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Prohibition Issues In The Industrial Revolution Sociology Essay

2824 words (11 pages) Essay in Sociology

5/12/16 Sociology Reference this

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As countries were expanding from the industrial revolution, the start of the twentieth century was an era where people were beginning to enjoy the smaller things in life. From dinners to dancing or hanging out with their colleagues after work, all these meetings had one thing in common, alcohol. Around 1900, Chicago was consuming alcohol at an increasing rate which later became a daily ritual in people lives. In the span of a decade, liquor and alcohol became the main topic of legislations, election campaigns, and among a few political debates (Buenker 363). When the word “prohibition” started being used in 1907-1918, people reacted because the word had such a negative connotation. When the law on prohibition came into effect in 1919, the police started closing down all of the large saloons. This was followed by the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920 (Carter 189), which prohibited the sale of alcohol and liquor, and that anyone caught selling it would be severely punished (Tomkins 15-16). From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the term prohibition played an important role in the windy city of Chicago, and in some states such as Maine and North Dakota (Brown 722). However despite the laws on prohibition, some proprietors still sold alcohol to private guests in underground saloons, making double than when the solicitation of alcohol was still legal. Even as many people were being arrested, the public began to question what the government was getting out of the amendment.

Although Chicago was the popular city in the Prohibition era, United States as a nation was also affected by the Eighteenth Amendment. The illegal sale of liquor was recorded even before the amendment had passed in 1919. As mentioned above, the law was being carried out by the police, shutting down saloons and seizing any liquor that was sold. In 1911, Georgia had found nine hundred and one bottles of illicit distilling, which was the highest out of six states caught illegally distilling alcohol (Brown 727). Much of the public began to feel cornered around the same time Georgia was caught distilling the highest amount of liquor; and eight years later, in 1919, this led the legislature to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, but did prohibition cause so much havoc that the states went from maintaining order and peace (stabilized) to a point where people could not handle the pressure from the writers which later resulted in forming of the underground saloons? Or did Chicago’s gangsters destabilized by ‘muscling in’ make the state of Illinois concerned? (Landesco 120). After observing the research the question is, what was the significance of prohibition that led to destabilizing the society of (Chicago and United States) in the 20th century? What was so significant about prohibition, that it ended up destroying the peace and harmony among societies (destabilizing) of Illinois and the rest of the country.

The significance of prohibition was to get people to stop drinking because of all the violence it created. John Buenker talked about how prohibition parties were made from the older population of Illinois. Known as the “natives,” these people and the state thought the incoming Germans, Irish, and Italians immigrants needed to learn the American ways because they felt that the immigrants were “threatening” the traditional American values (Buenker 364). According to Buenker, Illinois natives believed that the immigrants were the evil, almost two thirds rejected the idea of prohibition which included the immigrants and the second American generation (Buenker 369). However, prohibition was working, writer were regulating at regular saloons, and people were starting to spend their money wisely, until underground saloons started to appear and selling liquor at a higher price for people who could afford (Brown 703). Even in the bad economic times near the great depression, prohibition was upheld in New York by the writer who arrested people for using profanity while under the influence in New York (Carter 192). This showed prohibition was in affect and people were being punished for disobeying the law. Even the numbers in states like New York and Illinois came down, even though prohibition was taking a good effect on people, it also took a down side in Chicago and other cities around the nation.

Yet, prohibition also destabilized states like Chicago, prohibition in Chicago was taking a toll on its citizens, after ratifying the eighteenth amendment, homicide rate was rising from 1.2 in 1900 to 4.2 in 1920 after passing of the eighteenth amendment (Landesco 128). Paul Carter showed that to run for any campaigns, the [wet] democrats would have had to get rid of Prohibition if any future goals were to be accomplished (Carter 189). Carter stated that previous goals have been incomplete and that if there were any hope for democrats to retrieve power, the first rule of thumb would be to demolish any kind of prohibition. Democrats were against prohibition and Republicans were for it, seeing the arrest made in New York, made it seem like it was working until organized crime started to rise. In Chicago, two unlike homicides have risen, one is gang feuds, killings over territories and bootlegged sales of liquor while the other type of killing is writer, aids and civilians who are pro prohibition (Landesco 127). Not only, have gang crimes raised but also killing of prohibition enforcements which were about “1550, including 494 officers and aids and 1,056 civilians” (Landesco 127). These numbers are ground breaking to say the least but these numbers will only go up from here. It was not only Landesco who saw destabilization in Chicago, also Silas Swallow saw another quality of prohibition that was starting to show the effects of prohibition, in United States.

