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Why Did Prohibition Last so Long?

In: Historical Events

Submitted By xride09
Words 1017
Pages 5
Why did Prohibition last so long? 30 Marks
Prohibition of Alcohol in America was introduced in 1920 with the 18th amendment of the constitution and was finally revoked in 1933. Prohibition was always considered a failure, due to the way it was policed, the fact the American people at the time liked to drink and the fact that alcohol was very easily accessible. Therefore the fact it lasted thirteen years, despite it being obvious within the first five that things were not working, seems incomprehensible. There are a number of factors which worked together to make prohibition last as long as it did. The most important being morale reasons behind introducing it at first, but the popularity of prohibition, the time it to repeal a law and the fact it didn’t really affect people’s lives too much also had an effect.
Firstly, a reason why prohibition lasted so long was due to morale reasons. Reasons that were used to get the law passed in the first place still stood and people sympathised with them. For example many women’s groups saw alcohol as a means by which men oppressed them, and also though that the money spent on drink could be better used amongst the family with raising children and other general necessities. This attitude didn’t stop during the prohibition years as people were still drinking and hence propaganda regarding prohibition still bore the pictures of families with mothers and children longing for their husbands/fathers to support prohibition. Also drinking alcohol at home was still permitted with numerous alcohol companies such as Budweiser still advertising in newspapers. The Woman’s Temperance society played a big part in this. It wasn’t just the domestic morals which were attacked by prohibition it was the industrial ones too. Big businesses saw drunkenness as something that led to danger and more importantly inefficiency in the work place, particularly in large factories where hazardous machinery was used. For example the Rockefeller Corporation and Heinz supported prohibition in the interest of greater workforce efficiency.
Secondly, another reason why prohibition lasted so long was due to little opposition. People and groups with anti-prohibition attitudes were very unorganised with their rallies, parades and protests. Only two major protests took place, a parade in Baltimore and a march in New York which resulted in very little awareness in regard for abolition prohibition. Also it was the norm for American politicians during the time to declare weather they were ‘wets or drys.’ Many politicians did not want to be seen as ‘wets’ as it would harm their political identity and careers. WW1 also played a part in the retention of prohibition. Grain was needed to make alcohol, however during the war grain as needed to provide food. People believed that through prohibition, they were being patriotic as it would help out the soldiers. Correspondingly many Americans had anti-German sentiments due to the war and as a result boycotted the German Brewing companies such as Ruppert, Pabst and Lieber.

Lastly, an additional reason why prohibition lasted so long was due to prohibition as a base for crime and profit. In towns people wanted their saloons back, so the gangsters gave them speakeasies – select drinking clubs and night clubs. The gangsters provided the best quality liquor and they charged huge prices for it. They were soon fighting each other for control of this flourishing illegal trade. The reason why so many gangsters were able to get away with illegal activities was down to corruption. They were simply able to bribe policemen, judges and politicians. Gangsters were making so much money that they could easily afford small bribes in order to continue their bootlegging. Gangsters would also tamper with the ballot boxes to ensure that their own people got elected as officials and judges. A few large monopolies used prohibition to make enormous profits. These organisations were able to influence politicians through bribes and therefore control prohibition. A famous millionaire through bootlegging was George Remus who bought up various breweries on the eve of prohibition for the manufacturing of medicinal alcohol. He then arranged for 3000 gangsters to hijack his products and divert them to cities. He made $5 in 5 years. The nature of corruption enabled prohibition to continue as it meant officials could earn quick money and the gangsters could continue to run their operations.
In conclusion it is evident that prohibition lasted 13 years due to many factors. Through prohibition supporters, such as the women, who also had their own support groups involved, as well as religious groups, big business owners and the gangsters, it can easily be seen that they played a key role in affecting the length of the prohibition. Other factors such as the people's sentiments towards alcohol during the First World War, the positive effects of prohibition as well as the 'laissez-faire' government, who played no intervention in battling the illegal manufacturing and selling of alcohol by gangsters, also played large roles. The fact that there was little to no interference on the people who opposed the prohibition's part also helped in elongating the prohibition. However, when analysing the different factors, it can be suggested that the greatest factor was the morality of it. Morality involved what the society believed was the right thing to do and what was not, and can be seen as the foundation for almost all supporters. Religious groups, as well as the many religious supporters, were for prohibition because they believed alcohol led to 'sin' and 'wrong-doing', suggesting that they believed that the prohibition was the right thing for society as it would stop people from sinning. Other factors such as the impact of the First World War also had to do with morality, as many believed the prohibition was the right thing to do for their soldiers. Woman and families also link with morality, as they saw the prohibition as a means of mending family conditions affected by alcohol, as well as putting an end to abuse and oppression by men. Overall, I believe morality was the key factor in elongating the prohibition.…...

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