Was Prohibition Bound To Fail?
a) The two accounts consider Prohibition from different viewpoints. They offer slightly different reasons as to why Prohibition was introduced although the intentions are the same. They also agree on the outcome of it's implementation.
Source A, taken from an American History book published in 1973 discusses the differing reasons why Prohibition was considered to be a good idea, It mentions "the bad influence of saloons." Source B, taken from a different American History book published in 1979, agrees with Source A. It is more detailed in that it mentions a crusade by the "Women's Christian Temperance Union" against "one of the great evils of the times - alcoholism."
The two sources also agree when mentioning the conservation of grain. The First World War was in progress and many people felt that food for the population should come before alcohol. Source A mentions this specifically, referring to "the wartime concern for preserving grain for food." Source B makes a more oblique reference to the 1917 "nation-wide campaign, led by the Anti-Saloon League." This campaign was organised to make congress "ban the use of grain for either distilling or brewing."
Source A also briefly mentions the Anti-Saloon League influencing this decision. The two sources do not directly agree on the outcome of Prohibition's introduction, although they infer that the result was the same.
Source A refers directly to Prohibition creating "the greatest criminal boom in American History" whereas Source B says that "Gangsters like Dutch Schulz and Al Capone had turned the avoidance of Prohibition into big, violent business. Therefore it can be seen that both sources agree.
The reason why Prohibition caused so much criminal activity and problems in American Society is also referenced in both sources. Again they do not explain this in the same way. Source A describes prohibition as producing an unrivalled amount of "widespread crime." It goes on to say "no earlier law had gone against the daily customs, habits and desires of so many Americans." Source B can be seen to agree with this when using a quote by Al Capone. He says his is supporting the American population's desire for alcohol. Al Capone considered that Prohibition has created a new entrepreneurial possibilities, he said "Prohibition is a business" and went on to say "all I do is supply a public demand."
Therefore on first studying the two sources it could be concidered that they are dissimilar, however, with a more thorough investigation it can be seen that, in the most part, they agree.
b) The Artists for the two posters shown as Source C and Source D are in agreement.
Source C depicts a man drinking in what it refers to as "The Poor Mans Club." It is entitled "Slaves of the saloon" inferring that men were owned by the Public Houses because they did not want, or were not able, to break free of alcohol. It can be seen that men would go into a saloon on payday and spend their week's wages on drink. In the smaller picture a woman can be seen slumped over the table in despair and her child looking into an empty dinner bowl. The quote describing this picture says "it keeps its members and their families always poor."
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Source D, entitled "Daddy's in there" shows two children looking at a saloon. They go onto say "our shoes and stockings and food are in the saloon too, and they'll never come out." This is a direct reference to men spending their wages, which would normally be used for housekeeping, in the saloon. It shows children as being made to suffer as money meant to provide them with clothes and shoes would be spent on alcohol.
The two sources use different emotions to say the same thing. Source A in the larger picture appears sarcastic and a 'put down' to the men who went in saloons. In the smaller tableau it portrays the despair and suffering of their families in a way that makes the viewer feel pity. Source D uses a more "tug on the old heart strings" way of saying the same thing. Men spend their wages in saloons instead of on their families.
c) When considering which source, from E a letter written in 1932, by John D Rockerfeller, Jr. and F, a quote from a speech by John F. Kramer, the first Prohibition Commisisoner, is the most reliable it is first important to look at the roles of the men concerned.
John D. Rockerfeller was a wealthy industrialist. In his work as a businessman he was used to considering the need to supply what the public demanded. In order to earn money he realised it was useless to stop producing something the public wanted to buy. In this repsect he was quite practical. This realisation may not have been in accordance with his personal opinion but he was able to see both sides of the argument.
John F. Kramer, as the first Prohibition Commissioner had the task of enforcing Prohibition. In order to secure this position he would have to have had to be a great supporter of Prohibition. The quote from his speech shows him to be quite single minded in his views towards the law. "The law will be obeyed in cities, large or small, and in villages." He comes across as having tunnel vision with regard to the Prohibition law with no indication that in his professional or personal opinion there was any room for manoeuvre. He says "the law says that liquor must not be manufactured." He could not see that it would be impractical and an impossibility to enforce it. John F. Kramer showed a blind belief that he and his 1500 Prohibition Agents would be able to uphold this law and be able to ensure that alcohol would not be produced. He says that if it is against the law to manufacture alcohol "we shall see that it is not. Nor sold, nor given away."
Source E is the more reliable piece of evidence about Prohibition. It traces the hope behind its introduction. John D. Rockerfeller says "I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion." He goes onto descirbe the aim of the implementation of the law when he says he looked forward to the day "when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognised." This quote describes what would have been a general realisation amongst politicions and others that "this has not been the result." He shows on insight into human nature that people generally want what they can't have when he says "drinking has generally increased." Rockerfeller describes supply and demand with a regard to illegal substances saying "a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared." This speech shows that this need has no class boundories in that "many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition." The law was proven to be unpopular across the entire population, Rockerfeller recognised this "respect for the law has been greatly lessened." He was able to see the result of its iintorduction when he mentions that "crime has increased to a level never seen before."
Therefore, Source E, depicts a well balanced piece of evidence. Rockerfeller's views may not have been dissimilar to Kramer's but he was able to look at Prohibition and the result of its introduction far more objectively.
d) Sources G and H prove that Prohibition was not successful. There are underlying reasons other than alcohol which explain some of the figures shown however it can be seen that generally the offences discussed increased.
