1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 54 Part 3


In 1873 prohibition began to be talked of in Kansas but not hopefully. The Legislature of that year was inclined to leave temperance legislation alone. A bill was introduced in the House to amend the dram-shop law of 1868 but was reported adversely by the committee to which it was referred. By the next year temperance was once more to the fore. The "Women's Crusade" had reached the state and in several towns women went into saloons, praying with the saloon keepers and the patrons. In some instances they had even engaged in "liquor spilling." From the stories of that crusade, that have been handed down, it is hard to decide which the men felt the most keenly having the women pray with them or having them empty the whiskey bottles and barrels. One was an annoyance and a humiliation, the other angered them! Certain it is that many fairly reputable citizens and politicians were prayed over by the women of the towns in which they lived, and it is a matter of history that more than one wife was forbidden to "go out with the praying women."

In the Legislature of 1874 House Bill 209 was the menace to the liquor dealers. It passed the House and was messaged to the Senate where it was referred to the committee on Retrenchment and Reform. John P. St. John, who was a member of the Senate, made a desperate effort in behalf of the bill. It was finally reported but its consideration was blocked by innumerable motions and finally it died on the calendar. That session some thirty-four petitions asking for a prohibitory law were presented to the Senate, and that the liquor dealers regarded the movement seriously is evidenced from the presenting of a petition "containing over 12,000 bona fide signatures" from citizens of Kansas "protesting against any alteration or amendment of the present liquor law."'

Public sentiment was becoming more favorable to the cause of temperance. A deeper sense of responsibility was being manifested by legislators. At the Republican State Convention of 1874 one of the planks in the platform was an indorsement of temperance principles. "Resolved, That drunkenness is one of the greatest curses of modern society, demoralizing everything it touches, imposing fearful burdens of taxation upon the people, a fruitful breeder of pauperism and crime, and a worker of evil, continually. Hence we are in favor of such legislation both general and local as experience shall show to be the most effectual in destroying this evil." This was the first recognition of the question in Kansas, by a great political organization, and it at least pledged that party to its discussion.


On September 10 and 11, 1874, a Temperance convention was held at Leavenworth for the purpose of organizing a Temperance party. There had been much argument among temperance advocates and workers as to the advisability of such a step. Five years before, the National Prohibition party had been organized at Chicago, Sept. 1, 1869. The movement was inaugurated in the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars at a meeting at Oswego, N. Y. And a committee had issued a call for a national convention to organize a prohibition party. There were present at that convention 500 delegates, from 20 states. The causes leading up to this move on the part of temperance organizations were very simple and a recital of them can not be out of place here. During the Civil War persons engaged in the liquor trade of the United States had organized for offensive and defensive warfare against all prohibitory legislation. Their plan was to attempt to secure if possible the repeal of all existing prohibitory laws, or failing in this, to prevent their legal enforcement. The Brewer's Congress of 1867 declared they would sustain no candidate of whatever party in any election, who was, in any way, disposed toward total abstinence. Both the Republican and Democratic parties had refused to declare for prohibition, both could be arraigned for complicity with the liquor traffic. There was a conflict in state and federal authority. A national policy of license and a local law of prohibition demanded a new party entirely committed to the overthrow of the legalized traffic in liquors. This last argument could be used in favor of organizing local prohibition parties and doubtless entered into the initial steps which led to the Leavenworth convention. At that convention a ticket was nominated headed by Dudley C. Haskell as the candidate for Governor. Mr. Haskell declined to run, as did many of the other nominees, and the ticket put into the field was not strong enough to create great feeling. There were only nine counties of the State represented in the convention, and among temperance workers generally there was a disposition to withhold approval and support. It is interesting to note here that this year (1874) the prohibition candidate for president received 110 votes from Kansas.

The Kansas Grand Lodge of Good Templars passed resolutions endorsing the Leavenworth convention and recommending that the members of the subordinate lodges labor to secure the election of the State Temperance ticket. The movement, however, was in a measure a failure and the strong endorsement of temperance principles in the Republican state platform of that year (1874), discouraged further attempts to organize a separate party at that time. The temperance following naturally looked to the Republican party in Kansas to carry out their principles and in this they were not to be disappointed.

