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VOICE of the BREWERS on “THE REFERENDUM” in 1916
ATTORNEY FOR NEW YORK BREWERS’ ASSOCIATION IN ARGUMENT AGAINST LOCAL OPTION LAW IN 1916; EMPHATIC IN HIS DECLARATION THAT PEOPLE ELECT LEGISLATORS AND CONGRESSMEN TO ACT FOR THEM ON LIQUOR LEGISLATION Speaking of refercndums. here is an argument against the referendum that comes tip from the past. It is the argument of William II. Hirst, attorney for the New \ ork State Brewers’ Association, against the direct vote of the people on the liquor question. When the drys were working for a real referendum to give the people of New York City a real opportunity to vote at the city local option campaign in 1916, which would have really reflected public opinion and determined public action, Mr. Hirst said: Under our form of government people vote on the liquor question just as they do on all other questions when they elect members of the legislature whose duty it is to make laws to govern all kinds of human activity. • The theory of our state and federal government does not contemplate that the people of any state or locality should meet and pass laws. On the con trary, both the federal and state plan of government provides distinctly that the people should meet and elect representatives who are to assemble at a given place and pass.laws which are to be administered by the proper arm of the gov ernment. Thus, the general scheme of the government of the state intends that the members of the legislature shall meet once a year as representatives of the * people and carry out their wishes by such enactments as arc fitting and proper for the end sought to be served, and arrived at after proper deliberation. The calm and deliberate judgment of the representatives of the people who have been specially chosen to study and pass upon public questions may be de pended upon to more nearly reflect general public opinion than a local option election which is usually brought about and carried on by parties specially in terested on one side or the other. The members of the legislature must answer to their constituents, while there is no such consideration to deter the voter from yielding to passion and whim. No reason can be advanced why the legislature should delegate its power to the people to make laws on the liquor question any more than on any other question which may be an issue before the people. It is really beclouding the issue and throwing dust in the eyes of the people when the cry of suffrage is raised in behalf of tltis bill. Mr. Hirst’s statement is peculiarly applicable to the present referendum proposal 1 ot the wets. It was not applicable to the referendum or local option proposals of tlie drys in the days of license. 1 he reason is this: The drys by legal and orderly process] first secured enactment of a law the constitutionality ot which was upheld manv times and never overthrown, whereby the people were empowered to drive the saloons from a given community by a majority vote. This vote tint only registered sentiment, hut was] decisive. Federal authority was not interfered with. Other stale-, were not concerned. The referendum to lie held in New \ ork next November i> under authority of the legislature, it is true, but it deals with a federal law and with an amendment to the Constitution. Mr. Hirst nor any other informed wet will contend that it wifi amount to any more than an advisory vote, it is not within the power of New York or any other state of the l. nion by act of the legislature nor by a vote of the people to de termine whether a federal law and the Constitution of the United States are to be valid within the boundaries of the state. Congress itself cannot submit a referendum to the people on a question of obeying or disregarding a constitutional amendment or federal law. Congress can not submit a question to the states to determine what shall consti tute intoxicating liquor, for Congress lias no power to compel a stale to \ote on a question of this kind. One state withholding participation in a referendum of this kind, would render the whole referendum invalid even if the federal government had the necessary voting machinery to conduct it. New York’s proposal to leave the matter of what constitutes intoxicating liquor to the individual states would result only in chaos. A drink that could he legally manufactured and sold in one state would he illegal in another. Air. Hirst’s argument stands. A referendum of this kind can be taken only through the election of the people's representatives to legislatures and Congress. SUPERINTENDENT McBRIDE SAYS LEAGUE FAVORS ANY FAIR AND LEGAL EXPI ION OF PUBLIC OPINION Drys Have Always Fought for Right of People to Express Their Desires on Liquor Question, While Wets Have Always Opposed; Sections Which Opposed Legal Referendum Now Loudest in Demand for Fake Vote The drys always have favored government in accordance with the ryill of the people. The history of the prohibition fight is largely a history of constant fighting for the right of the people to vote on the liquor question. The drys fought for local option, county option, state-wide option. Finally the drys fought for the election of a Congress that would give the people of the states a right to express their will on ' national constitutional prohibition. The fight of the drys for the right of women to vote was one of the chief factors in the \ictory for woman sutfiage. Wets Always Opposed to People Voting Opposed to the record of the drys who have always fought for the right of the people to express themselves on the liquor question is the record of the wets who have always fought against referendum rights. The wets opposed local option, county option, state-wide option and every other kind of option on the liquor question ever proposed. The various sections of the