Prohibition Criticism

This essay has a total of 5496 words and 30 pages.


Did Prohibition lead to the Birth of Organized Crime?

Evan Rodriguez

English III D2, 4, 6

Ms. Muradian

29 March 2001

Did Prohibition lead to the Birth of Organized Crime?
Introduction- did prohibition lead to the birth of organized crime?
I. Prohibition
A. Legal ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drink
B. Alcohol alarmed those concerned with public health and morals
C. Drunkenness is considered an evil in most religions
1. Many religious and political leaders began to see drunkenness as a national curse
2. Islam for centuries has forbidden even the moderate use of fermented drink
II. The Early Prohibition Movement in the U.S.
A. In England and American colonies, governments after 1750 made many futile efforts to discourage the use of alcohol
1. Believed there was a close relationship between drunkenness and the rising incidence of crime, poverty, and violence
2. Only way to protect society from this threat was to abolish the drunkard-making business
B. first state prohibition law passed in Maine in 1851
1. Prohibited manufacture and sale of spirituous or intoxicating liquors not intended for medical or mechanical purposes
2. 13 of the 31 states had such laws by 1855
3. By 1916, 23 of the 48 states had adopted antisaloon laws
C. Post-Civil War
1. Political crisis preceding American Civil War distracted attention from Prohibition
a. Many early state laws were modified, repealed, or ignored
b. For years few restraints were placed on manufacturing or selling anything alcoholic
2. With population increase came more then 100,000 saloons throughout the country
a. Saloons became very competitive for the drinkers' wages.
b. Many permitted gambling, prostitution, sales to minors, public drunkenness, and violence.
III. Temperance Movements
A. Progressives
B. Anti-Saloon League, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the Prohibition Party
C. Women's War broke out across the nation in 1873
1. Marched from church meetings to saloons, using prayer and song demanding that saloonkeepers give up their businesses
2. Alcohol regarded as the most dangerous social institution threatening the family
D. On December 22, 1917, Congress submitted the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the
manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors

IV. National Prohibition in the U.S
A. National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act)
1. Enforced the 18th amendment
2. Made exceptions for liquors sold for medicinal, sacramental, industrial purposes, and
fruit or grape beverages made for personal use

B. Wasn't enough money provided for more than token enforcement
1. Opportunity to disregard the law through smuggling, distilling, fermenting, and brewing
2. More of a ideal then reality
V. Effects of Prohibition
A. Inspired an extensive body of colorful literature
1. Moral decay
2. Social disorder due to "Volsteadism"
a. intolerable searches
b. seizures
c. shootings by police
B. Distorted the role of alcohol in American life
1. Drink more rather than less;
2. Promoted disrespect for the law;
3. Generated a wave of organized criminal activity, during which the bootlegger, the
"speakeasy", and the gangster became popular institutions;

a. Al Capone
(1) Chicago mobster who was the leader of worlds largest crime family
(2) Did what the public wanted; Loved by every one
(3) Worked with Torrio
b. Johnny Torrio
(1)Leader of the James Street Gang
(2) Retired to Capone
4. Profits available to criminals from illegal alcohol corrupted almost every level of government.
5. Rise in the crime rate
VI. End of Prohibition
A. 21st amendment
1. Submitted by the Association against Prohibition Amendment (AAPA)
2. Repealed the 18th amendment
B. End in associated Crime
1. organized crime focused on more sophisticated crimes
a. large-scale gambling
b. loan-sharking
c. labor racketeering
2. Crime and violence associated with alcohol decreased after legalization
C. Now state problem rather than Federal

Conclusion- Prohibition did indeed lead to the birth and growth of organized crime.

Evan Rodriguez
Ms. Muradian
English III L4
29 March 2001
Did Prohibition lead to the Birth of Organized Crime?

Prohibition in the United States was a measure designed to reduce drinking by eliminating
the businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold alcoholic beverages. The
Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took away license to do business from the
brewers, distillers, vintners, and the wholesale and retail sellers of alcoholic
beverages. The leaders of the prohibition movement were alarmed at the drinking behavior
of Americans, and they were concerned that there was a culture of drink among some sectors
of the population that, with continuing immigration from Europe, was spreading ("Why
Prohibition" 2). Between 1860 and 1880 America's urban population grew from 6 million to
more than 14 million people. The mass of this huge increase found itself toiling in
factories and sweatshops and living in horrible social conditions; getting drunk was there
only highlight in life.

Prohibition is the legal ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drink
("Temperance, Prohibition, Alcoholism" 1). The term also denotes those periods in history
when such bans have been in force, as well as the political and social movements condoning
them. This method of liquor control was most often aimed at preventing alcoholism and thus
removing a social, physical, and economic harm from society.

Many Americans, religious leaders, and political leaders saw alcohol as the key to all
that was evil, a curse on the nation. Significant numbers of people believed that the
consumption of alcoholic beverages presented a serious threat to the integrity of their
most vital foundations, especially the family ("Prohibition" 846).

