Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) of the United States Constitution effectively established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring the production, transport, and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession) illegal. The separate Volstead Act set down methods for enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which "intoxicating liquors" were prohibited, and which were excluded from prohibition (e.g., for medical and religious purposes). The Amendment was the first to set a time delay before it would take effect following ratification, and the first to set a time limit for its ratification by the states. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the bill, but the House of Representatives overrode the veto, and the Senate did so as well the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest day allowed by the Eighteenth Amendment.
The Amendment was in effect for the following 13 years. It was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment. The Twenty-first Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933. It is unique among the 27 amendments of the U.S. Constitution for being the only one to repeal a prior amendment and to have been ratified by state ratifying conventions.
Section 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 the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 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.
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The Eighteenth Amendment was the result of decades of effort by the temperance movement in the United States and at the time was generally considered a progressive amendment. Starting in 1906, the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) began leading a campaign to ban the sale of alcohol on a state level. They led speeches, advertisements, and public demonstrations, claiming that banning the sale of alcohol would get rid of poverty and social issues, such as immoral behavior and violence. It would also inspire new forms of sociability between men and women and they believed that families would be happier, fewer industrial mistakes would be made and overall, the world would be a better place. Other groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union began as well trying to ban the sale, manufacturing, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. A well-known reformer during this time period was Carrie Amelia Moore Nation, whose violent actions (such as vandalizing saloon property) made her a household name across America. Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment but did not ban the consumption of alcohol in most households. It took some states longer than others to ratify this amendment, especially northern states such as: New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. They violated the law by still allowing some wines and beers to be sold. By 1916, 23 of 48 states had already passed laws against saloons, some even banning the manufacture of alcohol in the first place.
The Temperance MovementEdit
The Temperance Movement, was dedicated to the complete abstinence of alcohol from public life. The movement began in the early 1800s within the church, and was very religiously motivated. The central areas the group was founded out of were in the Saratoga area of New York, as well as in Massachusetts. Churches were also highly influential in gaining new members and support, garnering 6,000 local societies in several different states.
A group that was inspired by the movement was the Anti-Saloon league, who at the turn of the 20th century began heavily lobbying for prohibition in the United States. The group was founded in 1893 in the state of Ohio, gaining massive support from Evangelical Protestants, to becoming a national organization in 1895. The group was successful in helping implement prohibition, through heavy lobbying and having a vast influence. The group following repeal of prohibition fell out of power and in 1950 merged with other groups forming the National Temperance League.
Proposal and ratificationEdit
On August 1, 1917, the Senate passed a resolution containing the language of the amendment to be presented to the states for ratification. The vote was 65 to 20, with the Democrats voting 36 in favor and 12 in opposition; and the Republicans voting 29 in favor and 8 in opposition. The House of Representatives passed a revised resolution on December 17, 1917. This was the first amendment to impose a date in which it had to be ratified in which if the deadline was not met, the amendment would be discarded.
In the House, the vote was 282 to 128, with the Democrats voting 141 in favor and 64 in opposition; and the Republicans voting 137 in favor and 62 in opposition. Four Independents in the House voted in favor and two Independents cast votes against the amendment. It was officially proposed by the Congress to the states when the Senate passed the resolution, by a vote of 47 to 8, the next day, December 18.
The amendment and its enabling legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but made it difficult to obtain alcoholic beverages legally, as it prohibited the sale, manufacturing and distribution of them in U.S. territory. Any one who got caught selling, manufacturing or distributing alcoholic beverages would be arrested. Because prohibition was already implemented by many states, it was quickly ratified into a law. The ratification of the Amendment was completed on January 16, 1919, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify it. On January 28, acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk certified the ratification.
