History Coursework: Prohibition Essay

In this essay I will be looking into prohibition, peoples opinions on it and the effects it had on the United States of America. I will be analysing sources from various periods in the past, stretching from 1910 all the way to 1973. I will be using my analysis of these sources to answer questions on them. Firstly I will be analysing sources ‘A’ and ‘B’. I feel that both the sources agree with prohibition to an extent, as in source ‘A’ it states that there are many reasons why prohibition started, such as the ‘Bad influence’ of saloons. The writer feels that the influence of the saloons was bad, therefore agreeing with prohibition.

Likewise in source ‘B’ ‘The Women’s Christians temperance’ union was on what was described as a ‘crusade’ against one of the ‘Great evils of the times-alcohol’. The use of the word ‘crusade’ shows that the writer thought that their cause was positively good. As their cause was against alcohol, the writer must have agreed with prohibition. Source ‘A’ was from an American history book, published in 1973. This shows that the source is quite reliable, as it was written after the time of prohibition; and the writer could have looked back on the incident knowing the final outcome.

Unlike source ‘B’, which was written around about 1917, which was before the prohibition law had even been passed. So they could not possibly have known the effects it would have on the country and its people. Their views may also have been biased due to all the strong religious groups and government. The writer of source ‘A’ may have agreed about prohibition when it first started, but it is safe to say that they do not agree looking back on it. The writer would also have not have been biased as other people or the government could not have influenced them, and being in a history book it covers all points of view.

Source ‘C’ and ‘D’ are both for prohibition though they both show this in very different ways. Source ‘C’ shows it is for prohibition by stating that the ‘Poor Mans Club’ is well named, as it keeps its members and their families always poor. This source however only gets at the fact that drinking is a waste of money, and that you are letting yourself down. The title of the source, ‘Slaves of the Saloon’ unsettles the reader, as they do not like the idea that they are slaves to anybody. They want to be in control of their life. This feeling will hopefully lead to the reader to stop drinking.

Source ‘D’ aims more at the idea that you are letting your family down by drinking. Both the sources are posters, and were published when prohibition was first brought into practice. This leads me to the conclusion that they are not too reliable as there would have been a lot of outside influence towards the artist. As the idea of this poster was to make the public think that prohibition was a good thing, this fact alone makes it unreliable. In my opinion, source ‘D’ was the best and most effective in supporting prohibition and changing the opinions of the general public to agree with prohibition.

This is because the reader cares about their family greatly, and would feel extremely guilty when he realised what he was doing, and how he was letting his family down. Out of both source ‘E’ and ‘F’, I feel that source ‘E’ is more reliable as evidence about prohibition. There are several main reasons for this, one being that source ‘E’ was written two years before prohibition was abolished, so the writer had been around during prohibition. This would make the source very reliable as the writer would know everything that happened and the effects it had on the country and public.

Also because the source was taken from a personal letter, it would have been the writer’s genuine opinion. Instead of source ‘F’ which was a speech given at the beginning of prohibition. So would have been extremely one sided, and unaware of the effects it was going to have; like the major increase in crime, and the huge amount of gangsters that would come about. Prohibition also led to the corruption in the authorities, such as the police and the government, the mass of alcohol related smuggling, and the monstrous increase in the amount of deaths per year in America. Neither source ‘G’ or ‘H’ show that prohibition was successful.

In both sources it is clear that more and more alcohol and alcohol related crimes were being recorded. This can be interpreted as good or bad, good because more alcohol and offenders were being captured, or bad because more alcohol and offences were being made. Emphasising this, it was not common knowledge that for every bottle getting seized, there were another 10 getting through. The gangsters and government knew this, but not the general public. This helps to explain why the public carried on voting for prohibition enforcing governments, and why they thought the government was doing such a good job of holding the public to the law.

The corrupted authorities were covering up the full story. I feel that the artist who designed source ‘I’ did it to show how corrupted everybody was. It was drawn at the time of prohibition to try and give those who didn’t know an insight into what was going on ‘behind the scenes’. Source ‘I’ consists of a line of people holding their hand out behind them. They could be holding out their hand for one of many reasons, personally I feel its because they are waiting for their money. The authorities were paid bribes to keep quiet weekly by gangsters and Saloon owners.

On the backs of the people in source ‘I’ is written, ‘Prohibition Agents’, ‘Police’, ‘Politicians’, ‘Magistrates’, and ‘Clerks’. This shows just how many and what types of people were corrupt. This is why prohibition could never have been successful. Though there are arguments for both sides, in my opinion I think that source ‘I’ proves that the policeman in source ‘J’ is telling the truth; as the policeman states how his superiors were corrupt, ‘We were just ordinary policemen and if you tried to enforce the law they’d put you on a post where there was nothing but weeds.

It was a conspiracy and my superiors were involved in it’. Also showing that the policeman in source ‘J’ is telling the truth is the man who ‘dashed’ up to him and gave him $75, this was most likely a bribe as in source ‘I’. But we must be careful, as we cannot judge the rest of America purely by what’s going on in Chicago. We must also take into account the fact that the statement was only from one person, therefore only from one point of view. All in all, the majority of the sources support the idea that the failure of prohibition was inevitable.

Though the rest of the sources were written for the publics viewing, designed by the government who were corrupted and only wanted the public’s vote. So prohibition was purely a moneymaker for the government, they said they would enforce prohibition if they were elected, so they were getting money for being the government, and then they were getting yet more money from gangsters and saloon owners bribing them to ‘turn a blind eye’ on their business.

The sources that do not believe the failure of prohibition was inevitable are not very powerful and very watery with no evidence. In a way these sources work against prohibition, as looking back on the time of prohibition we can see just how fake it all was. Which emphasises our opinions on the authorities and how corrupt they were. Depending on whether we look at the sources from our own point of view, taking into account what we know in hindsight; or looking at the sources from a person’s point of view at the time of prohibition, we can come to two answers.

From a member of public’s point of view of the time, I would say that several of the sources do not believe that prohibition was bound to fail. But knowing what I know now, I would say that the sources do support the views that prohibition was never going to work. The fact alone that the sources for prohibition are designed with data on it, whether it be true or false to influence the public into believing prohibition is good shows us it is not very reliable. In conclusion I feel that these sources show, perhaps without wanting to, that the failure of prohibition was inevitable.