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    [Prohibition]. Clarence Darrow Archive comprised of one book and over twenty letters spanning the years 1930 through 1933. All but one of the letters is addressed to Dr. Forrest R. Black, at one time a professor of law at the University of Kentucky and author of the book on prohibition, Ill Starred Prohibition Cases: A Study in Judicial Pathology, which is included in this lot.

    Darrow, best known for defending John T. Scopes in the 1925 State of Tennessee v. Scopes [the Scopes Monkey Trial], began his correspondence with Dr. Black sometime around 1930 and built a friendship on their mutual hatred for the Eighteenth Amendment and the subsequent Volstead Act which ushered in thirteen years of prohibition. Writing to Black on May 30, 1930, Darrow states: "I thank you very much for sending me your article in which you discuss the foolish decision of the Supreme Court in the case where barrels were seized on the ground that they were to be used to contain whiskey. There seems to be no limit to the fanaticism of the people interested in this prohibition crusade. The fanaticism extends from the lowest Methodist evangelist to the Supreme Court of the United States."

    Black was intending to write a book of "critical discussions of some of the most drastic and shocking court decisions interpreting the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment" and sent Darrow a copy for his perusal. On June 27, 1930, Darrow wrote regarding the book: "The Manuscript came yesterday and I have just finished reading it. I am very enthusiastic over it. Nothing that has come to my attention on the subject (not excepting my own stuff) has pleased me so much. No other book has discussed the abject surrender of the courts to fanaticism . . . as you have done it. There is no reason why any one should be surprised at the judges. Next to the priests they have always been the enemies of human freedom." He continues by railing against the late president and Supreme Court chief justice, William H. Taft, "The much stuff about Taft at the time of his death disgusted me. He never did anything in his whole career but keep his finger on the pulse of the powerful. He was not even a man of attainments." Black asked Darrow to write the foreword to his book and on June 24 Darrow wrote: "I have not done anything about your article on the scheme to beat the Volstead Act. It is too bad that the magazine owners &c. refuse to publish the really important stuff."

    While trying to find a publisher for his book, Black remained active in his campaign against prohibition by writing pieces for magazines, one of which was going to appear in Vanity Fair. Writing on May 28, no year, but probably circa 1930, Darrow responds to the news, saying, "I am glad that your story is to appear in 'Vanity Fair.' I don't know whether it can make any impression on the idiots who talk about repealing the 18th Amendment. I am trying to figure out a hot one for them." But Black was not the only one active in his criticism of prohibition as Darrow illustrates in a letter three months later [August 19]: "I sent the story to Collins and they returned it on the ground that they were fighting on the ground of repealing the Amendment. . . . Americans are first of all hypocrites. And will not fight for any thing that seems to be illegal. So I think it should be given out as a straight legitimate way to handle liquor by the states after the repeal of the Volstead Act [The National Prohibition Act]. I will keep you posted about my story."

    Prohibition was finally repealed on December 5, 1933. Writing to his old friend ten days later, Darrow says: "Your letter interested me especially on account of what you say about the old matter that we discussed so much: -- How to get rid of prohibition. There cannot be any question in my mind but what the negative regulation will work. It would have been adopted excepting that the moralists who are prohibitionists got the idiotic part of our crowd to protest how law-abiding they were. Of course, they were all drinking boot-legger liquor at the same time, - but there is nothing quite so strong in this world as hypocricy [sic]." He adds a short postscript at the end saying that he has "not yet had a glass of beer since it became legal, nor a drink of liquor since the right to it came back."




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    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
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