Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
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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. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919, with the amendment taking effect on January 16, 1920.
For the following 13 years Prohibition was officially in effect, though the ability to enforce it was limited by the Volstead Act and by corrupt and complacent politicians who overlooked illicit manufacturing and smuggling. The amendment was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, the only instance in United States history that a constitutional amendment was repealed in its entirety.
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.
Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, but did not ban consumption of alcohol in most households.
Proposal and ratification
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.
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 and distribution of them in U.S. territory.
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.
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 29, 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.
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. Consumption soon climbed as underworld entrepreneurs began producing "rotgut" alcohol. Likewise, there was a general reduction in overall crime, mainly in the types of crimes associated with the effects of alcohol consumption, though there were significant increases in crimes involved in the production and distribution of illegal alcohol. Those who continued to use alcohol tended to turn to organized criminal syndicates, who were able to take advantage of uneven enforcement, suddenly overwhelmed police forces, and corruptible public officials to establish powerful, murderous smuggling networks. Anti-prohibition groups arose and worked to have the amendment repealed once it became apparent that Prohibition was an unprecedented catastrophe. The Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933. The amendment remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety; leaving only the power to regulate transportation solely to the federal government.
- 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.
- Moore, Mark. "Actually, Prohibition Was a Success." The New York Times. October 15, 1989. Accessed July 31, 2015.
- Hamm, Richard F. (1995). Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: temperance reform, legal culture, and the polity, 1880–1920. UNC Press Books. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-8078-4493-9. OCLC 246711905.
- 40 Stat. 1050
- David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of Six Presidents (NY: Carroll & Graf, 2007), 160
- "Prohibition wins in Senate, 47 to 8" (PDF). New York Times. December 19, 1917. p. 6.
- 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.
- New York Times: "Connecticut Balks at Prohibition," February 5, 1919, accessed July 27, 2011
- Cohn, Henry S.; Davis, Ethan (2009). "Stopping the Wind that Blows and the Rivers that Run: Connecticut and Rhode Island Reject the Prohibition Amendment". Quinnipiac Law Review. 27: 327, 328.
[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)
- New York Times: "Rhode Island Defeats Prohibition," March 13, 1918, accessed July 27, 2011
- David Oshinsky (May 13, 2010). "The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (book review)". The New York Times.
- Iber, Frank L. (1990). Alcohol and drug abuse as encountered in office practice. CRC Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-8493-0166-7. Retrieved February 26, 2010.