Document Type



In 1933 America decisively ended its ill-fated experiment in national prohibition by enacting the Twenty-first Amendment. This article tells the tale of America’s return to liquor from a legal perspective. It recounts the ebb and flow of the prohibitionist movements in the nineteenth century, the congressional debates over the Twenty-first Amendment, the state laws, popular votes, and constitutional conventions that followed, and the state liquor regulatory systems adopted afterwards. A legal approach to prohibition illuminates intriguing, largely overlooked topics, including the constitutional questions activated by Congress’s unprecedented decision to submit the amendment to state conventions rather than legislatures. It is also a window to one of America’s most democratic moments.

Date of Authorship for this Version

April 2008