|US History Homepage||List Of My Classmates' Sites|
Prohibition was a movement
started by Protestant congregations and women's groups who wished
to eliminate the consumption of alcohol in the United States.
By 1830, the American population consumed 7.1 gallons of alcohol
per capita on an annual basis. The advocates of Prohibition felt
that alcoholism was a problem in America that couldn't be cured
unless enforcement was put in place by the government.
From the beginning,
there were many who didn't agree with the banning of alcohol.
The main opposition came from working class men, Catholics and
Germans who had alcohol more integrated into their culture (Legislating,
231). Also the first Acts which prohibited the distribution of
alcohol interfered with laws dealing with interstate trade (Prohibition
and, 283). There were other arguments as well. In an article
in the San Francisco Examiner from 1914 one man states that the
reasons to not enact Prohibition are threefold. First, a government
shouldn't limit the freedom of their people. With prohibition,
the government is constraining its citizens. Secondly, prohibition
promotes intolerance and therefore contrary to the religious views
of the American people. Finally, it would involve destroying property
which he felt was unnecessary and wrong ("Argument").
Yet by the beginning
of the twentieth century, more and more recognized the problems
that arose from alcohol consumption. Employers were forced to
pay the many liquor related accidents that occurred at work. Alcohol
had become so deeply integrated into American society that there
were more saloons than schools, libraries, hospitals, theaters,
parks or churches (Prohibition, 320). All of this led the temperance
campaign of the late 19th century to the "drive for Prohibition"
of the first twenty years of the 1900's (Legislating, 231). Supporters
of Prohibition were known as "dry" where as non- supporters
were known as "wet". By enforcing prohibition of alcohol,
advocates hoped to decrease crime, poverty and "improve the
quality of life" (Poholek).
The politicians that
supported Prohibition were part of the Progressive Movement, although
the concept seems conservative. Prohibition included many "moral
ideals" of the Progressive Movement. Supporters of Prohibition
felt that alcohol conflicted with religious teachings which the
Progressives felt was very important. In addition, the Progressives
felt that they improved the lifestyles of the lower-class by increasing
the efficiency caused by sobriety (Clark 1965, 123).
On January 16, 1920, the 18th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which prohibited "the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors." This amendment stated that no alcoholic beverage could be sold, manufactured, imported or exported legally in the U.S. Soon after, the Volstead Act was written so that medicinal alcohol could still be used. It classified illegal alcoholic beverages as those that contain more 5% alcohol content (Poholek).