There were three different bills introduced in the Senate of 1875 to amend the dram-shop act of 1868, these either died on the calendar or were killed in committee. Three bills were also introduced in the House that year, one, House Bill 9, was passed and messaged to the Senate where it was referred to the committee on Judiciary which reported it back with the recommendation that it be rejected, since its object was already accomplished by laws on the statute book.

Renewed effort was made in 1876 to secure legislation relating to restraint of dram-shops. A bill, number 216, was introduced in the House by J. J. A. T. Dixon of Russell county, on January 24; it passed on February 22, fifty-five yeas and 38 nays. At the evening session Mr. Glick asked to have spread upon the journal this protest:

Mr. Speaker: I enter my protest against the passage of House Bill no. 216, An act to amend section 1 of chapter 35 of the General Statutes of 1868, relating to dramshops, for the following reasons:

1. A prohibitory liquor law, wherever tried, has been a failure, and has not accomplished its purposes. This proposition is conceded by all those who have given the subject a careful consideration, and were not controlled by fanaticism.

2. This bill, if passed into a law, will result in the increased use of intoxicating liquors, as no one will attempt to enforce such a law.

3. The regulation and control over the traffic in intoxicating liquors in cities is an absolute necessity for the preservation of the peace and good order of society, and that control over it is taken away by this bill.

4. The revenue derived from the sale of intoxicating liquors aids in paying the burdensome expenses following in the wake of such sales, but by this law the burdens on the public are increased, while the ability of the public, and more especially the cities, to prevent them is decreased.

5. The liquor traffic will, by this bill, if it becomes a law, greatly increase the number of places wherein liquor is sold, and as a necessary result the evils of the traffic will be greatly increased, the expenses of protecting life and property and preserving the peace of the public in cities greatly increased, with no resulting benefit from this bill, if it becomes a law.

6. The evils resulting from abolishing the license system will result in turning politics of cities over to those who will secure the election of officers who will not prosecute or aid in enforcing the law, by which the moral character of all cities will suffer and crime will be greatly increased, with no adequate power to prevent it.

I am satisfied that my constituents do not desire any change in the present liquor law. I believe they are satisfied with its provisions, and under its operation they have been able to control its traffic, prevent the evils and abuse incident thereto, and preserve the peace and quietude of the city, and prevent increased immorality and law-breaking without being compelled to submit to increased taxation that would be needed if this bill becomes a law


We join in the foregoing.


The next day, February 23, a member from Leavenworth moved to reconsider the vote on House Bill 216, but his motion was lost, and the bill was messaged to the Senate February 28. It was killed on March 2, two days before final adjournment of the Legislature.


There was a reform ticket in the field in 1876 but the vote polled was so insignificant that it has not been thought worth while to follow it. The candidate for Governor was a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars and a man believing firmly in prohibition, but be received only 393 votes. The Temperance Convention had nominated St. John but he declined the nomination.

In the Legislature of 1877 the friends of temperance were again active. A bill was introduced in the Senate to amend the dram-shop law of 1868. It passed and was sent to the House, where it was referred to the committee on Judiciary and that was the last heard of it. Petitions were presented in both branches of the Legislature asking for favorable consideration of this bill, but they came to nothing.

The Murphy or Blue Ribbon movement swept over the state this year. It had been inaugurated in Lawrence by E. B. Reynolds of Indiana. In speaking of this movement the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Good Templars for 1878 says: "While it has doubtless done great good and the cause of temperance thereby been materially advanced, it can never supply the place of our Order. . . . We are now approaching a crisis. Our State is making a mighty effort to free itself from the terrible thraldom of intemperance. Our Order was the first organization to hoist the banner of temperance in the State; it should continue to be first in carrying forward this great work, not opposing any other organizations, but working with them for the accomplishment of the same grand purpose; and when we shall have conquered the last enemy the first shout of final victory should ascend from our ranks."

