The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition

By Herbert Asbury | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
"A New Nation Will Be Born"

At exactly 12:01 A.M. on January 17, 1920, constitutional prohibition went into effect everywhere in the United States, and the American people, 105,000,000 strong, began the joyous march into the never-never land of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. Everything was ready for the great transformation. More than fifteen hundred enforcement agents, badges shined, guns oiled, and fingers trembling upon the triggers, were on their toes, ready to pounce upon the rum demon wherever he showed his ugly mug. The Coast Guard, the Customs Service, and the various agencies of the Bureau of Internal Revenue were standing by. The police of a thousand cities and the sheriffs of a thousand counties were on the alert. Judges were pondering the probability of history-making decisions, and prosecuting attorneys were thumbing their lawbooks and briefing their publicity staffs. Political bosses were happily grabbing jobs for the faithful in the many departments of the new Prohibition Bureau. Statements, predictions, and pronunciamentos were flying thick and fast. And behind this imposing array, their nostrils quivering eagerly to catch the first faint whiffs of illegal hooch, crouched the Allied Citizens of America and the embattled members of the Women's Chris

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