Prohibition Coursework: Question E
Sources I and J convey a message of corruption by prohibition enforcers during the prohibition era. However, proof of information may be difficult as one source is just a cartoon, designed with exaggeration to evoke readers’ emotions, and the other source is an account of a single policeman’s experience.
Source I is a cartoon image from the time of prohibition, showing a row of prohibition agents from various tiers of power from Magistrate and politician through to policeman and prohibition agent. They are shown from the back, to symbolise ‘turning their backs’ on the law by accepting bribes in order to allow gangsters and criminals and even the ordinary American to get away with drinking alcohol illegally. They stand with their hands behind their backs as if to take bribes. It is titled ‘the national Gesture’, implying that this was common practise across all of the USA.
Source J is a policeman’s account of Chicago in the 1920’s. Chicago was one of the most corrupt cities in the USA, as shown in the source. The policeman explains his experience of bribery, describing the atmosphere in the Polish neighbourhood he had visited, stating that saloon keepers were welcoming, and gave alcohol to policemen, without asking to be paid in return. He then continues to explain how ‘you were expected to drink’ and if you tried to enforce the law (i.e. mention a problem or make arrests) you were given a less than desirable job to do. It is also stated that superior officers were also involved in this system. He then continues to explain how a man rushed up to him in the street to give him $75 dollars in payment for not enforcing the law on the previous occasion, the man then ran away, leaving no choice but to accept the money.
Source I supports what source J is saying in many ways. For example, they are both about bribery being accepted by enforcing officers. They are also both about the corruption problem of prohibition. Furthermore, both sources refer to the fact that corruption was a widespread problem. In source I, this is shown in the title, ‘The National Gesture’ and in the fact that many people are shown grouped together to convey that it is affecting them all. In source J, this is displayed with a comment; ‘it was a conspiracy and my superior officers were involved in it’, this extends the number of people involved. However, although source I supports source J in some ways, there are other wars in which it contradicts it. An example of this is the fact that source J says that policemen had little choice but to ignore drink problems as they would otherwise be given an unwanted job to do, and also states that ‘the bottle was there and you were supposed to drink’, whereas I doesn’t give a reason for the acceptation of bribes. Another example of a clash between the messages conveyed is that source I shows many people with a variety of jobs, however, source J refers only to policemen. The messages conveyed differ a third time in the way that source J refers only to Chicago, which is not a typical example of an American city as it had particularly high crime rate and is generally regarded as an extreme case, however, the title of source I labels corruption as a ‘national gesture’, implying it happened throughout America. Source I is exaggerated to get its point across, and is a summary of an idea, not of any situation in particular, so there is no clear evidence as to where the facts are from, also, the date is unknown.
Overall, source I can only support elements of source J, but it cannot prove any truth in just one mans account. In conclusion, the evidence is too limited to make an assured judgement that one can support the other.
Prohibition Coursework: Question F
To work out whether the sources show that failure of prohibition was inevitable, it is necessary to study all sources and determine which do show this, and which don’t.
Many of the sources show that failure of prohibition was inevitable, source A, for example, says that ‘there can be little disagreement about its consequences. It created the greatest criminal boom in American History’ and ‘no earlier law produced such widespread crime’ both of which imply the failure of prohibition by expressing that crime levels increased. Source E is another example of a source supporting the suggestion that failure was inevitable, it does this by stating that ‘drinking has generally increased’, ‘many of our best citizens have openly ignored prohibition’ and ‘crime has increased to a level never seen before’. Again, this declares that there was an increase in crime levels. Source I is also in agreement that failure was inevitable, suggesting that various officials involved in prohibition were accepting bribes, it also makes the suggestion that this was happening throughout America. This shows failure in the way that policeman, judges, prohibition agents, and many others were not doing their jobs properly and so, not supporting prohibition, therefore, it had failed. Source J is yet another source supporting the idea that failure of prohibition was inevitable, it is a policeman’s own description of accepting bribery, and having little, or no choice in the matter. The policeman says ‘the bottle was there and you were supposed to drink’, suggesting he was given little choice in the matter and had to drink alcohol illegally. He continues to say ‘we were…policemen, and if you tried to enforce the law, they’d put you in a post where there was nothing but weeds’, this explains that if policemen stopped people from drinking, or reported the illegal alcohol consumption, they would be made to do poor jobs, which were very much unwanted. The source then says ‘a man dashed up to me and said, ‘this is for you’. He handed me an envelope…there was $75 in it’ describing how he had been given money for not enforcing the law on an earlier occasion. This source shows corruption within the police force, implying the failure of prohibition.
