and needed to be restricted if society was to improve. The
government needed to be expanded and empowered to ensure this. The early
temperance reformers did not necessarily have the same view of governments
purpose as the progressives, but they shared the fundamental idea of how the
government should restrict liberty so that progress was not impeded. This new
freedom justified many progressive actions, including granting the federal
government power to regulate substances formerly considered to be matters of the
individual states, which resulted in the prohibition of both alcohol and narcotics.
In 1842, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech to the Springfield Washington
Temperance Society, in which he called the temperance revolution a noble allyto
the cause of political freedom. The speech was given at a time when religion,

117

Rauschenbusch, 421.
Gospel of the Kingdom, I:106, quoted in Timberlake, 27.
119
Hamm, 37.
118

41

particularly Protestantism, was driving the temperance movement. It was only in the
previous decade that the movement had become politically important on the state and
local level, and while the bulk of his speech was devoted to the political methods used
by the Washingtonians and like reformers, he concluded by making a comparison that
would be reused by reformers for generations.120 He linked the abuse of alcohol with
slavery and called for the eradication of both, saying:
And when the victory shall be completewhen there shall be neither a slave
nor a drunkard on the earthhow proud the title of that Land, which may truly
claim to be the birthplace and the cradle of both these revolutions, that shall
have ended in victory. How nobly distinguished that People, who shall have
planted, and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of their
species.121

The comparison that Lincoln used in this speech became a crucial part of the
temperance argument following the Civil War, and continued to be into the 20th
century.122 This link between alcoholism and slavery was picked up by the
progressive movement thirty-years later and helped them redefine the traditional idea
of liberty in America. For obvious reasons, Lincoln did not see what the temperance
movement became after the war ended, but he was very familiar with the people who
would lead it.
The strongest proponents of the temperance cause post-Civil War were the
abolitionists who ferociously fought against the enslavement of African Americans
prior to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. After the Thirteenth
Amendment was ratified, Gerritt Smith, who twice ran for President on the
Abolitionist ticket and was friends with John Brown, stated:
Our involuntary slaves are set free, but our millions of voluntary slaves still
clang their chains. The lot of a literal slave, of him whom others have enslaved,

120

Lucas E. Morel, Lincoln Among the Reformers: Tempering the Temperance Movement, Journal of the
Abraham Lincoln Association Vol. 20, Issue 1, 3-4.
121
Abraham Lincoln, Temperance Address Delivered Before The Springfield Washington Temperance
Society, February 22, 1842; Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, 140.
122
Morel, Lincoln Among the Reformers: Tempering the Temperance Movement, 32-34.

42

is indeed a hard one; nevertheless it is a paradise with the lot of him who has
enslaved himselfespecially of him who has enslaved himself to alcohol.123

The temperance cause provided the abolitionists an opportunity to continue


fighting against slavery since many of these reformers viewed alcohol as being a
different means to the same ends. Although no war broke out over the alcohol issue,
these temperance advocates fought with fervor similar to that of their fight against
slavery. As they did in the abolitionist movement, women played a major role in the
struggle for temperance reform.

The Great Legal Fortress of Intemperance


In 1888, at its national convention, the Womens Christian Temperance
Unionfounded in 1873 in Evanston, Illinoisadopted a resolution to support a
federal prohibition law. To this organization, it was evident that all ultimately
effective action for suppression of the liquor traffic must come through national
legislation.124 The Prohibition Partys nomination for president in 1888, Clinton B.
Fisk, expressed the same feeling in saying that prohibition can never be made of local
and state limitations again.
Congressman Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire had promoted this opinion in
the political arena soon after the Civil War ended a decade before. The opinion Blair
had of liquor was akin to the opinion that abolitionists like William Garrison had of
slavery before the Civil War. Garrison and his followers held that the Constitution
was "a Covenant with Death, an Agreement with Hell" because it permitted slavery to
exist.125 Though not being so extreme, Blair argued that since the Constitution did not
give Congress the ability to outlaw all liquor traffic in the United States, it was a
corrupt document because states that had passed prohibitory laws would always be
contaminated by the states that had not. In order to prevent such contamination from
happening, the Constitution had to be amended to grant the federal government the
123

Quoted in Sinclair, 86.


Hamm, 65.
125
William Lloyd Garrison, A Covenant with Death, and the Agreement with Hell, The Liberator,
October 23, 1857.
124

43

power to enact prohibition throughout the nation. As it prevented Congress from


having such an extensive power, Blair said the Constitution was the great legal
fortress of intemperance in this country.126
It was the particular conception of law, what historian Richard Hamm describes
as the mosaic ideal, that helped to revive the temperance movement in America
after the Civil War. Their understanding of the law stemmed directly from their
religious values, which meant that the law should be used in such a way that it
promoted morality and criminalized evil. They believed that this idea of law was
rooted in nature and refined by Gods commandments so that it could be emulated in
human law.127 Those who favored prohibition for religious reasons believed that the
law should be a statement of moral truth, but this is not what made their views
extreme. It was the specifics of their moral truth, which conflicted with the American
doctrine of individual rights, that some viewed as being too radical. As Hamm says,
the prohibitionists saw law as a means to extend morality, by which they meant their
morality as they saw it.128 In order to foster the society desired by the prohibitionists,
government power would have to be utilized. If this were to happen and
governments purpose became the advancement of societys morality and general
welfare, then individual liberties would have to be of secondary concern, or not of
concern at all.
In 1892 at the WCTUs annual convention, Frances Willard publicly stated the
prohibitionists rejection of individual rights. The concept of rights that America had
had been founded on, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Willard claimed,
were set up in the camp of the savage. Understanding rights in this way was merely
the first stage in the evolutionary process of rights. There were two more stages that
needed to be gone through for society to reach its moral apex. The second stage was
when government would legislate on all moral issues by declaring, thou and thou

126

Henry William Blair, The Temperance Movement, Or, The Conflict Between Man and Alcohol, [W.E. Smythe,

1888], 388.

127
128

Richard Hamm, 34.


Richard Hamm, 36.

44

shalt not over ever matter.129 The third stage was one in which government by law
is exchanged for the mightiest of all governmentpublic sentiment. The moral tone of
society declared by resistless common consent what the law had previously
prohibited and punished.130
When the constitution of the Womens Christian Temperance Union was
written, it was thought of as a new Declaration of Independencecreating a higher
level of thought for American manhood.131 We believe in the coming of His
Kingdom whose service is perfect freedom, declared one reformer, because His laws,
written in our members as well as in nature and in grace, are perfect, converting the
soul.132 To counter those who asserted the individuals right to drink, the temperance
reformers began to publicly target those who sold alcohol and not those who drank it,
but the idea that liberty meant society should be free of those who were enslaved by
alcoholan underlying theme of the entire temperance movement. As one leader of
the WCTU declared:
The slavery of alcohol and other narcotics is the worst of human bondages
because it tends to become a willing bondage that enslaves the soul as well as
the body of its victim, while it mortgages his children to the enslaver. It must
be overthrown if our race is to move on, through generation after generation,
up the heights of its utmost possibilities. The popular use of alcohol, usually
begun in ignorance of its seductive power, is a menace to that capacity of selfgovernment without which a republic must ultimately perish.133

The temperance movement had some successes from 1869 to 1893, but
significant legislative action was not achieved until after this period. The Prohibition
Party was established in 1869 and, as Cherrington has noted, not a political party in
the common understanding of the term. Unlike most political parties that champion
many causes, selected with a view to those most likely to attract the largest number of

129

Hamm, 43.
Quoted in Hamm, 43. Woodrow Wilson had a view of the state and the states power that was
comparable to Willards; Pestritto, Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, 78-79, 83.
131
Elizabeth Putnam Gordon, Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Womens Christian Temperance Movement
[Evanston: National Womens Christian Temperance Movement Union Publishing House, 1924], 15.
132
Gordon, Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Womens Christian Temperance Movement, 16.
133
Gordon, Speech given by Mary Hanchett Hunt, 43.
130

45

voters, the Prohibition Party was established to advocate a single issue without
considering the political consequences that could result.134 However, this dedication
that defined the party did not revolutionize the political ability of the temperance
cause. It was not political enough to produce serious change, as Cherrington says, Its
leaders never knew the meaning of policy, prudence, or diplomacy.135 Nevertheless,
the party did help the temperance movement forge a path for later political activity
carried out by the Anti-Saloon League, which was established in 1895. Until then, the
Prohibition Party would be assisted by a number of organizations, but there was only
one that arguably matched the partys contribution to the temperance cause. The
Womens Christian Temperance Union would pave the way for the movements
political triumphs in the 20th century and strengthen the temperance movements link
with the progressive movement.
Sinclair argues that there were three distinct reform movements at the
beginning of the twentieth century, rather than just the progressive movement and its
subordinates. The three were progressivism, temperance, and womens suffrage.136
Each of them had similar roots and initially shared the same goals, but eventually
dissolved their union and deserted each other. He calls them the Trinity of Reform,
and says that although they ultimately separated from one another, none of them
would have accomplished much without the success of the others. Whether or not
these three movements ever completely abandoned each other, as Sinclair asserts,
his judgment that each movements success depended on the success of the others is
indisputable. This was especially true from the last half of the nineteenth century until
1920 and is exemplified perfectly by the Womans Christian Temperance Union, which
fought for all the reforms sought by the Trinity.
The WCTU was founded in 1874, four years after the Prohibition Party, and
likewise established in Ohio.137 The contributions of the WCTU to the overall

134

Cherrington, 169.
Ibid.
136
Sinclair, 91.
137
Elizabeth Putnam Gordon, Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Womens Christian Temperance Movement,
[National Womens Christian Temperance Movement Union Publishing House, Evanston, Illinois, 1924], 15.
135

46

temperance cause cannot be overstated. It focused on temperance reform efforts, but


also played a crucial role in the fight for womens voting rights. The WCTU pioneered
the movement for equal suffrage that would come to be vitally important in local and
state prohibition campaigns, and ultimately in the national campaign. It also ensured
the passage of many local laws banning saloon operations, which meant that the
women had to fight not only the saloons, but also the corrupt politicians.138
In Women Torch-Bearers, the self-published history of the WCTU, a story is
told about such a fight over a local option law.139 After a local prohibitory resolution
was presented in a town meeting, a man rose to speak against it and allegedly ended
the meeting by shouting, We shall win! We have the drinking men on our side, we
have the saloons on our side, and we have the money on our sideand money is a
power and dont you forget it. Another meeting was held on the next night and the
President of the WCTU replied to that statement by declaring, We shall win! We have
the women on our side, we have the churches on our side, and we have God on our
sideand God is a power and dont you forget it!140 The Christian women of the
WCTU stood on moral ground not only to fight against the saloons, but also against
impurity and corruption in politics by bringing to bear an organized public sentiment
that compelled action.141 The accomplishments in the late-19th century of this
womens organization laid the foundation for the temperance movements success in
the early-20th century, but they did not come in the form of legal restrictions on liquor.

Cherrington, 170-171. Eliza Thompson, Hillsboro Crusade Sketches, in Drugs in America, 87-94. The
organizations establishment in 1874 was the culmination of, what is widely referred to as, the Womans Crusade
that began in 1873. The Womans Crusade, Cherrington says, is generally recognized as also beginning in Ohio.
A lecture given by Dr. Dioclesian Lewis in Hillsboro, Ohio on December 24, 1873 is what began the campaign, but
Cherrington notes that Dr. Lewis made a similar speech in Fredonia, New York on December 14th that prompted
hundreds of women to begin a praying crusade outside of the towns saloons. A similar one occurred in
Jamestown, New York on December 17th, but what differentiated the Hillsboro crusades from the two in New
York was that it had remarkable success.
138
Politicians were viewed as being in the pockets of the liquor industry throughout the Temperence
Movement.
139
Timberlake, 145-146. According to Timberlake, There were two main kinds of local option law: special
statutes applying to certain designated localities only, and general statutes applicable to all units within a state.
140
Elizabeth Putnam Gordon, Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Womens Christian Temperance
Movement, [National Womens Christian Temperance Movement Union Publishing House, Evanston, Illinois,
1924], 114. Frances Willard was WCTU president from 1879 until her death in 1898.
141
Cherrington, 175.

