Coursework Assignment- Why did Prohibition Fail?
The act of Prohibition was introduced within the American culture during the twentieth century, within the subject of alcoholic abuse and increasing establishments of saloon bars within rural and urban states. The act of Prohibition was introduced due to the strong temperance movements within the rural states present in the nineteenth century; which included Devout Christians and the Anti- Saloon League presenting their ideas and opinions on the effects of alcoholic abuse within the family environment. The members involved within the groups which created the stigma of alcohol, in the act of Prohibition, presented their case on a political view within their local state. The states were persuaded to prohibit the sale of alcohol, which lead into a wide spread National law on the purchase of alcohol.
The Prohibition act came into effect on January 16th 1920, as Prohibition became a law under the Volstead act. Prohibition was set to improve the social, health and crime effects of alcohol within the country. The use of patriotic pride was used to decline the alcoholic abuse present within the country; as many German breweries were exporting alcohol which was being purchased by American citizens. The First World War boosted the amount of dries (non-alcohol consumers), due to the un-patriotic movement of drinking German products. The Bolshevism community within the Russian revolution thrived on the use of alcohol, which created lawlessness in society. Russia was one of many countries which introduced Prohibition, known as the “Suhoy Zakon”, but America wanted to prevent the act of communism within society, which created the final amendment stated. Politicians backed the Prohibition act due to the fears of communism, but with the added bonus of rural votes for the Politicians involved, as this was a strong view present in rural states. Prohibition was present from the 1920’s up to the year of 1933, but why did Prohibition fail?. This question is a debatable topic within the subject of American History, as Prohibition did prove successful illustrating a decline of alcoholic drinkers, but in this essay I will discuss the problems which ended the law of Prohibition in the 1930’s.
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Prohibition was seen as a successful law within rural states, but many urban states did not comply with the law; which was seen as a failure as a law should apply to all states or districts of a country. The state of Maryland did not introduce the law of Prohibition, which illustrated the first problem involved in the failure of the “noble experiment”. The poor presence of public support created a downfall for Prohibition which saw the birth of Prohibition agents, two successful agents Isadore Einstein and his deputy Moe Smith. These agents saw the closure of speakeasies within America, as they ordered drinks in the speakeasies, taking samples to arrest offenders. The agents made 4392 arrests within the illegal bars (speakeasies), but public determination on the consumption and purchase of alcohol saw the rise of illegal imports of alcohol, which proved too wide spread for the control of government agents.
Enforcement of the Prohibition law proved impossible to keep under control, as illegal imports of alcohol from Canada-across the widespread border and the purchase of alcohol out of USA waters proved inevitable to prevent. The agents were concentrated within the city environments, to prevent the increasing consumption of alcohol in illegal speakeasies. Each agent was poorly funded in the law of Prohibition, which created the rise of illegal stills and bootleggers. Bootleggers produced moonshine, which consisted of a higher concentration of pure alcohol, which caused the deaths of many purchasers of the alcohol. The moonshine contained a high concentration of alcohol, due to the un-professional production of alcohol within stills. Bootleggers became rich people within society, with known fortunes from the Prohibition era, as in the case of Al Capone who earned a vast fortune of $60 million. The production of moonshine saw the increase in illegal stills, with many people making their own whiskey for sale in the speakeasies. Agents seized 280,000 distilleries, but this is only a proportion of stills in use within the period. The Prohibition act is thought to have created more interest in the act of alcohol drinking, as there were more speakeasies than saloons in many cities, due to the vast profit margins involved with selling moonshine. This is one stable reason to conclude the failure of Prohibition, but the factor of crime and gangs- which were supposed to be prevented through Prohibition- contributed to the failure of Prohibition, due to large scale violence within the St. Valentine’s massacre.
The most common image of Prohibition is the era of the powerful gangsters who made their fortunes from the selling of illegal liquor, within local speakeasies of their city. Sources suggest that organised crime gangs made fortunes of about $2 billion out of the trade and sale of alcohol. The gangsters were present all over the USA, but the city of Chicago was closely associated with the presence of gangs. The gangsters on the whole came from poorer immigrant backgrounds, which are closely tied from the melting pot of American society. The concept of immigrants making a fortune off the country which gave them a better quality of life, against the law of the country; I believe is an ironic situation to have, as the guests of a country create fortunes against the political view. This was a large factor of the birth of the gangsters during the era, as they came mainly from Jewish, Polish, Irish and Italian backgrounds. The gangsters were full of cunning and ruthless ideas, which ended in the massacre of many gangs on St. Valentine’s Day. The gangs fought viciously with each other to control the liquor and Prostitution trade, within the speakeasies environments. The gangs made good use of new technology, with automobiles and the Thompson sub machine gun to concentrate the use of fear and violence on other opposing gangs. Dan O’Banion, Pete and Vince Guizenberg, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone were some of the most ruthless gang leaders at the time of Prohibition. In Chicago alone, there were 130 gang member murders within 1926 and 1927 and not one arrest was made. This was the effect of the fear of the gangs, which proved successful in preventing law enforcement against their trade. Gangster leader Al Capone is one of the famous gangsters in relation to the prohibition law, as his tactics of violence and cunning intuition within society illustrated a strong profile in the public eye. Capone was a regular at sport games, with cheered applause of fans as Capone donated generously to local charities, with the case of $30,000 on a soup kitchen for the unemployed. The violent side of Capone’s leadership was illustrated with the beating of a betrayed member to his loyalty, which included the beating of a baseball bat, causing immense damage to his un-loyal members. The un-predictable behaviour of the gang member proved successful in his own right, with the control of the mayor (William Hale Thompson) under the generous pledges of charity.
Prohibition led to a massive widespread corruption within the services of Law enforcement during this period, as fear of gangster violence and briberies persuaded the law enforcement officers to turn a blind eye to the law of Prohibition, which was one of the main reasons for the failure of the “noble experiment”. Large breweries were bribing many local government officials for their businesses to stay in production. Briberies included money and in some cases alcohol, which was creating a large corrupt police force within larger cities of the USA. The conviction of guilty bootleggers was seen to die out, as many judges accepted the bribe of payment from suspected criminals. A national cartoon from the Prohibition era named- “The National Gesture”, illustrated the large corruption involved in this time period, due to the illustrated hand behind the back picture incorporated into bribery. Many businesses thrived on the corruption of Law enforcement, but most importantly the law enforcers were making a profit out of the law they were supposed to be protecting, creating a mockery of Prohibition.
In conclusion, I believe the most probable reason for the failure of the Prohibition era is the factor of the widespread corruption involved, as law enforcers were making a profit out of a law set by the national government. If the law is not being enforced by the enforcers, then the law is non valid, which was supposed to improve social benefits; but this proved incorrect, as large scale bribery increased the production of alcohol. The prohibition era caused national tax problems, which was successfully reversed in the re-introduction of legal drinking. This factor of tax could be a possible reason for ending the Prohibition on a political view, but I believe the corruption of law enforcement was the most important reason, as there is no law without law enforcement present.