Review “Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine and the Lawless Years of Prohibition” by Karen Blumenthal
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On a bitter cold day in January Benedict Arnold was born. Little did anyone know that he would grow up to become the most infamous villain in American history. Somewhere between his general-store recitations and his law degree, young Morris came to a heartfelt belief: He despised liquor and the saloons that sold it.
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He sometimes said his feelings grew out of his grammar school science classes, where he saw vivid drawings of a drunkard's stomach and read about how alcohol destroyed the human body. He may have been influenced by the anti-liquor stance of the Methodist church, which he joined as a college student. His time at Yale also may have hardened his stance. He arrived there in debt and driven to succeed.
The result, he said, was "so satisfactory" that those items "remained on the contraband list ever since. His father, John, who had been elected to a second term in the U. House of Representatives, fell ill and then passed away.
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition (Paperback)
Friends immediately urged Morris to run for his father's seat. By the mids, when he posed with two youngsters in front of the Capitol, Sheppard was a senior statesman in Congress. Jumping in just ten days before the primary election, Morris stumped the district, delivering an average of seven speeches a day. When his opponents made fun of his youth, he replied that it was something he "was overcoming day by day. At the age of twenty-seven, he headed to Washington. Small in stature at 5 feet, 7 inches, slight at pounds, and youthful looking, Sheppard hardly looked like a Congressman.
Sheppard, so that they will not try to send him on errands," the Washington Post noted. While most known for his glittery speeches, Sheppard center, seated also chaired a U. House Public Buildings and Grounds Committee in Nicknamed the "boy orator of Texas," Sheppard was originally known more for his speaking skills than for any special legislation. As the "boy" matured into a confident congressman, the world outside of Washington was changing. Debates that had simmered for years over whether alcohol was dangerous and should be legally banned were beginning to roll to a boil.
Originally, the arguments took place community by community and county by county. But as the number of towns outlawing liquor sales and saloons multiplied, the organizers raised the ante, taking aim at entire states. In , he actively campaigned to prohibit the sale of alcohol throughout Texas, openly supporting prohibition for the first time. Despite his efforts, the prohibition proposal fell a few thousand votes short in the hotly contested election.
In , one of Texas's U.
Sheppard outmaneuvered a more popular candidate, and the Texas legislature selected him to fill the powerful job as senator. In a colorful speech to the state legislature, he accepted his new job, calling for limits on working hours, clearer and simpler laws, and, with fiery eloquence, an end to liquor sales. I shall oppose it because I see a mother's wasted face, her pale lips pleading with the besotted figure at her side.
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He concluded, "I shall oppose it because its abolition will mean a new stability for the Republic, a new radiance for the flag. Constitution that would forever ban the sale of liquor throughout the country. To champion their cause in the U. Senate, they turned to Morris Sheppard.
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On a chilly winter day in December , some 4, people gathered in Washington, D. Leading the march were children. Sheppard was elected to the Senate in At the very front, a young boy carried an American flag.
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Just behind him, dozens of girls in white dresses carried banners calling for a national prohibition on alcohol. Following them were Woman's Christian Temperance Union members from every state, many wearing the white ribbons that symbolized prohibition. I think the contrast epitomized how families were torn apart by Prohibition, yet the storyline was not developed.
Read the full review her e. I'm interested in Email address:. Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal Flash Point Nominated by: Greg Leitich Smith I'm putting the spotlight on a book on Prohibition not because I'm a booze hound I'm on a diet that bans alcohol, alas but because of the lessons it teaches about legislating morality.