Friday, July 16, 2010

The History of Jack Daniels: An example of how political corruption works in America

In the humble town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, the Jack Daniel Distillery faithfully churns out hangover juice for the entire world. The man himself got his start by buying a relative's tiny, one-man distillery at the age of 13. His first successes included loading up wagons of whiskey and heading off to sell it to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and probably to the Union soldiers as well when they moved through the state. After the war, Jack Daniels quickly grew into a huge business.

[The man.]

But the tale of how big business corrupts the American political system begins with Lem Motlow,  Jack Daniel's bookkeeper who eventually inherited the business after the death of Jasper "Jack" Daniels himself.

[The second man.]

In 1910, Tennessee jumped the gun and signed into effect its own prohibition law ten years before the Constitutional Amendment. Lem Motlow moved the distillery to two other locations, but both never made a sale because they could not match the quality of whiskey produced by the Lynchburg location.

[The place.]

The Prohibition of 1920 stopped everything, but its repeal in 1933 did little to help the Lynchburg Distillery because Tennessee's state-wide prohibition was still in effect.

Here is where the magic starts:

Lem Motlow was able to get himself elected to the Tennessee State Senate sometime in the early 1930's. In 1938, he managed to pass through an amendment to the state prohibition law. Whereas it was illegal to create any form of alcohol in the state before, the law was changed to read it was illegal to make any alcohol in Tennessee BUT whiskey.

How did he do this exactly? Well, I can't know for sure unless I hit the archives in the state capitol, but Lem Motlow was an incredibly rich man. And money talks.

Conveniently, Lem Motlow owned the Jack Daniels corporation and the Distillery in Lynchburg. In short order it was running again and making Lem Motlow even more rich.

In recent times, Lynchburg's county, Moore County, became a dry county, meaning the sale of whiskey was prohibited. So while the Distillery could make the stuff, it could not sell booze on location.

Luckily, lots of free Jack Daniels whiskey appeared in the possession of certain people at the state capitol.

Equally lucky: a new special consideration was added to the state's dry county laws.

The Jack Daniels Distillery could now sell "commemorative bottles" at the Distillery. However, it just so happens that all of these bottles are, strangely enough, filled with whiskey.

[Hey! You got spirits in mah' collectibles!]

So.. there you have it: enough money in the right place, and the laws almost seem to rewrite themselves!

Though in this case... I can't say providing whiskey to the thirsty masses is that evil of a result, but its an identical process to all the corruption that does lead to evil result.

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