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Prohibition In America: The Rights Of Individuals Vs. The Responsibilities Of A Nation

1940 words - 8 pages

The Rights of Individuals vs. the Responsibilities of a Nation

"The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages” . This historical, yet short era, known as “Prohibition”, set an example that is still referred to today. As people scrambled all around the country trying to illegally obtain alcohol, the country was once again in a state of chaos. As part of a Christian based temperance movement, prohibition began as an effort to limit the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicating substances for the betterment of the country. Supporters of such a law believed that a sober America would entail less violent crime and become a more peaceful place once people rose above the initial shock of the illegalization of alcohol. In more ways than just the positive outcomes desired, “these legal changes had a profound impact upon American culture… ”
The eighteenth amendment was approved by congress in October 1919, and went into effect as The National Prohibition Act of 1920 on January 17, 1920 . The National Prohibition Act was written and proposed to congress by statesman Andrew Volstead, and is often referred to as the Volstead Act . Although many states already had laws against alcohol on the books following World War I, the Prohibition Act made any sale or consumption of alcohol “illegal from coast to coast” . This new law created chaos and division throughout the country, as “wets”, those who opposed the prohibition, scrambled to stock as much alcohol as they could, and “drys”, supporters of prohibition, celebrated their seemingly victorious position. In order to get around prohibition laws, people stored stashes of as much alcohol as they could inside their private homes. Although the consumption of alcohol was illegal, nothing could be done to enforce these laws inside private homes . This strategy lasted a relatively short time until, naturally, the stocks of alcohol began to deteriorate, and people needed to find new ways to get the alcohol they desired.
Underground establishments serving alcohol became more and more prevalent as people began to run out of the alcohol they had stocked up. In an effort to gain access to and safely consume alcohol, people began working together and using any and all means they could. The end of drinking in private homes came abruptly as people’s original stashes ran out, and they needed a new way to get alcohol without having to transport it themselves. “Speakeasies” were undercover saloons that could only be entered with a spoken password where people were told by bartenders to stay quiet and “speak easy” . These secret saloons were often raided by police, but due to massive corruption during the time, they could often be paid off to turn away and even warn the owners when other raids were going to happen. Speakeasies rapidly gained popularity and became one of the most effective ways to get...

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