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THE HOBSON RESOLUTION
On December 22nd, the House of Representatives took up the consideration of the so-called Hobson Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It read as follows:
Whereas exact scientific research has demonstrated that alcohol is a narcotic poison, destructive and degenerating to the human organism, and that its distribution as a beverage or contained in foods lays a staggering economic burden upon the shoulders of the people, lowers to an appalling degree the average standard of character of our citizenship, thereby undermining the public morals and the foundation of free institutions, produces widespread crime, pauperism and insanity, inflicts disease and untimely death upon hundreds of thousands of citizens, and blights with degeneracy their children unborn, threatening the future integrity and the very life of the Nation: Therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following amendment of the Constitution be, and hereby is, proposed to the States, to become valid as a part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of the several States as provided by the Constitution:
"ARTICLE “Sec. I. The sale, manufacture for sale, transportation for sale, importation for sale, and exportation for sale of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes in the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof are forever prohibited.
"Sec. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by all needful legislation."
The total vote for the Amendment was 197 for and 189 against it, but as it requires a two-thirds vote to amend the Constitution, the Resolution was lost. 114 Democrats, 70 Republicans and 12 Progressives voted for the Amendment. 143 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Progressives voted against it. Thus it appears that 61 per cent of the Republicans and 44.3 per cent. of the Democrats in the House voted in favor of the Amendment. The Progressives were the only political party that gave more than a two-thirds vote in its favor.
The debate and vote were not, however, drawn on party lines, but rather on individual preference. Among the speakers in favor of the Resolution were:
Mr. Hobson, of Alabama.
Mr. Lindquist, of Michigan.
Mr. Underwood, of Alabama.
Mr. Lenroot, of Wisconsin. In the language of Mr. Linthicum, of Maryland, the House was asked to adopt an Amendment against the sale of liquor, “by one who seems himself much in doubt as to how to accomplish this result.” During the past two years, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Hobson) “has introduced into this House nine separate and distinct resolutions on this subject on as many different occasions, ... and today he announces that he proposes to offer, at the proper time, certain amendments to the one now pending, making in all ten propositions. If he, after such lengthy and profound study, is not yet certain as to what should be done, should we, the representatives of the people, vote to insert into our Constitution an Amendment of which the author himself seems so uncertain and so unsettled ?"
The claims of those favoring the Resolution are summed up as follows:
“The traffic in intoxicating liquors in the United States is directly or indirectly responsible for 25 per cent. of the poverty ; 37 per cent. of the pauperism; 45.8 per cent. of child misery; 25 per cent. of insanity; 19.5 per cent. of divorces, and 50 per cent. of the crime."
Many of the speakers against the Resolution contented themselves with the statement that the liquor question is a moral issue and is not properly within the jurisdiction of Congress. Others attacked the Resolution on the ground that whereas it forbade the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, it still made it possible for anyone who chose, to manufacture as much liquor for personal use as he might wish.
Mr. Cantrill, of Kentucky, said: “It would permit the free and unlimited manufacture of intoxicating liquor for personal use in communities where now, under the Democratic principle of local self-government, it is prohibited. I would not vote for a measure to force the manufacture of liquor upon a State or community which had voted against such manufacture, and, therefore, I would not vote to give the Federal Government power to prohibit its manufacture in a State or community which voted for its manufacture. I believe in local self-government and State rights. The cry goes up from those favoring this proposition that we should be willing to let a majority of the people rule, yet, under the Resolution, it would be possible for 45 per cent. to rule 55 per cent. of our population. There are 12 States with a population of 51,000,000 people that could be controlled by 36 States with a population of 40,000,000. So that it would be possible, under this measure, for a minority to control a large majority of our citizens, upon a matter which is largely social and moral in its nature.
“There is in the land a great body of high-priced paid agitators, who are clamoring for national prohibition. It is their profession, and Members of this House should not be swept off their feet by demands from that body. The paid leaders have not dealt fairly with the great body of the people in the country. They have misled thousands of sincere, honest and God-fearing people into believing that this Resolution means prohibition, when in reality it means unrestricted manufacture of intoxicating liquors.
“Under the Hobson Resolution we have all of the evils of manufacture and none of the good coming from the taxes. . .
