Prohibition of alcohol in the States. A Noble Experiment?

Essay by Jared DunnA+, March 1997

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Alcohol and American life have had a long and usually friendly relationship. Until the

mid 1800's, alcohol was the staple drink in many homes. This was mainly because of the

customs brought from Europe by the immigrants and settlers who formed our population.

Most people would think nothing of having a strong drink in the morning and wine with

every meal. Children were often given liquor before going to school. All of this began to

change in the 1800's. Early on, a few strict religious interests began to advocate

temperance, which is abstinence from alcohol. Then most major denominations took it up

as a cause. At first, they mainly combated drunkards, and only hard liquor. Then they

progressed to condemning casual drinkers, and beer and wine. Propaganda flooded the

country in the form of temperance books, magazines, plays, and pamphlets. Local

temperance societies sprouted up everywhere. Millions pledged to never touch another

drop of the 'Demon Rum'.

Many of the same progressives who favored abolition jumped

on the temperance bandwagon as well, and overzealously promoted it as the only way for

'decent' people. Progressing until the early 1900's, they gained a large following in the

rural, less advanced areas. Many of these so-called 'Bible Belt' states enacted state

prohibition laws or local option laws which allowed each county or municipality to decide

whether to allow sale of alcohol. When these interests saw the opportunity to glorify

prohibition of alcohol on a nationwide scale as patriotic duty during World War I, they

took full advantage. While America scarcely paid attention, a small minority put into

effect a law which would change the entire moral fabric of the nation, and eventually

would prove that if the majority of people do not wish to follow a law, the government

has not the power...