U.S. History/Amendments


What are the historical circumstances of the 18th and 21st amendments.

The 18th Amendment outlawed the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol.  This was a result of the prohibition movement, which had grown for decades.  Progressives saw how much harm alcoholism caused families and saw the productivity declines from those who drank.  They believe the elimination of alcohol would improve society.  Part of the movement was also a reaction to Catholic immigration.  Immigrants from Catholic countries tended to drink more and get drunk.  Native protestants often believed that outlawing alcohol would force these immigrant groups to change their ways and become more upstanding citizens (that, or leave the country).

At the time, most people still believed in the concept of a limited Constitution.  That is, the federal government could not simply pass laws unless authorized by some part of the Constitution.  An amendment was deemed necessary to give the power to ban alcohol to the federal government.  A number of States had already banned alcohol, but smuggling from other states was rampant.  The 18th Amendment passed and the nation banned alcohol.

However, the ban simply did not work.  Large numbers of people were unwilling to give up alcohol.  A large illegal business began in supplying alcohol.  This gave rise to large organized crime syndicates and a great cost to the government in attempting to enforce Prohibition.  The nation recoiled both from the growth in crime and the growth in government intrusion into their lives as a result of Prohibition and passed the 21st Amendment to repeal it a few years later.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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