The following states ratified the amendment:
- Mississippi (January 7, 1918)
- Virginia (January 11, 1918)
- Kentucky (January 14, 1918)
- North Dakota (January 25, 1918)[note 1]
- South Carolina (January 29, 1918)
- Maryland (February 13, 1918)
- Montana (February 19, 1918)
- Texas (March 4, 1918)
- Delaware (March 18, 1918)
- South Dakota (March 20, 1918)
- Massachusetts (April 2, 1918)
- Arizona (May 24, 1918)
- Georgia (June 26, 1918)
- Louisiana (August 3, 1918)[note 2]
- Florida (November 27, 1918)
- Michigan (January 2, 1919)
- Ohio (January 7, 1919)
- Oklahoma (January 7, 1919)
- Idaho (January 8, 1919)
- Maine (January 8, 1919)
- West Virginia (January 9, 1919)
- California (January 13, 1919)
- Tennessee (January 13, 1919)
- Washington (January 13, 1919)
- Arkansas (January 14, 1919)
- Illinois (January 14, 1919)
- Indiana (January 14, 1919)
- Kansas (January 14, 1919)
- Alabama (January 15, 1919)
- Colorado (January 15, 1919)
- Iowa (January 15, 1919)
- New Hampshire (January 15, 1919)
- Oregon (January 15, 1919)
- North Carolina (January 16, 1919)
- Utah (January 16, 1919)
- Nebraska (January 16, 1919)
- Missouri (January 16, 1919)
- Wyoming (January 16, 1919)
- Minnesota (January 17, 1919)
- Wisconsin (January 17, 1919)
- New Mexico (January 20, 1919)
- Nevada (January 21, 1919)
- New York (January 29, 1919)
- Vermont (January 29, 1919)
- Pennsylvania (February 25, 1919)
- New Jersey (March 9, 1922)
The following states rejected the amendment:
To define the language used in the Amendment, Congress enacted enabling legislation called the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th amendment.
The Volstead ActEdit
The Volstead Act was passed by Congress as a means of overriding the veto of the 18th amendment put forth by President Woodrow Wilson. The act was conceived and introduced by Wayne Wheeler who was a leader of the Anti-Saloon League, a group which found alcohol responsible for almost all of society's problems, and were also responsible for many campaigns against the sale of alcohol. The law was also heavily supported by Judiciary Chairman at the time, Andrew Volstead from Minnesota and was named in his honor. The act in its written form laid the ground work of prohibition, defining the procedures for banning the distribution of alcohol including their production and distribution.
Volstead had once before introduced an early version of the law to congress. It was first brought to the floor on May 27, 1919 meeting heavy resistance from Democrat senators, introducing instead what was called the "wet law", which was an attempt to end the wartime prohibition laws put into affect much earlier. The debate of prohibition would continue to be fueled even longer in congress, for that entire the House would be divided among what would be known as the "bone-drys and the "wets".
With Republicans in the majority of the House of Representatives, the act was passed July 22, 1919 with 287 in favor and 100 opposed. Unfortunately the act was in large part a failure, being unable to prevent mass distribution of alcoholic beverages and also inadvertently gave way to massive increase in organized crime. The act would go on to be the standard for enforcing prohibition, until the passing of the 21st amendment in 1933 effectively repealed it.
This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (January 2018)
- During the Prohibition era’s first years, amendment supporters were gratified by a decline in arrests for drunkenness, hospitalization for alcoholism, and instances of liver-related medical problems. These statistics seemed to validate their campaign and to suggest that America’s future might include happier families, fewer industrial accidents, and a superior moral tone.
- Most Americans greeted the end of the Prohibition era with relief. While the end of the conflict and lawlessness was a relief there was also a clear benefit that Americans could recognize. The legalization of alcohol meant that alcohol could be taxed by government; the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression and state and federal governments needed revenue to create relief programs.
- The rise of mass disobedience to prohibition laws took the amendment’s advocates by surprise. People who could afford the high price of smuggled liquor flocked to speakeasies and gin joints. These establishments could be quite glamorous. Whereas pre-Prohibition saloons had seldom welcomed women, the new world of nightclubs invited both the bob-haired “flapper” and her “sheik” to drink cocktails, smoke, and dance to jazz.
- Working-class consumption largely moved from saloons into the home. “Bathtub gin” and moonshine took the place of mass-produced liquor, and hosts might use additives to turn grape juice into wine for their guests. Americans who sought to remain in the liquor business found ways to re-distill the alcohol in perfume, paint, and carpentry supplies. They continued redistilling even after learning that many of these products contained poisons meant to deter such transformations.
- Ultimately, only a small percentage of liquor distributors found themselves arrested. But even this limited number of accused—there were approximately 65,000 federal criminal actions in the first two years of Prohibition—was enough to cripple the justice system. Prisons grew crowded, and judges tried to incentivize quick “guilty” pleas by promising very small fines. And if a liquor seller did wind up on trial, juries filled with liquor drinkers were often reluctant to find the defendants guilty; only about 60 percent of cases ended with a conviction.
