Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Days Were Here Again

I'm not at all trying to denigrate the importance of those constitutional amendments that expanded political and other rights for formerly disadvantaged groups.

But I certainly think that an amendment the ratification of which was completed 75 years ago today, should be considered one of the most important in the history of the Constitution.

The dry legalese of Section 1 of that amendment reads as follows:

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United
States is hereby repealed.

But the wet implication was: alcohol was legal again!

Happy birthday, Repeal!

One historical oddity has to do with the method of ratification. Article VII of the Constitution provided that ratification of that document was to be voted on by a convention in each state, specially elected for that purpose. But Article V gives Congress the option of submitting amendments either to such conventions, or to the regular legislature of each state.

The 21st Amendment is the only amendment so far, that Congress has submitted to state conventions. This website purports to describe the ratification procedure that was used in Michigan. I'm not sure how representative that procedure was, of what went on in other states.

A Congress that approved the repeal amendment by the necessary supermajorities (two third in each house) obviously wanted the states to ratify it, so they must have been concerned about whether the legislatures would do so. Some sources indicate that prohibition was more popular in rural areas than in the cities. Perhaps the fact that rural areas were overrepresented in legislatures prior to the Supreme Court redistricting decisions of the 1960s, was a factor in that decision.

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