Prohibition Essay

1333 words - 6 pages

The particular emphasis and theme of this paper will focus on delivering an understanding as to why the eighteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States of America, ratified into law in January 1920, outlawing the manufacture, distribution and sale of intoxicating alcohol, was always predestined to fail. In order to fully understand why this ‘Nobel Experiment’ was doomed from the start, the paper must first look back at the historic connection between the American people and alcohol. In order to set some context as to where alcohol sat in American society, this essay will give a passing glance at figures like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but more importantly, it will ...view middle of the document...

Alcohol was an integral part of American society from as far back as the latter half of the eighteenth-century. People all over the nation drank morning, noon and night. In most American towns a bell would ring twice a day to signify ‘grog time’. The workers would break from their daily tasks for a mug of cider or beer. George Washington made sure his troops at Valley Forge received at least half a cup of rum each day. While John Adams began each day with a tankard of hard cider. Even Abraham Lincoln sold whiskey by the barrel from his father’s grocery store in Illinois, although he did advocate moderation in his later life. These examples illustrates how ingrained alcohol was in American society.
In the early part of the nineteenth-century the drinking habits of the American people deviated from the relative safety of cider and beer to harder liquors like whiskey and rum. By 1830 88 bottles of whiskey were being consumed yearly by the average American over the age of 15. This increase, in part, has been largely linked to the steady stream of immigrant’s arriving on American shores. This mass influx swelled the cities populations dramatically in a relatively short space of time. Most of these new comers were forced to live in squalid conditions with very low income, gleamed from mind numbing physically tough menial jobs. So it was no surprise that the number of saloons available for the working men to let off some steam and have a drink after a hard day’s work, shot up dramatically. As more and more American men’s wages ended up in the saloon, the attention of the burgeoning protestant alcohol reform groups were directed towards the impoverished women and children going without adequate food and shelter, while their husbands squandered the coffers in dens of iniquity.
The first alcohol temperance group to emerge was the Washingtonians, founded in Baltimore Maryland in 1840. They consisted of groups of reformed drinkers, each giving the other sucker and support in an effort to stay away from the evils of alcohol. This movement initially seemed to take hold and spread across American, but it did not last very long, mainly due to the fact that most of the members relapsed back to the daemon drink. The Washingtonians were condemned by the protestant church ministers, who believed that they lacked the moral courage of religion and the guiding hand of the church to aid their success in staying dry. Socially moralistic protestants church goers, mostly women, stirred up from the pulpit, banded together to form the Women’s Temperance Movement. They believed that all the ills in society, and in the home, were the fault of alcohol, and they were determined to rid America of the evils of drink and the depraved temptations of the saloons. At the beginning of their crusade they only preached mere moderation, with only rum and whiskey off limits, but soon more fanatical members started to advocate...

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