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Twenty-First Amendment: About

Amendment XXI: The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Interpreting the Twenty-First Amendment 

Although the Constitution has been formally amended 27 times, the Twenty-First Amendment (ratified in 1933) is the only one that repeals a previous amendment, namely, the Eighteenth Amendment (ratified in 1919), which prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” In addition, it is the only amendment which was ratified, not by the legislatures of the states, but by state ratifying conventions, as called for by the Amendment’s third section. The Constitution, in Article V, allows for ratification by either method.

Why did those who proposed the Twenty-First Amendment take the unprecedented step of calling for ratification by convention delegates rather than by legislators? The answer seems to be that though prohibition of alcohol had lost a great deal of popular support by the early 1930s, the political power of the temperance lobby remained intact in a great many states. Many state legislators and legislative leaders were likely to be unwilling to risk the lobby’s wrath. So political prudence pointed in the direction of ratifying conventions as a way of leaving gun-shy legislators with their eyes on re-election out of the process and “off the hook.”

Why had public opinion turned against Prohibition? The story here is more complicated. Part of it is captured by the old joke that “after fourteen years with nothing to drink the American people got thirsty.” But the desire of people to drink beer, wine, and spirits lawfully was merely part of the story. More significantly, in all probability, is the judgment of a great many citizens that Prohibition had been a failed, if noble, experiment.  Continue reading from The National Constitution Center


Five Interesting Facts About Prohibition's End in 1933

On December 5, 1933, three states voted to repeal Prohibition, putting the ratification of the 21st Amendment into place. But did Prohibition really end on that fateful day? In some ways it did, but just as it had taken a while for laws to be enacted after the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, winding down those laws also took some time.

Congress first proposed the 21st Amendment in February 1933, and it took the unusual method of calling for state conventions to vote on the amendment, instead of submitting it to state legislatures. Conventions in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah approved the amendment on that fateful December day, bringing the total to 36 states who wanted to end Prohibition—the three-quarters majority required by the Constitution.

The ratification of the 21st Amendment marked the end of federal laws to bar the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors. But the 21st Amendment returned the control of liquor laws back to the states, who could legally bar alcohol sales across an entire state, or let towns and counties decide to stay “wet” or “dry.”    Continue reading from The National Constitution Center

From  Our Collection

Link to Last call : the rise and fall of Prohibition by Okrent in the catalog
Link to The War on Alcohol by McGirr in the catalog
Link  to the great illusion by asbury in the catalog
Link to prohibition by behr in the catalog
Link to The Bill of Rights and Additional Amendments by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel in the catalog
Link to Prohibition by Edward Behr in the catalog