Prohibition: the 18th Amendment

Topics: Prohibition in the United States, Alcoholic beverage, Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 6 (2120 words) Published: September 15, 2013

The 18th Amendment, ratified on January 16th 1919, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, export, import and transportation of alcoholic beverages, happened because of the Temperance Movement. It was believed at the time that alcohol was the main problem in society and that it needed to be removed. This moral issue divided people up between those who were “dry” and those who were “wet”. Either way, it was eventually repealed because of the problems that came from it. While that was at the beginning of the 19th century, today we are facing a similar moral issue: the war on drugs.

There were several parties that wanted to prohibit the use of alcohol. One of them involved in the matter was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, who did all it could to elect any candidate that was on the “dry” side, meaning anyone who opposed alcohol (WCTU). President Wilson was stuck in the middle of this situation. He believed in moderation not in complete prohibition, but since there were more people on the “dry” side than the “wet” side, the bill passed. The only problem was that even though the 18th Amendment said that “intoxicating” beverages were prohibited, it did not say what that meant and there was no way to enforce it. That is why the Volstead Act was passed, to give a definition of “intoxicating”. That meant any drink that had over 0.5 percent alcohol, and it gave the government the legal right to enforce the law (Hanson). These two parts made up the Prohibition. So on January 16th 1920, the 18th Amendment became effective.

Those who were in favor of alcohol proposed to only get rid of the hard liquor. They believed that beer was the working man’s beverage and to prohibit that was a stab at the workers, while the wealthy got to keep their expensive wine and hard liquor. Those who were against alcohol voiced their opinion that it led to corruption, prostitution, spousal abuse and other criminal activities (WCTU). The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Anti-Saloon League (the other party), both worked toward prohibiting the use of alcohol due to moral reasons. Either they believed that it was a sin and it turned people away from God, or they believed that it had a destructive effect on individuals (Online Highway). There were many factors that led them to succeed in their goal. One of the main factors was that this happened around the time of World War I. Not only did the President have other things on his mind and couldn’t give too much importance to this issue, but it was argued that producing alcohol drinks diverted the grain needed for the war, and that it affected the productivity of the workers. That fact alone angered people and turned them against the idea of alcohol. Another factor was that alcohol consumption was on the rise, and saloons were opening up almost on every corner. People saw saloons as unrespectable, and dirty. To entice people to come in, saloon owners allowed gambling and prostitution, which led people to oppose them (Weiser).

A few years before the Amendment was passed, many people including the President saw this issue as a social and moral issue, which had nothing to do with politics and the government. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were written exactly for the purpose of allowing people the freedom to do what they want with their lives, as long as they stay within the law. The same way a certain religion can’t be imposed on society, so should the prohibition of alcohol be off limits. Everyone has their own view of morality and they shouldn’t impose their view on others. Unfortunately, social and moral issues began to be open for debate once the US declared war on Germany. It was finally politically alright to discuss such issues. The brewing industry became a target because most of the brewers were of German origin. A “dry” magazine at that time decided to publish a quote that made a correlation between the alcohol consumed and the war that was...
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