On the other hand, many sources suggested the failure of prohibition was not inevitable. An example of this is source B, which speaks of the many people that wanted prohibition, and subsequently, would try to keep to the law. This suggests that the failure of prohibition was not inevitable. Source B says ‘organisations such as the Women’s Temperance Union had joined in a crusade against…alcoholism’ displaying an example of people willing to try and keep to prohibition. Another source supporting this idea is source C, a poster produced by the Anti-Saloon League. Hundreds of these posters were published, spreading its message across the US. At the top of the advert, it says ‘The Poor Man’s Club. The most expensive in the world to belong to’ – this tells the reader that drinking is a waste of money. Inset is an image of a wife and child that are upset and have no food. This shows the damage the father’s drinking has caused. In general, the poster is encouraging people not to drink; this implies it is possible they can keep to it, and so, prohibition would work. Source D also suggests the failure of prohibition was not inevitable; it does so in the same way as source C. It is another poster produced by the Anti-Saloon League. It shows two children outside a saloon saying ‘ Daddy’s in there- and our shoes and stockings and food are in the saloon too, and they’ll never come out’ this is suggesting that their family’s money is being spent on drink, showing that alcohol is a waste of money. The advert is aimed to convince people not to drink alcohol, which suggests they will be able to manage if they try. Another example of a source suggesting the failure of prohibition was not inevitable is source F, a sample of a speech made by the First prohibition commissioner, John F. Kramer, in 1920. The source declares ‘the law will be obeyed in cities, large and small, and in villages’ suggesting people will keep to the law and ‘where it is not obeyed it will be enforced’ implying policemen and other officials will do their job correctly to ensure alcohol is no longer consumed. The source then goes on to say ‘the law says that liquor must not be manufactured. We shall see that it is not sold, nor given away’ – this is a summary of the previous things said in the source, expressing that alcohol will not be sold, produced or drank, as it is illegal, and the law will be kept to. Sources G and H show statistics in America from the beginning of prohibition onwards. Source G shows that the number of gallons of illegal spirits seized increased from 9,746, in 1921, to 15,794, in 1929. And Source H shows that the number of people arrested for being drunk, increased from 14,313, in 1920, to 51,361, in 1929. Both statistics could suggest that crime rates have risen, or that, in fact, police have become stricter by arresting more people within the same number of offenders. Therefore, these two sources cannot suggest that the failure of prohibition was inevitable, nor can they suggest otherwise, as they can be interpreted either way.
Source A mainly refers to why prohibition was introduced, so it isn’t very useful. Source B, on the other hand, is useful as it makes clear suggestions that the failure of prohibition was not inevitable. Although the artists of sources C and D believe prohibition can work, and are trying to convince other people to agree with them, the sources shows that drink was already a problem, and therefore, prohibition may fail. This source isn’t clear enough to be very useful. Source E strongly suggests the failure of prohibition, describing that many people have broken the law, therefore, prohibition failed. Source F was written at the beginning of prohibition, trying to persuade the American public to keep to the new law, this way, it was more likely to work. John F. Kramer, who wrote the source, was hopeful, and was trying to convince people to agree with him, therefore, this source was biased, but was typical of what people thought at the time. However, as it is biased, it is unreliable. Sources G and H aren’t useful as the message is indistinct, and doesn’t prove either way whether the failure of prohibition was or wasn’t inevitable. Consequently, these two sources aren’t useful. Source I, however, is useful as it clearly suggests the failure of prohibition to be inevitable, as does source J. Both sources show crime and corruption, which was an unintended result of prohibition.
There are 4 sources that suggest the failure of prohibition to be inevitable, and another 4 suggesting it was not inevitable. There is also a further 2 sources, both of which can be interpreted either way. However, much evidence supporting the view that failure was not inevitable is very unclear or of little use, for example, source B refers to many different times throughout the ban. The source begins by speaking of the people against alcohol who would keep to the law, thus meaning it suggested failure was not inevitable. The source then says ‘the first prohibition officer had no doubts that he would stamp out the evils of drink’ – backing up that failure was not inevitable. However, the source then continues to speak of the long-term effects of prohibition, explaining that ‘gangsters like…Al Capone had turned the avoidance of prohibition into big, violent business’, this differs to the earlier information in the source, this time showing how, although not inevitable before, prohibition had failed. Therefore, we can see that, even the sources suggesting otherwise, had an underlying message that that it did fail, and perhaps this was inevitable. Although there is an equal number of sources showing that failure of prohibition was or wasn’t inevitable, overall, the sources show that the failure of prohibition was inevitable.