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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

State Rights

State Rights,

for the Constitution now asserts and exercises the power to substantially control or thwart the police power of the States by rendering page 32 nugatory their efforts to regulate and suppress the evil. The police powers of the States are thus really nullified or abridged in a most important, nay, a matter of vital concern. The deadliest foe of social happiness and public order is placed under the protection of the national Constitution, and the State must subordinate its process to the rights of rum, protected by the national power. This amendment proposes to repeal those restrictions upon the rights of States to govern themselves, and substitute provisions in harmony with the tendencies of enlightened State legislation and the interests of society, and thus it proposes to re-inforce the police power of the States acting for the public good. This certainly at the worst is no greater restriction of the powers of the States than now exists in the Constitution by virtue of the protection given to the liquor interests against which the States, so many of them, wage war. And it is difficult to see why an advocate of State's rights should be satisfied with the Constitution as it is, and then complain when it is proposed to change the Constitution so as to give the States still greater power to restrict and control an evil over which but for this Constitution the States would have absolute power.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient reply to those who, claiming that they desire to suppress the evil, object to an increase of State power for that purpose. If the real difficulty is that the objector would relieve the liquor traffic of all legal disabilities, whether State or national, then this view of States' rights will not be satisfactory. He will then be satisfied with no constitutional amendment which does not destroy all "police power," State or national, to interfere with the evils of alcoholic intemperance. "States' rights" is a term too much abused in these latter days, and honest men should examine well the motives and pretenses of those who appeal to prejudices engendered by controversies which, with their causes, are vanished away. We certainly are a nation to such extent that a vast evil which contaminates the atmosphere of the continent can be assailed with national power, especially when it can be reached successfully in no other way, and the method proposed leaves to the States the execution of the great work if they will perform it in their own self-chosen way.

I deem it important to offer some observations upon the policy and efficiency of the