47

The problem created by the great legal fortress of intemperance, Congressman Blair
said, could not be amended unless public opinion is pronounced against it. Law,
he said, is the inevitable effect of moral suasion whenever moral suasion is
effective.142

The WCTUs Fight for a Clear Brain


Although founded on religion and Puritan notions of morality, the WCTUs
most important contribution to the temperance movement was done through
scientific education. Appointed to lead the Committee of Scientific Temperance
Instruction in 1879, Mary Hanchett Hunt led the campaign to reform the curriculum of
American public schools. In 1882, the WCTU helped ensure that Vermont was the first
state to enact legislation requiring public schools to instruct students about the
physiological effects of alcohol. By 1888, the WCTU had pushed legislation through
twenty-eight state legislatures that required scientific temperance to be taught in all
state-run schools, and by the turn of the century every state had similar legislation.143
In 1886, the federal government also began requiring scientific temperance education
in federally controlled schools such as those in Washington D.C., military academies
like West Point and Annapolis, and schools for blacks and Native Americans.144 The
women needed the voting majority to win their fight but since they did not have it yet,
they had to teach the voting majority of the next generation.
The WCTU believed that educating future generations to the truth about
alcohols danger was the key for eventually implementing widespread prohibition.
People began using alcohol without possessing the knowledge of its addictive nature.
If children learned about the dangers it posed to the individual, and in turn to society,
then they would be able to evade it and remain sober. As Mary Hunt said:

142

Blair, 377.
Scientific Temperance Instruction in Public Schools, Letter by Frances E. Willard, in Musto, Drugs in
America, 104-107; Cherrington, 175; Elizabeth Putnam Gordon, 42-43, 294.
144
Elizabeth Putnam Gordon, 42-43; Scientific Temperance Instruction in Public Schools, Letter by
Frances E. Willard, in Musto, Drugs in America, 104-107; Cherrington, 175.
143

48

If we want the saloon closed, we must teach the majority, the law-making
power, that alcohol is by nature and outlaw that should be banished from
human habits and traffic. Compulsory scientific temperance instruction in the
public schools is one method that reaches the coming majorities. All history is
the aggressive advance of the future upon the past, the field of collision being
the present. Coming generations with clear brains and untainted blood are
aggressively advancing on the alcoholic past of our inheritance.145

Spreading the truth to the masses through the use of modern science would finally
destroy the old beliefs about alcohol and show it for the evil it really was. According
to the WCTU, this was irrefutably proven by modern science, and any old beliefs
about it would succumb because history has shown that in the ultimate contest truth
is the strongest of all forces.146 While they may have lacked truth in its purest form,
the force that they exerted was very strong.
The textbooks placed in schools by the WCTU were not completely devoid of
truth, but neither were they jam-packed with unquestionable scientific evidence. In
fact, much of their scientific evidence would be refuted within two decades, and
disproven by those who even supported the temperance and temperance education.147
One of the textbooks supported by the WCTU included warnings that drinking
alcohol makes more people poor and unhappy and wicked than any other cause.
The same book asserted that insanity, family discord, murders, pauperism, and misery
are some of the results of the action of alcohol on the nervous system. Neither of
these statements could have been definitively proven false, and the book accurately
stated that alcohol often caused liver diseases, but at the same time it claimed that
alcohol was a fiery stimulant, when it had already been determined to be a
depressant.148

145

Gordon, speech given by Mary Hanchett Hunt, 43.


Gordon, Speech given by Mary Hanchett Hunt, 44.
147
Timberlake, 48-51. The Committee of Fifty was the organization who objected to [the WCTUs]
methods, not its purpose.
148
William Thayer Smith, Primer of Physiology and Hygiene: A Text-book for Primary Classes : with
Special Reference to the Effects of Stimulants and Narcotics on the Human System, [Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor &
Company, New York, 1885], 73, 90-91; Timberlake, 41. Timberlake states that Professor Emil Kraepelin of the
Universities of Heidelberg and Munich had published his discovery that alcohol was a depressant in 1892.
146

49

The WCTU did not limit itself to school textbooks either, utilizing many
vehicles to infuse their arguments into the public. According to Elizabeth Putnam
Gordon, the scientific data and appeals that through WCTU publicity molded [sic]
public thought, included teachings that the sale of drink is the sale of
diseasepovertyinsanitycrimeand death.149 Another piece of evidence that
she cited was a phrase of William Gladstones: Drink causes more injury to humanity
than war, pestilence, and famine combined. The WCTU and other reformers alleged
that these educational efforts were the critical factor in securing the passage of the
Eighteenth Amendment in 1919.150 Cherrington notes that instituting these
educational requirements resulted in bringing up a generation of men as well as
women in the knowledge of the evil effects of alcohol on the human body and
mind.151 After the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified in 1919, Anna Gordon,
Frances Willards successor, expressed her opinion of the educational campaigns
importance by proclaiming:
Tremble, King Alcohol, we shall grow up, shouted the children, and in
spirited fashion they sang, Well purify the ballot box, well consecrate the
ballot box, well elevate the ballot box when we are twenty-oneThe cry of the
children has been heeded by this great nation. Educated by the facts of science,
by the precepts of the Bible, and the joy of temperance service, the children
have grown to manhood and womanhood and have helped vote out of
existence the traffic in alcoholic beverages.152

The educational campaign was a fight for a clear brain, and according to
Frances Willard, The fight for a clear brain is a fight for Christianity.153 The inclusion
of scientific evidence into the temperance argument greatly helped the movement,
but only because the WCTUs political ability ensured that the argument became
widespread. For many reasons, the WCTU was essential in the temperance cause as
America moved closer to the 20th century and the Progressive Era. The organization
was based on a religious opposition to intemperance, but the main reason for its
149

Gordon, 53. Gordon attributed this saying to Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson in 1892.
Gordon, 43.
151
Cherrington, 175.
152
Sinclair, 109; Speech, Anna Gordon, President of WCTU after Frances Willards death.
153
Gordon, 36.
150

50

success was the utilization of science in the fight against alcohol use. Religion had
always been an important factor in this fight but science was used to expand the
movements public support.
Many temperance reformers had used scientific arguments before, but until the
WCTU, religious appeals had always been more successful in securing support. Their
success was found in using political means to spread the message of temperance. The
WCTUs influence, though great, was delayed for the most part. The organization was
spreading its message to children who had no real voice until years after they had
been in school and received the scientific temperance instruction of the WCTU.154 The
WCTU knew that the success of their cause depended on the children and accepted
that their success, though belated, would take years to achieve. They had to depend
on the voting majority and since most voters did not yet favor prohibition, they had to
depend on the future majority. Education was a major part of ensuring that they
would get this, and it was essential if they were going to keep it once achieving their
goal. They were limited in their ability to ensure the immediate passage of any
prohibitory legislation unless they could do it in their local towns, and while they had
some success doing this in certain areas, it was not nearly enough for them to be
satisfied.
By 1893, to the movements dismay, temperance laws had largely disappeared
in the states and there was still no substantial, organized movement for national
prohibition. From the 1880s to the 1890s, the temperance reformers had achieved a
great deal of success with four states enacting prohibitory laws, joining the previous
prohibition states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Kansas became dry in
1880, Iowa in 1884, and North and South Dakota in 1889. However, only six states had
prohibitory laws in 1893. This was due to state laws either being repealed or being
found unconstitutional. The six states remaining either had laws that were written
weakly or they did not enforce them well.155 After the Dakota laws were enacted, no

154
155

Cherrington, 175; Gordon, 43; Sinclair, 43.


Cherrington, 249. The states were Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and

Vermont.

51

other state would pass prohibitory laws until the 20th century, when the reform spirit
of the progressive era spread across the nation. Until then, the prohibitionists had to
learn pragmatism and enhance their political savvy.

Temperance Problems in Pre-Progressive America


The movement put most of the blame for its stagnation during the 1890s on the
liquor industry and the political influence it had. Add this to the more obvious reason
for their disdain of liquor dealers and it is not surprising that the temperance
advocates possessed a strong hatred for the industry. If the prohibitionists were going
to effectively counter the liquor lobby, they would have to develop their own political
machine. Cherrington, who was one of the Anti-Saloon Leagues founding members,
wrote that:
[T]he liquor interests had perfected one of the strongest political machines that
the country had ever known and had injected its dominating influence into the
politics of almost every state and city of the nation, controlling conventions and
elections and dictating the acts of legislatures.156

The liquor industry was viewed as evil for the obvious reason; that it profited on the
suffering it created through the distribution of alcohol. It stood out as one of the most
corrupt and predatory of all economic interests, a major obstacle to political reform,
and a prime factor in the breakdown of honest government in the cities. The
prohibitionists especially hated the liquor industry the trafficking of demon rum, as
in their eyes, these businesses constituted major corporations that were corrupting the
government, and were doing so with the money that they made exploiting the poor. 157
The earlier temperance movement did not have to compete with such a strong
liquor industry to enact legislative reform; however, the political strength of the
industry forced them to transform their tactics as the 20th century approached. Until
this time, the temperance movement had been divided over a number of ideological

156
157

Cherrington, 250.
Timberlake, 16.

52

issues, which had seriously weakened its ability to force any action.158 Add that to the
fact that the movement still lacked the organizational structure or ability to do
anything on a national level. These problems had to be fixed before they could make a
sincere drive at amending the Constitution.
The most important temperance organizations from 1869 to 1893 were the
Prohibition Party and the Womans Christian Temperance Union, and although they
were assisted by a multitude of less powerful groups, the temperance movement was
not organized or politically powerful enough to ensure passage of any substantial
legislation on the state level after what had already been achieved. They definitely did
not have the ability to reform alcohol policy on a federal level.159 While being the
biggest components of the dry crusade before the Anti-Saloon League was established,
these two organizations also illustrate the dissonance that existed within the
movement until the start of the 20th century. As the outbreak of the Civil War caused
the end of the first temperance wave in America, dissonance within the movement
helped to end the second wave in the early 1890s. The end was marked by the
authorization of prohibition in the Dakotas in 1889. No other state would pass a
similar amendment for eighteen years.160
Cherrington noted that some temperance organizations in the 1880s, to all
appearances, possessed a hatred of other similar organizations stronger by far than
their hatred of the saloon.161 The main split in the movement was due to the
Prohibition Party, and whether or not it should be supported. Could a third party
take on the Democrats and Republicans and achieve the desired goals? The
Republicans had the majority of temperance support in comparison to the Democrats
and greatly resented the Prohibition Party. Republican loyalists believed that non-

158

K. Austin Kerr, Organizing for Reform: The Anti-Saloon League and Innovation in Politics, 40. Kerr states,
Some advocated total prohibition of the manufacture, sale, and use of all alcoholic beverages, while others sought
merely to persuade their fellow citizens to be moderate in their drinking habits. Some wanted to use the power of
government to defeat the demon rum, while others engaged in private programs of moral suasionso-called gospel
temperanceleaving the matter outside of politics.
159
Cherrington, 182. Kerr, 42.
160
Hamm, 124.
161
Cherrington, History of the Anti-Saloon League, 8.

