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Prohibition

( Originally Published 1918 )



August 1, 1917, the United States Senate passed a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. December 17, 1917, the House of Representatives also passed the resolution. It is described as "The National Prohibition Amendment Resolution." It reads as follows:

"Joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States: Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following amendment to the Constitution be, and hereby is, proposed to the states, to become valid as a part of the Constitution when ratified by the Legislatures of the several states as provided by the Constitution:

"Article—Section s. 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.

"Sec. 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

"Sec. 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 by the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress."

The proposed amendment was submitted and ratified by the necessary thirty-six states, and its adoption was thereupon promulgated by the Secretary of State on January 29, 1919.

The trend towards national prohibition was manifested by the action of many of the states, as at the time of the ratification of the amendment (it being the 18th Amendment), twenty-nine states and two territories together with the District of Columbia had joined the dry list.

National Prohibition Act.—To give effect to the Prohibition Amendment, the National Prohibition Act, commonly known as the Volstead Act, was introduced in the House on June 27, 1919, and was passed by that body on July 27, by a vote of 287 to 100. It was passed by the Senate with some amendments on September 5th. In its final form the conference measure was passed by the Senate on October 8, and by the House on October 10, and was vetoed by the President October 27, upon the ground that war time prohibition was no longer necessary. The House at once repassed the bill, 176 to 55, and the Senate also overrode the veto October 28, by a vote of 65 to 20.

Litigation.—Both the Amendment itself as well as the Volstead Act were at once the subject of bitterly fought litigation, suits being brought by the States of New Jersey and by Rhode Island and by various brewers and distillers, but in all of the attacks the constitutionality of both the Amendment and the Volstead Act were upheld, and now both are beyond question, except as the Volstead Act is itself subject to legislative action by Congress in the form of amendments. It is unlikely that any substantial modification of the law would pass Congress as it is now constituted, nor any letting down of the bars be permitted through official non-action.



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