Prohibition.The temperance question has been an engrossing topic in Kansas from earliest times. The territorial legislature of 1855 enacted a law entitled "An act to restrain dramshops and taverns, and to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors." It provided that a special election should be held on the first Monday of Oct., 1855, and every two years thereafter, in each municipal township in each county, and in each incorporated city or town in the territory, to take vote of the citizens upon the question whether dramshops and tavern licenses should be issued for the two years following the election. The vote on the same was to be by ballot, which should be "In favor of dramshop" or "Against dramshop." Before a license should be given to tavern keepers, grocers, or other liquor sellers, a majority vote must be cast by each municipality in favor of the measure and a majority of householders must petition for the same. In a city authorized by its charter to grant licenses, "the county tribunal must first have granted it. The tax for such license should be not less than $10, nor more than $500 for every 12 months, the same to be applied to county purposes." Penalties for selling any spirituous, vinous, fermented or other intoxicating liquors contrary to law, were a fine of $100 for the first offense and for every second or subsequent offense not less than $100, and imprisonment in county jail not less than 5 and not more than 30 days. Selling to a slave without the sanction of his master, owner or overseer, or selling liquor on Sunday, subjected one to the above named penalties, and a conviction worked a forfeiture of license. The person obtaining the license was required to give bond of $2,000, not to keep a disorderly house, not to sell to a slave, nor directly or indirectly to sell on Sundays, "for which violations of the law a suit could be instituted against the principal or sureties on the bond."
Further action on the liquor question was taken by the legislature of 1859. Chapter 91 of the session laws of that year was an act "to restrain dramshops and taverns and regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors." It provided that no license should be granted by a tribunal transacting county business, or by a city council of an incorporated city, unless the petition requesting the dramshop, tavern, or grocery license should be signed by a majority of the householders in the township, county or ward where the license was sought. All incorporated cities containing 1,000 or more inhabitants were entirely exempted from the operations of this act, such cities possessing full powers to regulate licenses for all purposes and dispose of the proceeds thereof. This law fixed the tax upon the dramshop keeper at not less than $50 nor more than $500 for a period of twelve months. The fine for selling liquor without license was not to exceed $100 for the first offense. For the second and subsequent offenses, the fine should not be greater than $100, but the offender might be indicted for a misdemeanor and fined not less than $500, and imprisoned in the county jail not less than six months, it was made a misdemeanor to sell liquor on Sunday, the Fourth of July, to any one known to be in the habit of getting intoxicated, or to any married man against the known wishes of his wife. All places where liquor would be sold in violation of this act were declared nuisances. Exemplary damages could be recovered by every wife, child, parent, guardian, employer or other person who should be injured in person, property or means of support by any intoxicated person or in consequence of intoxication, and a married woman could sue as a single person.
In the constitutional convention of 1859 there was some discussion about incorporating in the constitution a prohibitory measure with regard to liquor, and John Ritchie, of Topeka, suggested the following resolution: "Resolved, that the constitution of the state of Kansas shall confer power on the legislature to prohibit the introduction, manufacture or sale of spirituous liquors within the state." On July 23, 12 days later, H. D. Preston, from Burlingame, offered this section: "The legislature shall have power to regulate or prohibit the sale of alcoholic liquors, except for mechanical and medicinal purposes." No prohibitory measure was included in the constitution.
The sentiment for temperance was very strong in the year 1867. Lecturers from the East gave addresses on the subject, enlarging and stimulating the temperance feeling throughout the state. In 1869 all the territorial and state laws of Kansas were revised. The liquor law of 1859, which had been amended in 1867, underwent a change, and the so-called dramshop act which went into effect on Oct. 31, 1869, had the following for its first section: "Before a dramshop, tavern or grocery license shall be granted to any person applying for the same, such person, if applying for a township license, shall present to the tribunal transacting county business, a petition or recommendation signed by a majority of the residents of the township, of 21 years of age or over, both male and female, in which such dramshop, tavern or grocery is to be kept; or if the same is to be kept in any incorporated city or town, then to the city council thereof a petition signed by the majority of the citizens of the ward of 21 years of age, both male and female, in which said dramshop, tavern or grocery is to be kept, recommending such person as a fit person to keep the same, and requesting that a license be granted to him for such purpose; provided that the corporate authorities of cities of the first and second class may by ordinance dispense with petition mentioned in this section."
