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The first Prohibition law in the history of the United States is passed in Tennessee, making it a misdemeanor to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores. The bill stated that all persons convicted of retailing “spirituous liquors” would be fined at the “discretion of the court” and that the fines would be used in support of public schools.
The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, several states and dozens of cities had enacted prohibition laws, and temperance groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, commonly known as the Prohibition Amendment. It took effect in January 1919, following state ratification.
Despite an often-vigorous effort by law-enforcement agencies, the federal government failed to prevent the large-scale distribution of alcoholic beverages, and organized crime flourished in America during the 1920s. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, repealing Prohibition.
READ MORE: 10 Things You Should Know About Prohibition
Here’s a Timeline of the Major Gun Control Laws in America
T hrough their grief, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become a political force. One week after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly used an AR-15 to shoot and kill 17 people at the school, around 100 students met with lawmakers in the Florida state capital to advocate for gun control. They also met with President Trump in the White House Wednesday. In organizing the March For Our Lives, they’ll rally next month in Washington, D.C.
But with the right of gun ownership enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, gun regulations remain a thorny issue in the U.S. Throughout history, there have been several laws and Supreme Court cases that have shaped the Second Amendment. This timeline outlines the most important events in influencing the country’s federal gun policy.
On Dec. 15, 1791, ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution &mdash eventually known as the Bill of Rights &mdash were ratified. The second of them said: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The first piece of national gun control legislation was passed on June 26, 1934. The National Firearms Act (NFA) &mdash part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal for Crime“&mdash was meant to curtail “gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine&rsquos Day Massacre.”
The NFA imposed a tax on the manufacturing, selling, and transporting of firearms listed in the law, among them short-barrel shotguns and rifles, machine guns, firearm mufflers and silencers. Due to constitutional flaws, the NFA was modified several times. The $200 tax, which was high for the era, was put in place to curtail the transfer of these weapons.
The Federal Firearms Act (FFA) of 1938 required gun manufacturers, importers, and dealers to obtain a federal firearms license. It also defined a group of people, including convicted felons, who could not purchase guns, and mandated that gun sellers keep customer records. The FFA was repealed in 1968 by the Gun Control Act (GCA), though many of its provisions were reenacted by the GCA.
In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case United States v. Miller, ruling that through the National Firearms Act of 1934, Congress could regulate the interstate selling of a short barrel shotgun. The court stated that there was no evidence that a sawed off shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia,” and thus “we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.”
Following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed for the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The GCA repealed and replaced the FFA, updated Title II of the NFA to fix constitutional issues, added language about “destructive devices” (such as bombs, mines and grenades) and expanded the definition of “machine gun.”
Overall the bill banned importing guns that have “no sporting purpose,” imposed age restrictions for the purchase of handguns (gun owners had to be 21), prohibited felons, the mentally ill, and others from purchasing guns, required that all manufactured or imported guns have a serial number, and according to the ATF, imposed “stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry.”
In 1986 the Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed by Congress. The law mainly enacted protections for gun owners &mdash prohibiting a national registry of dealer records, limiting ATF inspections to once per year (unless there are multiple infractions), softening what is defined as “engaging in the business” of selling firearms, and allowing licensed dealers to sell firearms at “gun shows” in their state. It also loosened regulations on the sale and transfer of ammunition.
The bill also codified some gun control measures, including expanding the GCA to prohibit civilian ownership or transfer of machine guns made after May 19, 1986, and redefining “silencer” to include parts intended to make silencers.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 is named after White House press secretary James Brady, who was permanently disabled from an injury suffered during an attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. (Brady died in 2014). It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law, which amends the GCA, requires that background checks be completed before a gun is purchased from a licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer. It established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is maintained by the FBI.
Tucked into the sweeping and controversial Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed by President Clinton in 1994, is the subsection titled Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act. This is known as the assault weapons ban &mdash a temporary prohibition in effect from September of 1994 to September of 2004. Multiple attempts to renew the ban have failed.
The provisions of the bill outlawed the ability to “manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon,” unless it was “lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of the enactment of this subsection.” Nineteen military-style or “copy-cat” assault weapons&mdashincluding AR-15s, TEC-9s, MAC-10s, etc.&mdashcould not be manufactured or sold. It also banned “certain high-capacity ammunition magazines of more than ten rounds,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice Fact Sheet.
