Annenberg Classroom

Ratified on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the making, transporting, and selling of alcoholic beverages. Adopted at the urging of a national temperance movement, proponents believed that the use of alcohol was reckless and destructive and that prohibition would reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, decrease the need for welfare and prisons, and improve the health of all Americans. During prohibition, it is estimated that alcohol consumption and alcohol related deaths declined dramatically.

But prohibition had other, more negative consequences. The amendment drove the lucrative alcohol business underground, giving rise to a large and pervasive black market. In addition, prohibition encouraged disrespect for the law and strengthened organized crime. Prohibition came to an end with the ratification of Amendment XXI on December 5, 1933.


Linda Monk

"The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution" (2003)

The temperance movement, which sought to restrict or ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages, had a long history in the United States. The first temperance organization was formed in 1808, and many states had outlawed alcohol before the Eighteenth Amendment nationalized its prohibition. But with the onset of the Progressive Era, Americans seemed more confident in the ability of constitutional amendments to reform human behavior. When the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified in 1919, many Americans believed that crime, poverty, and broken homes would be outlawed along with alcohol.

View more commentary from "The Words We Live By"