Prohibition Riots


Dublin Core


Prohibition Riots


1884 Prohibition Act


Iowa City Beer Riots

Beer riots similar to those on the West Side [of Carroll] occurred in Iowa City, and if the Gentlemen Prohibitionists had their sights set on blood, then blood may indeed flow on account of this shameful Prohibition Act. The Anti-Prohibitionists will not tolerate the restriction of their personal liberty and show their defiance whenever the Prohibitionists give them the opportunity. On this point, the Illinois Staats-Zeitung (Illinois State Newspaper) writes the following:

If acts of violence against the lackeys of the Prohibitionists occur here and there in Iowa, then the Prohibitionists are themselves to blame, for it was precisely they who first broke the law in their blind rage by vastly exceeding the provisions of the Prohibition Act. The Law and Order League presumes the right to circumvent district attorneys by means of venal lawyers and twisters of the law, whom they pay to target saloon owners and brewers and to drag them before rural justices of the peace who are eager to do their will, even when the circuit court has denied the justices of the peace any jurisdiction over matters of Prohibition. Indeed, the lawyers of the Law and Order League, by extorting funds from the businessmen they persecute, deprive the state treasury of money that should by law belong to it. And if one attempts to prosecute such a law-breaker, then he knows how to make the charges disappear, as one recently experienced with the honest law firm Blake & Newman in Burlington.

Can one be surprised if in the end this sort of mischief on the part of Prohibitionists calls forth violent resistance? These same circumstances have now led to outbursts of violence in Johnson County, about which the Prohibitionists and their panderers are now raising a ruckus.

Two respected brewers of Iowa City, the county seat, were dragged in front of a justice of the peace out in the country, namely in Scott Township, not at the instigation of the district attorney, but rather by the private lawyer of the local Law and Order society. At this, the blood of the opponents of Prohibition tyranny began to boil. More than a hundred of them grabbed the paid lawyer and informant for the Law and Order League, stripped him naked in the street, coated him with tar and chased him away. He has since returned safe and sound to his home in Iowa City, where two of his co-informants, the Swafford brothers, had received a proper, but not life-threatening thrashing from outraged citizens. No other disturbance of the peace occurred, and not a hair was harmed on anyones head except for those of the aforementioned informants. Neither the city police nor the sheriff seem to have shown much interest in coming to the informants' aid.

We would be abhorrent hypocrites, much like the Prohibitionists, if we were to express the slightest moral outrage about these acts of violence. They would be regrettable only if they were to have nasty consequences for their perpetrators.

The young people who chastised Bailey, the attorney, and his two co-informants have simply reciprocated one unlawful deed through another. But even if those chastised had conducted themselves lawfully, no freedom-loving man would have the right to regard their chastisers as common criminals. The term criminal applies to them as little as to those citizens who opposed the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, and who tanned the hides of the bounty hunters and bloodhounds of slave owners.

Many of the old men in the North who now scream themselves hoarse for Prohibition once approved of violent resistance against the Fugitive Slave Act, even though the law was passed not by a paltry state legislature, but rather by Congress, with the approval of the President and the Supreme Court. Indeed they deemed resistance against this law a duty in accordance with higher law, a higher law of ethics and freedom that supersedes the despotic law of humankind, even if the latter has been passed and approved ten times by majority. Prohibition is however in its own way equally mean-spirited and contrary to reason, a violation of one part of the people by the other, just like the Fugitive Slave Act.


Carroll Demokrat


August 22, 1884