Jackson, Mississippi, April 5, 1952: State Representative N.S. “Soggy” Sweat, 28, of Corinth delivered a somewhat powerful, hesitatingly unequivocal speech, last night, to state elected officials and their wives at a banquet in the King Edward Hotel, here, in which he sort of emphatically described his “universal approach” to our current controversial issue of selling liquor legally in Mississippi.
Lawmakers at the Capitol have been debating legalizing liquor this entire legislative session. So far, no vote and a divided legislature.
Representative Sweat called his oration to the concerned crowd “The Whiskey Speech.” After the first half of the speech, there was stone silence for a few seconds, then a tremendous round of applause from about half the audience. The second half of the speech brought the same response from the other half of the crowd. But, through it all, “Soggy’s” youthful eyes twinkled at both the silences and the applauses.
There is no way to describe “Soggy’s” unparalleled eloquence on the subject of alcohol sales in Mississippi, other than to reprint his speech in its entirety. It is brief and to the point.
“My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.
If– when you say whiskey– you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if– when you say whiskey– you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”
With this “firm” stand on legally selling liquor in Mississippi, “Soggy” offers one of the finest examples of political doublespeak in the history of man. It will not soon be forgotten
The legislature did not pass the legal right to sell liquor in Mississippi in 1952. That did not happen until 1966.
“Soggy” Sweat, who had to have one of the worst possible political names in history, only served one term as a legislator (1947-1952) but went on to become a prominent judge and a law professor at Ole Miss. He died in 1996 at age 73.
But, his “Whiskey Speech” has become a delightful part of Southern Memories and should be kept alive forever in the annals of southern history. This can happen by each passing generation taking the time to read this wonderful example of doublespeak at least once.