|Why did the United States have a prohibition movement, and enact prohibition?|
|Prohibition in the United States was a measure designed to reduce drinking by eliminating the businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold alcoholic beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took away license to do business from the brewers, distillers, vintners, and the wholesale and retail sellers of alcoholic beverages. The leaders of the prohibition movement were alarmed at the drinking behavior of Americans, and they were concerned that there was a culture of drink among some sectors of the population that, with continuing immigration from Europe, was spreading.
Between 1860 and 1880 America's urban population grew from 6 million to more than 14 million people. The mass of this huge increase found itself toiling in factories and sweatshops and living in dehumanized and abominable social conditions; getting drunk was there only highlight in life.
|A. The Brewing Industry|
|The history of the brewing industry in the United States and the history of the prohibition movement were closely related. Brewing became a big business in the latter part of the nineteenth century. German immigrants brought lager beer to the United States, and it proved popular. After 1890 beer surpassed distilled spirits as the principal source of beverage alcohol in the American market.|
|It was due to the technological process, like the railroad and telegraph, and especially mechanical refrigeration, that enabled the growth of "big business" in the food and also in the alcohol manufacturing; it was the start of vertically integrated firms in this economical sector. Therefore it was now possible for enterprising brewers to build very large firms capable of large production volumes and wide distribution in national and even international markets. These developments made the brewing industry the most prosperous of the beverage alcohol industries. Led by Pabst of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Annheuser Busch of St. Louis, Missouri, so-called "shipping brewers" sought to expand their markets. During this time, the brewing industry was the most prosperous of the beverage alcohol industries.
Because of the competitive nature of brewing, the brewers opened saloons, the retail establishments that sold the liquor, in order to sell more beer. One result of the changes in technology and business strategy in the American brewing industry in the late nineteenth century was the extreme proliferation of these saloons.
The aggressiveness of brewers trying to expand their retail sales through saloons meant that intense competition sometimes ensued. The number of saloons increased that high that it was not uncommon for towns to have a saloon for every 150 or 200 persons. It was difficult for a saloonkeeper to earn a profit in this context. Saloonkeepers enticed customers to drink more alcohol by providing salty "free lunches." Saloonkeepers tried to entice new customers, including young men, and even school kids, into their establishments. And they engaged in sideline vices such as gambling, cock-fighting, and prostitution in an attempt to earn profits. Many Americans considered saloons offensive, noxious institutions.
A Saloon somewhere in Ohio after 1900
A saloonkeeper staring at school kids
|B. Anti-vice feelings appear throughout the USA|
|Towards the end of the nineteenth century a lot of important political leaders of America started their crusade against the huge immorality from what the US working class and the whole society suffered. This was a response to the disruptive process of rapid industrialization and urbanization, and the influx of millions of migrants and immigrants into the cities. Native-born Americans were horrified, in particular, by Catholics from Europe with their relaxed attitude towards gambling and liquor. They felt attacked at their Protestant moral values and reacted by forming or joining anti-vice or
temperance societies, and used all their influence in state capitals and city halls to enforce more anti-vice-laws.
Illegal gambling houses operated in every city at that time, and turned promising young men into slothful idlers. The use of alcohol was said to have reached epidemic proportions. The alcohol was blamed to destroy the American working class; the gambling just took away the workers luck and money.
A greedy Saloonkeeper
|In this period the prisons were stuffed with insignificant criminals who were accused of having violated the laws in correlation with alcohol, gambling or prostitution. Therefore the temperance societies hoped to decrease the crime rate by a total suppression of any vice. Regulation and controlling the vices was inconceivable to them. They tried everything to motivate more people to their way of thinking. In order to spread the prohibition message, those crusaders were prepared to exploit the racism and xenophobia that pervaded every part of the country. A popular anti-liquor argument, for instance, was that white women had to be protected from drunken blacks. The Americans didn't like the tremendous wave of incoming new immigrants; besides the Catholics they hated especially the Italians, for being mafioso, and the Jews, for being greedy.
