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TEXT OF 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.
SEC. 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
SEC. 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 hereto to the States by the Congress.
The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, marking the beginning of a brief, controversial era of American history often labeled "The Prohibition," was the result of several factors. Primary among these factors was a century-long temperance crusade conducted by churches and social service organizations dedicated to suppressing "the evils of drinking." The Prohibition movement began in the early nineteenth century and steadily gathered strength, culminating in the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919.
The movement first gained momentum between the years of 1864 and 1865, when 13 States passed prohibition laws: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. However, by the end of the 1860s, most of these States had rescinded these laws.
A second wave of support for Prohibition began in the 1880s. In 1880, Kansas wrote Prohibition into its Constitution. By 1890, North and South Dakota had adopted prohibition laws. Both Iowa and Rhode Island also reinitiated attempts to illegalize alcohol, but were unsuccessful. The movement gained additional strength during the 1880s with the foundation and rapid growth of history's most active prohibitionist group, the Anti-Saloon League. Between October of 1909 and January of 1923, when it was operating at peak strength, the Anti-Saloon League Press at Westerville, Ohio turned out 114,675,431 leaflets; 1,925,143 books; 2,322,053 placards; and 5,271,715 copies of weekly and monthly magazines.1
Beginning in 1907, a third wave of prohibitionist sentiment spread across America. Between the years of 1907 and 1915, 8 Southern States adopted some form of prohibition; and by 1917, 23 States were considered prohibitionist. These States included Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Michigan, and Indiana.
It should be pointed out that while each of these States placed limits on the sale and consumption of alcohol, only 13 States had laws that completely banned all consumption of alcoholic beverages within their boundaries. These States known as "dry" included Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Washington, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, and Utah.2
In 1913, the "dry" States received assistance from the U.S. Congress, which passed, over the veto of President Taft, the WebbKenyon Law. This law protected them from out-of-state shipments of alcohol. In addition, at their "Jubilee Convention" in November of 1913, the Anti-Saloon League decided to redirect its 20-year-old movement toward State prohibition laws to a centralized national effort toward the adoption of a Prohibition Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.4
The redirected goal of the Anti-Saloon League, combined with the victory in Congress of the Webb-Kenyon Law, led to the introduction of H.J. Res. 168 (64th Cong.) on December 22, 1914.5 H.J. Res. 168, the Nation's first proposed Prohibition Amendment, initially read:
Whereas exact scientific research has demonstrated that alcohol is a narcotic poison, destructive and degenerating to the human organism, and that its distribution as a beverage or contained in foods lays a staggering economic burden upon the shoulders of the people, lowers to an appalling degree the average standard of character of our citizenship, thereby undermining the public morals and the foundation of free institutions; produces widespread crime, pauperism, and insanity; inflicts disease and untimely death upon hundreds of thousands of citizens and blights with degeneracy their children unborn, threatening the future integrity and the very life of the Nation. Therefore be it
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 of 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. The sale, manufacture for sale, transportation for sale, importation for sale, and exportation for sale of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes in the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof are forever prohibited.
"SEC. 2. Congress shall have power to provide for the manufacture, sale, importation, and transportation of intoxicating liquors for sacramental, medicinal, mechanical, pharmaceutical, or scientific purposes, or for use in the arts, and shall have power to enforce this article by all needful legislation."
On the same day as its introduction, the Resolution was defeated in the House of Representatives, where it gained majority approval but failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote, 197 to 190.7
With the advent of World War I, Prohibition evolved into much more than mere social reform against drinking. Food shortages caused by the war in Europe required Americans to conserve food supplies and war materials. Advocates of Prohibition called attention to the huge quantities of food stuffs that could be used to feed the hungry, rather than being "wasted" on the production of alcoholic beverages. Prohibitionists also pointed out that transportation facilities could be used to aid the war effort, rather than to transport alcoholic beverages. In addition, many Americans' prejudice towards Germany was beginning to be transferred to the brewery
industry, whose leading executives and owners were often of German descent. All these factors helped lead to the passage of the Lever Food Control Act (H.R. 4961, 65th Cong.) on August 10, 1917. The Food Control Act prohibited the use of food materials in the production of distilled spirits for alcoholic beverages, in addition to restricting the importation of such spirits.
The Food Control Act was by no means the last of congressional actions launched against the production and consumption of alcohol. On June 11, 1917, Senator Sheppard of Texas introduced S.J. Res. 179 (65th Cong.), another proposed Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution. Sheppard's Resolution 10 read:
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. The manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, and the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes are hereby prohibited.
"SEC. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and nothing in this article shall deprive the several States of their power to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the traffic in intoxicating liquors."
The Resolution was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The Committee reported favorably on the measure, recommending passage with technical amendments and a substantive amendment deleting language that reserved to the States the power to enact and enforce prohibition legislation.11
When S. J. Res. 17 reached the Senate floor for debate on August 1, 1917, a number of amendents were proposed. Only one of the amendments, that requiring ratification within 6 years, was adopted before the measure passed the Senate 65-20. Among the proposals rejected were amendments adding "purchase" and "use" to the acts prohibited by the article, delaying enforcement of the article until congress provided for compensation to manufacturers of liquors, extending ratification by 10 years, and substituting "distilled spiritous" for "intoxicating" liquors in the language of the meas
In the House of Representatives, the Committee on the Judiciary also reported favorably on S.J. Res. 17, after recommending amendments that would make the article effective 1 year after ratification, give Congress and the States concurrent enforcement powers, and limit the period of ratification to seven years after submission to the States. 13 On December 17, 1917, the House passed the Resolution, as amended in committee, by a vote of 282 to 128. During the House debates, two amendments were rejected. One would have allowed a State to recall its ratification or rejection before threequarters of the States had ratified the Amendment, while the other would have exempted wine and beer from the article's prohibition. 14
The next day, December 18, the Senate concurred in the House amendments, 47 to 8 (no roll-call vote).15 The Eighteenth amendment was then sent to the States for ratification.
Senator Harding, an opponent of prohibition, proposed that the Eighteenth Amendment be valid only if ratified by three-quarters of the States prior to the close of 1923. This time-limit modification, increased to 6 years in the Senate and later to 7 in the House, split the ranks of the prohibitionists. Some of them viewed it as a trap which would reduce the chances of ratification. Other supporters of prohibition contested that all previous amendments had been ratified within 7 years, and that such a time-limit might actually increase support for the Amendment.
The 7-year limitation on ratification attached to the final version of the measure proved to be no barrier to ratification at all. Threefourths of the State legislatures had ratified the Amendment in a period of only 13 months. The ratification dates for the Eighteenth Amendment are listed below: