The prohibition Introduction This term refers to the period fom 1920 to 1933 during which the sale,manufacure and transportation of alcohol were banned throughout the USA as provided in the 18th Amendment to the US constitution following the prohibiton of alcohol in some states. The period in between the two world wars in the wold are called the « Roaring Twenties ». This is a time defined by big changes in the american society. After the traumatism caused by the war, people wanted to have fun and tried to forget violence. It is the beginning of the Charleston and Jazz.
The production of manufatured goods increased rapidly and the USA became a mass-consumption society. This growth was soon interrupted by the 29 wall street krack. In a first part, I will present the origins of the law, and in a second part, I will describe the consequences of the Prohibition for the American society as well as for economy. Then I will talk about the repeal of the Prohibition. And to finish, I will present you the 2 major characters of this period :the gangster Al Capone and the chief of the prohibition agents Eliot Ness. I)The origins of the law
On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amandment of the US Constitution was ratified and the Volstead Act passed October 28,1919. Prohibition legally began on January 16 1920 when the 18th Amendment went into effect. Although it was highly controversial, Prohibiton was widely supported by many groups such as the Progressives, the ‘Ku Klux Klan’, women, southeners, those living in rural areas and African-Americans. Nevertheless, there were exeptions as the « Woman’s Organization for Prohibition Reform » that fought against it. The ‘dries’ thus opposed the ‘wets’. II)The consequences of the Prohibiton. ° How to drink ? Since prohibition went into effect a full year after the 18t Am. Many people bought cases of then legal alcohol and stored it for personal use before the law went into effect. The Volstead Act allowed alcohol consumption if i twas prescribed by a doctor. Needles to say that a large number of new prescriptions were written for alcohol. Those who had not bought cases of alcohol in advance or who didn’t have a good doctor had no choice but to find illegal ways to drink. Thus,even the average citizen broke the law. 2° The period of gangsters, speakeasies, bootleggers and black market.
Far from eradicating deliquency, the prohibition became a help for the mafia’s growth and many social problems have been attributed to this era. Alcohol soon became rare as an expensive product. The demand was ever growing and gangsters rapidly saw profits. The alcohol producers were jobless and had to work illegaly. They became « bootleggers » at the gang’s mercy. Bars turned into tea rooms or grocers had back shop where they sold alcohol and where people danced. The clandestine bars were called « speakeasies » because their name had to be whispered not to be heard by federal agents.
The gangsters often used corruption and racket to have illegal acivities. Chicago was known as a haven for disobeying Prohibition. This city was controlled by the most famous gangsters including Al Capone. During this period, newly hired prohibition agents were responsible for raiding speakeasies, finding stills and arrested gangsters but many of them were under-qualified and underpaid leading to a high rate of bribery. 3°The benefits for surrounding countries. While alcohol was prohibited in the USA, it was not illegal in surrounding countries.
Distillers and breweries in Canada, Mexico, the Carribean and even France with the island St Pierre et Miquelon flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally imported to the US. 4°The economic consequences for the usa and for the wine industry. The cost of enforcing Prohibition was high and the lack of tax revenues on alcohol (some $500 million annually nationwide) affected governement coffers. Wine historians note that because of prohibition productive wine quality grape wines were replaced by lower quality wines growing thicker skinned grapes that could be more easily transported.
III) The repeal As prohibition became increasingly unpopular « Repeal » was eagerly anticipated. On March 23, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an amendment to the Volstead Act known as the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture and sale of beer and of light wine. Upon signing the amendment, Roosevelt made his famous remark « I think this would be a good time for a beer ». The 18th Am. Was repealed with ratification of the 21st Am. After the repeal, some states continued to enforce prohibition laws. Mississipi abolished this in 1966 and Kansas in 1987.
IV)Two symbolic characters of the Prohibition. 1°The policeman Eliot Ness (1903-1957) During the Prohibition, Eliot Ness, a member of the Treasury Department, was chosen to head the operations under the Volstead Act, targeting the illegal breweris and supply routes of Capone. Capone attempted to bribe Ness’s agents but all in vain. The media gave them the nickname of « The Untouchables ». Eliot Ness managed to arrest many bootleggers and contributed to the collapse of Al Capone’s empire He was promoted to Chief Investigator of the Prohibition Bureau for Chicago in 1934. 2°The gangster, Al Capone (1899-1947)
Al Capone or Scarface, was an Italian American gangster who led a crime syndicate dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging of liquor and other illegal activities during the prohibition era. He controled large portions of the Chicago underworld, which provided the Outfit with an estimated US$10 million per year in revenue. His grip on the political and law enforcement establishments in Chicago was very important. Most of the time, he used corruption to increase his power. In 1931, and he was arrested and the only charge he was convicted for was income tax evasion. Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine underground brewery