“Last always been a hard-drinking, freedom loving

“Last Call,” by Daniel Okrent, provides
the answers to why the 18th amendment was introduced in the first
place and why was it the only constitutional amendment ever to be repealed. The
amendment also introduced organized crime rings The enactment of the 18th
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was the culmination of decades of social and
political activism by a broad coalition of anti-alcohol Americans says Okrent.
We also learned in class that Carrie Amelia Nation was a factor and strong
believer in the ban on alcohol in the United States and territories. She would
also go to liquor stores and smash up the place but only get a slap of the
wrist because she was so old.

On Jan. 17, 1920, America went dry. The
18th Amendment had been ratified a year earlier, banning “the manufacture,
sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” within the United States and
its territories. This began the era of Prohibition, a nearly 14-year period of
law breaking and corruption. Okrent, views Prohibition as one small battle in a
larger war waged by small town white Protestants who felt besieged by the
forces of change then sweeping their nation. Americans have always loved
alcohol and prohibition raised many in arms in dissatisfaction. Okrent in his
novel goes on to say “Americans have always been a hard-drinking, freedom loving
lot. George Washington had a still on his farm. James Madison downed a pint of
whiskey a day, a common practice at a time when liquor was safer than water and
cheaper than tea. But alcohol consumption rose dramatically in the 19th
century, as new immigrants flooded American cities”.

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Okrent tells a story through the of
Adolphus Busch, the German immigrant who revolutionized the nation’s drinking
habits towards beer. Adolphus created the Anheuser-Busch company when he came
to America from Germany. With German hysteria high during World War 1 the Busch
family and other brewers were accused of giving money to the Kaiser of Germany
by temperance leaders which lead to beer drinking turning into a treasonable
act.

Even with alcohol being illegal the
government didn’t have nearly enough law enforcement to stop it. There were
also many loopholes in the law regarding types of alcohol. Sacramental wine was
permitted which allowed fake clergy and men to lead bogus congregants in non
religious fashion. Farmers who fermented their own cider and juices were given
special exemptions, making them extremely popular neighbors to have. Doctors,
dentists and even veterinarians were free to write prescriptions for remedies
like “Richardson’s Concentrated Sherry Wine Bitters,” which contained 47.5
percent alcohol in it.

Cities such as New York, Chicago, and
Detroit had the biggest corruption of alcohol within them. Okrent says Detroit
is the most corrupt,as it was known as the  “the city on a still.” During the ’20s,
Detroit housed more than 20,000 speak­easies, about one for every 30 adults.
The local Board of Commerce estimated that the illegal-alcohol business
employed 50,000 people, excluding sticky-fingered police officers and
politicians; it was the city’s second-largest industry, behind auto­mobile
manufacturing. Geography had a big role to play in prohibition. During this
time period the Canadian border was not heavily guarded and many gangs from the
Michigan area could easily sneak liquor threw the border. Do to this big time
mobster like Al Capone and hired hit men like Frank Nitti were able to turn
cities into war zones. They were bringing in so much cash everyday that they
were able to bribe whole police precincts and even pay off mayors to not do
anything about there business. By the late ’20s, backers of the Prohibition movement
could see how miserably it had failed. Millions of honest citizens routinely
flouted the law and drank liquor one way or another. Thousands more were
poisoned by cheap homemade brews. Government revenues plummeted because the
illegal alcohol was not being taxed and official corruption ran wild.

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