On this date in 1933 the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution officially became effective, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that prohibited the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol. The Twenty-first Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933. It is unique among the 27 amendments of the U.S. Constitution for being the only one to repeal a prior amendment and to have been ratified by state ratifying conventions rather than by state legislatures.
The text is as follows:
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had ushered in a period known as Prohibition, during which the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, but it soon proved highly unpopular. In my opinion, Prohibition transformed not only the culture of drinking in the US, but also the nature of crime. Furthermore it attempted to legislate private moral values, and therefore pit ordinary people against the government, and destroyed tens of thousands of previously legitimate businesses. It was an unmitigated disaster whose lessons ought to have been learned, but, sadly have not. There are no end of victimless crimes on the books – smoking marijuana, prostitution, pornography, etc etc. I don’t subscribe to any of them, and obviously they need to be regulated to prevent harm to certain groups such as minors. But by making them illegal they are simply forced underground and promote crime and violence.
During Prohibition, the production, importation, and distribution of alcoholic beverages — once the province of legitimate business — were taken over by criminal gangs, which fought each other for market control in violent confrontations, including murder. Major gangsters, such as Omaha’s Tom Dennison and Chicago’s Al Capone, became rich and were admired locally and nationally. Enforcement was difficult because the gangs became so rich they were often able to bribe underpaid and understaffed law enforcement personnel and pay for expensive lawyers. Many citizens were sympathetic to bootleggers, and respectable citizens were lured by the romance of illegal speakeasies, also called “blind tigers”. The loosening of social morals during the 1920s included popularizing the cocktail and the cocktail party among higher socio-economic groups. Those inclined to help authorities were often intimidated, even