53

partisan action would be much more effective in achieving temperance goals.


Temperance sentiment would extend itself beyond political affiliations if non-partisan
measures were pursued, the dry Republicans argued. This would make it more likely
that legislative majorities would arise in support of reform, and it would ensure that
other political issues would not divert them from their main goal.162 Those who
supported partisan efforts did not believe that any significant reform was possible
without something like the Prohibition Party. The flaw in this mode of thinking
would become clear when the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified and the
Prohibition Party was still insignificant.
The Republicans, in wanting support from those on all sides of the temperance
issue, did not appear to be the best hope for the reformers though. Many of the radical
prohibitionists left the GOP in the 1880s since Republican candidates would not take a
hard-line position on temperance. The Republicans did not want to lose votes on
either side of the issue by stating any strong opinions about temperance.163 Also, in
the states that had enacted prohibition or in the towns that had adopted the local
option, nothing was being enforced. The Prohibition Party pointed to this as a reason
for temperance supporters to join them because the political parties that were in power
did not enforce the few laws that were in effect.164 If elected, the members of the
Prohibition Party vowed that they would do the job that the major parties were
neglecting so as to not lose votes.165 This caused the Prohibition Party to grow at the
expense of the Republicans. The Democrats received the benefit. The controversy
surrounding the Prohibition Party, historian Austin Kerr states, was the most bitter

162

The Prohibition Party had adopted a very progressive political platform making it hard for them to
compete with the Republicans and Democrats. In 1888, they advocated things such as; granting the right of suffrage
to all citizens, paying men and women equal wages for equal work, labor reforms, as well as prohibition.
163
Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt would employ similar strategies in the election of 1912
against one another.
164
Hamm, 125. He cites a March, 1891 report by a committee in the Kansas legislature that every city in
the state that had prohibition laws ignored them, and that many cities even taxed the illegal saloons.
165
Hamm, 125. This theme of nonenforcement became central to the Prohibition Party through the
next three decades and national prohibition.

54

division within the temperance movement in the late nineteenth century, but it
definitely was not the only one.166
Even the WCTU had conflicts between its members over their organizations
partisanship status. It was founded as non-partisan and did not have affiliations with
any political party until 1884 when it began to officially support the Prohibition Party.
This switch occurred due to the partys official position supporting womens
suffrage.167 This rejection of a non-partisan method caused some members to
immediately question their leader, Frances Willard, and caused a major philosophical
split within the organization. This eventually caused an actual split when the
dissenters left the organization in 1889, walking out of the annual WCTU national
convention. Led by the president of the WCTU chapter in Iowa, these women
founded the Non-Partisan Womens Christian Temperance Union.168 This split in the
WCTU reflected the one that existed within the entire movement over the issue of
partisanship. They were merely disagreements about proper organizational methods
for the movement. Ideological questions worsened the problem of disunity. They did
this when temperance was becoming more accepted across the nation, but more
importantly they did this when it was becoming accepted across party lines. 169
Their names indicated that their first priority was temperance reform, but
from their beginnings both the Prohibition Party and the WCTU fought for a number
of other social justice issues. This caused divisions to form within both organizations
about issues not related to temperance or partisanship. Considering the splits that
were caused by disagreements over the best methods of achieving temperance reform,
ideological disagreements within two of the movements most powerful organizations
166

Kerr, 42.
Cherrington, 167. The other parties ignored invitations that the women had given for the parties to
attend statewide conventions to discuss prohibition before the nominating conventions. The Prohibition Party
agreed to this so the WCTU vociferously supported it until 1901 when it reaffirmed the non-partisan status it had
when it was founded.
168
Hamm, 127.
169
Cherrington, 174-175. This became evident to the WCTU when the Republican Party adopted a
temperance resolution proposed to it by J. Ellen Foster in 1888. In the same year, Foster introduced a resolution to
the WCTU reestablishing its nonpartisanship which failed. Foster and her supporters left the WCTU immediately
and formed the Non-Partisan Womans Christian Temperance Organization. This group rejoined the WCTU after
it again adopted nonpartisanship and Foster died.
167

55

just promulgated the movements disunity and futility.170 Other political and
economic issues were beginning to overshadow temperance question in the 1890s.
Economic issues were forced to the forefront of political debate during the depression
of 1893, which led to the rise of a new political party in America. Voters were more
concerned with restructuring the nations economy, authorizing the government to
control corporations, and changing the monetary system.171
The Populist Party emerged to lead the way on these reforms, actually adopting
many of the economic ideas in the Prohibitionist platform, but it was much more
successful at doing so. In the election of 1892, they received nearly four times the
votes as the Prohibitionists.172 The comparative success of the Populists deepened the
preexisting division within the Prohibitionist Party, which was between those who
wanted the platform to support many reforms and those who wanted to abandon
support for everything other than temperance reform. In 1896, the party adopted a
single-issue platform, which caused the broad-gauge faction to desert and form a
new party. Thus, partisanship proved to be a major problem for the temperance
movement, as is evident by the problems experienced by the political party who was
supposed to champion the cause:

If they refused to commit themselves on any issue other than


prohibition, they found it impossible to persuade any considerable
number of voters to disregard their opinions on all other political
issues for the sake of united action against the liquor traffic. But if
they took a clean stand on contentious party issues, as they did in
1884 and 1888 on the tariff, they repelled possible converts from the
ranks of the Democrats and low-tariff Republicans without securing
the support of the high-tariff temperance men who believed the tariff
to be a matter of great importance. Or they split their party as they

170

See note 158.


Hamm, 126.
172
Hamm, 126. The Populist Party got over one-million votes and the Prohibitionists got 264,133.
171

56

did in 1896, when both silver and gold Prohibitionists put


independent presidential candidates in the field.173
The Prohibition Party was never politically effective because of its disunity and
the entire movement was seemingly losing its effectiveness for the same reasons. The
movements hope for success depended on the eradication of inner discord, though
this did not even guarantee success. In 1893, one editorial writer in New York
described the situation like this: The condition of the temperance cause has been
anything but encouraging the past three or four years, and the outlook is certainly not
bright.174 These organizational and ideological disagreements defined the movement
at the end of the 1880s. If the movement was going to succeed in the 20th century, it
needed an organization that focused solely on temperance as a political issue, and that
properly cultivated the pre-existing temperance sentiment. The Anti-Saloon League
was founded to do this in 1893; adopting a new approach to temperance reform
consisting of organizational restructuring, political pragmatism, and taking advantage
of the evolving progressive movement.175 These tactics quickly reaped tremendous
rewards for the movement. Big business began the practice of lobbying in America,
says Sinclair, but the Anti-Saloon League perfected the techniques.176 It was only
able to take advantage of those techniques, however, due to the rise of the progressive
movement and the changes taking place in American politics.
[I]t was only when special conditions existed to give the liquor problem
unusual urgency that the temperance movement became an object of concern to
the public at large. Such conditions arose with particular force during the early
years of the nineteenth century and again during the early years of the
twentieth century. And in each case the temperance revival coincided with a
nation-wide reform movement.177

173

A.N. Holcombe, The Political Parties of Today [ New York, 1924], 322. Quoted in Peter H. Odegard,
Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League, [Octagon Books, New York, 1966], 79.
174
Quoted in Kerr, 39.
175
Hamm, 124.
176
Sinclair, 107.
177
Timberlake, 13. He claims that the rapid extension of voting rights to the urban laboring classes and
western frontiersman coincided with the nineteenth century temperance movement, which was fairly brief.

57

T HE T EMPERANCE M OVEMENT S
P ROGRESSIVE T RANSFORMATION
One thought, sentiment, and purpose animated those saintly praying hands,
whose names will never die out from human history: Brothers, we beg of you
not to drink and not to sellthis was the single wailing note of these moral
Paganinis, playing on one string. It caught the universal ear and set the key
of that mighty orchestra, organized with so much toil and hardship, in which
mingle the tender and exalted strain of the clanging cornets of science, the
deep trombones of legislation, and the thunderous drums of politics and
parties.178
Frances Willard

The Pragmatism of the Anti-Saloon League


The American Anti-Saloon League was founded in 1895 in Oberlin, Ohio. The
first political lobby of its kind, the League changed the nature of political action in
America and played a critical role in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment.179
Until this organizations founding, the WCTU had publicly led the temperance
movement and the Prohibition Party, which were both headed by people who did not
want to compromise on the issue of national prohibition. Their inability to achieve
this was not due to people being completely unsympathetic to their cause. In fact, a
majority of Americans in the late 18th century supported temperance to some degree,
which is to say that most thought that it was not good for people to be constantly
drunk at a saloon. Most thought temperance was a good thing but not all were ready
178
179

Gordon, 36. Frances Willard.


K. Austin Kerr, Organizing for Reform: The Anti-Saloon League and Innovation in Politics, 1.

58

to adopt the proposals offered by radical prohibitionists who wanted to use the
governments power to ban the immoderate use of alcohol. The most radical members
of the temperance movement of the 19th century were ahead of their time in calling for
such a broad extension of the governments authority. In fact, the members of the
Prohibition Party referred to themselves as the first progressives.180 Though they
were ahead of the times in their reform proposals, they were behind the times in their
methods.
The third temperance wave in America, driven by the Anti-Saloon League, was
perfectly in step with the rise of progressivism. It did not get too far ahead of majority
opinion like the radical prohibitionists had done, but it also did not abandon the
fundamental beliefs of the movement. The Anti-Saloon League was effective because
of its pragmatism, political skill, and more importantly, its ability to keep pace with
public opinion. The Anti-Saloon League shared the radical prohibitionists
aspirations, states Hamm, but went beyond their dogmatic methods.181
The hierarchical design that Howard Hyde Russell, the man who founded the
league, came up with was crucial to its success. The WCTU and the Prohibition Party
had been designed in a democratic fashion, but the League was designed to be a
bureaucracy.182 Russell looked to emulate the structure of the modern business firm.
It admired the organizational schemes used in industries that had become
astonishingly powerful in the prior decades, and only the organizational schemes.
Giant corporations were envied by all for their power and success, but blamed by the
progressives causing society to suffer. Russell wanted to use their methods against
them. As corporations, trusts and combinations have succeeded by a union of forces
in the commercial world, Russell stated, so, it was urged, the powers of
righteousness should be mobilized and federated for greater moral victories.183 The
national league was at the top, which had power over the state leagues, then the

180

That is, before the election of Theodore Roosevelt.