The Tiahrt Amendment, proposed by Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), prohibited the ATF from publicly releasing data showing where criminals purchased their firearms and stipulated that only law enforcement officers or prosecutors could access such information.
“The law effectively shields retailers from lawsuits, academic study and public scrutiny,” The Washington Post wrote in 2010. “It also keeps the spotlight off the relationship between rogue gun dealers and the black market in firearms.”
There have been efforts to repeal this amendment.
In 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was signed by President George W. Bush to prevent gun manufacturers from being named in federal or state civil suits by those who were victims of crimes involving guns made by that company.
The first provision of this law is “to prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.” It also dismissed pending cases on October 26, 2005.
District of Columbia v. Heller essentially changed a nearly 70-year precedent set by Miller in 1939. While the Miller ruling focused on the “well regulated militia” portion of the Second Amendment (known as the “collective rights theory” and referring to a state’s right to defend itself), Heller focused on the “individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.”
Heller challenged the constitutionality of a 32-year-old handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and found, “The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.”
It did not however nullify other gun control provisions. “The Court&rsquos opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” stated the ruling.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated what happened to White House Press Secretary James Brady during an attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. He was injured and permanently disabled, but he did not die in the attack. He died in 2014.
- During the school year, 22 million pupils took required anti-alcohol education. The WCTU called it Scientific Temperance Instruction. 4
- Congress passed the Anti-Canteen Law. It prohibited the sale of alcohol on any military premises. 5 joined the Anti-Saloon League.
- became head of the national Anti-Saloon League. An important part of his strategy was to demonize brewers, virtually all of whom were German-Americans. For example, he asserted that Germans “eat like gluttons and drink like swine.” 11
- The Lincoln-Lee Legion was established by the Anti-Saloon League. It promoted the signing of life-long abstinence pledges by children. 10
- The Prohibition Party candidate for president got 258,596 votes. 12
- A total of 204 Prohibition Party candidates won local election in Venango County, Pennsylvania. 13
- The Scientific Temperance Federation was created after Mary Hunt of the WCTU died. It was necessitated by legal arrangements that Mary Hunt had made to conceal the income from her “voluntary” work approving anti-alcoholm textbooks. This clouded ownership of her estate. The Federation published temperance materials until at least 1968. 14 For more, visit Mary F. Stoddard.
- Three states had prohibition. 15
- Georgia and Oklahoma became the first states to adopt statewide prohibition in the 20th century. 16
- The Anti-Saloon League formed its Industrial Relations Department. It had help from S. S. Kresge, of retail store fame. The League also got funds to build a modern printing plant. This supported the League’s new public information campaign. An important part of this was to demonize alcohol beverage producers. 17
- Mississippi and North Carolina adopted statewide prohibition. 18
- In Massachusetts, 249 towns and 18 cities had prohibition. 19
- The American Temperance University closed. It had opened in 1893. 20
- The Prohibition Party nominee for president got 252,821 votes. 21
- Tennessee adopted statewide prohibition. 22
- The Anti-Saloon League reported that over 41 million Americans were living in dry states or areas. That was over 45 percent of the entire population of the U.S. 23
- Two-thirds of the precincts in Chicago had voted to go dry. 24
- The American Issue Publishing Company was formed. It was the holding company of the Anti-Saloon League. Pro-prohibition materials were printed 24 hours a day. 25
- The WCTU had chapters (unions) in 53 states and territories. Its membership was 248,343. This was a large increase over the 168,324 just ten years earlier. 26
- West Virginia adopted statewide prohibition. 27
- The Methodist Church formed the Board of Temperance. (lts name later became the Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals.) It worked closely with the Anti-Saloon League. The goal was national prohibition. Following Repeal, it support prohibition at the state and local levels. 28
- After much fan-fare, Purley Baker presented dry congressmen copies of a proposed 18th Amendment for national Prohibition. He had drafted it with Wayne Wheeler, Bishop James Cannon, and other leaders of the League. 29 This was a milestone in the history of prohibition.
