Prohibition: The Legislation of Morality

During the 1800\'s and early 1900\'s through out the United States there was a movement for the end of alcohol. The sole aim and purpose of this body was to stamp out the evils of alcohol. This movement, most commonly called Prohibition, mixed the morals of Christianity and the politics of government. Prohibition did succeed with the ratification of the 18th was, however, a great mistake. This amendment made the common man a criminal, lowered the confidence in the federal government, and started what we now know as organized crime. The 18th amendment was a "noble experiment," but it was a horrible disaster.

Prohibition has been supported since the original colonize. Pious Christians wanted to stamp out alcohol and to establish a better society. However many of the colonists, even those who considered themselves devout Christians, were heavy drinkers. "The Puritans who set sail for Massachusetts, they had taken care to carry with them 42 tons of beer (in contrast with 14 tons of water) and 10,000 gallons of wine" (Lee, 15). Many of the early laws or prohibition dealt with the control of excessive drinking. The regulation of liquor consumption was a matter of considerable concern in certain colonies. Thus, for a time, Massachusetts went so far as to prohibit the drinking of alcohol in 1638 (Lee, 19). This law was soon abandoned. Although colonial laws made in clear that drunkards were unwelcome, the diary of a colonial traveler, Sarah Kemble Knight, suggests that such laws were unsuccessful:

I could ger no sleep, because of the Clamor of some of
the Town Tope-ers in the next room. . . . I heartily
fretted and wish\'t \'am tongue tyed. . . . They kept
calling for Tother Gill, Wch while they were
swallowing, was some Intermission, But presently, like
Oyle to fire, encreased the flame (Miller, Johnson,
eds.. 430-431).
Persons, such as Sarah Knight, were to become even more outspoken about their concern for the use of spirits. Although the writings of these people were fierce, the time for temperance had not yet arrived.

During the 1750\'s the local ministers throughout the colonies began a crusade against alcohol. On their heels came many pamphlets and a general sentiment that liquor was not something that high society would involve itself with. "John Adams noted in his diary on February 29, 1769 that the taverns were \'becoming the eternal haunt of loose disorderly people. . .\'" (Cherrington, 37). At the end of the 18th Century, the temperance movement began to be noticed. In 1784, the Methodist Church took a staunch position against the sale or drinking of alcohol.

Prohibition became more and more supported throughout the United States throughout the early 1800\'s. Eventually, prohibition forces gained enough support to pass laws. In 1847, the first of these was enacted for the state of Maine. A wave of prohibition statues followed. Delaware, on the heels of Maine, passed it\'s first prohibition law only to have it declared unconstitutional the following year. Similar laws were enacted in Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York during the next few years. These laws met various fates, including, veto by governors, repeal by the legislature and invalidation by the state supreme courts. (nc2a.htm)

Eventually, all of these early prohibition laws were repealed. But supporters took heart and began temperance societies. Many of these spread throughout the United States, including the American Temperance Society, later to become the American Temperance Union, which by 1835 had 8000 local societies.

During the 1870 to the early 1900\'s, several movements started such as feminism, unionism, socialism, and progressivism. In 1874, with the forming of the Women\'s Christian Temperance Union, feminism became involved in the temperance movement. However, the WCTU was not carrying the burden of reform alone. In 1869, the National Prohibition Party was born. Three years later, the first party ticket was put forth in the presidential campaign of 1872, headed by John Black, who received 5,607 votes for President. Success at the polls ultimately peaked in 1892 when John Dedwell, the Prohibition presidential candidate, received a total of 270,710 votes. The next major organization of the temperance movement was the Anti-Saloon League. The League was to develop the art of lobbying