Hamm, 159.
182
Kerr, 48.
183
Ibid, 47.
181

59

county leagues, and finally local groups and churches. Within this hierarchy, various
departments were established to divide up primary duties: agitation, legislation, and
law enforcement.184
Although the organization was divided up into separate regions and divisions,
every part was towards the same objective: national prohibition. Unlike the
misnomers of the WCTU and Prohibition Party, the Anti-Saloon Leagues name
described its one and only objective. It wanted to shut down the saloon and did not
publicly fight for any other issue. Everybody within the movement could agree on
this objective, which is why the League chose it. It united the temperance forces that
had previously been divided over partisanship and ideological differences.185 It did
not demand widespread prohibitory legislation, but won widespread support by
simply declaring, The Saloon Must Go!186 Focusing on the saloon made temperance
a commerce issue, not an issue of individual liberty. Although this altered the
temperance movements focus regarding the types of legislation to work with, the
moral foundation remained the same.
It could not be publicly stated because it would undermine the leagues efforts
but national prohibition was clearly its ultimate goal.187 It was not until April of 1917
when they openly called for imposing abstinence on the entire nation.188 Until then,
the league relied upon the enactment of new local option laws and the enforcement of
existing laws, which were not being enforced, to spread temperance in the United
States.189 Success in both of these legal endeavors depended on the sentiment of the

184

Hamm, 132. Kerr, 47. There was a fourth department; finance, but
Hamm, 134. Some radicals initially rejected the League and its ideas, but they came around as soon as
they accepted that it was the movements best chance for success. For example, the WCTU refused to send any
representatives to the Anti-Saloon Leagues organizing convention in 1895, and the Prohibition Party published
articles renouncing the league as an omni-partisan failure.
186
Timberlake, 127. This was the motto that they adopted for their first convention in 1895.
187
Odegard, 79. Timberlake, 147. Hamm, 136.
188
Timberlake, 148. Until 1913, the league did not try to push through national legislation that prohibited
the personal use of intoxicating liquor for legal reasons, but even after this they continued to solely concentrate on
the saloon.
189
As was mentioned earlier, the prohibition laws during the mid-1890s largely went unenforced, or
enforcement was sporadic at best. Because of this, the league put a great amount of effort into ensuring that the any
laws on the books would be enforced. If they knew of officials that were not enforcing the local laws or the state
185

60

public, which they had to arouse. Education, therefore, was the bedrock of
temperance reform.190
Like the WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League believed that education would
determine the possibility of achieving prohibition in America. Unlike the WCTU
though, the league did not focus its efforts on children. As is perhaps indicated by the
name of the department responsible for this aspect of the causethe Agitation
Divisionthey used education as a political weapon. They distributed pamphlets,
journals, leaflets, and many other forms of literature to spread propaganda about the
evils of the saloon. The American Issue was the first journal that the league distributed
on a national level. It covered all topics related to temperancepolitics, religion,
science, and economics. It was first printed in 1907 in Westerville, Ohio, which was
where the league soon established its own publishing house, The American Issue
Publishing Company. This plant it was putting out more than 40 tons of literature
each month by 1912. By 1919, the American Issue had a circulation of about 16
million.191 This massive distribution of literature constituted nearly the entire budget
of the league, but it also created the temperance sentiment necessary to be effective in
their law enforcement and legislative efforts.192

Webb-Kenyon and the Eighteenth Amendment


Local option laws were the preferred tactic of the Anti-Saloon League for three
reasons: it ensured that the public was being educated on the evils of the saloon, it
prepared the organization (specifically its lawyers) for more substantial undertakings
and success on the local level increased the possibility of enacting national
prohibition.193 If there were a few towns within a county that voted against the saloon,

laws then they would bring them to court, usually in the name of the government, not the League. The law
enforcement agenda paralleled the leagues preferred political tactic of omni-partisan pressure. Seeon page 56.
190
Hamm, 132. He attributes this quote to the leagues founder, Russell.
191
Timberlake, 139. Odegard, 75. Ernest Cherrington, author of The Evolution of the Temperance Movement
in America, was the man who ran this plant.
192
Timberlake, 137. 9/10ths of their budget.
193
Ibid.

61

then a law would be fairly easy to pass that prohibited alcohol within that county. If
there were a number of dry counties within a state, then the state would likely become
dry, which would eventually make national prohibition a consideration. By 1913, local
option laws had spread across the nation, with thirty-one states having them in
effect.194 The Leagues patience and pragmatism began to payoff.
This upsurge of dry sentiment due to the Anti-Saloon Leagues success put
the temperance movement in a position to achieve its ultimate goal. Before taking the
last step of calling for national prohibition they had to try to build off of the Wilson
Act, which was passed in 1890 and the first step that the government took to
acknowledge that it might take action against liquor. The movement had been trying
to get an interstate commerce law enacted to strengthen the federal governments
ability to regulate liquor traffic that it had due to the Wilson Act. However, the
temperance movement had been trying to do this since 1898 when the Supreme Court
ruled in Rhodes v. Iowa that the Wilson Act enabled a state to prohibit the importation
of liquor from another state if it was being imported for purpose of sale, but it could
not prevent the importation of such liquor for ones own private possession and use.195
Since the Anti-Saloon League focused its attacks on the liquor traffic in an attempt to
sidestep their opponents who claimed that the league opposed personal liberty, they
had a hard time drawing up stronger interstate commerce legislation that could not be
attacked in such a way to.196 Finally, in 1913 with temperance sentiment spreading
across the country, the Webb-Kenyon bill was enacted to prohibit the importation of
all intoxicating liquor intended to be received, possessed, or used in violation of the
laws that state. The arguments put forth in Congress to ratify this bill convey the
progressive ideas behind it:
Each of us is under an imperative duty to enlist in the great work of lifting up
the human race to a higher and better life, and nothing, in my judgment, will so

194

Hamm, 133. Hamm states that the league was actually not the main reason for most of these laws being
passed but nonetheless took credit for their passage, which thereby increased their standing in eyes of the public and
overall temperance movement.
195
Rhodes v. Iowa, 1898.
196
Timberlake, 147.

62

promote this work as will the giving of relief from the evils that flow from the
whiskey traffic. A republic can be no better than the average of the men and
women who give a concrete existence; therefore it is right and proper that we,
as legislators should remove as far as we can everything that that basis,
demoralizes, and depraves our citizenship.197

President William Howard Taft vetoed the bill on constitutional grounds. The
bills critics said that it delegated the power to regulate interstate commerce to each
individual state, which they could not alone exercise. Nonetheless, its passage provided
the temperance movement with the opportunity to go forward with a constitutional
prohibition amendment. Once the United States entered World War I, success of the
amendments passage was virtually guaranteed.
Andrew Sinclair, British historian of alcohol prohibition in America, opined:
The success of the prohibitionists is, in fact, easier to understand than their
defeat would have been. For they had controlled the best part of the
communications of the time. They had organization, money, and a purpose.
The leaders of opinion were often on their side. Theyd been indoctrinating the
young for 30 years in the public schools and through their mothers. History,
optimism, and improvement were their supporters. With open sincerity, the
prohibitionists looked forward to a world free from alcohol and, by that magic
panacea, free also from want and crime and sin, a sort of millennial Kansas to
float on the nirvana of pure water.198

Progressive Ideas, the Temperance Movement, and the Anti-Narcotics Movement


Temperance reformers first tried to eliminate the abuse of alcohol by moral
suasion. After realizing that this would only achieve so much, they turned to the
power of the state in the hopes that it would take some action to help ensure social
justice.199 This idea became prevalent in America with progressivism by bringing all
the reformers under one political banner. Timberlake asserts that the man most
responsible for bringing the temperance movement into the progressive movement

197

Congressional Record, 62 Cong., 3rd Session, 4443. Quoted in Timberlake, 160.


Sinclair, 4.
199
Hamm, 36.
198

63

was preacher of the social gospel and superintendent of the California Anti-Saloon
League, Reverend David M. Gandier, who expressed his progressive sentiment in
statements such as this:

The fight is just begun. The selfish forces of the landBig Business
and its ally, commercialized viceare preparing for the death
struggle. I believe the spirit of our age is against them. Everything
which lives by injuring society, or which enriches the few at the
expense of the many, is doomed to go. The spirit of brotherhood,
which means a square deal for all and that those of superior cunning
shall not be allowed to rob their less cunning fellows any more than
the physically strong shall rob the weak, is abroad and is going to
triumph.200
Woodrow Wilson believed that the founders understanding of liberty as an
individuals right against the state was impeding the prospects for the progressive
agenda, and he believed liberty to be a collective right of the majority to use
governmental power in promotion of their interests.201 The crusade against alcohol
stemmed from the progressive idea that the main purpose of the national government
was to use its power to shape the individuals moral development in the interest of
societys progress.202 The vast expansion of the federal governments power was one
result of this, and both policies of prohibition were an important part of this
expansion.203

200

Gilman Marston Ostrander, The Prohibition Movement in California, 1848-1933 [University of California
Press, Berkeley, 1957], 104. Quoted in Timberlake, 167.
201
Ronald Pestritto, Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism [Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield
Publishers, Inc., 2005], 55
202
Timberlake, 2. William Anderson notes that most modern Progressives are not particularly proud of
this achievement. Taken from "The Progressive Era, Part 1: The Myth and the Reality," The Future of Freedom
Foundation, June 9, 2006, www.fff.org/freedom/Fd0602.asp (accessed August 24, 2008).
203
Robert Post, "Federalism, Positivism, and the Emergence of the American Administrative State:
Prohibition in the Taft Court Era." William and Mary Law Review 48, no. 1 (2006): Yale Law School Public Working
Paper No. 118.

64

In 1927, Irving Fisher, a member of the Alcohol Information Committee stated


that, The organization of society is now so complex that in many lines of endeavor
we carry each others safety in our hands, and none of us is free if another takes the
liberty to dull his wits with drink. It seems that the individuals freedom is inferior to
the liberty of others according to this statement, but he also said that alcohol causes
one to lose the very essence of personal liberty because it limits his ability to reason,
and that personal liberty is greatest when one maintains a harmonious relation to the
social group in which he lives.204 The idea of progress and human natures
malleability initiated the concept of using law to shape men for societys benefit.
These new ideas of the nature of freedom and equality that came about during the
progressive movement are essential to understanding the root causes of both the
temperance and antinarcotics movements.
The temperance movement shared its fundamental ideas with progressivism
and eventually adopted progressive methods, which was to bring about gradual
change in the law. Before the onset of progressivism in the late 19th century, the
temperance movement had already established itself as a significant political and
social movement in America. In this way, the temperance movement and the antinarcotics movement were extraordinarily different.
Unlike alcohol prohibition, narcotics prohibition was not caused by any
widespread public pressure or political campaign. Rather, it was the work of
government insiders, led by progressive-era professional groups and anti-opium
missionaries, with crucial support from President Theodore Roosevelt. The push for
national drug legislation was consistent with the broader progressive agenda, which
favored strong federal action for societys moral development.
Examples of legal action being taken against narcotics can be found in preprogressive America but anything that can be considered significant did not occur
until the 20th century. The anti-narcotics movement was a direct result of progressive

204

Irving Fisher, Prohibition at its Worst [New York: The McMillan Company, 1927], 172.

65

ideas and the transformation of American politics that those ideas triggered.205 As it
shared the same fundamental ideas and utilized progressive methods, the antinarcotics movement was, in essence, merely a derivative of the progressive movement.
For this reason, the anti-narcotics policies established during this era should be
considered a more successful progressive reform of the era than alcohol prohibition
was.

205

West and Schambra,Progressivism and the Transformation of American Politics, 3.

