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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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The Noble Experiment (1929–31)

The Noble Experiment (1929–31)

(p.176) Chapter Nine The Noble Experiment (1929–31)
Prohibition, the Constitution, and States' Rights

Sean Beienburg

University of Chicago Press

Herbert Hoover’s more aggressive enforcement helped inflame anti-prohibition sentiment, contributing to several states’ decisions to revoke their own concurrent enforcement laws even as they carefully disavowed any effort to obstruct national enforcement. As part of the renewed law enforcement regime, Hoover created the Wickersham Commission to assess implementation of prohibition. Unhappily for Hoover, the Commission reported rather negative results even as it agreed that constitutional obligation required enforcement before repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in order to avoid nullification. Hoover’s insistence on redoubling the effort harmed his credibility and spurred not only the growth of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA) but the rapid rise of Pauline Sabin’s Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR). Aided by the influx of wet Smith allies, Democrats taking advantage of Hoover’s weakness on the issue became increasingly hostile to prohibition and sophisticated in defending anti-prohibition efforts as within the realm of state sovereignty allowed by the Constitution. New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt, a former Smith advisor, followed his own political advice by avoiding firm commitments on prohibition even as he endorsed the broad platitudes of states’ rights en route to being the party’s frontrunner.

Keywords:   Herbert Hoover, Wickersham Commission, Eighteenth Amendment, concurrent enforcement, Franklin Roosevelt, nullification, AAPA, WONPR, Pauline Sabin

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