• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why Was Prohibition Attempted and Why Did It Fail?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

LAURENCE RAVEN WHY WAS PROHIBITION ATTEMPTED AND WHY DID IT FAIL? Prohibition or the 'Noble Experiment' as it was known, was the banning of the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. 'Intoxicating liqour' as it was known was defined by the Volstead Act of 1920 as any drink containing more than 0.5% alcohol. This prohibited wines, beers and spirits. Until 1919 Prohibition had always been a state rather than a federal issue, the Eighteenth Amendment of that year changed that. Responsibility for enforcement was given to the Treasury. "The law...where it is not obeyed, will be enforced. Liqour will not be hauled in anything on the surface of the earth or under the earth or in the air". It was estimated that $5 million would be enough to fund the task. Instead only $2 million was allocated. Prohibition illustrates well the contradictions in American society and politics during this period. Supported by those who looked to the government for 'moral regulation' - leading the way to ensure that people led clean, wholesome lives - it involved a government interfering in private life to an unprecedented degree, in stark contrast to the concept of laissez-faire. The reasons as to why prohibition was introduced can be illustrated through explanation of the two main influential groups who were involved in the campaign followed by more social and general reasons: The WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) ...read more.

Middle

Prohibition led to a huge growth in crime and gangsterism. To them the manufacture and sale of alcohol was too profitable. To ensure lack of interference of federal and state authorities, gangsters bribed and intimidated officials and politicians. Gangsters created a vast network of associates, who could easily smuggle alcohol into America and sell it on at a huge profit. The most famous gangster was Al Capone, who simply saw himself as embodying the spirit of free competition and enterprise in the USA. During Capone's time there were a number of violent clashes, the most notorious being the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 in Chicago. They could control politicians with ease. The Mayor of Chicago, for example, allowed organised crime to go on unmolested. When the Mayor was defeated in the election, the gangsters simply moved their headquarters elsewhere until their man was elected again. Even when Capone was arrested and jailed, it wasn't for murder or bootlegging; but for tax evasion. 'If people didn't want beer and wouldn't drink it, a fellow would be crazy for going around trying to sell it'. Al Capone's comments illustrate the key concept that the simple reason as to why prohibition failed was because the majority of the American people didn't support it. Morally speaking, Capone's explanations seem to justify his actions - he was simply acting as supplier to overwhelming consumer demand. ...read more.

Conclusion

It was the saloons that were often shut down not the 'speakeasies', which sold to a wealthier clientele. Historians have argued that Congress didn't want to completely enforce prohibition because it didn't want to alienate influential voters. The financial cost of prohibition also acted as a deterrent to its enforcement. It failed because it attempted to force one moral view on all Americans. It also reduced respect for law and encouraged the involvement of organised crime in politics. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a new amendment of the Constitution, the Twenty-First, which reversed the Eighteenth Amendment. The Beer Act was passed which allowed the production of beer, which in turn created jobs. Roosevelt's campaign song 'Happy Days Are Here Again' welcomed the return of drinking. Since then, prohibition has been a state, not a federal matter. It was a classic case of a law being passed that was unenforceable. Historians have cited prohibition as part of a last-ditch attempt by rural citizens to help keep the USA white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, harking back to the days of pre-20TH Century America. They feared immigrants would shift the racial balance, introduce foreign ideals such as Communism, and overthrow the existing social order. They feared change. However as with all mythologies, the period to which these people yearned to return had never existed. The USA had always been turbulent, violent and racist. However many of its problems came to be concealed by a veneer of optimism, excitement and unparalleled prosperity. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE USA 1919-1941 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE USA 1919-1941 essays

  1. Prohibition bound to fail?

    This is meant to show the corruption of the law enforcers. The title of the cartoon 'the national gesture' shows that it was happening nationally all over the USA. Source J is about a police officer talking about what happened in Chicago in the 1920s.

  2. (Q1) Describe some of the key features of Americn society in the 1920's?

    because the share prices were rising, investors brought shares in these companies thinking they would make a profit and not knowing that no profits could be made. Still the share prices kept on increasing. In 1924, the index was 106 whereas in 1929, it rose to 542.

  1. The USA

    Source C is saying that the man in the cartoon is spending all his small weekly wages to the saloon, drinking and buying alcohols. While he is supposed to give these money to his family, providing foods for them. As you can see from source C, his wife and child

  2. Why did prohibition fail?

    a speed boat for three minutes before reaching the city of Detroit. Alcohol was also transported easily over the bridges and across the border with Mexico. When alcohol was in the USA it was still very hard to find.

  1. History - Prohibition

    This source shows that prohibition was expected to be a success but it was written before or just after the new law had been passed. It does not show the effects of Prohibition, only what was hoped would happen. Also, it does not show the corruption of many of the

  2. The USA: Was prohibition bound to fail?

    Prohibition was bound to fail if it was only conceived due to the war. Source B says that in 1917 there was a "nation-wide campaign" in favour of prohibition - backing up the evidence given by source A that this is what a large amount of Americans wanted.

  1. There are many contributing factors to why prohibition was introduced on 16 January 1920. ...

    George Remus was one to the richest men involved in the illegal trade. Within tree years Remus had amassed an astounding $40 million in assets. He had an illegal bottling plant disguised as a farm and it was from this that he made his fortune.

  2. The Prohibition experiment of the 1920's

    Between 1920-1925 alone John Torrio made a turnover of thirty million dollars from organised crime before retiring to Italy. His successor Al Capone however lasted more than five years and made billions of dollars from his exploitations before finally being prosecuted for tax evasion in 1932.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work