Pros and Cons of The “Moral” Legislation Known As Prohibition

Prohibition on any type of good will have its supporters and opponents. Prohibition in the United States during the 1920s involved the ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcoholic drinks had two main sides known as the “Drys” and the “Wets.” The Drys were in support of the temperance movement where all people did not consume alcoholic beverages. On the opposing side were the Wets who believed that drinking alcohol is a personal right and that it should not be made illegal. The legislation passed known as the Eighteenth Amendment banning alcohol can be seen as a very moral issue due to the fact that drinking can be viewed as a personal choice. The Eighteenth Amendment brought some positive effects, but overall brought chaos to the world Drys were trying to fix. “When prohibition went into effect in 1920, Congress clarified what constituted an intoxicating beverage in the Volstead Act (1919), which defined any beverage with more than 0.5 percent alcohol as intoxicating liquor and established criminal penalties for manufacturing, transporting, or possessing alcohol” (Keene, 637). Temperance was a very long lasting reform in the United States. Prohibition had many positive and negative aspects, but the government never should have passed this type of “moral” legislation.

The positive aspects of Prohibition can be mainly seen based on the Dry’s view on things. However, the positive could be seen throughout families if they all participated in the Prohibition. I believe the most positive aspect of Prohibition, while it lasted, was that it let some families focus on their spouses and children, work, and save some money supported by Dr. Keene’s in Visions of America. “By putting alcohol aside, they claimed, workers had become more productive, could afford to buy cars and furniture, and had more savings” (Keene, 637-638). Due to the ban, some people especially men were not as tempted to drink. Drys thought that Prohibition “would create a more virtuous, law-abiding society” (Keene, 637). In certain cases, people weren’t getting super drunk after work or before work and were able to make better choices. Drinking less made more time for people to spend time with their families after work and in free time. The temperance movement was based strongly on health and morals. Most people are aware that drinking more alcohol is unhealthy for you. The moral aspects come in due to religion. If you were Christian and believe strongly in faith, there were many benefits to the Prohibition because others were getting rid of the evils of alcohol. Many of the positive aspects of the Prohibition are outshined by the negatives.

Many of the negatives that came out of Prohibition were the complete opposite of what the Drys hoped to accomplish. After passing the Eighteenth Amendment, steps were made in order to catch those going against the ban. However, I know that failed almost completely due to Dr. Keene’s research that “Congress never appropriated enough money for wide-scale enforcement, hampering Justice Department efforts to curb illegal drinking” (Keene, 637). Drys thought that less alcohol would make more law-abiding citizens, but it did the opposite. Organized crime grew tremendously. Many illegal and secret bars could be found everywhere like speakeasies, and big-name gangsters like Al Capone came about. In Chicago, Al Capone grew in power with his gang who caused lots of chaos like the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre where his gang as fake cops slaughtered an opposing gang. The Amendment created a mess where many citizens all thought it was socially acceptable to break the law and purchase illegal alcohol since most everybody else was doing it. Money made from the legal purchase of alcohol was all gone. Now everything was done under the table and illegal activity was occurring more often.

This type of moral legislation should have never been passed because it was threatening many personal and state rights. My view on prohibition goes along with Senator James Wadsworth who “contended that it seemed unfair to tell exhausted workers at the end of the day “you shall not have a glass of beer” (Keene, 636). Making alcohol illegal was only based on moral issues. Alcohol in excessive amount can become a big problem, but making it illegal was not a solution. When making anything illegal, there are still people who will find a way to do it. The use of alcohol can be seen as a casual activity or something that can be overused and destroy families. It is up to a person to make their own valued decision on whether to drink. It is also considered a moral issue when involved in the topic of religion. We have the freedom of religion, but religion can not be used as an excuse to ban alcohol. Billy Sunday, an Evangelical preacher, taught about the evils alcohol can have on people which is a moral issue especially if an individual does not believe in that religion. There were much better ways to handle the issue of alcohol than making it illegal.

Prohibition had many positive and negative aspects, but the government never should have passed this type of “moral” legislation. As soon as Franklin D. Roosevelt became the President in 1933, he was able to get the Twenty-First Amendment ratified, repealing the eighteenth. This happened very quickly showing that the Eighteenth Amendment did not accomplish much.  Other ways to handle the disagreement of temperance could be the establishment of minimum drinking ages, which is in effect now. Prohibition in the 1920s had many issues and was too much of a “moral” legislation to be passed without more assessment of the true issue of alcohol being a type of enjoyment or a type of vice.

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.

8 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of The “Moral” Legislation Known As Prohibition

  1. Great blog! Your position and information was structured well and I liked how you frequently used sources throughout it. I agree with your position on prohibition although my reasons differ slightly. I would be more worried about the implications it would have with other legislation that could be passed.

  2. Great post. You explained Prohibition well and supported your beliefs with solid facts. You used quotes that really helped support your beliefs. I agree that Congress never should have passed that type of “moral” legislation. I agree with you positions and I think that we can learn some very important lessons from Prohibition.

  3. The information you gave regarding prohibition was very helpful in making your argument. I agree that Prohibition was solely based on moral issues and should not have been passed because of it. You did a good job giving your opinion without pushing it on others and did well in supporting your position. What do you think would’ve happened if this moral legislation was never passed? Would we have been better off? How so? Great blog post, I think you explained Prohibition very well and supported your argument with descriptive and accurate evidence.

    1. It’s hard to say what would have happened if this moral legislation was never passed. I do believe that things like speakeasies and the black market would have not grown as much as they did. I think on the crime aspect of things, it would have been better off. However, passing this type of moral legislation was a good mistake to make in order for people to learn and view moral issues differently in the future. If the United States didn’t pass Prohibition as a moral legislation than the mistake would have been made in a different category.

  4. This was an awesome post. You made position statements and arguments about prohibition then frequently backed them up with sources throughout in order to further strengthen your argument. I completely agree with all of your statements, especially the moral legislation part. Great post!

  5. Super good explanation! I love how you implemented evidence throughout your work. I feel like we should have known better than to start a ‘moral’ dispute. This could have opened up to too many more disputes based on personal beliefs, which leads back to religious freedom. I think no matter the situation, people seem to think they’re exclusively correct. We still face issues like this today; an example could be the dispute over legalizing weed, abortion, etc.

  6. I really enjoyed this post! You made some very good points. I couldn’t agree more. There were a lot of positive and negative affects of prohibition, but as you stated this moral legislation should not have passed. I liked how you talked about the “moral” issues, this was very interesting and I like how you explained and backed up your points. Great job!

  7. Overall this was one of the best posts I’ve read, I really like that you used the book often and described the blog topic well. Good job diving into the moral issues, it made the blog topic even better and more interesting. The passing of prohibition brought positives and negatives and you did a good job separating the two. Good job and keep up the good work.

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