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Chapter IX

During the early years the English settlers at Le Mars and vicinity were greatly agitated by the proposal to amend the Constitution so as to drive out of the State the sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquor. The General Assembly in 1880 threw a considerable scare into the first newcomers from England by its resolution in favor of the prohibitory amendment. In accordance with the requirement of the State Constitution similar action was taken at the next regular session of the General Assembly in 1882; at the same time provision was made giving the voters an opportunity to declare for or against the proposal at a special election in June. A favorite argument of the "Antis" was that the adoption of prohibition would prevent immigration to Iowa and thus retard the development of the State.

The result of the popular referendum on the subject on June 27, 1882, showed that the amendment lost in Plymouth County (English settlers not voting because they were still aliens) but carried the State by a good majority - thus assuring the disappearance of saloons in Iowa. Immediately the question arose as to what effect this step was likely to have on the business of Close brothers. When interviewed by a newspaper reporter, Fred B. Close is alleged to have stated that the firm would probably leave the State. Afterwards Mr. Close declared that the reporter used stronger language than the interview warranted. He said that since a large portion of the firm's business was done with Englishmen fresh from England, the amendment would likely deter many from coming to Le Mars; and that if this fact caused their business to fall off materially, the Close brothers might go somewhere else. But he did not think it at all likely that this would happen. (128) What really occurred in consequence of the incident may well be told in the words of a Le Mars editor:

Some anonymous penny-a-liner wrote to the Pioneer-Press what purported to be an interview with Fred B. Close of Lemars, in which the Close Bros. were represented as intending to pull out of Iowa, because of the adoption of the amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicants; and a lot of very callow newspaper scribblers are making conspicuous donkeys of themselves by repeating with emendations, the alleged interview. The usually discreet Carroll Herald flies off at a tangent and propounds a lot of very ridiculous questions affecting the business integrity of the firm, and demanding from the Sioux City Journal, categorical answer. The Journal has not answered, not because it cannot, but probably because it deems the questions unworthy of notice, which is true, but the queries are in print, and very widely circulated, must receive attention. The complete reply to its interrogatories is that the Close Bros. have the entire confidence of the English Colony, which would not be the case had they acted other than honorably with their clients. . . . Their purpose of abandoning the state on account of the amendment or for any other reason, may be easily inferred from the fact that they continue making investments just as if there had been no election on June 27th. The Close Bros. are business men and not doctrinaires. They are cosmopolitan in their ideas, and accommodate themselves readily to surrounding conditions. They have invested hundreds of thousands, are still investing and are ready to invest more if they can see their way to getting returns for their outlay. That is all there is to it. They have their views on all public questions, but no men in Iowa, having the interests at stake they have, are more reticent or more modest in expressing them. It is about time the foolish gabble regarding them is stopped, for the nonsensical stuff is doing northwestern Iowa more harm than it is doing them. (129)

In this connection it is well to add that as early as January and February, 1880, before prohibition was assured as a definite State policy, the Close brothers were aware that one trait of their countrymen in America was their liking for alcoholic beverages : so marked a drawback to the happiness and success of English settlers in north western Iowa caused the Close brothers to emphasize their caution in no uncertain terms:

Unless a man will keep from that vice he had better stay in England, where he can get the drink he is used to, for a drunkard will no more succeed in Iowa than in England. We are sorry to have to state that in this respect English settlers have acquired a bad name, and are too frequently left behind by the more sober and steady though less intelligent German. (130)

Needless to say, the business of the Close brothers was not seriously interfered with by the adoption of prohibition in Iowa. The new amendment to the Constitution, while in force, was not always well enforced; and- about one year later it was declared void by the Iowa Supreme Court on the ground of unconstitutionality. (131)

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128 The Lemars Sentinel, July 13, 1882. For an account of this prohibitory amendment see Clark's The History of Liquor Legislation in Iowa in The Iowa Journal o f History and Politics, Vol. VI, pp. 508-533.

129 The Lemars Sentinel, August 3, 1882.

130 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 2.

131 The case of Koehler and Lange v. Hill, 60 Iowa 543-704.

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