The roaring twenties – the prohibition - Maxicours

The roaring twenties – the prohibition

1913: Webb Kenyan Act banning the transportation of alcohol into the dry states which were mainly located in the rural South.
1919: 18th Amendment forbidding the selling and making of any drink with more than one degree of alcohol. It is the beginning of prohibition.
1919, October, 28th: Volstead Act, according to which any drink containing more than 0,5% of alcohol was said to be alcoholic.
1920: enforcement of the 18th Amendment and of the dry laws.
1929, February 14th: Valentine's Day massacre. Al Capone's gang killed 7 persons in Chicago.
1933: 21st Amendment cancelled the 18th. It was the end of the prohibition.
1. The origins
a. Economic, politic and social reasons
Till World War I, breweries and distilleries had managed to stem those who wanted to prohibit alcohol because their lobbies were powerful. But the records of the war had shown that between 1911 and 1914 heavy drinking had reached a peak.

Besides the prohibitionists believed it would be a radical solution: it would save some income, it would cleanse politics (political manipulation was identified with saloons) and increase the safety on plants.

b. Ideological reasons
The middle-class thought its values were endangered. For them, the drinking habits of the poor were an insult to morality. They also considered the saloon as a refuge for the immigrants.
Yet, in the North, many people felt it was an interference with individual freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution.
2. The consequences
a. Gangsterism
Gangsterism increased with the development of the car and of the machine-gun, but also with the prohibition.
The police didn't have the means to enforce the law as they should have.
Smugglers managed to buy alcohol to illegal producers – or moonshiners – in the US or abroad and to sell it to bootleggers.
b. Drinking
Drinking behaviors changed. Hard drinking increased especially among groups such as the writers of the Lost Generation. People gathered in illegal bars (or speakeasies) to drink.

On the whole, the prohibition proved to be a failure socially and politically. During the Great Depression, public opinion realized it deprived many people of their job and that it contributed to the economic stagnation of the country.

The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment led a campaign to cancel the 18th Amendment. It backed up Democrats such as F.D. Roosevelt who was elected President in 1932.
In 1933, the 21st Amendment, which cancelled the 18th, was ratified. It was the end of the prohibition.

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