In 1909 Mc Clure's magazine, for example, informed its readers that "the acute and often unscrupulous Jewish type of mind was behind the liquor business" and that "the Jewish dealer in women had done most to erode the moral life of the great cities of America" (Quote: page 4, M. Woodiwiss). Crime and vice could be neatly explained to a naïve public as the work of alien and sinister rings.|
|Most managements that were searching for way to get more productivity out of their workers, blamed Alcohol to decrease work efficiency. Saloons gained power and became a principal focus of working class, and therefore a big enemy of businessmen and politicians. The saloon vote often decided the outcome of city elections and many of these went against the candidates most favored by business. Labor unions were clearly using the saloons to mobilize and organize workers, and American businessmen had no greater fear than that of a strong trade-union moving. For such reasons business found America's moral crusade an increasingly attractive investment, especially the ones that fought against saloons. And so it is not surprising at all that no anti-vice organization was better financed than the Anti-Saloon League.
An Anti-Saloon Comic
|C. The Anti-Saloon League|
|The first active movements of a whole town against these saloons took place in 1875 in Oberlin, Ohio where the citizens started resist against the upcoming wave of the opening of new saloons. After several conflicts with the law, the saloonkeepers were faced such a big resistance by the population that they saw themselves forced to abandon their bars. The little town was run dry afterwards and this was set an example for other towns; their veteran experience has made them forceful pioneers in the wider AntiSaloon campaign now under way throughout Ohio and America.
|The Ohio AntiSaloon League was founded in September 1893 at the First Congregational Church, in Oberlin. Although this was an ecclesiastical, and not a political union, they tried to influence members and officers of all the political organizations of the state. The bigger the league grew, the greater was their success and only the money of the liquor dealers could stop a state bill that prohibited the consumption of alcohol.|
After 1895, the League was on its way to become a powerful national organization. Many powerful Americans such as Mark Hanna and John D. Rockefeller supported the League in order to help the US society and especially the desperate working class of the cities. The League worked closely together with churches across the United States in order to marshal more resources for the prohibition fight.
The prohibition leaders believed that once license to do business was removed from the liquor traffic, the churches and reform organizations would enjoy an opportunity to persuade Americans to give up drink. This opportunity would occur unchallenged by the drink businesses ("the liquor traffic") in whose interests it was to urge more Americans to drink, and to drink more alcohol. The blight of saloons would disappear from the landscape, and saloonkeepers would no longer be allowed to encourage people, including children, to drink alcohol. The misery due to this beverage would be gone forever.
|In 1913, in a 20th anniversary convention held in Columbus, Ohio, the League announced its campaign to achieve national prohibition through a constitutional amendment. Allied with other temperance forces, especially the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the League in 1916 ensured the votes of the two-thirds majorities necessary in both houses of Congress to initiate what
became the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.|
But not all the middle and upper class Americans supported the idea of prohibition. Even as the amendment's ratification campaign reached its climax, a few skeptical powerful businessmen were organizing the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment AAPA. The Association was not in favor of drinking but its members took cognizance of the danger of a total prohibition of alcohol at an early stage of the prohibition movement. They didn't accept the bad influence of the saloons on the American working class either and worked out anti-saloonist alternatives to prohibition. In 1921 the AAPA received new support in form of the Rockefellers, who first assisted the Anti-Saloon League at the state level but now switched the side as he saw the secondary effects of prohibition. Between 1928 and 1930, at the end of the prohibition era, the membership rolls increased 360 percent, from 12,000 to 432,000.
The Ohio Dry Campaign
|D. The Eighteenth Amendment and the National Prohibition or Volstead Act|
|On December 18, 1917, the joint resolution was adopted by both houses with the required constitutional majority and was transmitted to the states for their consideration. On January 29, 1919, the Secretary of State, by proclamation, announced that on January 16th thirty-six states had ratified the amendment and therefore it had become a part of the Constitution. It was subsequently ratified by ten additional states. It became effective on January 16, 1920, as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the pertinent sections of which are as follows:
" Sec. 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage, purposes is hereby prohibited.
The Saloons had to go but just for short time
" Sec. 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation"|
The absolute prohibitions of the Amendment extend only to the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, or exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes. The Amendment does not prohibit the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, or exportation of alcoholic liquors, which are not intoxicating, or of intoxicating liquors for other than beverage purposes. It does not define intoxicating liquors or directly prohibit the purchase, possession by the purchaser, or use of any liquor, whether intoxicating or otherwise. The power to deal with these questions is vested in Congress under the provisions of Section 2 of the Amendment, or left to the several states.
In pursuance of this authority, in October, 1919 Congress passed the National Prohibition Act. In the title to this act three distinct purposes are stated: (1) to "prohibit intoxicating beverages", (2) to "regulate the manufacture, production, use and sale of high proof spirits for other than beverage purposes", and (3) to "insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries".