The legislation of January 16th 1920 was the solution to many problems. Socially, prohibition seemed the suitable fix to immorality within the nation. The act of drinking itself was said to be the cause of numerous other harmful acts. The act of drinking would continue and cause more will to drink if the public did not stop the consumption immediately. Alcohol also was said to be the cause and aid of harmful home lives of men throwing away precious savings for booze and saloons while increasing the chance of violence within the home (Nishi 30). Prohibition would eliminate the source and therefore better the common good.
Prohibition also was to better the chances of future generations to live without the terrors of alcohol by broadening the gene pool of healthy partners and perpetuation a non-alcoholic race. This promotion of temperance would also be backed by educated the upcoming generation about alcoholism and all of its consequences. This would thereby proceed to secure prohibition within the society and turning the nation’s population towards a better society.
The Industrial Age also called for the banning of alcohol. Due to so many men earning their wages on hard labor and required that the work force be alert and responsible while at work. Alcohol caused a lapse in judgment and endangered men at work. To ensure that civilians both moral and alcoholic were kept safe, the banning of alcohol needed to be legalized.
Another social reason for prohibition would be the crime rates. Due to many mob leaders and gangster having a stronghold over the alcohol distribution, the only logical answer to reduce crime rate would be to outlaw the manufacture, consumptions, and distribution of alcohol to provide a liable reason for police to convict criminals. The legalizing of prohibition would also lessen the power of such delinquents and result in the dying out of such underground organizations and keep the communities safer.
Prohibition was also largely associated with religious views seen in group such as the WCTU and their views against “demon rum” (Blumenthal 25). Alcohol was the newest drug of the time period and posed a great threat to institutions such as the Christian church because it promotes “immoral” acts and defiance of the authority.
The Volstead Act was also immensely controversial in enforcing the 18th amendment and prohibition. The Volstead Act allowed for unconstitutional forms of apprehension and conviction of crimes and also contained numerous loop holes and weaknesses. The violations of rights within the Volstead Act were given to public within the Bill of Rights and would give rise to unpopularity with law that would lead to its ultimate repeal. The weaknesses would cause nationwide infringements of the Volstead Act and drive the industry of alcohol into back corners and basements, later known as “Speakeasies and bootleggers” (National Archives).
After the 18th amendment and Volstead Act were passed, oppositions were rolling through the courts with numerous cases in regards to prohibition. A group of these cases were called the National Prohibition Cases that challenged the constitutionality of the amendment. Seven cases were brought up to the Supreme Court in which it over-ruled the complaints of the many of those against the new law. Also over the course of 13 years, two-thirds of the cases brought to U.S. District court cases were rulings of violation of the 18th amendment and Volstead Act.
A specific case of brought to the attention of the Supreme Court was the case of Carroll et al. v. United States. George Carroll was under investigation for mass transportation and distrubutation of liquor. Undercover police officials set up a faux alcohol deal but it was never completed. Carroll was later seen driving down a regulary patrolled highway and Carroll was then pursued and pulled over. His car was then searched where offcials found illegal liquor in the back seat (Engdahl 195). Due to the Natoinal Prohibition Act, police officers were given the right to search private property with a warrent if they assumed reasoning to believe that was illgally trafficed subtances. The court rulled that search without a warrent was valid, however noted that this use of warrentless searching must be accopminied by probable belife that the vehical was in fact transporting illegal substances and that the vehicle could be moved a warrant could obtained. Results of this controversy were retrospect into the validity of using this search on cars but invalidity of using this type of search on homes (National Archives).
Politically, many believed, in agreement with Robert Armstrong, that prohibition would bring about massive political reform. Tammany Hall was a large political machine that had a stranglehold on most of New York state. The Tammany Society used it’s headquarters of the saloon and a large tribute to the organized crime of bootlegging and the underground alcohol industry. Tammany Hall used it’s pull with the gangsters within the business of distributing alcohol to take over towns and gain support and create a political empire over New York City. This continued to become widespread and soon most major political figures would be gaining revenue from owning saloons and taking in information from various mobsters (SUNY). Prohibition was believed to cleanse the political hierarchy and instill “dry” leaders instead of corrupted “wet” positions.
However, the organized crime world grew exponentially with the enactment of the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act. The alcohol industry became immensely competitive at the start of prohibition due to the restrictions put into law. Therefore, any way of furthering ones revenue, actions would be put into motion. The police corruption continued with the incentive that is the mob controlled the police, they controlled the arrests and in turn, the industry of alcohol. The people that controlled the police would be able to turn a blind eye to any illegalities of their own gang and put efforts into shutting down rivaling gangs and extinguishing the competition and broadening the reaches of ones own mob. This attempt of control was achieved by mobsters such as Al Capone (Blumenthal 92). Police corruption was a unexpected result of prohibition and was vastly influential in the consequences and repeal of national prohibition.