Swallow begin his article by explaining how too much drinking was not beneficial to anyone, and how it was ruining the human mind, body, ethics, and even economically (Swallow 550). Swallow started to notice the effect of alcohol that was beginning to take a toll on not just the daily drinkers, but also the sober ones. Like the saying “if one suffers we all suffer”, in Swallow’s words “innocent must suffer with the guilty” (Swallow 550). Swallow, pointed out when the prohibition went into effect the “innocent” or the nondrinkers also had to pay the heavy tax that was levied by the government. If that was not enough, employers were firing people because they claimed to have an over production in their factories, it was not the over production they had to worry, it was the under consumption where the population was not buying the copious amount of liquor and alcohol to meet the regular demand, where suppliers were producing as they should (Swallow 553). From the people who practiced abstinence to the drinkers, heavy tax that everybody in the nation had to pay, and unemployment was starting to rise because of lower demand were the starting of destabilization in the country. Organized crimes begins to take shape of gang killings, law enforcement felt over powered by gangs in Chicago and every other city and nonetheless, civilians and aid workers were the by standards out of all this chaos. If this was not a wakeup call for Chicago and all of the United States, then how much more does a lower class has to suffer before the congress can be shown, how prohibition is taking everything over, peace is starting to vanish and crime is taking its place. This is where the state like Illinois starts to lose control, and thousands of lives have been compromised just to stabilize alcohol and liquor distribution in the state and the country.

The most cost effective approach to handling the menace, intoxication, and the violence was for prohibition to contain some limits on distribution of alcohol. Yet, the harder the raids were, the more violence would occur as a result. During the early 1900s, many people, instead of embracing different ethnicities, pointed fingers at immigrants and blamed them for all the wrongs that were being committed in town, which also contributed to the increase in crime rates. Illinois and United States were both caught in a significant number of raids, arrests, and seizures of illicit sale and distribution of alcohol and liquor. Analysis mentioned above explained, the significance of prohibition which led to good but also destabilizing the Illinois and rest of the United States, some writers saw both sides of prohibition and one of the writers is Silas Swallow, who saw how workplaces preferred if the employee they hired was not a drinker, which led to insurance companies giving benefits to abstainers for maintaining that lifestyle. About “eight hundred thousand, out of twelve hundred thousand” American railway employees were told to practice abstinence from liquor and alcohol. They were given heavy penalties or even fired from their respectful jobs, if they were found in a bar or anywhere, liquor was sold (Swallow 551). Tomkins is another writer who saw a change from the prohibition law taking an effect in United States, even though the crimes were rising, the wages earned were being used efficiently since prohibition was in effect. People were paying their debts on time, they had more money saved up and the money spent at saloons was now going straight into consumption for the household or spent for one’s self-interest (Tomkins 18). Another issue that was starting to pop around the prohibitionist states was the liberty and freedom of choice when it came to alcohol and liquor.

Carter quoted prohibitionist Harry Warner, who states “Prohibition was the liberation of the individual from the illusion of freedom that is conveyed by alcohol” (Carter 192). This quote explains how prohibition was taking the liberty of individuals and giving them this false hope of freedom which was carried by alcohol. Warner argued that even though man is a citizen of a community he also needs to be balanced with values of society and family (Carter 193). Warner being the prohibitionist debated that even though humans have liberty to do what we want at any given time or place, man is tied to his society and the family he belongs to. Man cannot have the liberty to cause chaos when he is under the influence and blame his freedom of choice on alcohol or liquor. This results in his freedom being taken away by the law, whose sole purpose is to protect and serve the human body that may need protection from the drunkards or the violence gangs cause over bootlegged distribution. Tomkins also supports Carter’s argument about the significance of prohibition that stabilized the country socially and economically (Tomkins 16).

Warner, who was quoted by Carter in his article Prohibition & Democracy, also agrees with Swallow, when he explains how prohibition takes away the liquor and punishes the drunkards and the people who practice abstinence to liquor and alcohol. They have the most burden, because they are paying for the people who chose to drink and not care about the consequences that society deals with (Carter 193). Another example by Brown who mentions the growing numbers of illegal sales, shows how from 1907 there was about four hundred and forty one arrested for illegal sales and in 1908 the number skyrocketed to seven hundred and seven illegal sales took place in Maine (Brown 718). So no matter how socially and economically well the states and the country has been performing, yet illegal sales of liquor in Maine and gang violence in Illinois were two factors that kept rising and Republicans never looked outside their bubble to see how hard the burden was on the lower class and few middle class socially and economically. These factors only add fuel to the fire that has been burning since the ratifying of the eighteenth amendment. Statistics have shown the significant causes of destabilization that came from prohibition, yet it also showed how little Chicago was stabilized, but prohibition was a law that was put in effect to minimize public intoxication, drunkards, and illegal distribution of alcohol and liquor. Yet, barely touching any of these goals, prohibition ended up hurting Chicago and the entire nation with gang violence, law enforcement aid and civilian killings.