The proposed amendment was the first to contain a provision setting a deadline for its ratification. That clause of the amendment was challenged, with the case reaching the US Supreme Court. It upheld the constitutionality of such a deadline in Dillon v. Gloss (1921). The Supreme Court also upheld the ratification by the Ohio legislature in Hawke v. Smith (1920), despite a petition requiring that the matter go to ballot.
This was not the only controversy around the amendment. The phrase "intoxicating liquor" would not logically have included beer and wine, and their inclusion in the prohibition came as a surprise to the general public, as well as wine and beer makers. This controversy caused many Northern states to not abide by which caused some problems. The brewers were probably not the only Americans to be surprised at the severity of the regime thus created. Voters who considered their own drinking habits blameless, but who supported prohibition to discipline others, also received a rude shock. That shock came with the realization that federal prohibition went much farther in the direction of banning personal consumption than all local prohibition ordinances and many state prohibition statutes. National Prohibition turned out to be quite a different beast than its local and state cousins.
Under Prohibition, the illegal manufacture and sale of liquor–known as “bootlegging”–occurred on a large scale across the United States. In urban areas, where the majority of the population opposed Prohibition, enforcement was generally much weaker than in rural areas and smaller towns. Perhaps the most dramatic consequence of Prohibition was the effect it had on organized crime in the United States: as the production and sale of alcohol went further underground, it began to be controlled by the Mafia and other gangs, who transformed themselves into sophisticated criminal enterprises that reaped huge profits from the illicit liquor trade.
When it came to its booming bootleg business, the Mafia became skilled at bribing police and politicians to look the other way. Chicago’s Al Capone emerged as the most notorious example of this phenomenon, earning an estimated $60 million annually from the bootlegging and speakeasy operations he controlled. In addition to bootlegging, gambling and prostitution reached new heights during the 1920s as well. A growing number of Americans came to blame Prohibition for this widespread moral decay and disorder–despite the fact that the legislation had intended to do the opposite–and to condemn it as a dangerous infringement on the freedom of the individual.
In his important study both of the Eighteenth Amendment and its repeal, Daniel Okrent identifies the powerful political coalition that worked successfully in the two decades leading to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment:
Five distinct, if occasionally overlapping, components made up this unspoken coalition: racists, progressives, suffragists, populists (whose ranks included a small socialist auxiliary), and nativists. Adherents of each group may have been opposed to alcohol for its own sake, but used the Prohibition impulse to advance ideologies and causes that had little to do with it.
Calls for repealEdit
If public sentiment had turned against Prohibition by the late 1920s, the advent of the Great Depression only hastened its demise, as some argued that the ban on alcohol denied jobs to the unemployed and much-needed revenue to the government. The efforts of the nonpartisan group Americans Against Prohibition Association (AAPA) added to public disillusionment. In 1932, the platform of Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt included a plank for repealing the 18th Amendment, and his victory that November marked a certain end to Prohibition.
In February 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which repealed both the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act. The resolution required state conventions, rather than the state legislatures, to approve the amendment, effectively reducing the process to a one-state, one-vote referendum rather than a popular vote contest. That December, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the necessary majority for repeal. A few states continued statewide prohibition after 1933, but by 1966 all of them had abandoned it. Since then, liquor control in the United States has largely been determined at the local level.
Just after the Eighteenth Amendment's adoption, there was a significant reduction in alcohol consumption among the general public and particularly among low-income groups. There were fewer hospitalizations for alcoholism and likewise fewer liver-related medical problems. However, consumption soon climbed as underworld entrepreneurs began producing "rotgut" alcohol which was full of dangerous diseases. With the rise of home distilled alcohol, many cases of careless distilling led to the deaths of many citizens. During the ban upwards of 10,000 deaths can be attributed to wood alcohol (methanol) poisoning. Ultimately, during prohibition use and abuse of alcohol ended up higher than before it started. The greatest unintended consequence of Prohibition however, was the plainest to see. For over a decade, the law that was meant to foster temperance instead fostered intemperance and excess. The solution the United States had devised to address the problem of alcohol abuse had instead made the problem even worse. The statistics of the period are notoriously unreliable, but it is very clear that in many parts of the United States more people were drinking, and people were drinking more.
