18th Amendment


The 18th amendment to the United States Constitution was introduced by Congress on 18th December 1917 and was approved on January 16th, 1919. It resulted in a nationwide ban on liquor. The Temperance Movement played a critical role in the passage of the 18th amendment. Supporters of the movement claimed that outlawing alcohol will reduce poverty and other societal evils.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, another bill called the Volstead Act was passed. Its purpose was to enforce the 18th Amendment. Although a significant decrease could be seen in alcohol consumption after the ban, implementation of the Volstead Act proved quite tricky. The amendment was finally revoked by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.


In 1906, the Anti Saloon League launched a movement to stop the selling and production of alcohol. Speeches, advertisements, and demonstrations were organized. The league believed that the elimination of liquor would lead to an improvement in the American lifestyle. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union also joined the campaign.

One of the most prominent figures of this era was Carrie Amelia Moore Nation. She was quite violent and is remembered for attacking the alcohol establishment with a hatchet. Some states, especially those located in the North, such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were unable to enforce the law right away. In 1916, it was reported that 23 out of 48 states had already sanctioned laws that outlawed saloons.

The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement started during the 1800s and was religiously motivated. Churches played a central role in this movement. The movement primarily included people from the Saratoga area and Massachusetts. As a result of its popularity, the churches gained new members and were able to make over 6000 societies in different states. Anti-Saloon League drew inspiration from the Temperance Movement and started actively pursuing prohibition on alcohol.

The League was established in 1893 in Ohio and was supported by The Evangelical Protestant. In 1895, it achieved the status of an organization. The prohibition was ultimately achieved largely through the efforts of this movement. However, once prohibition ended, the League became weak and fell from power. It later merged with another group and formed the National Temperance League.

The Text of the Amendment

The text of the Amendment stated that the sale, transport, manufacture as well as the import and export of alcohol was prohibited after one year from the ratification of the amendment. The text also defined a time period of seven years for a majority of the states to pass the amendment. The federal government and the individual states were further given the authority to implement this amendment.

The Impact of the 18th Amendment

The implementation of the 18th Amendment significantly reduced alcoholism and associated liver diseases. However, the underworld soon saw an opportunity and began bootlegging alcohol. The consumption rate skyrocketed. The illegal manufacturing led to no quality control.

It was reported that more than 10,000 people died due to wood alcohol poisoning. According to the statistics reported at the time, crime rate reached 24% as the underworld financed its activities with profits from bootlegging. The law agencies were unable to enforce the prohibition. All of this ultimately resulted in the anti- prohibition groups taking action.