Arguments against these sources being a reliable way to see if Prohibiton was a success are that the years shown in both charts are not the same. Figures are missiong for the intervening years.
Source H, statistics published by the 'City of Philadelphia Police Department' represent "arrests for drinking-related offences." However these figures are for one state only and cannot be considered to be a fair representation of what was happening across America as a whole.
Source H also shows offences relating to drink driving. It must be remembered that the number of cars on the road increased dramatically during 1920 - 25. Cars also became more affordable and were not necessarily out of the reach of the working man.
Some of the figures in Source H would also be inaccurate as, like today, many crimes are unreported or undiscovered.
Source G may not be a reliable resource as it does not show a breakdown of where the seizures took place. They may have been evenly distributed across America of there may have been places where the enforcement was more successful than others.
Having taken all of this into account it can, on the whole, be seen that Prohibition was unsuccessful when comparing Source G, activities of Federal government agents enforcing Prohibition 1921-9 and Source H.
If it is thought that the statistics for Philadelphia gave a true guideline for the rest of America and that the figures in Source G could be considered to be proportional for each state. It can be seen that:
In 1920 that total number of drink related crimes was 20,410.
In 1921, the following year, 9,746 stills were seized and 414,000 gallons of spirits were impounded.
Despite this by 1923 the total number of drink related crimes had increased to 53,947. This is despite it being illegal to produce, buy or sell alcohol.
The figures for 1925 are shown in both sources. 12,023 stills and 11,030,000 gallons of spirits were seized. This portrays the ineffectiveness of the law as, obviously, much more alcohol was being manufactured illegally.
The increase, in 1925, of the number of gallons of spirit seized, is reflected in a proportionally smaller jump in the total number of drink related crimes to 57,703.
Even though the enforcement of the law appears to be more successful with an increase in the illegal stills seized to 15,794 and gallons of spirit to 11,860,000. This increase also shows that generally the law was being ignored more and more. This proves therefore, that Prohibition was not a success.
e) Source I, a cartoon from the time of Prohibition entitled "The National Gesture" shows leading members of society looking for a 'backhander.'
The cartoon is obviously a drawn representation of someones viewpoint, of which they may not have had any personal experience.
It shows a Prohibition Agent, Police Officer, Politician, Magistrate, Party Official and a Clerk holding out their hands, behind their backs, in order to accept a bribe.
Cartoons were easily understood by everyone, even those who were illiterate and were used as propaganda. They are usually a caricature or exagerration of what was actually happening. Obviously not all of the above officals accross America were accepting bribes to break the law. Having said this it must have been a commonplace event and contained an element of truth to have been depicted at all.
Source J is a quote from a policeman talking about Chicago in the 1920's. Chicago was considered, alongside New York, to be the home of the speakeasy and had a denser population of gangsters than many other parts of America.
The Policeman describes being welcomed rather than feared by the saloon keepers. He also says that he felt that he was supposed to drink. The way the Policeman speaks appears to make him feel that he is a victim and was unable to say "no" he says "The bottle was there and you were supposed to drink."
Source J goes on to describe the inability of the ordinary Policeman to enforce Prohibition as "it was a conspiracy and my superior officers were involved in it." He gives a first hand account of being almost forced to take a bribe himself. He describes being in 12th street and a man running up to him, giving him an envelope and saying "This is for you." The man disappeared and when the Policeman opened the envolope "there was $75 in it."
The Policeman says that he was welcomed by saloon keepers and drank when expected to. The cartoon in I shows a Police Officer amongst others who were corrupt.
The Policeman says that his superiors were involved in the conspiracy which is supported by source I showing that all levels of law enforcement were involved in taking backhanders.
The Policeman describes being given a bribe which is again supported by the cartoon shoiwng people accepting bribes.
Source I proves that the Policeman in Source J is telling the truth.
f) All the Sources used when considering "Was Prohibition Bound To Fail" support the veiw that the failure of Prohibition was inevitable.
Although it is said that Historians disagree on why Prohibition was thought to be a good idea it appears from the resources that many of the supporting groups were, to some degree, fanatics.
The sources mention:
"Feelings against the German-Americans", people important to the brewery trade;
The Anti-Saloon League, which may have been widely supported by women as many men were away in the forces. The women were disillusioned by seeing their men's wages being spent on drink;
The 'War to Make the World Safe for Democracy' which was described as inspiring "moral fervour";
The Women's Christian Temperance Union were described as being on a "crusade".
John D. Rockerfeller, who was well known in America, described the effect of alcohol to be 'evil' - a very strong word.
John F. Kramer expressed an emphatic intention to enforce the law.
All of the above have a zealous feel to their views of Prohibition. The support of the law by these groups in the Resources gives the reader the impression that they were "do-gooders" who thought they knew what was best for those considered too ignorant to make an informed decision for themselves. They were unable to see that this would be resented by the general populace and that telling someone what they should not do was going to be rebelled against and inevitably would fail.
The statistical resources support the view that Prohibition would fail as they, on the whole, show that despite the amount of alcohol being taken off the market people were still drinking. The people were, therefore, not respecting this law.
Cartoons were intended to appeal and be understood by all walks of life and support the view that the law would not work as everyone was involved in breaking it.
The first hand account by the Policeman shows the hoplessness of the situation as he makes no real effort to "stick to his guns" and support the law but goes along with the majority, turning a 'blind-eye' to the law.
All the resources in their own way support each other to show that from all aspects it was inevitable that Prohibition would fail.