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Wickersham Report

During the election campaign in 1928, Herbert Hoover faithfully supported the Republican plank that endorsed enforcement of the 18th Amendment. However, the candidate, like a growing segment of American society, realized that the enforcement of prohibition was not functioning as intended. The growth of bootlegging and related Organized Crime activities had grown to epidemic proportions. In May 1929, President Hoover appointed George W. Wickersham, the attorney general in the Taft administration, to head an 11-member Law Observance and Enforcement Commission to study the implementation of the amendment and make recommendations. A conflicted commission issued its findings, known as the Wickersham Report, in early 1931. The majority of the members opposed repeal of the prohibition amendment, but reported that enforcement was unworkable. Violations of the law were simply too tempting; profits from the sale of alcohol were high, especially in the nation’s large cities. Further, it was found that many citizens were openly contemptuous of the law and often took pride in flouting it. The commission also noted that additional problems were created by uneven enforcement by the various states and recommended that that role be assigned exclusively to the federal government. Changing public attitudes toward prohibition also had a political impact. So-called “dry” Republicans were increasingly voted out of office and replaced by “wet” Democrats. Hoover accepted the Wickersham Report, but again stated his opposition to repeal. During his run for reelection in 1932, the president would be forced to admit that changes in the laws regarding prohibition were necessary.

See other aspects of Hoover's domestic policy.