21st Amendment

The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide prohibition on alcohol. The Twenty-first Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933, and was ratified by the requisite number of states 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, as well as being the only amendment to have been ratified by state ratifying conventions.

AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION, 1933.

WILLIAM PHILLIPS,
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, seventy-second Congress begun at Washington on Monday ,the fifth day of December, in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, passed a Resolution in the words and figures following: to wit—

JOINT RESOLUTION

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 article is hereby proposed as an Amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the several States:

“Article —.

“Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

“Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

“Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in 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 notices received at the Department of State that the Amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed as aforesaid has been ratified by conventions in the States of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, -Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
     And, further, that the States wherein conventions have so ratified the said proposed Amendment, constitute the requisite three-fourths of the whole number of States in the United States.

     Now, therefore, be it known that I, William Phillips, Acting Secretary of State of the United States, by virtue and in pursuance of Section 160, Title 5, of the United States Code, 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 fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three.

 WILLIAM PHILLIPS
Acting Secretary of State

Repeal of the 18th Amendment

Section 1 of the Twenty-first Amendment expressly repeals the Eighteenth Amendment. The second section bans the importation of alcohol into states and territories that have laws prohibiting the importation or consumption of alcohol. This has been interpreted to give states essentially absolute control over alcoholic beverages. Many states now delegate the authority over alcohol granted to them by this Amendment to their municipalities or counties (or both).

Several states continued to be “dry states” in the years after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, but in 1966 the last dry state (Mississippi) legalized the consumption of alcohol, while Kansas continued to prohibit public bars until 1987.

Nonetheless, several states continue to closely regulate the distribution of alcohol. Many states now delegate their power to ban the importation of alcohol to counties and municipalities, and there are numerous dry communities throughout the United States. Section 2 has occasionally arisen as an issue in Supreme Court cases that touch on the Commerce Clause.

Yet state-wide prohibition continued in 18 states. About 2/3 of the remaining states chose to permit local option on the matter. Although National Prohibition ended, 38% of Americans still lived under state or local prohibition.

The repeal of the prohibition against selling beer had occurred months earlier. It was on April 7 of that year. The reason is simple. Congress was expected ratification to take years. But there was great demand for the legalization of beer.

Proposal and Ratification

The Congress adopted the Blaine Act and proposed the Twenty-first Amendment on February 20, 1933.

The proposed amendment was adopted on December 5, 1933. It is the only amendment to have been ratified by state ratifying conventions, specially selected for the purpose. All other amendments have been ratified by state legislatures. It is also the only amendment that was approved for the explicit purpose of repealing a previously existing amendment to the Constitution.

The Twenty-first Amendment ending national prohibition also became effective on December 5, 1933. The Acting Secretary of State William Phillips certified the amendment as having been passed by the required three-fourths of the states just 17 minutes after the passage of the amendment by the Utah convention. President Roosevelt then issued a proclamation following the passage and certification of the amendment which stated in part the following: “I trust in the good sense of the American people that they will not bring upon themselves the curse of excessive use of intoxicating liquors to the detriment of health, morals and social integrity. The objective we seek through a national policy is the education of every citizen towards a greater temperance throughout the nation.”

The end of prohibition was thought to be responsible for the creation of a half million jobs.