Sunday, December 05, 2010

Raise Those Glasses High, Boys and Girls!

Today is December 5th: the 77th anniversary of the date on which Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution (which rescinded the 18th Amendment).

The key sections of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, as ratified on January 16, 1919, read as follows:

"Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

"Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

The 18th Amendment was a response to the political power of the temperance movement in the United States, which began in the early 19th century. At that time, many Americans were concerned about the adverse effects of drinking, and began to form temperance societies dedicated to the closing of saloons and the elimination of alcohol from American society. The 18th Amendment was enforced by the Volstead Act, which was passed over President Woodrow Wilson's veto on October 28, 1919. The Volstead Act created a special Prohibition unit within the Treasury Department which, in its first six months of operation, destroyed thousands of illegal distilleries (stills) operated by the makers of bootleg liquor. Despite their best efforts, however, federal agents and police did little more than slow the flow of booze, and organized crime boomed across the country to fill the demand for alcohol. Large-scale bootleggers like Al Capone of Chicago built criminal empires out of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol, and federal and state governments lost billions in tax revenue. In most urban areas, and particularly in blue-collar neighborhoods, the individual consumption of alcohol was largely tolerated and drinkers gathered at saloons known as "speakeasies" (because of the requirement to whisper a password to the guard at the door to gain admittance) or brewed often-poisonous "bathtub gin" at home.

Prohibition - a well-meaning attempt to resolve a societal issue through legislation - was a flop. But at least Congress recognized its mistake and repealed it. One has to wonder if anyone in Congress today would have the legislative cojones to admit disaster and move to repeal an ill-considered law.

Being a Member of Congress means never having to admit you're being stupid.

Anyhow, for those of you who are keeping count, because the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, technically there have only been 25, and not 27 amendments to the Constitution. And you are able during this holiday season to enjoy comforting libations like Hot Buttered Rum, the German Feuerzangenbowle (concerning which I have a funny story to tell if you are interested), hot cocoa spiked with Peppermint Schnapps, and the delightful White Christmas (one ounce each of vodka, amaretto, and heavy cream shaken with a handful of ice, strained into a martini glass, and garnished with a bit of grated nutmeg).

Bottoms up!

Have a good day. Enjoy all things in moderation. Including moderation.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Bandit said...

The Busch fanily complex, Grant's Farm, is right here in S. St. Louis County. The local lore is that after the repeal of prohibition, the Clydesdales were sent to D. C. pulling their famous wagon to deliver some Budweiser to FDR at the Whitehouse.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I'll drink to that!

Melissa B. said...

We always have a rousing classroom discussion when we discuss The Great Gatsby. Then I go home and raise a glass to my cherubs-when they pass the test!

Mike said...

I'm drinking to that right now.

KathyA said...

Does the White Christmas come with a side of Lipitor?