Underground Reading: Bust by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr
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Charles Stetzle on the Bulwarks of Booze

New York Tribune 1917Extracts from Charles Stetzle's Why Prohibition? (1918):

America needs patriots not only those who will go to the battle line in France, but also men and women, too, who will strengthen the hands of the boys who have gone to the Front.

Our greatest peril is that of waste and the greatest waster in our country is the liquor traffic. To strengthen America by precept and practice is a distinct obligation resting upon every citizen of this Republic.

This book is written to point out the perils connected with the liquor business in this and every other land. The facts presented are the results of a careful study covering a period of years. It is hoped that they may be of service to the valiant fighters who need ammunition to batter down the bulwarks of booze.


I am a prohibitionist.

But, frankly, I hate the name. It suggests long-haired men and short-haired women. It is negative and limited, but it expresses exactly what those who are opposed to liquor are trying to do.

And I am for it. I want to see the liquor business abolished. And if this is to be done, we'll have to take off our kid gloves and fight the thing with bare fists as prohibitionists.

Whatever may have been the limitations of prohibitionists in the past and no matter how much they were ridiculed, nevertheless they put the fear of God into the hearts of the liquor men, caused our legislators to lay their ears to the ground, induced world powers to place a ban on booze, prompted employers of labour to promote anti-liquor campaigns and persuaded thousands upon thousands of individuals to get on the water-wagon.

I know some mighty fine people who drink beer and cocktails they are not fine because they do so, but in spite of it, and yet I can't get away from the fact that most of them are just about as sincere as are those of us who are trying to take away the thing which seems to give them so much enjoyment.


As a prohibitionist I want to remember that I've got to live with these neighbours of mine after the saloon has been put out of business, and I don't want to say or do anything that will raise a barrier between us if I can possibly avoid it. Of course, if it came to the point of either sacrificing their friendship or holding on to the saloon with all that this implies, I'd be tempted to say some pretty strong things which might cause my neighbours to walk on the other side of the street as we hustled for the 7:26.

But this isn't likely to happen, for I have found these neighbours of mine who do indulge occasionally in strong drink to be pretty reasonable sort of folks after all.


[Editor's note: The Eighteenth Amendment - nation-wide prohibition - was ratified in 1919 and came into effect in 1920]