As efforts to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol gained steam in the early 1900s, liquor interests banded together to tell their side of the story. One group, the South Dakota Retail Liquor Dealers Association, published a newspaper supplement, Both Sides, which appeared in the Minneapolis Journal in October 1914. The eight-page insert consisted of essays, light feature stories ripped from the wires and lots and lots of liquor ads. This piece by G.K. Chesterton, the celebrated British writer and lay theologian, originally appeared in the Illustrated London News.
The Famous English Essayist Ridicules the American Form of Prohibiting the Use of Liquors.
I am glad to see that the protests are beginning to rise against those crazy exaggerations of the philanthropists, who are always wanting us to sacrifice the natural to the unnatural and the certain to the possible. Our social reformers have a wonderful way of manufacturing fifty fresh vices in the pretence of suppressing one.
For instance, there is the maze of immorality that spreads whenever a state attempts the ridiculous experiment called 'total prohibition." I was told by a friend who had traveled in what the Americans called a 'dry state," that his innocent request for a glass of whisky in a hotel had been answered by radiant and animated directions as to where he would find "the hat room." His first feeling was that the hat room was the headquarters of the Mad Hatter, who evidently ran the hotel. His second was a dim speculation as to how whisky tasted when drunk out of a hat. At last it occurred to him that "hat room" was American for what we commonly call "cloak room," but even then he could not imagine what it had to do with whisky.
He soon found out; for everything was quite ready, and the custom was clearly in full swing. In the cloak room were stored a number of strapped trunks and suit cases labeled in the name of various fictitious American citizens and crammed with bottles of beer, wine or spirits. From these he was handsomely regaled; and the trunk was then strapped up again, so that if the police entered that temple of abstinence, the management could profess ignorance of the contents of luggage left in its charge. Now, suppose my friend had drunk four times as much whisky as he wanted and rolled dead drunk down the front steps of the hotel, could he have fallen lower than the lowness of that exquisite legal fiction?
See what a number of new sins the "dry state" succeeds in creating in the course of failing to cure that of drunkenness. The man going to the hat room has all the drunkenness he wants with the following agreeable additions:
1. He has become a liar; calling things by false names and doing one thing while pretending to do another.
2. He has become a rebel and bad citizen, intriguing against the law of his country and the efficiency of its public service.
3. He has become a coward, shrinking through personal fear of consequences from acts of which he is not morally ashamed.
4. He has become a seducer and a bad example, bribing other men to soil their own simplicity and dignity.
5. He has become a most frightful fool, playing a part in an ignominious antic from which his mere physical self respect would hardly recover.
6. He has, in all probability, come much nearer than he would in any other way to having a craving for alcohol. For anything sought with such horrible secrecy and pertinacity has a great tendency to become magnetic and irresistible in itself; a sort of fetish. And all that brought about in order to prevent a man getting a glass of whisky — which he gets after all. People who support such prohibitions can have no care for human morality at all.