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The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution Explained

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Table of Contents

What is the Eighteenth Amendment?

The Eighteenth Amendment of the United States bans the processing, moving, and selling of intoxicating alcohol. However, it does not prohibit people from consuming, producing for personal consumption, and private possession of the intoxicating liquors. Section 1 of the Amendment states the prohibition of intoxicating alcohol. Section 2 says that Congress has the power to enforce the Article through pertinent legislation. Section 3 states that the Article shall only be operative after it is ratified as an Amendment.

In efforts to stop alcohol in the nineteenth century, the Volstead Act was passed by Congress. The Act is what paved the way for the Eighteenth Amendment. Congress stopped it in 1917 on December 20th, and on the same day, the Senate passed it. The day before, it had been passed by the House. Later on January 16th, 1919, the states ratified it. The Eighteenth Amendment was later enacted on January 16th, 1920, after being ratified a year later.

The Volstead Act.

On October 28th, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, also known as The National Prohibition Act. The Treasury Department of the United States was charged by the Act and the enactment of new limitations. It also stated which alcoholic beverages were restricted and which ones were not. The alcoholic drinks that were used for purposes such as religion or medical uses were allowed. After President Woodrow Wilson refused to accept the bill, the House of Representatives didn’t follow his decision. The House overrode the veto. The Senate also overrode it the following day. Afterward, January 17th, 1920, was set as the date the Volstead Act would go into effect all over the country. It was the earliest date allowed for the prohibition by the Eighteenth Amendment.

The Repeal Of The Eighteenth Amendment.

After the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified and enacted in 1920, it remained active for 13 years. However, in 1933 the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. This happened after the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified. Before this, no other amendment had ever been completely repealed. There were powerful political coalitions that were there before the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. The coalition was made up of five discrete groups: populists, racists, suffragists, nativists, and progressives.

The supporters of each of the different groups were possibly against alcohol, but they later took advantage of the prohibition to spread irrelevant ideologies. Between the year 1913 and the year 1919, the nation’s law’s primarily focused on establishing the income tax, Senators being elected by the people, and prohibition. The government used to get most of its revenue from alcohol, and therefore enactment of the income tax amendment helped eliminate the main problem facing prohibition. Therefore, prohibiting alcoholic beverages had a significant impact on the amount of revenue the government would have been taking from the prohibition. Most of the revenue was now being received from the income tax. This made it possible for prohibition to be feasible financially. It became an advantage for the coalitions that supported it to achieve their goals without having to deal with the distraction. Whether the repeal was justified or not is a matter of debate since there are different opinions.