In February 1918, six of the required 36 states had ratified the constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol, after the House and Senate had both done so the previous August and December, respectively.
Edgar M. Cullen, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), broke his decades-long silence on political matters to speak out against the proposal:
“I am opposed to incorporating in the Federal Constitution the proposed amendment at any time. I appreciate fully the magnitude of the evils which excessive indulgence in intoxicants entails. I honor all those good and earnest men and women who are working to diminish the evil by impressing on the people its injurious effects. Though I differ with him, I admire the devotion to his faith of one who, believing that all drinking is wrong, wholly abstains from it…
“‘But the same right that he had to regulate his conduct is possessed by others who differ from him. The ‘total abstainer’ is wholly different from the prohibitionist. The first lives up to his own standard of morality, which, as it affects only himself, he has a perfect right to do. The second seeks to impose his standard upon others who do not believe in it and to compel them by law to regulate their lives according to his notions.”
No dice. Less than a year after this article’s publication, Montana’s ratification in January 1919 pushed the 18th Amendment over the top.
However, Cullen’s viewpoint won out in the end. The 21st Amendment repealed prohibition in December 1933, marking the only constitutional amendment which was ever formally overturned.
Case Against National Prohibition: Ex-Judge Cullen Says Federal Amendment Would Be Particularly Bad Just Now and Productive of Evil in the Future
From Sunday, February 24, 1918
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