66

T HE A NTI -N ARCOTICS M OVEMENT


The Spread of Democracy
Between Theodore Roosevelts term in the White House began in 1901 and
Woodrow Wilsons ended in 1919, America had engaged in, what Timberlake calls,
two great crusades: one to preserve democracy at home and the other to make the
world safe for democracy.206 This time period saw the federal governments most
significant actions against both alcohol and narcotics in the nations history. These
actions were a direct result of the transformation in the fundamental theory of
American constitutional government that had been caused by progressivism. This in
turn altered what the federal government was responsible for and how it exercised its
power in regards to those responsibilities. The progressive movement had changed
the nature of the American polity drastically by asserting that governments purpose
consisted of more than what the founders postulated; the securing of rights every
human being had by nature, which did not allow for many broad interpretations
justifying the expansion of its power. Instead, the progressives theorized, the
government must have the power to determine the Law instead of being
circumscribed by the Law; and accept complete responsibility for the public
welfare.207 This could only be done by instituting a system of government that
maintained sensitive touch with public opinion, and an efficient way to respond to
that opinion as an instrument of important social purposes.208 However, this had to
occur gradually.
Alcohol prohibition was achieved by amending the Constitution, which the
temperance movement had been pursuing for nearly fifty years. The movement
against narcotics began during the progressive era and the action that the federal
government took against narcotics coincided more with progressive political ideas
206

Timberlake, 1.
Croly, Progressive Democracy, Ch. 8; taken from Pestritto, American Progressivism: A Reader, 247.
208
Ibid. 244.
207

67

than the constitutional action against alcohol did. There were many similarities
between the anti-narcotics movement and the temperance movement, but there were
also striking differences. Both must be understood in order to understand whyfrom
a constitutional standpointthe federal government has treated alcohol differently
than drugs.
The first narcotic that the federal government became involved with was opium.
This was due to the U.S. takeover of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War
came to an end in 1898, resulting in the Treaty of Paris of 1898. The concessions of this
treaty included the responsibility of the United States over a new territory: the
Philippines. While in control for the fifty-years prior, the Spanish had a monopoly
over the sale of opium and had only allowed for merchants to sell the drug to the
Chinese. The merchants were contracted by the Spanish government and paid taxes
on their profits. When the Spanish lost control to the United States, opium imports
drastically increased since the merchants no longer had to acquire licenses, pay taxes,
or restrict sale to the Chinese. This increased the number of opium users in the
Philippines and presented the American government with a situation it had never
dealt with before in its history. The Philippine Commission under the authority of the
U.S. Department of War had the main responsibility for dealing with this issue. As
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him civil governor of the Philippines,
William Howard Taft headed this group and approved the first plan of action
presented to him. Roosevelt, however, vetoed this plan in favor of another.
The Supreme Court had ruled in 1901 that the doctrine of states rights did not
apply to territorial possessions, such as the Philippines, which meant that the
Philippine Commission could choose nearly any method when dealing with the
opium situation there. The first plan considered was very pragmatic: it was to enact a
policy nearly identical to that of the Spanish government. This was nearly put into
action until being electrocuted by Presidential lightning, which was the result of
Roosevelt listening to the advice of those who opposed such a plan on moral grounds.
The lead protestors were the Reverend Wilbur Crafts, who was the leader of the
United States International Reform Bureau, and the Bishop Charles Henry Brent, who

68

was the first Episcopal bishop in the Philippines.209 Brent was a member of the
Philippine Commission and provided it with a moral conscience.210 These two men
of the cloth did not want the United States to approve a measure that permitted the
use of opium, even if it would be restricted to the Chinese, like the Spanish had done.
They did not support immediate prohibition of the narcotic either, as they viewed that
as also being an unwise policy. Therefore, Bishop Brent formed another committee to
examine the problem and other possible solutions.
In June of 1904, nearly a year after the committee was formed; Brents
committee submitted a fairly simple proposal based on their findings. The United
States would reinstitute a government monopoly, only allowing men above the age of
21 to smoke opium. The amount an individual could purchase would gradually be
reduced over the next three years and use would then be completely banned, other
than for medicinal reasons. Schools would be required to educate Filipino students
about the evils of opium during those three years and after.211 As is indicated by the
plan, Brent and his committee did not believe that immediately enacting total
prohibition would be prudent, but it should nonetheless be the ultimate goal. Like
Roosevelt did, Congress rejected this plan and opted for a quicker route to achieve this
goal.
In March of the following year, Congress ordered that opium was prohibited
for all Filipinos other than for medical reasons. This policy would then extend to all
non-Filipinos in three years. The group that this would affect most was the Chinese
who were living in the Philippines; this meant that the ethnic distinction made by the
Spanish would be reinstituted by the United States. Brent and his committee made no
such distinction in their plan, disagreeing with it in the interests of equity and

209

David Courtwright, Dark Paradise [Boston: Harvard University Press, 2001], 79.
Musto, The American Disease, 26.
211
Albert, Dr. Jose, Rev. Charles H Brent, and Major E. C. Carter. Report of the Committee Appointed by the
Philippine Commission to Investigate The Use of Opium and the Traffic Therein and the Rules, Ordinances and Laws
Regulating such use in Japan, Formosa, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Burma, Java and the Philippines.
[Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906], 51-53.
210

69

justice.212 This congressional action marked the first time that the United States
directly dealt with narcotics on an international level, but it did not have the effect on
U.S. domestic policy like the following episode would.
China had been dealing with regulative opium issues since the early 18th
century and America became involved as her presence in the Far East increased. 213
Angry at the treatment they received from Americans; Chinese merchants organized a
voluntary embargo on American goods in 1905.214 This aggravated American traders,
as well as Teddy Roosevelt, who did not appreciate the Chinese trying to push him
around. Nevertheless, he knew that military action would not mend trade relations

212

Report of the Committee Appointed by the Philippine Commission, 53. The Philippine Commission was
permitted to institute other provisions that would apply to the Chinese until total prohibition was enacted, so they
decided on making the licenses opium dealers had to purchase expensive and forcing the males to register as
habitual users. They also gradually decreased the amount allotted to those users until 1908 when the prohibition
took effect.
213
In 1729, when the foreign import was 200 chests, the Emperor Yung Ching issued the first anti-opium
edict, enacting severe penalties on the sale of opium and the opening of opium-smoking divans.
<www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/om/om15.htm>
V
The anger of China toward America and other western countries was rooted in the concessions it was
forced to make in the treaties after the Opium Wars, which lasted from a round 1839-1860, the anger stems more
specifically from the treaty after the First Opium War that ended in 1842. The concessions made after the First
Opium War included the opening of certain ports to Great Britain, America, and France, the payment of three
million ounces of silver to Great Britain and two million ounces to France, as well as allowing Americans to learn
Chinese. The Chinese government was angry at the concessions as well as the Wests treatment of China. The
British government was engaged in the trade of opium to China, before the First Opium War, using opium as
capital to slow the outflow of silver into China in the early 18th century. Because of mass addiction, the Chinese
governor of the major port of Canton, Lin Zexu, confiscated and destroyed a cargo load of opium in an attempt to
stop the opium trade. The destroying of the 20,000 chests (each weighed roughly 120 pounds) caused tension
between the two nations; the vandalizing of a Chinese ship and killing of a man, by drunken British sailors, then
escalated this tension. Britain refused to allow China, who wished to put them on trial in China, access to the
sailors. Britain felt that the Chinese government was barbaric and did not give up the sailors, though the Chinese
felt that those who broke Chinese law were to be tried and punished by China. Lin wrote a letter asking Britain to
stop the trade of opium, but Britain refused and war broke out between them in November of 1839. The war ended
in 1842, Britain overpowering the technologically inadequate Chinese forces. In the treaty negotiations China was
forced to open five ports to Britain, allow Britain completely free trade with China, and had to grant Britain the
same privileges that any other country may have access to. Within two years China would be forced to sign very
similar treaties with France and the United States. In the 1850s China would become angry again, this time at the
exploitation of Chinese labor in the Western Hemisphere, and would again lose the confrontation with the United
States. In the Treaty of Tianjin China is forced to pay France and Great Britain the concessions mentioned above,
ten Chinese port cities are created, and Christian missionaries are given complete freedom to travel China and
spread their religion. Richard Hooker, "The Opium Wars". Washington State University.
<http://wsu.edu/~dee/CHING/OPIUM.HTM>.
214

Musto, The American Disease, 38-39.

70

between the nations and that he needed to adopt a more diplomatic approach.215 The
opportunity to do this presented itself in 1906, when Bishop Brent requested that the
President join in an international meeting about the opium problem in China. Brent
believed that unified international action was the only thing that could stop the opium
traffic going into China and make the upcoming opium prohibition in the Philippines
effective.
Two and a half weeks before this meeting was to take place, the United States
Congress passed legislation that showed support and sympathy for opium issues in
China. On February 9, 1909, the Opium Exclusion Act was passed. This legislation
prohibited the importation of Chinese smoking opium only, leaving the medicinal
opium that was used in many American households entirely untouched.216 This
legislation passed hastily through congress, based on the timing and the fact that
opium use had been steadily decreasing since the turn of the century, it was enacted
purely as a means to open trade relations with China at the forthcoming international
meeting. 217 The consequences of this legislation, on the domestic soil of the United
States, would be felt soon after the commission in Shanghai, and is the passing of this
legislation was beginning of what will eventually become modern narcotics reform.
Roosevelt knew that offering such assistance to China would help the United States
trade relationship with it, and so an American delegation was sent to Shanghai to meet
with twelve other countries during late February of 1909 at the International Opium
Commission.218

215

Patricia Ebrey, Modern East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History [Florence: Wadsworth, 2006]. In 1905, the
Shanghai Chamber of Commerce organized a private boycott against the United States, the result of the Chinese
citizens being unhappy with the American-Chinese relationship. This was partly because of the United States
restrictions on Chinese immigration, the quick use of violence by American gunboats that patrolled Chinese waters,
and their feelings on the treatment of their people during the mid to late 19th century when constructing the
railroads. This boycott developed into an entire Chinese embarg severely hurting the American economy. In
response to this Theodore Roosevelt sent an American naval fleet to China and warned their government that they
would be personally responsible for any harm to American business done by the embargo.
216
United States Department of the State, Papers Relating to Foreign Relations of the United States
[Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919].
217
Dale Gieringer, The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909, CounterPunch [February 2009]. This was the first
federal measure to actually restrict the importation of opium, before this act opium had been taxed, since 1883, at a
price from $6 to $300 a pound.
218
Musto, The American Disease, 30.

71

This commission adopted resolutions pertaining to the problems facing China,


but they did not amount to anything binding. Though the American delegation
originally sought for the meeting to have the designation of a convention (rather than
commission), which would allow it to adopt binding resolutions with the attending
nations, they were unsuccessful and the commission met without obligatory pledges.
This means they did not constitute an international treaty and therefore America was
not required to adopt any of the recommended policies. Brent was the chairman of the
entire meeting and knew that it was only considered to be a fact-finding body that
could only make policy suggestions. Though there was no legal obligation for
America or any of the other nations to abide by these proposals, and Brent along with
the other two American delegates believed that America had a moral commitment
to act in accordance with the resolutions that the commission agreed to. This helped
inaugurate an American tradition in narcotics controlenactment of strict domestic
legislation in the United States as an example to other nations.219 The man who
drafted the legislation that would bring America in line with the Shanghai
recommendations if Congress ratified it was one of Brents co-delegates.220 A scientist
in the State Department, Hamilton Wright soon became the most important person in
the history of American narcotics policy.

The One-Man Reform Movement


The movement against narcotics use did not have strong public opinion on its
side like the temperance movement had with organizations such as the WCTU and the
Anti-Saloon League, although many of these organizations did speak against
substances like opium. What it had was Hamilton Wright, who was the equivalent of

219

Courtwright, 81 The author claims that the United States could not go to Shanghai, urging twelve of the
most powerful countries in the world to regulate and put restrictions on opium, when it had no legislation acting on
their argument in place. The U.S. could not assume the leadership role against the easts opium until it took the lead
against its opium issues. The U.S. was gathering large revenues off the taxing of opium, if it were to urge the other
countries to disavow revenue off of opium she must first legislate on the moral grounds they were attempting to
argue. Wright would have liked to see a much stronger regulation than the one set out in the Opium Exclusion Act,
but due to the short amount of time before the International Opium Commission was to meet.
220
The third delegate was Charles C. Tenney.

