Learn about Life in the 1920s

18th Amendment Poll

EIGHT years ago the Eighteenth Amendment became , the law of the land. For eight years we have tried to enforce it. Opinion is divided over the result. On one thing only does there appear to be complete agreement: that our present situation is not the best one that can be hoped for.

What can be done about it?

The Eighteenth Amendment

1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the Legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

In the opinion of The Outlook, the hour has come to reexamine the premises of National prohibition and to try to approach the whole question of liquor legislation from a scientific and realistic point of view. Frankly, such a task is a difficult one. The average dinner-table discussion of the merits or demerits of prohibition gets us nowhere. It is facts that are needed—and a clear view of public opinion on the question. Any one who attempts the task of ascertaining these things must divorce from his mind all questions of political expediency, of emotional appeal, and all presuppositions. The problem must be approached much as a chemist approaches his test tubes.

The first step towards a reappraisement of National prohibition is a clear-cut analysis of our experience. Both drys and wets agree that no examination of the question can be of value without first a knowledge of the state of public opinion. What do people really.think about it?

The Outlook believes that in such a matter knowledge necessarily begins at home. What do the readers of The Outlook think?

In order to find out, we are placing before you the questionnaire on the opposite page. Please examine the questionnaire; think it over; discuss it as you will; and then send your answers to us.

This questionnaire resolves itself into three main divisions:

1. What was the cause and purpose of prohibition?
2. What has been accomplished by it?
3. What is the cure for such discrepancies as exist between the aims and the accomplishments of prohibition?

At first glimpse it might appear a simple thing to determine the purpose and cause of the Eighteenth Amendment. Is not its language simple and clear and its intent obvious? Well, just ask the question of a roomful of people and see what diverse replies are received.

"To destroy the commercial liquor traffic as a force of political and social corruption."
"To raise the moral level of the country."
"To save economic waste."
"To enforce total abstinence."
"To impose rural standards on metropolitan areas."
"It was brought about by big-business men who wanted sober laborers."
"It was brought about by blue-nosed reformers who hated to see any one enjoy himself."
"It was a puritanical measure."
"It was the result of scientific research."
"The liquor people brought it on themselves."
"The drys put it over in the midst of war hysteria."

So the answers go. Until we find out why we voted for prohibition we cannot determine how much it has accomplished. Well, ,what has it accomplished?

"It has cut down drinking."
"It has taken the liquor question out of politics."
"It has corrupted the Government."
"It has made drunkards of the young."
"It has raised a generation unfamiliar with the saloon."
"It has destroyed respect for the law."
"The Prohibition Law is obeyed better than the old license law."
"It has brought the bootlegger to dry territory."
"It has protected dry territory against the liquor traffic."
"It has made laborers soberer and richer."
"It has had a large share in the continuance of our prosperity."

But some kind of working agreement as to the evils or merits of prohibition is necessary before the law can be either strengthened or destroyed. When that consensus of opinion has been reached, we are faced with a series of questions as to the cure of the evils that are admittedly present.

Are we as a Nation in favor of the retention or the abolition of the Eighteenth Amendment?
Can the Volstead Act be enforced?
Should it be amended?
Can it be essentially and honestly changed while the Eighteenth Amendment is in force?
Do we want the saloon back?
Do we favor light wines and beers? If so, how can we handle their sale?

The questions might be carried on endlessly. They can all be summed up in two queries:
What should be done about prohibition? What can be done about. it?

All the questions on the opposite page can be answered "Yes" or "No" or "I don't know" or, in a few cases, with a simple initial. We should like to have the answers signed with the name and address of the sender. The signatures, of course, will be kept confidential.


Group I
Do you believe
1. That all drinking of intoxicating beverages is morally wrong?
2. That all drinking of intoxicating beverages is a social menace?
3. That all making of intoxicating beverages is a social evil?

Group II
1. Were you in favor of the Eighteenth Amendment at the time of its passage?
2. Are you in favor of it today?
3. Do you believe its main purpose was to
(a) Destroy the commercial liquor traffic?
(b) Effect a moral reform?
(c) Impose total abstinence?
(d) Avert an economic waste?
4. Do you believe it was adopted as a result of
(a) A real majority opinion?
(b) War hysteria?
(c) Organized propaganda?
(d) Belief that the liquor traffic was controllable by no other means?

Group III
What, in your opinion, has the Eighteenth Amendment with the Volstead Act accomplished?
1. Has it improved conditions in your neighborhood?
2. Has it improved general social conditions?
3. Has it improved conditions in some groups of the population?
4. Has it made conditions worse in some groups of the population?
5. Has it resulted in moral improvement?
6. Has it improved economic conditions?
7. Has it. increased respect for law?
8. What is your attitude towards buying from bootleggers? Indifferent? Opposed? Approving?
9. What is the attitude of your cornmunity towards buying from bootleggers?
10. What is your attitude towards home-brewing?
11. What is the attitude of your community towards home-brewing?
12. What is your attitude towards bootlegging?
13. What is the attitude of your community towards bootlegging?

Group IV
1. If a Nation-wide plebiscite on the Eighteenth Amendment were possible, how would you vote?
(a) To retain the Eighteenth Amendment as it stands?
(b) To modify it by making it permissive with Congress instead of mandatory upon Congress to abolish or control the commercial liquor traffic?
(c) To abandon our policy of National control of the liquor traffic by striking the Amendment from the Constitution?
2. If a Nation-wide plebiscite (while the present Eighteenth Amendment is still in force) were possible on the Volstead Act, how would you vote?
(a) To retain the Volstead Act as it stands?
(b) To modify it by increasing the permitted alcoholic content?
(c) To clarify the distinction between the home-brewer and the commercial bootlegger?
(d) To throw further protection about the sanctity of the home against search?
(e) To protect personal liberty against abuses in enforcement?
3. If the country voted in favor of modifying the Eighteenth Amendment to make it permissive with Congress instead of mandatory upon Congress to abolish or control the liquor traffic, would you favor the retention of the essential elements of the present Volstead Act?
4. Would you vote to have Congress permit territory in which wet sentiment predominates
(a) To authorize a return of the licensed saloon?
(b) To manufacture and sell light wines and beers?
(c) To establish a Governmental dispensary system?
(d) To manufacture and sell distilled liquors?

Source: Outlook, March 14, 1928

Click Here to See the Poll Results of the 18th Amendment Survey



Speakeasies in Detroit - 1929
10 - 20,000 Speakeasies created strong competition and lowered profitability

Keeping Prohibition out of Party Platforms - 1927
Article discussing problems of Political Parties in relation to Prohibition

Repeal of Prohibition - 1933
Survey of current state of Prohibition Repeal Votes

World Prohibition - 1923
Most of the World was considering Prohibition in 1923

Prohibition Killings - 1927
Killings by Federal Agents Enforcing Prohibition

Prohibition Articles
Prohibition Category Page at 1920sEra.com

Alcoholic Poisoning - 1926
Increased deaths caused by drinking bootleg beverages