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The Negative Impact Of American Prohibition

1743 words - 7 pages

Implemented in the 1920's, Prohibition made the selling and buying of alcoholic beverages illegal. Rather than improve Americans lives, Prohibition created a multitude of issues. Prohibition was a drastic failure and created more problems for the United States. Because of the lack of public support, people believed in personal choice and thought it was up to them whether or not they wanted to drink. There was a lack of enforcement of Prohibition and there were more "speakeasies" than officers. Many government officials went to speakeasies themselves. The bootlegging industry became very profitable, increasing crime and the number of gangs. Some officials were bribed by gangs as well as politicians and this lead to a corrupt government and corrupt officers of the law. Outlawing alcohol only encouraged more people to try it. Many who had never taken a drink before now joined in the adventure of breaking the law. All of these reasons contributed to the failure of Prohibition.
In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was made which prohibited the sale and manufacturing of alcohol. Over half the United States already prohibited alcohol and this amendment made it official. This 18th Amendment went into effect on January 16, 1920. While it was the 18th Amendment that established Prohibition, it was the Volstead Act, passed on October 28, 1919, that clarified the 18th Amendment. The Volstead Act stated that, "beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors or any beverage that was more than 0.5% alcohol by volume" (Hanson) was to be prohibited. The Act also stated that owning any item designed to manufacture alcohol was illegal and it set specific fines and jail sentences for violating Prohibition. After the American Revolution, drinking was on the rise. To combat this, a number of societies were organized as part of a new Temperance movement which attempted to discourage people from drinking. At first, these organizations pushed moderation, but after several decades, the movement's focus changed to complete prohibition of alcohol consumption. The Temperance movement blamed alcohol for many of society's ills, especially crime and murder.
Because of the lack of public support, people believed in personal choice and thought it was up to them whether or not they wanted to drink. They believed that the government could not dictate one's private life. People saw Prohibition as unconstitutional and that it violated their rights. Some people even thought that Prohibition gave the government too much power. "The lack of public support dwindled as people saw the failure of enforcement as it soon became against the norm not to drink and break the law."(()). More people started drinking as well as people that may have never drank before. The feeling that "everyone is doing it so why can't I?" was going around. Also many people were never caught and felt safe drinking in the speakeasies. Almost immediately after the ratification of the 18th...

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