72

the Anti-Saloon League in the campaign to eradicate non-medicinal drug use in


America. Public opinion had a part in shaping the governments narcotics policy, but
in a much different way than it did in shaping alcohol policies. The public was not
aware of it due to the simple fact that drug use was not nearly as prevalent as drinking
was in early-20th century America. Wright felt that drugs could become a serious
problem and therefore needed to be handled sooner rather than later.
As soon as he learned of his appointment to the international delegation,
Wright sent a memorandum giving his opinion of the opium problem to President
Roosevelt. Wright wanted the United States to set an example for the international
community before the Shanghai meeting by passing a strict federal law against opium.
David Musto says that this action reflected Wrights view of his role in the
government. He did not have a significant amount of real political power in his State
Department position, but was a distinguished scientist trying to accomplish quickly
and efficiently an important political assignment.221 This reflected more than just
Wrights opinion of his role in government; it reflected his view of the federal
governments role in America. It also reflected the progressives view of the
separation of politics and administration. In 1886, Wilson wrote, The idea of the state
and the consequent ideal of its duty are undergoing noteworthy change; and the idea
of the state is the conscience of administration. Seeing every day new things which
the state ought to do, the next thing is to see clearly how it ought to do them.222
If America was to lead the international effort against narcotics then Wright
believed it had to enact a national policy that regulated the importation, use, sale, and
manufacture of opium, opiates, coca leaves, and other similar substances. He
understood that such an extensive law would only be enforceable by a national police
force, which was impossible under the Constitution, but he also did not feel that the
other nations would understand the complexities of American federalism and

221

Musto, The American Disease, 32.


Wilson, The Study of Administration. He also said that as the people got more control over
government, Those views are steadily widening to new conceptions of state duty; so that, at the same time that the
functions of government are everyday becoming more complex and difficult, they are also vastly multiplying in
number. Administration is everywhere putting its hands to new undertakings.
222

73

therefore not understand why such a law had not been passed by the nation who was
supposed to lead and set an example for the commission.
Part of his desire was filled with the passing of the Opium Exclusion Act, but
this only regulated the importation of smoking opium from China: it was intended to
enhance foreign relations with China more than to be the icon of the beginnings of
strict international limits on opium. While thirteen nations were present at the
discussions [T]he Commission was far from international. The focus was on Chinas
opium problems-five of the nine resolutions mentioned China by name and the United
States and Britain dominated the discussions.223 Wright and the rest of the American
delegation wanted to add a resolution requiring all nations at the International Opium
Commission to take action ensuring that no opium was shipped from any port of a
signatory nation. The delegation got the other eleven nations to agree to this, and
Wright later explained how they did so:
This resolution we had a great deal of difficulty in getting through, but we
strongly urged upon the commission the fact that we had in our national pure
food laws the same penalties on the shipment of deleterious articles to foreign
countries as on the shipment of the same articles in our interstate commerce. I
stated that we had done this not as result of pressure from foreign ports, but as
a matter of international courtesy, and that the American delegation felt that it
was time that the principle of do unto others as you would be done by was
recognized in regards to such matters and especially in regard to the opium
traffic.224

Wright used the policy of Americas pure food laws to get the delegation that if
they were going to enact these resolutions domestically, they should follow American
example, and they should adhere to them internationally as well. The pure food and
drug laws in the United States were enacted in 1906, and though they primarily dealt
proper labeling, it marked the beginning of federal regulation of goods and substances.
This act required that goods be clearly marked with their ingredients, eventually
requiring the amounts of each ingredient, and began a movement to disband

223
224

Ch. 19- The International Legal Environment The 1909 Shanghai Conference <www.druglibrary.org>
Proceedings of the American Society of International Law at its Third Annual MeetingApril 23rd and

24th, 1909.

74

ineffective so-called patent medicines. This act is important to the history of


narcotics legislation because it also required substances that contained opiates to state
so on the label, this does not yet restrict their use, but is the beginning of federal opiate
regulation. In the same year as the Pure Food and Drug Act, Congress passes the
APHA Pharmacy Bill. The American Pharmaceutical Association, in 1903, proposed a
bill that restricted cocaine, opiates, and chloral hydrate to be distributed only by
prescription to addicts. In 1906, this bill was adopted by the United States Congress as
the policy of Washington D.C., continuing the tradition of federal regulation of
narcotics in a territory, also seen in the Philippines. Soon after this becomes the policy
of Washington D.C., other states in the union subscribed to this procedure. California
was one of these states and had a long history of regulating narcotics that stretched
back since before the beginning of the progressive era.225
225

Yun Quong, a Chinese immigrant, who asserted that this legislation was a violation of his

individual, natural rights to liberty and property, challenged this law. The decision that the
California Supreme Court handed down upheld the constitutionality of the opium ban, claiming
that it fell under the policing power of the state legislature. Declaring [I]t is the functionality of
positive law to see that this constitutional guaranty is so applied. This guaranty was, the court
states, that these rights be applied to individuals in light of their relationship to others, and not
as rights that an individual would possess were he a law unto himself. While, perhaps, this
legislation was under the scope of the policing power of a state legislature, the theory put forth by
the court demonstrates, on a state level that predates most federal decisions based on a similar
creed, the shift in ideology during the early years of the progressive era. This theory, seen in later
federal narcotics legislation, was that positive law, where the originator of rights is the
government, is seen in this decision as beginning to overtake natural law in the dawn of the
progressive era. This new theory of law, seen in the judgment of Quongs case that was ruled in
1911, differs greatly with the pre-progressive eras understanding of law, an older interpretation it
adheres closely to the founders understanding of natural law. It is seen in the California Supreme
Court, in 1887, the court ruled on an opium case that asked a basic question similar to Quongs.
The judge ruled [T]o prohibit vice is not ordinarily considered within the police power of the

75

California had been the first state in the nation where an anti-drug law was
passed when, in November of 1875, San Francisco passed a statute closing public
opium dens. Following the enactment of this law many other cities in California, most
with high Chinese populations, passed similar legislation to prohibit the public use of
Chinese smoking opium. In the spirit of the Pure Food and Drug Act, in 1907,
Californias state legislature voted to amend the California Pharmacy and Poison Act
to state that it was illegal to sell opiates without a prescription. The Poison Act was
made trivial in 1909, when California passed a law that banned the mere possession of
opium, and soon after passed a ban on opium paraphernalia of any kind. According to
drug policy historian Dale Gieringer, this created a new class of criminal that had not
previously existed: the illegal drug consumer.226 Throughout the early progressive era
California would stay ahead of the regulatory curve, banning all narcotics with the
passage of the Poison Act of 1913.
So, while regulative narcotics legislation in California was successful during the
early 20th century, it was not always as effective in creating less as it supporters hoped
or thought that it would be. California proved to be a test case, only in the amount of
majority support the country showed, the issue with which Wright struggled, was that
he must garner support from Congress fervently enough that they felt compelled to
vote in a way that expanded their power further than it had ever reached before in the

state, the object of police power is to protect rights from the assaults of others, not to banish sin
from the world or make men moral. This is an example of natural law, where men are born
with certain rights, no matter where they are born, or in instance of the ruling court, even if they
are born alone.
Throughout California, agents raided densely packed Chinese communities and burned private opium
dens, incinerating the illegal opium and paraphernalia. This was seen as devastating policy toward Chinese
immigrants because, as the LA Times reported on August 17 of 1909, "dozens of them are dying monthly because
forced to abstain from the 'dream pipe'." While the delegates to the California legislature felt they were ridding their
state of the evils of opium, they were causing the opium-addicted Chinese inhabitants to involuntarily quit using the
drug cold turkey. Due to the circumstances that surrounded the suffering Chinese, as well as a general demand for
the previously legal substance, it was apparent that the drug was not less commonly used but merely an object now
made available for its patrons on the black market of California.
226
Gieringer, The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.

76

history of the United States, a power some were not sure the federal government even
possessed.

The Opium Eaters


In order to get Congress to agree to the legislation that Wright desired, he
needed to accentuate just how dangerous opium was, and so he embarked on a
nationwide study of the use of opium in America to convince it.227 In an interview
with the New York Times in 1911, Wright publicized some of his findings, saying:
Opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this
country, with far fewer safeguards than any other nation in Europe fences it
with. China now guards it with much greater care than we do; Japan preserves
her people from it far more intelligently than we do ours, who can buy it, in
almost any form, in every tenth one of our drug stores. Our physicians use it
recklessly in remedies and thus become responsible for making numberless
'dope fiends,' and in uncounted nostrums offered everywhere for sale it figures,
in habit-forming quantities without restrictionThe contrast between
European and American professional ethics in this matter is deplorable, and the
dark side of the picture is America's. A proportion of our doctors and a much
larger ratio of our druggists regard their liberty to prescribe and sell as a license
to advise and furnish to its victims the narcotic curse on demand.228

Wright went on, describing the effects that those addicts have had on the nation, Our
prisons and our hospitals are full of victims of it, it has robbed ten thousand business men
of moral sense. This statement reflected the progressive sentiment regarding business
at the time; it had gone unguarded and uncontrolled by the Nation, the Progressive
Party inserted into its platform one year after Wrights interview. Wright went on to
say that opium, just like unregulated business, made people into beasts who prey
upon their fellows.229 Our people through these facts, and carelessness, ignorance,
and want of foresight by the Federal Government, he affirmed. We (citizens of the

227

Musto, 127.
Edward Marshall, Uncle Sam is the Worlds Worse Opium Fiend, New York Times, March 12, 1911,
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/e1910/worstfiend.htm
229
Ibid., He also said that unidentified it has become one of the most fertile causes of unhappiness and sin
in the United States, if not the cause which can be charged with more of both than any other.
228

77

United States) are literally the world's opium eaters, he said, encouraging the United
States to take the lead in the world on the narcotics issue, which it soon would.
Much like the radical prohibitionists of the temperance movement in the 19th
century, Wright did not want to accept the passage of any type of law that seemed to
compromise with the problem of opium or that made the United States seem deceitful
or weak, as America had signed and ratified an international treaty in 1913 promising
that federal legislation would be passed to regulate opium. This treaty came out of
this first International Opium Convention, which took place at The Hague in the
Netherlands in 1911-12. Brent and Wright were once again appointed as the American
delegates, and this time they were joined by the engineer of the California antinarcotic movement. Henry Finger was a member of the California Board of Pharmacy,
and the most influential person in that state associated with narcotics reform: it is his
voice at the Hague Convention that first proposed the regulation of cannabis, a reform
that had not been brought up in any previous international discussions.
California was subject to a large influx of Hindoos that, as Finger believed,
initiated whites into the habit.230 The representatives of the United States, including

230

David Musto. "The History of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937". Arch. Gen. Psychiat. February,

1972. The rise of industrialization in America at the turn of the century caused two trends that would
have a major impact on America in the 20th century: immigration and urbanization. All three were
crucial in creating an opportunity for progressivisms entrance into American politics and in
formulating certain arguments for the reformation of substance legislation, alcohol and other narcotics.
Individuals who succumbed to the temptation of alcohol were seen as destroying not only themselves
but were also contributing to societys ruin. As Americas economy became more industrialized, there
was a massive influx of immigrants into the port cities searching for the newly created jobs. Many of
the reformers believed that these immigrants worsened the alcohol problem in America, further
impairing societys potential progress. Although mainly used in the south, race had always been
somewhat a part of the temperance argument, but the increasing immigrant population in the north
amplified the rhetoric of reform and was came to be utilized by the entire movement. Narcotics were
used by a much smaller percentage of the population in the early 20th century comparatively and so the
reformers had to anticipate the social problems it would cause. Narcotics like opium and cocaine were
thought to be limited to certain parts of the population: African Americans, and immigrants from

