This essay paper will consider the effects of Prohibition, and how it changed the views of drinking in America. The American Revolution helped spur heavy drinking in the United States, which started many temperance movements during the 19th Century. These escalated into the experiment of Prohibition, which raised many moral issues America had never seen before. This over-idealistic experiment failed, but made it’s impact with many negative effects, such as an increase in crime. The views and attitudes toward alcohol before Prohibition changed completely as currently alcohol is one of the most morally controversial topics of society. It is clear that after Prohibition was ended by the U.S. government in 1933, the view of alcohol consumption in America was changed from being a part of acceptable social conduct to being considered immoral and irresponsible.
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The first time when drinking became very prominent in American society was during the American Revolution. The astonishing success of the Revolution greatly increased the prestige of taverns and drinking houses. They were places where British tyranny was condemned and independence was premeditated. There was increased vitality in these taverns where popular sentiment of Britain’s unfair control of America was expressed. This pattern of heavy drinking reflected the time period in this as in other historical periods, like it did all throughout history, until around the 1820’s, with the establishment of the American Temperance Society. These temperance activists estimated that each year of the early 19th century, nine million women and children drank 12 million gallons of distilled spirits, while 3 million men drank 60 million gallons. Also, half of the adult males, one-eighth, of the total population, were drinking two-thirds of all the distilled spirits consumed. The Revolution had created a binge of drinking in America that took over fifty years to recognize. This society spurred others, such as the Anti-saloon League to follow in the movement to end the consumption of alcohol. These groups advocated religious faith across America with the intent of easing the anxieties that led to drinking. In the years before the Civil War, the leaders of the temperance movement worked with the leaders of the abolition movement in order to gain momentum for their cause. They used propaganda to compare the slave-trade to drunkenness, including their most popular quote: “A slave had lost control of his body, a drunkard lost control of his soul” (Rorabaugh 214). All of this early temperance activity was a response to an overindulgence in drinking directly after the American Revolution, but more importantly, it set the stage for the movement that eventually led to the ratification of the 18th Amendment, Prohibition.
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