Tuesday, February 09, 2010

delanceyplace.com 2/9/10 - prohibition

In today's excerpt - after World War I, a
national prohibition against alcoholic
beverages was enacted in both the United
States and Canada. This prohibition, however,
led to a dramatic increase in alcohol
consumption and the rise of large-scale
criminal organizations to support it. Why was
it that prohibition was enacted?:

"How [Prohibition] came about can be boiled down
to about five causes:

1) The First World War.

2) The new authority of women.

3) A half-century of campaigning by church
leaders, politicians, evangelists and
women's groups.

4) The existing moral climate of the time.

5) Rural paranoia about urban intrusion.

"Most blame the First World War, which had a
tremendous influence upon the eventual
passage of legislation that took away a person's
freedom to drink. During the war, both the U.S.
and Canada, as already stated, enacted laws that
set the groundwork for full bans on liquor and
beer. It was believed that money should be
diverted from liquor to 'war fitness.' ...
The moral climate in the U.S. brought on by
the war permitted the easy passage of the
Volstead Act (Prohibition). ...

"Another wartime condition that aided
Prohibitionists in both the U.S. and Canada
was the
new authority of women. Before and during the
war, women found voice in numbers. They
banded together in [temperance] groups. Women
had also acquired far more responsibility
during this time, as they were forced to
fend for themselves during the war, to find
work and feed their families while their
husbands were fighting in the trenches
overseas. ... More importantly, during this
period women
won the right to vote in elections.

"The half-century of campaigning by groups
like the Anti-Saloon League (U.S.)
contributed perhaps
more than any other factor in generating
support for Prohibition. By the early 1900s
in the
U.S., the great temperance leaders ordered
their forces to use any means necessary to shut
down the saloons - even hatchets if necessary.
The Bible and hatchet-carrying Carry Nation
and her male counterpart, the iron-fisted Dr.
Howard Russell, were the most popular of the
U.S. temperance leaders. ...

"This Prohibitionary craze may seem
unfathomable out of context but, on closer
the period up until 1920 was dominated by
prohibitions - on clothing, behavior and
even food. In Ontario, especially, the
straight-laced Protestant ethic dictated an
exclusive code of conduct. It was strictly
forbidden in 1919, for example, to purchase a
an ice cream cone, a newspaper or anything
vaguely frivolous on a Sunday. And playing
sports of any kind was absolutely banned on
the Lord's Day. In Michigan, as an extreme
example, it was considered a crime for women
to wear high-heeled shoes. In such a world a
ban on intoxicating beverages did not seem so
out of place.

"In addition to all of these factors, the
farmer was regarded as the silent partner of the
Prohibition movement. The Prohibitionists
relied upon the farmer to cast his ballot against
the evils of drunkenness and sloth, which he
viewed from the safety of his front veranda
in he remote and serene countryside as
something distinctly urban. The Farmer's
Sun told farmers what they already knew -
that their
rural sanctuary could only be ensured if they
voted to bring cities and towns under the
umbrella of Prohibition."

Marty Gervais, The Rumrunners,
Biblioasis, Copyright 1980, 2009 by Marty
Gervais, pp. 14-18.


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