Why Did Prohibition Last So Long?
Prohibition of Alcohol in America was introduced in 1920 with the 18th amendment of the constitution and was finally revoked in 1933. Prohibition was always considered a failure, due to the way it was policed, the fact the American people at the time liked to drink and the fact that alcohol was very easily accessible. Therefore the fact it lasted thirteen years, despite it being obvious within the first five that things were not working, seems incomprehensible. There are a number of factors which worked together to make prohibition last as long as it did. The most important being morale reasons behind introducing it at first, but the popularity of prohibition, the time it to repeal a law and the fact it didn’t really affect people’s lives too much also had an effect.
The primary reason for Prohibition lasting so long was the morale reasons that we used to get the law passed in the first place still stood and people sympathised with them. For example many women’s groups saw alcohol as a means by which men oppressed them, and also though that the money spent on drink could be better used amongst the family with raising children and other general necessities. This attitude didn’t stop during the prohibition years as people were still drinking and hence propaganda regarding prohibition still bore the pictures of families with mothers and children longing for their husbands/fathers to support prohibition. The Woman’s Temperance society played a big part in this. It wasn’t just the domestic morals which were attacked by prohibition it was the industrial ones too. Big businesses saw drunkenness as something that led to danger and more importantly inefficiency in the work place, particularly in large factories where hazardous machinery was used. For example the Rockefeller Corporation and Heinz supported prohibition in the interest of greater workforce efficiency. Similarly, this was always an aspect that could be improved so the big businesses didn’t stop supporting prohibition. The Church also had an influence. At the time, America was a very religious country, especially in the southern States and many of the religious groups believed alcohol was the work of the devil and was a predominant reason for sin and wrongdoing. During all the year the prohibition was running, the Church never went back on this stance and consequently the people still tended to believe in prohibition.
Arguable the most prominent morale cause for prohibition lasting so long was the aspect of national pride and that you were ‘letting your country down’ if you drank beer or and form of alcohol. The reasoning behind this was due to the First World War. Many of the largest brewers, such as Pabst, Ruppert and Leiber were of German origin. Their businesses had helped to finance the German war effort so after the war when prohibition was in full effect, there was still a very heavy anti –German feeling amongst the Americans and hence they thought it was unpatriotic to drink from these companies. As prohibition progressed and the Red Scare and the consequent anti Russian feeling emerged, a very similar stance was taken towards spirits, which were produced and manufactured in Russia and the Soviet Union. A further reason that helps explain why prohibition lasted so long was that there was actually some successes to prohibition. Throughout the more rural states and areas, it was a huge success as this area was populated and supported but the White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs). They agreed with the church and all the propaganda behind starting the prohibition at first and we fully behind it. It wasn’t just in the rural areas though; over the country it was having success. Alcohol consumption did fall from an average of 2.6 gallons per person per year before 1917 to one gallon in 1930. In addition to this, arrests for drunkenness crimes related to drunkenness also fell, as did deaths from alcoholism. These statistics...
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