US History 11A
In January 1919, the 18th Amendment, put together by social reformers, was ratified and in January 1920 Prohibition became a law. Prohibition was said to bring more morality reform and order tos society by placing a complete ban on the consumption, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. It seemed as though it had the opposite effect on society (Gusfield 4). Although the Act of Prohibition had its positive intentions for the United States, Prohibition seemed to create more negativity instead. When Prohibition was first introduced by a group of social and moral reformers it was not meant to criticize traditions or aggravate average alcohol consumers, Prohibition was meant help purify the United States. Saloons and bars were providing a setting where illegal activities such as prostitution and gambling took place (Dark Side 3). Many temperance groups formed together to create a decrease in alcohol consumption, ultimately trying to lower the death and crime rates caused by alcohol (Dark Side 3). It was going to be a “process of developing and defining the public values and lifestyles that would dominate in America - a conflict over the moral status of drinking... (Gusfield 4). Although the new idea of Prohibition had received tremendous support from the law enforcement, there was a large group of Americans that were in complete disagreement of the act. Over the next decade the intense determined mood that had dominated the Progressive Era would soon shift, and Prohibition would
become increasingly unpopular causing a rebellious group of Americans to form (Gusfield 3). Despite the fact that Prohibition may have may have helped decreased the number of deaths caused by alcohol, the act was unable to lower crime, in fact crime in the United States had become more popular “since alcoholic beverages were still available in other countries, bootlegging was a major smuggling operation (Gusfield 3). Crime increased mostly where Prohibition was unpopular, in large urban areas filled with immigrants, as they felt the act was somewhat personal to them, forcing them to change their cultural rituals (Dark Side 4). Bootlegging became a major enterprise for those who could afford to pay for liquor illegally and for the bootleggers, they realized they were making huge profits after Americans willing to break the law. Al Capone, a major underground figure in the illegal alcohol industry slowly gained importance as he had “taken control of the city's illegal liquor operations... By 1929 he had amassed a fortune of fifty million dollars, had more than several hundred men working for him, and controlled more than ten thousand speakeasies (places where illegal liquor was sold) (Dark Side 4)”. The act of bootleggings became very competitive causing many deaths defending the tenets of free enterprise (Gusfield 4). The ban on alcohol caused much more tension and crime in the United States, restricting citizens from doing what they wanted and forcing them to partake in dangerous illegal activities. The Eighteenth Amendment was the only amendment to ever be repealed (Gusfield 1). After the amendment had been repealed, there was more negativity left behind in the United States than positive. Since the ban of the sale of alcoholic beverages had been banned for so long, when it was allowed to be sold once again, the prices on the alcohol rocketed as many businesses were in need of money from the period of time taken off ( Gusfield 5.) Although prohibition did lower the total number of deaths due to
alcohol, it did not successfully reform the United States like it was planned to do so. Instead of helping reform the American society and morality, prohibition greatly corrupted the law enforcement due to the many people partaking in underground illegal businesses selling alcohol (Gusfield 3).
Even though the reformers who created the idea of Prohibition had their great intentions for how it could improve the people of the United State’s morals and reform the United States for the better, the act created a National crises. Prohibition not only caused a rise in criminal activity, but caused a loss of respect for law enforcement, and also harmed people emotionally, financially, and morally.