Did the American People Get Thirsty?

(StraightNews.org) – Proposed by Congress on December 8th, 1917, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution called for the prohibition of intoxicating liquors to be sold, transported, and produced. Fast forward to 1919, the US Constitution was formally amended; Prohibition began. But after just 14 years, the US Constitution was again amended for the 21st time.

The 21st Amendment

Despite there being 27 formal amendments to the Constitution, the 21st is the only one to repeal a previous amendment. After its ratification in 1933, Prohibition was ended.

Many joke that the American people got thirsty after 14 years of not having a drink. While that may very well be true for some individuals, the real story of the Noble Experiment is a little more involved.

The 18th Amendment reduced alcoholism and the overall consumption of alcohol. But something a little darker took its place: dangerous black-market booze.

Prohibition allowed for crime syndicates to profit from exploding alcohol prices — and as we all know, criminals don’t care about the law. Profiteers were able to make so much money, they could simply bribe law enforcement to overlook their illegal sales.

If it had ended there, you might be reading a much different story today. But black market sellers weren’t satisfied with selling expensive, and sometimes poisonous, alcohol. They started to get away with other more lucrative crimes, bribing officers out of making arrests.

The public took notice of this and were horrified. The widespread Prohibition laws undermined the authority of law enforcement and the law in general. It was time for change.

The First of Its Kind

The 21st Amendment wasn’t only the first time an amendment was repealed. It was also the first to be ratified through state conventions; every other amendment had been ratified through state legislature.

Why did they overstep the state legislature? Well, the answer here is pretty simple — they were up for reelection and likely didn’t want to risk their chances of winning. In addition, many states were still influenced by the temperance lobby; legislatures likely feared their wrath.

Limiting and Distributing Power

Had the 21st Amendment’s first section stood alone, it would’ve restored the status quo ante. Instead, the second section of the 21st gave the authority of the regulation of alcohol to individual states. This limited the federal government’s ability to have any say in each region’s alcohol control policy.

States took this a step further by allowing counties to make their own decisions in regards to alcohol. This is why some counties in the US are known as “dry counties” — areas where alcohol remains prohibited even today.

Final Thoughts

Prohibition came to an end primarily due to the wants and needs of the American people, which is how the law is meant to be. While the idea of the 18th Amendment may be seen as noble, or even an attempt to keep families together and poverty down, it did eventually fail. But with the end of Prohibition itself came America’s first repealed amendment. In other words, it made history.

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