Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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United States of America
Great Seal of the United States
This article is part of the series:

Preamble and Articles
of the Constitution

Preamble

Amendments to the Constitution

Ratified Amendments
The first ten Amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights

Unratified Amendments

Full text of the Constitution
and Amendments

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Law Portal

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 (though not the consumption or private possession of) alcohol illegal. The separate Volstead Act set down methods of 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 17, 1920.

The police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with new cases; organized crime increased in power, and corruption extended among law enforcement officials. The amendment was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, the only instance in United States history that a constitutional amendment was repealed.

Text[edit]

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.

Background[edit]

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.[1]

Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, but didn't ban consumption of alcohol in most households.

Proposal and ratification[edit]

Amendment XVIII in the National Archives

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[2] on December 17, 1917.

In the House, the vote was 282 to 128, with the Democrats voting 146 in favor and 64 in opposition; and the Republicans voting 137 in favor and 62 in opposition.[3] 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.[4]

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 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.[5]

The following states ratified the amendment:[6]

  1. Mississippi (January 7, 1918)
  2. Virginia (January 11, 1918)
  3. Kentucky (January 14, 1918)
  4. North Dakota (January 25, 1918)[note 1]
  5. South Carolina (January 29, 1918)
  6. Maryland (February 13, 1918)
  7. Montana (February 19, 1918)
  8. Texas (March 4, 1918)
  9. Delaware (March 18, 1918)
  10. South Dakota (March 20, 1918)
  11. Massachusetts (April 2, 1918)
  12. Arizona (May 24, 1918)
  13. Georgia (June 26, 1918)
  14. Louisiana (August 3, 1918)[note 2]
  15. Florida (November 27, 1918)
  16. Michigan (January 2, 1919)
  17. Ohio (January 7, 1919)
  18. Oklahoma (January 7, 1919)
  19. Idaho (January 8, 1919)
  20. Maine (January 8, 1919)
  21. West Virginia (January 9, 1919)
  22. California (January 13, 1919)
  23. Tennessee (January 13, 1919)
  24. Washington (January 13, 1919)
  25. Arkansas (January 14, 1919)
  26. Illinois (January 14, 1919)
  27. Indiana (January 14, 1919)
  28. Kansas (January 14, 1919)
  29. Alabama (January 15, 1919)
  30. Colorado (January 15, 1919)
  31. Iowa (January 15, 1919)
  32. New Hampshire (January 15, 1919)
  33. Oregon (January 15, 1919)
  34. North Carolina (January 16, 1919)
  35. Utah (January 16, 1919)
  36. Nebraska (January 16, 1919)
  37. Missouri (January 16, 1919)
  38. Wyoming (January 16, 1919)
  39. Minnesota (January 17, 1919)
  40. Wisconsin (January 17, 1919)
  41. New Mexico (January 20, 1919)
  42. Nevada (January 21, 1919)
  43. New York (January 29, 1919)
  44. Vermont (January 29, 1919)
  45. Pennsylvania (February 25, 1919)
  46. New Jersey (March 9, 1922)

The following states rejected the amendment:

  1. Connecticut[7]
  2. Rhode Island[8]
Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol

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.[3]

Impact[edit]

Following the 18th Amendment's adoption, prohibition effectively resulted in a public demand for illegal alcohol, making criminals of producers and distributors. The criminal justice system was swamped although police forces and courts had expanded in recent years. Prisons were jam-packed and court dockets were behind in trying to deal with the rapid surge in crimes. Organized crime expanded to deal with the lucrative business, and there was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing unpopular laws.[9]

Court cases challenged the enforcement of the 18th Amendment as violations of rights guaranteed under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933. The amendment remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed; leaving only the power to regulate transportation solely to the federal government.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Effective January 28, 1918, the date on which the North Dakota ratification was approved by the state Governor.
  2. ^ Effective August 9, 1918, the date on which the Louisiana ratification was approved by the state Governor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 40 Stat. 1050
  3. ^ a b David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of Six Presidents (NY: Carroll & Graf, 2007), 160
  4. ^ "Prohibition wins in Senate, 47 to 8" (PDF). New York Times. December 19, 1917. p. 6. 
  5. ^ 40 Stat. 1941
  6. ^ 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 June 28, 2002, United States Senate doc. no. 108-17, at 35 n.10. See also Mount, Steve (January 2007). "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  7. ^ New York Times: "Connecticut Balks at Prohibition," February 5, 1919, accessed July 27, 2011
  8. ^ New York Times: "Rhode Island Defeats Prohibition," March 13, 1918, accessed July 27, 2011
  9. ^ Heath, Dwight B. "Prohibition, repeal, and historical cycles", DATA: The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory & Application 28.3 (2009): 8. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. February 26, 2011.
  10. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]