(p. W8) “Prohibition went into effect on January 16, 1920, and blew up at last on December 5, 1933 — an elapsed time of twelve years, ten months and nineteen days,” H.L. Mencken wrote shortly after ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution eliminated the 18th Amendment. “It seemed almost a geologic epoch while it was going on, and the human suffering that it entailed must have been a fair match for that of the Black Death or the Thirty Years War.”
The demise of Prohibition, 75 years ago . . . , is something of a cause for celebration, and it will be treated as such with Repeal Day parties in Washington, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, New York and elsewhere. . . .
. . .
Temperance advocates had argued Prohibition would usher in an era of sober moral rectitude. When it didn’t quite work out that way, public opinion began to turn against the drys. They joined those who opposed Prohibition because it had handed new and oppressive powers to the federal government. Charles Lindbergh’s father-in-law, Dwight Whitney Morrow, won a Senate seat from New Jersey in 1930 running as a Republican against Prohibition. He argued that it had caused Americans to “conceive of the Federal Government as an alien and even a hostile Power.”
And yet, it was finance that finally did Prohibition in. As the nation sank into the Depression, tax revenues dwindled. The prospect of capturing all the liquor excise taxes that had for a decade been missing (and, in effect, had gone into the pockets of bootlegging mobs) was alluring to Democrats and Republicans alike. Pierre du Pont lobbied his fellow plutocrats to support repeal in the vain hope that liquor taxes would replace income taxes. But the New Dealers saw repeal as creating a vast pile of money with which to fund expansive new government programs. Not only did Prohibition and its enforcement increase the size and scope of the federal government, but so did Prohibition’s repeal.
For the full story, see:
ERIC FELTEN. “HOW’S YOUR DRINK; Celebrating Cinco de Drinko.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., NOVEMBER 28, 2008): W8.
(Note: ellipses added.)