033.4111MacDonald, Ramsay/105½

President Hoover to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Please find enclosed herewith copy of the prohibition comment sent to the Prime Minister.

Yours faithfully,

Herbert Hoover
[Page 32]

Memorandum on the Enforcement of Prohibition of the Liquor Traffic

The United States is making the most notable effort in all history to suppress alcoholic beverages. This effort is one that is of profound importance to the whole of humanity and the United States in pioneering it in certain directions and [sic] is therefore doing service to all nations. It would appear that it should receive the sympathetic support of other nations for whether it succeeds or not, it will at least have exhausted some portion of the wide variety of methods for the remedy of a great human evil.

We have had numerous conferences with Canadian authorities with respect to measures that could be taken to assist in suppression of the flow of alcoholic beverages over the border. The Canadian authorities have cooperated to the extent of giving information to the American officials as to proposed shipments and in other ways which have been most helpful. However, so long as the Canadian Government allows liquor to be cleared for American ports or allows their clearance for other ports when really destined for the U. S. there will be a constant stream of Canadian liquor into the U. S. It is not possible on 3,000 miles of frontier to erect sufficient border patrol to prevent it because the initiative is always in the hands of the smuggler.

This movement of liquor is the source of constant friction between the two nations. Only desperate men of criminal type engage upon it. They are criminals under the laws of the United States. They go armed and often arm their ships. Such equipment is an indication of their intent to kill and they have often killed the United States officers. It is impossible on our side to employ the type of men on border patrols who have knowledge of international law and delicacy in dealing with killers, and when perchance they execute their duty an inch over the line they are the cause of an international incident. The sensational press envisages war with the British Empire whenever an American patrol boat fires on a Canadian bootlegger or vice versa, and if perchance one of this criminal class should be killed or captured, he becomes an international celebrity. The diplomatic officers of Great Britain are placed in the difficult position of defending the rights of criminals. All this leads to constant and disagreeable irritation. The Canadian officials in contact with our officials in the past have insisted very frankly that the export of alcoholic beverages is an important item in Canadian trade. We realize there is no obligation upon Canada to trouble herself [Page 33]over our problems. We bear her no ill will in the matter for she is entirely within her rights in leaving it alone. The benefits to Canada by full cooperation with the United States to help in a social question would lie in better feeling in the United States which would I am sure interpret itself in time into cooperation in other directions which would be of assistance to her.

There is no real solution to the problem unless the Canadian Government would undertake to prohibit shipment of all liquor to the United States. At the present time the great bulk of shipments (as per my official information 90%) are cleared directly for American ports. If the only shipments were upon false papers the traffic would greatly diminish as the smuggler would thus be in conflict and in danger from the laws of both countries.

Mr. Mackenzie King has recently taken an interest in the matter and expressed a desire to clear it up. The British Government also controls a certain amount of liquor flow into the United States through the West Indies, and some direct from British ports. The question therefore involves Great Britain directly also.