Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1919

Abstract

DISCUSSION of proposed prohibitory amendments to Constitutions, State or Federal, are usually regarded as part of the wet and dry fight in which lawyers are interested only as citizens. Before the recent Cleveland Meeting of the American Bar Association the bar of the country was circularized by a protest, signed by a number of very well known lawyers, urging the bar to take action against putting into the fundamental law, the Constitution, such matters as the regulation of what the people shall drink. These lawyers presented their case at the Cleveland meeting and vigorously attempted to induce the American Bar Association to go on record against such amendments. The effort failed, possibly because it was felt that the American Bar Association had not hitherto exhibited any such concern over this tendency, already noticeable for years, to cumber State Constitutions with matters that should properly be left to legislation, as exhibited, for example, in such constitution monstrosities as the Constitution of Oklahoma. It would be hard to explain to the public how the control of the liquor traffic by constitutional amendment had so suddenly aroused the patriotic zeal of the bar in opposition, especially in view of the fat fees the traffic had paid in the past, and was now proposing to pay, to individual lawyers. But whatever may be said about the propriety of such action by such a body, there can be no doubt of the right of every lawyer as an individual and a citizen to oppose as vigorously as he will such uses of a constitution. Much can be urged on both sides. Indeed there are many good reasons for the claim that we in this country have done to death the use of written constitutions, and even that the States would be much better off without any. The liberties of person and property are fully safeguarded by the Federal Constitution, and it is more than possible, as some have suggested, that statute law, which can be, and usually is, more carefully drawn and considered than constitutional amendments, would answer every state purpose. Constitutions and amendments thereto, certainly when presented through the Initiative, are rigid and one-sided things. They cannot be modified in conference where'all sides can be heard, but must be accepted or rejected in the very form in which they are presented. Statutes, whatever their other infirmities, are not subject to these. Even permanence, which is supposed to be one characteristic of constitutions, is now in states having the Initiative rather with the statutes.


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