Author: Thomas R. Pegram

professor of history at Loyola College. He is the author of Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800—1933 (1998) and Partisans and Progressives: Private Interest and Public Policy in Illinois, 1870—1922 (1992)

James Cannon (1864–1944)

James Cannon Jr. was an educator, a bishop of the southern Methodist Church, a leader of Prohibitionists in Virginia and the nation, and a political activist of such skill and combativeness that he became one of the most famous, and deeply controversial, American figures of the early twentieth century. Best known as a relentless advocate of Prohibition, Cannon drove the Virginia Anti-Saloon League‘s campaign for statewide Prohibition, adopted in 1914. He then served as the national Anti-Saloon League’s principal Democratic lobbyist through the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 and the subsequent enforcement of national Prohibition during the 1920s. Cannon was a partisan Democrat, yet in 1928 he led a rebellion of southern Democrats against the presidential campaign of Alfred E. Smith, a wet, Catholic representative of the urban wing of the Democratic Party. Also an innovator and divisive figure within his church, Cannon, who became a bishop in 1918, directed worldwide missionary efforts and unsuccessfully pushed for the unification of the northern and southern branches of American Methodism. Charges of embezzlement, stock-market gambling, and adultery, fanned by Cannon’s numerous enemies, dogged the bishop from 1929 until 1934 and diminished his influence thereafter.


Anti-Saloon League of Virginia

The Anti-Saloon League of Virginia, established in 1901, led the movement that brought Prohibition to the state in 1916. While the state had established the Virginia Society for the Promotion of Temperance as early as October 1826, the league became a major force in Virginia politics, especially within the Democratic Party, in the first two decades of the twentieth century. An affiliate of the Anti-Saloon League of America, a national dry pressure group based in Ohio, the Virginia League gave political direction to the temperance beliefs of Protestant evangelicals, chiefly Baptists and Methodists.