- The Webb-Kenyon Act was passed. It banned shipment of alcohol beverages into a state if the law of that state prohibited it. This prohibited sending alcohol into a state with statewide prohibition. 30
- The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It legalized the federal income tax. Previously, the tax on alcoholic beverages had provided approximately one-half to two-thirds of the entire federal revenue. By reducing federal dependence on taxes from alcohol, it eliminated a major objection to prohibition. This promoted ratification of the amendment for prohibition. 31
- Nine states had statewide prohibition. In 31 others, local option laws were in effect. Over half the population of the country lived in prohibition areas. 32
- (“the Dry Warrior”) arrived in New York City. He declared that “From now on, the attention of the National Anti-Saloon League will be directed toward New York as the liquor center of America.” He pledged to punish anyone who stood in the way of its prohibition agenda. Anderson effectively used such tactics as false rumors, forged documents, character attacks, and intimidation to achieve his goal. 33 was a temperance organization. It began presenting revival-like programs in cities across the U.S. 34
- Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, Washington State and West Virginia adopted statewide prohibition. 35
- By 1914, 33 states in the U.S. had statewide prohibition. 36
- Prohibition Party candidate Charles Randall of California was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1916 and 1918. 38
- The prohibition movement reflected, among other things, racism. For example, in arguing for prohibition, Congressman Richard Hobson of Alabama made this assertion.
“Liquor will actually make a brute out of a Negro, causing him to commit unnatural crimes. The effect is the same on the white man, though the white man being further evolved, it takes longer time to reduce him to the same level.” 37
- A new Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was started in Atlanta in 1915 to defend Prohibition, which existed in Georgia at that time. It’s often called the Klan of the 20s. Defending prohibition was a cornerstone of its agenda. An historian has observed that ‘support for Prohibition represented the single most important bond between Klansmen throughout the nation.’ Another scholar wrote that ‘enforcement of Prohibition, in fact, was a central, and perhaps the strongest, goal of the Ku Klux Klan.’ 39 For more about the anti-alcohol nature of the KKK visit the KKK and WCTU: Partners in Prohibition.
- Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, and South Carolina adopted statewide prohibition. 40
- Whiskey and brandy were removed from the list of medicinal drugs in the United States Pharmacopoeia. 41
- Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Washington adopted statewide prohibition. 42
- A total of 19 states in the country had state-wide prohibition. 43
- A Prohibition Party candidate was elected governor of Florida. 44
- The Prohibition Party nominee for the presidency received 221,030 votes. 45
- Senator Morris Sheppard introduced the 18th Amendment. 46 Great effort was made to get it acted on before 1920. That was because the census of that year would report greater population in cities. They were the wettest parts of the country. The results would give them increased political power. 47
- The Reed Amendment to the Webb-Kenyon Act was passed. It made it illegal to mail advertisements for alcohol beverages to persons in dry areas. 48
- The Lever Food and Fuel Act was passed. It made it illegal to distill beverage alcohol. This was to conserve food supplies during WW I. 49
- It became a federal crime to sell alcohol to members of the U.S. military forces. 50
- Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Utah adopted statewide prohibition. 51
- The head of the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed Prohibition. The group discouraged therapeutic use of alcohol. 52
- The War Time Prohibition Act was passed. It was to conserve grain and other materials needed for the war effort in W.W.I. 53
- Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Wyoming adopted statewide prohibition. 54
- The dates on which states ratified the 18th Amendment during the year were: 55
January 8, Mississippi
” 11, Virginia
” 14, Kentucky
” 28, North Dakota
” 29, South Carolina
February 13, Maryland
” 19, Montana
March 4, Texas
” 18, Delaware
” 20, South Dakota
April 2, Massachusetts
May 24, Arizona
June 26, Georgia
August 9, Louisiana
November 27, Florida
- The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was formed. It failed to prevent National Prohibition. 56 But it would grow as the unintended consequences of prohibition became apparent.
- The Anti-Saloon League called alcohol producers “un-American, pro-German, crime-producing, food-wasting, youth-corrupting, home-wrecking, [and] treasonable.”
The temperance movement had become a prohibition movement.
The history of prohibition was nothing short of remarkable. It had become a popular wave of expectations. Alcohol had been demonized as the cause of most ills in society. There was the belief, hope, or dream that prohibition would lead to a better society.
(1866) Jim Crow Laws: Tennessee, 1866-1955
The State of Tennessee enacted 20 Jim Crow laws between 1866 and 1955, including six requiring school segregation, four which outlawed miscegenation, three which segregated railroads, two requiring segregation for public accommodations, and one which mandated segregation on streetcars. The 1869 law declared that no citizen could be excluded from the University of Tennessee because of race or color but then mandated that instructional facilities for black students be separate from those used by white students. As of 1954, segregation laws for miscegenation, transportation and public accommodation were still in effect.
