Prohibition (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Reform wins a victory, but the attempt to legislate temperance behavior gives a new license to crime.
Summary of Event
National prohibition of the sale of alcohol had its roots in various temperance movements and in local and state laws. As early as 1851, Maine prohibited the sale of liquor, and in 1884 it passed a state constitutional amendment banning alcoholic beverages. Agitation to enact “Maine laws” became strong elsewhere. Thus, by 1917, thirty-six states had already become “dry.” National prohibition was not far behind. Also paving the way to prohibition was a belief in human perfectibility, the conviction that drunkenness squanders family income and is therefore evil, and a shrewd political campaign spearheaded by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) but propagated more effectively (since women did not yet have the vote) by the Anti-Saloon League and the Prohibition Party. The United States’ entry into World War I in 1917 made the public more receptive to austerity measures, such as the conservation of grain (used in making alcohol) for the war effort. Federal precedents existed as well. In 1913, the easy passage of the Webb-Kenyon Act over President William Howard Taft’s veto had made it a crime to transport alcohol from a wet to a dry state. A coalition of political forces, then—rural, South, Southwest, West, Protestant, and women’s groups—combined with a...
(The entire section is 1321 words.)
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Prohibition (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The popular name for the period in U.S. history from 1920 to 1933 when the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beveragesxcept for medicinal or religious purposesere illegal.
From 1920 to 1933 the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors were illegal in the United States. The EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to prohibit alcoholic beverages, but the TWENTY-FIRST AMENDMENT repealed this prohibition. The era of Prohibition was marked by large-scale SMUGGLING and illegal sales of liquor, the growth of ORGANIZED CRIME, and increased restriction on personal freedom.
The prohibition movement began in the 1820s in the wake of a revival of Protestantism that viewed the consumption of alcohol as sinful and a destructive force in society. Maine passed the first state prohibition law in 1846, and other states followed in the years before the U.S. CIVIL WAR.
The PROHIBITION PARTY was founded in 1869, with a ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor as its only campaign goal. This party, like most temperance groups, derived its support from rural and small-town voters associated with Protestant evangelical churches. The Prohibition Party reached it zenith in 1892...
(The entire section is 925 words.)
Prohibition (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The term prohibition has been borrowed by psychoanalysis from everyday language, where it is used either as an adjective to describe something we are not allowed to do, say, see, think, or be; or substantively to refer to the law, social constraint, moral education, and so on, on which this prohibition is based.
Psychoanalytic language gives a more precise meaning to the term, however. Prohibition can present itself to the subject as external, and be internalized as a result of its associated dynamic of conflict; it can also result from structural requirements inherent in the mind. In every case the formulation of the prohibition and its operation can be partially or totally unconscious, even when the resulting conduct and its justification are explicit.
The concept appears early in Freud's work and can be found in the Studies on Hysteria (1895d), where the subject, driven by desires prohibited by morality, consciously forms "representations that are irreconcilable" with that morality, and then refuses them satisfaction, doing away with them by making them unconscious through repression. Those desires are always, in the final analysis, sexual in nature, especially in the case of the "neuro-psychoses of defense." "The etiology of hysteria almost inevitably can be traced to a psychic conflict, an irreconcilable representation, which prompts into action the defense of the ego and provokes repression" (Freud, 1896b). From the very outset, then, the notion of prohibition is inseparable from the drive-defense conflict, which will constitute the core of psychoanalytic theory.
Initially, that is to say, within the framework of the first topography and the first theory of drives, Freud studied the libidinal origins of the conflict and its treatment through repression (these are the texts on metapsychology from 1915) as well as its educational ("Little Hans," 1915), sociological and ethnological (Totem and Taboo, 1912-1913a) origins. The formulation of the Oedipus complex then focused attention on the prohibition of incest.
Subsequently, the formulation of the second topography led to a redefinition of prohibition. Here, the ego appears as prey to conflicts where it is torn between "three masters": the id and its libidinal demands, reality and adaptive requirements, and a superego that is essentially defined as an agent of prohibition. (However, to this must be added the more positive functions of the ego ideal, which condenses all the moral values the subject claims to hold.)
