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Prohibition Coursework: Question A

Both sources discuss the causes and consequences of prohibition in the USA, but they differ in opinion about the blame for its cause and the subsequent consequence, which was crime. This question will attempt to assess how far they agree.

Both Sources agree that the prohibition resulted in crime, for example, source A states that ‘it created the greatest criminal boom in American history’. Source B says that ‘Gangsters like…Al Capone had turned the avoidance of prohibition into big, violent business’. It wasn’t uncommon for members of the public to break the law through bootlegging and making illegal homemade alcohol, named ‘Moonshine’. Al Capone made millions through selling illegal alcohol. The sources also agree that drinking alcohol was a habit Americans had become accustomed to. For example, source A says ‘No earlier law…gone against the daily customs, habits and desires of so many Americans’, and source B is in agreement with this message by quoting Al Capone as saying ‘all I do is supply public demand’. Many citizens of America were outraged at the time, and, people continued indulging in their habits to the point that, in 1928, there were more than 30, 000 ‘speakeasies’ (Bars that sold illegal alcohol) in New York alone. The Sources agree again that the grain was wanted preserved, instead of used for alcohol. Source A says ‘wartime concern for preserving food…’ and source B says ‘pressure…to ban the use of grain for either distilling or brewing…’ During the war, food had to be rationed, so the sources are referring to the, now, custom of preserving food. The sources also agree that the anti-saloon league influenced the ban. Source A says ‘the influence of the anti-saloon league… and source B says ‘a nation-wide campaign, led by the anti-saloon league’. The Anti-saloon league was an organization against alcohol and it’s effects, they spread their message around the US, and were a factor in the decision to introduce the prohibition.

The two sources also differ in opinion in many ways. The sources disagree about whether alcohol is a good or bad thing. In source A, it refers to the wish to drink as ‘the daily customs, habits and desires of so many Americans’ and source B, on the other hand, describes the prohibition as ‘a crusade against one of the greatest evils of all time – alcohol’. Source A conveys the message that drinking alcohol is just a harmless pastime, whereas, source B is against the consumption of alcohol. The sources disagree again on how successful the prohibition was. Source A states that ‘there can be little disagreement about its consequences. It created…criminal boom’ whereas source B focuses on it’s successes and official’s high-hopes saying things such as ‘the first prohibition commissioner had no doubts that he would stamp out the evils of drink’ and ‘1500 prohibition agents were appointed’. Although, at first, people were optimistic, crime rates rose and the failures of the prohibition became apparent. The sources disagree further about who was to blame for breaking the law. Source A states that the law ‘produced widespread crime’ and refers to drinking as being one of the ‘desires of so many Americans’. However, in contrast, Source B refers to the ’30, 000 ‘speakeasies’ in New York’ and claims that ‘Gangsters like… Al Capone had turned the avoidance of prohibition into a big, violent business’. In reality, both gangsters and regular citizens were responsible for the crime, after all, both the selling and the buying of alcohol was illegal. The sources disagree, yet again, on what was the most influential cause of the prohibition. Source A lists many reasons, for example, it says ‘most important (explanation) was the moral fervour inspired by the ‘war to make the world safe for democracy’’ whereas the second source claims that ‘a nation-wide campaign, led by the Anti-Saloon League, brought pressure to bear on congress to ban…distilling of brewing’. There were many different inputs into the decision to ban alcohol, which was more important is just a matter of opinion.

Although the sources disagree to an extent, it seems at first sight that they are in agreement as they refer to similar causes of the failure. The two sources are looking at the situation from different angles; therefore, one source would often mention things the other wouldn’t, making them difficult to compare. Overall, source A is against prohibition, whereas source B is for prohibition in principle. This difference in interpretation marks them as being in disagreement.

Prohibition Coursework: Question B

Both Sources are for the prohibition; they both aim to convince the audience of the evils of drink by conveying alcohol making families poor and the troubles it causes them.