1866: Education [Statute]
Separate schools required for white and black children
1869: Barred school segregation [Statute]
While no citizen of Tennessee could be excluded from attending the University of Tennessee on account of his race or color, “the accommodation and instruction of persons of color shall be separate from those for white persons.”
1870: Miscegenation [Constitution]
Intermarriage prohibited between white persons and Negroes, or descendants of Negro ancestors to the third generation.
1870: Miscegenation [Statute]
Penalty for intermarriage between whites an blacks was labeled a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary from one to five years.
1870: Education [Statute]
Schools for white and colored children to be kept separate.
1873: Education [Statute]
“White and colored persons shall not be taught in the same school, but in separate schools under the same general regulations as to management, usefulness and efficiency.”
1875: Public accommodations [Statute]
Hotel keepers, carriers of passengers and keepers of places of amusement have the right to control access and exclude persons as “that of any private person over his private house.”
1881: Railroads [Statute]
Railroad companies required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates. Cars to be kept in good repair, and subject to the same rules governing other first-class cars for preventing smoking and obscene language. Penalty: If companies fail to enforce the law required to pay a forfeit of $100, half to be paid to the person suing, the other half to be paid to the state’s school fund.
1881 law amended to state that railroads required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates. Penalty: $300 fine payable to the public school fund.
1885: Public accommodations [Statute]
All well-behaved persons to be admitted to theaters, parks, shows, or other public amusements, but also declared that proprietors had the right to create separate accommodations for whites and Negroes.
1891: Railroads [Statute]
Railways to provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races. Penalty: Railroad companies that failed to comply with law guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fines from $100 to $500. Conductors could be fined from $25 to $50.
1901: Education [Statute]
Unlawful for any school or college to permit white and colored persons to attend the same school. Penalty: $50 fine, or imprisonment from 30 days to six months, or both.
1905: Streetcars [Statute]
All street cars required to designate a portion of each car for white passengers and also for colored passengers. Required signs to be posted. Special cars could be run for one race exclusively. Penalty: Streetcar companies could be fined $25 for each offense. Passengers who refused to take the proper seat could be fined $25.
1925: Education [Statute]
Separate elementary and high schools to be maintained for white and Negro children.
1932: Race classification [State Code]
Classified “Negro” as any person with any Negro blood.
1932: Miscegenation [State Code]
Miscegenation declared a felony.
1932: Education [State Code]
Required racially segregated high schools.
1953: Voting rights protected [Constitution]
Repealed poll tax statute.
1955: Public carriers [State Code]
Public carriers to be segregated.
1955: Employment [State Code]
Separate washrooms in mines required.
1955: Health Care [State Code]
Separate buildings for black and white patients in hospitals for the insane.
1955: Miscegenation [State Code]
Prohibited marriage or living together as man and wife between racially mixed persons. Penalty: One to five years imprisonment in county jail, or fine.
Tennessee bans teaching critical race theory in schools
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee is the latest state to ban teachers from teaching certain concepts of race and racism in public schools, where teachers risk losing valuable state funding if they violate the new measure.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a measure into law Monday after it attracted some of the most impassioned debates inside the GOP-controlled General Assembly this year. He signaled his support after it cleared the Legislature, arguing that students should learn “the exceptionalism of our nation,” not things that "inherently divide" people.
“We need to make sure that our kids recognize that this country is moving toward a more perfect union, that we should teach the exceptionalism of our nation and how people can live together and work together to make a greater nation, and to not teach things that inherently divide or pit either Americans against Americans or people groups against people groups,” Lee told reporters at the time.
The legislation, which was amended several times in the final days of the legislative session, takes effect July 1. Among other things, Tennessee's teachers can't instruct that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”
“Impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” is still permitted under the law, and limits on teacher speech won’t apply when a teacher is responding to a student’s question or referring to a historic figure or group.
However, the penalty for a transgression is steep: The state education commissioner could withhold funds from any school found to be in violation.
While most of the majority-white GOP House and Senate caucuses supported the effort, Black Democratic lawmakers warned that it will make teachers fearful about telling students anything about how race and racism have shaped the nation's history.
Yet this year, ahead of the 2022 midterms, Republicans across the country have introduced proposals similar to Tennessee.
The proposals have been introduced in 16 states, with Idaho and Oklahoma enacting the laws this year. In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed a version that primarily focused on employee training to become law without his signature.
