Sunday, June 15, 2003

Roman Catholics, whose church sanctioned moderate drinking, were much less likely to support the crackdown on alcohol. Indeed, Prohibition has often been viewed as a cultural conflict between rural Protestants and urban Catholics, many of them recent immigrants. Support for the temperance movement certainly was reinforced by suspicion of, if not outright hostility toward, immigrants whose cultures accepted alcohol. These included Eastern European Jews and German Protestants as well as Catholics from countries such as Ireland and Italy. For their part, the immigrants were puzzled and irked by the black-and-white views of the so-called temperance movement. “For many immigrants,” writes historian Thomas R. Pegram, “prohibition revealed a strain of American fanaticism that dismissed the moderating influences of tradition, family and individual self-control and insisted on the humiliating restrictions of legal compulsion. Such feeling prompted [an] Iowa German in 1887 to complain that ‘a few fanatics who indicate that they themselves don’t have the moral backbone to look at a glass of beer, or pass a saloon without getting drunk, come along and tell me that I am incapable of behaving myself or keeping sober, and so they propose to take care of me by law.’”

Jacob Sullum, Saying Yes (80-81)

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