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The 18th Amendment and Its Connection to the Great Depression

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The 18th Amendment was the ban of transportation, sale, and manufacture of alcohol. It was originally ratified on January 16, 1919 and in over 200 years the 18th Amendment is still the only Amendment to have been repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

The first section of the 18th Amendment it states that after one year of the ratification of no manufacturing, sales, or transportation of intoxicating liquors imported or exported from the United States and all territory subject to jurisdiction is hereby prohibited. The second section stated that the Congress and the several states should have coexisting power to enforce this object by appropriate legislation. Section 3 says the article should be voided unless it has been ratified as an amendment to the constitution by the legislatures of the several States within seven years from the date of the submission to the States by the Congress.

Prohibition was the time known for speakeasies, glamour, and gangsters and a period of time in which even the average citizen broke the law. The drive for the Prohibition began in the nineteenth century. Drinking was on a rise after the American Revolution and numbers of societies were organized as part of a new Temperance movement to try to solve this. The movement attempted to dissuade people from becoming intoxicated. At first, these organizations thrived for moderation, but after several decades, the movement’s focus changed to prohibition of alcohol consumption.

By 1916, over half of the United States already had laws that prohibited alcohol. In 1919 the 1th Amendment was added to the Constitution by January 16, 1920 it was ratified. The 18th Amendment established Prohibition but it was the Volstead Act the clarified the law. This act stated that "beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors" meant any beverage that was more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. The Act also stated that owning any item designed to manufacture alcohol was illegal and it set specific fines and jail sentences for violating Prohibition. There were several loopholes for people to legally drink during Prohibition. For instance, the 18th Amendment did not mention the actual drinking of liquor. Since Prohibition went into effect a full year after the 18th Amendment's ratification, many people bought cases of then-legal alcohol and stored them for personal use. The Volstead Act allowed alcohol consumption if it was prescribed by a doctor.



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