SKU: AM00278 Category:


Description: The month-long cordial exchange between Seymour Van Santvoord of Troy, NY, and Rector Dr. W. Russell Bowie of the Grace Episcopal Church, NYC, was prompted by a NY Times article, “Clergy Asks State Dry Act.” The archive includes eight original typed letters signed “W. Russell Bowie,” three copies of Seymour Van Santvoord letters to Dr. Bowie (27 pages in total), plus the Times article.

The first impassioned letter (March 10, 1926) from Van Santvoord demonstrates that he favors a “wholesome temperate statute” over laws that function as “moral agency” and criminalize all citizens. He objects to Dr. Bowie’s preference of “‘The Emancipation Act’ in place of ‘The Prohibition Act’ as the descriptive of the Eighteenth Amendment,” reminding him of the Fourteenth Amendment where Emancipation “has long been nullified in the South.” He boldly asks, “Do we ever hear of churches undertaking a crusade south of the Mason & Dixon line to induce the Southern States to unite . . . in enforcement of that particular Emancipation Act?” Dr. Bowie’s reply shows that he is equally passionate about “the great social experiment” “to deliver American life from the unquestionably debauching effects of the liquor traffic, organized as a huge commercial interest and allied with much social vice and corrupt political influence.” He asserts that he is concerned about “indifferent (not the misprinted “selfish”) and self-indulgent” citizens “who undermine the law.”

Ensuing letters reveal the clergyman’s keenness to stop the “evil” and “profiteering” that accompanies liquor traffic; he also calls attention to the role of “high-minded citizens” who oppose the law without “constructive counter-opposition.” Van Santvoord, the lawyer, would like to see the Law pass, but he is concerned with the tyranny and enforcement of man-made laws. The red and penciled edits in the letters, we learn, preserve the anonymity of the clergyman and others as the lawyer prepares their correspondence for publication. Van Santvoord returned the originals to the clergyman for his approval. His last letter (April 10, 1926) convinces the clergyman of the value making their opposing views public. He quotes the pro-prohibition editor of “a prominent newspaper,” who states, “. . . the time has come for an honest expression of opinion without bias,” a view also shared by the readers of the published columns.

Dr. Bowie letters are type-written on 7½” x 10” ivory “Grace Church Rectory” stationery. Item #AM00278

Dr. Walter Russell Bowie (1882-1969) was the Rector at Grace Episcopal Church from 1923-1939, after which he served as faculty at Union Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary. In the 1920s, he advocated for the Social Gospel and US Immigration reforms, supported the League of Nations, and spoke against fundamentalism.

Seymour Van Santvoord (1858-1938) was the Chairman of the Upstate Public Commission, the Dean of the Rensselaer County Bar Association, a banker, and authored books on Roman history.

A fascinating discussion about the nationwide constitutional ban on the production, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages which went into effect in 1920. It was not until 1933 that the constitutional amendment was repealed.

Condition: Some toning on first page of a Van Santvoord letter due to the inclusion of the article. Some light soiling on few other pages. Generally in very good condition.