Deliver Us from Evil: an Interpretation of American Prohibition

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The 18th amendment was ratified by congress on January 16, 1919 in which the selling and distribution of “intoxicating liquors” was banned. That was the start of what many called the dry decade in the United States. Norman H. Clark’s Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition illustrates the struggles to make the dry decade possible and the consequences that followed it. The 235 page text describes how the Anti-Saloon League was determined to make prohibition possible and the struggles they had to overcome. As well as what directly followed once it was a reality.

Clark analyzes and critiques Prohibition not as a historical moment, but as a movement. This book is very well researched and a thorough bibliography is included. An interesting aspect that is brought to light is the rural vs. urban issue of 18th and 19th century America.

The first milestone that eventually led to the dry decade was the closing of saloons. Clark describes the saloon as “…a place where a man could unburden himself of, caste and status and social inhibition and breathe for a moment without anxiety, humiliation, or shame.” Clark brings to the table the fallout of urban cities that came of these saloons. He writes “But there were also saloons which increased poverty, crime, and degradation.” He portrays them as the poison to the American way of life, and how many groups saw this such poison, and were determined to stop it to create a better society. In the text we follow the Anti-Saloon League as they begin the long struggle that would lead to the decade. The ASL started their objective at a local level, by getting support from local citizens and politicians to close these saloons. At first they didn’t get much support, but eventually they were able to convince people to campaign with them. One such group was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They were an association of women formed in the United States in 1874, for the advancement of temperance by...
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