country now most loudly demanding sham battle referendum votes on prohibition are the very sections that most strongly op posed referendum votes when such votes might jeopardize or illegalize the liquor traffic. The state of New York passed a local option law in 1917. But the wets suc ceeded in excepting the city of New York from the operation of this law. In Mis souri the wets defeated the local option law passed in 1913 which gave cities the right to vote on the liquor question. In 1916 Maryland wets refused to permit a state-wide prohibition law. The liquor question through the influence of the wets was spe cifically excepted from the operations of the state general referendum law. In Chi cago the wets twice arbitrarily refused to allow a vote on the liquor question by il legally failing to comply with the local option law. The wets of Illinois not only opposed every local and state-wide referendum bill on the liquor question hut also threw their full strength against the woman suf frage bill. In New Jersey the wets strenuously opposed local option bills giving the people in cities the right to vote on the liquor question. The Anti-Saloon League always has been and continues to be in favor of gov ernment according to the will of the people because its position on the liquor ques tion is fundamentally right. The wets have always fought referendum votes because their position always has been and continues to be indefensible. It is for that reason that the wets are unwilling to abide by the will of the people as regularly and legally expressed. That is why they are seeking to evade the results of legal voting and arc clamoring for unfair, illegal and indecisive referendum votes. League Favors Any Legal and Determining Vote - The Anti-Saloon League always has been and now is in favor of any fair, legal, orderly expression of public opinion looking toward the solution of t le Aiquor prob lem. The drys will meet the wets on any referendum that would clearly and fairly and decisively solve this question. The following are some of the requirements such % referendum must meet. The question must not involve or imply the right of a majority in any section to violate or nullify the Constitution of the United States. The question must not prom ise something that cannot be delivered under the Constitution and the laws of the nation. The referendum must be such that its result would he legally binding and have a decisive effect for or against the maintenance and enforcement of the Eight eenth Amendment. The referendum must be limited in its application to the rights under the constitution of tlm subdivision of government in which the vote is held. We concede the right of voters of a state to decide whether they want a state law for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment. Wc have met them on that field and defeated them in California, Ohio and Massachusetts. We concede the right of a municipality to vote for or against an enforcement ordinance. But do not concede that any state or municipality can vote on whether it is to be subject to the laws and Constitution of the United States. These can be changed only by processes established in the Constitution. W e will not concede that a Congressman’s oath to support the Constitution can be made null and void by an expression of his constituents. Why This Impatience? The Anti-Saloon League asks the enemies of prohibition to abide the time needed to act by orderly government. What is wrong with the wet cause that its friends cannot wait for the orderly processes of law? Their anxiety for undue haste raises the strong suspicion that they dare not trust their proposals to the deliberate con sideration of the people. If there is a majority sentiment against prohibition it will find expression through the regular channels provided by law. If the sentiment of the people is against prohibition the people can repeal the law by the same orderdly processes under which it was adopte'd. 1 lie wets are welcome to fight against prohibition under the same rules applied to the drys in their fight for prohibition. There is no reason why a private Interest should be given a special privilege in the fight to restore an evil that was not enjoyed by the general public in its fight to outlaw that evil. SUSTAINS COMMISSIONER Supreme Court Upholds Revenue Com missioner in His Refusal to Grant Alcohol Permit Declaring the dominant purpose of the federal prohibition amendment is to pre vent the use of intoxicating liquor as a beverage, the United States supreme court has again held that all provisions of law are to be liberally construed to that end. This latest decision was in the case of a Pittsburgh products company, which sought to compel the internal revenue commissioner to issue it a permit to handle denatured alcohol. The high court ruled in favor of the commissioner, asserting he had the right to determine if an applicant is a fit person to be entrusted with such a privilege. This decision is in accord with the Court's ruling on the prohibition law. The law is to be liberally construed, as the dominant purpose of the law is to prevent the use of beverages as intoxicants. In line with this decision and other decisions, how tar would the wets get with their plan to liberalize the Volstead law, as proposed by Senator Edge, to permit the manufac ture and sale of liquor “not intoxicating in fact?” __ * ITALY LIMITS LIQUOR SALES The Roman Senate has adopted a law cutting in half the number of vendors of alcoholic beverages and limiting the sale of alcoholic liquors and the number of cafes and bars. The proportion of vendors was reduced from one in every 500 popu lation to one in every 1,000 population. The minister of the interior, -while con demning alcoholism, told the Senate that it was necessary to proceed slowly in or der to crush it.