In the early months of Prohibition, a common phrase swept the land.
“Of course, that was before the first of July,” one heard everywhere. Men winked at you in the street and whispered that “was before the first of July.” Children in the schools are taught ancient and modern American history now. Our ancient history was pre-July. Our modern history was post-July. Our laughter subsided into a whisper. We used to speak of Uncle Sam. Now we speak in awesome tones of his successor, Geoffrey Bootleg.
One man interviewed in this 1920 article postulated that with alcohol banned, freedom at large would soon follow:
“Do you know that when the barroom goes, democracy goes with it? Under the Caesars and Cromwell there were no bars. The bar parlor, the wine room, the cantina, the barroom flourish in direct ratio to the quantity and quality of the freedom that exists in a country. All Bastiles are undermined by the music of clinking glasses in public places. All Bastiles rise also to the pump of hidden stills.
“The American barroom abolished caste. The proletariat, the bourgeoisie, and the patrician got together over the bar rail. All men were created free and equal before a white apron. In the barroom race, color, or present condition of servitude melted into universal goodfellowship. Liquor was the eternal democrat. Laughter and drink leveled all humanity before the big mirror. There was, in the good old barroom, a continual interlocking of classes.”
That premise is certainly debatable. If bars were really the great equalizer in society, there wouldn’t have been such a large number of bars back then with signs in the windows reading ‘No Coloreds Allowed.’ And Prohibition was repealed in 1933, right at the moment that — at least under the economic libertarianism definition — unprecedented government intervention caused a substantial decrease in Americans’ freedom.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Unhappiness: Now That Our Bronze Goddess Enlightens the World With Wood Alcohol, the Inalienable Right to Decline a Drink Is Alienated
Published: January 18, 1920