Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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The Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) of the United States Constitution, along with the Volstead Act, which defined "intoxicating liquors" to exclude those used for religious purposes, established Prohibition in the United States. The Amendment was unique in setting a time delay before it would take effect following ratification, and in setting a time limit for its ratification by the states. Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919.

Demand for liquor continued, and the law resulted in the criminalization of producers, suppliers, transporters and consumers. The police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with new cases; organized crime increased in power, and corruption extended among law enforcement officials. The amendment was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, the only instance in United States history of repeal of a constitutional amendment.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.


The Eighteenth Amendment was the result of decades of effort by temperance movements and at the time was generally considered a progressive amendment.[1]

Many state legislatures had already enacted statewide prohibition prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Proposal and ratification

On August 1, 1917, the Senate passed a resolution containing the language of the amendment to be presented to the states for ratification. The vote was 65 to 20, with the Democrats' voting 36 in favor and 12 in opposition; and the Republicans' voting 29 in favor and 8 in opposition. The House of Representatives passed a revised resolution[2] on December 17, 1917.

In the House, the vote was 282 to 128, with the Democrats' voting 146 in favor and 64 in opposition; and the Republicans' voting 137 in favor and 62 in opposition.[3] It was officially proposed by the Congress to the states when the Senate passed the resolution, by a vote of 47 to 8, the next day, December 18.[4]

The amendment and its enabling legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but made it difficult to obtain alcoholic beverages legally.

The proposed amendment was the first to contain a provision setting a deadline for its ratification. That clause of the amendment was challenged, with the case reaching the US Supreme Court. It upheld the constitutionality of such a deadline in Dillon v. Gloss (1921).

The ratification of the Amendment was completed on January 16, 1919, when Nebraska became the thirty-sixth of the forty-eight states then in the Union to ratify it. On January 29, acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk certified the ratification.[5]

The following states ratified the amendment:[6]

  1. Mississippi (January 7, 1918)
  2. Virginia (January 11, 1918)
  3. Kentucky (January 14, 1918)
  4. North Dakota (January 25, 1918)[7]
  5. South Carolina (January 29, 1918)
  6. Maryland (February 13, 1918)
  7. Montana (February 19, 1918)
  8. Texas (March 4, 1918)
  9. Delaware (March 18, 1918)
  10. South Dakota (March 20, 1918)
  11. Massachusetts (April 2, 1918)
  12. Arizona (May 24, 1918)
  13. Georgia (June 26, 1918)
  14. Louisiana (August 3, 1918)[8]
  15. Florida (November 27, 1918)
  16. Michigan (January 2, 1919)
  17. Ohio (January 7, 1919)
  18. Oklahoma (January 7, 1919)
  19. Idaho (January 8, 1919)
  20. Maine (January 8, 1919)
  21. West Virginia (January 9, 1919)
  22. California (January 13, 1919)
  23. Tennessee (January 13, 1919)
  24. Washington (January 13, 1919)
  25. Arkansas (January 14, 1919)
  26. Illinois (January 14, 1919)
  27. Indiana (January 14, 1919)
  28. Kansas (January 14, 1919)
  29. Alabama (January 15, 1919)
  30. Colorado (January 15, 1919)
  31. Iowa (January 15, 1919)
  32. New Hampshire (January 15, 1919)
  33. Oregon (January 15, 1919)
  34. North Carolina (January 16, 1919)
  35. Utah (January 16, 1919)
  36. Nebraska (January 16, 1919)
  37. Missouri (January 16, 1919)
  38. Wyoming (January 16, 1919)
  39. Minnesota (January 17, 1919)
  40. Wisconsin (January 17, 1919)
  41. New Mexico (January 20, 1919)
  42. Nevada (January 21, 1919)
  43. New York (January 29, 1919)
  44. Vermont (January 29, 1919)
  45. Pennsylvania (February 25, 1919)
  46. New Jersey (March 9, 1922)

The following states rejected the amendment:

  1. Connecticut[9]
  2. Rhode Island
Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol.

To define the language used in the Amendment, Congress enacted enabling legislation called the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, on October 28, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed that bill, but the House of Representatives immediately voted to override the veto and the Senate voted similarly the next day. The Volstead Act set the starting date for nationwide prohibition for January 17, 1920, which was the earliest date allowed by the 18th Amendment.[3]


Following the 18th Amendment's adoption, prohibition effectively resulted in a public demand for illegal alcohol, making criminals of producers and consumers. The criminal justice system was swamped although police forces and courts had expanded in recent years. Prisons were jam-packed and court dockets were behind in trying to deal with the rapid surge in crimes. Organized crime expanded to deal with the lucrative business, and there was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing unpopular laws.[10]

Court cases challenged the enforcement of the 18th Amendment as violations of rights guaranteed under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The Twenty-First Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933. The amendment remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.[11]

See also


  1. Hamm, Richard F. (1995). Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: temperance reform, legal culture, and the polity, 1880-1920. UNC Press Books. p. 228. ISBN 9780807844939. OCLC 246711905. 
  2. 40 Stat. 1050
  3. 3.0 3.1 David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of Six Presidents (NY: Carroll & Graf, 2007), 160
  4. "Prohibition wins in Senate, 47 to 8". The New York Times: p. 6. December 19, 1917. 
  5. 40 Stat. 1941
  6. The dates of proposal, ratifications and certification come from The Constitution Of The United States Of America Analysis And Interpretation Analysis Of Cases Decided By The Supreme Court Of The United States To June 28, 2008, United States Senate doc. no. 108-17, at 35 n.10. See also Mount, Steve (January 2007). "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". http://www.usconstitution.net/constamrat.html. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  7. Effective January 28, 1918, the date on which the North Dakota ratification was approved by the state Governor.
  8. Effective August 9, 1918, the date on which the Louisiana ratification was approved by the state Governor.
  9. 2008 Supplement: The Constitution Of The United States Of America Analysis And Interpretation [1]
  10. Heath, Dwight B. "Prohibition, repeal, and historical cycles", DATA: The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory & Application 28.3 (2009): 8. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  11. Frank L. Iber (1990). Alcohol and drug abuse as encountered in office practice. CRC Press. p. 32. ISBN 9780849301667. http://books.google.com/books?id=327L800dIGYC. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 

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