The research mentioned above, showed Tomkins’ view towards the existence of prohibition but Tomkins failed to note that while prohibition laws were in effect, organized crimes increased as the police chiefs only went after big underground saloons, which helped him seize gang members and the containers in which the liquor was held (Landesco 120). The smaller saloons in Illinois and the rest of the United States were still in business but only because they did not require the same amount of liquor and alcohol compared to bigger and larger saloons. As a result, violence started to increase and more gangsters were being hired as a means of protection and to aid in capturing the bigger saloons (Landesco 121). While Tomkins explained the reasons behind prohibition in Illinois and United States, Carter and Brown looked at the numbers concerning crime and violence- and more arrests usually meant that the temporary control of the streets was back in the hands of the citizens. While the weakness in Tomkins argue the violence spread, Carter expands in his article about how prohibition was a good thing, but he never mentions the government plan about why they came up with prohibition in the first place, until near the conclusion of his article.

The significance of prohibition which led to destabilization is shown by every author who is mentioned above. Also same authors pointed out how prohibition was fixing some issues and why the significance of prohibition led to higher crime rates, gang violence increasing and people who were maintaining their savings. Even though Buenker failed to observe, Brown suggested that in other states like Maine and Kansas, Brown noticed more divorces, suicide rates are higher in prohibition states compared to states that are allowed legally to sell alcohol and liquor (Brown 720). The weakness in Brown’s statement is even though divorces were higher; crime was rising at the same rate. One would fight to keep the crime low while divorce rates can fall if only people worked out individual differences. Even Carter saw the significance of prohibition was taking an effect on people, stabilizing each person’s wages efficiently, but unlike Tomkins, Carter saw prohibition as a psychological way of getting rid of individual treatment for alcohol problem to use prohibition as a treatment for all instead of a single individual (Carter 200). This was a way by the government to test if prohibition would work if alcohol and liquor were taken away. Nonetheless, prohibition showed more people paying off their debts, more people saving and less illness noted. But how is government turn the other cheek, where places like Illinois and Maine where gang wars were rising, bootlegged sales of alcohol and killing of law enforcements are happening. In exchange of all that chaos, government got was social stability among some of the society, but the rest resulted in higher homicides.

Government was trying Pareto efficiency, meaning trying to make one side better without making the other worse off. I believe this is why prohibition was invented and led to eighteenth amendment. Significance of prohibition which led to destabilization in Chicago and the rest of the nation in 20th century was how great republicans thought the country was doing, with people paying off debts, less public intoxication, fewer people using profanity under the influence, socially people were spending more time with their families. Instead the bust, raids, and arrest led to more violence in Chicago, which later led to underground saloons and bootlegged sales of alcohol and liquor. Gang members were already involved in other crimes and getting into selling alcohol and liquor illegally was just outside their reach of normal organized crime (Landesco 124). The prohibition was a famous movement in the 20th century, yet it was not the affective movement. Trading social factors for high homicides rates was not the result government was looking for and yet they were not the ones who dealt with it. It was the people who sacrificed their lives to stand by the prohibition law and gave up their lives.

Work Cited

Brown, Ames L. “Prohibition.” North American Review 202.720 (1915): 702-29. Jstor. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. .

Buenker, John D. “The Illinois Legislature and Prohibition, 1907-1919.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 62.4 (1969): 363-84. Jstor. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. .

Carter, Paul A. “Prohibition and Democracy: The Noble Experiment Reassessed.” Wisconsin Historical Society 56.3 (1973): 189-201. Jstor. Web. 5 May 2010. .

Landesco, John. “Prohibition and Crime.” American Academy of Political and Social Science 163 (1932): 120-29. Jstor. Web. 04 May 2010. .

Swallow, Silas C. “Prohibition: Why?” University of Northern Iowa 179.575 (1904): 550-54. Jstor. Web. 5 May 2010. .

Tomkins, Floyd W. “Prohibition.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 109 (1923): 15-25. Jstor. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. .

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