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

Why was Prohibition such a controversial issue during the 1920's

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Why was Prohibition such a controversial issue during the 1920's? Prohibition was the banning of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The power to ban the production, export, import, transportation or sale of alcoholic beverages was given by the 18th Amendment, 1917. This was gradually adopted by state governments across America and was followed up in 1919 by the Volstead Act that defined intoxicating liquor as a drink containing 0.5% of alcohol and prescribed penalties for breaking the law. By 1920 Prohibition applied to the whole of the USA. The passing of this law was quite astounding for several reasons, partly because the legal liquor industry was the 7th biggest in the country, where even in the latter part of the 19th century, 'big business' was established and respected as creator of the nations vast wealth. Perhaps more importantly Prohibition appeared to be a violation of the rights and freedom of the individual so treasured by the US constitution and Bill of Rights. I will examine why and how this law came into being, the problems it caused and evaluate why it was such a controversial issue. Prohibition perhaps best illustrates 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 anticipated the role of government expanding in private life to an unparalleled degree. ...read more.

Middle

with the waters just outside US jurisdiction becoming known as "Rum Row" and smuggling from Mexico and Canada abundant. Smuggling was so incredibly successful that in 1925 it was estimated that only 5% of alcohol illegally coming into the country was intercepted (the $40 millions worth they seized in 1924 showing the volume of business. A further reason for Prohibition's failure was that Chemists could sell alcohol on doctor's prescriptions, a flawed system that was widely abused. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the "King of the Bootleggers" George Remus, who bought up many breweries on the eve of prohibition for the manufacture of medicinal alcohol, then arranged for an army of 3000 gangsters to highjack his products and divert them to big cities, it is estimated Remus made $5 million. An additional problem was that industrial alcohol was easily diverted, redistilled and sold on. As might be expected this alcohol was largely unsuitable for consumption and led to the invention of many exotic cocktails to try to mask the taste. Drinking of this Industrial alcohol sometimes led to illness or even death with 34 people dying in New York from alcohol poisoning. A further reason for its failure was the lack of treasury officials to enforce the law. ...read more.

Conclusion

The initial passing of the Prohibition law (the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act) was controversial in itself, firstly for the reason that the legal alcohol industry was the 7th largest industry in America, where big business was established and respected as the main creator of the countries vast wealth. However, more importantly Prohibition appeared to be a violation of the rights and freedom of the individual so treasured by the US constitution and Bill of Rights. Although initially there was relatively little opposition to Prohibition on these grounds, throughout the 1920s the concept of individual freedom came to be regarded by many as of greater importance than individual morality and thus Prohibition came to be seen increasingly as an infringement of this vital principle, especially in the cities. The problems that were perceived to have arisen as a result of Prohibition contributed to it being a controversial issue, it led to mass evasion (especially in urban areas, and gave rise to smuggling and illegal manufacture. It also stimulated organised crime and gangland warfare. However, it should be noted that it was also well supported, especially in rural America and, one could speculate, that without the depression this controversial law might have existed for considerably longer. ...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. To what extent did America roar in the 1920s?

    By 1920 the Klan had over 100,000 members and by 1925 it claimed a membership of 5 million. The Klan attracted fanatics who believed that American citizens should be white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. They were anti-communist, anti-Negro, anti-Jews, anti-Catholic and against all foreigners.

  2. Why was prohibition such a controversial issue in the 1920s?

    These factors meant the anti-prohibitionists were less vocal than they could have been, although this was also due to their disorganisation. There were a few marches and parades, but other than that there was little protest. Because of all this, there was hardly any real opposition to prohibition when it was first put into effect in 1920.

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

    If you had a stable job, you were offered credit where you could buy something now but pay off the money over some time (with a rate of interest on top) in instalments. This led the American industry to rise but at the same time, many people were in debt.

  2. Source related questions and answers on prohibition of alcohol 1920'S in the U.S.A.

    What way of life is described in Source D? Use Sources F and K and your own knowledge, to explain why the way of life described in Source D did not come about? In Source D, the way life was expected to be, during Prohibition, completely different to how it was.

  1. To what extent was America in the 1920's a 'Divided society'?

    The treatment of blacks showed division as it ran through all the whites ending up with the formation of the Ku Klux Klan which further divided society. The distribution of wealth was also a sign of division as there was a prejudice division towards the WASPs who had the majority of America's wealth in their pockets.

  2. To what extent was organised crime the main factor that led to the failure ...

    Nobody could argue that Prohibition had made the USA prosperous. Capone was sentenced to 11 years in jail on 24th October 1931 and in 1933 Prohibition was finally abolished. Was the reason for Prohibition failing that the gangsters took control of the illegal alcohol industry?

  1. USA and the Prohibiton law - 1920

    poverty of many citizens, therefore opening the eyes of many Americans to the truth. In addition to this, source C also points out that the consumption of alcohol and the existence of these alcohol saloons is causing starvation and poverty for families.

  2. Revision Notes - the USA in the 1920s and 30s.

    Hoovervilles- Since many of the unemployed doubled up as homeless as well, they would build shacks out of anything, and they grouped together in shantytowns called Hoovervilles. One family was stuck living in a piano box, and the largest hooverville was in St Louis, where races were integrated, and they even had a mayor.

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