Why Prohibition? - Religious Reasons
Prohibition was not introduced simply as a government amendment but as a response to the pressure of Public opinion. Prohibition was supported by many different groups for different reasons...
- Belief that Alcoholism was sinful, and of the Devil.
- This view was upheld by White Anglo Saxon Protestants (or WASPS) who had moved to the Midwest States, particularly Kansas, Nebraska etc. and wanted a fresh start in the new states without the 'curse' of Alcohol
- They set up communities which revolved around church, family and home.
- They considered the cities to be hotbeds of sin and corruption fueled by alcohol and believed that being an alcoholic was a form of slavery that must be outlawed.
- A political movement, within both parties, that the government had a moral duty to improve social conditions and to control morality.
Why Prohibition? - Practical Reasons
- Belief that Alcohol was limiting productivity and the ability of the workforce to do a good job and that banning alcohol would increase efficiency.
The Female Perspective
- Alcohol lead to domestic violence, broken homes, divorce, and affairs.
- Women's Temperance Groups were set up and actively campaigned in favour of prohibition; going around and smashing up Saloons and Bars.
- Carrie Nation is an example of one particular female activist who went around with an axe and a bible proclaiming that Alcohol was wrong and insuring that it was destroyed!
Racial Prejudice was an additional reason as alcohol was often a big part of European migrants culture and therefore any prejudices against them were linked with alcoholism. Some used the prejudice against Germans especially to strengthen the argument for prohibition and vice versa (prohibition strengthened anti german hostility and war propaganda)
- The police force was too small to effectively implement prohibition and there were no provisions for those who broke the law.
- They were poorly paid and therefore some took bribes to ensure a blind eye was turned to saloons and other illegal activities.
- Gangsters sprang up and began to monopolise the black market in alcoholism with gangs and protection rackets etc.
- In some areas the demand for alcohol surged due to the abundance of speakeasies, the popularity, sense of danger and glamour associated with them.
- There was a huge loss in government revenue and although alcohol was being sold it was not being taxed.
- It was legal 3miles off american shores which created a loophole.
- In the big cities like Chicago, New York and New Orleans it created a huge amount of corruption with gangsters treated as celebrities and stars that ran the cities with the co-operation of the people living in fear.
Successes - and overall success or failure?
- In rural areas however, prohibition was generally successful.
- Whilst Alcohol consumption rose in the big cities, the rural conservative states were supportive and alcohol consumption fell greatly.
- National Alcohol consumption declined and never again reached pre - prohibition levels.
- It left a legacy in that the drinking age across America remains at 21.
Overall Success or Failure
- Whether prohibition was a success or a failure can be argued either way.
- Either it was a success - as the consumption overall fell and consumption levels were never higher than before prohibition.
- Or it was a failure - as the huge amount of problems that prohibition caused overshadowed the success in the rural areas. Prohibition ended up causing many more problems and corruption than it was first brought in to solve and therefore can not be seen as a success.