In the 1600's and 1700's, the American colonists drank large quantities of beer, rum,
wine, and hard cider. These alcoholic beverages were often safer to drink than impure
water or unpasteurized milk and also less expensive than coffee or tea. By the 1820's,
people in the United States were drinking, on the average, the equivalent of 7 gallons of
pure alcohol per person each year ("drinkingprohibition" 1). As early as the seventeenth
century, America was showing interest towards prohibition. Some people, including
physicians and ministers, became concerned about the extent of alcohol use ("There was
one..." 1). They believed that drinking alcohol damaged people's health and moral
behavior, and promoted poverty. People concerned about alcohol use urged temperance, the
reduction or elimination of the use of alcoholic beverages. They felt that the only way to
protect society from this threat was to abolish drunkard-making business.

At first, supporters of temperance urged drinkers to drink only moderate amounts. But the
supporters later became convinced that all alcoholic beverages were addictive. As a
result, they tried to end the use of alcohol. The first temperance crusade, which took
place in the 1820's and 1830's, reduced the average annual intake of pure alcohol per
person to about 3 gallons ("drinkingprohibition" 1).

Maine, in 1851, was the first state to pass prohibition laws prohibiting the manufacture
and sale of intoxicating liquors not intended for medicinal or sacramental use. Soon after
Maine, close to twelve other states passed such laws. By 1916, twenty-three of the
forty-eight states had a prohibition law in one form or another ("Prohibition2" 2).

The political crisis that followed the American Civil War distracted attention from
Prohibition. The Great Depression gained far more attention than did flamboyant criminals.
Because people were too involved with trying to restart their lives due of the harshness
of the depression, they became close to being completely oblivious to the actions of those
around them. Prohibition was no longer a main priority for society. Before this point in
history, prohibition was working rather well. But now many of the early state laws were
modified, repealed, or ignored, and for years few restraints were placed on manufacturing
or selling anything alcoholic.

The population increased rapidly after the Civil War, and soon there were more than
100,000 saloons in the country; these saloons became increasingly competitive for the
drinkers' wages ("Prohibition2"). Therefore, many of them permitted gambling,
prostitution, and sales to minors, public drunkenness, and violence.

There were many Americans who found the whole saloon scene disturbing. They formed groups,
using power in numbers, and tried to fight against the use of alcohol. They thought that
the consumption of alcoholic posed a serious threat to their vital institutions.

The first active movements of a whole town against these saloons took place in 1875 in
Oberlin, Ohio where the citizens started resist against the upcoming wave of the opening
of new saloons. After several conflicts with the law, the saloonkeepers were faced such a
big resistance by the population that they saw themselves forced to abandon their bars.
The little town was run dry afterwards and this was set an example for other towns; their
veteran experience has made them forceful pioneers in the wider Anti­Saloon campaign now
under way throughout Ohio and America ("Anti-Saloon League" 1)

The prohibition leaders believed that once license to do business was removed from the
liquor traffic, the churches and reform organizations would enjoy an opportunity to
persuade Americans to give up alcohol. This opportunity would occur unchallenged by the
alcohol businesses in whose interests it was to urge more Americans to drink more alcohol.
The curse of saloons would disappear from the landscape, and saloonkeepers would no longer
be allowed to encourage people, including children, to drink alcohol. The misery due to
this beverage would be gone forever. In 1913, in a 20th anniversary convention held in
Columbus, Ohio, the League announced its campaign to achieve national prohibition through
a constitutional amendment. Allied with other temperance forces, especially the Woman's
Christian Temperance Union, the League in 1916 ensured the votes of the two-thirds
majorities necessary in both houses of Congress to initiate what became the Eighteenth
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ("History" 1-2).

On January 29, 1919, the Secretary of State, by decree, announced that on January 16th
thirty-six states had ratified the amendment and therefore it had become a part of the
Constitution. It was before long ratified by ten additional states ("Prohibition" 2). It
became effective on January 16, 1920, as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the
belonging sections of which are as follows:

"Sec. 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale or
transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the
exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction
thereof for beverage, purposes is hereby prohibited

Sec. 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this
article by appropriate legislation. (qtd. In Encyclopedia Britannica)."

The prohibitions of the Amendment extended only to the manufacture, sale, transportation,
importation, or exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes. Nevertheless,
prohibition allowed the use of liquors for medicinal, sacramental, or industrial purposes
("Prohibition" 2).

The dream of complete abstinence was just that, a dream. It was an ideal that would never
be reached. An effective prohibition of alcohol was impossible. It's impracticable to
think that the Custom Service and the Border Patrol could cover the several thousand mile
long borders with Mexico and Canada. The long shorelines around the United States made it
easy for smugglers to run liquor into the country by taking the seaway (Kerr 148). In
order to uncover all the speakeasies and the illegal liquor-traffic networks, it probably
would have called for about a third of America's population.

