The Hopes and Realities of Prohibition

The Hopes and Realities of Prohibition

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     One of the biggest controversies of the twentieth century is the eighteenth amendment. Mississippi was the first state to pass the bill of prohibition. From there on out the entire country followed in Mississippi’s lead in the crusade of prohibition. The eighteenth amendment was a law, which tried to reform and protect the American people against alcohol, as some called, “the devil’s advocate”. The outcome of prohibition was more negative than positive and reeked more havoc than good on the American society.

     The hopes of the prohibitionist were dreams of a healthier and more successful nation. Their dreams were spun from the idea of shutting out the alcohol industry and enforcing large industries and stressing family values. The eighteenth amendment consisted of the end of sales, production, transportation, as for importation and exportation of intoxicating liquors. Their imaginations were large and very hopeful. The prohibitionists felt that alcohol is a slow poison of their community. They felt that if the liquor industry was shut out that Americans would spend their hard earned money in the clothing, food, and shoe industries therefore boosting the American economy. Many felt, “Seeing what a sober nation can do is indeed a noble experiment and one that has never yet been tried, (Crowther, 11) Prohibition was a test of the strength of the nation and an attempt at cleaning up societies evils. These reformers denounce alcohol as a danger to society as well as to the human body. Some ethnic hopes of prohibition was to regulate the foreigners whose backgrounds consisted on the use of alcohol for religious purposes. And try to enforce an American valued society upon them. Many reformists felt that ending the use of alcohol would protect American homes and families. They felt that alcohol use was the root of their family’s destruction. Many women felt that their husbands would waste a lot of their income on the purchase of alcohol and not on family needs. Alcohol was often known as a “poison, or sin”. Another hope for the eighteenth amendment was to reduce the crime and death rate. Many people felt that drunkenness was the cause of many of the nations crimes. Prohibitionist felt very passionately on their cause and were often called “dry’s.” They felt their battle was justified and that, “it is manifest destiny that alcohol will not survive the scrutiny,”(Darrow and Yarros, 20).

     The ending result of prohibition is different than prohibitionist expectations of the amendment.

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The truth is that prohibition tore apart the country into “wet’s and dry’s” leaving the country at odds with each other. Prohibition was widely resented by the youths of the 1920’s. The ban on liquor often caused more desire to drink because young people felt it was unfair to regulate. The enforcement of the eighteenth amendment was next to impossible. Many “speakeasies” underground saloons opened throughout the nation. Making liquor pretty easily obtainable. Corruption throughout the political and law enforcement agencies made prohibition very weak and ineffective law. Gangsters such as Al Capone took over the black market of alcohol. His gang flourished and often paid off officials to ignore his illegal acts. As it turns out, prohibition increased crime and death rates do to gangster related involvement in the sale of liquor. People made their own liquor at home, which can be dangerous because of its industrial alcohol content. Also, there were more places to purchase liquor than ever before. Around the nation was an epidemic of disregard to the law. Many “wets” feel, “Prohibition going a ghastly farce and failure,”(Darrow and Yarrows, 169). The amendment was eventually ratified and was know as the worst amendment. Prohibition was not as productive as it was planned to be. The eighteenth amendment more or less is an unsuccessful amendment with a large backlash.

     As stated above, prohibition was a very unsuccessful amendment and it did more wrong than good. It created a very high crime rate, an underground illegal organization, and danger to the American people who chose to brew their own alcohol. As it turns out prohibition was a lot of lost effort and funds by the national government.


Works Cited

Auerbach, Joseph S, An Indictment of Prohibition (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1930).

Crowther, Samuel, Prohibition and Prosperity (New York: The John Day Company, 1930), p.11.

Darrow, Clarence and Yarros, Victor, The Prohibition Mania (New York: Boni and Liveright) p.20,169,168.

Libadie, Paul, “Liquid Gold,” Michigan History (1994), p.25-26.

Mason Phillip, “Andy one who couldn’t Drink (1994),p.12-22.

Merz, Charels, The Dry Decade (New York: Doubleday, Doran, and Company, Inc), p.61.

Moore, Sean, “National Prohibition in Northern New York,” New York History (February 1977),p.177-206.

Szymanski, Anne, “Dry Compulsions,” Journal of Policy History(1999), p.115-146.

Tyrerell, Ian “Prohibition American Culture Expansion Social History,” Social History (1994),p.413-445.

Webb, Atticus, Dry America (Nashville, TN: Cokesbury Press).

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