Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition

By Norman H. Clark | Go to book overview

10
Legacies
of Prohibition

in THE DRY DECADE, published in 1931, Charles Merz explained that the Repeal Movement had become a nullification of federal legislation and official morality. He described it as a rebellion on the part of many people who finally refused in any way to honor a law held almost universally in contempt. Merz compared this rebellion, as the wets had for years compared it, with the reaction of Americans, especially in the South, to the Reconstruction laws which reformers carried through Congress after the Civil War. This is to a degree a useful analogue, for it reveals a certain similarity in the efforts of Americans to suppress racism and intemperance. But at best it has a narrow validity. There is surely little to be learned from comparing racism to drinking or drunkenness, and surely history has no need for another shaky analogy.

It is true that Charles Merz did not work this particular analogy very hard. But he did, at least by implication, suggest that because the efforts to suppress racism and the efforts to suppress intemperance were both failures, Americans should have learned from the history of the one experience what to anticipate from the other. This is the unfortunate distortion. Though racism has not been suppressed, slavery is dead; this is surely because of the Antislavery Movement, and since 1865 racism has been measurably diminished in American society. Though intemperance has not been abolished — and there is here no further implied comparison — the movement against it did abolish the saloon, and this in turn has made the public drunkard

-209-

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Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Indulgences and Disciplines 1
  • 2 - The Cup of Woe 14
  • 3 - Moral Stewardship and Social Disorder 25
  • 4 - Counterculture 45
  • 5 - Protest and Reform 68
  • 6 - A League of Pietists 92
  • 7 - Tables of Law 118
  • 8 - Resistance and Social Change 140
  • 9 - Repeal Politics 181
  • 10 - Legacies of Prohibition 209
  • Acknowledgments and Sources 227
  • Index 237
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