The 18th Amendment

The 18th Amendment

"The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. Upon ratification of the amendment by the states, Congress voted its approval in October 1919, and enacted it into law as the National Prohibition Act of 1920. Drafting of the amendment and of the bill was the work, in large part, of Wayne Wheeler, the legislative lawyer of the Anti-Saloon League. The duty to sponsor the bill before Congress fell to the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Andrew J. Volstead, U.S. Representative from the Minnesota 7th Congressional District."

  • A newspaper headline tells that the 18th Amendment has been ratified. It would take effect in one year

The 18th Amendment reads:

"Thirteen months after the 18th amendment was passed by Congress Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify it January 16,1919. The amendment became law January 17,1920. With great jubilation the dry forces ushered in this new era in American history called Prohibition. Celebrations were held all over the country commemorating the death of John Barleycorn. The enforcement arm of the 18th amendment was the Volstead Act which placed the authority to enforce the amendment in the lap of the Treasury Department and defined what legally constituted an alcoholic beverage. The strictness of this definition finally dispelled any notions that the brewers had of being able to avoid catastrophe. Their products were banned also."

The following quotation shows that in the beginning, it seemed as though prohibition was not only a great idea, but that it was working. "The amendment worked at first, liquor consumption dropped, arrests for drunkenness fell, and the price for illegal alcohol rose higher than the average worker could afford. Alcohol consumption dropped by 30 percent and the United States Brewers' Association admitted that the consumption of hard liquor was off 50 percent during Prohibition." However, as time progressed, the statistics would change.

Who Was Andrew Volstad?

Andrew Volstead was the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and it was his duty to bring a sponsored bill on Prohibition before Congress. He wrote the National Prohibition Act which is often referred to as the Volstead Act. Volstead was in favor of prohibition, and was also an outspoken supporter of civil rights and civil rights legislation such as an Anti-lynching Law. Interestingly, in the election after Prohibition had been enforced, Andrew Volstead was NOT reelected. Maybe that tells us how his constituents felt about prohibition.

Read Andrew Volstead's Biography

Letter Concerning the Transportation of Alcohol from California to Washington

Read the Text of the Volstead Act

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