After Two “Dry” Years

Two years after Prohibition was enacted via the Eighteenth Amendment, this New York Times article called it “practically irreversible.”

You can see why, in January 1922, such a phrase would be used. The legislative branch didn’t seem to be budging on the issue.

Still more significant has been the fact that the new Congress has in the autumn of 1921 strengthen the Volstead Act [the law which actually enforced the 18th Amendment] in important particulars. It is the claim of the drys that their cause is more strongly entrenched at the Capitol than ever before, and if we are to judge by the Congressional Record, the claim would seem to be justified.

Neither was the judicial branch budging, either.

Apparently, there were those who expected that the Supreme Court would come to the rescue with some legal technicality which would mitigate the impending drought… But a consideration of the many decisions of the Supreme Court shows that this tribunal has assumed that the people of the United States knew what they were doing when they passed the Eighteenth Amendment, and that in any event, if they did not, they must bear the consequences. It was not for the judges to rectify the enthusiasms or the negligence of the electorate. The Supreme Court has in the main upheld the authority of Congress to interpret and of the federal offices everywhere to enforce the amendment.

Well, that didn’t last. In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed Prohibition once and for all. One wonders which “practically irreversible” aspects of modern American politics, life, or society may similarly fail to last even a dozen more years.

After Two “Dry” Years

Published: Sunday, January 15, 1922

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