Republican lawmakers also passed bills about sexual education. Lee signed a requirement that school districts alert parents 30 days in advance of any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, and let them opt their student out. Lee also approved legislation allowing parents to view information about contraception included within a family life curriculum, and opt their children out of those lessons as well.
How Prohibition backfired and gave America an era of gangsters and speakeasies
O n Saturday, 17 January 1920, the Manchester Guardian reported with mild incredulity on one of the most extraordinary experiments in modern democratic history. "One minute after midnight tonight," the story began, "America will become an entirely arid desert as far as alcoholics are concerned, any drinkable containing more than half of 1 per cent alcohol being forbidden." In fact, the Volstead Act – which prohibited the sale of "intoxicating liquors" – had come into operation at midnight the day before. But the authorities had granted drinkers one last day, one last session at the bar, before the iron shutters of Prohibition came down.
Across the United States, many bars and restaurants marked the demise of the demon drink by handing out free glasses of wine, brandy and whisky. Others saw one last opportunity to make a killing, charging an eye-watering "20 to 30 dollars for a bottle of champagne, or a dollar to two dollars for a drink of whisky". In some establishments, mournful dirges played while coffins were carried through the crowds of drinkers in others, the walls were hung with black crepe. And in the most prestigious establishments, the Guardian noted, placards carried the ominous words: "Exit booze. Doors close on Saturday."
In an age when individual freedom is all, it comes as something of a shock to reflect that in the world's most prosperous and dynamic country the prohibition of alcohol lasted for almost 14 years. Today we often think of Prohibition as a deluded experiment, instinctively associating it with images of Al Capone, the mafia and the Valentine's Day Massacre. In fact, the campaign to prohibit alcohol had been deeply rooted in Anglo-American society for some two centuries. The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, for example, was founded in 1826, and by the following decade as many as a million Americans belonged to an anti-alcohol group of some kind.
Far from being repressive authoritarians, Prohibition's largely Protestant champions – a large proportion of whom were high-minded middle-class women – were the do-gooders of the day. Often deeply religious, they saw Prohibition as a kind of social reform, a crusade to clean up the American city and restore the founding virtues of the godly republic. Many were involved in other progressive campaigns, too, notably the anti-slavery movement of the 1850s. And as American cities boomed after the civil war, swollen with immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, the campaigners' hatred of alcohol became steadily more ferocious. They looked in horror on the new saloons of the expanding cities, with their card games and fist fights, their bad boys and good-time girls. In particular, they became convinced that alcohol was a deadly threat to the health and virtue of American womanhood – not, perhaps, entirely erroneously, since papers of the time were full of stories of battered wives and broken marriages.
The first state to outlaw alcohol entirely was, not surprisingly, a Protestant stronghold, the New England state of Maine, which introduced Prohibition in 1851. (Few people now realise that, thanks to the influence of the Lancashire temperance movement, Maine Road, the street where Manchester City's famous old stadium was based, was named in honour of the state that pioneered Prohibition. It had been formerly known as Dog Kennel Lane, which would probably have been an unfortunate name for a football ground.) At the national level, though, Prohibition took a long time to get off the ground, and the Maine law was repealed only five years later. Many activists felt they had no choice but to take the law into their own hands: a good example was the ferocious evangelical Christian Carrie Nation, who stood almost 6ft tall. As Mrs Nation readily accepted, she had a daunting appearance: she once compared herself to a "bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like". Her activities ranged from serenading the patrons of Kansas saloons to smashing up bars with rocks and hatchets, often accompanied by dozens of hymn-singing women. Arrested more than 30 times before her death in 1911, she found the money for her fines from the sale of souvenir hatchets.
By the time of Carrie Nation's death, though, the campaign for Prohibition was gathering momentum. This was the heyday of progressive reform: to a generation of Protestant reformers, using the power of the state to regulate the anarchy of the industrial city and improve the lot of ordinary workers seemed only natural and reasonable. Outlawing alcohol, which they associated with disease and disorder, fitted nicely into this agenda. As early as 1916, some 26 out of 48 states were already dry, and once the United States entered the first world war, Prohibition became identified with patriotism – not least because German Americans, with their brewing traditions, were often against it. By December 1917, with the war in full swing, both houses of Congress had approved a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol. In January 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment had been ratified by 36 states, and that October, the Volstead Act – passed over President Woodrow Wilson's attempted veto – gave the federal authorities the power to stop the manufacture, sale or importation of "intoxicating liquor".
