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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Prohibition - 1613 words
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Prohibition, which was also known as The Noble Experiment, lasted in America from 1920 until 1933. There are quite a few results of this experiment: innocent people suffered; organized crime grew into an empire; the police, courts, and politicians became increasingly corrupt; disrespect for the law grew; and the per capita consumption of the prohibited substance-alcohol-increased dramatically, year by year. These results increased each of the thirteen years of this Noble Experiment, and they never returned to the levels that existed before 1920. Prohibition did not happen instantly, it settled on the country gradually, community by community, town by town, and eventually state by state for almost a century. The onset of National Prohibition in 1920 was merely the final blow. The first of the laws, such as the one in Virginia in 1619, through New Hampshire's law of 1719 were against drunkenness, not against drinking.
The first law that limited liquor sales was implemented because of the religious beliefs of citizens. This particular law was passed in New York in 1697; it ordered that all public drinking establishments be closed on Sunday because, on the Lord's day, people should be worshiping the Bible not the bottle. In 1735, the religious had a prohibition law enacted for the entire state of Georgia. The law was a complete failure and was abandoned in 1742. For the most part, however, during the 1700s and early 1800s, those opposing liquor on religious grounds used sermons and persuasion rather than politics and laws to make their point
These persuasive efforts were known as the Temperance Movement, and its goal was to get everyone to voluntarily temper use of spirits. Maine went completely dry in 1851 and, by 1855, so had New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York Alabama passed a Prohibition law in 1907 which became effective on January 1, 1909. Also in Alabama, the publishing of liquor advertisements and the circulation of other materials containing alcohol and liquor advertisements were prohibited in 1915. By 1920, thirty-three states encompassing 63% of the country had already voted themselves dry (Cherrington 344). The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified by the necessary number of states on January 29, 1919 and on January 29 1920 Prohibition became the law of the land. Those people that planned on giving up drinking after it became illegal treated January 28, 1920 as if it were New Year's Eve and planned to begin abiding by their "New Year's resolutions" the next day. By the 1890's prohibitionists were also prominent in the school boards.
Anti-alcohol material was found even in the school houses. In some parts of the country young children were asked to memorize this pledge. "I promise not to buy, sell, or give alcoholic liquors while I live; from all tobacco I'll abstain and never take God's name in vain." (Fisher 241) Evangelist Billy Sunday also claimed that "hell will forever be for rent," as a cause of alcohol and looked forward to living a country "so dry, she can't spit." A group known as the Anti-Saloon League claimed "Now for an era of clear thinking and clean living." (Cherrington, 207) Also as the result of Prohibition a Long Island church leaflet declared "An enemy has been overthrown and victory crowns the forces of righteousness." There were ways that people who wanted a drink could get one in dry states. As there almost always is there were loopholes. The primary loophole was this: since interstate commerce was regulated by the federal government and not by the individual states, a person could order liquor by mail.
As state after state across the country became dry, the parcel post wagon jingled, jangled, clinked, and sloshed from house to house. This infuriated the people that remained dry and as a result in 1913, the Interstate Liquor Act, prohibiting the shipment of alcohol into dry states, was passed over President Taft's veto. (Behr 130-133) The saloons went underground and became speakeasies and there were lots of them. The sixteen thousand saloons in New York City, for example, became from about thirty two thousand to more than one hundred thousand speakeasies. One of the most famous of these was the Stork Club owned and founded by Sherman Billingsley. Billingsley started selling bootleg liquor out of a drug store when he was only twelve years old. Beer with an alcohol content of less than one-half-of-one percent named 'near beer'was legal.
In order to make it, however, you had to make regular beer and then boil off the alcohol. Every so often, somebody forgot to take that last step and real beer accidentally wound up for sale in the speakeasies. Unlike the saloons, which were men-only institutions, the speak-easies welcomed women, and the women came from miles around. Supplying the speakeasies with the necessary beer, wine, and liquor required much organization. It was also a crime. To many this is believed to be the birth of organized crime in America.
Also, paying off the local, state, and federal authorities also required some organization and also no small amount of money. Due to the outrageously inflated alcohol prices caused by Prohibition, money was no problem for these people. In one year, Al Capone made sixty million dollars, which is the equivalent of about two billion dollars today, in liquor sales alone. Capone was once quoted as saying "When I sell liquor, it's bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lakeshore Drive, it's hospitality." (Schoenberg 78)All you had to do to stay completely with in the law and still get alcohol was to get sick. While the Eighteenth amendment prohibited alcohol it only prohibited it for "beverage purposes." This made getting alcohol for medical purposes totally legal.
As a result doctors around this time began to prescribe more and more alcohol to their patients in the 1920's. (Behr 135) In only a little more than a decade Prohibition was over. By 1931 it was all but over. A presidential committee reported what was obvious to many Americans; Prohibition was in fact not working. By 1932 even both presidential candidates, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, both favored repeal. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution officially repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.
This has been the only time in the history of the United States that an amendment has been repealed. (Pegram 181-183) Even though Prohibition is now history the effects of it live on and many still effect many Americans daily. First of all it created somewhat of a disrespect for the law in general. This was a particular law that many people enjoyed breaking. Many people think that this mindset led some people to also have the same disregard to other laws of the land thereby creating the start of a disrespect for the law. The penalties for improper use of alcohol were to be fines and prison terms. The first offense the fine would be either one thousand dollars or thirty days in jail, the second offense rose to ten thousand dollars and a year or more in jail.
It is also thought that Prohibition may also have created organized crime in America. Prohibition made gangsters and other law breakers not only popular but also very well paid. Al Capone was a prime example of this type of gangster. By 1927 Al Capone controlled all illicit commerce in Illinois including not only alcohol but also gambling and prostitution. Not only that, Capone also controlled a great majority of the politicians, including most of the police commissioners, the mayor of Chicago and eventually even the governor.
Capone is also quoted as saying "All I ever did was supply a demand that was pretty popular." (Schoenberg 280)It is also believed that Prohibition permanently corrupted law enforcement, the court system, and politics. In that time if the mobsters could not be successful in threatening someone in a powerful position he was either "wiped out," ran their own candidate against him in the next election, stuffed the ballot box for their own candidate, let some sort of scandal leak about their opponent or a combination of all of those. The most important thing to them was for their candidate to ultimately win, thereby raising organized crime to it's ultimate power. Prohibition also overburdened the police, the courts, and also the penal system. Prohibition violators overburdened the police, clogged up the court system and filled the jails. On March 3, 1923 Time magazine reported that "44 percent of the work of the United States District Attorneys is confined to Prohibition cases." By 1928 there were well more than 75,000 arrests per year. Also in 1932 alone there were 80,000 Prohibition convictions. (Behr 166-169) There were also many people who were harmed financially by Prohibition.
The people that were involved in the production and the sale of alcohol. These people either had to completely lose their jobs or literally become criminals. There were also the thousands of people that worked in the various bars, hotels, restaurants and the like that their livelihood depended on the sale of alcohol. "No beer, no work," was a slogan that was adopted by the Essex county New Jersey Building Trades Council (Pegram 91-95).Also, from an economic standpoint Prohibition was very expensive. To be able to figure out the exact financial cost to America during this thirteen year period would be almost impossible.
The costs to the law enforcement offices, the courts, the operation of the jails and many other factors has been estimated at over a billion dollars. (Fisher 102) Prohibition also had a few good effects on America. Women took an important though small step toward personal freedom, and for a while lawmakers were slightly less likely to prohibit things (Rose 131). Though the effects of this time period were mostly negative Prohibition's effects on America are still seen today.
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