On 16th of January 1920, the United States of America made an amendment to their constitution which was passed unanimously. The adjustment which is commonly known to many as the Eighteenth Amendment aimed to outlaw the sale, manufacture, making, transportation, and consumption of alcohol in the United States and its territories. The prohibition mainly targeted men who were said to be known usual consumers of alcoholic drinks.The move resulted in more problems than it was projected to solve. Supporters of the prohibition came up with a hypothesis which argued that making alcohol illegal would improve people’s quality of life and on the other hand strengthening the country’s economy, reducing crime, poverty, and deaths related to alcohol. The idea of banning alcohol was not a new concept. It is known that even before the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, many states in the US had adopted a law that was very similar to it. The majority of people perceived alcohol as a great satanic act and believed that if there existed a law that is totally against alcohol, and gets as far as making it completely illegal, then it would make the United States a greater and sober society as a whole.
The Eighteenth Amendment was a result of prohibition movements which in the previous years had sprung up across the whole of United Sates, motivated by religious groupings who deliberatively considered consumption of alcohol a serious threat to the country (Hamm, 2013). The very first temperance regulation took place in 1838 in the form of a Massachusetts law barring the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities. Though it was retracted two years later, Maine is said to have passed the first state illegalization law in the year 1846, and by the time the Civil War began, some other states had followed suit. Women movement also seriously called for the abolition of the sale and consumption of alcohol. In the fight, they were also joined by the powerful Anti-Saloon League which was founded in 1893 in Ohio State but later grew into a national organization that unequivocally endorsed political aspirants and pushed for legislation against saloons. Advocates of prohibition used speeches, advertisement and public demonstrations to convince people that eradicating alcohol from the community would help to wipe poverty and social vices like immoral behavior and physical violence. The objective of the movement was achieved in the year 1920 when Congress approved the 18th Amendment.
The Eighteenth Amendment was positive because it helped to minimize alcohol-related consequences. It was influential in decreasing deaths and illnesses caused by the consumption of a significant amount of alcohol. Between 1915 and 1925 the rate of deaths from cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease caused by alcoholism, gone down by almost fifty percent. Additionally, as a result of prohibition, the rate of deaths caused by consumption of alcohol decreased by eighty percent from levels before the world war by 1921. This drop in deaths and diseases was significant because it meant that the adverse effects that alcohol had on the country’s health were becoming less purely because of Prohibition. However, even though the prohibition Amendment helped to reduce consequences related to alcohol, ultimately this legislation should not have been enacted given that it led to more organized crimes and a major increase in economic difficulties (Beyer, 2016).
Under prohibition, there was increased and widespread illegal manufacture and sale of liquor known as bootlegging in the United States. The majority of people in urban areas vehemently opposed the ban. As a result, enforcement was weaker compared to smaller towns and rural areas. Conceivably, the most dramatic outcome of the embargo was the effect it had on organized crime the US. That said, alcohol production and sale went more underground to the extent that the business began to be controlled by mafia and other gangs who converted themselves into stylish criminal enterprises that reaped huge profits from the illegal trade.
Following the booming bootleg business, the mafia became more skilled at giving bribe to the police and politicians so as to look the other way. Towns like Chicago’s Al Capone arose as the most notorious replica of this phenomenon. Additionally, gambling and prostitution heightened during the 1920s as well. The number of Americans blaming the ban for extensive moral decay and syndrome became bigger. This is contrary to the fact that the intention of the legislation was to do the opposite. Those against the prohibition condemned it as a treacherous infringement on the individual rights and freedoms.
In case sentiment from the public had turned against the ban by the late 1920s, the beginning of the Great Depression only hastened its demise, given that some claimed that outlawing of alcohol deprived unemployed Americans of their jobs and denied much-needed revenue to the government. To the public disillusionment, efforts of the impartial group Americans Against Prohibition Association (AAPA) added. In the year 1932, the stage of Democratic presidential hopeful Franklin Roosevelt comprised a board for repealing the eighteenth amendment. Roosevelt’s resounding victory in the November elections marked an untimely end to prohibition. The resolution proposing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was adopted by the Congress in February 1933. This showed the repealing of the eighteenth amendment (Brown, 2017). The resolution required state conventions as opposed to the state legislatures to approve the amendment. This helped to reduce the procedure to a one-state-one-vote referendum contrary to a popular vote contest.
Hamm, R. F. (2013). Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: temperance reform, legal culture, and the polity, 1880-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Beyer, M. (2016). Temperance and prohibition: the movement to pass anti-liquor laws in America. New York: Rosen Central Primary Source.
Brown, E. S. (2017). Ratification of the twenty-first amendment to the Constitution of the United States: state convention records and laws. Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange.
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