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Asses the View That National Prohibition 1919-1933 Created More Problems Than It Solved

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The 'Nobel experiment' of National prohibition, was seen by Reverend Billy Sunday and Evangeline Booth as the cure to America's illnesses. Prohibition would pave the way to a moral, hygienic, family centred society. However the outcome could not have been more different. The problems created by Prohibition far exceeded the problems they solved, if it did solve any at all. By assessing the work of historians and analyzing facts provided from the period, one reaches the conclusion that prohibition created more problems than it solved.

When studying the social changes during prohibition one finds that many of the 'illnesses' of America were actually increased through prohibition. The greatest being the manifestation of organised crime into society. Prohibition created a national underground profession for many crimineals. As Smith remarks 'Prohibition was not the end of organised crime in America but only its beginning', as we know speakeasies were established by organised criminals all over cities. By 1925 there were 15,000 in Detroit and by 1929 there were 32,000 in New York, Club 21 in New York became one of the most famous speakeasies. Such statistics clearly support the notion that organized crime was rampant. During the period over $2,000,000,000 worth of business was passed through organized crime. Such a lucrative business inevitably gave rise to violence as gangs tried to stake claim to the industry. Therefore prohibition created more problems as it allowed organised crime to firmly establish it's self in America.

Gangsters fought viciously for control of the liquor trade. Arnold sates 'Gangsters made use of automobiles and machine guns'. Ironically prohibition was meant to stop rapidly increased. In Chicago alone between 1926 and 1927 130 people were killed. The most notorious of these being the St Valentine's Day massacre in 1929, as Collins whitely remarks prohibition provided 'a lot of work for undertakers'.

Arnold summarizes this in stating 'Many adventurous young men, who previously would have gone out to tackle frontiers and become valuable citizens had instead become criminals'. Evidently prohibition created more problems then it solved, by allowing gangsters to run the cities.

The control of the cities by gangsters was sustained through bribes. The justice system became synonymous with corruption, as Arnold remarked 'Capone's corruption in Chicago extended from the Mayor Big Bill Thompson to police on the beat'. Back hander's became common practice; this dishonesty within the justice system was famously captured in the cartoon 'The National Gesture'. The argument that corruption was widespread is endorsed by E. Mandeville who stated 'ten years ago a dishonest policeman was a rarity... Now the honest ones are pointed out as a rarity'.

Corruption plagued the justice system, Asbury gives validity to the argument, by stating 'In Philadelphia in 1928 the average police officer would be earning a salary of $4000, however their bank accounts told a different story, with figures ranging from $40,412 to $193,553'. There was even a case of police officer being chauffer driven to work. Furthermore the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Lincoln C. Andrews, stated "conspiracies are nationwide in extent". Given that such a statement has come from the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury it gives validity, as Andrews would not be in a position to lie about the level of corruption.

Andrews's statement coupled with the statistics from Philadelphia provides support to the historian's argument in showing the level of corruption that was present. Therefore Prohibition created more issues then it solved.

Corruption was not the only negative side effect of prohibition. Arnold and Sabin would argue that one of the most detrimental effects was that it turned a whole society in to criminals. Sabin states 'Prohibition has led to more violation and contempt for the law, to more hypocrisy among private citizens than any other thing in our national life'. Clearly prohibition gave birth to a culture were by, the law was not something to fear or in fact take notice of, rather it was an unfortunate obstacle which was easily avoidable in order to get the next drink. Gertz bluntly summaries prohibition stating 'Prohibition taught America to disrespect the law'.

Gertz's statement is supported by the statistics from the city of Philadelphia Police Department, who published statistics on the number of arrests for drink related offences. In 1920, 14,313 were arrested for being drunk; in 1925 this had risen to 51,316. The number of citizens drunk had not stagnated or decreased as one might expect, rather it had rapidly increased, thus giving the impression that popularity for drinking had increased. Arnold also remarks how drinking became more popular, stating 'Drinking became fashionable'. As we know many more women began to drink, it seems the age of the 'Flapper's' and the Jazz age, went hand in hand with drinking and breaking the law.

Arnold is supported by August Vollmer, whose Wickersham report in 1930 stated there was 'a trade to satisfy a social want... The people want their liquor'. Given the Wickersham report endorsed a continuation of prohibition, yet still highlights the public's relaxed attitude to drink. It gives validity as Wickersham was not exaggerating the amount of drinking, in order to persuade the government to repeal prohibition. Evidently it appears prohibition created more issues, than it solved. Clearly Reverend Billy Sunday had misjudged the public's attitude to drink and crime.

Reverend Billy Sunday had also professed 'there would not longer be any need for prisons as there would be no crime', however Thornton argues 'the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point'. Thornton is supported by the statistics that state, prison intake increased by 336% and Federal convictions increased by 561%. The statistic support Thornton's notion that prohibition created a nation of criminals. Thornton then states, 'According to a study of 30 major U.S. cities, the number of crimes increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921'. Clearly prohibition created more issues than it solved. The level of alcohol consumptions of normal citizens, and the activities of organized crime



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