Was Prohibition A True Success? Essay, Research Paper
The 20th century saw the dawn of the progressive movement. In addition to their sometimes-radical views on institutional reform the group also advocated prohibition, or the outlawing of alcoholic beverages. The success of this movement is based upon many factors. The strength and commitment of its leaders was a big part of it. Prohibition proved to have a negative effect on society rather than its original goal to eradicate the so-called evils of alcohol. Americans were not willing to have their lives controlled by bible thumping progressives (doc. H)!
The prohibition movement?s strength grew, especially after the formation of the Anti-Saloon League in 1893 (doc. B). The League, and other organizations that supported prohibition such as the Women?s Christian Temperance Union, soon began to succeed in enacting local prohibition laws. By the 1900?s the prohibition campaign was a national movement with great political undertones (doc. C & G).
During this time the brewing industry was the most prosperous of the beverage alcohol industries. Because of the competitive nature of brewing, the brewers entered the retail business. To expand the sale of beer, brewers expanded the number of saloons. As the saloons prospered, (doc. F) it was not unusual to find a saloon for every 200 or so Americans in a large city. However the saloon owners were hard pressed to maintain profit so they introduced other vices (gambling, prostitution etc.). Unfortunately, for the saloon owners, many Americans found these vices to be more offensive than consumption of alcohol (doc. A).
Prohibition leaders believed that once license to do business was removed from the liquor traffic the churches and reform organizations would enjoy the opportunity to pursuade Americans to give up drink. This opportunity would occur, publicly unchallenged by the liquor business (perhaps they were too smashed!) even though it was in their interests to urge Americans to drink more. However it is important to note that though prohibition remained publicly unchallenged by the liquor business, speakeasies were their mainstays. Therefore the ?blight? of saloons was to disappear from the landscape by 1919.
Many prohibition leaders looked forward to an educational campaign (doc. B & C) that would greatly expand once the liquor establishments became illegal and would, they hoped, in about thirty years, lead to a sober nation. Other prohibition leaders looked forward to vigorous enforcement of prohibition in order to eliminate supplies of beverage alcohol (doc. D). After 1920, neither group of leaders was especially successful. The educators never received the support for the campaign that they dreamed about; and the law enforcers were never able to persuade government officials (doc. G.) to mount an enthusiastic enforcement campaign against illegal suppliers of alcohol (doc. N.).
The best evidence available to historians shows that consumption of alcoholic beverages declined dramatically under prohibition. In the early 1920s, consumption was about thirty per cent of the pre-prohibition level. Consumption grew somewhat in the last years of prohibition, as illegal supplies of liquor increased and as a new generation of Americans disregarded the law and rejected the attitude of self-sacrifice that was part of the bedrock of the prohibition movement. Nevertheless, it was a long time after repeal before consumption rates rose to their pre-prohibition levels. In that sense, prohibition “worked” (doc. S).
Prohibition was instrumental in creating significant social change during and after its existence. These changes could have been construed as both good and bad. Alcohol became a near-mythic commodity and countless dollars were wasted through its destruction and confiscation. Initially, with prohibition, people were forced into the underground to drink in secret. But fear of being arrested for their law breaking loomed omnipresent. After Prohibition was repealed, those who had fought against it continued their opposition. During its nearly 14 years, the 18th amendment caused more problems than it solved. Organized crime, which was born of prohibition, flourished and interfered with the growth of a healthy society.