The Rise and Fall of the Temperance Movement

With the dangers of alcoholism being prudent in today’s society as well as in the past, it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time where alcohol was banned. However, for the history students among us, the Temperance movement was exactly that. Although it sadly didn’t make the problem go away.

The Temperance movement was created when people thought that alcohol was causing some serious problems for society and the problems of intoxication were becoming too dangerous to ignore. So the movement decided to either prohibit alcohol entirely or control how it could be sold.

The movement focused on the sin that drinking supposedly brought into the world. Many religious groups supported the movement as well as women’s groups who focused on the family troubles associated with drunkenness.

By focusing on the problems of abuse received from alcoholic husbands, as well as the political corruption of saloons, the pro-prohibition movement made great strides in Congress and with public opinion.

With the outbreak of World War One weakening the primarily German-American opposition to keep the saloons open, the 18th amendment was signed and the prohibition era began.

However, people who need alcohol will always get it, and people turned to crime and local criminal gangs to get the drinks that they needed. Bootleg breweries and underground saloons soon popped up all over the country, operating under the nose of the officers designated to stop the underground liquor rings.

Smugglers brought alcohol in from Canada, the Caribbean islands, and other states and countries unaffected by the laws to the Americans and the cases of bootlegged liquor and crimes relating to alcohol climbed dramatically the longer prohibition went on.

Ironically, grape juice was not outlawed, so many people chose to let the juice ferment into a low alcoholic wine and then consume that, causing a massive demand for grape juice.

The oddest thing about prohibition was that the law did almost nothing to stop alcohol production in the U.S. Many people simply chose to ignore the law and continue drinking and frequenting underground taverns and restaurants, and due to the large population of criminals in the town it meant that the police were being paid off to look the other way.

With a massive disrespect for the law being flaunted and the people who were supposed to enforce prohibition being simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of crimes and illegal operations going on, the 18th amendment was repealed by the 21st amendment.

States could now choose whether to ban alcohol, and the supporters of Prohibition quietly faded into the background or admitted that they had failed in doing what the law had intended. This was a prime example of an idea that looked good on paper and did have some benefits, but couldn’t account for the lengths humans would go to get a drink.

Still, the Prohibition era was an example of a social movement making a massive change in the world, and it’s a beacon of hope for all the other movements out there.

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