Al Capone broke the law continually in his lifetime and there is no question over that. However, in my opinion, I do not think that he should be viewed as Public Enemy Number One. I believe that he was an enemy to the authorities but not to the public. There are a number of factors which support the US governments case but there are also many aspects which support my view. Source H is a quote from Al Capone in 1930. It was a statement made for anybody to hear. He calls himself a businessman, which is a respected citizen.
He tells of how he "supplies a popular demand" (alcohol). This shows me that alcohol was still popular even though it had been banned. From the sources (in particular sources C, F and J) I can see that people generally had a negative attitude towards prohibition and mainly ignored this law; Lots just kept drinking alcohol in any case. Source E shows me this as the number of drinking offences rose considerably because of a rise in alcohol consumption. A source of alcohol came from Al Capone who was smuggling it into the USA from over the Canadian borders.
This meant that the public would not view as an enemy, the person who was supplying them alcohol. In this case, Capone was not killing people directly and in a way he was saving people. If he had not supplied this safe alcohol, people would have resorted to drinking bath tub gin which was dangerous and killed many people. However, he charged high prices for his safe alcohol; almost triple the normal cost! I think that Al Capone was a bit too greedy and he did not care for many other people.
A main factor in Capone's defence is that he did not force the public to drink alcohol, take drugs, etc. nd the citizens broke the law of their own free will. Therefore, I believe that most of the American public was not against Al Capone but with him as they consumed the substances and bought from him. I consider the general public to be as guilty as Capone for drinking the alcohol he provided. Even Capone thought this as he claims in source H that: "... my customers are as guilty as I am. " Many sources back this point up. In particular, source F which is written by an average member of the public who drank alcohol throughout prohibition
Al Capone did murder people but he mostly got his gang members to kill people for him. This meant that he wasn't directly a murderer and so the police couldn't charge him for it. Capone was generally very nice to the public as long as you didn't become a threat or go against him. Groups and organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) were the true public enemies of that time. The KKK were extreme racists and brutally attacked black people. A lot of people living in America at this time were black and the KKK killed many of the innocent members of the public who did not deserve it.
There were also some mass murdering psychopaths who killed innocent people and at least Capone's gang killed gangs who were breaking the law. He often had rival and threatening gangs murdered to stop any competition, for example, the "St. Valentine's Day massacre" where he had 6 out of 7 members of an enemy gang shot. Personally, I don't think that the St. Valentine's Day massacre was a massacre as only 6 people were killed but it was horrific and uncalled for. Many people, especially the media, tried to suck up to Al Capone as he was such a powerful man. Capone used this power to manipulate them into respecting him.
The newspapers would always show Al in a good way so to stay on his good side. An example of this is Source I, where Al Capone is on the cover of TIME, a leading US weekly newsmagazine. The magazine portrays Al as a celebrity and this sort of coverage influenced its audience, the American public. The picture shows Al smiling and gives a positive attitude towards him; this would make the public feel less threatened by him. TIME was a respected magazine published and sold all across the USA; this built up Capone's reputation and got him known in America and also internationally.
Al Capone then became quite dangerous because as he manipulated the media, they in turn, used propaganda and other techniques to influence the general public. Capone had so much control that people at the time were unaware of. Al Capone not only manipulated people but also blackmailed and bribed people so that he got his own way. These people could be the general public but more often, it was the police. He made sure that he covered up his dirty work and always had an alibi. He became friends with a man called Bill Thompson.
Bill stood for mayor of Chicago and together, they rigged the election so that he won. This meant that Al Capone had an associate in a position of power; however, it was not a democratic decision and people felt very threatened. Al Capone owned a lot of businesses in Chicago. He owned all the brothels and casinos as well as many illegal saloons known as speakeasies. This meant that he earned a lot of money and would have had to pay a lot of tax. But Al put all his businesses into other people's names so that he could dodge taxes.
Al Capone was very rich, earning an estimated $1,000,000,000 a year. To enhance he respectability, he often gave money to charities (although compared to the money that he was earning then this was not a huge sum). He was helping the public that needed help however, I do not think that he really cared for the people that he was donating the money to and he only wanted to look generous and kind. Capone had a car specially made for him. It cost $30,000 and included armour plating, bullet-proof glass and machine gun mountings.
He drove this vehicle around the city and so made it obvious that he was not only rich but also a person not to be messed with. I think that Al Capone took advantage of the situation that he was confronted with and he also took advantage of the US government's weaknesses. If the government had not tried to ban alcohol then Al Capone would probably not have had a chance to make all the money that he did to become a large gangster. As it states in source G, "(Al Capone) discovered that there was big money in the newly outlawed liquor business.
I also believe that if America had had better gun laws then Al Capone would not have been able to create and build up his empire. Capone was very clever and managed to dodge the law for many years. On many occasions, he would bribe court judges and federal agents to get away with the crimes. Again, I think that Capone was just taking advantage of the situation he was put in. I can tell from source D that the federal agents were not paid well and maybe if the government paid them more then they would not have accepted the large bribes offered, as they would already have sufficient amount of money.
People saw Al get away with crimes and so they tried to as well, hoping to make lots of money and gain respect. This hardly ever worked as they did not have the domain that Capone had. Al Capone seemed to be laughing at the law and this encouraged others of the public to disrespect the rules as well; the law began to be mocked. I also believe that if Al Capone had not been the lead gangster, then somebody else would have. I think that it was not really Al Capone's fault that the public's lives were bad. There was a lot of poverty and so living conditions were bad.
Beginning in 1929, was the start of a great depression where peoples lives reached an all time low and the public got really fed up and overly depressed. There was also a lot of disease (e. g. measles) that was rapidly spreading throughout America causing much illness and many deaths. As the US government did not seem to be addressing these major problems, the American citizens lost a lot of respect for the authorities. People turned to alcohol to drown their sorrows and alleviate there fairly miserable lives. As Capone was supplying the drinks people respected him rather than the uncaring authority.
The government spent a lot of money trying to catch Capone, which could have been used on making the publics lives better. They used Al Capone as a scapegoat and attempted to blame many extra problems on him. I feel that the authorities were making him out to be worse than he really was and aiming to turn the public against him and against the alcohol. I also believe that, as other countries mocked America (Source C), the government blamed Capone even more as they needed somebody to accuse. In conclusion, I think that it was only the government officials and rival gangs who did not like Al Capone.
The general public were either on his side (by buying alcohol, etc) or did not really think about Al Capone, as he was so far away, and so were not threatened by him or against him. Many people respected Capone and in a small way admired him for his bravery and ability to flout the law. Many lower class people wished that they could be him and have the money that he did. In actual fact, not many people of the public truly hated Capone. Therefore, I believe that Al Capone was not really Public Enemy Number One.