Fourteen Years Without Liquor
It is a little hard to imagine restriction of alcoholic beverages in the United States, but history bears witness that this indeed ensued for all of 14 years between 1920 and 1933.
Prohibition in America was caused by the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting beverages consisting of alcohol. It came into effect on January 16, 1920 making it illegal to produce, sell or transport liquor in the country.
To uphold this cause, the Volstead Act also became law. This contained all the methods by which the 18th Amendment was intended to be applied. There were curtained exceptions just for medicinal and religious purposes.
There were three main parts to this statute, and the first was to bring about the dis-allowance of cocktails that were intoxicating. The following was to set a regulatory system into place to address the manufacturing, selling and transportation of liquor that was not meant for drinking. Lastly, the objective of this law was also to make sure that alcohol was in regular supply for medical study and production of consumer goods as well as religious ceremonies.
In terms of making history, this was the first amendment that implemented a time delay. While it was certified on January 16, 1919, it only came into force in January of the next year.
There were a number of states that had launched state wide prohibition even prior to the law came into effect. Folks who stood behind the cause of prohibition observed the completion of a 50 year fight to abolish alcohol. They belonged to what is dubbed the Temperance Movement and they believed this was going to become a modern amendment for the times.
They felt this to be a “Noble Experiment” and were confident that it would dis-burden society of destitution and crime. Without alcoholic beverages, it was believed that every man would have the resources to reach his aspirations and not be side-tracked with these imperfections. What took place was exactly the opposite.
This debate over alcohol was especially toward the taverns that defined the west and which were deemed watering holes for evil. Though the Temperance Movement initially stood for moderation, they came to make a much tougher stand.
Where Was the Booze Coming From?
Over the 14 years that Prohibition was in force, a large amount was invested monetarily to enforce it. However, it was only a short while before folks understood that it was not really achievable to totally control liquor. There were several ways that liquor found its way into the country.
There were “rum fleets,” which came in through Europe laden with liquor. These would dock just outside US waters and small local vessels would function as the carriers.
Additionally, the Canadian border was an additional position through which alcohol passed in to the country continuously.
Since the consumption of alcohol was allowed for medical reasons, it was possible to get fake prescriptions from doctors.
With a liquor license no longer being granted, night clubs and restaurants could not serve alcohol. Harding was the president at that time and liquor even found its way into the White House.
Criminal activity became spreading all over the nation that was networked with manufacturers, vendors, transporters and then ultimately patrons. There were so many people detained and appeared in the legal structure that the courthouses were not able to manage it. Corruption was widespread and spread all the way through the legal and administrative system.
In fact, a few TV personalities have been created that were based upon people found in the Prohibition age. Enoch Malachi aka “Nucky” Thompson from Boardwalk Empire is based on a well-known politician of that period named Enoch L. Johnson. The series is based on how Nucky conspires to exploit the bootlegging industry and does a very good job realizing his objectives.
There was a ton of defiance opposing the Prohibition Amendment and claims started being submitted that argued that the law banning alcohols was a violation of the 5th and 4th amendments. There was a big spike in organized crime and the courts were not able to keep up with the full dockets which came their way.
The Extinction of Prohibition in the United States
There were numerous polls to indicate that people wanted the 18th Amendment repealed. It was on February 20, 1933 that the Congress proposed the 21st Amendment, which rolled back the 18th Amendment. The Prohibition era thus came to an end.