Though there were significant increases in crimes involved in the production and distribution of illegal alcohol, there was an initial reduction in overall crime, mainly in types of crimes associated with the effects of alcohol consumption such as public drunkenness. Those who continued to use alcohol, tended to turn to organized criminal syndicates. Law enforcement wasn't strong enough to stop all liquor traffic; however, they used a "sting" operations--"Prohibition agent Elliot Ness famously used wiretapping to discern secret locations of breweries." The prisons became crowded which led to fewer arrests for the distribution of alcohol, as well as those arrested being charged with small fines rather than prison time. The murder rate fell for two years, but then rose to record highs because this market became extremely attractive to criminal organizations, a trend that reversed the very year prohibition ended. Overall, crime rose 24%, including increases in assault and battery, theft, and burglary.
Anti-prohibition groups arose and worked to have the amendment repealed, once it became apparent that Prohibition was an unprecedented catastrophe. The Eighteenth Amendment failed because of its sudden, strict enforcement. It didn't allow the people to have a say or let them gradually ease into the complete ban of alcoholic beverages. Instead, the people rebelled and the introduction of speakeasies and "flappers" came about.
Following ratification in 1919 the effects of the amendment were long lasting leading to increases in crime in many large cities in the United States, like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles . Along with this came many separate forms of illegal alcohol distribution. Examples of this include speakeasies and bootlegging, as well as illegal distilling productions.
Bootlegging got its start in border towns along Mexico and Canada, as well as in areas with several ports and harbors, a personal favorite distribution area for bootleggers being Atlantic City, New Jersey. The alcohol was often supplied from various foreign distributors; like Cuba and the Bahamas, or even Newfoundland and islands under rule by the French.
The government in response employed the Coast Guard to search and detain any ships transporting alcohol into the ports, but with this came several complications such as disputes over where jurisdiction lied on the water. This was what made Atlantic City such a hot spot for smuggling operations, because of a shipping point close to three miles off the shore that U.S. officials could not investigate on, further complicating enforcement of the amendment. What made matters even worse for the Coast Guard was that they were not well equipped enough to chase down bootlegging vessels. The Coast Guard however, was able to respond to these issues, and began searching vessels out at sea, instead of when they made port, and upgraded their own vehicles allowing for more efficient and consistent arrests.
But even with the advancements in enforcing the amendment, there were still complications that plagued the governments efforts. One issue came in the form of forged prescriptions, on alcoholic beverages. Many forms of alcohol were being sold over the counter at the time, under the guise of them being for medical purposes. But in truth, these beverages had falsified any sort evidence that they were medically fit to be sold to consumers.
Bootlegging itself was the leading factor that developed the organized crime-rings in big cities. Given that controlling and distributing of liquor was very difficult task to achieve. From that arose many profitable gangs that would control every aspect of the distributing process; whether it be concealed brewing and storage, or even operating a speakeasy, or selling in restaurants and nightclubs run by a specific syndicate. With organized crime, becoming a rising problem in the United States, control for specific territories was a key objective among gangs, leading to many violent confrontations with murder rates and burglaries heavily increasing between 1920 and 1933. Bootlegging was also found to be a gateway crime for many gangs who would then expand operations into crimes such as prostitution, gambling rackets, narcotics, loan-sharking, extortion and labor rackets thus causing problems to persist long after the amendment was repealed.
- Effective January 28, 1918, the date on which the North Dakota ratification was approved by the state Governor.
- Effective August 9, 1918, the date on which the Louisiana ratification was approved by the state Governor.
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- 40 Stat. 1941
- The dates of proposal, ratifications and certification come from The Constitution Of The United States Of America Analysis And Interpretation Analysis Of Cases Decided By The Supreme Court Of The United States To July 1, 2014, United States Senate doc. no. 108-17, at 35 n.10.
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[I]t took until 1922 for the forty-sixth state, New Jersey, to ratify, and Connecticut and Rhode Island would never do so.– via HeinOnline (subscription required)
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The homicide rate increased from 6 per 100,000 population in the pre-Prohibition period to nearly 10 per 100,000 in 1933. That rising trend was reversed by the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and the rate continued to decline throughout the 1930s and early 1940s
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Rather than reducing the crime rates within the United States, prohibition resulted in an increased crime rate of 24% including increased assault and battery by 13%, homicide rates by 12.7%, and burglaries and theft by 9%.
- Roosevelt, Franklin (December 5, 1933), Proclamation 2065 - Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment
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