By: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Date: December 5, 1933
Source: President. Proclamation. "Date of Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment: By the President of the United States of America, A Proclamation." Presidential Proclamation 2065, Item PP2065, Series PRDOCPI159E23, Record Group 11. Old Military and Civil Records, National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Available online at http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/volstead_... ; website home page: http://www.archives.gov (accessed February 18, 2003).
About the Author: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) was president of the United States from 1933 to 1945. In the aftermath of the Great Depression (1929–1939), the president implemented an economic recovery program, called the New Deal, that provided jobs for the unemployed. His administration was instrumental in passing some of the most significant legislation in American history under the New Deal. Between 1941 and 1945, Roosevelt led the country in the war against fascism in Europe and Asia.
The United States underwent dramatic social and economic changes between the time of the passage of the Volstead Act of 1919, which enforced the Eighteenth Amendment, and the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment, ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1919, became effective in January 1920. The amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages in the nation. For years, a national temperance movement had been lobbying for the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
At first it appeared as if the prohibition amendment was effective. In the years immediately after the amendment was ratified in the state legislatures, the sale and consumption of alcohol dropped, and crime rates declined noticeably across the country. But as the 1920s progressed, it became increasingly evident that many Americans simply ignored or worked around the ban. Even though the production of alcohol had been cut back, a wave of lawlessness soon spread across the country. Ironically, the Prohibition Era of the 1920s was also the "Roaring Twenties." A new youth culture had emerged, abandoning traditional values for a consumption-oriented lifestyle. By banning the legal sale and manufacture of alcohol, the government unwittingly provided criminal gangs the opportunity to make an easy profit from the illegal trade of alcohol. Bootleggers (illegal alcohol sellers) proliferated to supply a "wet" underworld (those who sold and consumed liquor) of "blind pigs" (after-hours clubs) and "speakeasies" (illegal saloons) in this new "jazz age."
Consequently, even though prisons across the country filled with Prohibition violators, law enforcement was unable to stem the flow of alcohol. When the Great Depression hit the country in 1929 and the nation was plunged into economic crisis, Prohibition ceased being a high priority on people's agendas. Public opinion had shifted so much in the 1930s that the Democratic Party included the repeal of Prohibition in its platform. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, Congress passed a resolution to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. On December 5, 1933, the states ratified the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.
President Roosevelt's signing of Presidential Proclamation 2065 ended a social experiment that attempted to enforce a ban on the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages. The legacy of Prohibition and its repeal had a lasting effect on American culture and its criminal justice system. While Prohibition produced unintended consequences in society on at least two fronts, its repeal left behind remnants that lasted well beyond the Prohibition Era.
In the 1920s, Prohibition created an opportunity for organized crime to develop a national network for bootlegging. After it was abolished, the criminal network did not disappear. The criminals simply shifted their business from bootlegging to drug trafficking, racketeering (illegal money-making from fraud, intimidation, or bribery), gambling, extortion, bank robbery, and prostitution.
In a parallel way, during the Prohibition Era the federal government responded to the needs created by the new law by expanding the role of federal law enforcement in fighting the illegal trade of alcohol. When bootleggers and bank robbers defied the law in the 1920s and 1930s, Congress responded by passing new federal laws to cover a whole range of crimes that previously had fallen under local jurisdictions. In 1934, when outlaws such as John Dillinger were avoiding capture by crossing state lines, Congress established a series of new federal offenses. As a result, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was given more law enforcement power, including the authority to carry guns and make arrests. Under the new laws, it was a federal crime to rob a national bank; to extort by telephone, telegraph, or radio; to knowingly transport stolen property worth more than $5,000 across state lines; to flee across state lines to avoid prosecution for murder, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, or extortion with threats of violence; or to flee across state lines to avoid testifying in criminal proceedings.
Even after Prohibition was repealed, the expanded federal powers remained in place. Although the nation underwent dramatic political, social, and economic changes since the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified, many of the societal responses to the amendment continued into the following decades.
Primary Source: "Date of Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment"
SYNOPSIS: Thirteen years after the Eighteenth Amendment ushered in the Prohibition Era, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Presidential Proclamation 2065, announcing the repeal of Prohibition. Many Americans supported the repeal because they feared that, through Prohibition, the federal government might curtail individual freedom.
Whereas the Congress of the United States in second session of the Seventy-second Congress, begun at Washington on the fifth day of December in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, adopted a resolution in the words and figures following, to wit:
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the several States:
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Sec. 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.
Sec. 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.
Whereas section 217 (a) of the act of Congress entitled "An Act To encourage national industrial recovery, to foster competition, and to provide for the construction of certain useful public works, and for other purposes," approved June 16, 1933, provides as follows:
Sec. 217. (a) The President shall proclaim the date of—
(1) the close of the first fiscal year ending June 30 of any year after the year 1933, duringwhich the total receipts of the United States (excluding public-debt receipts) exceed its total expenditures (excluding public-debt expenditures other than those chargeable against such receipts), or
(2) the repeal of the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution, whichever is the earlier.
Whereas it appears from a certificate issued December 5, 1933, by the Acting Secretary of State that official notices have been received in the Department of State that on the fifth day of December 1933 conventions in 36 States of the United States, constituting three fourths of the whole number of the States had ratified the said repeal amendment;
Now, therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, pursuant to the provisions of section 217 (a) of the said act of June 16, 1933, do hereby proclaim that the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States was repealed on the fifth day of December 1933.
Furthermore, I enjoin upon all citizens of the United States and upon other residents within the jurisdiction thereof to cooperate with the Government in its endeavor to restore greater respect for law and order, by confining such purchases of alcoholic beverages as they may make solely to those dealers or agencies which have been duly licensed by State or Federal license.
Observance of this request, which I make personally to every individual and every family in our Nation, will result in the consumption of alcoholic beverages which have passed Federal inspection, in the break-up and eventual destruction of the notoriously evil illicit liquor traffic, and in the payment of reasonable taxes for the support of Government and thereby in the superseding of other forms of taxation.
I call specific attention to the authority given by the twenty-first amendment to the Government to prohibit transportation or importation of intoxicating liquors into any State in violation of the laws of such State.
I ask the whole-hearted cooperation of all our citizens to the end that this return of individual freedom shall not be accomplished by the repugnant conditions that obtained prior to the adoption of the eighteenth amendment and those that have existed since its adoption. Failure to do this honestly and courageously will be a living reproach to us all.
I ask especially that no State shall by law or otherwise authorize the return of the saloon either in its old form or in some modern guise.
The policy of the Government will be to see to it that the social and political evils that have existed in the pre-prohibition era shall not be revived nor permitted again to exist. We must remove forever from our midst the menace of the bootlegger and such others as would profit at the expense of good government, law, and order.
I trust in the good sense of the American people that they will not bring upon themselves the curse of excessive use of intoxicating liquors, to the detriment of health, morals, and social integrity.
The objective we seek through a national policy is the education of every citizen towards a greater temperance throughout the Nation.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington this fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and thirty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fifty-eighth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
By the President:
Acting Secretary of State
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Gusfield, Joseph. Symbolic Crusade: Status, Politics, and the American Temperance Movement. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1963.
Lender, Mark Edward, and James Kirby Martin. Drinking in America: A History. Rev. ed. New York: Free Press, 1987.
Murdoch, Catherine Gilbert. Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870–1940. Philadelphia: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
Thornton, Mark. "Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure." Policy Analysis, July 17, 1991.