When the US Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the supporters of Prohibition saw this as a huge victory. They were looking forward to seeing a more sober nation without the issues that alcohol caused. They expected sales of clothing and consumer goods to increase dramatically. Since the saloons would now close, they expected that property values around the saloons to go up. The soft drink industry was looking forward to a boost in revenues and the entertainment industry was expecting that Americans would find new avenues to entertain themselves such as by going to the theater to see plays or by watching movies. However, when Prohibition went into effect on January 19, 1920, none of these things happened. Instead of a “noble experiment,” as President Hoover called Prohibition, its unintended consequences were that many businesses were forced to close and the economic effects were primarily negative. Furthermore, since organized crime took over the distribution of liquor, millions of Americans were now made into criminals, and Prohibition corrupted the entire political and law enforcement system. Most importantly, Prohibition never prevented people from drinking. Instead, it fostered intemperance and excess. The “experiment” ended up a tremendous failure. I have always been fascinated with the 1920’s, but especially with Prohibition and in an effort to do my part to help make sure that we never make such a mistake again, in this paper, I will cover the roots of Prohibition and its consequences.
Anti-Saloon League Paper, The American Issue, January 25, 1919 The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) made a three-part documentary film called “Prohibition”, which tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment, commonly called Prohibition. Their website (at http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/) has many resources that cover the roots, people, and consequences of Prohibition. The information and videos on their website are extremely informative and comprehensive. I recommend watching the videos and performing a detailed study of this website to learn why government should never try to legislate morality, as the US did with Prohibition. The issues of drinking and people getting drunk were not new in 1920. America was a nation of immigrants who came from Europe, with a heavy drinking culture. It was obvious that the culture of drinking all day long, at work, and at home would cause some issues with alcoholism and abuse. In 1830, the average consumption of alcohol was three times what it is today. Men (mostly) would spend their hard-earned money drinking with friends and colleagues. When they got home to their wives and children, it would often end in some kind of abuse of the family. Since they were often completely dependent on their husband’s support of the family, there was little that women could do. To compound the matter, there were no laws to protect them. Anchored in the protestant churches, the temperance movement started to flourish. At first, they encouraged moderate consumption, but not long after that, they began preaching total abstinence and demanded that alcohol be outlawed completely on both a local and a national level (Prohibition 2013).
Inebriates, New York City
In the 1870s, a group of women headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elisabeth Cady Stanton started the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) to protest the ruined lives of so many mothers and wives due to their husband’s excess consumption of alcohol in the saloons and at work. At the end of the 19th century, the WTCU had lobbied for local laws restricting or prohibiting alcohol and it had joined the Progressives to improve the lives of new immigrants who also frequently abused alcohol. Their efforts were quite effective, but their ultimate goal of a national ban on alcohol was still out of reach as the century turned (Prohibition). The Anti-Saloon League (ASL), under the leadership of...