AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION, 1919.
FRANK L. POLK,
ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, GREETING:
KNOW YE, That the Congress of the United States at the second session, sixty-fifth Congress begun at Washington on the third day of December in the year one thousand nine hundred and seventeen, passed a Resolution in the words and figures following: to wit—
Proposing an amendment to the
Constitution of the United States.
RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED (TWO-THIRDS OF EACH HOUSE CONCURRING THEREIN), That the following amendment to the Constitution be, and hereby is, proposed to the States, to become valid as a part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of the several States as provided by the Constitution:
“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, further, that it appears from official documents on file in this Department that the Amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed as aforesaid has been ratified by the Legislatures of the States of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
And, further, that the States whose Legislatures have so ratified the said proposed Amendment, constitute three fourths of the whole number of States in the United States.
Now therefore, be it known that I, Frank L. Polk, Acting Secretary of State of the United States, by virtue and in pursuance of Section 205 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, do hereby certify that the Amendment aforesaid has become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution of the United States.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Department of State to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this 29th day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and nine-teen.
FRANK L. POLK
Acting Secretary of State
Prohibition of Liquor
Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by the 21st Amendment, December 5, 1933
By its terms, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” but not the consumption, private possession, or production for one’s own consumption. In contrast to earlier amendments to the Constitution, the Amendment set a one-year time delay before it would be operative, and set a time limit (seven years) for its ratification by the states. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919, and the Amendment took effect on January 16, 1920.
To define the prohibitory terms of the Amendment, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. The Volstead Act charged the U.S. Treasury Department with enforcement of the new restrictions, and defined which “intoxicating liquors” were forbidden and which were excluded from Prohibition (for example, alcoholic beverages used for medical and religious purposes). 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. This was the one time in American history that a constitutional amendment was repealed in its entirety
From Wet to Dry
The vote in Congress for a constitutional amendment to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages went less along party lines than by region, ethnicity, and religion. Both Democrats and Republicans favored Prohibition, but its strongest support came from the South, the West, and rural areas of the Midwest, particularly among evangelical Protestants. Its opposition came largely from the big cities of the Northeast and Midwest, who objected that the “drys” were imposing their moral standards on the rest of society.
Most Americans complied with the Eighteenth Amendment, at first. Saloons closed and the consumption of alcoholic beverages declined sharply, as did hospitalizations for alcohol-related illnesses. But people soon began to ignore the law. Liquor was made, imported, and sold in the speakeasies that flourished during the 1920s.
During the 1928 Presidential election, the Republican candidate Herbert Hoover pledged to uphold the law and prosecute offenders more effectively. His Democratic challenger, Alfred E. Smith, charged that Prohibition had bred corruption, caused a rise in crime, and encouraged disrespect for all law. Hoover won the election by a wide margin.
Four years later, when the nation was suffering a major economic depression, polls showed that almost 75 percent of Americans favored the repeal of Prohibition. President Hoover would not change his position, while the Democrats made repeal a major plank in their party’s platform. That fall, the Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, campaigned for repeal and recovery.Across the nation, eleven states held referendums on Prohibition, and repeal won in every state by wide margins. This persuaded Congress to move quickly in voting for the Twenty-first Amendment. As a consequence of the Prohibition experience, Congress became more wary of employing constitutional solutions for social and moral problems.