Now prohibition was law. Unfortunately for its advocates, however, the federal government was never really equipped to enforce it. By the time the Volstead Act came into force, the heyday of progressive reform had already passed. The Republican presidents of the 1920s, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, were both small-government conservatives, who shrank from high spending and federal intervention. Almost incredibly, only 1,500 federal agents were given the job of enforcing Prohibition – that is, about 30 for every state in the union. On top of that, the new regime never had unanimous public support, while neighbouring countries remained defiantly wet. Neither Mexico nor Canada had any intention of clamping down on breweries and distilleries near the American border indeed, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, Winston Churchill, thought that Prohibition was "an affront to the whole history of mankind".
Above all, many Americans with a taste for liquor were determined to get hold of a drink one way or another. Illegal drinking dens had long flourished in big cities indeed, the word "speakeasy" probably dates from the late 1880s. But now they bloomed as never before historians estimate that by 1925, there were as many as 100,000 illegal bars in New York City alone, many of them tiny, spit-and-sawdust joints, others catering to the rich and well-connected. In Detroit, tantalisingly close to the Canadian border, smugglers used "false floorboards in automobiles, second gas tanks, hidden compartments, even false-bottomed shopping baskets and suitcases, not to mention camouflaged flasks and hot water bottles", as one account has it, to bring alcohol into the city. And somehow it speaks volumes that when the Michigan state police raided one Detroit bar, they found the local congressman, the local sheriff and the city's mayor all enjoying a drink.
The big winners from Prohibition were, of course, the nation's gangsters. The law had only been in operation for an hour when the police recorded the first attempt to break it, with six armed men stealing some $100,000-worth of "medicinal" whisky from a train in Chicago. From the very beginning, criminals had recognised that Prohibition represented a marvellous business opportunity in major cities, indeed, gangs had quietly been stockpiling booze supplies for weeks. Legend has it that the first gangster to grasp the real commercial potential of Prohibition, though, was racketeer Arnold Rothstein, whose agents had been responsible for rigging the baseball World Series in 1919. Establishing his "office" at Lindy's Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, Rothstein brought alcohol across the Great Lakes and down the Hudson from Canada, and supplied it – at a handsome profit – to the city's gangsters.
In 1928, Rothstein was murdered after a gambling dispute, but by then his fame was such that F Scott Fitzgerald used him as the model for Jay Gatsby's friend Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, a "small, flatnosed Jew" with cufflinks made from human teeth. Indeed, Gatsby himself – the quintessential self-made American hero – is alleged to have made his fortune from organised crime. "He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter," says Tom Buchanan. "I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn't far wrong."
By far the most celebrated gangster of the day, though, was Al Capone, a New York-born hoodlum who controlled much of the Chicago underworld in the mid-1920s. Living in splendour in the city's Lexington hotel, he was said to be raking in some $100m a year from casinos and speakeasies. To many people, he seemed a real-life Robin Hood, opening soup kitchens for the unemployed and giving large sums to charity. Unlike Sherwood Forest's finest, however, Capone had a pronounced taste for the good life, wearing smart suits and drinking expensive Templeton Rye whisky. "I'm just a businessman," he used to say, "giving the public what they want." But when, in 1929, Capone ordered the brutal machine-gunning of seven Chicago rivals in the Valentine's Day Massacre, public sympathy evaporated. That same year, Prohibition agent Eliot Ness began to investigate Capone's affairs, and in October 1931 – after Capone's efforts to nobble the jury had been defeated – he was sentenced to 11 years for tax evasion. He eventually died in prison of a heart attack appropriately, perhaps, for the nation's most famous vice baron, his health had been eroded by syphilis.
By the time Capone went down, support for Prohibition was already ebbing away. With newspapers alleging that as many as eight out of 10 congressmen drank on the quiet, it was obvious that the attempt to outlaw alcohol had failed. In March 1933, just weeks after he had been inaugurated, President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act permitting the sale and consumption of beer with no more than 3.2% alcohol content. The Depression was in full swing, national morale was at rock bottom and, as Roosevelt put it, "I think we could all do with a beer." And on 5 December 1933, Utah approved the Twenty-first Amendment, providing a majority for ratification and consigning national Prohibition to the history books.
