By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield
Many Americans believe the Prohibition Era was due to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The truth is the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution was enacted to better equip the United States for World War 1. It was all a matter of trusting in God’s word vs the temptations of the flesh—alcohol. And at this time, America needed God on its side. This was going to be The War to End All Wars.
Wilson had hoped to keep America out of Europe’s war. But with American U-boats
being torpedoed—and then when the Lusitania landed at the bottom of the
sea, along with five more American ships, Americans were outraged!
President Wilson declared war on Germany, April 1, 1917. America was abundantly equipped with men displaying courage and boldness; however, she had limited supplies of weapons, and—food. The only group President Wilson had that ever fought on foreign soil and won was Roosevelt’s cavalry the Rough Riders. As I wrote about in Destiny’s Whirlwind, Roosevelt had the foresight to plan ahead for a war not yet known.
Expediency was of the utmost importance now. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support and the House concurred two days later. The United States on December 7, 1917, declared war on German’s ally Austria and Hungary. President Wilson instituted a temporary ban on alcohol. He believed that the grain we had should only be used for food, not alcohol. This temporary wartime restriction presaged the 18th Amendment.
The next thing
President Wilson enacted was the draft for men over the age of twenty-one years
of age. That age would later drop to eighteen years of age and become known as the
Selective Service Act. Unlike the Conscription Law during the Civil War (as I
wrote in Swept into Destiny) the Selective Service Act strictly forbade the
use of any substitutes.
President Wilson enacted a fairer law. For as I explained in Swept, poor ethnic groups, like the Irish, would enter the Civil War as a way of providing for their families. This allowed the wealthy and influential to escape their commitments and obligations to their country.
Amendment banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating
liquors. Nine months later, the government passed the Volstead Act. President
Wilson wanted to veto this bill, but Congress had overridden his veto, and the bill
passed on October 28, 1919. World War 1 officially ended with The Treaty of
Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, by the leaders of France, England, Italy, and
the United States. It was a strict treaty that humiliated the whipped and depleted country of some of its factories and choice farmlands. I mention this in Destiny of Heart. This treaty plants the seed for the coming
storm of Hitler’s reign as I wrote in Waltz with Destiny.
Ironically, the Volstead
Act went into effect on January 16, 1920. The National Prohibition Act provided the guidelines for the federal enforcement of Prohibition. Andrew
Volstead of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Judiciary championed the idea.
Hence it was named the Volstead Act.
In the 1820s and ‘30s, the United States was swept by a wave of religious revivalism. They believed what the Bible taught and by eliminating one tool which aided the lust of the flesh like alcohol, hopefully would end the destructive force it played on families and marriages. It was all a matter of trusting God’s Word vs the temptations of the flesh. After all, hadn’t the war ended and prosperity now abounded everywhere?
Many factory owners
during the industrial revolution endorsed prohibition. They saw it as an increase
in the productivity and efficiency of their workers.
Thirty-three states had already enacted
their own prohibition legislation. Massachusetts passed a temperance law
banning the sale of spirits. Maine passed the first state prohibition laws in
1846. Many other states followed suit by the time the Civil War began in 1861.
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union
(WCTU) now became a name often spoken of in the American household. Women
played a strong role in the temperance movement because alcohol ruined many a
family and marriages.
Religious revivalism continued to sweep
state lines like the unbridled wind. The Abolitionist movement to end slavery
is just one of these examples. The hand that rocked the cradle had a Bible in
one hand and iron fingers determined to do the work of the Lord was the other.
Hoover once called Prohibition “the great social and economic experiment, noble
in motive and far-reaching in purpose.”
With the ending of
The War to End all Wars, World War I, as we know it now, the 18th
Amendment, the Prohibition Act, remained in effect.
The 1920s came in a
roar with the jazz age, the flapper, and jobs for the asking. Men like
Chicago’s Al Capone decided to profit from the masses' desire for a drink after a
hard day’s work. And so, the Mafia, or as we know it
today, Organized Crime, continues to this day throughout America’s major cities.
As the Mafia climbed, so did the stock market with everyone getting instant gratification
from this instant wealth of a fluent market.
Secret saloons and nightclubs called
“speakeasies” sprang up in the most unusual places, selling alcohol oftentimes
not fit for human consumption. People died each year from drinking cheap
moonshine tainted with toxins.
Beneath the cloak of night, you would see men and women silently walk up to a door and whisper through a peephole in the door.
worked in the rural areas of the country. They devised clever ways of covering
their tracks. To evade the Prohibition agents, moonshiners attached wooden
blocks carved to resemble cow hooves and tacked these onto the bottom of their
shoes! So, in this way, any footprints left behind would appear to be
bovine—and would not attract attention.
One dairy farmer in northern Michigan hid the whiskey he smuggled from Canada in ten-gallon milk containers. This farmer often gave lavish Christmas parties.
During the Great
Depression Era, innocent men would take up a job to be one of these drivers
delivering illegal goods from one town to another. Such was the case in my
novel Destiny of Heart.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt
ran for president, one of the things on his platform was for Prohibition’s
repeal. In February 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st
Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th Amendment.
In December 1933 Utah was the 36th vote for ratification. A few
states continued to prohibit alcohol after Prohibition’s end. However, all states
abandoned the ban by 1966.
What began as an effort
to help families trust in God and not to become ensnared with the temptations of
overindulging in alcohol by enacting the 18th Amendment—turned into
a deadly game of life and death and the ruthless Mafia and Organized Crime
Wilson and Herbert Hoover believed Prohibition would bring social reform,
prosperity, and, most importantly, children brought up by fathers and mothers in
It was all a matter
of trusting in God vs the temptations of the flesh.
James 1:12,14–15 NKJV
says: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation…he will receive the crown of
life… But each one is tempted when he is
drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives
birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
God gives each of us
a will. Everyone must make their own decision as to what road they’ll travel on,
be it drugs or drinking—life or death.
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Destiny of Heart
Confusion and uncertainty hover around Ruby McConnell Meir like
the dust storms and droughts, weakening her faith. Will her husband live—or
The Roaring Twenties dive into the Great Depression. The
McConnells battle for survival. Collina faces insurmountable odds to rescue
Shushan. Rough Rider Franklin Long loses what money couldn’t buy. Is it too
late to make right his failings?
“My readers are my encouragers and God's Word is my inspiration!” says Catherine.
She is the award-winning author of the inspirational
historical romances Wilted Dandelions, and her
four-book Destiny Series which includes Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s
Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny. Her
newest book is an inspirational Amish futuristic romance, Love's Final
Her history books: Images of America: The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County. Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books, Baker Books, Revell, CrossRiver Media, and Bethany House Publishers.
She is a longtime Michigan resident. Catherine lives with
her husband of 50 years, has two adult children, and four grandchildren.
See https://www.CatherineUlrichBrakefield.com for more
information about her books.