National Prohibition Cases
Annotate this Case
253 U.S. 350 (1920)
U.S. Supreme Court
National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.S. 350 (1920)
National Prohibition Cases
No. 29, 30, Original, and No. 696, 762, 788, 794, 837
Argued March 8, 9, 10, 29, 30, 1920
Decided June 7, 1920
253 U.S. 350
The adoption by both houses of Congress, each by a two-thirds vote, of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution sufficiently shows that the proposal was deemed necessary by all who voted for it. An express declaration that they regarded it as necessary is not essential. P. 253 U. S. 386.
The two-thirds vote in each house which is required in proposing an amendment is a vote of two-thirds of the members present -- assuming the presence of a quorum -- and not a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership, present and absent. Id. Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Kansas, 248 U. S. 276.
The referendum provisions of state constitutions and statutes cannot be applied, consistently with the Constitution of the United States, in the ratification or rejection of amendments to it. Id. Hawke v. Smith, ante, 253 U. S. 221.
The prohibition of the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes, as embodied in the Eighteenth Amendment, is within the power to amend reserved by Article V of the Constitution. Id.
That Amendment, by lawful proposal and ratification, has become a part of the Constitution, and must be respected and given effect the same as other provisions of that instrument. Id.
The first section of the Amendment -- the one embodying the prohibition -- is operative throughout the entire territorial limits of the United States, binds all legislative bodies, courts, public officers, and individuals within those limits, and, of its own force, invalidates every legislative act -- whether by Congress, by a state legislature, or by a territorial assembly -- which authorizes or sanctions what the section prohibits. Id.
The second section of the Amendment -- the one declaring "[t]he Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation" -- does not enable Congress or the several states to defeat or thwart the prohibition, but only to enforce it by appropriate means. P. 253 U. S. 387.
The words "concurrent power" in that section do not mean joint power, or require that legislation thereunder by Congress, to be effective, shall be approved or sanctioned by the several states or any of them; nor do they mean that the power to enforce is divided between Congress and the several states along the lines which separate or distinguish foreign and interstate commerce from intrastate affairs. Id.
The power confided to Congress by that section, while not exclusive, is territorially coextensive with the prohibition of the first section, embraces manufacture and other intrastate transactions as well as importation, exportation, and interstate traffic, and is in no wise dependent on or affected by action or inaction on the part of the several states or any of them. Id.
That power may be exerted against the disposal for beverage purposes of liquors manufactured before the Amendment became effective, just as it may be against subsequent manufacture for those purposes. In either case, it is a constitutional mandate or prohibition that is being enforced. Id.
While there are limits beyond which Congress cannot go in treating beverages as within its power of enforcement, those limits are not transcended by the provision of the National Prohibition Act (Title II, § 1) wherein liquors containing as much as one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume and fit for use for beverage purposes are treated as within that power. Id. Jacob Ruppert v. Caffey, 251 U. S. 264.
Nos. 29 and 30, Original, bills dismissed; No. 794, reversed; Nos. 696, 752, 788 (264 F. 186), and 837 affirmed.
The seven cases here given one name for convenient reference involved the validity of the Eighteenth Amendment and of certain general features of the National Prohibition Act designed for its enforcement. They were as follows:
No. 29, Original. State of Rhode Island v. A. Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, and Daniel C. Roper, Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Bill dismissed.
No. 30, Original. State of New Jersey v. A. Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, and Daniel C. Roper, Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Bill dismissed.
No. 696. George C. Dempsey v. Thomas J. Boynton, United States Attorney for Massachusetts, and Andrew J. Casey, Acting Collector of Internal Revenue for Massachusetts. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.
No. 752. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Company v. W. V. Gregory, District Attorney for the United States for the Western District of Kentucky, and Elwood Hamilton, Collector of Internal Revenue for the Collection District of Kentucky. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Kentucky. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.
No. 788. Christian Feigenspan, a corporation v. Joseph L. Bodine, United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Charles V. Dufey, Collector of Internal Revenue of the Fifth District of New Jersey. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.
No. 794. Hiram A. Sawyer, as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Burt Williams, as Collector of Internal Revenue of the Second District of Wisconsin, and Thomas A. Delaney, as Federal Prohibition Enforcement Director for Wisconsin v. Manitowoc Products Company. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Decree granting injunction reversed.
No. 837. St. Louis Brewing Association, a corporation v. George H. Moore, Collector of Internal Revenue of the First District of Missouri, Walter L. Hensley, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Frank L. Diggs, Prohibition Agent for the First Internal Revenue District of Missouri. Appeal from the District Court of
the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.
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