Prohibition and Organised Crime


The Background to Prohibition

  • There was Popular support for the national prohibition of alcohol at the time of its introduction. 
  • By 1917, 27 states had legislation for prohibition and many other states had "dry" counties. 
  • The US Entry into the first world war  increased popular pressure for prohibition. 
  • It was argued that there were strong practical, moral and religious arguments in favor of a ban on alcohol. 
  • This argument were  outlined by influence organisation such as the Anti-Saloon League  and the Woman Christian Temperance Union. 
  • By January 1919 75% of America state had  approved 18th amendment in favour of the ban. 
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The Practical argument

  • During the war it was argued that the ban on the productions of alcohol would conserve supplies of important grains such as barley. 
  • it was also suggested that the efficiency of the armed forces would and industry workers  would be improved by prohibition. 
  • the drink had been linked with poor factory conditions slums and child poverty. 
  • The "lever act 1917" banned the use of grain for the production of alcoholic drinks. 
  • Many businessman such as  Ford and Pierre S. du pont, argued that a good workforce must be disciplined and sober. 
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The Moral argument

  • To many America, it seemed unfair to enjoy a drink while troops over seas were sacrificing them self in miserable condition in France and Belgium. 
  • Many of the brewers and distillers were german in origin  so it seemed unpatriotic  to be drinking from them. 
  • So saw Europen Immigrants particularly those from predominately catholic nation such as Ireland brought with them a drinking culture. 
  • Some saw working men drank away their wage instead of spending the wage on the families. 
  • Many women saw alcohol as a way in which men oppressed them. 
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The Religious Argument

  • Many religious groups believed  alcohol was the work of the devil, this being a period in which  religious fundamentalism was undergoing something of revival  
  • Drinking alcohol was viewed as overwhelmingly as a sin and wrongdoing among those in religious persuasion 
  • It was popular belief that drinking was the "8th deadly sin" 
  • Support for prohibition tended to be protestant live in small towns int he south and the midwest  and vote for the Republican. 
  • Opponents of  it were usually from the north and in living in urban area, usually  of non-Northen European origin and Roman Catholic. 
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The 18th Amendment and Volstead Act

  • The 18th Amendment was introduced in December of 1917  designed to prohibit  "the manufacture, sale and transportation on intoxicating liquors."  over 0.5% alcohol(ABV)
  • In principle no bar,restaurant store, casino or nightclub would be allowed to sell alcohol beverages. 
  • Along with this  no, Brewery or Distiller was to be allowed to transport alcohol to any such establishment. 
  • It did not ban the consumption of alcohol. 
  • It was passed in October of 1919 and came into force at midnight on the 16/17 January 1920. 
  • There was little opposition to prohibition introduction, the force against  it were disorganised and mounted only limited protests against the measure. 
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Prohibition and Organised crime

  • It was claimed that it would lead to fall in crime yet many historians  argue that it helped  turn small-time criminals into gangsters and weakened the very fabric of the America economy.
  • in the 20s saw the rise of organised crime  and arguably it establishment as one of the main  challenges to law and  order in the US.
  •  John Torrio ran the most  of the illegal alcohol business in the Chicago and was able to retire in 25 with a $30,000,000 fortune. 
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A Capone and Gang warfare

  • Gangsters Such as Al Capone, Dion O'Banion and Bugs Moran fought a battle for the control of the city of Chicago. 
  • Capone emerged victorious and by 1931 he had earned about $60m for his crime. 
  • Between 1927 and 1930  over 500 gangland murder were committed. Most involved Capone's associates including  the infamous St Valentine day Massacre-
  • Capone was never personally implicated in any of these murders but eventually was imprisoned in 1931 for 11 years for income tax evasion, he was released in 1939  but ill with syphilis he died in 1947 
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The Surge in Crime

  • The Homicide rate almost doubled in some major cities during this era.
  • According to one study of 30 cities in 1920-21
  •   Crime  rose 24%
  •   Expenditure on   police rose by 11%
  •  Arrest fro drink driving rose by 81% 
  • Theft/Burglaries rose 9%
  • homicide/ assault rose by 13%
  • After Prohibition had finished in 1933,  rate of Robbery, Burglary, Murder and Assualt droped. 
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Financial reason for the Failure of Prohibition.

  • The Anti Saloon League Claimed it chould be enfrouced for less than $5m per year.  This was never checked. 
  • Congress allcoated only slighyl more than $5m per year, which was no were near engough. 
  • Prohibition agents were only paid $2,000 per year, meaning that they were open to Bribery,.
  • Bootlegging Disrupted the blance of the Economny and led to a rise in the demand for high vaule bank notes. 
  • It was supposed to help the govemrnet blance the budget, but this was made more diffcuilty by the fact that they lost an estimated $1b in excise tax, 
  • Many women group saw alcohol as mean by which men oppressed them. 
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Georpgical reasons for the failure of prohibition

  • Had the nearly impossible task to protect the immense land board with Canda and Mexico 
  • had a cost line which is  29,000Km  making it virtually impossible  fro them  to be effectively   policed.   
  • the meat that large quantities of Liquor were smuggled from the Bahams, The west Indies and Canadian Territories. 
  • on land there were too few agents to patrol America and it Borders. 
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Social reason for the it failure.

  • many people supported it principle behind it, but the enforcement soon persuaded then differently. 
  • Many particularly the wealthy saw it as an infringement   of personal liberty. 
  • One of it aim was to reduce crime and poverty, but it leads to massive increase in crime many amongst the poor and poverty stricken areas. 
  • the quality of Alcoholic beverages dismissed while their strength rose to dangerous levels. 
  • Some estimated that some of this drink were 150% strong than normal drinks. 
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legal reason for it failure

  • Many saw it as an unconstitutional infringement of the freedoms granted under the bill of rights.
  • The law was poorly framed and loophole meant it was quite easy to obtain alcohol.  
  • George Remus brought various breweries on the eve of prohibition for the production of medical alcohol.
  • by doing that he made  $5m in an illegal sale of alcohol to organised criminal gangs.
  •  although $40m of alcohol was seized in 1924, the estimated volume of business was $800m. 
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Political reasons for it failure.

  • The coming of the Great Depression made prohibition an important political issue. 
  • FDR  called for the repeal of it, in orde to stimulate  public spending, increases tax revenue and encourage business growth. 
  • The repeal was put to Congress on February 20th, 1933.  
  • the 21st Amendment was ratified on December the 5ht and it ended 10day later on the 15th December. 
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