After the War, the dry crusade formed the national Prohibition Party. Along with this came the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, this advocated for different ways to prevent alcohol abuse and to decrease the negative impacts on children and families with alcoholic husbands (Keene, 418) In 1893, The Anti Saloon League was formed, and in 1906, they began advocating for not being allowed the sell alcohol. They were supported by business owners, who wanted workers who were more efficient on the job. President Woodrow Wilson enforced a prohibition during wartime, which was temporary. The Prohibition began with the ratification of the 18th amendment. The 18th amendment banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquor (Keene, 420) Prohibition was not a popular thing to say the least, and was very difficult to enforce by officials. The Volstead Act was a legislation passed in combination with the Prohibition act. The Prohibition act was informally known as the Volstead Act, and was put in legislation to help enforce the Prohibition Act.
The Prohibition Act came with positives and negative aspects. When things become illegal, people find ways to do them anyways. “Bootlegging” was a phrase used and happened when people illegally produced and sold liquor. Many people produced alcohol illegally, created illegal drinking places which became dangerous, and this led to the rise in violence and many more crimes. Gang violence was on the rise in the 1920’s, and the government began losing support for the 18th amendment. President Hoover was said, “The Prohibition is a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose”(“Prohibition and its Effects”, 2010). Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932, was not a fan of the Prohibition Act, and fought to change it. The Prohibition seemed to be enforced a lot more heavily in the rural areas, and seemed to be a lot more loosely supervised in the urban areas. While the initial result of the prohibition seemed to produce positive results, such as a decline in the number of people arrested, drunkenness was reportedly dropped up to thirty percent, disorderly conduct decreased, the number of beaten women and children decreased, assault decreased, alcohol related deaths decreased, the populations in our jails and prisons decreased, prostitution decreased, our national crime rate decreased, insurance policies increased, people saved more money, factory job attendance and job performance increased, real estate values increased, and more families were reported to attend school and church more regularly (“Prohibition and its Effects”,2010). Our nation’s need for welfare also decreased dramatically during that time period. Although all of these positive aspects initially seemed beneficial, people still find a way to get what they want. Bootlegging was a huge issue. People would produce moonshine, smuggle alcohol across state lines, and criminal activity was at an all time high. One person, Al Capone, was one of the people known for criminal activity during this time period (“Prohibition and its Effects”, 2010). Over 60 million dollars was made in illegal activity from bootlegging. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in Chicago, where people dressed as policemen, and shot and killed a group of men. Bootleg liquor did not come at a cheap price, which meant that the poor and working class people were the people who suffered. The middle and upper class people were able to afford the costs, even if it meant they ended up in jail as a result. The rise in crime caused a rise in costs associated with jails, prisons, law enforcement, and gangs. Many people didn’t support Prohibition any longer. In states, such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, who were in support of alcohol being legal, ended up actually going against federal law and still allowing some alcohol to be bought and sold (“Prohibition and its Effects”,2010). This was a huge issue. Congress also didn’t fund these states to deal with this legally, which really prohibited what law enforcement was able to actually do to prevent it. People even began ignoring the 18th amendment altogether, because it became way too much to handle. Prisons were so overcrowded, that judges were just granting small fines in order to not have to send someone to trial. It basically crippled law enforcement, and something had to be done about it.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president calling for an appeal on Prohibition. He won, and that meant the end of Prohibition. Congress adopted a resolution, and proposed the 21st amendment that repealed the 18th amendment (“Prohibition and its Effects”, 2010). A few states still had trouble getting on board with this, and still tried to prohibit alcohol, but by 1966, all states were on board. The legalization of alcohol DID mean that it could be taxed by the government, and being that it was during the Great Depression, the federal government seized this opportunity to try to get more money for different relief programs.
The government shouldn’t have passed this law. People are going to find a way to do what they want to do regardless of how they go about doing it. It’s the same for marijuana in my opinion. People are going to smoke it, some states have already legalized it, and the rest of the states just need to get on board with it. There are people sitting in prison for marijuana charges next to someone who murdered a baby. This makes no sense to me. We need to save our prisons for the evil murderers, the people who have to care in the world for taking other peoples’ lives, and for people who truly deserve it. You can’t legislate morals, and I consider myself a libertarian due to some of my different beliefs. You can’t force anyone to not drink, to not smoke, to keep their baby, to not kill people. You just can’t. You can’t regulate guns just like you can’t regulate alcohol, marijuana, etc. I think when people want stricter gun laws; they should look at how the Prohibition worked out. When you tell someone they can’t do something, they find a way to do it anyways. People, who are going to murder other people, are going to do it regardless of whether or not it’s legal. The guy, who shot all those people in Las Vegas, was going to do that or worse regardless of whether or not anyone tried to stop him. Making it less easy for him wouldn’t have done anything. If someone is truly dead set on doing something, they will do it. I am against the Prohibition act. Yes, it had positive effects, but they didn’t last. The bad people are going to get their hands on the guns, so we need to make sure that the good people have their hands on them too in order to protect themselves from those bad people. We can’t have a government that is more powerful than its people. Prohibition set the tone for this in my opinion, and I’m very glad that it happened, so that we can look back and see how it had a slow positive effect, but how in the end it was a disaster.
- Anderson, Lisa. “Prohibition and its Effects.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2009, www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/roaring-twenties/essays/prohibition-and-its-effects
- Keene, Jennifer D, et al. Visons Of America: A History of the United States. 3rd ed., vol. 1, Boston, Pearson, 2015.