To the Congress:
The first deficiency appropriation act of March 4, 1929, carried an appropriation for a thorough investigation into the enforcement of the prohibition laws, together with the enforcement of other laws.
In pursuance of this provision I appointed a commission consisting of former Attorney General George W. Wickersham, chairman, former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, Federal Judges William S. Kenyon, Paul J. McCormick, and William I. Grubb, former Chief Justice Kenneth Mackintosh of Supreme Court of Washington, Dean Roscoe Pound of Harvard Law School, President Ada L. Comstock of Radcliffe College, Henry W. Anderson of Virginia, Monte M. Lemann of New Orleans, and Frank J. Loesch of Chicago.
The commission thus comprises an able group of distinguished citizens of character and independence of thought, representative of different sections of the country. For 18 months they have exhaustively and painstakingly gathered and examined the facts as to enforcement, the benefits, and the abuses under the prohibition laws, both before and since the passage of the eighteenth amendment. I am transmitting their report immediately. Reports upon the enforcement of other criminal laws will follow.
The commission considers that the conditions of enforcement of the prohibition laws in the country as a whole are unsatisfactory but it reports that the Federal participation in enforcement has shown continued improvement since and as a consequence of the act of Congress of 1927 placing prohibition officers under civil service, and the act of 1930 transferring prohibition enforcement from the Treasury to the Department of Justice, and it outlines further possible improvement. It calls attention to the urgency of obedience to law by our citizens and to the imperative necessity for greater assumption and performance by State and local governments of their share of responsibilities under the "concurrent enforcement" provision of the Constitution if enforcement is to be successful. It recommends that further and more effective efforts be made to enforce the laws. It makes recommendations as to Federal administrative methods and certain secondary legislation for further increase of personnel, new classification of offenses, relief of the courts, and amendments to the national prohibition act clarifying the law and eliminating irritations which arise under it. Some of these recommendations have been enacted by the Congress or are already in course of legislation. I commend those suggestions to the attention of the Congress at an appropriate time.
The commission, by a large majority, does not favor the repeal of the eighteenth amendment as a method of cure for the inherent abuses of the liquor traffic. I am in accord with this view. I am in unity with the spirit of the report in seeking constructive steps to advance the national ideal of eradication of the social and economic and political evils of this traffic, to preserve the gains which have been made, and to eliminate the abuses which exist, at the same time facing with an open mind the difficulties which have arisen under this experiment. I do, however, see serious objection to, and therefore must not be understood as recommending, the commission's proposed revision of the eighteenth amendment which is suggested by them for possible consideration at some future time if the continued effort at enforcement should not prove successful. My own duty and that of all executive officials is clear--to enforce the law with all the means at our disposal without equivocation or reservation.
The report is the result of a thorough and comprehensive study of the situation by a representative and authoritative group. It clearly recognizes the gains which have been made and is resolute that those gains shall be preserved. There are necessarily differences in views among its members. It is a temperate and judicial presentation. It should stimulate the clarification of public mind and the advancement of public thought.
The White House,
January 20, 1931.30