THE ADVENT OF PROHIBITION IN ENGLAND
As written in the correspondence of an American visitor
How glad I am that I have lived to see this wonderful reform of prohibition at last accomplished in England. There is something so difficult about the British, so stolid, so hard to move.
We tried everything in the great campaign that we made, and for ever so long it didn't seem to work. We had processions, just as we did at home in America, with great banners carried round bearing the inscription: "Do you want to save the boy?" But these people looked on and said, "Boy? Boy? What boy?" Our workers were almost disheartened. "Oh, sir," said one of them, an ex-barkeeper from Oklahoma, "it does seem so hard that we have total prohibition in the States and here they can get all the drink they want." And the good fellow broke down and sobbed.
But at last it has come. After the most terrific efforts we managed to get this nation stampeded, and for more than a month now England has been dry. I wish you could have witnessed the scenes, just like what we saw at home in America, when it was known that the bill had passed. The members of the House of Lords all stood up on their seats and yelled, "Rah! Rah! Rah! Who's bone dry? We are!" And the brewers and innkeepers were emptying their barrels of beer into the Thames just as at St. Louis they emptied the beer into the Mississippi.
I can't tell you with what pleasure I watched a group of members of the Athenaeum Club sitting on the bank of the Thames and opening bottles of champagne and pouring them into the river. "To think," said one of them to me, "that there was a time when I used to lap up a couple of quarts of this terrible stuff every evening." I got him to give me a few bottles as a souvenir, and I got some more souvenirs, whiskey and liqueurs, when the members of the Beefsteak Club were emptying out their cellars into Green Street; so when you come over, I shall still be able, of course, to give you a drink.
We have, as I said, been bone dry only a month, and yet already we are getting the same splendid results as in America. All the big dinners are now as refined and as elevating and the dinner speeches as long and as informal as they are in New York or Toronto. The other night at a dinner at the White Friars Club I heard Sir Owen Seaman speaking, not in that light futile way that he used to have, but quite differently. He talked for over an hour and a half on the State ownership of the Chinese Railway System, and I almost fancied myself back in Boston.
And the working class too. It is just wonderful how prohibition has increased their efficiency. In the old days they used to drop their work the moment the hour struck. Now they simply refuse to do so. I noticed yesterday a foreman in charge of a building operation vainly trying to call the bricklayers down. "Come, come, gentlemen," he shouted, "I must insist on your stopping for the night." But they just went on laying bricks faster than ever.