The act further provided as a penalty for selling liquor on Sunday or on the fourth of July, a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 and imprisonment from 10 to 30 days. It was made unlawful for a person to become intoxicated and unlawful to sell to habitual drunkards, or to minors.
From 1861 to 1879 was a period fraught with an ever increasing tendency toward prohibition. A few temperance workers labored most industriously to change public opinion in regard to open traffic in liquor. This creation of a new public opinion was in a great measure due to the crusade made against liquor by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition meetings were held in all the principal cities of the state years before the amendment to the constitution was adopted. Mrs. Drusella Wilson, the first president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, traveled 3,000 miles in a private conveyance, making speeches, holding mass meetings and "soliciting signatures to a petition to be presented to the legislature." She set the women working all over the state, organizing unions so as to labor more systematically and thoroughly. She organized over 100 unions that year and she carried in the first petition to the legislature, the largest one ever presented to that body up to that time. The women not only worked faithfully, but when election day came they also turned out all over the state and worked all day, urging up indifferent and negligent voters, and supplying refreshments to both bodies and minds of the stronger sex; they held prayer meetings in the churches all day, and sang the church songs every hour to remind the voters that the women were praying for the protection of the homes and the boys.
In his message to the legislature on Jan. 14, 1879, Gov. John P. St. John included a section on temperance. He said in part: "The subject of temperance, in its relation to the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage has occupied the attention of the people of Kansas to such an extent I feel it my duty to call your attention to some of its evils, and suggest, if possible, a remedy therefor. Much has been said of late years about hard times and extravagant and useless expenditures of money, and in this connection I desire to call your attention to the fact that here in Kansas, where our people are at least as sober and temperate as are found in any of the states in the West, the money spent annually for intoxicating liquors would defray the entire expenses of the state government, including the care and maintenance of all the charitable institutions, agricultural college, normal school, state university and penitentiary. . . . Could we but dry up this one great evil that consumes annually so much wealth, and destroys the physical, moral and mental usefulness of its victims, we would hardly need prisons, poorhouses, or police." (See St. John's Administration.)
Gov. St. John was an ardent and powerful champion of the temperance cause and through his influence, and that of other active and sympathetic temperance, workers, the legislature of 1879 passed and submitted to the people of Kansas a joint resolution providing an amendment to the constitution, by supplementing article 15 with a 10th section, as follows: "The manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors shall be forever prohibited in this state, except for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes." The amendment came before the people at the polls on Nov. 2, 1880, and out of a total vote of 176,606 it was carried by a majority of 7,998. At the next Republican state convention Mr. St. John was renominated for governor upon "a platform pledging the party to the policy of prohibition of the liquor traffic," and made a fight on that issue before the people. He was reëlected by a majority larger than that given him in 1878.
In his message to the legislature of 1881 he stated that "This amendment being now a part of the constitution of our state, it devolves upon you to enact such laws as are necessary for its rigid enforcement. There are but a few citizens today who will not admit that dramshops are a curse to any people. More crime, poverty, misery and degradation flow from them than from all other sources combined. The real difference of opinion existing in relation to them is not so much as to whether they are an evil or a blessing, but rather as to what course should be pursued toward them. Some have contended that they should be licensed; but it seems to me that if they are an evil, no government should give them the sanction of the law. They should be prohibited as we prohibit all other acknowledged evils. It has been urged as an argument in favor of licensing dramshops, that, under that system, a large revenue is derived. Granting this to be true, I insist we have no right to consider the question of revenue at a cost of the sacrifice of principles. All the revenue ever received from such a source will not compensate for a single tear of a heartbroken mother at the sight of her drunken son as he reels from the door of a licensed dramshop. . . . The people of Kansas have spoken upon the whole question in a language that cannot he misunderstood. By their verdict, the license system as it relates to the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage, has been blotted from the statute books of the state. We now look to the future, not forgetting that it was here on our soil where the first blow was given that finally resulted in the emancipation of a race from slavery. We have now determined upon a second emancipation, which shall free not only the body but the soul of man. Now, as in the past, the civilized world watches Kansas, and anxiously awaits the result. No step should be taken backward. Let it not be said that any evil exists in our midst, the power of which is greater than the people."
