The History of the Eighteenth Amendment

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prohibition-18th-eighteenth-amendment
What an unfortunate headline!

As we near the anniversary of the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, it is time to celebrate. No, gosh…we aren’t celebrating the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment, but it’s short-lived life.

The Eighteenth Amendment was established originally with three sections:

“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 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.”

And with the passing of this amendment, on January 16, 1919, everyone had one year to indulge in all the alcohol they could. Yes, this amendment would have many first, and one of them was being the first amendment to have a time delay. Effective January 17, 1920,–one year later–the prohibition of alcoholic beverages took place in the United States.

There was an immediate outcry from those who used alcohol for reasons other than enjoyment. To better define the language of the Eighteenth Amendment, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. This would allow alcohol to be used for medical and religious purposes.

prohibition-organized-crime
Organized Crime looked a lot different than it does today!

There is an interesting pattern that develops in the 1920’s–organized crime. Before this time period, there was little organized crime in America. With the illegal manufacturing  distribution, and selling of alcohol, organized crime skyrocketed.

It came a point in America’s history where the criminal justice system was swamped, the prisons were full, and there was widespread corruption among law enforcement officials.

It was several years later, but on December 5, 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment was passed and it repealed the Eighteenth Amendment. This remains the only time that a constitutional amendment has been repealed in its entirety.

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