The 18th Amendment


The 18th Amendment

The 18th Amendment was proposed to Congress on December 18th, 1917 and ratified on January 16th, 1919 but was repealed by the 21st Amendment on December 5th, 1933. The 18th Amendment was a product of the temperance movement, as they wanted a total ban on the sale of alcohol. Back then, drinking was seen as a weakness. Today, drinking is an ordinary fact of life for some people who could not imagine what it would be like to not be able to drink at all. (Wikipedia: Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution) This Amendment was controversial as it stopped the sale of all alcohol in the continental United States.

In the late 1800s, Prohibition was a growing movement, which reached a fever pitch in 1920 when Congress ratified the 18th Amendment. In 1933, Congress had to make drinking legal again because the Prohibition movement caused social unrest in the form of public disillusionment. Religious groups called alcohol consumption a “national curse, ” only because of a Massachusetts law set up in 1838, which had prohibited the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities. Then Maine followed up in 1846 with the first Prohibition-related state law. In 1873, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Ohio had started calling for the abolition of alcohol.

Prohibition caused a rise in crimes such as bootlegging or making alcohol for yourself as the majority of people opposed the entire cause of Prohibition. Other industries came to life during the 20s such as gambling and prostitution as the 20s was a time of prosperity until the Great Depression came to create the misery it created, which is why alcohol was made legal again in 1933 however temporary its effects in making people feel better. Prohibition had created a silent bootlegging industry in the 20s, attracting and creating the Mafia.

In Chicago, Al Capone was a criminal product of his time, which meant that he had made an estimated $60 million annually, from bootlegging operations as well as the speakeasy, also a creation of the day. The 21st Amendment was what repealed the 18th Amendment in February of 1933. It had also repealed the Volstead Act, which had been named for Andrew Volstead, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who managed the legislation involved with enforcing prohibition.

The thing is, Prohibition had banned the transportation of alcoholic beverages, the exception being alcohol used for religious rites. The 18th Amendment is unique in that a deadline of 7 years had been established from its inception in 1919. The 18th Amendment failed because the mafia came out of the concept of not having access to alcohol at all as a universal ban. The 18th Amendment is also unique because it was followed up by the 21st Amendment, which repealed it. Congress passed the 18th Amendment, overriding President Wilson’s veto, on the Volstead Act, which was passed on January 17th, 1920.

Prohibition did not work but the law made getting sober up to the individual, not the State. The United States is founded on having a lot of personal latitude so long as you do not break the law. Breaking the law gets you into trouble with somebody, whether it's the local police or the Feds. Alcohol was left in the hands of the consumer. What lead to a rise of crime was prohibiting alcohol in the first place. However, alcohol does lead to a physical dependency if consumed without care. The rate of alcoholism is still high in modern times, even as marijuana for medicinal uses is half-legal at this time.

Works Cited

Iria Vasquez-Paez
Iria Vasquez-Paez
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Iria Vasquez-Paez

I have a B.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State. Can people please donate? I'm very low-income. I need to start an escape the Ferengi plan.

See all posts by Iria Vasquez-Paez