Twenty-First Amendment

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During the late 1800s, support for Prohibition-the outlawing of alcohol's manufacture, transportation, and consumption-gained tremendous support within the United States, including in Ohio. One of the leading organizations that called for Prohibition was the Anti-Saloon League. For the first fifteen years of its existence, this organization and its subsidiaries focused on implementing anti-alcohol laws in local communities. As support grew, including among such prominent Americans as Ohioan John D. Rockefeller, the League began a national campaign to implement Prohibition. In 1913, the League sponsored a parade in Washington, DC. At the gathering's conclusion, the League's superintendent, Purley Baker, presented an amendment to the United States Congress and to the House of Representatives. This amendment would be the basis for the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Anti-Saloon League of America and its state organizations inundated the United States Congress with letters and petitions, demanding the prohibition of alcohol. With the outbreak of World War I, the League also used anti-German sentiment to fight for Prohibition. Many brewers in the United States were of German extraction. Utilizing patriotism and morality, the Anti-Saloon League succeeded in getting the Eighteenth Amendment passed by the Congress and ratified by the necessary number of states in 1919.

Prohibition divided Ohioans. While voters in many communities, including Westerville, openly embraced the Eighteenth Amendment, other Ohioans liked to drink alcohol and actively campaigned against the amendment's ratification. The amendment found especially strong support in rural areas, where Methodism and other evangelical religious groups dominated. Urban Ohioans proved to be much more opposed to the amendment. Undoubtedly, this was because a majority of bars, distilleries, and breweries were located in urban areas. Illustrating this division within the state, when Ohio voters voted to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, the issue carried by only 25,759 votes.

With Prohibition in effect, anti-alcohol supporters, especially the Anti-Saloon League, entered a tumultuous period. Wayne Wheeler, a prominent League member, believed that the League should focus on enforcing Prohibition by enacting more stringent laws. Ernest Cherrington disagreed and argued that educating children about the evils of alcohol would prevent consumption of liquor and the flaunting of the law in the future. This division dramatically weakened the Anti-Saloon League and allowed opponents to Prohibition to build momentum. Many temperance advocates believed that the struggle was over once Prohibition went into affect, causing many of these people to no longer participate in anti-alcohol organizations. Prominent financial backers withdrew their support as well. Many Ohioans believed that Prohibition supporters were forcing their moral beliefs onto others. Other residents opposed the amendment because many bars, breweries, and distilleries had to close, leaving thousands of people unemployed, once states ratified the amendment. In Ohio, Prohibition opponents actually revoked the state's approval of the Eighteenth Amendment in a statewide referendum in 1919. In Hawke v. Smith, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature's approval of Prohibition could not be overturned by the referendum. As a result of this declining support for Prohibition, anti-temperance supporters were able to introduce the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1933. That same year, a sufficient number of states, including Ohio, ratified the amendment, ending Prohibition.

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