The following year, 1878, was election year and the temperance people over the state were interested in the candidacy of John P. St. John for Governor. He had been identified with the temperance movement ever since coming to Kansas in 1869, had lectured for the cause and had, during his service in the State Senate, been a strong partisan in temperance legislation. The Republican platform of this year recognized the growth of temperance sentiment in the party by inserting the following: ". . . . earnest in securing election . . . to the Legislature, men who will represent upon all questions the best sentiment of the people, and who will labor earnestly for the enactment of such laws as the best interest of society, temperance and good order shall demand." During this year a temperance revival was in progress over the state; a temperance camp meeting was held at Lawrence; total abstinence was urged, and following the Blue Ribbon workers hundreds signed the pledge. Wilder says, "The people heard this gospel gladly, and the lawyers and politicians went with the crowd. So Kansas conquered ruffianism, rebellion, and rum . . . ." On the other hand the liquor dealers were violating every restrictive feature of the license law. There was among them a spirit of lawlessness and shamelessness that was more detrimental to their cause than any other one thing. With defiance they sold liquor on Sunday, sold to minors, to besotted drunkards, and to any one who brought the money. So great became their utter disregard of law that not only the well known temperance advocates, but all classes of people began to discuss the advisability of advanced legislation on the subject.


About this time a zealous worker in the temperance cause living at Osage Mission, J. R. Detwiler, became convinced that the hour had struck for united action for a prohibitory law. No practical suggestions had heretofore borne fruit. There had been much discussion, many petitions, and some legation, but still the liquor traffic flourished. Mr. Detwiler began at the beginning and counciled a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the liquor traffic in the state, since it was not believed that the Legislature could legally enact a prohibitory measure sufficiently stringent. He began to investigate the subject and came to the conclusion that in any event the submission of a constitutional amendment afforded an excellent method of measuring public sentiment on the saloon question. It had been maintained that the people were not prepared for so radical a measure, and of course it would follow that a law not supported by public sentiment would fail of enforcement and the moral effect would be correspondingly detrimental. He says, "The more I considered the scheme the stronger became the impression that it was feasible, and that the time to strike had come."

Strong in this belief, he wrote an article on the liquor traffic and took it to a local paper for publication. It was refused, the editor considering it too radical. Thereupon Mr. Detwiler, acting upon the advice of a friend, who like himself was an ardent prohibitionist, decided to establish a temperance paper devoted to prohibition. And it was thus that the Temperance Banner was raised in October, 1878, and continued through two years of stormy effort. The leading editorial of the first number advocated both state and national prohibition of the liquor traffic by constitutional law.

Mr. Detwiler took a bundle of these papers and went to Fort Scott to attend the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars. He distributed his paper, and his proposition met with favor. At this meeting the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, That we, as a Grand Lodge, petition the Legislature of the State of Kansas, that they do submit to the people of said State, at the ballot box a constitutional amendment prohibiting the importation, sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquors within the boundary of the aforesaid State.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare said petition and present the same at the sitting of the next Legislature.

The committee named consisted of J. J. Fields, James Grimes and L. Brown. At this meeting of the Grand Lodge Mr. Detwiler was chosen Grand Worthy Chief Templar, which placed him at the head of the order in Kansas. The provisions of the resolution were carried out, the petition drafted and copies sent to the 200 subordinate lodges to be circulated among the voters of the state. The success of this effort will be shown later.


Meanwhile the election had passed off, giving St. John a majority of 2,744 votes. He was duly inaugurated and on January 16th [1879] delivered his message to the joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives. On the subject of temperance he had this to say:

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, that 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 its charitable institutions, Agricultural College, Normal School, State University, and Penitentiary - and all for something that, instead of making mankind nobler, purer and better, has not only left its dark trail of misery, poverty and crime, but its direct effects, as shown by the official report, have supplied our State prison with one hundred and five of its present inmates.

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, poor-houses, or police.

I fully realize it is easier to talk about the evils flowing from the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage than it is to provide a remedy for them. If it could be fully accomplished, I am clearly of the opinion that no greater blessing could be conferred by you upon the people of this State than to absolutely and forever prohibit the manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage. But many people insist that a prohibitory law could not, or at least would not, be enforced, and that any law cannot be, or is not, enforced, is worse than no law at all.

