Liquor on Ships During The "Dry" Years and the Eighteenth Amendment

As the matter stands now, under the refusal of the federal court to declare the ruling of Attorney-General Daugherty invalid, and unless and until the United States Supreme Court overrules the federal court, foreign ships—barring the exceptions made temporarily by the federal court and the indulgence in the matter of time by the government authorities—may not enter United States ports with liquor on board, sealed or unsealed.

It is to be hoped that the Supreme Court will act promptly on the question, when it comes properly before it, and that it will find that the present law is capable of no such ridiculous interpretation. It would seem that the wildest desire of any prohibition heart would be satisfied by a ruling that liquor on board foreign ships must be scaled while within our ports, and that the Congress that enacted the law and the states that ratified the eighteenth amendment had no other purpose in mind and could have no other purpose, even if the point had occurred to them.

However, if the Supreme Court should decide that the stricture against liquor on foreign vessels in our ports must stand, then the law should be promptly amended to make such folly impossible. Any other policy would be morals run wild and justly make our country an international laughing-stock.

So far as American ships are concerned, they are obeying the ruling with respect to the carrying of liquor, either in or out of port. They are, thus, temporarily discriminated against by the policy that permits leniency toward foreign ships for a time and will be discriminated against permanently if the Daugherty ruling is upset or the law amended with respect to foreign vessels. In the latter event, the law should also be amended to permit American vessels to carry and serve liquor outside the three mile limit.

We may as well face the issue squarely and not attempt to evade it by suggesting this or that remedy to overcome the handicap that will be placed on American shipping. The issue is whether we shall permit the idea of prohibition to run riot to the extent that it interferes with legitimate and even necessary American business.

Prohibition is meant to prohibit the sale and consumption of liquor in the United States. It is not meant to prohibit anywhere else. If the extremist takes the stand that advantage ought to be taken of the law to enforce the dry policy on American ships, endeavoring to compete with foreign ships, because drinking liquor is wrong, then we imagine he must stand very much alone.

We hope that those who are seeking to make capital out of this situation for other policies that they believe will foster American shipping, will forgo the opportunity, at least until they have found it useless to expend their energies in trying to bring about a sensible program with respect to liquor on ships. Prohibition strictures against American shipping might, indeed, furnish sound argument for excessive subsidy measures, but it would be better to remove the necessity for such measures.

"Liquor on Ships," in The Traffic World, Volume 30, No. 18, Saturday, 28 October 1922, Chicago: The Traffic Service Corporation (1922), P. 893

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