The legislature, representing the temperance element of the state, on Feb. 19, 1881, passed a long act of 24 sections, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors except for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes, and regulating the manufacture and sale thereof for such excepted purposes. Section 1 of this act was as follows: "Any person or persons who shall manufacture, sell or barter any spirituous, malt, vinous, fermented or other intoxicating liquors shall be guilty of misdemeanor, and punished as hereinafter provided: "Provided, however, that such liquors may be sold for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes, as provided in this act." Section 2 provided that "It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to sell or barter for medical, scientific or mechanical purposes any malt, vinous, spirituous, fermented or other intoxicating liquor, without first having procured a druggist's permit therefor from the probate judge of the county wherein such druggist may at the time be doing business."
In order to obtain a druggist's permit under this act, the applicant therefor was required to present to the probate judge of the county a petition, signed by at least 12 citizens of the township or county wherein such business was to be located, certifying that the applicant was of good moral character and lawfully engaged in the business of a druggist. He was also required to file with such petition, a good and sufficient bond to the State of Kansas in the sum of $2,500, conditioned that such applicant would neither use, sell, barter nor give away any of the liquors mentioned in section 1 of the act in violation of any of its provisions, and on such violation, said bond shall thereby become forfeited.
Section 3 permitted any physician regularly employed in this profession to give any patient needing alcoholic stimulant a prescription for the same, accompanied by a sworn statement that it was to be used for actual sickness. Sections 5 and 6 prohibited the manufacture of liquor except for medical, mechanical or scientific purposes, and defined the conditions of manufacturing for those purposes. Sections 7, 8 and 9 had to do with the penalties required in violation of the law. A person convicted of selling without permit might he fined not less than $100 and not more than $500, or be imprisoned not less than 30 nor more than 90 days. For a second offense, the fine should be not less than $200 nor more than $500, and the imprisonment to be not less than 60 days nor more than 6 months, and for a third and every subsequent offense, the fine was to be not less than $500 nor more than $1,000, and imprisonment not less than 6 months nor more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.
For the persons unlawfully manufacturing intoxicants the law provided punishment. It defined the use of the term liquors and outlined the duties of the county officers in enforcing the laws. It provided protection of "every wife, child, parent, guardian, employer or other person who shall be injured in person or property, or means of support, by any intoxicated person or in consequence of intoxication; such wife, child or parent having right to bring suit for damages sustained. Section 16 of this law provided punishment and penalty against "any person who shall directly or indirectly, keep or maintain, by himself or by associating or combining with others, or who shall, in any manner, aid, assist or abet in keeping and maintaining any club room, or other place in which intoxicating liquor is received or kept for the purpose of use, gift, barter or sale as a beverage or for distribution or division among the members of any club or association by any means whatever."
It also made it unlawful to give away liquor, and for a person to become intoxicated, the fine was $5 or imprisonment in county jail from one to ten days. The passage of this strict prohibition law started the propagation of the temperance idea, although its effect upon the liquor traffic was not immediately recognized. In different parts of the state vigorous prosecutions were instituted with ultimate good results. The prohibition policy had many enemies who believed the constitutional amendment a mistake. Among these was Gov. George W. Glick, who succeeded Gov. St. John in 1883. In his message to the legislature he dealt with the subject of prohibition and the operation of the law. (See Glick's Administration.) Mr. Glick seemed to think that whatever benefits might be derived from the prohibitory law could be obtained as easily under a local option law. Many reasons were given for the modification of the law passed by the preceding legislature, but his message fell upon the ears of thoughtful men and the law was not changed. The state legislatures of later years, 1885, 1887, 1901, 1909, amended and supplemented the original enactment. After the first few years the people of the state became accustomed to the absence of dramshops and the majority liked the freedom from open drinking enough to pursue the policy of the legislature of 1879.
