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Prohibition Success or Failure?

When the Eighteenth Amendment took effect in 1920, the era of Prohibition had arrived. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the sale, manufacture, transportation, import, and export of intoxicating liquors. The Eighteenth Amendment was given its teeth by congress on January 1920. The National Prohibition Act, called the Volstead Act after its sponsor Andrew j. Volstead. (Clark 148) The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement the Amendment and defined the intoxicating liquors as those containing at least .5 percent alcohol. (Clark, 149)

"There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail" a sponsor gloated after the Amendment was designed to prevent the use of alcoholic beverages had been added to the U.S. Constitution. Realizing that any change to the Constitution required two-thirds votes by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then ratification by three-fourths of the states. Within fifteen years, however, the tiny hummingbird had towed the huge obelisk to the Red Planet: the amendment was overturned. (National Archives, 1)

Just thirteen years later, the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. To this day, the Eighteenth Amendment is the only Amendment to the United States Constitution ever to be repealed. (Lucas, 20) Prohibition enjoyed a substantial consensus in 1919, because it could not have been added to the constitution with out the approval of two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states. The prohibition Era will reveal that the repeal was a very complicated phenomenon to which many factors would emerge to eliminate the consensus that originally favored the law.

The Eighteenth Amendment was the product of a century long temperance crusade. Protestant clergymen, politicians, business leaders, and social reformers were concerned with American society's increased drinking. Churches were opposed to liquor because they saw alcohol as a primary source of sin and an obstacle to salvation. (Lucas, 24) Businessmen and manufacturers favored prohibition because they believed that it would increase workplace efficiency and reduce the number of accidents. Prohibition found its roots in the progressive movement. Progressives believed that through legislation, they could improve the condition of the nation. Reformers saw that intemperance was a threat to middle-class Americans, creating poverty, crime and unhappy homes. Progressives believed that sobriety was the foundation for economic success and political liberty.

WWI produced increased enthusiasm in favor of prohibition for a number of reasons. For one thing there was a need to conserve grain for bread instead of distilling it into alcohol. Another factor was the wartime prejudice against Germans and anything German, to include beer and the brewing industry. Sacrificing individual pleasure for the good of the country was a national enterprise. Dry's charged the brewing industry to which many of the German-Americans were prominent, with financing pro-German activities. These social and political forces provided the momentum for the Senate and the House to approve the Eighteenth Amendment.

Members of the Dry community weather Anti-Saloon League activists, church leaders, politicians, law enforcement or individuals with strong moral convictions, were naÐ"Їve when it came to the effectiveness of the law. Dry citizens assumed that Americans, as law-abiding citizens would observe the provisions of Prohibition.

Members of the quasi-criminal class set up underground breweries; printers made fake whiskey labels and pharmacists sold the ingredients needed such as yeast, Juniper oil, fuel oil, iodine and caramel for home-made sills. The inventiveness of these of these underground liquor manufactures was significant. Economists believe that the money spent



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