Eugenics is the study of races. It developed in the USA in the 1900’s. Eugenicists believed that if the American people stopped drinking then they would become better (healthier) people. This led to Prohibition and in this essay I will explain the events that led to Prohibition.
Eugenicists believed that alcoholism was a major problem in America. People would take days off wok due to illnesses caused by drinking too much. It was also a cause of domestic violence as fathers would come back from the saloons drunk and so arguments would brake out in the household. It also led people to poverty which led people to theft but the biggest problem of all was probably a new trend of loose sexual morals. Many people believed that if alcoholism was banned, then all these problems would stop, in the end they were proved to be wrong.
Women believed that a lot of the political discussions were taking place in the saloons and they were not allowed to have a say in them. Women believed that if the saloons were shut down then political discussions would come out into the mainstream and they would then have a say in political discussions. The movement to ban the sale of alcohol began in the American mid-west and was taken up by Protestant churches (Anti-Saloon League) and women’s groups (Women’s Temperance Movement).
The leading prohibition campaigner was Wayne Wheeler who later came to be known as ‘The Dry Boss.’ He exploited anti-German feelings in the war time by comparing patriotism to the ‘dry’ cause. As a result of this, breweries and distilleries were deprived of grain (Wheeler argued that it could be used for the war effort instead of making alcohol). Much of the funding for the Anti-Saloon League came from large companies such as Ford. This is because the leaders such as Henry Ford believed that if their workers stopped drinking then they would become more productive and this would benefit the business in the long run.
President Warren Harding also supported prohibition and so on January 7th 1920 the Volstead Act was introduced and implemented under the 18th Amendment of the constitution. However, the people were given one year to shut down all of the Saloons. The Volstead Act did not outlaw the consumption of alcohol but it outlawed the transport, sale and manufacture of alcohol. This criminalised large sections of the American population as they wanted alcohol (even those who didn’t abuse it). Also, prosecution was difficult due to the ‘loop-hole’ in the Volstead Act (consumption of Alcohol was not illegal). Because of prohibition, the exact opposite of its purpose was the result. Large sections of the police forces became corrupt, big gangs were created in which gangland killings were frequent and a black market quickly sprung up to either smuggle, distil or brew alcohol.
To conclude, I believe that Prohibition was introduced because of people’s religious beliefs (the Protestants). Also because the women of America felt that they were being excluded from political discussions and leaders of large companies such as Ford believed that their workers would become more productive if Prohibition was introduced. I believe that World War 1 was the catalyst for Prohibition as this helped Wheeler to bring the politicians over to his way of thinking. Overall, Prohibition had more bad consequences than positive effects and in the end, the same people who asked for Prohibition were asking for alcoholism to become legal again.