Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Celebrate Repeal Day - 80 Years After the End of Prohibition
Tomorrow, December 5, 1933, is Repeal Day, the date on which Prohibition was revoked by the 21st Amendment. The “Noble Experiment” had lasted 13 years.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was enacted on January 16, 1920. This amendment prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”  Many groups including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Anti-Salon League, the Ku Klux Klan, and various Protestant religions expected to see a dramatic decrease, if not an end to crime and domestic violence, mental unstableness, and poverty. They felt that alcohol was the source of wanton behavior in the country, and was also responsible for the decline in public health and the advent of loose morals.

But it was soon apparent the experiment was failing.

It didn’t take long for citizens around the country to realize that instead of reducing problems, Prohibition was creating more. Organized crime grew and thrived on the profits made from bootlegging liquor, taking in over 3-billions dollars a year in untaxed income.

Crime syndicates created a black market where illegal alcohol could be bought and sold. Speakeasies became popular and bootleggers souped up their transport vehicles in order to outrun the revenuers.

Cops During Prohibition
Statistics showed that instead of reducing crime, Prohibition added to it. Crimes increased by 24% in thirty major U.S. cities from 1920 to 1921. Assaults and battery intensified across the country, a 44% increase in drug addiction was reported, and homicides were up almost 13%.

Destroying Alcohol
And the effects on the alcohol industry were devastating. Thousands of jobs in the industry disappeared overnight. The budding wine industry was ruined. Vineyards were destroyed, family wineries closed, and many winemakers left the U.S. after the country turned hostile to the alcohol industry.

Busting Barrels
Over half of the breweries that closed never reopened.

The Crash
When the stock market crashed in 1929 the country began to take a more earnest look at life. People needed jobs and the government needed cash. By reconsidering the 18th Amendment, jobs would be created for thousands and sales tax revenue from the sale of alcohol would begin to stream through the government, aiding a desperate country, instead of making gangsters richer.

Anti-Prohibition Poster
By the early 1930’s there was an anti-Prohibition movement spreading throughout the U.S. Americans just wanted to get on with life. Many felt that the consumption of alcohol should be regarded as a personal, local or state issue and not something governed by the Constitution.

So on December 5th, 1933 at 5:32 p.m., the required three-fourths majority of states ratified the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th Amendment. Once again it was legal to craft, purchase and consume alcohol in the United States. This is the only time in U.S. history that an amendment has been repealed.

Although Prohibition was repealed 80 years ago, the founding group, the Prohibition Party,, started in 1869, still exists. It is the oldest existing third party political group in the U.S. In fact, the Prohibition Party ran a candidate for President in the 2012 election: he received 519 votes. Presently the party has no representatives in any major political offices.

Jeffrey Morganthaler
On the other side of the glass, the Museum of the American Cocktail has a web site devoted to Repeal Day For years Jeffrey Morganthaler has been advocating the idea of making December 5th a national day of celebration in the U.S.

So tomorrow raise your celebratory drink and offer up a toast because you can - because you have the constitutional right to enjoy a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a mixed drink or a shot of whisky.

As FDR said in March 1933 after signing the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the sale of beer and wine with low alcohol content, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”


~ Joy