Prohibition was a fascinating glimpse in the history of America from 1920 to 1933 in which the constitution of the U.S. was amended approving a restriction on favorite pastimes of America, that is drinking alcoholic beverages. This prohibition was covered in the 18th Amendment in which manufacture, transportation, and sale of beverages that can intoxicate was banned. It was initiated by a mighty alliance of progressives and moralists, xenophobes and suffragists. This prohibition became the culmination of political and social activism which had prevailed for several decades by the formation of a broad coalition composed mainly of anti-alcohol Americans. The entire effect of this ban was to enforce temperance on the social, legal, and political conventions. The main aim of this paper is to describe the events that resulted from the policy prohibiting alcohol, the effects of this ban on the social, legal, and political attitude of the Americans, and finally the circumstances that led to its repealing.
The Amendment drew a lot of mixed reactions from different people and institutions; for instance, some perceived it as a negative move arguing that the prohibition would have led to organized crime while others welcomed the Amendment saying that it was a relief since there became less drinking among Americans; that trend lasted for several decades. When the Amendment was voted in, it was quickly dismissed as a ‘dry’ spell by some of the distillers and barons of beer. It also led to introduction of new beer and near beer products on the shelves. Nevertheless, marketing had to involve new strategies to avoid violating some of the specific legal terms spelled out in the prohibition. In addition, home winemaking increased at the time to reduce exposure or easy notice by government agencies.
These were indications that the Amendment was heading to failure, and there were new ways found around prohibition by illustrating the ingenuity of Americans in supporting the Amendment. Hence a new version of illegal nature of alcohol came into existence. It was now difficult for the government authority to regulate the illegal alcohol. This led to increased cases of customer poisoning by the unscrupulous bootleggers with concoctions prepared from isopropyl and wood alcohol which led to blindness, paralysis, or even death of many users
Due to the negative effects rampantly witnessed in the American society, there was almost an exponential growth of opposition to the Prohibition which gave a clear signal that there could be an unprecedented Constitutional repeal of the Amendment. This 14-year era of prohibition is characterized by great law breaking that is unparalleled in the history. It is claimed that the prohibition limited the rights of individual citizens instead of the government activities; this is what triggered the resulting hostile reception. This amendment is recorded to be the only constitutional amendment that has ever been repealed.
An American tycoon, Pierre du Pont, led the Association which was championing the repealing of both the prohibition and the federal income tax which the government had established to make up for the revenues generated from the alcohol business which has now been banned. They argued that prohibition was responsible for increased criminality and a sheer demonstration o f institutionalized hypocrisy in addition to depriving the government of its revenue. At the same time, this ban stripped the political system of its gears in addition to having profound limitations imposed on individual rights.
The successes of banning the prohibition led to prohibition’s ‘most enduring legacy’ which was a lesson on social law and policy making which now is more applicable in the contemporary America. This means that from what turned out in the alcohol prohibition, it was learnt that it is not possible for the nation to legislate personal morality. As a result of this, those advocating for drugs to be legalized have managed to have parallels to their own arguments drawn. For instance, marijuana legalization supporters have had the audacity to adamantly push for their cause with reference to the alcohol prohibition failures. The legalization is not discriminating on the use, that is, whether it is for recreation or for medicinal purposes (Okrent, 2010).
There were successes in the prohibition also as much as there were overwhelming failures that eventually led to its repealing. The drinking levels of Americans had decreased greatly, and that trend remained for several following decades. For example, the peak for pre prohibition per capita of 2.6 gallons of alcohol approximately consumed per person annually was only reached in 1973. Thus, repealing of the prohibition did not mean opening the spigots of alcohol beverages. This means that the reasons for the prohibition had been welcome. The statistics on the amount of alcohol consumed during the 19th century provides an understanding of where the anti-alcohol movement came from and the time it took to form a coalition and fight for this amendment to be enacted. Repealing meant the replacement of everything that had to be done with ethos and regulations, a series of state codes which vary with states or enforcement procedures that would now successfully regulate the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages.
The prohibition also revealed a remarkable set of myths. The first myth indicated that production and consumption of alcoholic beverages did not stop during the era of prohibition which was a fact. This means that prohibition had no impact whatsoever on the trends and tendencies of drinking such beverages. The second one is that it was illegal to drink alcohol during prohibition. However, the fact is that it was never illegal to drink alcoholic beverages but to sell them. The author explained carefully that the prohibition was most successful when it was less rigorously enforced or rather not approached with much seriousness. On this note, the Amendment was to be effected later after ratification so as to allow the distillers to clear their stocks and at the same time to allow the customers to fill their cellars in preparation for the coming dry season when it would be impossible to access alcohol.
The third myth is that Prohibition is said to have destroyed the wine grape industry in California. However, the fact is that the grape business in California flourished most during this era since every family was legally allowed to make 100 gallons of wine annually. This led to a boom production of home wine makers although at the time, the wine was not of as good quality as it is now. There are also other myths that claim that President Joe Kennedy never drank alcohol, just as Franklin Roosevelt was not good as a young senator. He later sponsored a Prohibition bill for the New Yolk while Herbert Hoover is believed to have stopped over in Belgian Embassy to have a drink while from Washington.
Living through the Prohibition ordeal provided the truth concerning the claim that the conjunction of the suffrage of women, the entry of the U.S. into World War I, and income tax legalization set the congenial political environment suitable for a change where there underlie unintended consequences. Since it took several decades to appreciate this case, a disaster followed in every possible measure that was introduced in the Senate. The introduction of Prohibition led to the change of the voters’ mind as well as their representatives. For instance, out of the 22 senators present in the Congress who had voted for the establishment of Prohibition, 17 changed their minds and voted for its repealing 16 years later. This was a surprising phenomenon illustrating how political fortunes can be politically reversed (Shenfelter et al, n.d).
The enforcement of the prohibition did not however proceed smoothly due to the lack of an efficient way of enforcing the laws which were set by the 18th Amendment. This is because the public sometimes perceived the rules as unnecessary and arbitrary and hence was capable of breaching them. The law enforcement agents were consequently overwhelmed by illegal distribution of alcohol which was now dramatically on the rise.
Both failures to allocate resources for pursuing the unanticipated task as well as the contribution of American geography played a big role as difficulties for the enforcement of the prohibition. This further indicates that the law was not pragmatically enforced, and the legislature did not in many cases agree with the opinion of the general public. This is the major circumstances that led to the repealing of the prohibition in the 21st Amendment (The Eighteenth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act, 1931)
Prohibition was quite exciting and at the same time a puzzling issue in the American history; the law was introduced on its basis as the commonly shared view among its supporters. The 18th Amendment on Prohibition was introduced at a right time when America sank in freedom, and drinking alcoholic beverages was a worrying trend. This Amendment attracted both acceptance and rejection. It was observed that although production, selling, and consumption of alcoholic beverages did not entirely stop, there was a great decrease in the amount of annually consumed alcohol per capita.
There were a lot of myths that arose based on the extent of cooperation of the Americans obeying the law. This law met much opposition due to its contribution to organized crimes, failure to monitor by law enforcing agents, and insufficient funds to monitor the unanticipated task of enforcement. As a result, this became the only amendment to be repealed. However, despite repealing, many countries also introduced the alcohol prohibition law and were able to control the production, transport, and consumption of the alcoholic beverages.