The 18th Amendment

From 1919 to 1933, alcohol production was illegal in the United States

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The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol, which began the era of Prohibition. Ratified on January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

In the over 200 years of U.S. Constitutional Law, the 18th Amendment remains the only amendment to ever have been repealed. 

Text of the 18th Amendment

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.

Proposal of the 18th Amendment 

The road to national prohibition was riddled with a plethora of states' laws that mirrored a national sentiment for temperance. Of the states who already had bans on manufacturing and distributing alcohol, very few had sweeping successes as a result, but the 18th Amendment sought to remedy this. 

On August 1, 1917, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution detailing a version of the above three sections to be presented to states for ratification. The vote passed 65 to 20 with Republicans voting 29 in favor and 8 in opposition while the Democrats voted 36 to 12. 

On December 17, 1917, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a revised resolution 282 to 128, with Republicans voting 137 to 62 and Democrats voting 141 to 64. Additionally, four independents voted for and two against. The Senate approved this revised version the next day with a vote of 47 to 8 where it then went on to the States for ratification.

Ratification of the 18th Amendment

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919, in Washington, D.C. with Nebraska's "for" vote pushing the amendment over the required 36 states needed to approve the bill. Of the 48 states in the U.S. at the time (Hawaii and Alaska became states in the U.S. in 1959), only Connecticut and Rhode Island rejected the amendment, though New Jersey did not ratify it until three years later in 1922. 

The National Prohibition Act was written to define the language and execution of the amendment and despite President Woodrow Wilson's attempt to veto the act, Congress and the Senate overrode his veto and set the start date for prohibition in the United States to January 17, 1920, the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment. 

Repeal of the 18th Amendment 

A great number of anti-abolitionist groups arose over the next 13 years in response to the chaos the ban caused. Although crimes associated with intoxication and consumption of alcohol (especially amongst the poor) rapidly declined immediately after its implementation, gangs and cartels soon took over the unregulated market of bootleg liquors. After lobbying for several years, the anti-abolitionists eventually pressed Congress to propose a new amendment to the Constitution. The 21st Amendment — ratified on December 5, 1933 — repealed the 18th Amendment, making it the first (and only, to date) Constitutional Amendment penned to repeal another.