Prohibition in New Hampshire was embraced by most residents.
Temperance had long been strong in the state. Although it was later reversed, the state had established state-wide prohibition years before the Civil War (1861-1865). After the war, U.S. Congressman Henry Blair of New Hampshire introduced a prohibition amendment to the Constitution. It was the first time such an amendment had ever been introduced. As a senator, he again introduced another prohibition resolution in 1885. It also failed.
Early in the 20th century, New Hampshire passed a local option law. It permitted localities to decide whether or not to have their own prohibition. Many did.
Prohibition in New Hampshire
New Hampshire eagerly ratified the 18th Amendment. That established National Prohibition. Residents expected it to improve health and safety. To reduce crime. To improve the economy. And to raise public morality. They were to be disappointed.
Legal, tax-paying alcohol dealers were forced out of business overnight. To fill consumer demand, there was illegal bootlegging. Speakeasies quickly sprang up. With them came organized crime and violence. They also brought corruption as law enforcers and elected officials were bought off with bribes and payoffs.
Public morality declined. Respect for law dropped. Breaking the law, even flaunting it, became the fashion. This was especially the case among young people.
Tax revenues from alcohol ended. But criminal justice costs skyrocketed. Taxpayers were stuck with the burden.
Moonshine was sometimes tainted with lead toxins. Some consumers suffered paralysis, blindness and painful death.
This led many drinkers to switch to opium, cocaine, hair tonic, sterno, and other dangerous things. Prohibition largely caused this.
Many serious problems were caused by Prohibition. This led residents to call for Repeal. That was in 1933. But there is still Prohibition-era sentiment in the state.
It’s easy to forget that Prohibition didn’t improve health but threatened it. Didn’t reduce crime but increased it. It didn’t raise public morality but corrupted it. Didn’t improve the economy but hurt it.
Prohibition in New Hampshire, as elsewhere, was a disaster. Yet today, almost one of every five Americans supports making drinking illegal.
The President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police was recently asked if he would be in favor of reinstating alcohol prohibition. He said “I certainly would consider it.”