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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Our History

Prohibition Reorganization

TIME, Aug. 3, 1925, Vol. IV. No. 5

PROHIBITION REORGANIZATION

General Lincoln C. Andrews took the office of Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of Prohibition some four months ago (TIME, Apr. 13).  He took charge of Prohibition enforcement as a captain takes charge of a ship, purposed to navigate it like an old New England skipper.  Finding that the one of the chief obstacles in his way was his crew, he set out to remove it.  Plans were laid, and last week he announced that the weak must walk the plank, and traitors hang from the yard arm:

“The present appointment of all unclassified employees will be terminated not later than Oct. 15, 1925, and unless reappointed they will end their connection with the service.  In the case of Prohibition agents and inspectors who may not have been selected for retention any leave which may be due them on Oct. 15, 1925, must have been taken before that date.

“In the meantime, selection will be made and the men appointed to their new offices in the organization.  These appointments will be made for merit only, and on a distinct understanding that the appointee will hold office so long, and only so long, as his services are satisfactory.”

So far so good.  But he then had to pick a prize crew to man the ship he had taken.  He tried it, found that there were altogether too many volunteers.

Last week for the first time since taking office Mr. Andrews was obliged to change his course because of the obstacles ahead.  He had to postpone the effective date of the reorganization with which he proposes to make Prohibition enforcement efficient.  The effective date was set forward from Aug. 1 to “about Sept. 1.”

The things that delayed his progress were several:

Politics.  Mr. Andrews had announced his intention of abolishing the 48 state enforcement districts and replacing them with 22 districts coinciding with Federal Judicial districts.  This, of course badly disturbed arrangements for patronage in the Prohibition unit.  Senators protested.  A few changes were made in the districting.  Indiana was grouped in a district with Northern Illinois and eastern Wisconsin instead of with Michigan (Senator James E. Watson protesting successfully), Virginia was grouped with West Virginia instead of with Maryland (C. Bascom Slemp protesting successfully).

Besides a number of objections of this category, the political group made great trouble for Mr. Andrews by the number of men they recommended for the new and better jobs.  President Coolidge took pains to declare that Mr. Andrews would have an absolutely free hand in appointments.

Prohibitionists.  The Anti-Saloon League and other Prohibition organizations, while overtly approving of Mr. Andrews’ intents, showed not a little hostility especially because their recommendations for appointments were not accepted with alacrity.  “it was said here today,” declared a news dispatch written as from Mr. Andrews’ office, “that before he would undertake to enforce Prohibition with an outfit composed of one part fanatics and one part politicians, he would give up his job.”  The spirit was amplified by Mrs. Mabel W. Willebrandt, Assistant Attorney General in charge of Prohibition cases (a job parallel to Mr. Andrews’ in the Treasury Department:

"Since I have been in office I have come to believe that continued disregard for Prohibition Laws can be as much laid to the door of well intentioned Prohibition enthusiasts as to the ranters against it.”

The feeling which such statements engender in professional supporters of Prohibition was perhaps typically expressed by Dr. B.E.P. Prugh, national chairman of the Prohibition Party, in a letter to Mr. Andrews:

I am frank to say that I have been unable to convince myself that “the acid test of enforcement,” inaugurated by the Administration is a genuine effort to make good, but do not mean for a moment to question your own sincerity as to your part in it.

The decreasing of the number of men employed under you “in the interest of efficiency” has also disquieted me somewhat because I have not noted that places of those dismissed are being filled by friends of the law.  I have long known the need of weeding out, for the appointment on the recommendation of politicians, of saloonkeepers, ex-bartenders and other wets has been shameful and in some sections almost to the exclusion friends of the law.

Fill up the full quota of those dismissed by friends of Prohibition.

Go to the bat at the home base of enforcement, let the politicians do their dirtiest, and you will win out in the end.

Office Seekers.  Besides those whom politicians and Prohibitionists sought to have appointed as officers of the new régime, there were hundreds of other applicants including clergymen and women, and one college boy who wanted a Prohibition job in the day time so that he could go to night school.  The number of applicants was estimated by one source at 5,000.  Of these applications, some effort had to be made to separate the goats from the sheep.

Salary.  General Andrews had hoped to pay maximum salaries of $10,000 a year to the administrators of his new and larger districts.  The Comptroller General ruled that $7,500 was the most that the law allowed.  This reduced the chances of getting the type of men desired.  Mr. Andrews conceived the idea that he might get some men of the dollar-a-year type at the lower salaries, but according to reports last week he had been unsuccessful at this.  Another obstacle stood in the way of his plans.

But postponement did not mean abandonment of Mr. Andrews’ program.  He has two eager allies in the person of William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, assistant to the Attorney General, and Mrs. Willebrandt.  The three are substantially one in purpose.  It is supposed to have been Mr. Donovan, a former Army officer of the same type as Mr. Andrews, who induced Mr. Andrews to give up a lucrative civil job for a thankless political one.

They are going ahead.  While all other activities of the Government are looking forward to more economy next year, they are looking for more funds* to carry on their work.  They hope by the time that congress convenes to show a record of enforcement that will justify larger appropriations.

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*The present appropriation for Prohibition enforcement is now almost $30,000,000, divided as follows:

Prohibition Unit . . . . . . . . $11,340,000

Coast Guard . . . . . . . . . . . $9,000,000

Department of Justice . . . .  $8,000,000

 

Anecdote

The following anecdote came out of Washington as a news report: A man on the street recognized the flashy automobile of a well-known bootlegger.  Wishing to order some refreshments, he hailed a taxicab to overtake the car.  The car pulled up at a Government building as the taxicab came alongside.  The thirsty one called to the driver of the bootlegger’s car:  “Can you deliver me a case of Scotch today?”  The driver turned around towards the questioner, disclosing his face- the face of Prohibition Commissioner Roy Asa Haynes.  Mr. Haynes had taken advantage of a recent ruling that dry agents may use confiscated cars.

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