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Re: Prohibition

The other nite there was one of those historical documentaries by Ken Burns, who assembles fotos and letters about historical events and personages, such as the Civil War and its leading figures. This one was on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders of the give-women-the-vote amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Suffragettes, they were known as not so much for their suffering as for their wanting to vote. Not that a lot of the candidates are worth voting for, mind you, but because they wanted, at least, the right to vote a g a i n s t someone, I guess.

At any rate, the point was made that the movement against drinking alcohol was based on the need to protect women against what today we call domestic violence. Guy gets drunk and he beats up the wife. Stop the drinking and she doesn't get beat up. Simplistic, but that's what the idea was and Prohibition passed and lasted for how long, about two decades before it was repealed.

An interesting thing to do, and one person has done it, is to trace the various movements of importance in this country back to their predecessor movements, demographically. I lent the book out, so I can't give a correct citation, but the name is "The Cousin's War" 1999, by __ __ Phillips. At least I think the author's last name is Phillips.

The idea of the book is that the American Civil War, the American Revolution, and the English Civil war, were three innings of the same game involving the same team mates on each side, separated only by a few generations in each instance. For example, the people in England who opposed the king and overthrew him, putting the Puritan Cromwell in his place, were people from East Anglia, a section to one side of London. These were the folks who settled Plymouth colony. Their descendants thought King George tyrannical and rebelled, setting up the U.S.A. Their descendants believed Negro slavery to be immoral and became the Abolitionists of the North against the South during the U.S. Civil War. After the civil war, some of the abolitionists supported the Prohibition and Suffragist movement. Phillips traces the demographics, i.e., the nationality, religious bent, and political philosophies of the various groups and factions on one side or the other in each of these conflicts.

You would be amazed to realize how much we generally believe today that we received from these folks. The rest of the world admires the virtues and decries the negatives, such as the Sunday Blue Laws, which prohibit store sales of alcohol on Sunday in some states, such as N.Y. did when I was a resident years ago.

One of the the benefits is our market system, formerly called the capitalist system, which grew out of the three-cornered trade among the New England colonies, the West Indies, and London. Rum, slaves, & what? Corn? I forget.

So when you go digging into Prohibition in Westerleigh, beware, for it's almost an infinite regress. You might find yourself talking to William the Conqueror in 1066 if you don't limit your research.

Let us know what you find out.

Incidentally, I have a high school friend whose grandmother was a WCTU lady. That's the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the group that worked to achieve and keep Prohibition for as long as possible. They opposed Repeal. Since my friend and I liked to drink a little beer (when we couldn't afford a lot) he would say he didn't want her to find out, in case we ever bumped into her at his house. So the influence, or at least the memory, of these ancient ones persists.

Some day I'll tell you about one of my really old forebears. Adam was his name. Yeah, old Adam Sheridan was a pistol. Couldn't keep his hands offa Eve. But therein lies another tale, too long to tell here. :)


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