Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My Response to letter to the editor of the Gazette written by Verena Linthicum

I would like to thank Verena Voll Linthicum ("Letters to the Editor", 10/8/08) for her heartfelt response to my suggestion that the safe, law-abiding and responsible use of alcohol be permitted in the J. Charles Linthicum park' just as it is so permitted in family homes, back yards, community festivals, and even at special "all American" places where families gather such as Camden yards (and most Baseball and football stadiums that I have visited) and one that should stand out here: Fort McHenry. For the past twenty years I have been present at just about every Flag Day and Defender's Day celebration at the Home of the Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry, a place near and dear to "Uncle Charlie's" heart and never in that patriotic crowd of families have I ever seen public drunkenness, disorderly conduct or littering. Believe me; many alcoholic beverages are raised to salute the flag and the brave defenders of the Fort. Alcohol is also permitted in the park on the wonderful lawn every day, as it is in most federal parks, and I have never visited such a clean and peaceful place where law and order and decency prevail.

J. Charles Linthicum was in his own words a "temperance man," yet he opposed prohibition. "Charlie," throughout his long and honorable career in both the State Senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the servant of the people. He opposed the bosses Mr. Linthicum always favored the Democratic process. Whether it be in his battle against the party bosses:

What we are against is the system, because the Democratic party needs no bosses(Governor Brown in this instance). It is a party of the people, for the people and by the people, and if controlled by a boss system it is neither of the people, for the people or by the people. It would then be a party whose very life is centralized in the hands of a boss and that boss, more the representative of the corporate interests than of the people."-5/5/07 Baltimore American, p. 18

or in standing up for the Democratic process when it came to the repeal of Prohibition when he favored the convention process rather than the state assembly process:

I would suggest an addition to that resolution, and the addition would be that this resolution of Mr. Sabath's (repealing prohibition) should be submitted to the convention, because it is a question which invades the individual rights of the citizens and not the State's rights as is expressed by the legislature. -Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, Seventy First Congress Second Session H.J. Res. 11,38,99,114,219,and 246.,Serial 5, February 12,13,19,20,26,27, March 4,1930, Part 1, United States Government Printing office, Washington , 1930. p. 397

J. Charles Linthicum was adamant throughout his career that Prohibition would never triumph against the will of the people and culture as a whole. As the Rev. J. A. Homan wrote in 1910:

As against these extremists it has been the aim of the writer to discuss the problem from its chief points of view with every effort of impartiality, and vindicate the standing of the strictly moderate drinker ethically and physiologically without disturbing the higher claims of the voluntary abstainer. At the same time he has endeavored to show that the license system is sufficiently efficacious in the restriction and regulation of the liquor traffic. -Prohibition: The Enemy of Temperance, Homan, J. A, Cincinnati, Christian liberty bureau,1910, "Preface".

As is evident all around us in our parks and at our ball fields and community festivals, Homan's point is still valid. In our pluralistic society we can include a wide range of life choices. We have come a long way toward greater tolerance since the days of prohibition. In my opinion we need to extend that tolerance to "the strictly moderate drinker".

To return to "Uncle Charlie" and his love of the Flag, Fort McHenry and the National Anthem, at one point the fate of Fort McHenry was far from certain. It was not yet a national park and Historic Shrine. The government was considering using it as a prison. Why? one might ask: Were there not enough prisons already? No, there was an extreme shortage of prisons in the nation due to the high volume of convictions of those who violated the prohibition laws. Mr. Linthicum frequently cited the crowding of the prisons and the overwhelming of the courts as one of the most important reasons for opposing Prohibition.

I want to thank you Verena for joining the discussion and for the efforts of yourself, the tireless committee workers and our local politicians for supporting this wonderful park and monument. Every citizen should work as hard to help to keep our parks clean and beautiful- this is not a job for the county government alone! There are many views always, concerning all of our freedoms. The freedom to consume alcoholic beverages legally, safely and decently is just one of them. I believe all voices need to be heard and I would never impose any other opinion upon the community other than the opinion that "Uncle Charlie" would have insisted upon- the will of the community at large. It is my opinion as it was his that local communities should decided by the vote. As an anthropologist I fully understand that local communities and cultural groups have the right to their beliefs and values. If the community at large in Linthicum wishes to return to Prohibition or maintain the vestige of Prohibition which lingers in our park rules so be it. I look forward however, to the democratic process and the process of modification of the park rules which I shall engage in with the County.

One last note- ever since visiting the beautiful park and monument I have been inspired to research the life and works of J. Charles Linthicum. I shall soon publish an academic biography and have created a web page so that the public can follow the research.

I invite input and reader responses. I can be reached at

(for those interested in the work of J.A. Homan you can find his entire tract Prohibition:the Enemy of Temperance on line here:

Conrad Bladey


Historian, Anthropologist, Folklorist,Artist.

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