78

Hamilton Wright who was the leader of the U.S. delegation, fully supported this but it
lacked support from the rest of the Convention. As a consolation, the nations agreed to
investigate whether the drug warranted regulation.231 They worked with the eleven
other nations, missing only Austria-Hungary from the previous International Opium
Commission of three years earlier, toward an agreement that would require the
signatory nations take measures to prohibit, as regards their internal trade, the
delivery of morphine, cocaine, and their respective salts to any unauthorized
persons.232
The Convention designation of the meeting, as well the treaty agreed to by the
attending nations, meant that domestic legislation would have to be passed to comply
with the treatys terms and since it had to then be ratified by the Senate, Wright felt
that the United States would be legally bound to enact some sort of federal law to
regulate narcotics. The agreement at the Shanghai meeting was not a treaty and
therefore did not command enough respect by Congress to actually force any federal
legislative action. The Hague Treaty was put into effect on the last day of 1914, the
requirements of the treaty combined with the fact that the United States had actually
ratified it, played a major role in shaping the Harrison Narcotics Act, which Wright
helped to ensure passage of one year after ratification of the Hague treaty.233
Hamm states that reformers during the progressive era who desired federal
action to be taken on their behalf hung their proposals on certain constitutional
hooks, which meant that the federal government was just beginning the transition
from essentially decentralized system to one in which real power was centralized in
the national government. Reformers, of which Wright can be considered, could

Mexico and Asia. Immigrants and racial tensions were major aspects of the rhetoric used to drive both
movements. Nearly the same rhetoric was used in the call for narcotics policy reform.
231

Musto, The History of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937


Musto, 52.
233
The Cyclopedia of Temperance, Prohibition, and Morals mistakenly predicts that the enactment of the
antidrug law by the federal government taking effect March 1, 1915, seems to be at least the beginning of the end of
the use of opium in America
232

79

utilize five federal powers prescribed by the Constitution to achieve federal reform
legislation. Hamm stated that the federal tax power was the one primarily used by the
anti-narcotics movement in the early 20th century to pass the Harrison Act, but the
treaty power also was a major factor.234 In an attempt to achieve this federal reform,
and evading the constraints of the Constitution in the process, Wright decided to draft
his anti-narcotics bill as a tax law. He had enjoyed little success when he argued that
the agreements of the Hague Convention prescribed that federal regulations must be
placed on narcotics in order for the treaty to be fulfilled. The Supreme Court, in 1916,
ruled that federal regulation was not required to fulfill the treaty.235 At that point, it
was inconsequential whether federal regulation was required, because Wright had
used the taxing power of Congress two years prior to the ruling as his final solution.
The Harrison act was sponsored by Representative Francis Burton Harrison
from New York, and Representative James R. Mann from Illinois. William Jennings
Bryan was also one of its main proponents Representative Mann had gained
notoriety for sponsoring and passing the White Slave Act in 1910. This bill was an
omnibus federal anti-prostitution measure that was rested its constitutionality on
treaty and commerce power. The United States ratified the White Slave Treaty in 1908,
which required Congress to enact domestic legislation to fulfill its requirements. The
way in which the Mann Act pushed through Congress, and the constitutional
arguments that were made for it, closely paralleled the efforts made for the Harrison
Acts passage.236 All involved in the debate recognize the potential unconstitutionality
of such a law under the Commerce Clause.

234

Hamm, 9 n.12, tax power; Kurt Hohenstein, Just What the Doctor Ordered, 236, Treaty
The actual banning of all narcotics was ruled as not within the scope of Congress Constitutional power,
so though a treaty had been signed its language could not over rule the constraints of Constitutional power, the
Harrison Acts enforcement would be done by the Department of the Treasury, they would act on the legislation of
Congress who levied a tax on narcotics. The trivial goal which gave it Constitutionality was the revenue it would
raise, the larger goal was to limit the access to narcotics by requiring registrations, taxes, prescriptions, licenses, etc.
236
Hamm, 196; Musto, 63.
235

80

During the debates, Representative Harrison cited the Supreme Courts ruling
in Champion v. Ames, which granted Congress wide latitude to regulate commerce
between the states and could be construed to prohibit commerce in certain cases.237
After citing this precedent in defense of the act, one congressman stood up and asked
Mann the following question:
Does the gentleman believe that the Constitution construed as a whole ever
contemplated that Congress would exercise either of those powers in the
exercise of a police power? The purpose of this billand we are all in
sympathy with itEast to prevent the use of opium in United States,
destructive as it is of human happiness and human life; but the question now is
whether or not the purpose you desire to breach is a purpose that would be
permitted under any clause of the Constitution.238

Mann and other supporters of the Harrison Act defended it as a way to


organize and tax commerce related to narcotics. Its title was:
"An Act to provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue,
and to impose a special tax upon all persons who produce, import,
manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium
or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes."

This required that all parties including the druggist, physician, doctor,
manufacturer, and importer of the drug be licensed to engage in their role, by paying a
tax enforced by the Department of the Treasury. Manufacturers of patent medicines
were exempt from the licensure and the tax, so long as they sold preparations and
remedies which do not contain more than two grains of opium, or more than onefourth of a grain of morphine, or more than one-eighth of a grain of heroin in one
avoirdupois ounce."239 It was unlawful for anyone else that did not pay the tax to,
produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, any of
the aforesaid drugs if they did not pay the tax and register themselves with the
government.240

237

Hohenstein, 237.
U.S. Congressional Record 63, Session 1, June 26, 1913, 2193; quoted in Hohenstein, 237
239
Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, 17 December 1914
240
That the Harrison Narcotics Act was drafted as a revenue tax makes it similar to alcohol legilsation in
the 1840s, while prohibition was still over fifty years down the road. In the License Cases mentioned on p. 17, the
238

81

The act was defended as a law that did not regulate the sale of small quantities
of a substance, but was a way for large quantities of a now regulated narcotic
substance to be taxed and kept track of, but was careful to make exception doctors
prescription rights and the supplier to the doctor.241 Wilson signed the Harrison
Narcotics Bill into law on December 17, 1914. At the time, it may not have appeared
that this act had nearly enough regulatory power to be the foundation to the all out
prohibition of narcotics, but with the a few important Supreme Court decisions that
was exactly what happened.
In the beginning of the Harrison Acts enforcement, most physicians were
unclear about the requirements asked of them and their patients in legally prescribing
these regulated narcotics. In 1916, Dr. Jin Fuey Moy had registered under the
provisions of the act and prescribed his patient, Willie Martin, who had not registered
under the act, opium for his own use. The question brought to the Supreme Court by
the state was, Is receiving and using a prescription an action defined under the
commerce stipulations of the act, and does a patient receiving a prescription engage in
the commerce of the narcotic?
The Chief Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote the majority opinion that
being in being prescribed a narcotic one does not produce, import, manufacture,
compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away that said narcotic, but
merely possesses and uses it. This strict reading of the language of the act was not
well received by the Bureau of Narcotics, the agency given the task of enforcing
adherence to the act.242 The head of the Treasury Department said of it:

prohibition laws were upheld and compared to taxes by the Supreme Court. According to Clement Sites: Under a
taxing system on the other hand the position of the commonwealth government toward a town which votes local
prohibition is more nearly analogous to that of the United States government toward a prohibition commonwealth
In the decision in the License Tax Cases which arose out of the collection of United States internal revenue taxes
from liquor dealers when the traffic was prohibited in Massachusetts Chief Justice Chase said There is nothing
hostile or contradictory therefore in the acts of Congress to the legislation of the State What the latter prohibits the
former if the business is found existing notwithstanding the prohibition discourages by taxation The two lines of
legislation proceed in the same direction and tend to the same result." Sites, Clement Moore Lacey. Centralized
Administration of Liquor Laws in the American Commonwealths . New York: Methodist Pub. House, 1899.
241
Musto, 129.
242
Musto, 129; Hohenstein, 243. The Treasury was the agency actually regulating it and the Bureau of
Narcotics was .

82

This decision makes it practically impossible to control the illicit traffic in


narcotic drugs by unregistered persons, as the mere possession of any quantity
of drugs is not evidence of violation, and therefore the government is forced to
prove in every case, even where the circumstances indicate say on dispensing,
actual sales by this class of offenders which it has been found difficult to do.243

The strict interpretation of the Harrison Act that the court had used in 1916 evolved
within the next few years, and it eventually became the federal governments policy to
eliminate the nonmedical use of all narcotics.

The Beginnings of Federal Narcotics Prohibition


The two cases of note following the Jin Fuey Moy ruling were United States v.
Doremus and Webb v. United States. Each of these cases paved the way to give sweeping
power to Congress, and in the second ruling Congress gained a place inside the
physicians office as well as a voice in the treatment of patients. Doremus was a
physician charged with breaking the Harrison Narcotics Act for selling five hundred
one-sixth grain pills without a written order on a form issued on the blank authorizing
the sale of them from the Collector of Internal Revenue. He was also charged with
giving five hundred one-sixth grain heroin tablets to a patient who was commonly
known as a dope fiend, without obtaining a form from the Collector of Internal
Revenue, because though he was a registered doctor under the act the amount he
prescribed to Ameris was enough that they believed that Ameris could sell the extra
thereby withholding revenue from the government. So, although Doremus had paid
the tax and was registered with the government as a doctor, the court judged that the
amount he prescribed allowed for it to be sold by an unregistered dealer to an
unregistered buyer. The most important constitutional question that the case raised
was, Does section twowhich restricts the sale and commerce of drugs to the dealers,

243

W.C. Fitts, Assitant Attorney General to Senator William Calder, Nov. 2, 1917. Quoted in Musto, 131.

83

doctors, and patients given prescriptions by a doctor in his professional practiceaim


to raise revenue by imposing all of these restrictions? 244
The stringent restrictions were defended as a means of raising revenue because
the court felt that these professions tend to not attempt to hide their business from the
government as much as unauthorized dealers who under this policy are thought to
have less of an opportunity to sell drugs and hide income. Now, Doremus had come to
the Supreme Court after his District Court had ruled the Harrison Act unconstitutional.
In a 5-4 split, while the Chief Justice was in dissent because he believed that the act
federally violated the states right to policing power, the small majority of the court
upheld the constitutionality of the Harrison Act by a slim margin. This decision was
made on March 3, 1919 and later that same day a similar case would be decided, but
the ruling would expand federal power even further than the ruling in Doremus.
The case of Webb v. United States had come to the Supreme Court from the Sixth
Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, meaning this case originated in the
Western District of Tennessee. The two defendants, Webb and Goldbaum, a doctor
and druggist respectively, had been using the order blanks system though the
Controller of Internal Revenue. Webb would prescribe the narcotic to an addicted user
upon the first prescription and then, ignoring the common practice of re-evaluation
and a lower dosage prescribed, furnish the same prescriptions to the addict.
Goldbaum, who was accustomed to this procedure, filled the prescriptions of
Webbs patients in a manner to furnish the addiction, while those without the
physicians prescription would be given an amount aiming to cure the addiction. The
Circuit Court asked three questions to the Supreme Court, but the third question,
because of its negative answer, is the only question material to the case. The Circuit
Court asked the high court:
If a practicing and registered physician issues an order for morphine to an
habitual user thereof, the order not being issued by him in the course of

244

Decisions of United States Supreme Court Construing Harrison Narcotic Act Source: Public Health
Reports (1896-1970), Vol. 37, No. 32 (Aug. 11, 1922), pp. 1950-1954 Association of Schools of Public Health,:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/4576476.

84

professional treatment in the attempted cure of the habit, but being issued for
the purpose of providing the user with morphine sufficient to keep him
comfortable by maintaining his customary use, is such order a physician's
prescription under exception (b) of section 2?'