Although throughout his work Freud presents the incest prohibition as the heart of the conflictual dynamic, he also discusses prohibitions that affect other manifestations of sexuality, primarily masturbation and the satisfaction of the partial drives or compound instincts (voyeurism, exhibitionism, anal pleasure). Generalization of the limitations created by these prohibitions can lead to serious inhibitions of thought. Moreover, it has been shown how the repression of the drives can lead to serious reaction formations, especially when aggression is poorly integrated.
See also: Censorship; Conflict; Deprivation; Ethics; Incest; Law of the father; Oedipus complex; Taboo; Transgression.
Freud, Sigmund. (1896b). Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 157-185.
Freud Sigmund, and Breuer, Josef. (1895d). Studies on hysteria. SE, 2: 48-106.
Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1993). Le "bon droit" du criminel. Topique, 52, 141-161.
Milner, Marion. (1991). On est prié de fermer les yeux. Le regard interdit. Paris: Gallimard.
Prohibition Of Alcohol (Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior)
The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibited the "manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors." The amendment, passed by Congress in 1917, was written to become effective one year after its ratification by the states. The amendment outlawed only the manufacture, transport, and sale of liquor; it did not criminalize the possession of ALCOHOL for personal use, nor did it make purchase of liquor from bootleggers a criminal offense, nor did it define what was meant by "intoxicating" liquors. To implement the amendment, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act. The Volstead Act was crafted to allow supplies of alcohol to be produced and transported for scientific and other commercial purposes. It also defined an intoxicating liquor as any beverage containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol. It could have set the permissible level higher and allowed, for example, the production, transportation, and sale of BEER, but it did not. Prohibition became effective in 1920. A Prohibition Bureau was established within the Treasury Department to carry out the provisions of the law. Under the Volstead Act, Treasury agents could obtain a search warrant only if they could prove that alcohol was being sold, thus precluding searches of individual homes no matter how much liquor might be there. Some wealthy people, given the ample notice that Prohibition was coming, laid in enough alcoholic beverages to last them through most of the following decade. The law also had the effect of allowing manufacture for personal use. Such home production sometimes became part of a cottage industry contributing to the supplies distributed by bootleggers. Even committed Prohibitionists appeared to believe that the public would not tolerate any effort to criminalize the act of drinking itself. The Volstead Act, unlike some state laws, permitted the manufacture of beer as long as the beer contained no more than 0.5 percent alcohol (near beer).
Given the common belief that Prohibition failed utterly to alter the consumption of alcohol or its adverse effects on health, it is appropriate to ask, To what extent did the law reduce alcohol use in the United States? First, there is no question that it succeeded in eliminating 170,000 saloons, even if it did not change the attitudes of most Americans about the morality of drinking. And, while some writers have asserted that drunkenness actually increased during Prohibition, most available records point to the opposite conclusion (Aaron & Musto, 1981; Lender & Martin, 1987). The most consistent findings on the impact of Prohibition come from statistics on medical problems known to be linked to alcohol consumption, especially excessive alcohol consumption. Among these problems were hospital admissions for alcoholism and admissions to state mental institutions for alcoholic dementia and alcoholic psychosis. Striking decreases were observed in New York and Massachusetts, two states that did not have restrictions on alcohol consumption prior to 1920. Massachusetts state mental hospital admissions for alcoholic psychosis fell from 14.6 per 100,000 in 1910, to 6.4 in 1922, and were 7.7 in 1929; in New York, such admissions fell from 11.5 in 1910, to 3.0 in 1920, rising again to 6.5 in 1931 (Aaron & Musto). Deaths from alcohol-related diseases also fell. National statistics showed that the number of deaths from cirrhosis, about 14.8 per 100,000 in 1907, were only 7.9 in 1919, 7.1 in 1920, and did not rise above 7.5 during the 1920s. There were decreases in arrests for drunkenness and in the costs of jailing public inebriates. Commander Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army asserted that not only had drinking fallen off sharply, especially among the poor, but there were fewer broken homes because of wages lost to drinking or violence related to drinking.Aaron and Musto state, "Observershave been unanimous in concluding that the greatest decreases in consumption occurred in the working class In large measure, intoxicants priced themselves out of the market" (Aaron & Musto 1981, p. 165). A quart of beer or a quart of gin were five to six times more expensive in 1930 than they were prior to Prohibition. Prohibition defenders asserted that instead of purchasing liquor in saloons, workers were putting their earnings into cars and refrigerators. Admittedly, the impact on
Unquestioned, also, is the unreliable quality of bootlegged liquor, much of which was produced by diverting or hijacking industrial alcohol. Some industrial alcohol could simply be flavored and sold as scotch, gin, or bourbon. Much of it, however, had been mixed with METHANOL (methyl alcohol) or other chemicals to render it undrinkableenatured. Bootleggers hired chemists to remove the denaturants by redistillation ("washing"). Inadequate processing, which was not uncommon, produced a liquor that could be toxic or even lethal. The liquor produced in England and Canada and smuggled in by ship or truck was of a higher quality. One smuggler who brought in such quality liquor, Bill McCoy, has given us a term still used to describe an authentic producthe "real McCoy."