“During the elections last Fall some of the advocates of this Resolution sent word to the country that the Democratic party would not give them a vote in this House. The Democratic party to-day is giving a vote to the Resolution, and it would have been voted on much sooner if the leaders in its behalf had so desired. It is their own fault that a vote was not taken six months ago.
“At different periods in the history of our country, 24 States have tried prohibition. 15 out of the 24 have repealed this law. With this record, what relief can be hoped for in national prohibition, and what can the temperance cause hope to gain ? The record shows that prohibition hinders real temperance.
"Nearly $800,000,000 is invested in the liquor business in this country, which this resolution proposes to destroy without one cent of compensation to the owners of that property; $500,000,000 collected annually in Federal, State, County and City taxes, on the liquor business, which, under this Resolution, will be wiped away to be saddled upon the shoulders of labor and agriculture in the nation.
“As a temperance measure it will not prove of any value to that great and glorious cause. It will not help prohibition, because it means free and unrestricted manufacture of intoxicating liquors. As an economic proposition, it would bankrupt the nation. As a social and moral proposition, it is unwise, because it deprives the people of their right to regulate the liquor traffic in their own communities, by transferring that right to Congress.”
Mr. Hobson explained the object of his Resolution as follows: “The Amendment proposed provides the scientific treatment for a deep organic disease. The systematic debauching of the youth is the origin of this terrible evil in our land. Investigations show that the great national organization of liquor interests are the agents. Their motive is the gain and profit in the sale of their goods to the crops of young drinkers as they become men. The Amendment would remove the motive; the agent would disintegrate; the debauching of the youth would end, and the nation would grow sober --the real, organic, scientific cure for this disease."
In opposition to this, Mr. Pou, of North Carolina, said: "Under the proposed Amendment any man who can raise a few dollars to pay for a still, can manufacțure all the whiskey and brandy he cares to manufacture. The proposed Amendment might very properly be entitled: 'An Amendment to Legalize the Illicit Still in the United States’; it might well be entitled: ‘An Act to Encourage the Manufacture of Intoxicating Drinks by Individuals.'”
Mr. Brown, of Wisconsin, said: "Suppose 12 great States of the nation, like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and California, having an aggregate population of over 50,000,000 people, a majority of the people of the United States, should have prohibition forced upon them by constitutional amendment, which they had voted against and to which a large majority of their people were opposed; an Amendment which destroyed millions of dollars' worth of property and threw hundreds of thousands of men out of employment, could such a law be enforced, and what would the attempted enforcement of the law mean? It would mean the appointment of hundreds of thousands of government officials, marshals and deputy marshals, by the political party in power, to go into the various communities to enforce the law. This army of federal marshals and deputy marshals would be many times larger than the armed military forces of the United States today.”
Mr. Bartholdt, of Missouri, gave 10 reasons why, in his judgment, prohibition is wrong. Ist. Prohibition is a death-blow to the liberty of the individual. 2nd. Prohibition runs counter to human nature. 3rd. Prohibition undermines manliness. 4th. Prohibition undermines respect for law. 5th. National prohibition by constitutional amendment is unworthy of a great people. 6th. National prohibition means the complete subversion of the fundamental theories upon which our system of government rests. 7th. Prohibition means the confiscation of property valued at a thousand million dollars, property which has been acquired strictly in accordance with State and Federal law. 8th. Prohibition will take the bread from the mouths of hundreds of thousands of employees and workingmen. 9th. Prohibition will cause a deficit in the national treasury of at least $280,000,000 a year. Toth. Prohibition does not prohibit.
Mr. Gordon, of Ohio, said: "The preamble to this bill is a mere stump speech in favor of total abstinence, highly colored by fervid rhetoric and gross exaggerations, and the frequent use of adjectives and epithets."
Mr. Barchfeld, of Pennsylvania, quoted from a speech by Mr. Hobson on December 11, 1913, in which he said: “I want my colleagues to understand from the start, and so far as we can have them, the American people, that there is no desire, no intent, on the part of this Resolution, to invade either the individual rights or inherent liberties of the citizens, or to climb over the wall that civilization-particularly the Anglo-Saxon civilization--has built around the home." "Probably," says Mr. Barchfeld, "this has reference to the fact that the manufacture and sale of liquor for sacramental, medicinal, therapeutic and mechanical purposes is excepted from the grand prohibition of this proposed Amendment, and possibly to the idea which the prohibitionists are now seeking to promulgate,