Document: The Eighteenth Amendment
to the Constitution and the Volstead Act
Sources [will open in a new window]:
Note that the amendment does not deal with the use of
alcohol, but the manufacture and sale. Drinking was not illegal.
Under the American constitution the US Congress must
first pass an amendment by a two-thirds vote of each house (Representatives
and Senate), then three-quarters of the states must through their state
legislatures or a convention “ratify” the amendment, as
the US like Australia has a federal system. States rights can be jealously
guarded, making amendment difficult.
The Volstead Act, 1920 gave legislative effect to the
prohibition amendment. The Act enables us to see the complexities of
prohibition and the need to provide for enforcement, and exceptions
as in private use of alcohol and medical and sacramental use.