The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition In

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The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition In Canada Essay, Research Paper THE RISE AND FALL OF PROHIBITION IN CANADA History 2222B: Rough Justice “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.” – Areopagitica Canadian Temperance groups began to rally for prohibition during the 1840’s and 1850’s. It was not until after World War I began in 1914, that the temperance groups’ support for prohibition grew. A need for grain for the armed forces was viewed as a major catalyst for Canada’s Prohibition Law. Although Canada’s Prohibition Era only lasted two

years from 1917 to 1919, it created the stage for many historic successes and failures in Canada. This paper looks at the emergence, successes, and failures of Prohibition of Alcohol in Canada. Particular emphasis is placed upon Nova Scotia that, along with Manitoba, scored a large majority in favour of prohibition during the national plebiscite on the matter held by the Laurier Federal Government in 1898.1 This national support of prohibition, when provinces in Canada were only moderately in favour, and Quebec strongly opposing,2 created an interesting paradox in the shaping of Canada’s history. Though largely seen unfavourably today, prohibition did have some partially successful facets in its overall focus. Prohibition forces argued that alcohol led to an increase in crime

and other anti-social behaviours. Substantial reductions in the amount of alcohol consumption and a decrease in the crime rate were two measures of prohibition’s success. Statistical evidence supported prohibitionist’s thoughts regarding crime and alcohol. Following 1919, when the spread of alcohol control expanded to the provinces, crime increased. In 1922, there were 15,720 convictions for indictable offences and in 1928, 21,720 convictions. This was an increase of 38 per cent and more than three times the increase in Canada’s population. From 1922 to 1928, the number of criminals who were moderate drinkers rose at the same rate as the total number of convictions. The number of criminals who drank in excess, however, increased by 64 per cent, or nearly twice as fast.3

Along with crime, alcohol was linked to other negative occurrences such as insanity, vice, wife and child abuse, family destruction, poverty, and economic inefficiency. It was believed that money that spent on alcohol should have been spent on things such as housing and clothing.4 Supporters of prohibition claimed it was better for society and the economy as a whole as well as improving health and decreasing crime. It should be noted, however, that prohibition was not entirely about alcohol and its use. It was a vanguard through which society attempted to ‘purify’ itself of all its evils. If liquor was banned, then the money it used could be spent on other industries, benefiting society as a whole. Unfortunately for prohibitionists, this was not the be the case. Much time and

effort were spent by anti-prohibition forces in avoiding and breaking the law.5 Professional smuggling from Canada turned out to be a big business. For example, in the first seven months of 1920, approximately 900,000 cases of liquor were transported within in Canada to border cities in the United States.6 ‘Scientific Temperance’ was another claim prohibitionists used in their fight to legalize their stance. Arguments of this genre sought to persuade listeners with scholarly academics who added an air of authority and prestige to the movement. In 1906 two German scientists, August Forel and Emil Kalpelin, even went so fart as to label alcohol poisonous.7 Other scientific temperance claims included alcohol being responsible for many aliments such as heart failure, flabby