Source C is a poster published in 1910, and is likely to have been produced as propaganda by the Anti-Saloon League, it supports prohibition, as shown in various ways. For example, the source shows a man paying for drink with a bag of money. This bag represents his wages, and therefore, the source is aiming to show the loss of money caused by spending it on drink. Inset is a picture of a woman (his wife) and child. The woman appears to be crying and the child is holding an empty dish, showing that they have no food due having had their money for food spent on alcohol instead. This shows the damage to their lives caused by drinking, trying to convey the effects the loss of money (due to drinking) has caused.
At the top of the advert is a sentence stating that the ‘Poor Mans Club’ is the most expensive in the world to belong to. This is a direct summary of the message conveyed in the pictures and it appeals to the reader’s emotions. They continue to expand on this message with another sentence on the inset image ‘the saloon is well named ‘the poor mans club’ It keeps its members and their families always poor’. The use of the word ‘always’ is to make the reader believe it is a permanent thing that cannot be escaped. The referral to the club member’s family suggests that drinking has drastically affected innocent people around them, in particular; women and children (in the inset image), who are seen as very weak and innocent people in need of protection. The barman is happy and smartly dressed, which shows he is profiting from his customers poverty. The till is open, revealing the money inside, to reinforce this point.

Source D is another poster likely to have been produced by the Anti-Saloon League, published at the later date of 1915.
The picture is emotive by showing sad, deserted children – this is to make the audience interested even before they begin reading. The image of deserted children implies that they have been neglected due to alcoholism. The mood of the image is sad - drawing the children with sad expressions conveys this. The writing says ‘daddy’s in there…and our shoes and stockings and food are in the saloon too, and they’ll never come out’, this is metaphoric, suggesting that money for family supplies is instead, being spent on alcohol. The poster was published a year into world war one because they wished to be ‘morally superior’ to Germans, who produced much of America’s alcohol supplies. It is also to convince people to be less wasteful with resources, such as the grain used to make beer, during wartime, when it was necessary to be resourceful.

Overall, both propaganda artists are aiming to persuade the American public to stop drinking and are for prohibition.

Prohibition Coursework: Question C

The overall reliability of the two sources can be judged by the typicality of evidence provided in each source, among other things.

According to source E, ‘the speakeasy has replaced the saloon’. This is typical information and is a referral to the thousands of speakeasies throughout the main cities, for example, Chicago and New York. Source E also says ‘I hoped…the evil effects of alcohol would be recognised…this has not been the result’ – people were hopeful at first, but were disappointed at the failure of the prohibition. Furthermore, source E states ‘crime has increased to a level never seen before’ showing that people at the time realised the severity of the effects of the prohibition. Other sources support such statements; an example is source A, in which it says ‘it created the greatest criminal boom in American history’, and source G, which uses statistics to show that the number of gallons of illegal spirits seized rose between 1921 and 1929.

Source F (written in 1920) says that ‘the law will be obeyed in cities…and villages’. When the prohibition was launched throughout the US, officials were introduced to try and help enforce the new law – although they hired to enforce the law, it is shown in many other sources that they did not do their jobs correctly. For example, source J is a policeman’s own account of accepting bribery. Additionally, source F says that ‘liquor must not be manufactured’ as it was believed, at the time, that people would stick to this new regime.
Source E (written in 1932) was written at the end of the prohibition law, when people had the benefit of hindsight. This meant that they knew, through experience, of the successes and failures of the prohibition. Source F, however, was written at the beginning of prohibition, when it could not yet be known whether or not the law would succeed, yet, many people were hopeful.

Although both sources are first-hand accounts, written by Americans in their home country, there are other factors to consider in their reliability, for example, it is necessary to take in to account who wrote each source, and why. Source E was written by John D. Rockefeller, a high profile and wealthy industrialist in New York whose opinion was greatly valued. As his opinion was so highly regarded, it could be very influential to other citizens. Knowing this, he may have considered the phrasing of the Letter to try and convince the public to agree with him. Source F, on the other hand, was written by John F. Kramer, the first prohibition commissioner. Kramer’s Job was to enforce prohibition, therefore, this may have influenced the things he chose to say, in order to persuade his audience into agreeing with him. He had an intended audience and a clear purpose.

Overall, source E is more reliable. This is because source F intended to convince people of a particular view, whereas, source E is the opinion of an American citizen with no clear purpose. The date at which it was written was also vital towards my conclusion as source E was the only one of the two to have been written after the event in question. This meant the writer had the advantage of looking back at what had already happened, whereas, the author of source F could only guess what was yet to happen. Source E also provides the most typical evidence for the prohibition era.
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