Reprints: 1908 – The Leader and the Liquor Question

Petitions recently were circulated in the city of Lafayette requesting the board of county commissioners to refuse to grant licenses for the sale of liquors in unincorporated towns of the county. A copy the petition was presented to the publisher of the (Lafayette) Leader, and his signature was requested. The publisher of this paper was compelled to withhold his signature from the paper. This action was the result of honest convictions, and for various reasons, one of which is that it is no affair of the citizens of this town if gallons are located in other places. A man is master only of his own household. If his neighbor wishes to attend church, or if he prefers to spend his time at the saloon, it is, generally speaking, none of his concern.

But the fight is to be brought closer to home, and petitions now are being presented to the voters of Lafayette, praying that the question of license or no license — saloons or no saloons — be submitted to the voters of this city at the spring election.

Of course, everyone has a right to express a preference in this matter, and if every voter who gets to the polls would be careful to do so, there i little doubt that Lafayette would continue the system of license. If the question is placed upon ballot at the spring election, those who favor the proportion of voting out the saloons will be careful to see that a vote is registered to that effect. Those who oppose the proportion are apt to be less careful and fail to express any preference in the matter.

The Leader is constrained to uphold the system of licensing of saloons. In doing so it wishes to disclaim endorsement of the saloons as they have, in the main, been operate in this city. This paper also wishes to register its disapproval of intemperance — and the term “intemperance” is used in its broadest sense, covering not merely the using of intoxicants to excess.

There may be some small agricultural towns where prohibition may be enforced, and where its enforcement may not be detrimental to the interests of the place. A town inhabited by retired farmers, surrounded by easy going agriculturalists, may jog along in a sleepy fashion under prohibition government. But, in contemplating such a movement, the local conditions should be considered.

The population of Lafayette is made up to a considerable degree of foreigners. The use of intoxicants is part of their lives. Law cannot change their habits. If saloons are driven out, they will be supplied by the bootlegger or dive keeper. More than likely, on each pay night they will go to Denver. there to remain until their money is gone. The man who goes to the hill and squanders his pay, living family in need, perhaps in want, is a disgrace to the community; but law will not change that man’s disposition, If he cannot satisfy his appetite in the open saloon, he will do so elsewhere.

Prohibition may decrease the number of those who indulge in intoxicating liquors, but it invariably increases the number of drunkards. Under the present system it is possible to secure one glass of beer, which, in the majority of cases, is sufficient. When this becomes impossible, a quart, or even gallon, of whiskey will be purchased and the appetite will be measured only by the quantity of liquor.

This paper does not endorse the liquor business. It believes it is a curse; but it holds the opinion that so-called prohibition is a greater curse. After many years’ experience in Kansas after enactment of the prohibitionary statutes, and a residence in Oklahoma before the prohibitory law went into effect, and learning conditions prevailing in that state since its adoption, the writer can say little in favor of that system. One of the chief pleas made by members of the Women’s Christian Temperance union is to vote out the saloons to save the boys. Human nature craves that which is forbidden. The open saloon cannot compare with the dive and the bootlegger in the ruining of young men. Prohibitory laws drive boys to the alleys and the hay lofts with bottles of whiskey.

This paper has many good friends who are on the other side. They are respected for their opinions, and in disagreeing with them no unkindness is felt toward these people. Holding a different opinion, views opposed to their beliefs will be presented, but it will be done in fairness and with a conviction that the system of licensing saloons is the best method so far evolved for the regulation of the evils of intemperance.

(This column, written by Lafayette Leader editor Jack DeMotte, appeared in the Feb. 28, 1908 edition of the newspaper. From April 1, 1907 to Dec. 31, 1907, the town of Lafayette received $3,245 in liquor license revenues from five saloons, about $80,000 in 2020 dollars.)