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PAVING THE ROAD TO UTOPIA
A temperance leader asserted that "This [prohibition] is Christ's work... a holy war, and every true soldier of the Cross will fight in it" (Fumas, 1965, p. 165). Understandably, ministers were influential and important to the cause (Schmidt, 1995). They mobilized their flocks by preaching that alcohol was
the great anaconda, which wraps its coils around home altars to cripple them, to make room for Bacchus. The vampire which fans sanity to sleep while it sucks away the lifeblood. The vulture, which preys upon the vials [sic] of the nations. It defies God, despises Jesus Christ, sins against the Holy Ghost, which is sinning against light and knowledge. Above all it murders humanly. (Isaac, 1965, p. 21)
In promoting what many prohibitionists saw as their religious duty, they perfected the techniques of pressure politics (Odegard, 1928). Women in the movement even used their children as pawns to march, sing, and otherwise
"Use a little wine..."
Because the temperance movement began to teach that drinking alcohol was sinful, it was forced to confront the contrary fact that Jesus drank wine. Its solution was to insist that Jesus drank grape juice rather than wine. (Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control Westport, Ct: Praeger, 1995, Chapter Three.)
The Bible says to "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake" (1 Timothy 5:23). This admonition caused serious problems for temperance writers, who argued that alcohol was a poison and that drinking it was a sin. So they insisted that the Bible was actually advising people to rub alcohol on their abdomens. (Edwards, G. Alcohol: The World's Favorite Drug. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000, p. 167).
Later, temperance activists hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible by removing all references to alcohol beverage. (The American Mix, 2001, 1(1), 4.)
exert pressure at polling places. Dressed in white and clutching tiny American flags, the children would await their order to descend upon an unsuspecting "wet" as he approached the voting booth.
The Anti-Saloon League stressed its religious character and since it acted as an agent of the churches and therefore was working for God, anything it did was seen as moral and justified because it was working to bring about the Lord's will:
It didn't necessarily include the outright purchase of a politician, nor did it preclude such a buy if the situation warranted. In general, however, and briefly, it consisted in swarming into a contested area and bringing every imaginable sort of pressure to bear upon the candidates and officeholders; in saturating the country with speakers and literature; in laying down a barrage of abuse, insinuation, innuendo, half-truths, and plain lies against an opponent; and in maintaining an efficient espionage system which could obtain reliable knowledge of the enemy's plans. Sometimes the required pressure could be applied through a man's business or professional connections; again, something might be accomplished through his family and relatives, in which case the local clergyman and the ladies of the W.C.T.U. were very helpful. (Asbury, 1968, pp. 101-102)
Not surprisingly one league leader would later write that the lies he told in promoting prohibition "would fill a big book" (Asbury, 1968, p. 102).
Decades later, their propaganda, strong organization, and political tactics would pay off in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution establishing national prohibition. A leader of the Anti-Saloon League testified that prior to its passage in Congress, he had compiled a list of 13,000 business people who supported prohibition. They were then given their instructions at the crucial time:
We blocked the telegraph wires in Congress for three days. One of our friends sent seventy- five telegrams, each signed differently with the name of one his subordinates. The campaign was successful. Congress surrendered. The first to bear the white flag was Senator Warren Harding of Ohio. He told us frankly he was opposed to the amendment, but since it was apparent from the telegrams that the business world was demanding it he would submerge his own opinion and vote for submission. (Pollard, 1932, p. 107)
The league was so powerful that even national politicians feared its strength. The Eighteenth Amendment might well not have passed if a secret ballot had made it impossible for the league to have punished the "disobedient" at the next election (Sinclair, 1962, p. 110).
In this Currier and Ives print of 1848, George Washinton bids farewell to his officers with a toast in his hand and a supply of liquor on the table.
Reflecting the power of the temperance movement, a re-engraved version in 1876 removes all evidence of alcohol. Gone is the glass from Washington's hand and the liquor supply is replaced with a hat.
What was written about Wayne Wheeler, Counsel for the Anti-Saloon League was true, to a lesser degree, of many other temperance leaders:
Wayne B. Wheeler controlled six congresses, dictated to two presidents of the United States, directed legislation in most of the States of the Union, picked the candidates for the more important elective and federal offices, held the balance of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, distributed more patronage than any dozen other men, supervised a federal bureau from outside without official authority, and was recognized by friend and foe alike as the most masterful and powerful single individual in the United States. (Childs, 1947,p. 217)
The Civil War had interrupted the temperance movement while Americans were preoccupied with that great struggle. Then, after the war, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was founded. Of course, the organization did not promote moderation or temperance but rather prohibition. One of its methods to achieve that goal was education. It was believed that if it could "get to the children" it could create a dry sentiment leading to prohibition (Sheehan, 1981, p. 118).
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