Serious dry enforcement was a very dangerous business, not in especially for dry agents
but for bootleggers and innocent bystanders. In December 1929 the Washington Herald
estimated that 1,360 people had been killed and at least a thousand more wounded because
of too rough law enforcement ("drinkingprohibition" 2). Many of those killings we
justified self-defense, but many others were a direct result of the carelessness or
criminal recklessness of enforcement officers. Officers who invaded their property without
search warrants killed some civilians. Others were shot down as they tried to escape from
the agents and stray bullets struck a few.

Prohibition distorted the role of alcohol in American life, urging people to drink more
rather then drink less, it promoted disrespect towards the law and generated a wave of
criminal activity ("Why prohibition" 3). It was during this period of criminal activity
that the bootlegger, the "speakeasy", and the gangster became popular.

Al Capone was a very famous and influential mobster. He was the most notable of all the
gangsters in the bootlegging business. Johnny Torrio, leader of the James Street Gang, had
moved to Chicago to work for his uncle, Big Jim Colosimo. Torrio sent for his trusted
lieutenant, Capone. Suspected of two murders, Capone was eager to leave New York. Capone
worked under Torrio as a bouncer and thug. On May 11, 1920, Big Jim Colosimo was
assassinated in his own cafe by an unknown killer, becoming the first big boss dying in a
gang war. Johnny Torrio was now the leader of the most powerful gang in Chicago, and
Capone his right-hand man ("Al Capone" 1).

His big profits of bootlegging enabled him to expand and increase his empire; he built up
a major liquor network run through his semi-legal and legal enterprises. Breweries,
distilleries, speakeasies, warehouses, fleets of boats and trucks, nightclubs, gambling
houses, horse and dog racetracks, brothels, and numerous small but effective businesses
together produced a yearly income of hundreds of millions of dollars (Haig 1).

Capone also took over the army of gangsters and assassins; altogether a squad of more than
a thousand men, including allied gangs supported him. Capone was mighty and strong enough
to withstand the Nation's bloodiest gang warfare. The answer to his success though was not
his firepower and his gang supporting him, it was more his connection with the City Hall,
involving officials at all levels. Capone paid almost everyone with a high position or
with influence. This determined that not only were Capone and his partners immune from
arrests but that the police interfered with the operations of rival gangs.

Capone became the world's most famous criminal because he attracted the Press and not
because of his criminal success. Capone openly stated his opinions about his illegal
business in the public papers. Bootlegging, the sector he was active in had an obviously
great demand. Capone gave the people what they wanted, alcohol, prostitutes, and gambling.
Because they were receiving what they wanted, they were pleased (Haig 1).

Ventures that produced and distributed illegal goods and services, such as gambling and
prostitution, often run by politicians, already existed way before the 18th Amendment.
Bootlegging suddenly opened a new opportunity for immigrants to get rich and to climb up
the criminal reign. However, the development of organized crime can't be blamed on some
mysterious beings, it is more due to the easy opportunities and the failure of the
American government ("Prohibition" 845).

It was hoped that Prohibition would eliminate corrupting influences in society; instead,
Prohibition itself became a major source of corruption. Everyone from major politicians to
the cop on the beat took bribes from bootleggers and owners of speakeasies.

Repeal of the 18th Amendment grew stronger in the late twenties. By the early 1930s most
Americans could see that there was no logic left in Prohibition. "Wet" pressure finally
reached its goal: the 18th Amendment was repealed on 5 December 1933 by the 21st amendment
to the constitution ("History" 3).

The legalization provided sudden employment for over one million people in brewing,
distilling and related jobs. Repeal of Prohibition dramatically reduced crime, including
organized crime, and corruption. There was no noticeable increase in drunkenness and
alcohol related problems. Jobs were created, and new voluntary efforts, such as Alcoholics
Anonymous, which was begun in 1934, succeeded in helping alcoholics ("History" 3).

Prohibition failed to improve health and virtue. Prohibition was supposed to be an
economic and moral godsend. Prisons and poorhouses were to be emptied, taxes cut, and
social problems eliminated. Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to
the problems it was intended to solve and supplanted other ways of addressing problems.
The only successors of Prohibition were bootleggers, crime bosses, and the forces of big

The Prohibition of alcohol was probably the most senseless Amendment in the history of the
United States of America. Everyday people were forced to change their penchants of
drinking alcoholic beverages. But only a minority really quit drinking, all the others
became criminals. Any violator of the liquor law had the fear of getting caught. And some
of them were arrested and convicted just for drinking alcohol.

The illegal liquor business, caused by Prohibition, was the start of organized crime in
the USA. Many politicians and other officials in all positions became corrupt and
criminal. This state remained even after the repeal of the liquor law for a long time.

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