I have too much faith in the people of Kansas to believe that any law intended to, and the effect of which would be to promote the moral, physical and mental condition of mankind would not be rightly enforced. Yet, desiring the passage of no law in relation to the enforcement of which there could be any doubt, and with a view to the adoption of such measures only as will be backed up and enforced by the moral sentiment of our people, I respectfully call your attention to the first section of what is commonly known as the dramshop act, which reads as follows:

"Before a dramshop license, tavern license, 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 twenty-one years of age and 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 a majority of the residents of the ward, of twenty-one years of age and over, 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." And earnestly recommend that said section be amended by striking out the proviso therein contained, and requiring the party desiring a license under said section to publish his petition, with the names of the signers thereto, in some newspaper printed and of general circulation in the town, city or township in which he desires to obtain such license; or, in case no newspaper is so published, then in some newspaper published in the county and of general circulation; - and thus place all the cities, towns and townships in the State, irrespective of the particular class to which they belong, on an equal footing, and let the people in each locality settle this question for themselves.

The first action of the House following the suggestion contained in the Governor's message, was a resolution requesting the Committee on Temperance to examine the statutes with reference to needed legislation and report to the House by "bill or otherwise." This was on January 21st; on the 23d a bill to amend the dram-shop act of 1868 was introduced by W. M. Moore of Republic County, House bill 86. The bill was referred to the committee on Temperance and on February 13th it was reported back, together with House bill 188, with the recommendation that the "substitute herewith be passed." House bill 188 had been introduced on February 7 by Thomas J. Calvin, chairman of the Committee on Temperance. The substitute for these bills passed the House by a vote of 75 for and 25 against, and was sent to the Senate on March 6, where on the 8th it failed to receive a constitutional majority.

In the meantime House bill 110, regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, was introduced by George Taylor of Clay county. This bill was reported adversely by the committee on temperance. On February 10, House Joint Resolution Number 5, proposing an amendment to Article 15 of the constitution of Kansas relating to the manufacture, importation and sale of intoxicating liquor was introduced by Charles E. Faulkner, of Salina, who was chairman of the Ways and Means committee. It was referred to the committee on Judiciary and later to the Committee on Temperance, who reported it to the House with the recommendation that it be passed. On February 14 a fourth bill in restraint of dram-shops was introduced in the House by George L. White of Belleville. This bill was referred to the committee on Federal Relations and no further action was taken. House bill 336, an act to authorize county commissioners and councils of incorporated cities to grant a license for the sale of intoxicating liquor for medicinal purposes, was the next temperance measure introduced in the House. It passed on March 6th and was messaged to the Senate where not having a constitutional majority it failed to pass.

The Senate, too, was doing its share in the introduction of temperance measures. On January 21, Senate bill 17, an act to amend the dram-shop act of 1868 regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, was introduced by Senator Grass, of Independence. It was referred to the committee on Judiciary, reported back, and referred to the committee on Retrenchment and Reform, by them reported to the Senate with the recommendation that Senate bill 32 be substituted, which was agreed to. Senate bill 32 was introduced by Senator John T. Bradley, of Council Grove, and was an act to amend Chapter 35 of the General Statutes of 1868, an act to restrain dram-shops. The bill was referred to the committee on Judiciary, recalled and sent to the committee on Retrenchment and Reform, and by them reported favorably to the Senate. A third temperance measure was introduced by Senator R. M. Williams, of White Cloud, Senate Bill 115, this bill was allowed to die on the calendar. The next to be introduced in the Senate was Senate bill 150, by Senator C. M. Kellogg of Clay Center; it went the usual round and was recommended for passage by the committee of the Whole, when, in the interest of another temperance measure, Senator Kellogg moved that his bill be stricken from the calendar. Senate bill 157 was introduced by Senator George F. Hamlin, referred to the committee on Retrenchment and Reform and by them referred to the committee of the Whole Senate. Here it dragged along with frequent postponements, and was eventually brought up with the substitute for House bills 86 and 188, when, on March 7 the committee recommended the rejection of Senate bill 157.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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