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Prohibition means the forbidding by law the manufacturing and selling of alcoholic beverages. In the late 1800 s, a period of reforms in the US, many people started to believe that alcohol had harmful effects on society. Due to the efforts of the Anti-Saloon League, the Womens Christian Temperance Union and other organizations, the eighteenth amendment of prohibition was ratified. But since the beginning of the prohibition era, the US faced difficulties in enforcing the amendment. The prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, is referred to in many sources as the thirteen years that changed, or damaged, America. During those thirteen years prohibition was the cause of many problems in the US.
Finally, in 1933, the twenty-first amendment, which repealed prohibition, was ratified, and since then alcohol is legal in the US. Since 1840 onward, millions of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and other countries in Europe came to the US, bringing with them the culture of drinking (Behr, p 49). The continuing immigration increased the number of people consuming alcohol, and with it the liquor industry. The leaders of the Temperance movement were concerned about this growing phenomenon.
They considered drinking as a mortal sin, and believed that excessive drinking caused spiritual neglect (Behr, p 21). The businesses that sold beer, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages, were called glass saloons. In order to increase their profit, saloon owners introduced gambling and prostitution into their establishments (Kerr). Many Americans considered saloons as offensive and noxious, which contributed to the mostly negative public opinion about alcohol. In the economic aspect, factory owners complained that alcohol made the workers inefficient and careless.
As new machines and technologies were developed, more specialization, precision and speed were required from the workers, and those who drank became a risk to employers and their fellow workers (Engelmann, p 12). A theory developed by physicians in the late said that excessive drinking might lead to the bodys spontaneous combustion (Behr, p 22). Alcohol was also believed to be the cause of violent in the family, child abuse, and crime in general. The prohibitionist were hoping that by making alcohol illegal, the crime rate will drop, the economics will improve and a better American society will emerge. All of these reasons finally led to the creation of the Eighteenth Amendment of prohibition.
To become effective, it had to be ratified by a majority of two-thirds of the states. Since most of the states had already passed their own local prohibition laws, the amendment was ratifies relatively easily. At the stroke of midnight of January 17 th, 1920, the amendment was passed and prohibition became a law in the whole nation. During the years before prohibition was passed, several organization were active in the effort of making prohibition a law in the US. Two of the main organization were the Anti-Saloon League and the Womens Christian Temperance Union. In 1893, the Anti Saloon League (ASL) was formed by a group of men who were interested in gaining political power to take over the problem of alcohol and saloons (Engelmann, p 10).
Between 1895 and 1918, the leaders of the ASL brought about a social, moral and political revolution. The key to their popularity was the fact that they did not enter a political alliance with either party, but supported systematically the candidates who were in favor of prohibition The turn-of-the-century industrial revolution and its communication revolution helped the Asl's prohibition campaign. Now, when railroads were brought to usually isolated areas, it was much easier to spread their ideals (Behr, p 49). The League had branches across the United States to work with churches in marshaling resources for the prohibition fight.
Its most important leader was Wayne Wheeler, the Asl's political advisor who initiated most of the political reform. After the Eighteenth amendment was ratified and prohibition became a fact, the League focused on enforcing it more strictly (Coffey, p 37). The Womens Christian Temperance Union In the winter of 1874, the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was established. The first president of the union was Frances Elizabeth Willard a former university professor who significantly contributed to the unions success.
Soon after its establishment the union had branches in almost every state. Their first goal was to create a course on the evil of drinking, which would be taught in all the public schools (Behr, p 38 - 39). The members of the union were mainly middle class women, wives of doctors, lawyers, merchants and wealthy farmers. The women in the WCTU were dedicated to God and their families and viewed temperance as a detriment to both, which was crucial to their contentions concerning prohibition. They presented their platform and protested the use of alcohol in their newspaper, Union Signal (Engelmann, p 67). Once the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified, the government had to start enforcing the laws created by it.
But prohibition was very difficult to police. It was impossible to prevent huge amounts of illegal alcohol from entering the country. The alcohol manufacturers, who were now called bootleggers, kept selling their products across the nation. More and more speakeasies bars where alcohol was served illegally - were established every month. The police just couldnt handle all of them. The Volstead act, a measure to provide for enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment, allowed the manufacturing of denatured alcohol, and even made it tax exempt.
During the prohibition era, about 50, 000 people died from alcohol poisoning of bootleg or denatured alcohol (Behr, p 221 - 222). With prohibition came a great increase in crime. Smuggling in alcohol from Canada brought enormous amounts of money into the hands of criminals. In Chicago, several politicians were funded by organized crime, and nearly 800 gangsters were killed in bootleg related shoot-outs (Behr, p 240).
By 1930, one third of the long-term federal prisoners were serving sentences for prohibition violation (Engelmann, p 159). All of the problems created by prohibition convinced the American people that prohibition couldnt work in the US. The federal government had spent about $ 129 million in attempt to enforce prohibition, and yet, millions of people were breaking those laws every day (Coffey, p 319). The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA) was founded in the late 1920 s.
It was an organization of wealthy, conservative businessmen who were acting to bring back the pre 1920 laws. The AAPA got financial support from former liquor manufacturers and dealers association. They ran an anti-prohibition campaign that protested the strict laws and expensive enforcement of prohibition (Engelmann, p 191). In December 5 th, 1933, Utah was the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment.
It stated that The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution is hereby repealed. Now, the new amendment had three fourths of all states majority that was required for it to pass (Coffey, p 315). After the end of the prohibition era, many counties kept the laws against alcohol and in some places they are still exist. But prohibition as a federal law could never exist in the US without causing the problems discussed previously.
So, the end of prohibition was inevitable, and it was only for the benefits of the nation. 1. Prohibition the thirteen years what changed America, by Edward Behr. 2. The Long Thirst prohibition in America: 1920 - 1933, by Thomas M. Coffey. 3. Intemperance The lost war against liquor, by Larry Engelmann 4. Temperance & Prohibition, by professor K.
Austin Kerr - web Bibliography: 1. Prohibition the thirteen years what changed America, by Edward Behr. 2. The Long Thirst prohibition in America: 1920 - 1933, by Thomas M. Coffey. 3. Intemperance The lost war against liquor, by Larry Engelmann 4. Temperance & Prohibition, by professor K.
Austin Kerr - web
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