Prohibition and the Birth of Organized Crime

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Prohibition and the Birth of Organized Crime If I break the law, my customers, who number hundreds of the best people in Chicago, are as guilty as I am. The only difference between us is that I sell and they buy. Everybody calls me a racketeer. I call myself a businessman. When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patron serves it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality - Al Capone (Hill 69) On January 17, 1920 the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution went into effect. Called the “noble experiment” by Herbert Hoover, this addition to the Nation’s most sacred of documents, restricted the manufacture, transport, importation, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States (Okrent 37). The intentions regarding this revision were to lower crime and corruption, reduce social problems and improve health and public morality in America. In this period, having a few drinks on lunch break was common practice and the legal drinking age was 15 (Pegram 91). Social Progressive groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Anti-Saloon League as well as various churches had for years been trying to push a resolution calling for a Prohibition amendment. Only after gaining momentum in politics were these crusaders successful enough to sway the House votes (Towe 117). But how could this come to pass? After all, the father of this great country was the largest whiskey distiller in the late 1700’s (Towe 164). Time would show how Prohibition, with the greatest of intents, led to some negative side effects such as increased crime rates, public disrespect for the law, as well as providing the establishment of criminal organizations – most notable the American Mafia (Florien). The 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution aided in the formation of organized crime by providing the basic foundation required for any fledgling business: economics,
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