Economically, the 18th amendment and Volstead Act were believed to reap great economic gains. In the field of labor, many manufacturers were for prohibition because a retraction of liquor and alcohol increased worker liability. Workers were to be able to be not at the influence of alcohol and were therefore more efficient in their work for industries (Behr). Nevertheless, the closing of breweries and saloons causes a major rift in the job market. Employees of the mass production companies and distribution industries, such as barrel markers and truckers, were put out of work along with waiters and bartenders that lost their source of income through saloons.
Numerous enterprises were thought to have a economic boom such as clothing and amenities without competition of alcohol. Real-estate holders and companies thought that rents would increase because the closing of saloons and liquor stores would make neighborhoods safer for inhabitants. Even the entertainment business saw gain from the fact that people would be searching for other ways of entertainment other than alcohol and saloons (Behr). However this was not the case for many. Restaurants across the nation were being shut down for lack of sales without the sale of liquor to bring in customers. Entertainment sources were barren from the mass public involved in underground entertainment like speakeasies and back-door saloons.
Another unexpected consequence of Prohibition was the major downfall of internal tax revenue. Previous to the 18th amendment, the federal tax income relied heavily on the revenue received from the excise tax of the sale and distribution of liquor within the nation to fund different state expenses. In New York, up to 70% of the state's revenue was supplied from taxation on liquor. The legislation of the 18th amendment cost the federal government over $11 million dollars in lost tax revenue (Lerner). In addition, the Volstead Act would cost another $300 million to enforce, money that would come form the tax payers and wealthy prohibitionists. This new found economic demand resulted in states and the federal government developing a reliance on other courses of income tax revenue to fund their budgets for the cost of Prohibition later on. In retrospect, the ideas of Prohibition were well-intended but resulted in the opposite of supposed effects of social, political, and economic reform.
The influence of January 16th, 1920 is far-reaching. Most immediately, the repeal of the 18th amendment and Volstead Act with 21st amendment is passed in 1933, ending the national prohibition. Within the amendment, states were also given the right to regulate alcohol laws within their own state. An unusual aspect about this amendment is that it was decided by Congress that the state populations should vote on the repeal of the 18th amendment instead of the state legislatures. The 21st amendment lead to the solution of a large amount of the problems that were brought about with prohibition. These include reducing crime by turning most of the anti-prohibitionists into law abiding citizens and reducing the power of organized crime by cutting a major source of income by reopening legal sale and distribution of alcohol (Weisberger). Another result was the restoration of taxation and revenue from excise tax on intoxicating liquors and bringing funds back into the federal reserve. Lastly, the individual choice of drinking alcohol and return of individual rights of civilians was greatly welcomed by the public.
Another influence of the “Thirteen Years that damaged America” would the great depression and the political campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Behr). The Great Depression was the consequence of numerous atrocious events within the 1920’s and the nation was great need of a revival. FDR started his political campaign with a promise for a “new deal” for the American public to revitalize the once great nation. Once elected in 1932, FDR installed multiple legislative relief systems to ease out of the economic downfall. On December 3rd, the 21st amendment was passed, reintroducing millions of dollars on excise tax to the federal income tax revenue and furthering the end of the Great Depression with the end of prohibition.
Even further influence of Prohibition is the movement against alcoholism substance abuse and the depleating “dry” counties today. The war against drugs is predicted to cause the same problems of prohibition. One of these problems foreseen by historians is that prohibition of any substance causes the formation of drug lords and cartels. However, the modern threat of safety concerns are much more intense than there were a century ago. Milton Friedman, a Noble Prize winning economist, warns against the measures of drug control that will cause immense danger in the drug and innocent bystanders like those within the 1920’s did (Engdahl 176). Another problem formed from prohibition is shrinking dry counties seen today in the United States. Dry counties are cities or areas within the United States that forbid the sale of intoxicating liquors and are more commonly found in the southern region of the country. Due to the right determine alcohol laws given to states in the 21st amendment, some states do not make illegal the sale of alcohol, which could hinder revenue from liquor taxes, but make availability of alcohol fairly limited. However, studies have shown the restricting the access to alcohol causes consumer to drive farther to get wet counties. This then causes a more larger likelihood of alcohol related collisions and a higher rating of vehicle crashes and fines in dry counties.
In conclusion, the importance of January 16th of 1920 is found throughout the history of the United States. Prohibition was the result of many previous attempts at temperance and was thought to be to solution to multiple troubles of the time. The legislation of the 18th amendment and Volstead Act caused immense influence with social and political morality and the cause of the Great Depression. Prohibition also lead to the inevitable repeal in the 21st amendment and even later acts of temperance and “dry countries today. The 18th amendment and Volstead Act are pivotal to America’s movement of rights and development of crisis aversion within its past times.