Assess the Extent to Which Conservatism Influenced Changes in American Society in the 1920’s

Topics: United States, Conservatism, Immigration to the United States Pages: 5 (1771 words) Published: February 2, 2013
Assess the extent to which conservatism influenced changes in American society in the 1920’s In the early 20th century there were a variety of changes throughout American society. These changes were brought about by the election of the Republican Party and the conservative policies that they implemented throughout the 1920’s. Changes and reforms occurred throughout society but mainly in the areas of, prohibition and crime, immigration restrictions, religious fundamentalism, racial conflict, anti communism and anti unionism. The changes in these areas moved American society towards “normalcy” and conservatism, it was also a period of allusion, conflict and corruption. In October of 1919 the Volstead act passed over Wilsons veto and declared that after new year’s day of 1920 all traffic in beverages that contained more than one half of one per cent of alcohol by volume was illegal. Prohibition had been brought about by the movement towards conservatism and ‘normalcy’. As a result of prohibition a new class of criminal came about, usually an everyday citizen trying to make their fortune in ‘bootlegging’. Bootleggers were people who evaded the law and brewed their own alcohol, to sell to people on the street or to supply the ‘speakeasy’s’, which were essentially clubs where people could go to buy drinks and socialise. There was another business that sprung up as a result of prohibition, this was the rum trade, rum would be brewed in the Caribbean loaded onto ships that would be brought to America by people known as ‘rum runners’. Prohibition was almost impossible to police and enforce, while there would be small seizes of alcohol the majority of it would slip through the net. This was mainly because the local and federal police were being paid by the wealthy to turn a blind eye to ‘bootlegging’. One twelfth of the members of the prohibition bureau were dismissed for corruption and how many went undetected and remained in service will never be known. Prohibition on the surface was a movement towards conservatism, but the reality was that America was moving further and further away from ‘normalcy’. After world war one there was a huge surge in the amount of immigrants coming from all over Europe into the United States, 8046000 out of the 14000000 total immigrants came from war stricken European countries. This created a divide in society, between the conservative so called ‘Yankee’ Americans and the immigrants that had moved to America. The Immigration Restriction League, who promoted immigration restrictions, was largely racist. Members argued for immigration restriction on the grounds that immigrants were radicals who endangered American social stability, and others argued they were hopelessly conservative and prevented social progress. These two arguments were complete opposites and mostly cancelled each other out. On three occasions conservatives pushed bills through Congress that required literacy tests of immigrants, but Presidents Cleveland, Taft and Wilson vetoed each one. Finally, in January 1917, Congress passed its fourth literacy test bill and overrode Wilson’s second veto. In 1921, the conservatives pushed forward the Emergency Quota Act which was signed by President Harding. Otherwise known as the Johnson Act, the new law restricted immigration into the United States. The Act “proved in the long run the most important turning point in American immigration policy”. The republicans believed that slowing the amount of immigrants coming into America would help to restore it to ‘normalcy’ therefore conservatism, the main idea of the republican government was a huge influence in the changes of immigration policy. Racial conflict in 1920’s America was a huge issue, the ideas of conservatism fuelled the fire for the disputes and issues that were to arise. The most significant development for the black community in America was during the Great Migration. The movement of blacks northwards began in 1915 when war industries...
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