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The Negative Effects Of Prohibition In The United States

1381 words - 6 pages

On January 6th, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified,

bringing with it the newly mandated law of prohibition. Dubbed “the noble experiment” by

President Herbert Hoover, prohibition banned the production, sale, and transport of alcohol

throughout the United States. Prior to the institution of prohibition, the U.S. government faced

pressure from the Anti-Saloon League, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Protestants,

Baptists, and Methodists who believed that alcohol was to blame for the increasing social

problems within the United States such as domestic violence and unemployment (McDonnell

394). These groups gradually gained political support leading up to 1919 and were able to pass

the law due to efficient organization and intensive lobbying efforts (McDonnell 395). Although

many people in the United States supported prohibition, some ignored it outright and refused

to follow the law. This caused a huge increase in crime and illegal activity in the United States

during the time of prohibition. Speakeasies in cities across the country flourished by selling

illegal alcohol to the public, bootleggers of illegal alcohol became rich, and organized crime

headed by powerful mob bosses gained control over major American cities.

One of the easiest ways to get alcohol during prohibition was through hidden, illegal

saloons called speakeasies. For example, New York City, one of the biggest cities in the country

and a center for the violation of prohibition, had an estimated one-hundred thousand speakeasies

by the mid 1920’s (“Prohibition” 160). Before prohibition was enacted, bars, saloons, and

nightclubs provided an easy and legal way to obtain alcohol that didn’t violate the law. After

the sale of alcohol was banned, all of these business were forced to close which allowed the

speakeasy to dominate. Many people were attracted to speakeasies, perhaps more than to

saloons, including women. The “atmosphere of forbidden fun” that speakeasies offered was a

huge draw (McDonnell 397). However, the increased amount of people attending speakeasies

often drew unwanted attention to them. The ever-present fear of raids conducted by prohibition

agents plagued many owners and customers of speakeasies. Some owners, though, were able

to guarantee a safe drinking environment to customers by bribing the police force and various

government officials (Henderson). The people tasked with upholding prohibition looked the

other way and allowed many illegal businesses to continue unopposed. Some individuals were

able to construct huge networks of people that reached high into the government that were under

their control.

One person that was extremely successful using this system of bribery and corruption

was a bootlegger named George Remus. Known as “the king of the bootleggers,” Remus began

his career as a pharmacist and put himself through law school to become a defense attorney.
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