The Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition

The Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition was established in December of 1931 by Raymond Pitcairn, Henry B. Joy, Lammot du Pont, Joseph H. Choate, Jr., Thomas W. Phillips, Robert Cassaft and other prominent Republican "wets" (supporters of Repeal).

It was created before the 1932 Republican National Convention to pressure the party to support Repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933). Its efforts included sending letters to those who had contributed money to the most recent presidential campaign stating that if the party did not support Repeal it would not be able to win the upcoming campaign. Historian David Kyvig observed that members of the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition "displayed considerable anguish at having to choose between their party and a satisfactory policy on what they considered the dominant issue of the campaign."1

In spite of the concerted efforts of the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition and other Republican wets, the party took no clear position on the matter, calling for:

A proposed amendment the provision of which, while retaining in the Federal Government power to preserve the gains already made in dealing with the evils inherent in the liquor traffic, shall allow States to deal with the problem as their citizens may determine, but subject always to the power of the Federal Government to protect those States where Prohibition may exist and safeguard our citizens everywhere from the return of the saloon and attendant abuses.2

It may have been more focused on principle than pragmatism or it may have failed to recognize the degree to which most Americans had come to oppose National Prohibition because of its failure and the enormous problems it created. Soon, 74% of American voters rejected National Prohibition and called for Repeal, which occurred at the end of 1933.

Surprisingly, in spite of the abysmal and undeniable failure of Prohibition, many people and organizations today support neo-prohibition ideas and strongly defend the many vestiges of Prohibition that continue to remain.

 

Resources on the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition:

  • Kornhauser, Marjorie E., Shaping Public Opinion and the Law in the 1930s: How a 'Common Man' Campaign Ended a Rich Man's Law (February 2006). Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 06-02. Available at SSRN: //ssrn.com/abstract=880383. Describes the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition.
  • Kyvig, David E. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000, p. 123. Describes the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition.
  • Root, Grace C. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934. Describes the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition.

References:

  • 1. Kyvig, David. Repealing National Prohibition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979, ch 9 ("Repeal!").
  • 2. Prohibition: 142 words. Time, July 11, 1932.

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