In the early '90s the Agora Magazine conducted a symposium on the condition of prohibition in Kansas, which had at that time been in effect over 10 years. The consensus of opinion was that the public sentiment was constantly increasing in its contempt for liquor traffic. Many men who voted against prohibition in 1880, after viewing the results of the law only partially enforced, were heartily convinced in 1890 that Kansas was far better off without open saloons. The churches, the State Temperance Union, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union have done and continue doing a great deal toward helping the movement forward. The work of the last named has been almost entirely educational in its relation to the prohibition law, and is a potent force in that line of work. But the most effective work has been done since 1900 by the officers of the state. A movement toward enforcement of state laws became a policy of many politicians seeking office, and not only in Kansas, but elsewhere, a tendency toward cleanliness in political and municipal affairs has been much in evidence during the past decade. The power of public opinion has done much for prohibition, and it may be said that Kansas has at last reached the place where every intelligent person admits that the liquor traffic in the main is outlawed and that public sentiment, except in a few localities, is against the sale of alcohol as a beverage.
The real enforcement of the prohibition law began in about 1907. Prior to that time the officials were somewhat lax in their duties and many drug stores were practically dramshops. The county attorneys and attorney-general planned to make Kansas thoroughly "dry" and systematically closed up the places selling liquor. In 1909 the laws were revised and strengthened, a most important change being made in the withdrawal of the druggist's permits to sell liquor for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes, which was accomplished by repealing sections 2452 and 2454 of the statutes of 1901; also by curtailing the physicians' liberty of prescribing liquor by repealing section 2453.
The statutes of 1909 give the prohibition laws as amended and improved, which make the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor a misdemeanor, and fix the penalty of its unlawful sale a fine of not less than $200 or more than $500, and imprisonment for not less than 30 days nor more than 90. The law inflicts the same penalty for any person aiding or assisting in the manufacture of liquor and defines intoxicating liquors. It outlines the duties of the officials, the county attorneys and attorney-general, in making investigations and proceedings, and decrees that no person is excused from testifying for fear of incrimination. It makes it the duty of police officers to notify the county attorney of violations of this law; and gives compensation for taking charge of persons intoxicated. The law provides that any one injured by an intoxicated person have action for damages; a penalty for keeping and maintaining club rooms; and further provides for shifts and devices to evade law, and for fines and costs by liens of real estate, for fees of officers and witnesses, for punishment for drunkenness, for prosecution of such cases. It makes it unlawful to have liquor at the polls, or to sell or give liquor to inmates of soldiers homes. All places in which intoxicants are manufactured or sold are declared to be nuisances, and decrees penalties for maintaining the same. It allows a search to be made of any place against which a complaint is made and liquors to be seized and confiscated if found; grants injunction to abate nuisances; declares void leases of buildings used as common nuisance, and makes an owner of a building liable for the lease if it is maintained as a nuisance. It permits cities to pass ordinances prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors and regulates evidence in prosecutions for the unlawful sale of intoxicating liquor.
Another law passed by the legislature of 1909 was "an act to prevent, the drinking of intoxicating liquors on passenger trains in the state, to authorize conductors to make arrests therefor, and to provide penalties for the violation of this act."
The enforcement of these laws makes Kansas a clean, comfortable state in which to live and rear children. It makes it more prosperous and reduces the criminal class and poverty. The statistics of several of the larger towns show a most encouraging small per cent. of poverty resulting from liquor. It cannot be said that there is absolutely no liquor traffic. There is some "bootlegging" or underhand selling, but the efforts necessary to procure intoxicants as a beverage reduces the number using them and creates an atmosphere of abstinence that helps an unnumbered majority to forego the use of it.Pages 505-512 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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