Happy Repeal Day: The Story of Congress' Favorite Bootlegger

Prohibition, Hypocrisy, and "The Man in the Green Hat"

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80 years ago today the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, ridding the United States from Prohibition. In celebration, ReasonTV brings you an encore look at the incredible story of George Cassiday, the bootlegger to Congress who helped bring down the 18th Amendment. 

Here is the original text from the Dec. 5, 2012 video: 

In honor of Repeal Day, which celebrates the end of America's "noble experiment" in banning alcoholic beverages, Reason TV is happy to introduce you to George Cassiday, a man whose life and work should be taught to every schoolkid—and to every member of Congress hell-bent on legislating the nation's morals.

From 1920 through 1930—the thick of the Prohibition era—Cassiday supplied illegal liquor throughout the halls of Congress. Known as "The Man in the Green Hat," Cassiday was the Capitol's highest-profile bootlegger, with a client list that included senior members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. How instrumental was he to the D.C. power elite? He even had his own office in the House and Senate office buildings.
Cassiday gave up the liquor trade after his arrest in 1930, but gained notoriety by penning a series of front-page articles for The Washington Post about his days as Congress' top bottle man.

Though he never named names, Cassiday's stories detailed every aspect of his former business—and the depths of hypocrisy in Washington. By his own estimation, "four out of five senators and congressmen consume liquor either at their offices or their homes." Appearing days before the 1930 mid-term elections, Cassiday's revelations caused a national stir and helped sweep pro-Prohibitionist – and ostensibly tee-totaling—congressmen and senators out of power.

Today, with the rise of cocktail culture and prohibition-vogue in full swing, Cassiday's life and legacy are being re-discovered. Through books such as Garrett Peck's Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't to New Columbia Distillery's Green Hat Gin, the remarkable story of George Cassiday—"The Man in the Green Hat"—is again being told.

Reason TV spoke with Cassiday's son, Fred, author Garrett Peck, and New Columbia Distillery's John Uselton to discuss George Cassiday and the end of Prohibition.

Shot, edited, and produced by Meredith Bragg. About 4:30 minutes.

NEXT: Andrew Napolitano on the Pope and Basic Economics

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  1. But, but, but… Settled law!

  2. COCKTAIL PARTIEZ!11

  3. To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

  4. This 40oz. is for all dead homiez.

  5. This guy is great. If all cops thought like him we wouldn’t have such a problem with police.

    Every War on Drugs myth thoroughly destroyed by a retired police captain

    I wish I could make every prohibitionist respond to this guy.

    Oh, and Happy Repeal Day! Lift your glasses in hope of having our current prohibition repealed.

    1. This guy excellently gets his point across. Perfect for promoting this cause.

      1. I watched it and like it, but it still wouldn’t sway any drug warriors. To a drug warrior there is absolutely no difference between selling drugs and raping babies with farm implements. In their minds selling drugs is probably worse.

        1. But no one is going to change those ideologues. This guy could sway people who aren’t dead set in their hatred of drugs.

          1. Yes, no one is going to change the drug warriors’ minds. They will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future and long after legalization, they will still find things to blame on drugs.

            However, I wish everyone like my parents could see this. They’re the type that think drugs are bad simply because they are illegal. Obviously, they wouldn’t have outlawed them if they weren’t terrible.

    2. He makes very cogent arguments. They should show this in schools. The funniest part is that the redhead never seems to be able to get past the fact that a former cop is against the war on drugs.

  6. … and here I am all out of gin…

    1. That’s what Bourbon is for.

      AMERICA’s drink.

      1. I could go back to SweatingBourbon. Gin really captures the self-destructive side of it, I figure.

  7. I’d have thought Joe Kennedy was their favorite bootlegger.

  8. I can’t believe that amendments were made to the constitution for such laws.

    Today, forget about an amendment, we can’t get laws passed.
    It seems that the best we can do is have laws deemed unconstitutional.

    Hope this is accomplished with these silly laws that just ruin people’s lives and brings to good to anyone.

    1. First off, the retarded don’t rule the night. They don’t rule it. Nobody does. And they don’t run in packs. And while they may not be as strong as apes, don’t lock eyes with ’em, don’t do it. Puts ’em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming “No, no, no” and all they hear is “Who wants cake?” Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.

      1. So did you become a doctor, a lawyer, or a junkie whore?

    2. You should at least be grateful that people in those days thought it was *necessary* to amend the constitution for such laws. Nowadays, they just enact whatever law they please and say, “interstate commerce, bitches.”

  9. Doing God’s work in America’s worst neighborhood.

  10. The true message of this Dove ad is some sort of “You go, girl!” everyone is beautiful thing, but with one second of rational thought, it’s clear the message is how fucked up our justice system is.

    People have been arrested and convicted based on this art that we treat as science.

  11. Hahaha! You hedonist Single White Male libertarians worked with Dems and the Repubs to get Prohibition repeal. How’s that working out for you?

    1. NASCAR is a 3 billion dollar a year business.

      1. Ahem. I believe you missed that I was mocking a certain troll.

        1. That’s basically the same as engaging.

          1. Yes it is. That’s why HM never to go to the shame corner for missing a meme.

          1. OK. No coffee let’s you off the hook. Get some coffee, man. You can’t face students without caffeine!

            1. Agreed. Caffeine is my nootropic. Well, that and Piracetam.

              Back in the day, I had a regimen of vasopressin, gingko, choline, DHEA, and others.

              But I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe I should stop chemically abrading my neurons with delicious alcohol and get into nootropics again.

    2. “You hedonist Single White Male libertarians worked with Dems and the Repubs to get Prohibition repeal. How’s that working out for you?”

      Very well, thank you. I am hopping off of the wagon this morning and having a nice vodka and a nice nap.
      It is going to rain here so no trip to the woods. Taking advantage of a day off.

      1. If it’s going to be a light rain, you should still at least take a walk in the woods. I’ve always enjoyed the forest in the rain. The sound of raindrops against leaves, watching little streams and brooks come alive, etc. etc.

  12. Moe: Listen up, this is the busiest drinking day of the year. Where are the designated drivers? [Two guys raise their hands] Beat it! I got no room for cheapskates.

  13. Prohibition was repealed? Bullshit. Tell that to Junior Johnson and the gang that jailed him for two years in the 1960s.

    1. Good Lord. One year, 1950s.

      Coffee, I thought you were my friend.

  14. Though he never named names, Cassiday’s stories detailed every aspect of his former business – and the depths of hypocrisy in Washington. By his own estimation, “four out of five senators and congressmen consume liquor either at their offices or their homes.”

    I’m not sure what’s so hypocritical about their behavior. Consuming liquor–whether at home or at the office–was never a violation of the prohibition statute. The manufacture, sale, or importation of liquor, sure, but not the mere purchase or consumption.

    1. I believe transport was in there too. Of course, evidence of the transportation violation is always elusive in stories like this.

      1. If the bootlegger brought the booze to the Congresscritters at their homes and offices, then the Congresscritters weren’t breaking the law against transporting, either.

        1. True that is, as long as it was free as in free.

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  16. When you think about it Prohibition was pretty bad. In terms of the gov’t interfering with something that a lot of people have an interest in, it was definitely big gov’t run amuck. And it came from a bunch of people who saw some bad results (alcoholics in various bad behaviors) and thought it would be a simple thing to just take aways the alcohol. So we feel bad about Obamacare and it seeming a lot of the electorate is getting enough a handout that no limited gov’t candidate can win. But the voters got rid of this and it was pretty bad.

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