Eighteenth Amendment

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an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1918, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages for consumption: repealed in 1933.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is the Eighteenth Amendment?

The Eighteenth Amendment is the amendment to the US Constitution that outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment was later repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment.

The Constitution of the United States is the document that serves as the fundamental law of the country.  An amendment is a change to something. An amendment to the Constitution is any text added to the original document since its ratification in 1788. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in American history.

There are three sections to the Eighteenth Amendment, with the first being the most important. It reads:

“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.”

Although the Eighteenth Amendment banned the making, selling, and distributing of alcoholic beverages, it did not ban possessing or consuming them. Ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment began what is now known as Prohibition in the United States, which lasted until 1933, when the amendment was repealed. It is the only amendment to be repealed.

Today, the prohibition of alcohol is widely considered to be one of the biggest failed experiments in US history. The goal was to reduce the number of people drinking alcohol, and it seemed to have done that. But it also had a number of disastrous unintended consequences, including loss of alcohol-industry jobs, loss of tax revenue on the sale of alcohol, and a sharp decrease in the number of people going to restaurants.

Prohibition also directly led to the rise of organized crime in America during the 1920s. Famous gangsters such as Alphonse “Al” Capone and Charles “Lucky” Luciano got extremely wealthy from the illegal distribution of alcohol.

By 1933, the country had had enough. The Twenty-First Amendment was ratified in December 1933, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and officially ended the federal prohibition of alcohol.

Why is Eighteenth Amendment important?

While banning alcoholic beverages may seem like an incredibly foolish idea today, it was actually quite popular throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. The movement to ban alcoholic beverages, known as the temperance movement, had grown steadily during the 1800s and had significant political influence by the early 1900s.

Motivated by Wayne Wheeler, the leader of the powerful Anti-Saloon League, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment in 1917, which was ratified on January 16, 1919. In preparation for the start of prohibition on January 1, 1920, Congress passed the Volstead Act over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The act gave federal and state authorities the power to strictly enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, although many lacked the desire to do so.

Did the Eighteenth Amendment actually lower the consumption of alcohol? Yes and no. Citizens who lacked the money to bribe police, pay bootleggers, or buy home distilleries were unable to drink as much alcohol as they had before, if at all. Rich Americans and criminals, however, were largely unaffected by the Eighteenth Amendment. If they wanted alcohol, they got it, and authorities were largely uninterested in enforcing prohibition laws.

The Eighteenth Amendment had damaging consequences that lasted long after its repeal. While the consumption of alcohol returned to pre-Prohibition levels, organized crime continued to grow for decades, thanks to the establishment of supply chains and the vast amounts of wealth that resulted from the lucrative bootlegging business.

Did you know … ?

The number of licensed pharmacists in New York tripled after the Eighteenth Amendment passed. During Prohibition, the ban on alcoholic beverages didn’t apply to “medicinal alcohol,” purchased with a prescription. This meant that pharmacists and “pharmacists” (bootleggers) could become incredibly rich selling “medicinal alcohol” to people with prescriptions.

What are real-life examples of Eighteenth Amendment?

This tweet shows famous mobster Al Capone. Gangsters like Capone became incredibly wealthy and powerful as a result of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Today, the Eighteenth Amendment is seen as a failure that temporarily prevented the consumption of alcohol.

What other words are related to Eighteenth Amendment?

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True or False?

The Eighteenth Amendment is the only amendment that has been repealed by another amendment.