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Prohibition, the Constitution, and States' Rights$
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Sean Beienburg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226631943

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226632278.001.0001

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Ratifying and Implementing II (1918–21)

Ratifying and Implementing II (1918–21)

The Northeast

(p.76) Chapter Five Ratifying and Implementing II (1918–21)
Prohibition, the Constitution, and States' Rights

Sean Beienburg

University of Chicago Press

In the Northeast, where opposition to prohibition was most intense, governors and state legislators fiercely debated the extent to which states’ rights enabled states to choose how to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment. Henry Cabot Lodge, who had been one of the fiercest opponents of the amendment, illustrated the underappreciated New England commitment to states’ rights. Although both Governors Calvin Coolidge (MA) and Nathan Miller (NY) opposed prohibition on federalism grounds, with their electorates similarly opposed to the Amendment, both believed that their constitutional oaths required them to enforce the amendment as strictly as the national standard announced in the Volstead Act. New Jersey’s Edward Edwards and New York’s Al Smith, by way of contrast, agreed that their oaths prevented nullification but they sought to maintain as much state sovereignty as possible, for example by disputing the meaning of “intoxicating liquors” so as to have the states ban only harder liquors. In New York, the Anti-Saloon League concluded its non-partisan strategy was not viable and began its slow takeover of the state’s Republican Party.

Keywords:   Calvin Coolidge, Al Smith, Nathan Miller, Henry Cabot Lodge, intoxicating liquors, prohibition, Volstead Act, constitutional oath, Edward Edwards, Anti Saloon League

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