In the same fashion as the decision of Doremus, the court felt that the answer to
this question was negative and this resulted in a 5-4 split decision in favor of the
Harrison Act. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was again in the minority,
claiming that for the same reasons he was in the dissent in Doremus case he must also
be in the dissent for this case involving Webb and Goldbaum. The courts decision in
the Webb case did two things; it established a precedent that would be applied in future
cases concerning the reach of the federal police power, and it granted Congress the
power to regulate procedures inside the doctors office as well as what was prescribed
in good faith.
Six years after the Harrison Act became law, and one year after the Eighteenth
Amendment became effective, the Supreme Court clarified what exactly the federal
governments power was with regards to the enforcement of narcotics regulations. In
Whipple v. Martinson, the justices declared:
"There can be no question of the authority of the State in the exercise of its
police power to regulate the administration, sale, prescription, and use of
dangerous and habit-forming drugs....
The right to exercise this power is so manifest in the interest of public health
and welfare, that it is unnecessary to enter upon a discussion of it beyond
saying that it is too firmly established to be successfully called in question.

As one scholar has put it, In 1914, trading in and using drugs was a right. In 1915,
limited federal drug controls were a constitutionally questionable tax revenue
measure. By 1921, the federal government had gained not only complete control over
so-called dangerous drugs, but also a quasi-papal immunity to legal challenge of its
authority.245 The Harrison Act was becoming interpreted to include powers that
cannot be found in its textas if it were a living, evolving document.

245

Thomas Szasz,

85

86

C ONCLUSION
Why was it necessary to amend the Constitution so Congress would have the
power to prohibit the intrastate commerce of a particular substance in 1919 and such
an amendment was not required for the prohibition of other substances? This was the
question that prompted our investigation of the origins of federal alcohol and
narcotics regulations. It was raised by a juror during a trial concerning the Controlled
Substances Act and answered by a judge who said the Supreme Court had interpreted
the Commerce Clause, to extend to enacting laws with respect to contraband,
including contraband laws.246 The courts decision in the case to which he was
referring, Raich v. Gonzalez, revealed two points of importance that had to be dealt
with in answering such a question.
First, the court recognized that after the first century of our historyin
response to rapid industrial development and an increasingly interdependent national
economy, Congress ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce
power. [O]ur understanding of the reach of the Commerce Clause, the court states,
as well as Congress assertion of authority thereunder, has evolved over time.
Second, it recognized that the Controlled Substances Act was not Congress first
attempt to regulate the national market in drugs.247 The federal governments policy
of regulating narcotics to the extent of prohibition began with the Harrison Narcotics
Act, which began at the same time that the Eighteenth Amendment was in effect.
Although not written as prohibitory legislation, the Harrison Act was used to prohibit
opiates and cocaine in a way analogous to how alcohol was prohibited in the 1920s,
but why was it understood to be constitutional?
The simplest explanation seems to be that there was not the controversy
surrounding Congresss regulation of narcotics like there was around alcohol. Many

246

Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); U.S. v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549

(1995).

247

Gonzales v. Raich (2005). http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZO.html

87

believe this to be the main reason that the court never found the Harrison Narcotics
Act unconstitutional, as Musto says, in the case of narcotics the consensus was almost
absolute; everyone appeared to agree on the evils of these drugs. For alcohol, there
was no such agreement.248 Although true, this explanation is incomplete. Congress
acknowledged that it needed the constitutional authority to prohibit alcohol but
allowed narcotics to be regulated in virtually the same way, but it acknowledged the
constitutional problems of doing this during debates over the bill249 The main
difference between the antinarcotics and anti-alcohol legislation enacted during that
time (besides the different substances they were to regulate) was the way in which
they were enacted. The Eighteenth Amendment and the Harrison Narcotics Act were
both made into law according to progressive political theory, but the paths taken to
achieve passage of both were very different. It was how those two distinct paths
interacted with the progressive transformation that was taking place in the American
constitutional system that accounted for the different outcomes.
The temperance movement had a long history before the progressive
movement of the late 19th century paved the way for the 18th Amendments passage.
The temperance movement operated during that time with an understanding that the
Constitution would need to be amended if their goal of nationwide prohibition was to
be realized. In the 1890s, the Anti-Saloon League adopted more pragmatic methods of
promoting temperance than had been used by its predecessors; the Womens Christian
Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party. This coincided with the rise of the
progressive movement and the gradual progression towards a new understanding of
law and government. The ideas of the progressives emphasized the use of positive
law and government to promote the welfare of society.250 The progressive movement

248

Musto, The American Disease, 297.


Hohenstein, 248. The same agency in the Treasury Department was used to enforce the Harrison Act as
was used for alcohol prohibition.
250
This shift is seen visibly in the two California Supreme Court decisions on opium cases. One case occurs
during the pre-progressive era, in 1887, and the other during the progressive era, in 1911. In this 24 year period the
Supreme Court of California has shifted its entire understanding of governments purpose. In 1887, it sees the
policing power of the states as something used to protect the rights of one person from being taken away by another,
not a power used to rid the world of sin. In 1911 when judging Yun Quong, the ruling judge is so busy protecting
249

88

worked towards changing the practices of government, while the temperance


movement was working towards the eventual implementation of prohibition. They
both were willing to compromise in pursuit of their goals. The progressive movement
knew that small reforms would eventually swell into a complete alteration of
American government, while the temperance movement realized that small legislative
reforms could eventually swell into the complete prohibition of alcohol.
These small reforms achieved by the temperance movement were the Wilson
Law, and more importantly the Webb-Canyon Act. The Supreme Court, until the end
of the 19th century, had nullified any prohibition laws that states placed on themselves.
These decisions were the necessary steps towards amending the Constitution to
granting Congress the legal right to regulate the possession of alcohol within the states,
a right that they did not previously have. These measures culminated in the passage
of the 18th Amendment when the temperance movement reached the pinnacle of its
third wave in American history.
The progressives had gained enough power to pass the amendment allowing
them to ban the possession of alcohol, a goal the temperance movement had since the
1870s. Alcohol prohibitionists had desired a Constitutional amendment in order to
work within the confines of the original constraints the Constitution put on federal
power. While they compromised this thinking in the early 1900s, it was merely done
to further their advance towards their end goal; it was not a surrender of their old
reform ideas that were bound to the constraints of the Constitution. Henry William
Blair expressed the sentiment that was held by the temperance movement through the
Eighteenth Amendments passage when, in 1888, he wrote in regards to the Supreme
Courts nullification of state prohibition laws:
[S]o long as the constitution and laws of the United States guarantee the safe
importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the original packages
through the ports and over the avenues of interstate commerce of this country
the extinction or substantial restraint of the evil is impossible If the demand did
not already exist local laws and public opinion might perhaps suffice but not
Quong from opium, and making sure everyone feels equal in relation to everyone else, that in the end of his
argument he seems to conclude that an individual, by himself, possesses no rights at all.

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now when every hamlet and some inmate of almost every house in the whole
land is cursed by unnatural desireThere will never be any substantial and
permanent temperance reform in this country so far as the same is dependent
upon law until the sporadic efforts of States and sections are made to converge
upon the real citadel of the rum curse which is the national constitution.251

While temperance became a progressive issue and was driven by a progressive theory
of governments purpose, it remained attached to pre-progressive methods of
implementing its reform goals. The progressive movement not only provided the
theory behind narcotics prohibition, but it provided the means for which it could be
enacted. It was not merely that regulating narcotics was much less controversial than
regulating alcohol, although this was important.
On the surface, the swift enactment of narcotics-related reforms seemed to
show that using statutory methods was much more effective and efficient; this claim is
almost surely true. Narcotics reform did have the benefit of being in its infancy at the
same time as progressivism; its development was beginning at the turn of the 20th
century and progressivism would spread throughout the United States within a
decade. As progressivism gained power, both the temperance and narcotics
movements used the progressive constituency to further their reform goals. It is
possible that the federal government could have implemented the statutory
prohibition of alcohol if the temperance movement had not taken such quick
advantage of the circumstances presented to it in 1919.
The progressives did not see amending the Constitution as necessary in their
push to enact their reform agenda. They would use a constitutional amendment, but
only if doing so was absolutely necessary. The temperance movement believed that it
was necessary, while it was not necessary for antinarcotics legislation. If the United
States was as far behind as progressives believed she was, then they must attempt to
work in the most politically pragmatic ways in order to realize all the reforms that
they wished for. As Wilson said, we have not kept up with our changes of conditions,
either in the economic field or in the political field. We have not kept up as well as

251

Blair, 379.

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other nations have. We have not kept our practices adjusted to the facts of the case.252
Progressives like him and Theodore Roosevelt could not be limited to the powers
enumerated by the Constitution if they were to implement such changes.
In 1914, the commerce, taxation, and treaty powers were used to justify the
Harrison Acts passage, which evolved into narcotics prohibition today. The fact that
it was written as a tax law illustrates that Congress did not necessarily believe they
possessed the power to regulate or prohibit narcotics, as it did not think it had this
power over alcohol without a constitutional amendment. It was written as a tax
measure to avoid potential constitutional conflict.253 The understanding of
American constitutional government was just beginning to emerge, which means,
according to Hamm, that the reformers faced a polity with rules that often proscribed
their actions but that had enough flexibility to allow them to achieve their ends.254
Thus, the Harrison Narcotics Act was written so as not to unabashedly violate the
Constitution. However, the Treasury Department enforced it to its extreme limits and
the Supreme Court upheld this level of enforcement. The Harrison Narcotics Act was
designed by progressive reformers, such as Hamilton Wright, who intended for it to
become a moral prescription that would increasingly limit and eradicate the drug
curse that they envisioned as the root of many social ills.255
The political transformation initiated by the progressive movement was
gradual in changing how Americans understood the federal government and the
federal governments power. The abandonment of the political philosophy upon
which constitutionalism rested, states John Marini, could not have but a profound
effect upon the structure and functioning of the institutions in a regime which is
derived from it.256 The temperance movement culminated early in that transformation,

252

Some of the other reforms Wilson desired: to create the Federal Reserve, deal with corporate anti-trust,
tariff policy, promote labor policy, take over the railroads, pass a Sedition Act, institute the first conscription
legislation, and pass the first regulatory narcotics bill.
253
Hohenstein, 232.
254
Hamm, 6.
255
Hohenstein, 253.
256
John Mirani and Ken Masugi, The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science: Transforming the
American Regime [Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005], 3.

91

using its political power to take an advantage of the situation, and passed the
Eighteenth Amendment in 1919. The temperance movement had centuries of history
and reached its apex during the beginnings of progressive thought, while the antinarcotics movement began during the progressive transformation and evolved
alongside progressive reform. Progressivism always targeted gradual reform and
aimed to use these changes as a way to alter how government was thought of in the
United States.
The main reason for the different legal treatments of alcohol and narcotics was
this transformation of American government and its purpose. The ways in which the
Harrison Narcotics Act and the 18th amendment were enacted differed greatly, but the
theory behind them was the same. The progressive movement inserted an idea into
the American system that was completely contrary to that which the nation was
founded upon. The governments structure laid out by the Constitution, however,
remained the same as the transformation was happening. The change came very
gradually. In fact, it is still taking place, as American government does not operate
according to the principles of the founders or the progressivisms. It has been described
as an incoherent blend of both. This observation may help us understand why
alcohol prohibition and narcotics prohibition cannot be fully in regards to the
constitutional validity of the two policies. When it comes to theory or science,
incoherence is always a vice, West says, But in practical affairs, incoherence has its
virtues.257

257

Thomas West, Progressivism and the Transformation of American Government, Progressive


Revolution23

92

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