The Constitution of the United States – Part 17
The 18th 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.
Prohibition begins! The 18th Amendment was the result of decades of effort by progressive temperance organizations who preached that alcohol consumption was a national curse, although several states had already enacted similar prohibitions. Prohibition was known as the “noble experiment,” a phrase coined by Pres. Herbert Hoover. (www.history.com) By 1916 – well before the 18th Amendment was born – 23 of 48 states already had anti-saloon legislation on the books. Enter Carrie Nation, who made a name for herself by assaulting bars and taking her hatchet to the kegs of beer or whiskey to destroy “evil spirits”.
There was an accompanying act, the Volstead Act, which specified how the 18th Amendment would be enforced and what “intoxicating liquors” were to be prohibited or excluded. Loopholes allowing liquor used for medicinal, sacramental or industrial purposes to remain legal left many people rubbing their hands together in glee, I’m sure. (http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-should-know-about-prohibition). The initiative was directed mostly to beer. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the bill, but the House immediately overrode the veto and the Senate backed them up with their vote.
This Amendment was the first to set a time delay before it went into effect following ratification and the first to set a time limit for state ratification.
Interestingly, this Amendment did not ban alcohol, it just made it very difficult to obtain legally as it prohibited the production, sale and distribution of intoxicating beverages. (Sounds a lot like the gun control tactics of today, right?) As we all know, Americans are ingeniously creative in skirting the laws they don’t agree with and we saw the blossoming of speakeasies, homemade moonshine, bootleggers, rum-runners, and the illegal import of liquor. This era coined a couple of phrases which we still recognize:
The Speakeasy – a term said to come from bartenders cautioning patrons to “speak easy” when ordering so as not to be overheard. Speakeasies were underground bars which were often funded by the mob and could be very upscale five-star establishments with food, live bands and shows; a “blind pig” was a dive for the less desirable drinkers. ~ www.about.com, http://www.american-historama.org/1913-1928-ww1-prohibition-era/speakeasies.htm
The Real McCoy – a term attributed to Capt. William McCoy, a rum-runner who refused to water down his imports, making his the “real” thing. An encounter with the Coast Guard stopped McCoy from transporting his rum from the Caribbean into Florida, so he set up a network of smaller ships that would meet his boat just outside US waters and carry his contraband into the country from all different directions. ~ www.about.com
Bootlegging refers to the illegal manufacture and sale of liquor, and it occurred on a large scale across the US, especially in rural areas where people were in the throes of the Great Depression and trying to find means of supporting their families and many thrived making their homemade “hooch”. Chicago’s Al Capone was the most notorious bootlegger in the country, earning an estimated $60 million a year (in 1920’s dollars) from bootlegging and running speakeasies. Trivia fact: Templeton Rye Whiskey is again being produced in Iowa and is said to be “Al Capone’s whisky of choice.” ~ www.about.com, www.history.com and http://www.primermagazine.com/2010/field-manual/where-does-the-term-%e2%80%9cbootleg%e2%80%9d-come-from
Dewars – the First Scotch Available . Dewar’s Scotch has the distinction of being the first legal whisky to arrive in the US – just as the law was put into action. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. (JFK’s father) happened to be the US agent for the brand. Many people have speculated over the years that Joseph Kennedy was a bootlegger and that’s how he made his first millions. He was the owner of Somerset Importers, who owned exclusive rights to import Dewar’s Scotch and Gordon’s Gin. Right before the 18th took effect, Somerset stocked up big time. Once Prohibition was over, they sold the premium liquors for a hefty profit, making Joe a rich man. ~ www.about.com
The 18th Amendment is the only Constitutional Amendment that has ever been repealed by another amendment (the 21st Amendment). To honor the repeal of the 18th Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933, some people still celebrate by insisting that the first drink be a “mocktail” (alcohol-free drink).