Yet although the age of Prohibition now feels very remote, the idea lives on. Alcohol is not, after all, the only drug to have been prohibited by law many people who regard Prohibition as bizarre and misguided think nothing of outlawing, say, heroin or cocaine. We often forget, too, that many states chose to remain dry after 1933. Mississippi, the last entirely dry state, only repealed Prohibition in 1966. Even today, more than 500 municipalities across the United States are dry, often in strongly evangelical states. In a famously delicious irony, they include Moore County, Tennessee, the home of the Jack Daniel's distillery, although visitors are allowed to buy a "commemorative" bottle.
The truth is that in many corners of the United States, opposition to alcohol dies hard. When Barack Obama was photographed with a very weak beer in hand at a Washington Wizards game, the phone-in lines smouldered with anger. "The president is the president 24 hours a day," one caller said. "I don't think he should drink on the job."
Brown, F. W.: "Prohibition and mental Hygiene" Annals, 163: 61, 71, 76-77, 88, 1176 (September, 1932).
Cherrington, E. H.: The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America, Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press (1920), pp. 16, 18, 37-38, 49-51, 58, 92-93, 134, 156-162, 165-169, 250-251, 317-330.
Dobyns, F.: The Amazing Story of Repeal, Chicago: Willett, Clark & Co. (1940), pp. 5, 5-130 passim, 9, 22, 107, 132, 160, 215, 292, 297.
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For Some States, Prohibition Didn’t End When the 21st Amendment Passed
On Jan. 1, 2021, Mississippi fully repealed Prohibition statewide by reversing its “dry by default” designation, an act allowing for the possession of alcohol in every county that didn’t have county-specific Prohibition laws on the books. The news may have been surprising to residents outside the Magnolia State — not that it was passed, but when it was passed. After all, history tells us Prohibition ended Dec. 5, 1933, when the 21st Amendment passed and Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered the famous quote, “What America needs right now is a drink.” Technically, this is true. But the repeal of the Volstead Act came with a caveat one that made its nationwide application a haphazard — and still ongoing — process.
The 21st Amendment nullified federal Prohibition laws, but states were still allowed to keep their own booze-banning mandates on the books. While most states adhered to the new federal regulations, several held onto the 18th Amendment’s teetotaling remnants. The states to hold out included Utah, which kept its own state Prohibition laws intact even though it was, ironically, the necessary 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment and officially put it on the books. Other states weren’t as hypocritical. Both Carolinas voted to reject the amendment when South Carolina repealed its Prohibition laws in 1935 — two years before North Carolina — Gov. Olin D. Johnson wasn’t too happy about it, stating, “I personally deplore this,” before signing the mandate into existence. Eight other states — Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota — didn’t submit votes at all. Five of these indifferent governments caved within a couple years, adapting state-level repeals via legislation that essentially established control of state laws. Three states — Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi — did not, and would not for a long time.
Kansas kept Prohibition on the books until 1948, ending a prolonged statewide ban that began in 1881 and was peppered by the exploits of temperance movement leader and infamous hatchet swinger Carrie Nation. Oklahoma finally repealed Prohibition in 1959, marking the first time its residents could enjoy legal liquor since it attained statehood in 1907. Mississippi clung to statewide Prohibition until 1966, shortly after authorities raided an illicit Mardi Gras ball in Jackson attended by the governor and other members of high society. Despite this repeal, Mississippi was still “dry by default,” meaning its counties were dry unless they specifically voted otherwise. January’s repeal law changed Mississippi’s default setting, enabling counties with no legislation in place to drink up.
Mississippi’s former “dry by default” status wasn’t unique. Kansas and Tennessee still carry the same designation — a byproduct of the 21st Amendment’s state-level loopholes. These same loopholes are the reason why there are still 83 dry counties spread across nine states — including 29 counties in Mississippi that had dry laws in place before the 2021 state mandate went into effect. We may have come a long way since Dec. 5, 1933, but we clearly still have a long way to go.
Undang-undang Larangan pertama dalam sejarah Amerika Syarikat diluluskan di Tennessee, menjadikannya salah laku untuk menjual minuman beralkohol di bar dan kedai. Rang undang-undang itu menyatakan bahawa semua orang yang disabitkan dengan peruncit "minuman beralkohol" akan didenda mengikut "budi bicara mahkamah" dan denda itu akan digunakan untuk menyokong sekolah-sekolah awam.