The continued criticism of Prohibition and the frustration of enforcing the Volstead Act led many of their advocates to become increasingly defensive and hostile to those not seen as supporters. Concern for the drunkard sharply diminished. According to Lender and Martin, "Many crusaders began labelling rehabilitation as nothing more than a waste of time and energy; prohibition, they promised would make such work unnecessary" (Lender & Martin 1987). Groups interested in treatment declined. The Association for the Study of Inebriety dissolved in the mid-1920s. Volstead Act advocates became more hostile toward alcoholics as criticism of Prohibition increased. Some suggested amending the Act to make drinking itself a criminal offense. One such suggestion came from an official in the Prohibition Unit of the Treasury Department, Harry J. ANSLINGER, then the Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition. Thus the nineteenth-century concerns of the TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT for the physical and spiritual health of alcoholics turned, in the 1920s, to calls for stiffer jail terms, or even exile, for chronic alcoholics. In the context of these attitudes, the harsh penalties that were then being meted out under the leadership of the Treasury Department for mere possession of illicit drugs become somewhat more comprehensible.
The enforcement of the Volstead Act had been vested in the Treasury Department's Prohibition Unit within the Internal Revenue Bureau. The first National Prohibition Administrator, the head of the Prohibition Unit, was John F. Kramer. The Narcotics Division, headed by Levi G. Nutt, a pharmacist by training, was part of the Prohibition Unit. The Narcotics Division became an independent unit in the Treasury Department in 1930 when the Prohibition Unit was transferred to the Department of Justice. Harry J. Anslinger was appointed first Commissioner of Narcotics.
Despite growing criticism, Prohibition, according to Aaron and Musto, was still alive and well when Herbert C. Hoover was elected president by a large margin in 1928. An overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress and nearly all the state governors supported the Eighteenth Amendment. Even opponents of Prohibition did not realistically expect to see it repealed. But the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 dramatically changed the situation. Opponents of Prohibition no longer argued for its repeal because of its demoralizing effects on civil liberty but argued instead that the revival of the liquor industry would provide jobs and tax revenue. In the 1932 campaign for the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to repeal Prohibition. Almost immediately after his inauguration, he had changes introduced in the Volstead Act to legalize the sale of beer.
In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. It was brief and to the point: "Section 1. The Eighteenth Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed." The federal government, however, retained responsibility to regulate and tax beverage alcohol and to prevent its illegal production. Section 2 of the Amendment allowed the states to continue Prohibition under state laws if they so desired. Some states did so; many states adopted alcohol beverage control laws (ABC laws). These were intended to curb the abuses that had characterized the production and sale of alcohol prior to prohibition. Among other provisions, ABC laws restricted the hours when alcohol could be sold (to make taverns and bars less attractive) and banned liquor sales on Sundays and election days. Some ABC laws created state-operated monopolies for the sale of packaged beverages. The various federal laws dealing with control of alcohol remained the responsibility of various federal agencies. It was not until 1972 that they were brought together and responsibility lot overseeing them was assigned to a single agencyhe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) in the Department of the Treasury.
(SEE ALSO: ; Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914; Legal Regulation of Drugs and Alcohol; Tax Laws and Alcohol; Temperance Movement; Treatment, History of)
AARON, P., & MUSTO, D. F. (1981). Temperance and prohibition in America: A historical overview. In M. Moore & D. Gerstein (Eds.), Alcohol and public policy: Beyond the shadow of Prohibition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
LENDER, E.M. &MARTIN, J. K. (1987). Drinking in America. New York: Free Press.
MUSTO, D. F. (1987). The American disease: Origins of narcotic control. Expanded ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
TICE, P. M. (1992). Altered states: Alcohol and other drugs in America. Rochester: The Strong Museum.
JEROME H. JAFFE