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Of the 27 amendments to the US constitution, only one has ever been revoked: the 18th amendment that banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol, also known as prohibition. Previous amendments had all focused on rights to vote, slavery, and gun laws but of the 27 amendments passed, this was the first dealing with a personal concern, the beverages you drink. Suffice to say the 18th amendment was not popular with average Americans. During its 14 years in existence there was much protesting and illegal activities.
So it bares the question, how did this absurd amendment get proposed, let alone passed in congress? Support for the 18th amendment arose because of patriotism in World War 1, medical concerns surrounding alcohol, and pressures from driving forces of the anti saloon league. Its said that “the First World War had a tremendous influence upon prohibition” and that “most blame the First World War” for the legislation being passed.
During the hard times of World War 1 almost all fit American men and women joined the war overseas, mostly as either soldiers or nurses.
Everyone who wasn’t directly part of the war efforts helped out on the home front as much as they could by means of collecting supplies and food for the Americans who were fighting. During this time alcohol was in dire need, not for drinking, but for medical supplies. For alcohol was the leading disinfectant to prevent further infection to wounds.
Since alcohol was seen more as a medical necessity to treat injured soldiers then as a drink, it was highly frowned upon for men in America to get ‘drunk’ while most of the population was dying fighting for their country.
Another factor to prohibition resulting from World War 1 was that Germans owned many bars and breweries in America (GCSE Why was Prohibition introduced in the USA in 1919 Coursework, Essay and Homework Help from Marked By Teachers. com. ). One can imagine that many Americans post World War 1 would want to avoid these establishments, since Germans were not the most popular people at this time.
World War 1 is often referred to as the main reason for prohibition. During the early 1920’s there was a lot of debate of the negative effects of alcohol and its connection to diseases. It was believed to have severe effects that people thought were very harmful and even deadly. Many people at the time were suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, which is a result of a combination of alcohol consumption and smoking (Reasons behind Prohibition – Prohibition ) Although not as severe now, in the 1920’s it almost always resulted in fatality.
People were also dying across country from kidney problems and alcohol poisoning. Americans not only noticed the severe negative effects alcohol was having on the physical health but also their mental health. Alcohol changes your personality when taken in large amounts and slows your motor skills. It is also extremely addictive and was the cause of many domestic violence cases that took place before prohibition. There were so many negatives to alcohol in the people of America’s eyes that it seemed like the best idea to just ban its sale.
A real driving force and the final nail in the coffin of alcohol prohibition was the Anti Saloon League (ASL). The ASL was a political pressure group that was founded in 1893. It was the leading organization working towards national prohibition. It was spread across the country but its main and largest source of support came from Protestant churches in the South.
It started as a small Protestant church movement, but quickly gained recognition and went on to have over 2,000 pastors preaching for prohibition (Anti-Saloon League). Unlike many other groups at the time, such as the Prohibition Party or the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, it had no other motives other then to “work to bring about the Lord’s will” (The Five Causes of Prohibition). They also had many powerful Americans supporting their cause such as John D. Rockefeller, an influential millionaire.
At this time, over 78. 4% of Americans were Christian, and the Anti Saloon League had a huge influence on all religious folk, claiming to work straight for god. Religion is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion and was highly effective in getting people on board with prohibition. While the 18th amendment may today seem to have be misguided, and restrictive of peoples personal freedoms, it’s understandable how Americans could have been persuaded to agree to it through the results of the First World War, medical scares, and powerful influential groups like the Anti Saloon League.
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