Pergerakan untuk larangan alkohol bermula pada awal abad ke-19, ketika orang Amerika peduli tentang efek buruk dari minuman mulai membentuk masyarakat yang lemah. Menjelang akhir abad ke-19, beberapa negeri dan berpuluh-puluh bandar telah membuat undang-undang larangan, dan kumpulan pemanasan menjadi kuasa politik yang kuat, berkempen di peringkat negeri dan memanggil pantang larangan nasional. Pada Disember 1917, Kongres meluluskan Pindaan ke-18, yang lazim dikenali sebagai Pindaan Larangan. Ia berkuatkuasa pada bulan Januari 1919, berikutan ratifikasi negara. Walaupun usaha yang sering dilakukan oleh agensi penguatkuasaan undang-undang, kerajaan persekutuan gagal mencegah pengedaran minuman beralkohol berskala besar, dan jenayah terancang berkembang di Amerika pada tahun 1920-an. Pada tahun 1933, Pindaan Ke-21 kepada Perlembagaan telah diluluskan dan disahkan, memansuhkan Larangan.
Tennessee passes nation’s first prohibition law - HISTORY
The passage of these two amendments shows how much a divided nation we were in the 1920's. On one hand we craved the modern and on the other we were a religious, traditional nation.
18th amendment - Prohibition
The conservatism and the fast times of the 1920's had to clash at some point. That point turned out to be alcohol. Many Americans saw alcohol as an evil, to others it was a part of life. The conflict over the use of alcohol, known as Prohibition, provided one of the more colorful periods in American history.
In December 1917 Congress adopted and submitted to the states the Eighteenth Amendment , known as the Prohibition amendment, which prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors." Ratified by the states in January 1919, it went into effect on January 20, 1920. Congress also passed the national Prohibition Enforcement Act, known as the Volstead Act , that defined an intoxicating beverage as any beverage containing more than one half of one percent (1 proof). The law also gave the Bureau of Internal Revenue enforcement authority.
The passage of the 18 th Amendment was the product of many years of hard work on the part on women's groups and religious fundamentalists . The church affiliated Anti-Saloon League and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which regarded drinking as a sin , pressured Congress and the states t put the amendment across. Women's groups blamed alcohol for husbands leaving their wives and families and for the abuse of women. As far as both groups were concerned alcohol was an evil that destroyed the American family. By 1918 29 states already had adopted amendments to their state constitutions prohibiting alcohol.
Enforcement of the Prohibition amendment was difficult because drinking was a custom ingrained in the fabric of social life . The saloon had grown out of the frontier and had matched the pace of industrialization and urbanization each step of the way. It was almost impossible to do away with drinking, especially in the cities. Before long law enforcement officials they were battling individuals abusers as well as a new problem organized crime. Gangsters such as Al Capone , king of the Chicago underworld, saw illegal alcohol importing and transportation as a way of making a lot of money.
Bootlegging became a thriving business and national law enforcement agencies were thrown into the full time business of keeping the nation dry. Illegal saloons known as speakeasies dotted the cities. Bootleg gangs engaged in a bloody war for control of the speakeasies, clubs and business outlets. The outlets might be at the corner drug store, a gas station, or a private individual. Then, came the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929. Gangsters armed with machine guns lined up their rivals and mowed them down.
The arguments over Prohibition reached such intensity that in 1928 President Hoover appointed the Wickersham Commission to investigate the problem. The commission responded that although Prohibition was not working it should be continued anyway. Humorist Franklin P. Adams commented with this poem:
Continuing enforcement difficulties and the increase in organized crime were the major factors contributing to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment by the adoption of the Twenty-first Amendment. The new amendment went into effect in December, 1933, and marked the end of the "noble experiment" to regulate the nations social customs.
19th amendment - Women's Suffrage
As we have discussed the 1920's were a period of great change in America. The success of women's groups in getting prohibition passed was tied to the movement to gain the right to vote. The quest for the passage of this amendment, eventually passed as the 19 th , was known as the suffrage movement.
I. Women's Right to Vote - The 19 th Amendment is passed
A. Early Efforts
1. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Seneca Falls Conv.
2. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton - National Women's Suffrage Association
3. Lucy Stone - American Women's Suffrage Association
4. Merger of two groups (1890) - National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
B. Success at the State level
1. Wyoming territory admitted with the vote
2. Utah, Colorado and Idaho follow.
1. 1915 - NAWSA membership reaches 2 million under leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt.
2. 1918 - House passes amendment, fails senate.
3. 1919 - Women help elect new Senate, passes Senate.
4. 1920, August 26th - States ratify